Saturday, December 09, 2017

The post that I don't even know how to write


There comes a part in every story that we have mixed feelings about. Sometimes we can't wait for the ending to arrive so that the assignment is over or because we have something else we want to do or because we've lost interest or because it's breaking our hearts.

Sometimes we don't ever want the story to stop. We simply must know what happens next, if they lived happily ever after,  if they got what they deserved (especially the bad guy), and what about               ?

Probably 95% of you reading this already know through Facebook or texts that Thursday night, November 2nd, we had to put down a friend. A roughly one hundred pound friend who was covered in fur. And leaves. And dirt. And, if I'm being honest, which I am trying to be, urine. And bumps and lumps in different spots. But covered completely in love and tears and sadness. 

She had cataracts and couldn't see well. She had some hearing loss, which was more funny than awful, especially when you'd walk behind her and go where she wasn't expecting you to be. Then you'd call her, and your voice would bounce off the house or the shed or the garage in a funny way to confuse her, and even though you're calling louder and louder and clapping, there she goes, heading further away from you while trying to find you. Even with incontinence meds, she was peeing in the house, not on purpose, just because, I think, she couldn't tell anymore when she needed to go. She was drinking more water than ever. She needed something behind her to push against so she could get her weight up enough to pull her back legs erect. She'd lean into walls to slide down against so she could sit or nap. She was squatting and sitting very, very slowly, clearly aching. It was breaking our hearts.

But she was still so sweet, so happy to see anyone who came over, so happy to have her kids lay on her, to have Bosley curl up behind her or halfway on top of her. She was happy to ramble wherever we'd let her roam. She was eating,  still loving carrots and apple pieces as much as ever. She was as patient as could be expected with a not-even-six-month-old puppy gnawing on her legs or chomping on her ears or getting his teeth caught in her fur even though she could have knocked him into next week or sat on him and squeezed him into submission. She tried so hard to get up quickly to greet visitors, even to the point where some of them said, "oh, you sweet thing, you don't have to get up for me!" 

We have a Newfoundland sized hole in our hearts, in our home, on our deck, under her tree, in our lives. 

We talked with our good friend who is also a vet and made arrangements for the last decisions we could make for the best of her life. We filled her last, large dinner with carrots and broth on top and I don't know how she did it, but she ate it all. We packed up the kids and both dogs and went to a park a few streets away where we wandered around for a last walk. She made us laugh by avoiding most of the puddles; ever the Newfie who couldn't pee in the rain because she might get wet, the Newfie who knocked children into swimming pools instead of pulling them out, the Newfie who we've loved for just shy of twelve years.

The time span got me thinking about how many people we have met while we've had her. We got her in March of 2006, before we knew our Zita and her family, which means before I was in any moms' groups here so we didn't know most of our neighbors or people we've been doing life with for over a decade now. She was my first dog. Liam was born only a few months before we got her, Carrie was not quite three. She was there to help us welcome Damon home- he's never known a life without her. She's been around longer than any of our nieces and nephews. She's spent time at camp, time at softball games, time with the neighbors, time at our big parties and at our small home groups. She accepted everyone and only ever barked at meter men. She was so quiet that when she did bark, she surprised herself as much as us. 

After the park we went to our closest ice cream place and treated both dogs and ourselves. Even then she was making us laugh, lapping up the ice cream with that huge pink tongue, chomping the tiny dog biscuit, and then attempting to devour the styrofoam cup. 

Then our sweet friend came over with her husband and medication to put her to sleep and then to stop her heart. I suppose it's a cliche, but it was heartbreaking on more than one level. To see even our friend crying was so hard. To see our kids so bravely facing every minute of it revealed a fierce pride and another layer of hurt that we can't protect them from pain or from death or from the loss of a friend. 

To those of you saying, "yes, and they'll get over it- it's just a dog," I don't even know what to tell you. You're right. We will get over it, though not soon. You're right. She was a dog. I thought that many times myself. "She'll be okay outside while we're gone. She's a dog." "She doesn't need that. She's a dog." "She doesn't understand. She's just a dog." True. But not helpful when you contrast that with all the times she cracked her huge old head off the underside of the kitchen table just so she could lay that head on your leg while wagging her huge tail at you. Or how patient she was to come inside and sit, every single time, to have her paws wiped even when sitting was painful and slow and balancing was hard. Or how you could lay up against her and read and she would just breathe, warm and fuzzy, behind you. How she was happy to help earn her keep by licking off plates before they headed into the dishwasher. How she teethed on and ruined the set of wooden nesting penguin dolls the kids had when they were tiny. How she perked up every year when fall rolled around and how she loved bounding through snow. How embarrassed she was for days after getting her summer shaved haircut and pink bows on her ears. Yes, she was a dog. But she was a heavyweight in our family. 

Movies have helped. Dada missed both of them, but the kids and I have seen "Inside Out" which is all about feelings and how they work together, and "A Dog's Purpose" which showed a neat twist about a dog being brought back as a different dog each time he died. The movies have helped us talk through sadness with glad memories and use our imaginations. She may never become a police dog as she had zero aggressive bones in her body, but she would make an excellent therapy or helper dog for someone somewhere. I've been getting book recommendations too- thank you for those. Technology has played a part as we've taken pictures and videos that we will treasure. Carrie has also done artwork that will be priceless to us down the road. Bosley is also helping despite his bewilderment as to where his playmate and snuggle buddy has gone, and we're so glad we got him before we lost her. 

To those of you who have expressed condolences and sent prayers our way, we thank you. It means a lot that you understand. It means even more that you liked her, too.

RIP Triskal Sarabella - You were so loved. 
December 15, 2005- November 2, 2017

Guest post, photos by Damon

"Oh the weather outside is frightful..."

I figured everyone could use something warm and colorful to look at before I attempt to clear some photos off of my phone in order to free up some storage. These were taken at the White Turkey Drive-In in Conneaut, Ohio by Damon in July when we picked him up from a stay at Pap's. Someone has an appreciation for flowers. 

This last one was taken at Camp Lambec in Pennsylvania. That's Lake Erie behind us. It's one of too few pictures we have featuring all of us. 

Maybe this kiddo will follow in his uncle's footsteps and work in photography someday. Or maybe he just liked sneaking off with my phone...

Monday, November 13, 2017

And yet another karate graduation

We officially have two certified black belts and a red/black belt in the house now. Carrie and Liam received their certificates on Saturday confirming that their six month probationary period is over and they are full-fledged karate black belts. Damon wrapped up his six month red belt cycle with honors and was promoted to red/black, the final six months before he earns his black belt, provided he passes all of his black belt testing this spring.  Naturally we have millions of pictures, but I shall take pity on you and try to limit myself to only some. We have been experiencing technical difficulties this morning, most likely user error, so please bear with me. 

These kiddos have worked their bums off. It's not always been pretty, and they haven't always wanted to go, but they have stuck with it for over three years and it was fantastic to see their hard work pay off. We are really proud of them physically being able to do it but more so the perseverance of sticking with it even when they didn't feel like it, when it would have been much easier on everyone to sit on the couch and watch Netflix and eat junk. But they practiced and showed up and tested and practiced some more, and now here they are! Great job, you guys! Enjoy your success!

Saturday, November 04, 2017


Liam didn't make known any special requests for cake this year, so he got a yellow cake with fudgy frosting and chocolate chips. It took one big breath to get all those candles out and he was so fast we didn't even get an action shot. The candles were lit, and then they were not. Happy 12th birthday, pumpkin. How did you get so old!?

Pumpkins' Progress

At some point in all the birthday and Halloween craziness, time must be found to carve pumpkins. It took shifts and Dada taking a week off of work to fit everything in (only half kidding), but we made it!

Damon's, missing teeth just like him:

Liam's scary one:

Carrie's character facing fiery flames:

Mine, to go between the boys':

Visiting friend Josh was shanghaied into carving one as well. He did a fair share of protesting, but gave in...

With a fun end result!

All dressed up and no place to go

Kidding! All dressed up to hit the town! Everyone was excited about trick-or-treat, including Carrie (faceless phantom) who had declared last year to be her last time begging for candy. Perhaps it had something to do with being allowed to go with her friend Isaac (chicken killer, killed chicken? Not sure what's going on there) through the same neighborhood we'd be visiting. Damon found a storm trooper costume that he fell in love with, and while you may assume that Liam teamed up to go as the Emperor, I'd then have to point out his humungous scythe. That's right. He's Death. Dada then borrowed the Harpo Marx wig and coat which Liam used last year, but the honking horn couldn't be found before we needed to leave. It was okay though, because that Captain Jack you see before you wasn't me this year, it was our good friend Josh who was in town all the way from Hawaii and he was game enough to let us dress him up, too. After purchasing latex pointed ears and a fancy cape that will definitely be worn again and again to get all of our money's worth out of it, I was transformed into an Elf with a little bit of help from clothing and jewelry I already owned: win! Even Pap, who was visiting for Liam's birthday, was tickled about risk-or-treating, because he didn't have to go this year. He got to stay warm at our house, supervising the dogs and reading a book. 

It was frigid, hitting 31 later that night, and I suppose it may have had something to do with the runny noses and scratchy throats some of us are now experiencing. I'm not sure who's in charge of planning Halloween costumes, but I don't believe they've figured out that trick-or-treat is usually in October and in the northern hemisphere that means winter is coming and you may have to fit a snowsuit under that sleeveless fairy costume with the gossamer wings, my dear. Thankfully it was dry and frigid as opposed to that time maybe 3 years ago when we tried gathering our candy in freezing rain. Poor Josh observed, "hmmm, my blood has definitely thinned since moving to Hawaii!" 

At any rate, our town allows an hour and a half and we were thrilled to finish, get home, sort loot, pay taxes (the kids to us, of course) and procrastinate on going to bed. Liam was too busy assembling his birthday gift from Pap to even take more than a bite of his frosting from his slice of cake before trick-or-treating; it is such a crazy evening between school/dinner/homework/costumes on/leave to then try to add in any kind of birthday celebration. I probably make that observation every year. 

Safe to say a good time was had by all!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This message is brought to you today by Tech 101

File this one under Texts I Never Thought I'd Get:

Sure enough, it was one of our machetes. Thing Two had taken it out back for reasons unknown and had then forgotten about it. Fortunately, our lovely neighbor (read "who is SO patient with us") discovered it and it wasn't hidden and therefore mowed over or anything like that. I shudder to think the damage a machete could do to an unsuspecting riding lawnmower.

And then there's this one, which perfectly sums up not only our lovely fall weekend but our family dynamics as well:  

I believe it was last fall that I posted about once you see a cattail begin to poof, get that sucker out of the house as fast as possible without making any wind while doing it or you're going to need stock in vacuum cleaners. Cattails are outstanding outside toys. Even Dada had a good time squeezing them and watching the endless amounts of seed fuzzies spread. 

Our yard is still coated with pockets of seeds, might I add...

Rub a dub dub

This post is for my mother, who begged me to blog as she was sure I had anecdotes to share. I believe that's what you call jinxing things, like walking past a church nursery and commenting on how quiet it is. 

Thing 3 was in the bathtub, which had already had a small amount of bubble bath added to the water. I attempt to sneak some bites of my dinner in the other room and heard him holler, "Moooooom! Wash me!" When I open the door, lo and behold, there is one sudsy kid in that tub. I immediately notice more bubbles than should be there given the amount I had poured in. 


I next notice a good two more inches missing in the level of the strawberry shampoo bottle.

Mystery solved.

This kid is NEVER going to be rinsed clean of strawberry shampoo. Bubbles are begetting more bubbles and he's getting frustrated at how many cups of water I'm dunking on his head, which serves him completely right in my mind.

We discuss how it's easier and smarter to start with a tiny amount of things like soap, because it is easy to add more but once it's out of the bottle or tube or whatever then you can't exactly get it back in.

(At some future point, words will be said which will be regretted, and I'm hoping I can remember this bathing experience to tie it all together.) 

We finally get him out relatively soap-free and rethink draining the tub. Those of you who know me well know that I may have a slight addiction to NCIS and therefore Gibbs. Rule number five from Gibbs is "you don't waste good."

"Hey Carrie! Bring Bosley in here!"

Now Carrie can't stop commenting on how soft Bosley is, and we have one sweet smelling boy and one sweet smelling dog.

Don't even ask about the resident Newfoundland. She did not participate in the strawberry bath experience- not because she doesn't need one because she desperately does, more  mainly because our pipes and drains would all take one look at her and abandon our house completely and never you mind the hair catcher over the drain. I envision holes throughout the house where they simply yank themselves out of the walls and take off gimping towards the horizon. She's bringing in so many locust twigs and leaves that if I don't sweep every day the kitchen/hall/dining room look like they're morphing into a forest floor. 

Tonight is bath night again. Perhaps I'll leave the shampoo up high unless I am there to supervise...

Friday, September 29, 2017

Funny calories

Dada was in France for two weeks with a crew from work to do some training and auditing. Some of you know that he's been trying to stay low/no carb because he finds it easier to keep excess weight off if he combines that with a good bit of exercise. 


Then he ends up in France. With friends. With French food. With nice crusty buns that are tasty and soft on the inside. 


We texted about it a little bit and this is part of the conversation about food and portions:

If you'll recall, the "inch of finger" part goes way back to February of last year when I had the flu in a bad way and Zita was recommending some natural, homemade remedies. She meant "ginger" and was hijacked by AutoCorrect. We still use "inch of finger" in normal conversations these days. 

Happily, no flu to report, and a plethora instead of tomatoes and basil. Lunch for me sometimes looks like this:

I could eat it every day. Let me know if you want tomatoes, especially teeny tiny ones. It's not fair for only the fruit flies and myself to be enjoying them!

Carrie finds a new favorite

Dada and I have known about the adorable art shop downtown for awhile, but we only recently took Carrie in to check it out. Predictably, she was scurrying from end to end and back again, flapping her hands in excitement, and cooing over many of the supplies she could test out. I think it's safe to say her Christmas wish list might have gotten a bit longer.

She was delighted that there was an entire room just of canvases. She found pens that she wanted and shelves of sketch pads and paints in all kinds of glorious colors... yep, she is her mother's daughter. If you need gift ideas for her, just let me know how much you'd like the gift card to be. 

Triskal got a puppy...

Triskal turned 11.75 on the fifteenth of September. We figured any Newfie that lives to be that old deserves their own puppy. So we chatted up a local rescue and found this crazy dingbat. Meet Bosley Underfoot. 

He must be related to me as he follows the sunny spots around the house. Muggin and Zita can sympathize.

He is supposedly an Australian shepherd/lab mix. I'm leaning more towards shepherd mix. He has four white feet, white on the tip of his tail and under his chin, black on top and tan accents, including the adorable, irresistible dotty eyebrows. 

*Dang it, I wrote this whole thing and it poofed! Gah!*

He's supposed to be a medium-sized dog when he's fully grown, but for now he's about 20 pounds of spry energy. He antelopes and pops up and chases everything that moves. He hoovers the entire floor, which is quite a change from Triskal who just can't be bothered for anything smaller than a Cheerio or an apple slice. I am pretty sure he's also related to Betsy, Hinrew and Muggin's previous dog, who was always on high alert and never missed so much as a speck of powdered sugar. 

He's gotten pretty good at "sit" and is working on "stay" and hears an awful lot of "leave it" which means my master plan to teach the kids to clean up after themselves is in full swing. No better enforcer than a teething puppy to teach "don't leave your stuff in gnawing distance". He's helped himself to a pair of Carrie's earbuds which were not completely enclosed in her backpack, several tasseled hoodie and backpack pulls, Grandmama's slippers and yard shoes when she was here visiting, a refrigerator magnet (I don't think he ate any, but he certainly enjoyed chewing it to pieces), and the towels we use to wipe the dogs' feet when they enter the house. He will sit for this process but isn't sure yet if he likes it.

It's funny to bring them both in from outside because Triskal is old and plods along, knowing the routine and the expectations. We've often joked that she should wear one of those slow moving vehicle triangles. Poor Bosley is just about beside himself literally because he's so quickly darting from one end of the deck to the other and back so that we will let him in and not forget him. I keep doing the routine with her first so he can see what is expected, but that doesn't mean he doesn't try to make a mad dash for her dish every chance he gets. He is most definitely food motivated and must have a Hoover in his family history somewhere. 

Come on over for your puppy fix! I'm sure there will be more stories to come featuring this new crazy cutie.