Monday, December 27, 2010

Going to the Dogs

We used to have a new(ish) couch.  It was the color "mushroom".  I loved the color "mushroom".  I drooled over the idea of matching mushroom ottomans.  (With three kids, however, there was no room for ottomans.)  The beautiful mushroom couch started out in our Living Room.  This is the room that people see when they first enter our home.  The Living Room is how we want to appear to others.  Crisp, clean, sleek... well kept.  We never use the Living Room.  If we did, it would look like the Family Room.

The Family Room is in the back of the house.  It is next to the kitchen, ergo snacks and accompanying evidence of such(crumbs, stains & spills).  It has the tv, ergo lots of seat-prints and sagging couch cushions.   This is the room in which the kids have their 'recreation' when the weather is not conducive to out-of-doors play.  The furniture in here is flipped onto, leapt onto, and is where all stunts usually terminate.  This was all before the dogs. 

I've blogged about couch issues before, but they are at an all time high(is it tempting fate to say this now?)  When we made the decision to homeschool our kids, the dilemma arose over where on earth I could teach them.  We tried the dining room, but were constantly traipsing out to the bookcases in the Living Room.  Alas, our furniture set-up had to change, and with it my snobbish hopes of having a beautiful, un-lived-in, show-room style facade to our home came to an abrupt end.

The beloved mushroom couch was moved into the *wince* family room.  I came very close to putting plastic over it, but then I remembered I'm not really that uptight, nor am I a hitman for the Mafia.  Somehow we have managed to prolong the life of the couch, and always get nostalgic when we steam clean it.  (Oh, I remember, that's what "mushroom" really looks like!  I like mushroom!!)

Tonight I sit on what is now the newer couch,  opposite of my original beloved, and with a sadness realize we've hit a new low.  The pillows are sagging, pillows and blankets strewn with abandon.  They kids have just run up to brush their teeth and go to bed after having watched Despicable Me for the umpteenth time, leaving preheated seats for the dogs.  The dogs have readily claimed their new thrones, and my poor couch is anything but mushroom.

I think one of the first New Year cleaning To-do list items should be to bring back the glory of my trusty couch.  Then set some new house rules, because this place is really going to the dogs!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Child is Born!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Ornament for Lucy

A couple of Christmases ago, we saw the cutest ornaments!  I had never seen animal ornaments with quite this much personality.  "Jack" is above, and puppy Indy is here:

(Okay, so the closest Indy has come to hunting is chasing the pigeons in the backyard... but still, it was adorable.  Check out the baby tail!)

Our family is on our second annual ornament exchange.  It just seems counter-productive to bring more stuff into the house.  But ornaments... well, they are something you can give that is supposed to be put under the house, or stuffed into a closet for eleven months of the year.  This year there's a twist to the exchange: we're doing Secret Santa!  We picked names out of a bowl, and kept the identities a secret.  We have been going out in stealth little search parties like elf FBI agents.

Good ornaments are hard to find!  In the midst of our searching for our secret recipient, we've been looking for an ornament for Lucy.  It's tough when you have a mixed breed.  Dear Lucy is so sweet and unique, we have yet to find an ornament that captures her likeness.  I had errands all over town today, and browsed for a "Lucy" at every store I went to.  I was ready to give up; maybe wait and shop some after Christmas sales at the specialty shops or online.  Then it hit me: what better likeness of Lucy than Lucy!  So with some paper scraps, a printer-printed photo, a small dollar tag from Target, and an x-acto knife (I have a love-hate relationship with my x-acto - tonight we were on good terms!) ~ Voila!  An ornament for Lucy!

Do you have a favorite ornament?  Maybe you have a couple!  I love that ornaments, like familiar smells or songs, can bring back memories.   What are some favorites in your house?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pretty (Warm) in Pink

I didn't succumb.  I am still not a little dog person.  Okay, maybe I'm a little bit of a little dog person.  Okay, so I bought Lucy a pink argyle sweater with little gemstones on the back(there were only two).  The salesman asked if I saw the raincoats.  Yes, I saw the raincoats.  I saw the dresses, too.  Dresses.  For dogs.  With "Winter 2010" on the tags - just so you'd know your dog wasn't in (God forbid!) last year's fashions.  Oy Vey.

The reason for this apparel acquisition was that Lucy has been cold.  Shaking, shivering, cold.  Indoors.  She will park herself in front of the fireplace or the space heater and be fine.  But when the creatures of the house that weigh over 11 pounds are warm enough, the fireplace goes off.  Actually, the fireplace has been on so much this winter, I'm fearing the gas bill (envelope 1 of 3?)  So I have dictated to my whining children, "Go put on a sweater and socks!".   I couldn't solve Lucy's problem this way.  Hence, the change in perspective on little dog clothing.  Maybe it is a necessity, not a neurotic condition among little dog owners.  (I still believe this exists, see "dog dresses" mentioned above)

Petco had the cute little jackets with the fur lined hoods. They were thin, and scratchy, and not lined.  Besides, fur?  Really?  If you have ever seen a dog chase it's tail then you would know adding fur around it's area of peripheral vision does not a clever idea make.  Then I saw this sweater.  This adorable argyle pink sweater with rhinestones(only two, remember?  Okay, they were heart-shaped.)  It was warm.  It was thick and really felt like it could serve it's purpose.  And Lucy would look so stinkin' cute in it.

At least I didn't get a raincoat.  Although... if we were to take her out in the rain, it wouldn't take much for her to get soaked to the bone.  Hmmm... I wonder if they come in pink?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Enjoy the Gifts!

Is that selfish?  Why on earth would we give gifts to one another on Jesus' birthday?  If he is the ultimate gift of love and peace, why is my visa bill arriving in two envelopes?  (well, perhaps that's another issue...)  I think the giving of gifts can be an excellent reminder of the first gift of Christmas.  So, relax and enjoy!  As you prepare gifts for others, remember why you're giving them in the first place.  When someone thinks of you with a gift, let it remind you of the greatest gift of all! 

Hey - the Magi brought gifts!  I doubt baby Jesus really needed all of that perfume... do you think maybe Mary used a little?  I wonder what became of those gifts?  Whoever used them must have been reminded of the reason for which they had been given in the first place. 

It doesn't matter the size or amount of the gifts, whether they're home-made or from the mall.  The wonderful thing about giving is that it's from the heart.  Don't you feel amazing inside when you give a gift?  When you see the look on the recipient's face?   Christmas isn't about the stuff, it's about the giving. 

Enjoy the gifts!  Remember why we're giving and receiving them in the first place.  Now, here's Linus, sharing with us what Christmas is all about...

2 Corinthians 9:15  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gifts!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flashback Friday : Visitors

Do you have visitors coming for the holidays?  My grandfather-in-law, who is a welcoming host & a generous entertainer, says that "Company is like fish.  After three days in the house it begins to stink."  Well, try two weeks and four dogs.

A couple of years ago we dog-sat for some dear friends at Christmastime.  We were only supposed to have the dogs for part of the holiday, and then they would go to the kennel.  But being filled with holiday cheer and good will toward men(and their dogs), we thought, what's one more week?

Jack was thrilled.  He is so in love with visitors.  If he were human, he'd be the type of guy with fancy soaps, guest towels, and a thousand outdoor Christmas lights to spread cheer to one and all.

Our other yellow lab here is Salish, yawning or sneezing. 
And Daisy, the beagle, is tussling with puppy Indy

At first it was like camp!  We had training and treats...

Activity time.

Wrapping paper roll tug

They played king(or queen) of the pillow. 
Sometimes the girls won ...

Sometimes the 'babies' won.

Jack won once...

 So did Indy(he chose my favorite shoe as his trophy)

All this "whose turn is it" got tiring, so they changed the game to four-on-the-pillow. 

We played really hard in the backyard and got very, very sleepy!

But then it was day eight...  and I think Indy was ready to have his space back.

When four on the couch broke down into a mini-riot, we had to play four in the kennel.

The weather had worsened, and the company/fish smell had grown strong.  I'm sure metaphorically, we didn't smell that good either by that point to Salish and Daisy.  Somehow, we all made it through.  That's what families and friends do, right?  Especially around the holidays.

Wishing you a wonder-filled weekend &
all the merriment you can handle with family and friends this Holiday Season!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm So Happy I Could Pee!

I mentioned in an earlier post our set-up regarding dogs in the house.  They have their area, then we have baby gates sectioning off the dining and living rooms as well as the bedrooms upstairs.  The big dogs are used to this.  Before Lucy came, we could even leave a gate open, and the big dogs would just stay in their part of the house(unless the doorbell rang, then it was off to the races!).

Lucy has gotten upstairs a few times - mostly just to check things out, which was fine.   But when we'd catch her and bring her back downstairs, the big dogs were waiting to put her in her place.  They would just stand over her, towering, stern-faced(if dogs can be stern-faced), growling and barking short, salient cries.  They know the rules.  They obey the rules.  They were here first.  If anyone was going to break the rules, it would be them.  But no.  They obey, and she should too.  It was the couch incident all over, but even more intense. 

This past week, Lucy has been getting more and more daring in her escapes.  I don't know what gets into her, but she just jets through the gate - sometimes even as we're going through.  She speed-scurries, belly to the floor('cause she knows she's not supposed to do it), and races to each of the upstairs bedrooms.  She has a circuit down.  First Allie's room, then Nick's.  Then either Mom and Dad's if Mom's up there, because Mom will go easy on her, or Zack's because he has four million six thousand forty-two stuffed animals in his room.  Finding her in there is like Elliot's mom looking for E.T. in the closet.

So, what about the pee?  (there's a sentence to be proud of)  I think Lucy gets overwhelmed with all the excitement and exhilaration when she 'escapes' upstairs, and just can't multi-task.  Being continent and running around like a cat on the 'nip is just too much.  Thank goodness for ShamWows and Arm & Hammer pet spray!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's in There?

Lucy has taken to sleeping, stretched out in full Labrador imitation, in front of our entertainment center.  The first time I saw her there, I didn't think much of it.  But by the third or fourth time I was curious.  I got down on my hands and knees next to her.  She woke up delighted to see me and promptly switched to Pointer imitation and 'told' me why she had been staking out that spot. 

There was something in there.  My first thought was that someone had tossed a piece of food to one of the dogs and it landed in the entertainment center.  Lucy is the queen of scraps - neither Jack nor Indy challenge her on anything but the primo treats(meat scraps, certain cheeses... they're a bit of dog foodies)  It made sense, in a funny way, that she was guarding it until she could get to it (or until it came out??).   With all the commotion, Indy came over to check things out (maybe it's fancy cheese!)

As the search became more intense, I became a little unnerved.  You see, we live close enough to a forest that we have been having unwanted visitors lately.  (think: Ratatouille)  All outside so far, at least until we brought the Christmas decorations up from the crawl space to discover last year's gift wrap had random chunks missing.  The tissue paper looked like someone had make snowflakes out of it, two little square holes at a time(eeew!)  So my anticipation grew with the dogs'. 

My trusty rat-trapper in shining armor went to check things out for himself.  (Thank you, dearest rat-trapper!  PS~ Your hair is gorgeous)

Ah-hah!  We humans breathed a sigh of relief, while the big dogs, perhaps a bit disappointed it wasn't a rat, lost interest.  Lucy, however, said "thank you very much", grabbed the tennis ball from Ken and leapt into my arms.

I knew it was in there all along.

Lucy has since returned to sleeping on the couch or in front of the fireplace.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Peeking!

This week was big in the department of surprises and life lessons.  Like the fact that I thought I had masked the evidence that we had received our online purchases of gifts for the kids, but apparently my kids could lead their own Special Operations unit for the National Clandestine Service.  It didn't matter that I let the boxes lay unopened nonchalantly for the first half of the day, then snuck upstairs with them while my children appeared engrossed in their video games.  Never mind that upon opening the boxes and double checking the contents, I stashed them in the very back of my hazardous-to-your-health messy closet (Picture the Wardrobe in CS Lewis' Narnia, but instead of beautiful fur coats and an enchanted forest that is actually another world, it's just one mongo pile of clean clothes that I can wear and about a four dress-size range from "who are you kidding you'll never wear these again" skinny clothes to the "I can't believe I had to buy these" clothes.)  I even made things look authentic by draping some extra clothes on top all whopper-jawed, in line with the current state of the disarray.

Later that night it was revealed that one of my children had peeked.  At first I was mad.  Then really sad that I missed the look on that one's face, and if that one squealed to the others, then I'd miss their looks, too.  Ken balanced out my tirade of "how could yous" with a reasonable, "Of course you were curious... but I don't think you thought ahead about the ramifications of missing the magic of it together."  Still hurt and sputtering in the corner, I threatened to take back every one of this child's presents should this child tell the others.  Ken, once again, translated my threats into reason.  (thank you, honey)

The funny thing is, I remember peeking as a kid - once.  And everything that Ken said was true.  I felt so guilty, and the magic wasn't quite the same that year.  I remember confessing to my older cousin, not usually a confidant of mine - more like torturous older brother, but he was handiest(and least personally invested)!  He was surprisingly kind, and told me of a time he, too, had looked at the hidden gift stash. 

When I have shared this story this past week, I have had similar responses across the board - everyone has a peeking story - but it was only once.  Even Ken admitted to having pulled on a tear in the wrapping paper as a kid, revealing a coveted toy.  It only takes one time.  Funny how that is such a clear lesson learned.

I intended to apologize to my child for over-reacting, but it was actually my child who apologized to me first for not thinking ahead *sniff*.  I hugged my baby and said that I understood; I had been there myself, and had just forgotten how hard it is to resist certain temptations.  Then we put the kettle on for some hot cocoa.

Here's wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend, and all the magic unspoiled!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Po tA to, Po tah to

One man's [family's] trash [fridge clean-out] is another man's [dog's] treasure [favorite meal].  The dogs know when it's refrigerator clean out day.  I don't know how they can differentiate which bowls or containers are being pulled out and know beyond a shadow of a doubt those were for them, but they do.  It's not spoiled food(that helps no-one).  It's just food that may have been that last bit no one ate and I couldn't bear to throw away.  Or things in the fridge that dried out and wouldn't taste good reconstituted in gravy - to a human palate, anyway.  (ever tried pb&j with gravy?  didn't think so - but the dogs {{love}} it!)

This week's menu was a bit like the twelve days of Christmas...(it's a stretch, but sing along in your head)

When I looked in my fridge for some doggy gourmet treats
I found all this yummy cuisine:

five spears of mango,
four small potatoes,
three quesadillas,
two golden apples,
one crunchy carrot,

...and some Trader Joe's left-over Gravy


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Try to catch snowflakes on your tongue.  It's fun.
~ A Charlie Brown Christmas

Sunday, December 5, 2010


We don't entertain as often as I'd like, but when we do carve out time and have friends over, we always have a blast.  We clean the house so it doesn't resemble our normal state of living; we grocery shop knowing that not everyone likes tacos, spaghetti, or pancakes for dinner; and then we clean up again, because inevitably if we clean even one day before company, it goes right back to looking how we normally live.  I'll spare you the pictures.

I guess we expend energy in the preparations.  We don't mind it(well, the kids aren't wild about cleaning their rooms).  By the time company comes, we are pumped and ready to have some riotous card games and Apples to Apples tournaments.  It's a lot more fun than it sounds in print.  At the end of the evening, when the company goes home and we are contentedly exhausted we always say, "We should do that more often."

The dogs lack the advance notice of guests.  They have all the same excitement and energy, but it's focused  into one gigantic moment.  "What??  Guests??  I love guests.  Where did they come from?  What do they smell like?  Taste like?  Do you think they like me?  I'll jump up and see if I can see their expression!" 
Making friends
We had guests over tonight.  The youngest of which is 8 months old.  We were not sure how our dogs would react(read: will there be headlines in tomorrow's paper, "Family charged in unfortunate accident; dogs excitedly maul beautiful baby trying to see if she 'liked them' "?)  Our current household arrangement includes baby gates separating the family living areas from the still-trying-to-be-white(ish) carpet.  This comes in handy when keeping overly-curious dogs away from visiting fragile little people.

This particular little guest, however, was just as happy to see the dogs as they were to see her.  I have to say, I was proud of our dogs.  Yes, they spazzed a bit, but my kids willingly played with them on the *now covered* deck (yay).  It was a mild evening weather-wise, and the dogs were quite comfy outside, running back and forth between the kids and the sliding glass door - perhaps comparing which side was having more fun?  I don't know.  So, little Miss Q (who is one of the cutest babies, ever.) cruised on over to the slider, hung on to the glass with sweaty hands, and cooed and chortled at all the clamor on the other side of the portal.  Lucy, too, was quite intrigued.  Interestingly enough, our vet puts her at 8 months as well.  The two gently tapped the glass at one another.  Delighted shrieks came from our human friend, while Lucy would tap harder and lick the glass.

Tonight was a blast.  Every creature in the house enjoyed the guests; there was merriment for all.  Our wonderful guests even brought peppermint cheesecake!  We should do this more often. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cooped Up

A few weeks ago, our family was stuck at home, under the weather.  Not literally "under the weather" as in snowed in - that was later.  Let me start again...

Everyone was playing Button Button Who's Got the... well, cold/flu.  We had each gone through the sleeping-like-there-was-no-outside-world phase, then the up-wandering-around-aimlessly-still-in-a-stupor-phase, then the not-quite-back-to-normal-but-just-enough-energy-to-be-disagreeable phase.  Mom had not grocery shopped all week, and a riot was stirring over who got the last of the good snacks.

The dogs, however, were not sick.  The dogs were bored out of their gourds.  By the fourth day of complete lack of lively interaction from their human comrades, they had had it.  They had had it with being left alone, with not going out to play, with being overlooked.  They had had it, and they were about to blow.

Jack is usually a very mellow, apologetic dog(read: nervous and passive).  If he were a human, I think he'd be a bit like a sad Danny Kaye.  (Ken said, "...or Dustin Hoffman as Rainman...")  Indy's more of a Michael Clark Duncan: HUGE, lovable, and you're glad he's on your side.  Have you seen those license plates, "51% angel 49% psycho - don't push it" ?  That was Indy during sick week.  Those two snapped at each other over every little thing.  Whose turn it was to sit on the pillow by themselves, who got the red bone(Everyone LOVES the red bone.  I could fill a whole blog about the red bone. An ode to it, perhaps.  It was so coveted and adored that we bought a second red bone, but they still fight over the one -which, incidentally, is whichever one the other dog had first.) Where were we?  Oh, yes.  The fighting!  One dog could give a look that would provoke a duel betwixt the two.  (Meanwhile, Lucy is running around the room at lightening speed, up the walls, down the curtains, round and round the kitchen island...)  This really was a battle of the BIG dogs. 

The funniest thing I've ever seen is how my big dogs fight.  Now, don't send me hate mail... I don't enjoy dog *fighting*, but sometimes Jack & Indy can be hilarious.  This particular week, they were more intense than I had ever seen them.  I don't believe either dog was out to harm the other, but each wanted to let the other one know who was boss.   They would make eye contact, both would freeze momentarily, then one would flinch and it was on!  They reared up on their hind legs and lifted their lips and snarled.  They batted the air, trying to prove their dominant size.  Then, it happened.  The thing that always happens when my dogs fight.  Jack sneezed.  Then, shaking his head, he lifted his lips once more...  and promptly sneezed again.  Indy wasn't bothered by this because he, too, began to sneeze.  I don't know if it tickles to lift one's lips to one's nose or maybe my dogs are just allergic to themselves.  But every time they get into a scuffle, they begin to sneeze uncontrollably.  It's like watching an altercation between two asthmatic nerds.  "I'll (inhales deeply on inhaler) get (inhale) you..."  "Not (inhales) if I (inhales) get you (inhales) first..."

Amid the battle of the 'bless yous', Lucy quietly hunkered down under the feet of one of the infirm(who was apparently too out of it to notice what was going on) and busied herself with destroying her baby toy.  Aggression and boredom come in many forms, I suppose.  Our first post-illness trip to the store included a stop at the pet shop for two new chew toys.  Currently, Lucy is sleeping on top of the red bone. 

Here's wishing you good health and freedom to move about the cabin (and beyond!)


Gotta get to PetCo
on Oak Street in Cincinnati


All of that got me thinking... who would Lucy's famous human counterpart be?  I'm leaning towards a young Phyllis Diller or Cloris Leachman.  What do you think?