Thursday, December 22, 2011

Second Chances

I've been given a second chance at life.  A month and a half ago I went in to have a ganglion cyst removed from my right wrist.  No big deal- this surgery was nothing compared to the last one in the spring.  Or so I thought.  When I came to in recovery I sensed immediately something was wrong by the way they talked to me, consulted with each other, and rushed back and forth.  I heard the words troponin and narcan, and as any nurse knows, those terms are used in regards to emergency situations.
I asked them straight out if something was wrong, and the nurse anesthetist  looked up at me and in layperson terms began to explain what had happened.  I stopped him and explained that I was a nurse and that he could REALLY explain it to me, so he came to my bedside and told me that during the surgery my heartrate dropped to 18 and they had to give me emergency meds to get it going again.  But I wouldn't start breathing on my own so they had to breath for me and gave me narcan, and then I began to breath on my own.  They did two ECG's and my troponin levels came out normal, so they discharged me with the promise that I would follow up immediately with my primary care doctor.
It was the cardiologist I was referred to that discovered I had severe undiagnosed hypothyroidism.  My TSH level is 224 and the normal range is 0.5 - 4.2. 
When I reflect on my close call and look at my two daughters, now ages 11 and 5, and my husband, I am so grateful to still be here with them.  I am still recovering.  The fatigue has been extreme since the surgery and even though I have been started on medication, it will take a few months before it really starts to make a difference.
I think of all the people having elective surgery who take it so casually, because I thought I was relatively healthy before my surgery.  The risks should never be taken for granted.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Riverbanks zoo, Columbia, SC

Getting back to my blog after a break-  It's been a crazy couple of weeks. 

A few days before my surgery our little family plus two borrowed kids went to one of my favorite places to visit; the zoo.  Before we moved to S. Carolina we literally lived within walking distance of the Milwaukee Zoo, so I got a membership for $80 for three years that included unlimited parking and visits, and for the four years we lived there I went weekly for walks and picnics with my oldest daughter (the youngest wasn't around yet).  Those were my most treasured memories.  We would even go in winter because there were several heated indoor buildings.

My little toddler was free to safely roam and play within my gaze and I was able to get out of the house and be amongst the amazing collection of animals.  Going so often we would see animals doing things you might not otherwise get to see, such as when they opened the cat house and  the tiger and lioness saw each other and were roaring and standing up on the glass.  It was incredible!  When we moved that was what I missed the most.

After a few years here, I got comfortable enough with traveling by myself, I got a membership for our family at the Columbia Zoo, and I have to admit that even though I have to drive, I like this zoo even better.  For an upgraded membership you can include unlimited attractions, and they have some incredible interactive things to do.  For example, you can feed the giraffes out of your hands and give lorakeets (little parrots) cups of nectar while they land on your arms.  The bonus is the zoo has an attached botanical garden to visit.  It is an all around wonderful place for families to go!

My surgery went well.  I am now minus a gallbladder and some endometrial tissue that was misbehaving.  The pain is not as bad as I thought it would be, and it is really strange to be on the patient side of the equation in a nurse/patient relationship.  The worst part of the entire experience is what must have been my reaction to the anesthesia.  I felt restless and like I couldn't breath, like a caged wild animal.  I couldn't get out of the hospital fast enough.  I didn't say anything to the nurses because I was still groggy and I wasn't quite sure initially what was going on.  I was afraid they would overreact and not let me go home.  What saved me was an old prescription of prn xanax that I had held onto back at home.  I thankfully had a good night thanks to one of those pills.  Now I'm back to normal but that feeling was bad enough to make me never want to have surgery again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Azaleas take over the spring!

These are azaleas from my own bush out front.  They are all over down here and are as beautiful from a distance as they are up close.  When I picked these this morning they still had the morning dew on them and they looked as though they had sparkles.  Paired with my favorite summer coffee mug I can't wait for it to be beach weather!  It has been very warm, in the 80's already, but it takes a little longer to warm up at the beach.  The sea breezes that keep it comfortable during the hottest days of summer make it quite cool still this time of year.  When I was fresh from Wisconsin it would have been warm enough, but now I'm just like everyone else from the south, and I need it HOT!

This actually was grooming victim #2, and no, Dudley didn't shrink.  I forgot to take a before picture, but I was so afraid of messing her up I didn't take too much off.  This is Maddy, my parents' 6 lb. maltese, and she's so naturally cute I don't think I could make her look bad.  The biggest change with her was I trimmed her ears and tail because the previous groomer had left them ridiculously long, but in their defense my dad probably didn't explain it good.  She had been shaved too short once and wound up looking like a white chihuahua.

I'll try to get to Dudley this weekend.  He's looking miserably hot under that furry coat, and we haven't even hit the really hot weather.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Camping in Greenville

Well, I was going to share some amazing photos of hiking through the hills of Paris Mountain State Park, but as you can see, that is not going to happen.  What did happen over the weekend was pouring rain.  ALL day long.  On the positive side, it did NOT pour rain while my husband set up the trailer and when he hitched it back up again on Sunday.  So we agreed the lousy weekend could have been worse.

By the way, it didn't just rain.  The temperature dropped and we were pitifully underdressed because it was beyond need a sweater cold, it was need a coat cold.  And then the heat on our 2 year old camper stopped working, and then the refrigerator.  (Sigh) 

Well, all in all, we are in good spirits, and as my husband pointed out, we didn't get a flat tire.

So how was your weekend? 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring flowers!

This lonely little tulip is my first bloom from the bulbs we planted last fall.  The others are following slowly.

The spectacular wisteria making its' appearance.

The romantic Spanish moss blowing in the spring breezes.

And last but not least, the camellia which has been blooming since January is beginning to fade.  This is just the beginning of spring spectacular in lovely S. Carolina!  This weekend we'll be camping in Greenville for the first time, and also the first camping trip of the year.  Looking forward to that!  Happy Monday to you all!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Funny 4 year old stories

So we stayed in a hotel this past weekend and I have not one, but two funny elevator stories.

My husband and I loaded all our luggage up onto one of the hotel carts in the carport, at which he asked if I would be okay while he parked.  I foolishly said yes, and off I went, with the cart and my 10 and 4 year old girls in tow.  We got to the elevator and when the door opened, a young guy got off and my 4 year old ran in while I attempted in vain to maneuvar the luggage cart in after her.  As I struggled with the cart, with my 10 year old and the young guy from the elevator watching the circus unfold, the doors began to close and panic set in.  By the time I got to the door it had already closed and I pushed the button in the hopes it would reopen.  Thankfully it did, and my wide-eyed daughter quickly exited the elevator without a word, at which time we all got on, Izzy for the second time, while the young guy held the door.  Whew! 

Second story-  This time we are leaving, and my husband, who never wants to make any extra work if at all possible, decided it would be better to load us all up with luggage instead of going for the cart.  So even Izzy, the 4 year old, had a pink teddy bear and a princess suitcase on wheels which she pushed in front of her instead of pulling it behind.  We all made it onto the elevator, including my husband, who immediately disappeared and never looked back when the doors reopened, while I was left to try to get the kids off the elevator.  The 10 year old was holding the door and holding another carry-on sized bag with wheels while my 4 year old, still pushing the princess suitcase, tried ramming it into the one her sister was holding as if by doing so repeatedly it would magically go through it.  I tried to take it from her but was curtly told in a brief tug of war,  "I do it by myself."  I gave up and exited, and with me gone she had enough room to go around the other suitcase and they followed me off.  By the way, another man was waiting for us and my 10 year old said he was twiddling his thumbs.  Yeah, it's that bad!

Then as we were getting into the van, Izzy started to have a meltdown about something, and I made the offhand remark,  "Well, someone doesn't have good coping skills."  At that she pulled herself together, stopped whining, and in a shocked tone asked,  "Who?"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

South Carolina, Home Sweet Home!

I make no claims to be a photographer.  I should have taken this picture about a week ago, when the tree was full of these blooms, and minus the electric wires, and on a sunny day.  But aside from these mistakes, I'm in love with this tree, and to expose my ignorance, I don't know what it is, but I want it.

We moved to S. Carolina from Wisconsin about 4 years ago, and I love it here.  I feel like I always should have lived here.  The climate is incredible, and spring is spectacular.  Just wait til the wisteria bloom!  I'll post pictures of those when they do.  Even in winter there is a bush/tree, camelia I think, that blooms rose-like blossoms in red or pink.  I want that too.  Plus we have the beach.

The people are great here too.  Most are poor and humble.  They still open doors for you, even the young guys with the pants hanging below the crotch!  They say, yes ma'am and yes sir still, and all the women call you "Honey", or "Sweetie", which I find endearing.

Southern food is great too.  I can't eat the fried stuff though because it doesn't agree with me, and they fry everything!  The BBQ is out-of-this-world though; much more to my taste than the northern variety.  It does not have the red sauce, but is vinegar based with a touch of heat to it.  Then there is the collard greens, black-eyed peas, and the dessert you find everywhere- pudding with bananas and vanilla wafers.  It's all simple but I love it all.

We are heading into spring now and the pictures I post will show how beautiful it is here.  That's all for today!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What did you say?

Sometimes between the wonderland of 4-year-old-dom and lisping preschool chatter you get some priceless stories.

We were driving home one evening with our two children in the the back of the van when our 4 year old announced, "There'z a hell!  We're going straight to hell!  Woohoo!"

My husband and I looked at each other with shock and horror.  Thoughts of- What movie has she seen lately?  Who could have taught her that?  all rushed through my mind until my husband said,  "Wait a minute, I think it's hill."

"Izzy!"  I said,  "How do you say hill?"

"Hell!"  She proudly announced.  After relief passed over us we had a good laugh at that one.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spring is in the air!

This cheery mug reminds me of spring, and yes it is in the air!  That's what I love about S. Carolina, the winters are very short here.  I actually saw buds on the trees yesterday, and Monday it was 78 degrees, so I quickly donned capris and flip-flops for the day!  I contradict myself with the love of skiing and the love of warm weather, but it's true, so what am I to do.

Here's a great breakfast recipe to start your day- it's a slightly healthier version of the McDonald's egg Mcmuffin.

1/2 Eng. muffin (100% whole wheat)
1 egg
Canadian bacon
1 slice American cheese

Using non-stick pan sprayed with oil, cook egg to preference.  I do mine sunnyside down, leaving yolk runny.  Toast the muffin, then add bacon and cheese and microwave for 20 seconds to melt cheese and warm bacon.  Add egg and sprinkle with pepper (optional), no salt needed as the bacon and cheese have enough already.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ski Trip!

We just arrived home today from our ski trip to Boone, N. Carolina, and I'm tired, but in a good way.

 This is the chair lift all the way to the summit of Sugar Mountain, my new favorite ski resort.  It's fantastic!

This is the view from the summit, and that drop off is the black diamond, which I did for the second time this year!  I could have spent all day on it, but my partner/daughter is an intermediate skier, so I had to wait patiently for my turn to challenge myself.  It was thrilling!

Skiing is bittersweet for me now, because it was such a passion, and now I live in S. Carolina and my husband doesn't want to ski anymore.  I love him for coming and supporting me still at least once a year, and this year I saw my daughter really start to love it too, but every time I ski I remember what I'm missing.

I never was anything more than a member of ski patrol in Wisconsin, but I was REALLY good at skiing, and it defined me for many years before I went to S. America.  I'm not bragging- because if you passed me on the street with my little brood in tow, you would never guess that about me.  So many of you bloggers have that special talent, like jewelry-making, poetry, art, photography, etc., but my little secret talent is skiing.

Here's my little ski partner!

And here's to the wind whistling in my hair as I fly down the mountain!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Meet Mocha!

This is Mocha, our pet bunny.  When we first got him I could hold him like this in the palm of my hand.

He's half lop-eared bunny and half regular as you can see.  One ear is up, the other down.  All the time.  His favorite hobbies are digging when he's outside and eating carrots!

An update on little Annie, the puppy we fostered.  She is doing fine now, and she is in another foster home until she goes to a rescue up north.  Unfortunately, her brother, who was looking good, didn't make it.  But that is the tragedy of  these tiny puppies at the shelter; they just don't have the immune system to survive when an illness passes through. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

3rd edition- Favorite Things

Originally from Wisconsin, our family was relocated to S. Carolina, which means no snow in the winter, at least not normally.   (This year we actually had TWO significant snow falls and the snow lasted for a few days.)  So we have been going every year to North Carolina for my snow fix, and downhill skiing of course.

Downhill skiing is definately in my favorite things category.  Prior to downhill, I did cross country with my family, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.  We would go out at night, in the moonlight, and ski through the woods.  It brings back memories of gentle snowflakes and hot chocolate afterwards.

I started downhill for the first time when I was 16, and I hated it because I didn't get it, and none of my lovely friends stuck around to help.  But after dating someone on ski patrol over the summer, and being convinced by others to give it another shot, my dad and I went skiing together and he paid for lessons for me.  It was one of those -30 degree wind chill days and we were the only crazy enough people out there, but my instructor, a middle aged lady, taught me the basics and the rest is history.  I not only got it, but I LOVED it!

Since then I've skied Sugarloaf in Maine, Killington in Vermont, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and now the Appalachian area in Boone, N.C.  I also did a few years of ski patrol myself.  Now I've passed on the ski genes to my 10 year old, who has been skiing since she was five, and next year I'll start teaching my youngest.

So next week we'll be heading north for our annual ski trip, and I'm getting excited!  It's my favorite trip of the year, and it always gets me wishing I still lived close to a ski area, but then summer comes and we have the beach, so it's the best of both worlds I guess, since we only have a four hour drive to Boone.

I had originally started this blog to chronicle my experiences with volunteering at the animal shelter, but last week took a turn for the worse there.  Seeing some very depressing things, plus little Annie the puppie was terribly sick so I took her out of there, kept her overnight, and then brought her to the vet in the morning, where she's been since.  I guess she's doing better but she got our other foster dog sick, and then we had a scare with exposing our kids to the sick animals, which I felt horribly guilty about, but all's well now and I think we will be okay.  I promised my husband no more fostering animals, after he was stuck cleaning up the mess while I was at work.  It was a bad week, and sad too.  Our shelter is overwhelmed and underfunded, and the community doesn't care.  The mentality down here about animals is different then up north as most of the pets are kept outside all the time, and so it's common to see them abused and neglected or roaming loose, especially cats.  I'm still passionate about these abandoned animals, but I will be more careful in the future, as my children come first.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mermaids and Mexican Rice

What a way to combine things hey!  But that's what I've been up to.  I've been reading this great book called "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson and there was a line describing what it's like backpacking the Appalachian Trail, but I thought it kind of fit with how I go through life.  It said, "you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below."  I think that after being mostly at home with small children for the past ten years, I carry out the home tasks automatically but my mind is often far away :)

So, first the mermaid thing-  We saw this mermaid painting in a shop in Beaufort, S.C. and my daughter went nuts over it, but it cost $150.  I looked it over and told her I thought I could do it myself, so here's my first attempt.  I haven't painted since high school, and it's far from perfect, but with some more coats of paint it might do!

It's not finished, but this is the start-  what do you think?  Especially you artists out there, any suggestions?  It is in acrylic and the total cost of supplies was $30, so it wasn't the best quality-  Well, my 10 year old loves it and that's what counts right?

Next, onto Mexican Rice-  we all love it right?  Well, after some lessons from my Mexican friends, here's how to make it yourself:

Take the amount of rice you wish to cook,  (I use a rice cooker but just follow the measurements from the package if you don't have one)
Add 2 Tbsp canola oil to frying pan over med. heat and toast uncooked rice until golden brown.
You must stir constantly to keep it from burning, about 5 minutes.  Add to rice cooker or pot and set aside.

The base to a lot of Hispanic dishes is something the Mexicans call Sofrito, which varies slightly from cook to cook, but you use it in the rice too.

You need:
1 onion
1 tomato
canola oil

Sautee the coarsely chopped onion until soft, add minced garlic, cook 2 minutes more.  Add tomatoes, chopped into chunks (I do seeds and all).  While cooking I add Goya brand Adobo seasoning and salt.  After 4-5 minutes more, throw all of it into blender, add a little water if necessary and blend.

For the water to cook the rice in, use the measurements given but substitute chicken broth for the water with the sofrito you just made as part of the liquid.  For example, if two cups of water is required, use 1 1/2 cups chicken broth with 1/2 cup sofrito.  Then add one packet of SazonGoya seasoning, (Con culantro y achiote).  It's found in a small box in the Mexican food section of any grocery store.  Goya is the brand and the seasoning is spelled in Spanish.

You can also add frozen veggies like the peas and carrots prior to cooking.  Hope this makes sense!  But it's really good.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sun, oh Sun. . Where Are You?

This is my Claude Monet mug, which I usually use in winter months because this is pretty much what it looks like outside.  Even so, Monet makes it look dreamy and appealing, and for that ability he is my favorite artist.  I love impressionistic art;  because it takes what's real and blurs it into this beautiful, hazy world.

Honestly, I don't get modern art, just like I struggle with appreciating poetry.  I don't want to guess what the artist/writer meant, I want to KNOW what he/she meant.  Plus, with art, I want to see that the artist actually has the ability to draw before I believe that they are truly an artist.  It shouldn't be questionable.  Not that I'm an expert, but I do know what I like and what I don't like.

Anyway, I noticed my recipe seemed to be a hit, so I thought you might enjoy this addition.  Taking the same recipe for pico de gallo, you can make guacamole that I've even had Mexicans rave over.

Recipe for guacamole

1 small Hass avocado to 1 heaping Tbsp of pico de gallo
salt to taste
(sometimes I add a splash of lemon juice if it needs it)

The trick with picking the best avocados is the squish test.  If it's too soft, it's no good.  It should give just slightly under your squeeze, but if there are none like that, buy the rock hard ones and leave them on the counter for a day or two and they will be perfect!  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Favorite Things!

My husband surprised me with this mug a long time ago.  It says on the sides,  "Laugh often, Dream Always, Live Well, Love Deeply."  It's a great pick-me-up in the morning; that and the coffee inside!

Another edition of my favorite things:  Today it's a Mexican salsa called Pico de Gallo.

I would stop at the Mexican restaurant on the way home from work just to pick some up, and I worked 2nd shift, so that was around 11:30 at night, and not in the best neighborhood.  My husband was alarmed at this, and the craving for the salsa was worse when I was pregnant, so I finally figured out how to make it myself.

Here it is!

You need:
1 tomato (I pick the just turning red vs. deep red because of taste preference)
1 jalapeno (de-seeded, unless you like it hot!)
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 of med. onion
lemon juice

Dice all the vegetables into tiny, fine pieces.  The key to toning down the onion flavor is to soak the onion pieces in cold water first and I squish it through my hand to get the slim off a little.  (Nothing scientific, but it works!)  Then mix everything together and add lemon or lime juice and salt to taste.  I put in about 1/4 cup lemon juice and tons of salt.

This salsa is sooo good for you, no fat, all veggies, and the possibilities are endless.  I add it to rice, eggs, grilled chicken, basically anything.  Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shelter Animals

I took some pictures of some of the animals at the shelter.  It's heartbreaking to see them in these conditions, and the new shelter's finish date got postponed again, so they will be here until the end of Feb. now.  I got involved to educate my children and to teach them about giving back, and fortunately the shelter we go to is dedicated to rehoming the animals rather than euthanizing, which is why I can handle going there.

A view of the kennels- these are the indoor ones.  The cold outside is separated by the gray plywood door behind the dog (which is the sweetest bird dog by the way!)  The floor is unsealed concrete which has created an issue of disease with the animals, despite their best efforts to clean them daily.

The puppies just keep coming.  After we fostered a litter for the weekend, all these showed up!  There are still 2 left from the litter we took care of, one of whom is pictured below.

That's sweet little Annie, always in need of a bath.

I read an article in the local paper about a neighboring shelter that is overwhelmed with unwanted animals.  It got almost 4000 cats and dogs last year and 1300 went to rescues.  While some were adopted, the rest were euthanized.  It is a crime really, so unbelievably irresponsible of us, the human race, to be killing healthy, sweet animals for no reason!  I don't really see a solution, and all I would like is for people to give thought to recycling.  Yes, recycling used and unwanted dogs or cats.  Pedigrees are beautiful, but there is nothing like a mutt whose life you've saved looking into your eyes with that unconditional love!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meteorites vs. Volcanic Craters

Strange title I know, but it'll make sense in a minute.

Forgive me for being all over the place with my blog, but I'm new to this, and throughout the day a million stories that I would like to blog about go through my head, and this is a good one, so I'll write about it before I forget.

It was back in my Ecuador days, before I was married, and one of my closest friends came to visit me with her good-looking brother.  We did a lot of things that were amazing while they were there, like horseback riding through the Andes, and of course the market, but we also went on a hike that my friend would always refer to thereafter as the "hike from hell."  We were all young and in good physical shape, but I was really the only one acclimated to the elevation.  (I googled it and the hike around Cuicocha is at 3,064 m.)

Anyway, they were up for the adventure, and I had already done the hike around the volcanic lake with my roommate, so I knew it would take about 3 1/2 - 4 hours.  We arrived early at the starting point, where a restaurant and visitor area stood, and the three of us set off on the rocky path.  My friend was in the lead, and after getting to a spot with a clear view of the deep blue lake, she turned to me and said,  "So a meteor came down and made that huge crater where the lake is?"

I looked at her and blinked a few times.  I had referred to it as a volcanic crater previously, so I now slowly began to explain that this kind of crater was formed by an explosion of the mountain with lava, smoke, etc., as compared to the craters formed by space rock falling from the sky.  I was really used to these kinds of questions from her;  previously we had set up a system where she would run a question by me first in a whisper rather than just blurt it out, but it was just her brother and I at the time, so she was pretty safe.

Well after that explanation she took off again on the path at a speed walkers pace.  I called after her that she might want to pace herself, but she brushed off the suggestion and left us far behind.  For a mile or so, that is.  By then her brother and I overtook her, and while she huffed and struggled along, we continued at an easy pace, occasionally waiting for her to catch up when we would lose sight of her behind the bend in the path.  It really was a brutal hike, not for the faint of heart.  Once you started, there were no shortcuts back, and the path was a continuous steep up and down at short intervals.

There was a pay-off though.  The view was spectacular.  High up on the mountainside, you could see the entire valley nestled in the Andes mountain range, and the countryside looked like a patch-work quilt where the local farmers had squared off cultivated land.  Ecuador is wildly beautiful, and in the mountains with the sun beaming down, the climate is quite comfortable due to the elevation.

I wish I could post pictures, but those were the days of rolls of film rather than digital, and I don't have a scanner.

I honestly doubt I could do that hike now, but I'm so glad I did it then.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A few of my favorite things

Any Wisconsinite knows about Door County.  Playground of the rich, this is the thumb part of the mitten shaped state.  This mug carries memories of a trendy Mom and Pop coffee shop located there.  Picture Starbucks with a personal touch and great bakery.

My memory is a winter one of visiting my parents when they used to live there, and we were a mere three and half hour drive from Wauwatosa.  Our youngest daughter wasn't born yet and the oldest was still a preschooler, and we would steal away first thing in the morning, just my husband and I, to have our coffee and scones at the coffee shop.  We'd get the table with the window seat, and sip our coffee while watching the snow come down.  (Sigh)  I do miss the snow, but not the cold, which really doesn't make sense but that's the truth.

We were relocated to South Carolina 4 years ago, and I'm truly a big fan of this state, but I'll include pictures later in the spring because right now everything is dead and ugly. 

Here's another favorite thing.

I know this is silly, but I'm truly addicted to cheesy, stinky baby feet.  The picture is blurry because my camera is cheap and a 4 year old will NEVER sit perfectly still.  But I will miss the baby feet, which will be gone too soon.  (Another sigh) 

What are some of your favorite things?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One of those mornings

Does anyone else have trouble becoming functional in the morning?

My husband and I have collected coffee mugs over the years, until they became too plentiful, and I pick my coffee mug to match my mood for the day.  Needless to say, the above pictured mug is one of my favorites.

The other morning I got out of bed, moderately blind without my glasses, and in the morning light I saw the form of glasses on top of the TV, so I put them on.  They turned out to be my 4 year olds sunglasses, so I removed them and went in search of the real ones, which I have a habit of putting in different places not always easy to find, especially when you are sight impaired without them.


We made cherry pie the other night.  All from scratch.  I've been going through a baking cookbook recipe by recipe for years now (same style as the Julie and Julia, minus the daily part of it, and the blog, and the fame, movie, money, etc.), but it's something I do with the kids.  It used to be fun, but last night it turned into a sibling rivalry, tear-filled preteen blowout and my husband had to intervene.  It used to be easy;  I just got her some milk, snuggled up with her on the couch with a book, and she adored me.  Now I don't understand her, I'm not fair, and I just don't get it. 

I'm not perfect, but sometimes I think maybe I try just a little too hard, because life isn't always fair.  There is a 6 year age difference between the two, and they are in such different places, I didn't think I was going to need a psychology degree to get through this.  She's only ten, but I'm going to try my hardest to get her through the teenage years as happily as possible.  Any advice out there?

Friday, January 21, 2011

I got pictures!

These are the puppies we fostered from the humane society for the weekend.  (See earlier blog for full story)

This one was yowling in protest!  They are in the bathtub awaiting a bath.

This is Lilly, the dog we adopted from the shelter.  Don't those eyes say mischief?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hello? Anyone there?

Being new to blogging, I erroneously believed that I would have endless comments, hundreds of followers, and immediately be linked to thousands of bloggers in the infinite cyberspace of my computer.  Ha!  Not so, I'm realizing.  My husband recommended my blogs be shorter, and tonight I'm making him teach me how to post pics. 

In the meantime, I forgot to add that I love to cook, but that was not always true.  My favorite cookbook is The Complete Meat Cookbook, and I credit it with transforming my cooking.  It's not just recipes, but a back to the basics on buying and preparing the different cuts of meat.  My favorite is the Southwest spice rub for steaks, always a huge company hit!

Cute kid story-  My four year old yelled out in the car when everyone was trying to talk at once, "I want a piece of quiet!" 

Sunday, January 16, 2011


For some reason I had decided it would be a fantastic idea to bring home a litter of puppies to foster for a night or two.  It seemed so effortless.  I would put them in the tub for a quick wash, set up a few training pee pee pads, trash them when soiled, and the kids get to play all weekend with puppies that we are not obligated to keep.  Seemed is the key word here.  I arrived home with the puppies after a quick stop at Walmart for a bag of puppy food, but then some how toys, pads, a water dish, baby gate, and a dog bed got in my cart too.  A rather suspicious, unpleasant odor was coming from the carrier where the puppies whimpered, and as I walked into the house my husband greeted me with a scowl, leading me over to the laundry room where it seems Lilly (see earlier blog) had broken off the knob on our $700 dryer to get at a bag of opened treats I had left out.  It seems same $700 dryer (the price of which I still have not recovered from) is all held together with the flimzyist plastic, and can only be repaired by a $650 service call.

My kids were at a friends' house when I arrived, so I soaped them all up, rinsed them, dried them, and left them sleeping on a blanket.  By then I was exhausted, but my two kids rushed in the front door yelling, "Did you get them, did you get them?"  So they went into the bathroom and started playing with them, while I got out some food.  They had already been fed, but when I picked them up from the shelter I noticed their two dishes of food had basically not been touched, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The four pups attacked the food, trying to shove their faces simultaneously in the too small dish, and spilling the food everywhere.  Then the pooping began, and as they charged the food, the neatly arranged training pads were crumpled up while I madly tried to replace them in time.  Then I found myself trying to coordinate the two kids, the four puppies, and the piles of rapidly appearing poop from all mixing into one.  Finally all the pups were asleep again, my kids were getting ready for bed, and the bathroom was clean. 

Next morning as I came down, my oldest daughter behind me, a stench came up to greet us, growing stronger as we approached the bathroom.  I cringed as I saw poop everywhere.  The pups had been tugging at the pads and only 50% of the mess was on them, while the rest was on the floor.  Here I go again, I thought, so I put the pups in the tub, cleaned up the pads, and started cleaning up the poop with toilet paper, wiped it again with paper towels, and then bleached the floor.  All while my daughter made gagging noises behind me until I sent her away so I could stomach the mess myself.  Next I put a load of wash in of the used towels and blanket, thankfully the dryer still works but now only on one setting.  I could go on and on of this repeating cycle, but I think you got the picture. 

Anyway, the experience is still unfolding, and I remember very clearly now why I never wanted a puppy again.  They are precious, but crazy, crazy work for about a year. I see "I told you so," in my husband's eyes every time our gaze meets.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It was quite a drag

The reason I officially stopped walking the bigger dogs is found in the title of this blog.  It was a beautiful day, weather wise, and I had stopped by the shelter with my youngest daughter, who was three at the time.  After bathing and playing with a pile of puppies, I convinced my little "Wudge"  (As in Wudgey, Wudgey Woo) to come with me and pick out a bigger dog to take for a walk.  I took a leash, and with her by my side, we walked around to the kennels where the large, adult dogs were kept.  It was hard to choose, I wish I could take them all, but I chose carefully because I needed to make sure it was not aggressive and that I could manage it while walking. 

As I gazed at each dog, trying to decide, their eyes all pleaded in unison, "Pick me, pick me!", one of the workers at the shelter came by and suggested a cute, friendly, but very excited female dog.  It seemed like a good idea to me to take her too, so I opened the gate, slipped a leash over her head, and off we went.  With the exception of a few, the dogs at the shelter are the worst dogs to walk.  They've been couped up in a 5' x 10' kennel 24/7 with only short breaks so there is a lot of bottled up energy, like a soda can that's been shaken and the tops' just been popped.  We walked past "the gauntlet" of other dogs, I've named it thus because all the other still caged dogs bark and lunge at the free dog for whatever reason, and continued out to the road with my little Princess Pokes-a-lot tagging along behind.

The road the shelter is located off of also has some kind of municipal station too, further on down, so there is occasional traffic of trucks but for the most part its' quiet.  Both sides of the narrow road have thick, South Carolina brush on each side, reminding me of the rainforest in Ecuador, so when the trucks come past we stand on the shoulder of the road in between fire ant colonies and wait for the coast to clear.  On this day, my volunteer partner had decided that she really did not want to walk a big dog after all, so twenty feet outside the parking lot of the shelter, she announced she was done and now wanted to hold a kitty.  Okay.  Now I have a three year old who has made her final decision on one hand, and a dog strangling herself to go for a walk in the other hand, literally.  I just couldn't bring myself to take the dog back already, so I cut a deal.  I would run, not walk the dog up to the fire hydrant 100 ft or so up the road and back, done.  My little partner reluctantly accepted, and off I went.

I made it down to the hydrant without incident while the dog madly strained forward at the end of the leash.  On the return run, I was more focused on the put out expression of my daughter than on the dog, so I was unprepared when all of a sudden it cut across in front of me.  I was going full speed and tripped over it, starting this forward stumbling, falling, think I can make, nope, not going to, splat on the road.  The dog got loose from my desperate grasp and darted full speed down the road.  "Oh no,"  I thought, " I'm going to be fired as a volunteer."  But to my amazement, the dog ran straight back to the shelter and up to one of the employees.  As for myself, I slowly got myself upright and surveyed the damage.  Ripped jeans, bloody knees, scraped hands, not so bad.

Just then I looked up at a pick-up truck passing by and the man inside grinned and waved.  Out of habit, I waved back, slightly less enthused.  My daughter waited unfazed for me to limp down to her, because falling is, after all, at least a daily ocurrence for her.  Together we walked back to the shelter where I was handed back the leash, believe it or not.  Thankfully no one at the shelter had seen the whole thing, so I sucked it up and pretended it was quite normal to have blood dripping down your knee while I walked the dog back to her kennel.  Now I just mostly pass the big dogs treats.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Volunteering at the Animal Shelter

First, I have a confession to make.  I am definately behind the times with technology, and the only reason I'm here blogging at all is because my husband, a computer programmer, set me up.  That being said, I tried navigating the blogesphere last night for the first time and became overwhelmed, like I usually do with anything technology.  I'm a PhD kind of girl, i.e. Push here Dummy.  But I don't want to get left behind, and I want to stay ahead of my girls for their safety, which I fear is already too late as I watch my four year old navigating the internet between Disney and Nick Jr sites, and dressing virtual paper dolls.

That being said, going back to my experiences at the animal shelter, I had started going to volunteer in August of 2010.  When I started, we already had at home a 10 year old dog, a bunny named Mocha, a 26 year old cockatiel named Odie, and two fish tanks.  (The tanks are my husbands' hobby, I like cute and furry).  Since then we have added two more dogs, and though I wish I could add more, I know I'm maxed out, especially because one of those dogs needs a lot of attention.  Her name is Lilly.

What attracted me to her first was the paper describing her as calm on the outside of her kennel.  They are overflowing at our local shelter, so there were actually two dogs in the kennel and I had mistaken her description and thought the calm one was her kennel mate, so when I opened the gate, a powerful ball of pent up energy pushed past me and began madly dashing about the shelter.  I ran after the loose dog, and by the time I had caught it and brought it back, straining wildly on the leash, my oldest daughter had slipped a leash over Lilly's head and was calmly waiting with her while I tried to control the pandemonium.  I struggled with the dog and eventually won in getting him back in the kennel, and after wiping the sweat from my brow, we took Lilly for a walk.  I'll have to figure out how to include pictures later, but she's a German Shepherd mix with who knows what else.  Something small though because she only weighs 40 lbs.

I hadn't started out going to the shelter with the intention of adopting, but it was inevitable because I wasn't resolved not to.  When you walk past the rows of pleading eyes begging for love it's hard not to take them all home.  It had come down to either Lilly or a smaller terrier mix named Winnie, who melted in my arms when I held her.  My oldest daughter was leaning heavily towards Lilly, which was the ultimate deciding factor, that and seeing Winnie wildly jumping and barking non-stop in her kennel; behavior which has separation anxiety written all over it.  So Lilly it was.  A man working at the kennel confirmed this decision after telling me Lilly was one of his favorites, and he also pointed out her arrival date, which was 5 months ago.  She was 10 months old, and had spent half her life in this shelter.

Since then she has been like an onion, after I'd peel back one layer of behavior issues, there'd be another to uncover.  It's getting better, and I'm committed to helping her.  She is now in obedience school at Petsmart, which is the first time I've ever taken a dog through this kind of training, and it's been great for both of us.  I need to note that none of the behaviors involved biting or aggression, it's more fear, energy level (after all she is still a pup), and chewing. 

On a side note, Winnie went to a rescue, so I felt good about that too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Volunteering at the animal shelter

I had never volunteered at an animal shelter before, partly because I didn't know I could, and then I wasn't sure if I should.  I categorize myself as an animal lover in the Disney style, not over the top, but to give you an example:  It's actually my parents story because I was already out of the house, but it gives you the idea of how I was raised.  My parents moved to the country and began to have a mouse problem, so they began what I referred to as the mousey relocation program.  They had originally bought a traditional mouse trap, but when my dad found a mouse dying in it, he felt so bad he bought a live trap instead and after catching one, would bring it over to the nearby state park and release it.  Now these mice were not gross sewer rats but cute, tiny little field mice who lived off of seeds etc.  Our family just can never see an animal suffer, and we pride ourselves on our pets being well taken care of.

I actually started going to the shelter after we had attempted to bring home a pet kitten.  It belonged to a neighbor who had taken in a stray that turned out to already be pregnant.  I had gone over to pick one out with my two daughters, aged 9 and 3, but I asked if we could do a trial run since we already had a dog who seemed to like cats, and I don't mean that in a good way.  When we brought it home, with the help of my husband holding the dog and me holding the kitten, we introduced them, and it was an obivous no go situation.  Dudley, our dog, was shaking and crying, and when I tried to let him smell the kitten, he tried to take a taste instead.  Anyway, I had to march the kitten straight back while my girls protested, and while I felt bad for them, I'm no animal expert and I've never owned a cat, so I didn't want to put the cat at risk.

The next day I researched our local animal shelter instead and found that not only did they allow volunteers, they encouraged them.  After calling to make sure I could include my children, I took them over when my oldest got out of school.  Since we couldn't have a cat, at least we could play with them.  Our local shelter is strictly for our city, a smallish city in South Carolina where we had been relocated from Wisconsin with my husband's job.  The area has a history of poverty and had only recently begun to climb out of this when the recession began.  The reason I bring out the financial climate of the area is to explain the condition of our shelter.  While they are in the process of building a beautiful new shelter, they are still $300,000 short of the needed cash, and the construction itself has been delayed several times.  They are currently hoping to move the animals to the new place in the beginning of February.  In the meantime, the animals are housed in the existing structure, which is unsanitary and exposed to the elements, which are usually mild compared to the north with the exception of this winter.  They receive only $50,000 from the city for the year, and the rest of the expenses incurred are covered by whatever donations they receive.  The people who work there are dedicated animal lovers whose noble intentions are tharwted by a lack of resources.  There are also currently no participating veterinarians to assist in the care of these animals, and the influx of unwanted cats and dogs is relentless.

The people who volunteer help with laundry, washing the animals, and socializing them.  The first time I went I was hooked, and it's mostly been with my youngest daughter, who is now four years old, that I continue to go when my busy schedule allows for it.  It's these sad, but also happy stories that I want to blog about, to work on my writing skills and follow my dreams.  Please give me feedback, even constructive criticism, but be kind, after all, it is a human with a beating heart that you're writing to.