Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who's Teaching Whom?

Well, today was a very full day.

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DH and the kids stayed home from church with the dogs this morning. We didn't want to leave the two dogs alone together, and Baby was having diarrhea all over the place at the time (from the change in food, etc.).

One of the elders had specifically asked DH to make sure I came to church today, as the passage was James 5:13-18, and the elders wanted to anoint me with oil and pray for me. DH and I were so busy cleaning up dog diarrhea from the carpet that we didn't get the kids ready to go in time, and they wanted to stay with the dogs anyway, so I went to church by myself.

The message was excellent, and at the end of the service they designated different areas in the sanctuary where people could go to pray alone, sit to be prayed with by members of the prayer team about anything, or go to have the elders anoint them with oil and pray for healing of sickness. I went with the last group and was blessed by having a couple of the elders talk and pray with me and anoint me with oil.

Then I came home and we had lunch, I laid down for a few minutes, and then we had our home group Bible study. Both dogs (Baby and Kelly, the dog I'm dogsitting) did great during that, and didn't get at all upset by having new people in the house.

After that we took the dogs for a walk. Baby does not heel well when there's anything interesting going on. She pulls on the leash, but at least so far not so hard that she injures me. I'm going to have to work with her on that. Today I tried just stopping whenever she pulled on the leash, which made for a very slow walk. I think she may have been starting to get the message . . . I'm not sure.

When we ran into our neighbors also out for a walk with their two small children, Baby growled at them. I gave a correcting tug on her leash and told her no. I'm really going to have to figure out how to deal with that behavior--I do NOT want her growling at people. She did settle down quickly and then was perfectly friendly toward them after that.

We got the big crate cleaned up today, and I started working with Baby in it. I wanted her to stay out of the kitchen during dinner and she wouldn't, so I decided it would be a good time for some crate training.

She doesn't seem to have had any crate training. I coaxed her into the crate with some treats and gave her the Kong stuffed with her dry food, with a few treats mixed in. She didn't like being shut into the crate, but didn't freak out either.

She did bark and whine some. I took her outside 3 times when she barked like she needed something, and then put her right back in the crate. The first two times she did actually go to the bathroom. After the third time I put her back in the crate and waited for just a few minutes of her sitting quietly in the crate, and then let her out before she started making noise so she wouldn't think the barking and whining would get her out.

Her diarrhea is improving already. I gave her some yogurt and she loved it. She and Kelly also ate some mashed potatoes (I just gave Kelly a tiny taste) and a couple of raw baby carrots along with their dog food tonight. The funny thing is, Ebee hates mashed potatoes and usually gags on them and refuses to eat them. When she saw the dogs so excited about the mashed potatoes, Ebee decided she liked them too. LOL.

Baby seems to have been taught to stand up and put her front paws gently on your chest or into your hands. I haven't quite figured out yet what I'm doing that is signaling her to do this, but it seems to be in response to something. It's also her third-level attempt at communication (if we don't figure out what she wants from the throaty noises or the soft bark and/or nudge).

I have discovered that any time I hold my hand palm-side up for any reason, she tries to put her paw into it to "shake"--even if I'm just reaching out to pet her or making a gesture in conversation with someone else. I never realized how often I make that gesture, LOL.

We are working on giving her clearer signals to use for different things. For instance, she rings a bell to go out to go potty. Then hopefully I can eventually redirect the voice/nudge communications into an alert.

Baby is totally communicating with me. It's just hard sometimes to figure out what she's trying to tell me.

A little while ago she came and made a throaty noise at me and nudged me with her nose. When I said "What is it? Show me" she led me to the stairs and showed me that Kelly was coming upstairs, and made that throaty noise again while she tried to block Kelly with her body. With Kelly's 14-year-old bones and dysplasia, she opts to stay downstairs most of the time. It was the first time Baby had seen Kelly come upstairs, and I guess she didn't think Kelly was supposed to come up here. LOL. When I told her it was okay, she settled down and let Kelly come upstairs. Both dogs laid down near me.

Then Baby started getting agitated again, and this time led me to the front door where DH had gone out a few minutes before. She woofed at the door and whined. I said, "You want DH? He's not here. He's gone. He'll be back soon." She whined again, then settled down and followed me back upstairs, where she is now lying happily at my feet.

Oh, I also started saying "nudge" when she nudges me with her nose, just to start getting her to associate the word with the action. She is certainly doing it as a way to communicate with me and get my attention.

Now we just have to figure out what her new name will be before we get her microchipped and tagged on Tuesday. I'm afraid to let her of the leash even in our backyard until she has her ID tags and microchip, just in case she decides to jump the fence. I wouldn't put it past her to be able to do that--she is scary smart and nimble, and can reach quite high standing on her hind legs or jumping. Her previous owner had the bell she rang to go outside hanging at the TOP of the front door (DH is guessing it was close to 6 feet high), and she could easily ring it.

Baby is a great dog, but she does need some teaching, which is definitely going to be an energy-consuming challenge. It's also a challenge trying to figure out what she is trying to teach me.

I'm so glad we didn't end up bringing home the extra dog. One dog is plenty for us at this point. It's been fun having two for a few days, but I am so glad we didn't bring home an extra one and will be going down to one soon. Things will be a bit easier when Kelly goes home and I don't have to worry about juggling two dogs' needs and keeping them from eating each others' food.

It's been an exhausting day, and DH has to work a long day tomorrow. I'm really hoping Baby will let us get some sleep tonight. I'm not sure whether to try to make her sleep in the crate downstairs, or let her sleep on her bed in the master bathroom. Last night she got me up twice to look out the window at some noise she thought was worrisome and once to go to the bathroom, in addition to the multiple times I got up to put her back into her own bed because she was trying to sleep somewhere I didn't want her to sleep.

Her paws are oozing a bit of blood and pus and her mammaries are still dripping milk, so I really didn't want her lying on my bed or on the carpet all night. (We tried to keep her on the linoleum or in her crate a lot today.) But, especially since she still has a bit of diarrhea, I'm not sure I want to lock her in somewhere I'll have trouble hearing her if she needs to go out in the night. Right now I'm upstairs and she is lying on the kitchen floor downstairs, so I'm thinking about just letting her stay there. It's a good sign in the separation anxiety front, I think--she's finally relaxing and letting us out of her sight.

Ebee is falling asleep in my arms now. I'm going to get DH to take her to bed (the other two are already in bed) and then see what I can do for Baby's paws. The lady from the rescue suggested that I soak her paws in water with epsom salt and then iodine to help the foxtail sores in her feet. (Apparently cheatgrass is the same thing as foxtails. It's not as common on this side of the state, and I really hope Baby didn't drop any seeds in the yard to grow here.)

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Doggy Pictures

2 dogs

dog with DH

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Home

We drove all day today to go get Baby and bring her home. She is fabulous.

The owner decided to try to keep the chi-pom with her, so she didn't come home with us. That dog wouldn't have been a good fit for our family anyway--too strongheaded, high-wired, yappy, independent and slightly aggressive.

Baby is very worried right now that we are going to leave her, which is understandable. I'm going to have to get some advice on dealing with severe separation anxiety. We are going to either go to church in shifts tomorrow or one of us will stay home with her. We'll probably start working with her by gradually having her spend increasing amounts of time in a crate, starting with short periods and working up to longer times until she understands that we are not going to abandon her. First I have to figure out if I can get her into a crate. :)

She was so unhappy when we got home and I told her, "This is home. This is your home now." Her head and tail drooped and she didn't want to come into the house. She wanted to go to the home that she knew. Poor Baby.

Ebee is the only one who really likes Baby's name, so we're thinking about changing it. DH and two older girls want to call her Lady. I think that name is a bit too common for dogs, but I might be willing to compromise with it unless I can come up with something that we all like better. At least it sounds similar to the name she's used to. I like the name Daisy, too.

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She is so amazingly smart. And beautiful, and sweet. She is a bit protective of her people; we'll have to wait and see how much if any of an issue that will be. She is obviously very in-tune with her person and their emotions.

She came without a collar or leash . . . the previous owner hadn't used either on her for so long that she didn't even have any. Baby was a bit uncertain about the collar and leash when I first put them on her, but was ok with them. She doesn't pull excessively on the leash. She seems to already know how to heel on the left side.

She really does fetch things, including the remote, and she is quite tall standing on her hind paws to reach things. We're going to have to guard the kitchen counters, as she has already demonstrated that she can easily reach them. :)

She's very talented at catching pieces of food tossed into the air, and happily does tricks for food. So far I've seen her shake, sit up and beg, sit, lay down and come with alacrity. She's supposed to be able to count to any number up to 10, but hasn't shown us this trick yet.

She is quite polite. She has not tried to drink out of Kelly's bowl, only her own. She stands and waits at the side of the car until you tell her to get in. She was used to sitting in the passenger seat in the car, and at first every time one of us got out of the van she would jump into the empty seat. But it only took making her get down a couple of times before she understood that she wasn't supposed to sit there.

If you spread out a blanket and tell her to lay down on it, she will lay on it instead of the carpet.

One of her favorite pastimes at her last home was attempting to herd the landlord's horses, so we'll have to see how high her prey drive is. Hopefully she won't try to herd the kids. She hasn't tried to jump on the kids at all or be anything but extremely gentle and quiet with them. She will fetch a toy and bring it back to them.

I'm guessing she's not a big chewer, because her two favorite toys that she brought along with her are both stuffed toys in quite good condition.

She is quite thin . . . it doesn't look that way so much on first glance because her fur is beautiful and fluffy. But every knob in her spine sticks out, it's very easy to feel her ribs, and her sides are like gullies next to where her hips stick out. She was so hungry, she gulped down all the food we gave her. I'm not sure how much it's ok to feed her. We'll have to ask the vet about that.

I got some canned dog food that is basically meat with a few vegetables and added vitamins, and the highest-quality dry dog food I could find (mostly meat, and no grains except rice). She has been eating exclusively table scraps for a while, the lady said, because she couldn't afford to buy the dry food that she used to feed her. Baby devoured a can of dog food, a 5-piece chicken nuggets (her favorite treats, we were told, were Hot Wings and chicken nuggets), and some dry dog food, then took about 3 minutes to demolish a large Nylabone edible chew.

Baby's 6-week-old puppies (her second litter) were just taken away from her a couple of days ago, and she is quite engorged and dripping vast quantities of milk everywhere. I'm told we'll have to wait until her milk dries up before she can be spayed.

She has cheat grass sores on her feet that look quite painful, too--I need to figure out what we can do for that while we wait for her vet appointment Tuesday morning. I don't even know what cheat grass is. The tops of her toes and the areas between her toes are swollen and painful-looking, and at least one is oozing pus, but they are a normal color of pink--not red or purple or anything. She has licked the skin off the sore parts, and you can see the marks where it looks like something (cheat grass?) is embedded in the skin.

Her coat and skin and everything else otherwise look quite healthy, though. She doesn't seem to have any fleas or ticks. She does shed a lot, but we can handle that. :)

The previous owner said that she was born November 15th, 2006, but the vet records she gave us show that she got her first set of puppy shots in the first week of September 2006. So she appears to be just over age 2. She is due for all her shots, but did get the full set of puppy shots (and worming) and has had a Rabies vaccine recently enough that it's unlikely to have worn off yet. It's so helpful to have all her vet records.

The lady who had her said that Baby's mother was a collie and the father was a "big black St. Bernard." I don't think there's any such thing as a black St. Bernard, and she doesn't look at all like she has Newfoundland or St. Bernard in her, so I'm not sure if that's accurate or not. I'm just calling her a collie mix for now. :) She is brown and white, with long black fringing on her ears. Her skin is pink with dark spots on it, but the spots on her skin don't coincide with the spots in her fur. She is about 23" tall at the shoulder.

She gets along ok with Kelly, Morning's dog that we're dogsitting. (I checked with Morning to make sure it was OK to introduce them, since they were acting like they really wanted to meet each other.) They're about the same size, but Kelly weighs a lot more of course.

Kelly was so excited to see Baby and wanted to play with her, but Baby just sniffed her and then pretty much ignored her. Kelly was slightly disappointed and then went back to lounging around. They both seem quite comfortable around each other, but they're not going out of their way to interact. Baby doesn't like it when one of us pets Kelly and is not petting Baby. :) She doesn't try to hurt Kelly, but she does try to push her way between us to edge Kelly out.

Baby was slightly nervous around DH at first (she lived with an abusive man in the past, from what we were told), but as soon as she realized that he was gentle, soft-spoken, and kind she latched onto him. She's spent much of the evening sitting on his feet. DH, the dog and kid magnet, wins again. LOL.

Containing her is going to be a challenge--at least if we're trying to contain her away from us. She already figured out how to open the bathroom door and the baby gate, and she panicks when she's left alone. She wants to be right with us--preferably touching us--at all times.

We got out a large crate we were hoping she would feel secure with and use as a den, but she was uninterested and Kelly (who hasn't been crated before, at least in the time Morning has had her) immediately claimed it and hasn't budged from it since. She seems very happy in it. I'm guessing she must have been crate-trained as a puppy.

I'm noticing lots of little things, like that Baby took forever to go to the bathroom. She wouldn't go no matter how many times I tried to take her potty until she finally HAD to go on the grass. She cringed just a bit as she was going, then visibly relaxed when I praised her. Apparently she wasn't sure if we were going to get after her for pottying or not.

She is going to have to get used to our soft-spoken ways. She's used to being spoken to repeatedly and with growing intensity in both Spanish and English until she does something, from what we saw. She does seem to respond better to Spanish than to English, so it comes in handy that I speak a little Spanish. She picks up anything so quickly, though, that I don't think she'll have any trouble transitioning to English.

She's not at all food-defensive, and let me take her edible Nylabone briefly and then give it back to her with no trouble. She did growl at me slightly when I first got out of the van when we arrived. I think she sensed that her owner was upset to see me, because she was holding back tears at having to hand over her dog. As soon as the lady told her I was a friend and shook my hand, she was fine. So we'll definitely have to keep an eye on that. We're not going to have the kids around her unsupervised, and will be closely involved with any interactions for the forseeable future, just because we don't want to take any chances.

She is a sensitive soul, and responds very well to praise and rewards, and so far she listens well to being told "no." (We'll see how mischevious she gets once she gets more comfortable here--she could definitely keep us hopping with her intelligence and abilities!) She'll fit right in with our parenting style, I think--we prefer to focus on instruction and praise and non-punitive consequences rather than punishments even with our kids.

I'm thanking the Lord for sending us this dog. I know we're in for some challenges, and I'm sure we'll face some unexpected hurdles. But I think Baby is perfect for us. The previous owner told me that she had been praying every night that she would be able to find a nice family with children who would love and care for Baby, and we've certainly been praying for the right dog for our family.

I can't wait to see how things progress as she gets more comfortable with us.

Just now she got up and stared at me, made a low almost growling noise in her throat, and waited. When that didn't bring the results she wanted, she gave a low, short bark, still staring at me intently. I said, "What is it, Baby? What do you want?" and she started toward the doorway, looking back to make sure I was following, and tried to lead me down to the kitchen. She was hungry again.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Baby

Baby car

We may be getting our dog tomorrow. Her name is Baby, and she's supposed to be a lab/collie mix.

Baby face

If what the current owner says about her is true, she's truly an amazing dog. The owner was telling me about the "cute tricks" she does--including opening the refrigerator to get out a bottle of water and bringing it to someone, bringing keys, remote, etc. upon request, coming in response to a bell ringing and then going to fetch a person the bell-ringer requested, and getting anything that someone points to and asks her to bring.

Baby ear

None of these were things that anyone specifically tried to teach her, supposedly. Just things she picked up on her own. The lady's brother had cerebral palsy, and the dog just started doing these things to help him. The brother passed away recently, and Baby's owner is no longer able to care for her.

If she is as described, she is not only incredibly smart and loving, but also great with kids. She loves to play frisbee and fetch.

She's 1 and 1/2 years old and just weaned her second litter of puppies. Poor thing. We won't be able to have her spayed until her milk dries up, but we'll be taking her to the vet to get checked over right away. She does have some cheat grass sores on her paws that need to be treated, and I want to make sure she's up to date on her vaccines and doesn't have fleas before we bring her into the house.

Baby side

There's also a chihuaua/pomeranian mix from the same family, also needing a home. The lady who has them is being evicted on Sunday, and hasn't been able to give the dogs good care for a while anyway.

So, we're going out to see the dogs tomorrow. Baby sounds almost a little too good to be true, so I'm reserving judgement until I see her. She's certainly a cutie. If she is anything close to what the lady says, she'll be coming home with us. If the pom/chi mix seems like she'd be safe around the kids, we might also take her at least for a few days until we can find a rescue or foster home for her.

Since Kelly isn't leaving until Monday or Tuesday, we may end up having three dogs in the house for a few days.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bonding

You know the kids are getting attached when they get sad or upset and immediately want to go hug the dog to feel better.

I like to ask the kids at the end of the day, "What was the best and worst part of the day today?" Today they all said that the best part of the day was Kelly (the dog).

I can already tell they're going to miss her when it's time for her to go home.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dogsitting

Morning is going on a motorcycle trip for the next few days, so we're taking care of her dog Kelly. Kelly comes along with Morning to visit fairly frequently. She's familiar with us and seems to feel comfortable here.

Having Kelly here for almost a week will give us a good taste of what having a larger dog in the house is like, I think. 14-year-old Kelly is a very mellow and low-energy specimen, though. She is pretty cheery and energetic for her age, but she's definitely not an excitable young dog.

Morning dropped her off this evening. Already Kelly seems to be settling in and enjoying herself. She ate every last crumb of her dinner and played in the yard with the girls. She's starting to follow AJ and M&M around wherever they go.

Ebee is always a little afraid of animals at first, but she is beginning to get more comfortable having a big dog in the house.

The whole family went for a walk tonight with the dog. That was fun. I think it will be good for us to have an incentive to do that more often.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Piano

Now that the living room is all cleared out and decluttered (hooray!), the piano is accessible again. AJ decided that she wanted to learn how to play, so DH started teaching her. Having two parents who play the piano is helpful. One of us is always there to answer questions, give tips and encouragement, or teach the next step.

AJ is loving it, and has really taken off with it. She diligently practices her C scale and her little beginner songs several times a day with no prompting. At the moment she's playing and singing, "This is up. This is down. Let's go up and down. Let's go up to here. Let's go down again . . . "

M&M is starting to learn a bit too.

In this, as in all things, the difference in their personalities shines out. AJ is intensely focused on learning the mechanics, getting it right, and practicing the correct fingering and notes to get it perfect and learn the foundational truths of piano-playing. So far M&M wants to learn songs that are familiar to her, and wants the music she makes to be beautiful.

It's such a joy to see them both enjoying the piano and wanting to practice. I'm sure that both girls will blossom in their musical ability with their own distinct style.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shooby-Do-Wah, Shooby-Do-Wah, Waddaya Gonna Do?

We've been staying busy the last few weeks with trying to get the house and yard ready for a dog and organized before school starts, visiting with family and friends, and general life.

We had a lovely time last week getting together with Overseas Musical Family and their new baby, and I was so thrilled to be able to clean out my stash and help them by donating a stroller and carseat.

Morning came over on Thursday and helped us look at and daydream about dogs online. Yesterday my sister Sparrow had a birthday party/game night. Last night JT and her family came over, and we had a lovely time having dinner, visiting and playing Carcassonne. At the moment I'm completely shot, but it was a lot of fun.

I'm still feeling like I'm over mono, but the weather and overdoing it the last few weeks is causing a flare-up of the FMS/CFS the last few days.

The big thing I'm thinking about and researching at the moment is the possibility of training a dog to do some things that would actually be helpful to me during flare-ups or in preventing flare-ups, such as fetching and carrying things and even helping with some simple household tasks like stripping bedding off the beds or picking up things and handing them to me or putting them away on the days when bending down is a challenge. There are several things a dog could pretty easily be trained to do that would be helpful and might help minimize pain and fatigue during a flare-up.

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Dogs are, of course, also great at being canine hot water bottles to apply heat and pressure for pain management--the very short-haired or hairless breeds, especially the Xolo (Mexican Hairless), are increasingly being used for this purpose for people with chronic pain.

In reading about assistance dogs, I've been amazed all over again at the kinds of tasks they can be taught to do--including things like bringing the owner a bottle of water and then taking the empty container to throw in the recycling bin, pulling a wagon/shopping cart/stroller, carrying in bags of groceries, toting schoolbooks in a doggie backpack, finding and fetching the remote control/keys/purse/shoes/whatever, and even putting laundry in the washing machine and then pulling it out of the dryer. (I don't think I'd want a dog mouthing my clean laundry, but for a person in a wheelchair I can imagine that would be incredibly helpful.)

Dogs can even help a disabled or limited-mobility person put on and take off clothing. They can, of course, help pull a wheelchair or assist with balance or stability for someone who has trouble walking or keeping their balance, or help someone get up off the floor or out of their chair if they have trouble with such tasks.

I knew that there were seizure alert dogs who sense when the handler is about to have a seizure and warn them so they can get to a safe place or position before it happens. But I didn't know that some dogs can also do the same thing for migraines, high blood sugar (for diabetics), and even sensing a "crash" and warning a handler with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome that they're about to get blasted with a sudden flare-up of pain and fatigue.

A dog can also guide someone out of a public place and to their car or another safe, quiet place where they can rest when they have a migraine or get hit with the "brain fog" and disorientation that can go along with a fibromyalgia flare-up.

Dogs are amazing.

I'm thinking that, since I have some experience training dogs, we could just get a dog as a family pet and also teach her to do some things around the house to save me some pain and energy expenditure. She might not be a full-fledged "service dog", but it would be helpful to me anyway.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Busy, but Good

I haven't blogged much lately because I've been too busy doing other things--good things!

For the last couple of weeks, I've finally been feeling much better. I feel like I'm finally over mono and back to "my normal". I have so much more energy and endurance. I still have to pace myself, and the pain levels still fluctuate (worse when I overdo it, of course), but life is manageable and enjoyable again.

The morning I woke up and started eagerly planning projects in my head, I knew I was finally on the mend. It was so strange for me, all those months, to not even have the energy to be interested in any projects or creative outlets. Usually I have several things going at once and dozens more being planned in my head.

In the last few weeks I've turned the mass of weeds in the corner of the back yard into a lovely vegetable garden, gotten the front lawn and flowerbeds under control, entered projects in the fair, gone on outings with family and friends (including two trips to the fair), made huge progress on decluttering and organizing our home, and even started crocheting again.

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On Friday SIL The Mentor came over and helped me get the office arrangement and organization close to completion. Last night a friend of DH's came over to help move furniture. We got the old ugly file cabinet out of the office, rearranged the kids' bedrooms, and set up the cute plastic dollhouse bedframe I got for free and scrubbed up from years of being outdoors.

Now the bunk beds are set up as two separate beds in the bigger bedroom, with the trundle bed stowed away under one. The little yellow bedroom just has the twin dollhouse bed in it, and it's so much less crowded-looking than with the twin-over-full bunk in that small room. We haven't decided for sure yet who will sleep where.

Of course, all the kids want the pretty little house bed. But both M&M and Ebee really don't like sleeping alone, and AJ really needs her time alone. So I expect that AJ will end up having the yellow bedroom and the other two girls will share the larger room. Or they'll all end up in the bigger room and the yellow room will just be a guest room and extra playroom.

Ebee's birthday was on the 3rd, so she's 3 now. Since illness was going around our family that week, we just had a quiet little family party at home with chocolate cupcakes and a few gifts. She is such a delight, and so happy and healthy.

Today we're planning to go pick up our exhibits from the fair and continue working on getting the house decluttered and organized. I'm hoping to have the house and yard projects finished before we start school, so I'm pretty much spending every spare bit of time and energy on that at the moment.

Once we're done getting the house and yard in order, we're hoping to get a dog eventually. We've been wanting one for years, but wanted to wait until life settled down and the kids were older. AJ is especially longing for a dog. I think it would be really good for her, and she will be able to do quite a bit of the daily care with my help and supervision.

We're looking at most likely getting a shelter dog or rescue--a young adult female somewhere between Yorkie and Australian Shepherd in size (medium to small, but not tiny--probably between 20 and 45 lbs). We want one that's gentle and good with kids and not aggressive with other dogs, already housetrained, and preferably already good on a leash. Hopefully one that's relatively young and healthy, and has a coat that's not too matt-prone or difficult to care for.

We're hoping to get AJ (and possibly M&M, if she shows interest) involved in 4-H this year or next, so we want a dog that will be a good candidate for showing in areas like obedience and possibly agility.

Of course, it doesn't have to be a purebred to show in 4-H, so we are looking at both single-breed dogs and mixed breeds--perhaps a sheltie or other sheep-herding mix. I had a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a kid, and would love to have one of those, but we're open to just about any breed that doesn't have tendencies to be too high-strung or aggressive.

The prospect of a dog is really good motivation for all of us. The kids and I have posted lists of our chores and daily tasks with a reminder that we're working to develop enough responsibility and consistency to get a pet. We even have a picture of a little Shetland Sheepdog/American Eskimo mix up on the wall smiling at us.

So far it's been keeping us very motivated. After a few months of keeping it up daily, I think we'll have made great progress in forming good habits and keeping life manageable.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

PSA: Blog Browser-Crashing Issues

Is your blog shutting down your browser? If you're getting a page won't load--abort error message on your blog, it seems to be an issue with SiteMeter and Internet Explorer.

If you remove the SiteMeter counter script, then it works fine. Apparently using Firefox also helps, but it doesn't help everyone else who is still running IE.

Or you can try some of the other fixes in the comments on this post. There are instructions for fixing the IE7 bug, and also for moving the SiteMeter script to a different part of your template so it won't cause problems.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Diagnosis: Sisters

sisters
(Me, SisJ, and Sparrow, with Dad in the background--photo taken by Mom)

My little sister Sparrow was diagnosed with fibromyalgia yesterday. I really feel for her as she's sorting through the mixed feelings that come with a diagnosis like that.

That makes three out of the three of us who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia (Sparrow), chronic fatigue syndrome (SisJ), or both (me). Add Mom with her hereditary kidney failure (and subsequent transplant), and we make quite the family of spoonies. At least Dad is relatively healthy. And there's something of a silver lining in all of us being able to really understand and support each other as we deal with chronic health issues.

It's a good thing I married a man from a very healthy family. Hopefully his good health genes will come out strong in the kids. :)

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Fun at the Fair

all three girls riding in a bear

We went to opening day of the fair with Morning again this year. A local store always sponsors free entry and a pancake breakfast with coupons from the store. We skip standing in line for the pancake breakfast, but try to go to the free opening day every year.

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DH had planned to take the day off work and go, too. But with his project deadline at hand and several missed work days due to illness this week, he decided to wait.

We had thought AJ would have to stay home after being sick in bed with a fever all day yesterday. But her fever broke last night, and she felt perfectly fine this morning. So, since we would be mainly outdoors anyway, I went ahead and took all three girls. AJ felt fine and was full of energy all day, so it was a good decision I think. We did try not to breathe on or get too close to anyone, and washed hands often. :)

M&M is sick with a tummy ache and diarrhea tonight, and Ebee was complaining of a tummy ache too--which seems like a different virus altogether if it's not just from the fair food. The fair food actually seems to be as likely a culprit, given the sensitive tummies we have here. I was just so thankful not to have to worry about food allergies this year.

Anyway, we did have a wonderful time. It was really great to have Morning along, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly taking in the fair.



We saw all kinds of creatures, including bees, cats, livestock of all types, rabbits, poultry, and even reptiles. We saw sheep being sheared, cows being bathed, and goats being shown.

tortoises

petting a Holland Lop

The kids especially enjoyed getting to pet some of the critters we saw--including an alligator!

petting an alligator

We found our exhibits, and were excited to see the ribbons we had won. AJ and M&M were thrilled that they won third place ribbons this year instead of the "thank you for participating" ribbons they got last year. Ebee got an "excellent" sticker and a note that her picture was "very sweet"--not bad for her very first entry.

AJ's scrap art entry: Bobbi the Alien Warrior:

AJ's decorated box

M&M's painting, "Happy House with Tooth-Shaped Cloud":

M&M's house painting

Ebee's sketch, "Happy Daddy":

Ebee's drawing

I won second-place ribbons on all four of my photos, and Mom and SisJ got seconds on the photos I helped them enter, too.



I was surprised (and pleased!) to do so well on my first attempt at entering photos in a contest. Most of the categories at our fair are graded on a system of merit, and only a few of the awards (such as "superintendent's choice") are limited in number. So there can be many first, second and third-place ribbons given out in a particular category.

As a last-minute thought, I pulled out the only crocheted project I had completed and kept this year, and entered that. It won a blue ribbon, which was not a surprise after the last few blue-ribbon crocheting experiences, but made me happy. :)



Ebee grew several inches this year and was finally big enough for all the kiddie rides, which was very exciting for her. DH and I bought discount ride tickets in advance, and we had enough for each child to go on two rides. I went along with M&M and Ebee on the little caterpillar roller coaster, which was fun for M&M and me, but not so much for Ebee. She later she said that she enjoyed the roller coaster a little bit and was only a little scared.

Morning took AJ over to ride on the merry-go-round while the rest of us were doing the little roller coaster, so I sent the camera with her:

carousel

As a special highlight of the day, we also saw a beautiful little sheltie. She was an assistance dog for a lady in a wheelchair, and her owner let us pet her and told us about the work she does. Even Ebee (who is usually uncertain with dogs) fell in love with the little lass. I hope the shetland sheepdog my SIL rescued is so sweet and gentle, and that we get to take her home from the shelter this week.

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