16 April 2014

Georgie grows.

Remember when Georgie was just a little tiny thing?  

Well, he's gotten a little bigger...
He's 4 months old, and weighs about 40 lbs now.  He has gotten less roly-poly and more gangly-awkward with his growing limbs that fly every which way when he runs.  He loves to be with us, he loves to eat, and he loves to play with toys.  We just completed his puppy obedience class, and will start another level in a few weeks - the pup will do just about anything for a hot dog treat! 

He is such a sweetheart and loves the kids, although doesn't always realize how big he's gotten or that he can easily knock them down - we are working on that!  We know he's going to be a big boy, so are trying our best to work on his obedience and manners now, before he's massive and could drag us around, ha!  He follows me around at night, when the kids are in bed - it's super sweet, and I love my little canine shadow :)

15 April 2014

Tuesday Insta-update!

 {All photos above from our March visitors - so fun!}
 Where to start, where to start?!  It's been awhile since I've updated and shared what we are up to!

The kids are doing great.  It's hard to believe that Evie is 18 months old - she is walking/running all over the place, and saying more and more words.  She has gotten VERY opinionated and stubborn lately - she knows what she wants and when she doesn't get it, look out!  She LOVES her daddy - last night, she was calling out for him in the middle of the night.  He rolled out of bed to go check on her, only to come back saying she was dead asleep, just sleep-talking!  Precious girl sure loves him!  

Eliana seems so old lately!  She is 4.5, and is so, so ready for school!  She asks me all the time about going and when she'll be ready - she can't wait to start Pre-K in the fall!  We are still working on her numbers and letters here, and I keep talking about getting her some workbooks to go through.  She is very sensitive and if something hurts her feelings, oh boy!  When watching the movie Frozen, there is a sad part that makes her get teary-eyed every time - how did the crying-during-movies start so early with her?!?!  She could play outside all day long, and loves to dance, be a princess, and dress-up! 

Ezra cracks us up all day long.  He talks a LOT and is always asking good/funny questions - like does a turkey have a tongue, and how do chickens clean their babies, and where do alligators live?  We are in the midst of potty-training, and have made some good progress.  The boy has yet to poop in the potty, so we are working on that - he gets a BIG reward when he goes, so I don't know what he's waiting for ;)  Other than that, he has been doing a great job keeping his undies dry, and even insisted on wearing them on errands with Daddy this weekend!  

Max is good.  His class is still going well, and he's hanging in there.  I think he is getting ready for it to be done!  I can't believe we've been here almost a year, and that in just a few months, we'll be moving on to our next location...which is yet to be known!  Even though he's on the downward slope, he still really likes his class, and learning a language - sometimes, he'll come home and talk to me, looking at me like I understand every word, only to remember that although he is almost fluent, I have NO idea what he is saying!!!

A few weeks ago, he bartered some computer services for a truck. Yes, a truck!  He's been working on it the last couple of weeks, and it's finally road-ready.  It's super old and a little quirky, but suits him great - plus, he got it essentially for free!  Granted, we had to put a little bit of money into him fixing up some parts, but still!  Way cheaper than any other truck we've seen out there!  He's been taking it to work, so the kids and I have had the car more days - it's been super nice just knowing that we have a vehicle and could go somewhere if we want to!  I don't feel so trapped in the house anymore!  
The weather has been really nice lately - warm and sunny, for the most part.  Perfect for playing outside, and burning off lots of toddler energy.  If I don't get the kids outside after naps, it takes them FOREVER to wind down at night - especially Ezra, who just plays in his bed.  One night, I heard him messing around upstairs, so went up to find all his pillows and blankets off the bed.  I couldn't really see him on the top bunk.  I quickly realized he had slid under his bottom fitted sheet, and was laying flat, "hiding" from me.  It sort of freaked me out that he wiggled under there, and I was a little peeved that he wasn't sleeping, but it was pretty creative!  

I started a Veterinary Assistant course last month online, and it's been fun working on my lessons.  I was able to utilize some military spouse financial assistance, and it's entirely self-paced, which has been great for me - I can find a few hours in my evenings (like while Max is busy studying!) and do my readings/tests.  I was excited when I found this opportunity - I feel like it will somehow be a good bridge to my degree/experience.  Throughout High School and into College, I logged a LOT of hours working with animals - at a Vet's office, in the kennel, at a horse barn, with llamas, in my early-college days as an Animal Science student.  I LOVED working with animals and have many hours recorded with them.  I then went on to get a degree from college in Global Studies, with a focus on environmental sustainability and Africa.  I loved my coursework for my degree too, but it never really felt like all my hours of experience meshed with my degree.  I think that having an Vet Assistant certificate might help me out a little bit, and I am really excited about completing it!

Georgie is doing great - he's not so little anymore - and I think I'll save his update and some photos for later this week!

I have been enjoying some Lent readings the last few weeks, and am really looking forward to Easter this weekend.  We don't know what we'll be doing that day for sure - it might just be us at home, and that's fine! We talked about dying eggs on Saturday, then hiding eggs for the kids around the house Sunday morning before church.  After Easter service, we'll have an Easter dinner together, and I can't wait.  Easter is one of my favorite holidays - not for the food, but because of why we celebrate it.   

Well, the kiddos should be up from their naps soon, and I might try to knock out some of my lessons before then.  Hopefully I'll be around a little more on the blog - I miss this space!  Have a good Tuesday!

11 April 2014

Why April 11 will always be special.

Her name was Matti, and she was more than just a dog.

Growing up, we had cats, but I always wanted a dog.  I started begging my parents for one, and of course they said no countless times.  Too much responsibility, too much work, too much money.  The answer was always no.  But I kept asking.  And then we heard about the Leader Dog puppy program. You took on a guide dog puppy for a year, socializing it and doing basic training, raising it in your home.  After a year, you took the puppy back to the main facility where they received further training and hopefully passed to be placed with a blind person.  For whatever reason, this idea sounded intriguing to my parents - maybe because we would only commit to having the dog for one year, and maybe they thought it would be a great project for a 10-year old girl.

I continued to beg and beg, and they finally said we could do it, if I promised to hug them each every day for one month.  You see, I had major surgery when I was a little girl.  Before my surgery, I was a cuddly little thing, but after my surgeries and procedures, I started to not like being touched or hugged.  Going to family functions made me cringe, thinking about having to hug all the aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas.  So, for me, this was a great challenge.  Which I gladly took on, for a puppy!

We got called that Spring.  A litter of puppies had been born on April 11, and we were asked if we would take one.  I was 10, and we agreed to drive to pick up a teeny yellow lab puppy one weekend in late May.  That weekend also ended up being the weekend of my Great-Grandma Lillian's funeral.  We named the puppy Matti.  Partly because we just liked it, and partly because Great-Grandma's last name was Mattix.  It seemed fitting.

I still remember sitting in that waiting room, with so much anticipation, for that woman to come walking through the door, with our puppy.  She was squishy and wrinkly and soft, with that puppy-breath smell that only little puppies seem to have.  She licked our hands and we put a collar on, and took her with us.  She was Matti, and I had already worked hard to earn having her.  She was more than a dog to me, she was my prize, my excitement, my first puppy.

On the way home, they said we should keep her crated, but she cried for her family most of the way.  Finally, my mom said we could let her out.  She crawled on my lap, snuggled her face up in my arm, and fell fast asleep.  I was smitten.

We had Matti for almost a year.  I took her to 4-H dog training classes, we followed the Leader Dog training guide, we took her to grocery stores, restaurants, church, parks, schools, and farms - she went pretty much everywhere with us.  I remember her falling asleep in the back row of church, wiggling her way out in the middle of the aisle, rolling on her back and snoring - Pastor Dan came up to us at the end of service, commenting that his sermon must have been really boring that day.  I remember being in a grocery store with her, reminding her to watch out for old ladies and their wayward carts - didn't want her paws getting run over!  I remember my mom bringing her into school one day, so I could share her story with my 6-grade English class, and feeling like a proud mama as she laid there and stared at the other students.

She was a sweet soul, learning her manners quickly, making us laugh with her puppy antics, cuddling with us on the floor (since she wasn't allowed on the furniture), being a constant for me that year.

The next Spring, 1998, we got the call that it was time to take her back - she was due for the next phase of her training.  I don't think we had quite thought it through, what it would mean to have a puppy for a year, and then to have to say good-bye to her.  I remember driving back to the Leader Dog facility that weekend, with Matti in the car, my heart in my chest.  I was almost 11, and didn't know how to emotionally respond to what I was feeling.  She laid there in the car, and I imagined that she knew we were taking her back, and that her sad eyes were simply a reflection of my own.  I remember walking into that waiting room, the same one we had been in a year ago, and sitting down to wait.  For a woman to walk through the doors, to take Matti away.  We hugged her one last time, my mom choking back tears, me trying to hold it together, and watched her walk back through the doors.  I knew it was good and right, but it was still so, so hard.  That night, I cried and cried, as my young emotions finally found a release.  Matti had been there, at our side, for a year, through so much with us.  And we had gotten so attached.

It wasn't long before I was begging my mom for another dog.  We were all lonely, missing our Matti, and her presence in our home.  I think my mom knew how sad I was, and for some reason, she agreed to let me bring a black with blue-eyed lab-shepherd mix home from the humane society.  We named her Chloe, and she was nothing like Matti.  She was crazy and loud and had serious life issues.  But we loved her just the same.  And she helped us not miss Matti as much.

Honestly, I think we thought that would be the end of our story with Matti.  We had heard, a few months after taking her back, that she had passed her training, and had been placed with a blind woman - we kept their graduation picture framed for a long time, we were so proud of her and how she was helping someone.  We had always known that when a guide dog retired, the puppy family had first chance at taking them back, if they wanted, but we never really gave it much thought.

In April of 2008, I got a frantic message from my mom, in the middle of Swahili class, asking me to call her right away.  She said that Leader Dog had called her, informing her that Matti had retired, asking if we wanted to adopt her, and if we could come that weekend.  She called to tell me that she had said yes without even thinking about it.  I remember crying in the middle of the hallway that day, in shock and disbelief that we would see our beloved Matti again.

That weekend, which also happened to be my 22nd birthday weekend, my dad and I packed into the car, and drove hours away, to Michigan, to the Leader Dog facility.  I remember getting out of the car, and walking into that waiting room, the exact same one where we had met and left her, feeling such anticipation and joy that we had this chance.  She was waiting with the women at the front desk.  I remember kneeling down, and she walked over to me, tail wagging.  Her face was older, grayer than I had remembered, but it was her.  Our Matti.  It was a feeling like coming home, to something old and worn and familiar.  Feeling like a piece of the puzzle that had been missing, had finally been found.  I hugged that old girl, and the women marveled with wonder in their eyes, saying they could tell she remembered me.  10 years later, and we were reunited.

Matti was with us for one year.  She had been sick and was recovering.  She had arthritis and couldn't get around well.  She needed help doing stairs and getting in the car.  She had her daily regime of pills and supplements.  She slept a lot.  But she was home.  She was sleeping next to me at night, and hanging out with me during the day.  She befriended that crazy Chloe dog, and even helped us welcome a new kitten, Milia home.  She greeted all our family members like she had never been away.  We were all so happy to see her, to have her with us again.  It just felt so right.

We knew when it was time to finally say good-bye.  We could tell she was trying so hard to be strong for us, but that she was in so much pain, and it wasn't fair to keep her alive, when she would only try harder to be brave for us.  It was on her birthday, April 11, 2009, that we took her to the Vet.  I was just pregnant with Eliana, and an emotional hot mess.  I stroked her soft ears on the trip there, and we sat around her in that exam room, as she peacefully went to sleep.  It was good and right, she was free from all that pain, but saying goodbye was hard.

I am so thankful that we got to see Matti again, that we got that year with her.  It was unexpected, and amazing, and did something to all of our hearts that I can't quite explain.  When we talk about Matti, we get this gleam in our eye, and this tenderness in our voice, and we share our stories about how her sweet self impacted our lives.  She was a dog, but she really was so much more.  She was friend and confidante, she was companion and protector, she was a precious gift.

April 11 will always, always hold a special place in my heart.  Remembering the lessons I learned through her, because of her.  Remembering the joy of a first puppy.  Remembering the surprise blessing in that last year with her.  Remembering the sweet yellow Lab that stole our hearts and made me a better person.

Her name was Matti, and she was more than just a dog.

31 March 2014

Blogging thoughts.

Some days, and a lot lately, I feel at a loss in regards to my blog.  Some days, there are so many thoughts, but not very many words.  Some days, there are concerns about sharing so much of our life (and more so, stories and photos of my kiddos) online.  Some days, there is no motivation, no inspiration, no real hard-pressed need to share.

And I think that's ok.  I don't blog to get more readers or to write a certain number of posts a month.  I don't blog for numbers or comments or recognition.  I blog to share our life, to keep friends and family updated, to record moments and memories and the little things.  I blog because I love looking back and seeing where we've been, what we've done.  I am not very good at keeping baby books or family scrapbooks or photo albums - but I've been pretty diligent about blogging over the years, so the blog holds beautiful snapshots of precious moments and events, and that is special to me.

Sometimes I have this strange feeling, because while I share a lot on my blog, there is a lot that I don't share.  I can't share it all.  This is too public and large of a space.  And that's ok too.  But sometimes it leaves me feeling like I've posed myself or my family, only allowing certain parts through.  I guess that's true.  And I think it's ok.  There is no need to share every little detail here.  Sometimes there are details too private or too raw or too precious to share.  I want to be intentional and real and transparent, but I also understand that there is a line that should not be crossed, for the sake and safety of my family.

I often wonder what will become of this blog.  More and more I think about just stopping, about just saving all the files, and hitting the delete button.  I wonder why I bother keeping it going, especially because lately I have had no motivation to share, to record stories, to update.

But then I remember how much I love to blog.  And how much more I love to share stories and thoughts and ramblings, to record memories and events, so that people can be updated on our little family.  It's not easy being so far away from family and friends, to feel so alone - and I know that keeping a blog has helped me maintain the connected feeling - knowing that I have a way to share bits and pieces of what we are up to or funny stories of the kids or new family updates.  

So, I guess for now, I just needed to share where I was on blogging, and give a little insight as to why the blog has been so quiet lately.  I am thinking lots of thoughts and there is a lot going on, so hopefully my motivation and enthusiasm will come back, and I'll have more to share soon.  And if not, I suppose that's ok too.

Happy Monday, friends.

24 March 2014

Class Break.

Last week was Max's class break.  And it was glorious (well, except for those first few days in which he came down with strep throat and was made to stay in bed!).  He got to be home with us for an entire week - no class, no studying, no study hall, no Marine Corps duties, no getting called back into work in the evening - and it was so lovely.  

The first few days, he was recovering from strep (which was initially diagnosed as strep AND mono...so thankful the mono test came back negative, and that nobody else got what he had!), and slept a lot - while the kids and I cleaned and de-germed the house!  It was almost a good thing, because once he got out of bed, he was full of energy and ready to go!  

We spent the week playing outside, taking walks, watching movies, and eating lots of yummy food.  We visited the Aquarium, checked out Point Lobos (which, although we had a poison oak scare, we still really enjoyed our morning!), played at the beach, and ate at a new-to-us restaurant.  Max got to work on his truck, I got to take a few naps, and we got a lot of relaxing in.  It was a happy week.  

He's back to class/work today, and I think I'm having withdrawals.  The kids and I didn't quite know what to do, just us again, this morning!  I feel pretty spoiled from having him home all week last week, and am so thankful that he got a break.  He keeps a full, demanding schedule, and I don't always feels like he is around much, or that the kids get much time with him - so to have all of last week to soak Daddy up was much needed for all of us!  We all feel rested, refreshed, and able to finish up the last few months of class before he graduates, and we move on to wherever is next!