Friday, January 21, 2011

don't fence me in

I love my dogs. They make me laugh, cry, yell and pull my hair out in frustration but most of all they make me happy. They are big, though not as big as we thought they would get (and for that I am counting my blessings). They are loud. And despite going to remedial dog classes, they don't listen all that well. But they're ours' and I love them.

Now, while they are not all that big, they can jump like freaking kangaroos. They will sit at the back door when they want to come in and if we don't move fast enough they will start leaping up at the door. I do not kid you in the least that I am wiping paw prints off the door at over five feet high. My adorably mischievous pups put this talent to good use. The end of the summer Mudge discovered that the gate to our stockade fence, which runs across the sides of the yard (the rest of the yard is fenced in with chain link), was lower than the rest of the fence. In no time at all, he had figured out how to jump up onto the gate and then over he'd go. Daisy, while no slouch, is not quite as agile but she'd scramble and claw her way up and over too so as not to be left behind. At first they only employed this tactic when they heard something going on in the front yard but it didn't take long before the wonders of the wide world beckoned and they would leap out every chance they could. So I came up with a brilliant deterrent. I bought a piece of lattice about three feet wide and six or seven feet long. I pounded a couple nails into the gate posts and hung the lattice up over the gate. Presto! The gate was instantly taller and it was removable so we could still easily get in and out. This worked...for a little while.

Mudge realized anything and everything would work as a ladder...a cooler, a trash can, a bike trailer, a box, even the plywood window inserts for the screenhouse. All became tools in his campaign to get up and over the fence. And Daisy, ever loyal, would always follow him up and over. It got so that I couldn't let them out without standing out in the yard with them. I tried tying Mudge up but he broke three collars in his successful attempts to break loose and I was terrified he would hurt himself doing that. So I'd stand out in my yard with them, in the wee hours of the morning, under the moon and all the hours in between...ready to grab one or both by the tails if they made so much as a move to jump to freedom.

If they did manage to get out, I had to round up the kids and immediately head up or down the street calling their names, hoping and praying they didn't wander out to the main road. Usually they went straight to the marshes in the woods and emerged twenty minutes later muddy, smelly and looking so pleased with themselves. Once the daycare kids came back in the fall, I realized something had to give. There was one week where I had to pack all the kids, my own and a couple others into the van, in the pouring rain, to look for the dogs...not once, not twice but three or four times in the course of the day. Something needed to change.

I happened to mention our doggie dilemma at Teresa's friend birthday party and hence came our salvation. One of the Moms said her husband installed electric dog fences and he'd be happy to come over and give us a quote. I think I hugged her while weeping my thank yous.

About a week later our fence was installed and it truly has changed my life. I no longer worry about the dogs getting out, getting hit if they escaped or hurting someone while running loose. It took some training with both dogs to teach them their boundaries and I'm still not confident they wouldn't bolt through the invisible fence in the front yard if the temptation was strong enough. However, I can let them out the back door and into the back yard with nary a care in the world. The training required some flags planted all around the back and front yard to mark the boundaries visibly until the dogs learned them. We were told not to move the flags until the dogs were fully trained. I had to explain to my children and the daycare children that the flags marked a special invisible fence for the dogs and they were not to touch them at all. The kids all nodded solemnly and said they understood.

Later on that day, I took the kids out into the yard and watched as Katie, M, C and A wandered over to one of the flags. They put their arms out and their hands were outstretched in front of them and they were slowly moving them up and down. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what they were up to. So I went over and asked them what they were doing. Katie said, "We're trying to find the invisible fence but we can't feel it at all."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

what's for dinner?

I have an immense collection of cookbooks. Especially for someone who really doesn't stray too far off the beaten path when it comes to cooking. I'm an adventurous eater but the rest of the family...not so much. I will often sit on the kitchen floor in front of the bookshelf and see if anything will inspire me. Sometimes yes...sometimes no, but I enjoy sitting and looking no matter the outcome. The other day I sat and was looking for recipes featuring ingredients I had on hand and this was one of those times when I was not having much success. I gave a big sigh and said aloud, "I need some new recipes."

Sam looked up from his homework and told me, "Mumma, when we went Christmas shopping I wanted to buy you a cookbook. But then I looked at the pictures of the recipes inside it and I really didn't want you to be making us any of that food. So I didn't."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

beauty is in the eye of the beholder

We went out to dinner the other night and as a special treat let the kids order dessert. I should clarify, it's really the girls and I who order dessert. Sam doesn't care for most restaurant desserts and Joe will eat whatever we order (generally we all share one dessert).

I always think our server must think we're the meanest parents ever for excluding our son from the dessert and feel like I should explain, "He doesn't like your desserts. Really...he usually gets a treat at home instead." But then the dessert comes and I forget all about my shame as we dive in.

Oh well, back to my story. The server brought out our turtle cheesecake that had been topped off with a virtual mountain of whipped cream and drizzled with fudge sauce and she placed it on the table in front of us. Teresa gave a gasp of delight and exclaimed "IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL!!!!" That girl of mine, she knows all about appreciating the little things in life.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

what do you mean my baby should register for kindergarten?

Katie came home from preschool with this notice in her backpack. To say I'm in denial that my youngest, my baby, will be heading off to Elementary school in a few short months is an understatement. It took all my strength of will not to tear this notice up into itty bitty shreds and pretend I never saw it. Honestly, she does not need any screenings to see if she is ready. She's totally ready. How can that be? How can she be more than ready and I'm not even remotely close to ready? How can she possibly be old enough for kindergarten? Just yesterday, I brought this little pink bundle home from the hospital.

Five years just is not enough time to have her all to myself.

with expectations that high, she'll be living with me forever

One day as we were driving, Katie was musing about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Like most kids, she has a wide variety of careers she is looking forward to. She wants to be a rock star, an artist, a store worker, a doctor, a baker, a waitress, and a librarian. Teresa, ever the realist, informed Katie that it would be practically impossible to be all those things at the same time. Teresa noticed Kate looked a bit downcast about that and quickly added, "Katie, there is a way you can be all those things! If you do a really really bad job at each job, you can be fired. And then you can do the next job, be really really bad at it and get fired. You can keep doing this until you've been fired from all those jobs!" This cheered Katie up immensely.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

snow day

Let me just say, that a snow day is not kind to my waistline. I baked two dozen cranberry orange muffins, three dozen peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, and three mini chocolate chip banana breads. What is it about forced hibernation that makes one feel the need to bake?

The girls gave the muffins two thumbs up approval.

I finally convinced the kids to go out in the snow. We still had quite a bit on the ground from the last storm and this one added another ten inches or so. Crawling around was the preferred mode of transportation. Which the dogs took to mean, "Jump all over me and steal my hat!"

Good thing dogs can be easily distracted. The game of steal the hats was quickly abandoned in favor of attempting to tear each other's face off.

We have a tree down in our yard and some of the branches make ideal seats for pretty little snowbunnies.

This is one of our battery operated jeeps. It is completely buried.

Timeless...catching snowflakes on your tongue.

And making snow angels

When you've had enough of playing in the snow, head inside and dance, dance, dance! Unless you're a dog. And then you would continue with the attempting to tear your face off game.

December unwrapped

Twas the start of December and all through the region
we were enjoying the sights and the sounds of the season
We kicked off the season to see the Gardens Aglow
with nutcrackers, lights by the thousands and marshmallows

Off to the farm to pick out a tree that's just right
so we could take it home and bedeck it with lights.

Three little elves placed each ornament with care
because they wanted a tree that had oodles of flare.

Off to the little ones' classroom, where I sat in teeny seats
to play playdough, games and munch on Christmassy treats.

Our shining star sang and shone like the sun
in a Christmas perfomance proclaiming "Jesus is the One!"

When what to our wondering eyes should appear?
But the little one on stage looking so dear!

It wouldn't be Christmas without cookies to munch
and our annual cookie swap ensures we have a bunch

A Christmas tradition off to Edaville we go
riding rides and a quick visit to Santa to say hello
And of course no visit to Edaville would be complete
without a ride on the train to see the lights...such a treat.

Just before bed, on that most famous of Eves
to sprinkle food for the reindeer in just their pj shirtsleeves

At two a.m., before I crawl into bed
I take a moment to engrave this scene in my head.
The quiet, the beauty, the expectation...all wrapped
Though I know in the morning I'll be wanting to nap

The shrieks of delight as the tore into the pile
make all the shopping and running around so worthwhile

But the best moment of all came unexpected this year
Teresa crafted a gift to her Daddy with care.
She held her breath as he opened his gift
And smiled in delight when he thanked her with a kiss

On Santa's list of good girls, I surely must be
because every year what I wish for I find under my tree

Three little cousins are all smiles that they match
A photo of all three smiling together though, is not easy to catch

As Christmas draws to a close and the kids get in pajamas
they realize the best gift of all is just being together.

Hope everyone had a Christmas as merry and bright
And wishing you all a new year that's out of sight!

recipe for a perfect morning

one pair of super soft fleece pj's (funny monkeys optional but I recommend them)
one snuggly kid
one full mug of tea
one cozy dog sprawled across your lap
nothing to do and nowhere you have to be

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Have I mentioned how much I love Sam's team this year? I don't believe I have. This year's team works incredibly well together and genuinely seem to appreciate Sam as a person. Sure, he can be tetchy but they focus on his strengths. As a result, his self esteem has soared this year and we're reaping the benefits across the board...socially, academically and in just about everything he does. Today his special ed teacher called me. Now, one never likes to see the school's number come up on caller id but his teacher was quick to tell me everything was just fine. She called to tell me how well he did on a reading test. It wasn't the grade she was calling to report. It was his writing and the attitude in which he approached the test. When she complimented him on a well crafted sentence he wrote all on his own and for him to think that in September he wasn't able to do that on his own, Sam replied, "That's because my Mom helps me." She wanted to call and tell me this. Just because she knows it's nice to hear good news and she appreciates all I do to help Sam succeed. A phone call to thank me...just one reason I love the people who are working with my Sam this year.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

a mouse in the house

I'm not a girly girl. I'm a do it myself kind of person. If something needs doing, I roll up my sleeves and get to it. However, in one way I fit that stereotypical portrait of "girl." I scream in pure unadulterated terror over small creepy crawly things like spiders and mice. I seem to have had more than my share of run ins with rodents over the years. I grew up in an old house. One prone to mice, bats and once, for a few memorable weeks, rats. It was not uncommon for one of us to realize the thing fluttering around the ceiling was not a bird who'd lost it's way but a bat looking for hair to nest in. Cue the screaming and hysterical flapping of arms and running in circles.

The whole rat incident though left me with emotional scars. My parents ended up placing poison in the attic for the rats to nosh on which did finally do them in but they did not go quietly into that good night. Let me back up a bit to say, my bedroom ceiling had a great big hole in it. The five boys lived on the third floor of the house and their bathroom was directly above my room. A pipe leaked and my Dad pulled apart the ceiling to find the cause and just never seemed to get around to patching it back up. So I lived with a hole in my ceiling. Not a big deal. Until that one afternoon, when I was holed up in my room, on my bed with the door closed to read a book. Imagine my horror when I hear a noise coming from that aforementioned hole in the ceiling, and upon looking up, see a rat...a RAT!!!...fall out of the hole and thump onto my bedroom floor. It is twitching and squeaking and, worst of all, is between me and the door. Commence horror stricken screaming. Now one would think someone would come to investigate what was causing me to scream. A house full of people and no one, not a one, came to save me from what sounded like murderizing. I finally scraped enough courage to tiptoe around the dying rat and out the door. I ran downstairs and hollered at all my brothers and sisters for ignoring my screams. They just laughed. Stupid jerks. No, not really. I forgave them all...but that doesn't mean I will ever let them forget it.

Then there was the time our apartment in the city acquired a family of mice. My little calico cat was a champion mouser so I was confident she would take care of things. One night I woke up to hear her chasing something around the bedroom and I was sure I would find a little carcass in the morning. However, it seemed her victim managed to get away because their was no little gift from the cat outside my bedroom door the next morning. I rushed around getting ready for work and forgot all about the cat's late night rambles. I grabbed my bag up off the bedroom floor and place it on the bed so I could reach inside to get my gloves out of the back pocket. I felt something skitter on my hand and then up my arm. It took only a second before I realized the mouse had taken refuge from the cat in my bag and it had just RUN UP MY EFFING SLEEVE! I completely lost it...waving my arms around like a maniac and screaming loud enough to wake the dead. God only knows what happened to the mouse. It must have flown out of my sleeve during my hysterics and hightailed it to the safety of the city streets. I still shudder inside to even think of the incident.

I think the stupid rodents are all out to get me. How many run ins can one person have with the damn creatures? Recently I had yet another rodent face off. There is plenty of wilderness around me so there is no reason at all for them to become tenants in my full enough as it is house. Every year though the mice decide to give it a try. Because a cat, or two, or three, have always been part of the family, the mice don't usually stay long. This year, I think because of the construction of the addition, we have had a worse than usual time evicting our rodent residents. The tip of the iceberg, however, came one morning as I got ready to feed the dogs. We have this handy dandy special bin for the dog food that has a lid you flip open to prevent any animals getting into the dog food. (Ahhh, the irony). I usually just flip the lid up, reach in and grope around for the scooper and start scooping food into the bowls. All without really opening my eyes. It's before six a.m. after all. That fateful morning, I reached in and began feeling around as the food slipped and slid over my hand. Then all hell broke loose as my morning fog started to lift and I realized that it was not food moving over my hand but a MOUSE! I began screaming, threw the metal dog bowls (why? I have no idea) and ran to the sink to wash the hell out of my hands. The poor dogs actually crept back into their crate they were so frightened by my behaviour. I stood in front of the cabinet trying to decide what I should do. What if I opened the lid and it jumped out at me? How was I going to get it out of there? Could I call my husband home from work for this? In the end I put on my big girl panties and dragged the whole bin outside and dumped it. Nitwit that I am, I screamed when I lifted the lid off and jumped back about six feet to make sure Mickey didn't come anywhere near me. I watched it scurry away and then swept all the dog food into the trash.

Enough lazing about Sir Benjamin, time to start earning your keep because I am done with rodent shenanigans.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

the purple hat

When Sam was around three years old he began to talk in phrases and sentences. One of my very favorite things to have him say was "purple." He could say the word quite clearly but it was his inflection and the pitch of his voice that was so very cute. For some reason, known only to him, he squeaked out the word purple in a very excited voice. We never got tired of asking him to say "purple." My Mom knit Sam this little purple hat, in honor of the cuteness that was Sam saying purple, and it quickly became his very favorite. He would wear no other hat without an abundance of tears and thrashing around.

Fast forward seven years. Sam no longer sounds like one of the chipmunks when saying "purple," but his love for that little purple hat remains strong. I can't even believe he can still fit the darn thing on his head. I may have to retire the little purple hat this year, but it's not going in the donate box. This one I'm keeping. I'll pull it out from time to time when I need a little help remembering the tousle haired little boy who happily squeaked "purple!"

And yes, I KNOW his gloves don't match. But when you're trying to get out the door to go somewhere, you let some things slide.

okay, okay...I didn't even notice he had on two different gloves until I cropped this picture.

Monday, January 3, 2011

about the best possible way

A day can make a world of difference and while I can't forget the frightening might have beens, I am reveling in the joy and relief delivered to us with some news of good health. To celebrate, Joe and I took the kids out to dinner. The restaurant was just shy of deserted when we were shown to our table.

Our server came over and he promptly took our drinks order. He returned with a basket of nacho chips and salsa, but not our drinks. The kids dove into the chips headfirst. After a couple minutes of frantic chomping of chips, Katie began to smack her lips and asked me where the waitress was. I corrected her saying "a waitress is what you call a female server but a male server is referred to as a waiter."

"No, Mumma. You are wrong. I am sitting here...WAITING for my drink. I am the waiter!"

I laughed till I cried with a heart that has never felt this light.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

once again...I question their definition of comfortable

I swear we have couches. big couches. Couches big enough to easily contain two large dogs and one small girl with plenty of room to spare. And yet, here they are...crammed onto a couch the size of a postage stamp.