Life With Dogs

IMG_0715So, on our way home from our vacation at the beach we brought home a full grown dog. Just stopped at someone’s house, and “Surprise, kids!”, we’re getting a dog.

Well, it wasn’t as simple as all that really. What you should know is that we have been a family without a dog for some time and this just did not feel quite right to any of us, save the toddler, who doesn’t know yet that he, too, is a “dog person”.  You have your “cat people” and your “dog people” and your “bird people” and your “reptile people” and your “eewww!  animals!” people.  We are a family of dog people.  A family of dog people without a dog.

This is a very sad thing. Firefly and The Queen Bee tell everyone they meet the cumulative sad story of our dog history:  The three dogs that grew old and died (they only really remember the last one, but the other two are part of our family’s history, so they include that in the story), and especially about the last one that died, our sweet Jack Russell Terrier,  who had a tumor that required a leg to be amputated.  After her tumor returned in her neck and she died, we grieved for her, oh, how we grieved for her.

Then we went on a homeschool field trip to an animal shelter and wound up  adopting a calm, laid back, stray Labradoodle.  He settled in just fine but became increasingly intolerant of the kids.  And then, a moment of chaos and distraction, kids and dogs moving about, me swirling around in the kitchen making dinner and then, suddenly, fierce barking followed by cries and shrieks.  Love Bug, our toddler, had been bitten.  He was okay, thank goodness. No stitches required. But now we knew what we had to do.

If you want to feel like the absolute worst parent on the planet, then you should tell your kids that you are taking their beloved dog back to the shelter after they’ve longed for a dog and fallen in love with this particular dog. That was a very bad day.   And since that day, they keep telling this story about all the dogs we’ve loved and lost and how they long for another one.

The Husband and I agreed a puppy was the answer. One who grew up with our kids and didn’t feel any need to place itself higher in the pack order. But I knew getting a puppy would just be too much for me.  Too much chaos for a long time. Housebreaking and training a puppy while homeschooling two kids, potty training another kid and trying to keep some semblance of order in my house? Well, I knew I would not be ready for that for a couple more years. And that seemed too long to wait, too long to make the kids wait.

I kept thinking, we should wait, and certainly many of you reading this story will agree that we are not in our right minds.  I, myself, have had this same thought.  But as I watched my very intense oldest child caring for a relative’s dog, watched him speak calmly as he motioned her through her obedience exercises, take care of her without complaint and be calmed by the presence of her chin ever so gently resting on his knee, I thought, this is a good thing for him.

Finally, we came upon a solution. Adopt a grown dog that has been in a foster home placement and has a known history of living with kids, with a family.  We located a rescue organization that did just that.  And then we had to be patient.  Because some of the dogs seemed great at first but upon deeper conversation, we found out that they jumped fences or knocked little kids down when they were playing or their history wasn’t very clear at all.

So we waited.  And then, one day, I opened up my email when we just so happened to be at the beach, and saw this:

Even better than her picture was her description:  lived with little kids, gentle, very well trained, needs to be with a family.  Her foster home was about halfway between the beach and our hometown so we stopped to see her.

And she was great. I tugged on her ears and tail as my toddler might do and she didn’t even turn around. The kids laid on her and she looked perfectly content. They threw a tennis ball for her outside and she was thrilled. We watched as the foster mom gave her gentle verbal commands, off leash, and she heeded them. We were impressed.

She’s been home with us now for five days. So far, so good. The kids adore her. She follows me around in a quiet way, laying near me as I do laundry or cook a meal or do schoolwork with the kids.  She is housebroken and knows basic commands and is so happy to see all of us.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The Labradoodle looked good at this point, too, then things went awry. I hope that doesn’t happen with our new dog. I don’t think it will but I’m guarding my heart. I don’t want to have to tell my kids again that they can’t keep a dog. As you can see, they are truly smitten with her.

And once again, things feel right in our home. You see, we are dog people, and now we have a dog.

UPDATE:  Sydney has been with us for a year and a half now. She is the sweetest, most well-behaved dog. We often wonder why anyone would give her up. But whatever life circumstances led to her previous owners’ decisions to turn her over to the rescue organization, it couldn’t have been easy.

She is easy to love. We are so grateful to have her in our family. She has helped us all take up hiking, because she loves it so. She guards and protects our kids when they play outside. And she just simply wants to be with us, wherever we are. It’s an easy request to grant.


We are grateful to the LabRescue of LRCP for fostering her and facilitating our adoption of this wonderful dog. They are truly a top notch organization, full of dedicated and caring volunteers. Thanks to their efforts, 1,000 Labrador Retrievers found new and loving forever families in the year 2012 alone. Thank you, Lab Rescue, for bringing Sydney to our family!

The Wonderful and the Awful

Amidst the celebration of the 4th of July weekend, we were reminded of how at any moment, someone who is living life to the fullest can be gone in an instant. A single phone call. Some terrible news.  My cousin passed away suddenly.

I had a wonderful blog post mostly ready to go, full of all the fun things we’ve been doing on our month off from school.  Things that involved swimming pools and summer carnivals and weekend trips to see family and friends.  But I couldn’t post all the cheery, happy things we’ve been doing when there is this heartbreaking shock that is permeating my extended family right now.

Life. Is. Precious.

Sometimes I learn that by loss and sorrow.

And sometimes I learn that in the joyful smile of my daughter as she splashes around in the pool, the deeply furrowed brow of my oldest son as he examines a firefly glowing on a summer night, the sweetness of my toddler, laying his head on my husband’s shoulder, seeking comfort.

Sometimes life is all mixed up with the wonderful and the awful.  This is what I’m thinking, as I tuck my kids in bed for the night, but then let the older two tip-toe back downstairs to see the 4th of July fireworks still going off around the neighborhood. Standing out in the driveway in their pajamas and bare feet, the fireworks light up their faces as they ooh and aah.  My daughter picks daisies in the dark and brings them to me.  “Flowers for you, Mommy.”  More good-night kisses and they scamper back upstairs.

Life. Is. Precious.

Blueberry Pie or How to Make a Man Fall in Love With You

Oh my, I do believe I made a quite tasty blueberry pie, along with my new Pie Assistant, The Bee.

We went out to the farm yesterday, the Creek Kids and I, and picked as many fresh blueberries as we could before they–meaning the children– started to wilt in the heat (as per our usual fruit-picking procedure), then returned home and made blueberry smoothies, followed by a pie.

I use my Nana’s no-roll pie crust recipe. So easy. You press it into the pie pan. The kids can do it, it’s that easy. I’ll give you the recipe in a minute.

Then I used her blueberry pie filling recipe.  This is the very same recipe that I used to get my husband to fall in love with me when we were long-distance dating.  At Thanksgiving, I made this pie for the very first time,  wrapped it in layers of foil and plastic wrap and put it in my carry-on bag, which somehow wound up several rows behind my seat on a very crowded plane.  When it was time to get off the plane, the other passengers very carefully handed this bag, containing the pie, down the rows, until it reached me. As each one handed it off to the next, they said, “Be careful. It’s a pie.” As I waited, I could hear these hushed tones:  “Be careful, it’s a pie.”  “Be careful, it’s a pie.

Finally, arriving at The Husband’s brother’s house, containing The Husband’s entire family, the pie was served after dinner.  By then, after it’s long jostling journey, it had become a cobbler. But it tasted good nonetheless.  So good, in fact, that the husband proclaimed that he had fallen even more in love with me.  Yes, we were already falling in love when I made that pie, but the pie, I believe, sealed the deal. Three months later, we packed everything I owned into a U-Haul, my car in tow, my dog nestled between us and thus put an end to the long-distance part of our relationship. It was not long before we were engaged,  then married.

You see, I made that pie because The Husband (then known as The Boyfriend) said that blueberry pie was his most favorite kind of pie in the world.  This was a time, long ago, before email and the internet were part of everyday life, when we wrote actual letters sent via the actual U.S. Postal Service and made long distance phone calls, which cost by the minute.  Our phone bills nearly rivaled an average car payment, but it could not be helped.  It was love.

And here we are, seventeen years later and I’m standing in my kitchen with my daughter, making this same recipe with some berries so fresh, they’ve never even seen the inside of my refrigerator.

By the time the pie was baked and cooled, it was late in the evening. The kids and I, tired from the day’s activities, had gone to bed.

I was just dozing off when I heard my phone buzz with a text.  I picked it up.

The Husband: “Wow! I do believe that is the best berry pie I have ever had in my life!  Perfect, just perfect.”  This must be our updated version of long-distance dating, I thought, texting each other from another level of the house. It made me smile.

The Recipe
(for an 8 inch pie)

No-roll, Press-in Pie Crust
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c oil
2 tbsps. milk
2 tbsps. sugar
pinch of salt

1 quart blueberries
3 heaping tablespoons tapioca
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt

Crumb Topping
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup softened butter

–To make filling, first soak tapioca in water to soften. Combine sugars and salt. Gently fold in blueberries. Before adding tapioca, make sure it is not rubbery. If so, add more water and mix, then fold into blueberry mixture. Let filling set for at least one hour.
–Make pie crust by mixing all ingredients together, form a ball of dough, press into pie pan. Set aside.
–When filling is done setting, pour filling into crust. Combine crumb topping ingredients. Sprinkle on top of pie. Cover pie with loose foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more or until crust is golden brown. Cool pie. Will gel upon standing.
–Serve pie. Graciously accept adoring compliments and proclamations of true love.

Another Random Thoughts Post

Lots of stuff going on here at Creekside Learning but nothing worth writing paragraphs about, so here, in a nutshell, is what is up:

  • We had a wonderful week+ off and then got back into the swing of things. Our week back was delightfully boring a week of lots of accomplishments. Seriously, we got tons of math, reading and writing done, but who wants to read about that?
  • We totally ditched our reading program in favor of Progressive Phonics, which is online and free. Firefly balks at times, but who cares, it is working! He is reading more and more. We’re doing lots of review ( I told you we were being boring).
  • I love and adore and am totally devoted to Five in a Row, but wow, do we get a lot of other stuff done when we don’t row a book.
  • I made two kind of impulsive decisions (totally unlike me; I’m a planner, just ask my mother) that are going to probably increase the chaos level around here by 62% but they felt right so I went with it.
  • The first impulsive thing is that we are getting a dog. He’s a cute and shaggy thing from a rescue place where we went on a tour with Firefly’s Roots and Shoots group last week. We pick him up tomorrow.
  • I cannot yet tell you the second impulsive thing I did, until I have notified the family members involved.
  • Note to my dear family members:  The family members involved do not read my blog, so don’t worry, it’s not about you.
  • We had a wonderful two+ week visit with my 89-year-old grandmother, including a celebration of our family’s 100th year in the United States.  My grandmother’s father came from Italy in December of 1910.
  • I discovered, via homeschooling, that it was in fact the 100th year anniversary. We were learning about Italy and I was showing the kids a picture of the ship my great-grandfather came to the U.S. on, which I got on a trip to Ellis Island years ago. I noticed the date, sent a facebook message to various family members, and POOF!  Celebrations sprung up from all over the U.S. with little groups of family members getting together for Italian dinners. This proves that you just never know what some of the wonderful benefits of homeschooling will be.
  • The Husband can cook.  This is not a newsflash, but he is making more and more awesomeness in the kitchen these days, including homemade pasta, sauce and meatballs.  He is totally in touch with his inner-Italian grandmother (this is funny because he is not even a smidge Italian).
  • Love Bug, our adorable and destructive toddler, turns two this week.  He’s our last baby and he’s not a baby anymore. I’m sad about that but he’s so darn cute.
  • I am throwing the lamest party ever for him but I’m okay with it because he will have family and friends and he can run around and have fun and eat cake and he will have a blast. But I feel bad that I don’t have a theme or decorations or much of a plan other than going to the grocery store and getting a cake and some other snacks the morning of the party, but I can only do so much here, what with homeschooling and cleaning and getting ready for Christmas.
  • Our Christmas tree looks amazingly nice considering that it is secretly evil.  It drops needles the size of chopsticks, which clog the vacuum cleaner. It’s branches are droopy, requiring ornaments to be shoved onto them.  It’s trunk is crooked.  It weighs more than our mini-van (I know because I helped The Husband drag it into the house).  We chose it because we went to the Christmas Tree Farm on a day that was freezing cold and they had some trees already cut so we picked the first one we saw and were so happy to get back into the warm car, we didn’t care.
  • I have no clever way to end this post so tune in next time when I update you on life with the new dog, the evil Christmas tree and my second impulsive, chaos-increasing decision.