Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pumpkin Walk

A couple of days ago we went to the pumpkin walk that held in our neighboring city.

It was pretty awesome. The theme was America. Basically, it's this area that has a path that travels around the edge of it. On one side were some pretty epic displays, and on the other were carved pumpkins.

We had Kevin wear his costume so he would be warmer (and so we could show it off. I put a lot of work into that costume and we wanted to get as much use out of it as possible).
 This is one of our favorite displays. It was John Williams themed, who is one of my favorite composers. Kevin was pretty excited to see Superman.
 There was also a Norman Rockwell display. Grig and Kevin posed in front of this one, because it is a female welder, and Grig's a welder. It seemed appropriate.
 I really liked the way they made the dog in this one. The displays were pretty impressive, and Kevin was really excited by all the pumpkins. The fact that he had a good time made the whole trip worth it.
 We found another Superman later. This one was even cuter, and some nice stranger took the picture for us so that we could all be in it together.
 After all the displays, they had a bunch of those photo boards where you could poke your head through. This one was particularly funny.
 However, my favorite picture of the night had to be the following one. Grig and I wanted to pose in this one, but we didn't expect the t-rex to pop up behind us. Kevin looks pretty creepy!
 Then, we got in the car. Kevin told me I was the driver.
 This picture is another one that I really like. Kevin looks adorable as Yoda.
We had a really good time, and our grateful to all the awesome people who put this thing together. We went on the last night, but hopefully we'll make this a family tradition. Maybe next year we can help.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Foster Care

Over the last few months, Grig and I have been trying to figure out what the next step should be for us.

We've been trying to conceive again for almost four years now...with no luck. We love Kevin and we're so grateful to have him, but our home still feels like there are more children that are meant to be part of our family.

Foster care and adoption have come up a few times, and we've had some interesting experiences that have made us consider them very seriously. We felt pretty strongly about it back in July, but then I went to Idaho to work for two months and the subject was put on hold.

About two weeks ago, we started talking about it again. During General Conference (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), I was praying about it, and the next day when I got on facebook, there was a huge advertisement informing me that there was going to be a foster care meeting held in our neighboring city in a few days. That seemed like too much of a coincidence, so we RSVP'd back to the people in charge and told them that we'd be coming.

About a week and a half ago, we drove to attend. Before we entered, Grig and I prayed that we would know what we were supposed to do and that we would know if we were supposed to begin foster care.

The meeting was fantastic! They showed a video that made both of us cry and they talked a lot about common misconceptions with fostering. After the meeting, both Grig and I felt like this was something that we were supposed to pursue right now, and we spoke to the woman in charge.

There are a few things that we need to do in order to be licensed. On Thursday, we're having an initial consultation, so the representative can evaluate us, our home, and instruct us on what we need to do in order to proceed.

I'm pretty excited! That's only a couple of days away. We both feel very strongly that we're making the right decision, and ever since then it seems like every movie or tv show we watch has something about foster care or adoption.

Moving forward with foster care doesn't mean we're giving up on our other options either. In the first week of November, I have an appointment with my doctor to do a check-up, and find out what's going on with me. Hopefully it is easily resolvable, and we'll be able to naturally have more children.

Either way, things are moving forward with adding more children to our home. I'm stoked. Kevin's going to be such a good brother. He loves babies and is so sweet with them.

The dogs are almost completely trained too. They're going to do well with whatever happens. I've heard that owning animals can be very beneficial to foster children too; especially well-trained, loving animals.

So, there's an update on some of the decisions we're making right now. I'll try to keep you informed. Life is moving forward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Limber Tail Syndrome

Yesterday, I woke up to find something wrong with Siff.

Her usually tightly curled tail was horizontal with her back. When I lifted it, it dropped back down like a limp noodle, and she seemed unable to curl it or wag it. When she sat down, she didn't seem to be able to even exert the control to move it out of her way.

Very concerned, I texted my husband. I told him that I was worried that her tail was either dislocated or broken. I asked if I should call the vet, which I really wanted to do, but not without talking to Grig first.

He gave an affirmative answer, and I quickly phoned our vet. She is amazing, and told me that she could come by our home by 1:30 p.m. She is an At Your Door Veterinarian, and so she comes to our home to give shots and do exams. I used to work for her in college, and she's one of my favorite people.

I really enjoyed worked as a Veterinarian Assistant, and I learned a lot from her. I knew she would know if Siff's tail was dislocated or broken. I didn't remember her being injured or yelping. If it was broken, it seemed like I would have heard something or noticed it sooner.
This is how it hung all day yesterday. It was very strange.
We went on a nice long walk to get the excess energy out of the dogs, but Siff was pretty tired at the end. Her energy level wasn't anywhere near normal. It was weird though, because she didn't seem to be in pain either.

The vet arrived promptly at 1:30. She greeted the dogs and tried to hug Siff, but she was too excited. She asked me if Siff ever calmed down enough to hug, because she looked so huggable. I told her that she was super huggable and that she quickly calmed down.

Then, she examined Siff. After a few minutes, she told me that the tail didn't feel broken or dislocated, and Siff didn't seem to be in very much pain. Then, she told me that she had seen this kind of situation before. I guess some dogs, especially Labradors, hounds, and other hunting dogs, will sometimes get limp tails like this. They call it Limber Tail Syndrome or No Wag Syndrome. They usually get it after long periods of rest followed by sudden exercise or after swimming in cold water. She wasn't sure how Siff had gotten it, and neither was I. We've been walking, but not an extreme amount.

She wondered if it might have to do with Siff's heat. She told me that she had once seen a German Shepherd that had gone lame when it entered its heat. That makes sense, since there is a softening of some tissue when dogs go into heat.

She gave us some anti-inflammatory drugs, and, after a few more minutes, left.

Today, Siff's tail is already better.

This is how it usually sits on her back.
I looked up Limber Tail Syndrome yesterday, and on the internet it said that many veterinarians have not even heard of it because it is such a rare condition. I'm really grateful that our veterinarian had and was able to diagnose it. It definitely was comforting to know that nothing really serious was wrong with our baby girl.

It was kind of a funny realization too, how much we care about her.

Grig grew up on a farm, so he's always been a little bit on the "dogs are tools, not family," side of things. I didn't feel entirely the same, but our dogs were always outdoor dogs, and so I loved them, but they weren't a huge part of our lives.

Siff and Arkhon are. They are with me nearly 24 hours a day, and we do tons of things with them. They aren't on the same level as Kevin, our son, but they are definitely part of our family.

At the thought of Siff being severely injured, both Grig and I got pretty stressed about it. He was surprised later by how bothered and upset he was. We have fantastic dogs. They are very well trained, and rarely cause us stress. Mostly, they are stress relievers.

We're so grateful that our beautiful Norwegian Elkhound is alright. I'm also really grateful for our Veterinarian. She is wonderful.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rainy Day Miracle

A couple of weeks ago, a couple friends and I decided to start walking together. We walked Monday through Friday last week and had beautiful weather everyday. 

I have two dogs and a kid. One of my other friends had two dogs and a baby, and the other friend has two kids and a three-legged dog. 

This week has started on a completely different note though. For the last two days, it's been raining nearly constantly. The great thing about walking with other people though is that it kind of forces you to get up and go, regardless of the weather. 

It wasn't raining when I left the house, but by the time we got to the park where we meet, it began pouring. Kevin began to cry and we quickly put his sweater on (he had refused it before). The other friend with two dogs had almost reached us, but she didn't have a rain cover on her stroller yet, so she had to turn back home. We didn't blame her.

My other friend was waiting at the park, and we stopped at her house quickly and grabbed a couple of extra blankets. However, even with the blanket, the wind was blowing cold rain into Kevin's face, so I took off my sweater and covered the front of the stroller with it.

A few moments later, the rain stopped. We kept walking up the sidewalk, and then I suddenly noticed something. We were completely surrounded by storm clouds on all sides, but right above us, the sky was blue. 

I pointed this out to my walking friend, and I told her I thought it was a blessing from Heavenly Father because we'd gone walking even though it was raining. 

For the rest of the walk, the sun came out and it warmed up. However, as we finished up the walk, the storm clouds rolled back in. Shortly after we entered the house it began raining again. 

Some people might say that was a coincidence, but I don't believe that. I know it was a tender mercy and a miracle. 

The Lord does care about us and what we're doing. Even something as seemingly unimportant as a walk. I'm so grateful for another example of the Lord's love for me. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dog's First Heat

I have sure learned a lot this last week and a half!

I've been a dog owner since 1998. Before that, I was a major dog enthusiast. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I devoured dog encyclopedias and literature like a starving baboon.

In 2003, I bred my dog successfully and raised and sold a litter of eight puppies.

At that point, I thought I had dog heats all figured out.

It turns out, I pretty much knew nothing.

Growing up, our dogs were outside dogs, and so the heat wasn't that big of a deal. If they bled a little, it was outside, so you very rarely could find evidence of it.

Having an indoor dog on heat is a completely different story.

It turns out that every dog in estrus reacts differently to the hormones raging through their fuzzy little bodies. I don't remember if Dakota bled that much, but Siff certainly does. She started bleeding last Tuesday (the 4th). I probably wouldn't have noticed for a while, but Arkhon was quick to point out that something wasn't right. At first, the blood flow was fairly light, so I was just going to leave her alone and let her clean up after herself.

Halfway through the afternoon, I changed my mind and, at a suggestion from a friend, improvised this:
It's one of my old t-shirts turned backwards with a feminine pad placed in the rear of it. It worked okay, but it was too loose, and so it wasn't very effective. The blood went everywhere, but on the pad.

So, that day I ordered some washable dog diapers. They arrived on Thursday, and things have been so much better. We received three with a washable insert. The diapers are made to help with incontinence, so when we eventually spay Siff, we can still use them if the dogs ever struggle with that.

The diapers came in pink, blue, and orange. I kind of love them.The orange one is especially a good color for Siff. Here is the pink one:
If you're interested in dog diapers, we really like the brand we bought. They've been really easy to clean too.

So, I thought the bleeding stage of the heat lasted 2-3 days at most. It turns out that it is closer to 7-10. She's still has some dark red bleeding, though it is slowing down. When it turns to a pink color and becomes more watery, that is when the dog is fertile and read to breed.

The other interesting thing I learned, is that dogs don't bleed for the same reason as humans. That makes sense, since the blood comes before the dog is fertile. In women, we bleed afterward due to our bodies shedding our uterus lining. All other animals reabsorb their lining. Humans are unique in that aspect. No one actually knows the reason that dogs bleed.

It also turns out that being in estrus can impact a dog's mood, much as it does humans. Dogs usually either become more cuddly or rather cranky. For the most part, Siff has been super cuddly. Usually she's a little more standoffish, but for the last week she has been constantly leaning against people. Tonight she was trying to get my attention and gave a little "woof" at me. She's never done that before.

Once the external vulva's swelling goes down, we won't have to worry about her getting pregnant anymore. That can be 4-7 days later. A dog can be "in heat" for two to three weeks. (Link) We're just grateful this is only going to happen every six months or so.

Honestly, if you're not going to breed your dog, save yourself a headache and get her spayed. Life will be a lot easier on you. Siff is only eight months old, so she is too young to breed, but eventually we want to bring a couple litters of elkhounds into this world. Before that though, it's dangerous for the female's health if you breed her too early. Most authorities recommend not breeding your dog before she is two years old.

It's been an interesting week. It will be nice when Siff doesn't have to put diapers on every time she comes into the house.

It's worth it for us though. She's going to be such a great mother.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Corn Maze

On Saturday, we had a pretty busy day. Some friends had invited us to their son's baptism, we wanted to go to the temple, and we were having a family party at lunch. Somehow, everything fit into the schedule, and it wasn't even too crazy. 

The final part of our day though, was going to Fall Festival with our friends. We've previously called them the Trebuchet family and they're the ones who own Arkhon's brother Loki. Kevin and their second girl, who we call Florence, spent most of the trip holding hands and walking around together. 
 It was pretty adorable. As soon as they saw each other, they were pretty much stuck together. We paid our entrance fee, and wandered around for a few minutes while we figured out what we wanted to do first.
Here's the three older kids. They had a blast!

After a few minutes, we decided that we should do the pony ride and the train before they closed at 7:00. So, we stood in line for a while, and then, after putting on helmets, Kevin was able to ride a horse all by himself!

He was pretty excited, and the ponies had really good temperaments. They got to walk in a circle two or three times, and then their turn was over, but it was a good few minutes for the kids. Right before he was lifted down, he patted his ponies neck and thanked him.  
 Then, we went on a train ride. The older three kids all rode at the very end of the train in the prison caboose. They loved it! When we went back to help them our of their prison, Florence and Joan came right out, but Kevin wanted another ride. When we told him that his turn was over, and if he wanted another ride we had to go stand in line again, he nearly had a break down. Eventually, we were able to coax him from the caboose and we got back in line again. If he had been in charge, we would have kept going all night.
 He LOVED the train. We enjoyed it too, but after two times and a steadily longer line, we went to eat dinner instead.

We had brought our own food, and our friends were awesome and shared some of their snacks with us. We shared some of our dehydrated apples with them too.

After we finished eating, it became pretty cold, so Grig ran back to the car and got our coats. Then, we wandered slowly over to the corn maze. On the way we played on hay-bales, shot a bb gun (that we're pretty sure wasn't working), and took a group picture.

The corn maze was pretty tricky. It was huge! At first, we just wandered around and tried to find our way without assistance. However, after about an hour, the kids were beginning to get tired. I'll be honest, I'm pretty useless inside of mazes like this. I have no directional sense at all. We reached an edge of the corn maze and we stopped and pulled out our map. It took us a few minutes to figure out where we were, and then we began to follow the map. As we went, it quickly became apparent that we were on the right track. My friend's husband B took the lead and the rest of us herded children behind him. Grig helped direct us for a while, but most of our flashlights died, so B ended up being our sole navigator.

As we went, we began to collect an entourage. We began finding people who had no idea where they were and who were ready to get out of the maze. It took another hour and a half (I told you the maze was huge), but we finally emerged at the end. By that time, we had at least three groups of people following us. They thanked us, and continued on to their various activities.

We had reached the end at the perfect time too. Kevin was done.

He was tired and ready to go home. We thanked our friends and then went home. Half-way there, Kevin fell asleep.

As we were driving home, Grig and I began talking about how much we liked showing people the way out when they were lost. We've been the "smart people" before, and had people follow us out of mazes, and every time it is a lot of fun. However, as we were talking, we came to the realization that we would never follow anyone else out of a maze. We liked to give help, but we weren't very good at taking it. We like to figure out things on our own. It was okay to follow B out tonight, because we had helped him figure out where we were, and he was part of our group, but we would never follow another group of people out.

It's nice that other people are more humble than we are so that we can help them.

It was a great night!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

That One Time I Nearly Poisoned My Entire Family

On Monday, we were having preschool and we went outside to look for things that started with the letter d. We found dogs and dirt and lots of chestnuts from the neighbor's tree. 

So, we began to "drop" rock on the green shells to open the chestnuts and get the brown nuts from inside. We collected quite a few, and then the idea came to me that we should try and roast the chestnuts. They looked delicious, and even though I don't like most kinds of nuts, I was willing to try them. 

So, I sent home a few with the other little girl, and then, when Grig got home, we went out and picked up some more from our lawn and took them inside. We looked up how to make oven-roasted chestnuts. 

First, you take them out of their green shell (which we had already done). Then, we poked all of the nuts with forks so the steam could escape. We then drizzled the chestnuts in water and stuck them in the oven which was preheated to 400 degrees.

After 20 minutes, we took them out and began to peel them. It took a long time, but after we finished one, I gave it to Kevin to try.

He took a little nibble, and gave it back. "Do you like it?" I asked him.

"No," he said, "it's yucky."

"Ok," I said, assuming that he just had a palate like his mother. So, I decided to try it. 

I took a bite, and a strong, bitter, nasty flavor filled my mouth. I was pretty disgusted. I don't like most kinds of nuts though, so I wasn't super surprised that I didn't like it.
I kept peeling nuts, assuming that when I was done, we could grind them up and use them in food, even if we didn't like them.

Grig came in from showering and he began to help me shell the nuts. I gave him the rest of the nut that Kevin and I had tried, and he popped the rest of it in his mouth.

"How is it?" I asked. "Does it taste like a chestnut."

He nodded, and made an "Mmmm" sound, and then I watched his expression change. His look of pleasure quickly faded into a look of disgust. He finished chewing and swallowing, then said, "That tasted pretty gross."

He came and started helping me shell the rest anyway. 

Allopex, Grig's brother, came up next, and I gave him a different nut to try. Havelock wasn't home. The nut I gave Allopex peeled really easily and looked fresh and tender. I figured that if any of the nuts were going to taste good, it was going to be that one. 

However, after a small bite, he expressed the same aversion to the flavor.

We kept peeling for a few minutes, but then Grig said, "Why don't we just go give the rest of these back to the deer if they taste this bad."

They were difficult to peel anyway, but I'm stubborn. I kept doggedly peeling the chestnuts. Finally, after a few minutes, I agreed to give up. I didn't like them anyway, I just hated wasting food.

Someone, I think it was Allopex, made the comment, "Maybe there are different varieties of chestnut?"

So, I decided to look it up. What I found was pretty interesting. 

This is what our chestnuts looked like. These are all over the place, and Grig had identified them as chestnuts. He wasn't wrong.

However, this is what edible sweet chestnuts look like:

If they're edible, they have a lot of sharp, angry-looking spines and the nut has a tassel on one end.

The chestnuts in our yard are actually called Horse Chestnuts. And guess what?

Surprise, surprise, not only are they not edible, but they are actually toxic. Animals don't even like to eat them. They're pretty poisonous. 

No wonder they tasted so bitter!

Grateful that my husband was less stubborn that I was (and grateful that we didn't try to make bread out of toxic chestnuts), I quickly called my neighbor and told her not to eat the horse chestnuts. 

No one exhibited any symptoms of poisoning, and from what I was reading, it sounds like you have to eat quite a few before you'll really get sick or die. We laughed about it quite a while though.

Havelock was grateful that he missed the poisoning, and the rest of were grateful that nature was kind enough to warn us by making them taste so awful. 

So, before you eat chestnuts or other kinds of fruits or vegetables, make sure that they are really what you think they are. 

It might save your life. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Star Valley Temple

 Last Thursday we went to see the Star Valley Temple open house. We went with my grandparents, and my great aunt. They had a bit of a hectic morning, so we started out a little later than planned, but we left in plenty of time for our appointment.
 The trip down was beautiful. The fall colors were really starting to come out, and I got some really nice shots through the car window.
 Kevin was a bit of a pill during the trip, but he did pretty well. Usually, he's a pretty good kid. I read to him some, and he played on the phone some, but he was excited, so he wanted to yell.

It took a couple hours, but we finally arrived at the church next to the temple. We watched a short introductory movie. Our congregation was having a movie party the next night to watch The Good Dinosaur, and so Kevin was sad when he found out that we weren't watching the dinosaur movie right then, but he perked up pretty quickly. There were two sister missionaries who were explaining the movie and the procedure for entering the temple. One of them was American, and the other was from Tonga.

Kevin loved them both, but everytime the Tongan missionary spoke, he would ask a really loud question. First, he asked, "What...what did...What is her name?"

I told him, and then he settled down and listened some more. The next time she spoke, he asked, "What did she say?" very loudly. So I told him again. The sister missionaries loved him.

After we left the church building, my grandparents and great aunt traveled over to the church in their car because my aunt has a harder time walking, so she has a handicapped sticker. Kevin and I took the horse-drawn wagon across the field instead. We had a really good time and met some other nice children and people too.

Once we arrived, we had plastic bags placed over our shoes to protect the interior of the temple from dirt and other things, and we walked through it.

It was beautiful inside! Kevin was pretty distracted by the plastic bags over his shoes, but he really enjoyed the temple. He loved the pictures of the Savior and the beatiful lights. The tour was taken mostly in silence, but I answered his questions when he asked.

Afterward, we took a few pictures.
 This is Kevin's "Thinking face." He does it when he's thinking about things. I think it's hilarious.
 The sky provided a gorgeous backdrop for the new temple
 Kevin was good at posing for me. It was a beautiful warm day.

Once we finished taking pictures, we went into a covered area in the back and stood in line for a group pictures. About this time, Kevin was getting pretty hungry and a little grumpy. He was tired of pictures. I distracted him for a little while by letting him take pictures with my camera, but then the sister missionaries from earlier entered the tent.

They told him, "I remember you! Give me high five!" However, he only hid his head. I explained that he was getting hungry, and they nodded in understanding. A few minutes later, one of them returned and gave Kevin the chocolate kisses and a piece of gum.

He brightened up immediately. After that, he made it through the final two pictures until we were able to go and get lunch.
There was a big picture of the temple against one wall and we all stood in front of it, and they took a picture. Then they e-mailed it to us. It turned out pretty nicely.
We went to eat, and my grandparents treated us to lunch. It was super nice of them to bring Kevin and me with them. We really enjoyed ourselves.

The ride back was equally beautiful, and Kevin did pretty well. He got a little guitar with his kids' meal, and he spent a lot of time plunking the button until it broke.
 That night, as we sat around with Grig and his brothers, I asked Kevin what he had liked most about the temple. He thought, but wasn't sure. An idea seized me. I knew he had been pretty focused on the bags on his feet, so I asked him, "What did they put on your shoes?"

He only hesitated for a moment, and then proudly pronounced, "Garbage."

We have a treasure.
After laughing for a while, we again explained the purpose of the plastic bags that had been placed on his shoes. I think he finally got it.

Hopefully, he won't think they always put garbage on your feet before you go into the temple.