Friday, March 26, 2010

Just came back from the NICU....

......or the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, if you like to have it spelled out.

And just what was I doing at the NICU today, you may very well ask?

I was holding babies.

I was holding babies!

Oh, is there anything better than having a little wee babykins snuggled up against you?

(You don't need to grace that question with a response.  Because there just isn't anything better than that.)

How I ended up in the NICU snuggling babies is a long story.  Let's just say I was given the opportunity to do so, and had to turn it down initially because I thought I was going to be recovering from sinus surgery.  Thank goodness Dr. Gutt's wife gave birth so I could have an opportunity to go to the NICU.

Wait a minute, that didn't come out right.  I wasn't visiting Dr. Gutt's baby.  We aren't that close.....Remember, Dr. Gutt's wife had a baby, so he had to cancel my sinus surgery?  That freed up my schedule for babies.  I was much more excited about holding babies than sinus surgery, anyway.  Sinus surgery = boring, babies = fun.

So, off I went to the NICU today.  To hold babies.  Twins!  Boys! Two of the most darling little mannikins I've seen since, well, since the last time I got to hold a newborn.  And that has been a while.  They were absolutely precious.  And their mommy is taking such good care of them.  I was so impressed by their mommy!  She is a natural, and just seemed to handle all the tubes and wires and blankets and feedings with such grace.  I wish I had caught on that quickly!

I admit, I was a little nervous going to the NICU.  It wasn't the same NICU that Lily had started her life in, which probably helped.  But I wondered if I could handle it.  My time in the NICU with Lily wasn't easy.  I never felt at home there like I did when we were at the Heart Center.  And I had to witness some pretty sad situations with some of her NICU roommates.  

But I walked into the NICU today, and I was fine.  In fact, once I had one of those little babies in my arms, I was more than fine.  I felt like I'd got a piece of me back that had been missing.  The piece of me that knew how to hold babies with tubes and wires.  The piece that knew what all the bells and alarms meant.  The piece that knew how good it felt to hold a sweet bit of heaven in my arms while the world went rushing by.

So I was fine in the NICU.  But I started to cry as soon as I left.  Walking out the door of the NICU, I remembered how awful it felt whenever I had to leave my own baby.  I never got used to that feeling, and I guess I never will.  So I had a good cry over a lot of things.  I cried for all the parents in the NICU, who had to feel that way.  I cried for me, for remembering what it felt like.  I cried for some of the babies I saw, whose mothers weren't much older than Endeavor.  And I cried for Lily, because I miss holding her so much.  I'm very glad that I held her every chance I got.  
Oh, I do love babies.  If you ever hear of one or two or three that need snuggling, I'm your gal.  Give me a call!  I'll even come to the NICU.



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not What I Expected

Good Morning!

Well, I didn't have surgery yesterday, after all.

I stayed up late Tuesday night getting everything ready so that the Bionic Man and Endeavor could run the house.  Laundry was done, dinners were prepped, dishes were washed (mostly), towels and sheets were clean, bread was baked, and we'd been to the library and picked out books for everyone.  I had even thought ahead and made myself jello.  I was more prepared for a hospital stay than I have ever been.  I was also exhausted, and actually looking forward to sleeping all day. 

So, naturally, something had to go awry.  Wednesday morning, as the Bionic Man and I were walking out the door to get in the car and go to the hospital, the phone rang.  It was the doctor's office.  My doctor's wife had gone into labor, so he had to cancel my surgery.

The Bionic Man was really bummed that he had to go into work.  I was really bummed that I wasn't going to get to spend the rest of the day sleeping!  My children were very surprised to find me vacuuming the house when they came home from school.  "Why aren't you sleeping on the couch?"  Endeavor asked.  "Are you supposed to be vacuuming?"

Suddenly, I have an unexpected gift to enjoy.  Tomorrow, my children begin their spring vacation from school.  I have groceries purchased, meals prepped, and laundry done.  We are going to be able to have a fabulous time together!  Instead of lying on the couch all spring break, moaning, I can run around doing fun things with my kids!  And getting them to help me with our spring cleaning projects! 

Thank goodness that doctors' wives have babies!
Happy Spring, from Holland!

By the way, here is a fun video about my church, 
hosted by Steve Young.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck o' the Irish

I've always been a little confused by references to "the luck of the Irish."  Is that supposed to be some kind of unfortunate oxymoron?  (Hello, potato famine, civil war, those mischief making leprechauns that don't actually leave any gold.....)  Enlighten me, here.  Is the Irish luck a sarcastic joke, or are the Irish the most optimistic group of people the world has ever seen?  Then again, if I could wake up every morning to a view like this, I might feel pretty lucky, myself--potato blight or not.
 And, you have to admit, if you really don't like snakes, then you are pretty lucky if you get to live in opposed to, say, Arizona.  Just ask my friend Charmaine about what she was "lucky" enough to find under her doorstep one day in Arizona.

I was lucky enough today to be able to find every member of the family something green to wear.  To top it all off (literally) it was hat day at our elementary school, so my three children needed hats, as well.  Could the school system just accept the fact that it is hard enough to deal with the wearing 'o the green, without designating it hat day, too?  

Kindergarten added to the delight of this lucky day by declaring it to be not only St. Patrick's day, but Rainbow Food Day, as well.  Superkid brought home a note on Monday informing me that she needed to bring a blue food to share with her class for Rainbow Food Day, divided into 24 individual serving sizes.  

"Blue.  Hmmm.  A blue food," I furrowed my brow as I studied the not.  "Oh, I know!" I enthused.  "Blueberries!  We'll send in a package of blueberries, and everyone in your class can take one," I told Superkid.

"But I don't like blueberries," Superkid said sadly.  "I won't get to eat my own food, because I don't like it."

"Blue corn tortilla chips!" Endeavor exclaimed.  She is always willing to help out with a brainstorming session.  "Just put them in sandwich bags."  Endeavor has lived with me for more than 10 years now, and knows that simple sells.

"But I don't like blue corn chips," Superkid reminded us, tears welling in her eyes.  

"Blue jello jigglers!"  Endeavor tried again.  

And blue jello it was, until Superkid came home from kindergarten, yesterday.  "Most of the kids in my class are bringing jello,"  Superkid informed me.  "I am afraid it is going to become an all jello Rainbow Food Day.  We have to find another blue food."

So, guess what I am going to do as soon as I finish this blog post?  I will be tinting vanilla yogurt with blue food coloring.  Vanilla yogurt is one of the only foods Superkid will eat.  I am going to put it in blue Dixie cups for added blue oomph.  Then I will be driving the blue vanilla yogurt to kindergarten, where it will participate in Rainbow Food Day.
I googled images of blue yogurt, and none of them were particularly appetizing,
so I'm giving you this, instead.  They say it is blueberry yogurt pie.  Interesting.
Do you think they eat it in Ireland?

And now, for some important blog business.  In the next three weeks, I am going to be a little swamped.  I have some stuff coming up.  I recently found out that my sinuses are a disaster.  Such a disaster, in fact, that I have to have corrective surgery.  And no, that is not another term for "I'm getting a nose job."  My nose will look the same on the outside, but hopefully inside it will be WIDE OPEN after Dr. Gutt does his job.  (By the way, "gutt" means "good" in German.  I find it comforting that Dr. Good will be performing my surgery.)  This delightful procedure will coincide with my children's spring break.  I have mound upon mound of laundry to tackle and meals to prepare ahead of time before next week's surgery.  My house is in desperate need of spring cleaning and some heavy-duty organization.  I haven't finished those Easter outfits.  

I tell you this so that you won't be surprised if I decide to take a brief blogging hiatus.  I'll come back in a couple weeks to report on spring cleaning, massive household restructuring and reorganization (wow....that sounds so corporate.....maybe there will be layoffs.....or new management?), and my new sinuses. 

Until then......
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of St. Patrick behold you.
- An Irish Blessing

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Before Holland We Went to Paris

Oh boy, did we ever go to to Paris.  It was an experience.  Not exactly a good experience, but an experience, nonetheless.

I've mentioned before that we spent a year in Germany when Endeavor was a baby.  It was a fantastic opportunity for us.  The Bionic Man was sent by his company to work with a company in Munich, sort of as an exchange.  They paid for our housing and transportation and lots of other expenses, and told Ben that he could take off any holiday the Germans took off.  Germans have A LOT of holidays.  The company leased a brand-new Mercedes Benz for us--the Bionic Man got to drive it off the factory showroom floor.  (There's a ceremony, and everything.  I'm not kidding.)  During our time in Germany, the dollar was very strong, so it was relatively inexpensive for us to travel, eat out, etc.  The Bionic Man speaks German fluently because he spent two years in Germany as a missionary for our church before he finished college.  Thanks to some high school and college German classes, I speak enough German to be able to apologize and say I don't understand what anyone is saying.  Thanks to voice training as a teenager, I can sing fluently in German.  We took advantage of all of that and packed as much as we could into that one year.  We saw soooo much and made lots of memories.

We also made Justone.  He was born a few months after our return to the U.S.  Would you believe that the entire time we were in Germany, I was nursing or pregnant?  (Actually, for about two weeks I was nursing AND pregnant.  Not something I recommend.)

My philosophy is that anyone who has an opportunity to spend time in another country should do it.  Do it while your children are young, because I think it would have been much more stressful if I had to worry about schools and playmates.  Endeavor was just four months old when we arrived in Munich.  She was very portable.  Don't ever turn down an opportunity to travel because you have a baby.  Take the baby with you and enjoy all the unique experiences you'll have in your travels because you have a baby along.  Your pace might be a little slower, but you'll see so much more.

But I'm getting off track, here.  Back to Paris.

During the last half of the year we spent in Germany, my parents went to live in the southwest of France, where they served as missionaries for our church.  They were asked to help lead a small congregation in a town called Angouleme.  The Bionic Man and I thought it would be fun to go visit them, and see some sights along the way.  We'd been warned that driving in France was not easy.  So, instead of driving there, we came up with what we thought was a brilliant plan.

This was our plan:
We would take a night train from Munich to Paris.  We would sleep peacefully as the train crossed the borders of Germany and Luxembourg, gliding through the summer night until the train arrived, at 7 A.M. in Paris.  We would rent a locker at the train station for our luggage, grab a fresh croissant or two, then spend the rest of the day strolling around Paris, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the City of Light.  We would tour Notre Dame, climb the Eiffel tower, float down the Seine, perhaps even make a stop at the Louvre.  Endeavor would spend the day in her stroller, as delighted to be in Paris as her parents.  We would sample exquisite French cuisine and be charmed by all things French.  Then, at the end of a magical Parisian day, we would return to the train station, collect our luggage, and travel a few more hours to find my parents in Angouleme.

Hmmm.  There were only a few teensy-weensy flaws in this plan:
Endeavor wasn't know for her ability to sleep through the night.  She was known for waking up at night, a lot.  I was pregnant.  Not enough that it really showed, but enough that I was feeling it.  The Bionic Man and I don't speak any French.  Zero.  I can't even utter the words bon jour with a reliable accent.  We didn't know the first thing about getting around in Paris.  We stupidly assumed it would be just as easy to get around in Paris as it had been to get around in Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Vienna.  And, finally, there are no luggage lockers in the Paris train stations.

So, here is how our trip to Paris actually went:
We boarded the night train and bedded down for the night.  Other passengers began to drift off to sleep.  Not Endeavor!  The whole idea of sleeping on a train completely freaked her out.  We spent the entire night trying to keep her quiet so that we wouldn't get kicked off the train.  This involved much walking up and down through the train compartments with a fussy one year old.  There was a hair-raising moment when we became locked out of the compartment where our luggage, our passports, and--this was major--Endeavor's sippy cup was stored.  We arrived in Paris, exhausted and disheveled, only to discover that there were no luggage lockers.  Anywhere.  I've learned to pack much lighter since, but I believe at that time we were carrying 3-4 heavy duffel bags, a pack-n-play, a large diaper bag, a camera case, and pushing a stroller.  We had no choice but to continue to take all of those things everywhere we went that day in Paris.  Actually, the Bionic Man carried most of them, since I was pregnant.  We could not figure out the city transportation to save our souls, and I think we might have rode one bus without paying and on another bus we paid for 10 people. 

Croissants and escargot?  Hardly.  We couldn't even get water!  The Bionic Man tried to purchase food at roadside stands and street cafes, but was met with cold stares.  He couldn't speak French, and no one was going to bother to serve him if he wasn't going to bother to attempt to speak their language.  Late in the day, we stumbled into--again, I'm not kidding--a McDonald's, where the Bionic Man was successfully able to order a couple of value meals by holding up his fingers.  (Two fingers for the #2 value meal, right?)  It may also have helped that his starving, pregnant wife was standing next to him, sobbing.  The French are not completely without feeling.

There were two things we really wanted to see while we were in Paris.  The Cathedral of Notre Dame (me) and the Eiffel Tower (Bionic Man).  Oh, and pigeons (Endeavor).  Lucky for us, the subway we stumbled on and off soon after we arrived in Paris took us right to Notre Dame.  And there were pigeons there.  Getting to the Eiffel Tower was not so easy.  Something happened on the bus (which involved much yelling and hand gestures towards us by the driver and several passengers), and we ended up walking for miles and miles.  When the Eiffel Tower was finally in sight--but still blocks and blocks away--we stumbled upon a small playground, full of children and nannies and benches.  Then and there, the fatigue of of a sleepless night and the nausea of early pregnancy made me decide I'd seen enough of Paris.  I plopped down on a park bench and refused to go any farther.  The Bionic Man left me and the pack-n-play and various duffle bags there, where I promptly fell asleep, while he and Endeavor went to see the Eiffel Tower up close.  I personally don't know anyone else who has slept on a park bench in Paris, it was truly a unique and unforgettable experience.  After the Bionic Man and Endeavor returned, we found our way to McDonald's and eventually back to the train station, where I curled up on the floor and slept until the train to Bordeaux arrived.  Yes, I slept on the floor of a train station.  In Paris.  Few "vacations" have been quite so unique and unforgettable.

The rest of the trip wasn't so terrible.  It was, in fact, quite delightful.  We were warmly welcomed by my parents, and enjoyed traveling with them in the French countryside very much.  It certainly helped that they had a car and my father spoke French fluently, and that my mother was more than happy to feed us.  They helped us rearrange our return trip so that no night trains were involved.  In fact, I don't think our return trip took us through Paris, at all.  Paris was nothing but a bad memory.  A very bad memory.
Then, a few years ago, Ben and I were watching the Travel Channel.  A charming hostess documented her week enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Paris.  It all looked wonderful.  "You know, we should go to Paris sometime," the Bionic Man said to me.

"Yes," I agreed.  "We really should.  I think we could have a lot of fun, there."

And then we laughed, hard.

Perhaps someday, we will have a chance to go back to Paris and try again.  Our first trip there wasn't a complete disaster: it taught us an important lesson.  Any experience can be made better by preparation.  Whether it is a trip to a foreign city or a trip to the local emergency room or your first day at a new school, your overall experience will be less stressful if you know a bit about the language, the people, the customs, how to get there, how to navigate once you are there, where you can go to eat, who you can go to for help if you are lost or confused.  You might even have a chance to enjoy yourself, or at least learn something.  Something better than how it feels to sleep on a park bench.

For those of you who find yourselves on an unexpected journey, take heart.  Take time to read a few guidebooks and talk to the locals and learn about what you can do and see and enjoy at your new destination.  After a while, you may be able to write a guidebook yourself.  Certainly, you'll be qualified to help the other accidental tourists.  Joy can be found in any journey, I'm convinced of that.

Even if the joy comes after the journey.....when you marvel at the pictures and say, "Did we really do all that?" and think back to the park bench where you collapsed, exhausted, and remember that there were flowers blooming all around you, that day.  French flowers.  What an adventure!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Best Dressed

And the winner, in the category "Best Dressed" is.....

(Sound of envelope and paper crackling)

....It's a tie!  A three-way tie!  
Endeavor, Superkid, and Justone had new outfits to wear to church yesterday, thanks to a late night of sewing by their mother.  I started the girls' skirts on Saturday evening.  Trouble is, once I start a project like this, I have to finish it.  If I don't, it sits undone for weeks, months.....even years.  I'm particularly awful with following through on sewing projects.  There was a point late Saturday night when I knew it was now, or never.  So I sewed like the wind, into the wee hours of the morning.

Ta da!  Some of the nominees were more thrilled to pose for pictures after church than others.

I found the sweaters on sale at the Children's Place Outlet last weekend.  I originally bought them to go along with the skirts I'm planning to make for Easter.  But I decided that I loved that bright pop of yellow with the black and white.  I've loved that color combo ever since I came across this:

Now, admit it, my kids would look great with that for a backdrop.  Or maybe they would just blend in.....oh well, I just love that yellow and black combo, even if the Bionic Man does make disparaging comments about road signs.

Sunday morning, I remembered that I promised to make Justone a tie that would match with his sisters' skirts.  (I love that my children are all willing, even eager, to go along with my coordination obsession.  How long will this last?)  I felt guilty that I didn't have something new for him to wear, so I decided to just go ahead and whip together a tie for him out of the leftover fabric.  The ox wasn't exactly in the mire, but a mother's promise was on the line.  I was convinced it would only take me a "few minutes".

Luckily, we don't have to be to church until 1 P.M.  

I should have used this tutorial I found last week, but I was daunted by the 24 sheets of paper it was going to require to print out.  (Which means it was a very thorough tutorial, with lots of step-by-step pics.  I'll use it next time.)  But no, I'm apparently too good for instructions, or maybe just too stingy with my printer paper.  Because I decided, "Hey, how hard can it be to sew a tie?  I can just look at another tie and figure this out, easy peasy!"  Now, from the front of the tie, I might just be right.  But if you turn the tie over, you will see that I most definitely was wrong.

I was too embarrassed to include a picture of the back of the tie.  But it sure looks good from the front, doesn't it?

The girls' skirts were easy to put together, and.....this is a big deal......I actually had a lot of fun making them.

They are basically just twirly skirts, with some easy variations.  I didn't even have to cut out pattern pieces for them or do any gathering.  I just measured my daughters, cut straight lines, and sewed straight seams, and pulled elastic through to make the waistbands.  Seriously, anyone can make these.

I learned to make twirly skirts last spring,  using this tutorial from House on Hill Road.  (Recently, I discovered another very simple twirly skirt tutorial, you can read more about that here.)

The fabric I used inspired the design of the skirts.  When I purchase the black and white floral (which is just cotton gingham, $4/yard), I realized that I was going to need to line the skirts.  I planned to do so with plain white cotton.  As I was just about to cut the lining, I had a Moment of Mad Genius and realized that I could do a super-cute layered effect by letting that lining peek out from beneath the hem of the first layer.  I'm so happy with the results!

Superkid's skirt has a little less ornamentation on it than Endeavor's, mostly because I was running out of steam at 2 o'clock in the morning her sweater has more detail on it.  I used my very last scrap of polka-dot fabric to make my own bias tape for the hem.  That's how much I hate hemming things, I'll make my own bias tape if I have to, just to keep from doing an actual hem.  I didn't actually cut the polka-dot fabric on the bias, since I had very little fabric to work with.    (Is there a reason bias tape is cut on the bias?  Go ahead and let me know if you know.)  I machine hemmed the upper layer of the skirt, then tacked on that black grosgrain ribbon with stitchwitchery iron-on tape.  I love that stuff so much.  We'll see if it holds up through the first wash......I may actually have to sew it on later.  
 Endeavor's skirt is a little more frilly than Superkid's.  That white ruffle is some nifty pre-made trim I found at JoAnn's.  I meant to have enough for Superkid's skirt, too, but I mis-measured and didn't buy enough.  Happy accident:  they look less matchy-matchy.  Besides, it probably won't be long before Endeavor stops letting me dress her in frills and ribbons.  Why not live it up while we can?

Anyway, the premade ruffle is just white grosgrain, and I love the fact that it was already done.  I couldn't make something like that.  Wouldn't even want to try.  Originally, I meant to put it right on top of the black and white polka dot band, but yet another happy accident occurred which caused me to use my unpicking tool just a bit before I decided, "Hey, this might actually look good if I leave a little space between my ruffle and the floral fabric."  Amazing what kind of inspiration laziness can provide!  Again, grosgrain ribbon and some stitchwitchery tape totally came through for me on the lower hem.

It took 6-8 hours to complete everything.  (I designed the skirts and cut the fabric a few weeks, ago, so I did get some sleep Saturday night.)  Total cost: less than $10 per skirt, the tie was made using scraps I already had.  

I am so proud the way the skirts turned out (and the matching tie), and especially pleased that my children were so thrilled by their new outfits.  I'm really excited to get to work on those Easter outfits, now.  But first, I have to alter dance recital costumes.  Those have to be ready this week.

Oh my goodness, I'm in awe.  Ten years ago--even two years ago--I would never have imagined myself writing that last paragraph.  I think I've stretched, and picked up a couple new skills.  
Stand up straight and smile, darn it, smile!

I'm linking this post to 


Made it Monday at the Persimmon Perch


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Something Special Saturday

Yesterday, I promised pictures of Superkid's new Twirly Skirt.

It really is twirly!

Superkid picked out the fabric herself.  Darling cherries and sprinkles!  

The hem was extra easy, I just used ribbon as if it were bias tape, folding it around the hem and sewing.  Aren't those great colors in that fabric?  So perfect for a girly-girl.
While I was standing in line at the fabric store, waiting for someone to cut my fabric, Superkid was exploring. She found the ice cream applique and begged for it to go on her skirt.  I though it would look better on the matching tee I found at Target, and Superkid went along with that.  She has great taste, don't you think?

Yummy!  I found the leggings at Target, too.  Love the ruffle detail.  Superkid loves the whole outfit!  I'm so glad I took the time to make it for her.  She loved telling her kindergarten friends that her mommy made her outfit.

As far as time went.....I think I made the whole thing in less than two hours!  That's my kind of project.

If you missed out on my other quickie projects, go here.  

These are some of the sites I've been visiting for sewing inspiration and instructions.

Sew, Mama, Sew!  Lots of tutorials on this one.
a pretty cool life  Cheryl's great pictures have convinced me that I need to try gathering and ruffling, next.
Stitch Market  Still loving this site.  

Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sew Fun

I've finally gotten around to those sewing projects I mentioned a while back.  At least, some of them.  And I added a few more.  Want to see what I've done so far?

Here's my mom's belated birthday gift.  Go ahead and peek, Mom, so you know I really haven't forgotten your birthday.  My excuse is that Hunter chewed up the brown thread before I finished, and it has taken me a while to go back to the fabric store to find more!

My mom loves aprons, and recently I've made a discovery: I love them, too!  I can't wait to make one for me, next.  I had so much fun finding the fabric for this one.

Isn't that fruit fabric perfect for an apron?  The ribbon I trimmed this with is my favorite ribbon ever.  I use it for my girls' hair bows all the time.  I really love how that pink stitching complements the striped fabric.

I've got lots of picture's of my mom's apron because--guess what?  IT'S REVERSIBLE!

Isn't that clever?  Don't look too closely, or you'll see what an amateur I am.  I'm not too big on patterns, measuring, or straight lines.  Yep, I've got some mad sewing skilz.  But I have fun and I sew like the wind.  (Thanks, Three Amigos!)

I finished three sewing projects last night.  (Sigh.  Yes, the Bionic Man had a business trip this week.  I have to do something to while away the lonely hours.)  The apron was first, then I made a twirly skirt and matching top for Superkid.  She's wearing them right now at school, so I'll have to show those to you later.  Update:  I blogged about the twirly skirt here, and here's one quick pic in the meantime:

My third project, sewn to completion, is this top I made for me.

Love the fabric on this one, too.

Got it at JoAnn's with my 40% off coupon.  Total cost: $7.  Yeehaw!  I plan to wear it with some of my layering tees and cardigans.  I'd model it for you, but I don't think you'd appreciate the way I look the morning after a late night of sewing.  (Yikes, what have I become?  Quickly, someone stage an intervention!  A late night of sewing?)  Trust me, it is very cute.

Thanks to two talented seamstresses/bloggers for the inspiration!  You can check out Shelley's apron tutorial at 7 Layer Studio.  After reading Lindsey's post on her blog The Pleated Poppy about the Amelia shirt she made, I realized I could refashion the same pillowcase dresses I'd made for my daughters as tops for me!  What fun!  (I'm having a hard time getting the specific link to this particular post, but Lindsey has so many great things on her blog, you'll have fun looking!)

I'll be working on the girls' Easter outfits next week!  Wish me luck.....

Lucky Dog

The Story of Hunter the Dog
How Hunter the Dog Came to Holland
How We Became Dog Owners

Like many parents, the Bionic Man and I were asked by our children, many times, "When can we get a dog?"

Endeavor asked us for the first time before she was even able to talk intelligibly.  She found a long yellow ribbon, tied a loop at one end, held the other end in her chubby hand, and dragged that loop behind her for weeks.  When asked (on the first day of the yellow ribbon's appearance) what it was, she barked.  Turns out, there was an imaginary dog on the end of that leash.  His name, Endeavor told us, was "Paw."  Imaginary Paw went everywhere--and I do mean everywhere--with Endeavor until her second birthday.  For her birthday, the Bionic Man and I presented Endeavor with a stuffed animal, a black lab puppy, which she promptly named Paw and took everywhere, forgetting the other Paw who existed only at the end of a yellow ribbon.

The Bionic Man and I foolishly hoped that this would fulfill Endeavor's need for dog ownership.

It did not.  Endeavor, eventually accompanied by Justone and Superkid, continued to ask for a dog.  Their pleas became more vocal when we moved to our current home.  "Everyone in the world has a dog but us!"  This was an exaggeration, of course, but it was true that all of our neighbors in the houses surrounding us had at least two dogs apiece.  So it probably felt like everyone in the world had a dog (or dogs), except for our children.

Occaisionally, the pleas of our children did not land upon deaf ears.  I would feel a smidge of pity, a twinge of solidarity with their cause, and I would think, "Well, why don't we get a dog?"  Not ever having owned a dog myself, I would begin researching the basics of dog ownership, and would quickly decide that dog ownership wasn't for me.

Superkid, never one to sit around waiting for the things she wants, took matters into her own hands at the age of three.  She became the family dog.  For months, Superkid would randomly shift into a puppy alter-ego with frighteningly realistic characteristics: barking, whining, panting, licking, roaming the house on all fours, even begging for table scraps.  I had to admire her imagination, perserverence, acting skills, and attention to detail, but it was a little much. Especially when Superkid the puppy appeared in restaurants, church, and the grocery store.  Think Disney's Shaggy Dog.

Eventually, the children demanded a timeline for dog ownership.  This was in the early days of my fourth pregnancy, when I was having a hard enough time feeding, washing, and exercising my own children, let alone a dog.  One day, I declared with exasperation, "I'm not even going to think about getting a dog until everyone in this house is toilet trained!"

In my children's minds, this declaration morphed to, "We're getting a dog as soon as everyone is toilet trained."

A few months after our fourth baby was born, Justone was handing me wet wipes as I changed Lily's diaper.  Looking at her lovingly, he said, "Lily's so smart, I bet she'll be toilet trained soon."  He grinned at his little sister.  "Then we can get a dog."

Sadly, Lily only lived for 400 days.  The day that Lily died, our little family sat huddled together on the couch, crying softly, sharing sweet memories.  Then Justone  sniffed, wiped his eyes, and asked, "Now that everyone in this house is toilet trained, can we get a dog?"

Endeavor looked up with a hopeful, tear-streaked face and exclaimed, "Yes!  You promised!  You said we could get a dog when everyone was toilet trained. Now we are!"

"I am soooo toilet trained, Mommy!"  Superkid chimed in excitedly.  "Can we go get our dog today?"

At that point, the children began a heated argument over what kind of dog we should get and whose bed he should get to sleep on.

Now, there might be someone (or many?) reading this who are horrified by the fact that my children seemed to be replacing their little sister with a dog just hours after Lily's death.  To you, allow me to gently state that you don't have any understanding about children and grief.  So don't pass judgment.

Looking back, I am thrilled by the faith and optimism that my children expressed at that point.  Yes, they were sad that their sister had died.  But we had worked very hard during Lily's life to explain the promise of resurrection to our children, to focus on the fact that no matter what happened, our family would be together again someday.  I like to think that remembering the dog was their way of recognizing--with the perfect faith of children--that even though we were in the midst of tragedy, good things could still happen.  Dreams could still come true.  Promises would still be kept.  Isn't that the ultimate expression of faith in a just and loving God?

It was tempting to go get a dog right away.  But we waited.  There were funeral arrangements, an upcoming Make-A-Wish trip for Superkid, the yard needed a fence, a cross-country summer roadtrip.......lots of things got in the way of dog ownership.  And I didn't complain.  The more research I did to prepare for the promised dog, the more worried I became about the heavy responsibilities of dog ownership.  The Bionic Man came home with a beta fish one night, hoping that would stall the children.  It was only a temporary fix.

By the end of the summer, the Bionic Man and I were feeling guilty about the fact that we had yet to make good on the dog promise.  "Let's get them a dog for Christmas," he told me.  "We can start looking now, and maybe by December we'll have found the right one."

I had already decided upon "odorless"/hypoallergenic breeds of dogs, and had lists of breeders for shelties and labradoodles.  I'd even called and begun the interview process with some of them.  When one breeder began discussing a home visit, I began to feel as if I was preparing to adopt a baby.  Oh boy.  Studying the potential costs, I began to realize that by the time we fenced the yard, paid for the dog, the dog's vet care, the breeder's fees, the dog care equipment, etc......we very well could be looking at expenses nearing that of the adoption of an actual child.

Suddenly, rescue dogs began to look very good.  I switched my search to online pet adoption sites.  Shelties....labradoodles....I kept an eye out, casually.  Looking for a dog with light, fluffy hair.  

By that time, we had reached the year mark of when we first agreed with the children that it was time for a dog.  The search was really on, now.  Then one day, the Bionic Man decided that the breed of dog we absolutely had to have was a German Pointer.  A chocolate brown, shorthaired, German Pointer.  And that was it.  

Now, I'm not saying I'm one to just do whatever the Bionic Man decides.  Nope. We have plenty of evidence to the contrary.  But this time.....well, there was no changing the man's mind.  A Pointer he wanted and a Pointer he must have.  Man's best friend, you know, and this particular man wanted a Pointer to be his best friend.  

The Bionic Man, now having discovered his One True Breed, became invested in our search for the family dog.  He also began perusing the online pet adoption sites.  ( was our favorite).  After all those months of my looking, the Bionic Man hopped onto for the very first time and discovered.....Hershey.  

A fuzzy picture showed a small puppy being held by someone with a very hairy arm.  A brief description claimed that "Hershey" was a Pointer/Lab mix, four months old.  "But that dog looks black and white to me," I said, squinting at the fuzzy picture.

"That dog isn't black and white!" the Bionic Man assured me, sounding slightly offended.  "He's definitely brown and white.  Because he's a Pointer.  Obviously, they wouldn't have given him a name like Hershey if he wasn't chocolate brown."

The Bionic Man called the rescue number listed to make arrangments for our family to meet Hershey....and they told him Hershey was gone.  The Bionic Man was very upset.  "I can't believe he's gone!"  he lamented.  "That was our dog!  He's perfect!  A chocolate brown German Pointer."

"And Lab.  It says he's a Lab, too," I pointed out snarkily.  "Not all German Pointer."

"You can see from the picture," the Bionic Man said stiffly, "Hershey is predominantly German Pointer.  And now, he's gone.  To someone else."

But Hershey wasn't gone.  At least, not for long.  Two days later, the same picture of "Hershey" appeared, bearing the sponsor name of another rescue organization.  Same puppy, cradled in a hairy arm, only this time he was being called "Snickers."

"Snickers!"  the Bionic Man exclaimed.  "What kind of a name is Snickers?  You name a little fluffy dog snickers, not a hunting dog!"  He muttered about this as he dialed the number for the rescue, finding out that yes, "Snickers" was available for adoption, and yes, we could meet "Snickers."

It took several days to arrange a time that was convenient for the foster family to let us visit Snickers.  We went on a Monday night, for Family Home Evening.  On the way, the Bionic Man and I carefully prepped the children.  We were just going to look at this dog.  He might not be the right dog for our family.  Even if we liked him a lot, he would need to be checked by a veterinarian to make sure he was healthy.  We needed to make sure that he was a good dog, etc., etc.  

All the way across town to the foster home, Superkid worried.  Superkid had learned to love several of our friends' little dogs, but she was not a fan of big dogs.  She kept asking us, "Will Snickers jump on me?"  When we talked about how we needed to make sure this particular dog was right for our family, Superkid would agree, telling us, "We need to make sure he is not the kind of dog who will jump on me."  

This was a concern for the Bionic Man and I, as well.  Naturally, you don't want a dog knocking down anyone.  But we were particularly concerned about having a rambunctious puppy around our little heart patient on blood thinners.  Over the years, I'd read a lot of positive reports about the benefits of pet ownership for heart patients.  In my mind, I was convinced that getting a dog would be good for Superkid in the long long as it didn't cause her any injury.  And how, exactly, were we supposed to predict that?

We arrived at the foster home, and were greeted by Snicker's foster family.  And then we met Snickers.  He was thrilled to have visitors.  He skidded across the hardwood floor on his little black and white behind (told you so, Bionic Man), and sniffed and licked all of us with pure doggy delight.  After petting him and asking his foster mom lots of questions, we took Snickers outside to play.  Snickers was ecstatic to be outside.  He ran laps around and around the children.  The Bionic Man stood close by Superkid, ready to scoop her up if Snickers seemed to be a threat.  Turning to talk to the foster mom, he was distracted for a moment.  Snickers came running full speed towards Superkid, who was calling to him with outstretched arms, stopped right at her feet, and dropped down onto his belly, happily allowing her to pat his back and scratch his ears.  He repeated the same behavior for the rest of the evening: running around the yard as fast as he could, jumping up to greet our other two children, but dropping onto his belly every single time he approached Superkid.

The adoption papers were there, ready for us to fill out and take Snickers home.  But the Bionic Man and I had promised ourselves that we would take time to think about it.  We were not going to go home with a dog.  We were not impulse adopters.  We were determined to be rational.

And we were rational, until we arrived home, dogless, and realized we'd left our dog back there!  Quite possibly the only dog in the world who could join our family had been within our reach.....and we'd just walked away.  The next morning, we tried to get in touch with the rescue organization.  We emailed.  We left phone messages.  They went unanswered.  It was as if the rescue organization had never existed.  

Not wanting to disappoint the children, the Bionic Man and I had kept it to ourselves that we were trying to adopt Snickers.  When they asked, we made vague statements such as, "We'll see," or "We're still thinking about it."  They had no idea that I was frantically sending out emails to the rescue pleading for a response.  I checked the website multiple times each day, hoping that as long as Snicker's picture stayed on the website, he was still available.  The Bionic Man and I worried as the days went by, wondering if perhaps we'd done something to be blacklisted by the rescue service, or if someone less hesitant had come along and taken Snickers home.  

Days went by.  Dejectedly, we began to look at pictures of other dogs.  Then, one day, we had an email from the rescue people.  They'd been out of town.  Snickers had temporarily gone to a shelter until his foster family came home.  (Hearing that our dog had spent the last week in a shelter when we wanted nothing more than to bring him home was like a knife in my heart.)  Of course we could have him, they told us.  When can we come get him?  We asked.  Several more days went by.....during which we wondered if this rescue organization was trying to find homes for dogs, or what?

The Bionic Man was convinced that our dog was so special, his foster family didn't want to give him up, and so they were putting us off in hopes we would give up.  We aren't dramatic, are we?

During this time of waiting, I had an epiphany.  After Lily's death, I struggled with my new reality of being the mother of older children.  Up to that point in my marriage, I had always had a babe in arms, so to speak.  Either I had a baby or knew I would have one again soon.  Finding myself without either baby or the promise of a baby was--to say the least--difficult.  I love babies.  I love taking care of babies.  I'm a good baby mother.  Being without a baby was like losing part of my identity.  It was painful for me, and painful for my husband, too, in a way.  Adoption seemed like the best way to fill the void we felt.  I began researching, looking at agencies.....the act of doing so seemed to ease the ache of empty arms.  I didn't do so in an effort to replace the daughter I'd lost, I did so to try to restore the role I'd lost: mother of a baby.

My epiphany came during the days that we waited for calls from the dog rescue.  I would never suggest that our dog adoption could compare to the miracle of adopting a human child.  But that little taste of waiting, wondering, and worrying about whether or not we were going to get the puppy we wanted was enough to teach me something.  My heart just wasn't ready to go through the ups and downs of baby adoption.  I was still grieving for my own baby, I was not ready yet to grieve any disappointments that might come during the long process of adoption.  I was able to set aside the dream of another baby, take a deep breath, and decide to learn to appreciate my new role as a mother of growing children.

Finally, the call came, on a Friday morning.  "Could you come get Snickers tomorrow?"  I spent the day at Petsmart, buying a puppy layette, hiding the puppy supplies from the children, calling vets, clearing a space in my laundry room to make way for a doggie bed.  And I announced to the family that if we ever got a dog, I thought we should name him Hunter.  Everyone agreed.

The next morning I signed the adoption papers, put the newly named Hunter into the back of my van, stopped to see a veterinarian (who assured me that Hunter was healthy) and drove home.  Hunter sat quietly in the back of the van, not making a peep until we were almost home.  As we turned onto our street, he began to bark happily, almost as if he knew the children were waiting.  Moments later, he bounded out of the van and into our home and our hearts....and he's been there, ever since.

Like I said, I've never owned a dog before.  I never considered myself much of a dog person.  But I'm just as silly as I can be over Hunter.  We're all crazy about him.  The children adore him more today than they did the first day he arrived, even though the shiny-new has worn into the old-familiar as Hunter has grown from puppy to dog.  He's smart, he's gentle, he's friendly, he's affectionate, he's loyal.  He's perfect for us, and we're perfect for him.

One night, as I watched Hunter curl up beside a sleepy Superkid in her bed, his paw strategically resting on her quilt, to keep it tucked around her wiggly toes, I thought about how Hunter came to us.  I remembered a little family, crying together as they missed their baby sister, and a little boy who asked with hope shining from his tear-streaked face, "Now can we get a dog?"  And I imagined the little angel sister, finding the right dog and making sure he came to us.  As dogs go, this one we have is just that special.  For us, Hunter is yet another reminder that joy can spring from sorrow, hope can be renewed, and miracles will never cease.

I wrote this over the course of several days.  During that time, Hunter chewed up the following:
a roll of paper towels
a stuffed squirrel
three miniature felted horses that go with Superkid's horsebarn set
a Christmas tree ornament which--ironically--was a squirrel
an almost empty yogurt cup
a dishrag
several random plastic cheapie toys

and this morning, I looked every where but couldn't find the 1/3 loaf of bread that was sitting on the counter last night, waiting to be made into sandwiches.
Coincidence?  I think not!  
Where did Hunter stash the plastic bag the bread was in, I would like to know?
And, perhaps I now have the answer for why Hunter had to go out twice during the night last night.  Hmmm.  

This post is a good reminder to myself of why I put up with the family dog.
Some miracles require more patience than others.