Thursday, April 23, 2009

Return to the West Edge of the Earth to Prepare for Mikayla Wren (and to visit Reeder and Hayes of course!)

This is a really, really, really hard blog to write. But I am determined! Very determined! But it so hard. The pains of procrastination!
So now it is almost the end of May- and this blog takes place back in April- And "what a difference a day makes"- well maybe little more than a day. But April seems so long ago- but I want you to see the pictures- because the pictures tell to story of such a good time.

But for that week in April I just rejoiced in family- what a fantastic time! I traveled to Las Vegas to help Brandy get the nursery ready for Mikayla- but before we started the work she and I traveled over t0 California to see Clint, Marianne, Reeder and Hayes.

So the first day I was back to Cincy I started loading up pictures... And then I returned to work (eventually I hope that the work days are around 8 hours- for now they often stretch into 10-11- and I am exhausted- but I am still hopeful that eventually...)

And then my computer BROKE- I don't want to dwell on that- just suffice it to say that I am not ever, ever, ever going to buy anything by Dell- And I still don't have a computer- Don lets me borrow his- And I'm not sure when I will have a computer- they're still trying to find it- they really aren't sure where it is- and they're sure that they probably can't ever find mine (we had returned mine for repairs)- so they think that maybe sometime.... they'll find something similar... and when they do they'll send it...

And need I mention that I spend a WHOLE LOT MORE TIME trying to keep this house at least one step ahead of chaos. There is a whole heck of a lot of difference between caring for a 7 bedroom 2 1/2 bath 114 year old house in the middle of construction -should I mention all the pictures hanging crooked- or the perpetual dust.. Well it's a lot, lot, lot more work than a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, no yard apartment in San Fran...

So April seems so far away. And I meant to get back to this blog..

And now Mikayla is here- and Brandy isn't pregnant anymore...

But I had such a great time- and I really do want you to see the pictures.

So here it is.

Now before Brandy and I started doing any of the work getting ready for Mikayla we traveled to California to see MY GRANDBABIES!

We started at an Earth Day Celebration at Balboa Park in San Diego:

And Reeder and I make homemade pizza!
And Hayes got a bath!

Brandy, Marianne, Reeder and I spent the evening on the couch- and every time one of us would leave for a moment. Reeder would announce- "We're missing a friend!" So below you can see THE FOUR FRIENDS!

And you just must go to the Wild Animal Park next time you're in San Diego! It is AMAZING. It began some years ago as a breeding, recovery park for the San Diego Zoo- it is big open places and LOTS and LOTS of babies- ANIMAL BABIES...

They've been so successful they have actually been able to reintroduce some species back into the wild after they had become extinct except in a Wild Life Shelters.

But of course I was there with MY BABIES!

And of course there was ICE CREAM!

And then we finished the day jumping the lilies..


But there was work to be done! So it was back to Las Vegas to begin..

But it wasn't all work- we found time to walk the puppies...

And play fetch with the puppies...

And oh yes- OUR TOES!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Always Faithful

The name was so appropriate. He lived his name to the very end. But that end has come, and I am saddened because of it. I promised him that I would never let him suffer.

Semper came into our lives about 13.5 years ago. In fact he was in our house for almost 6 weeks before I even knew it. He was the spontaneous gift of young high school senior girl to her best guy at Valentines Day. Such foolish things we do when we are young and in love. A gift of a Dalmatian puppy to a young man who had plans of leaving for the Marines in only four months. Thus his name, "Semper Fidelis" the motto of the Marine Corps. They were afraid to tell me about Semper, and Clint and Marianne (with the help of Amber) kept him hidden from me up in Clint's room on our 3rd floor. Trust, me, I never went up there unless I had to. Clint and Marianne had a number of animals that lived there including a make shift pond on the floor which housed some turtles. And I was traveling a lot then, so it wasn't so hard to keep the secret. Then one day I heard Semper crying and asked if there was a puppy in the house. I think everyone but me knew. We already had two dogs in the house and the laws of our city say that two dogs is the legal limit per house unless you are breeding dogs and have puppies. This new dog couldn't stay.

But Clint and Marianne took care of him- and he stayed- and after graduation in June when Clint left for Parris Island and the Marines, Semper went with Marianne to the Simmon's house. As I said, young people in love do foolish things. When Marianne left for college at Arizona State, Semper moved again and took up residence with Marianne's brother Matthew and his wife Nikki. Semper did well there and was loved by all. Matthew and Nikki had a son, Cooper, who was born very prematurely, but the miracles of Children's hospital kept him alive and he came home. I remember seeing Nikki walking Semper while pushing Cooper in a stroller with an oxygen tank to supplement his prematurely developed lungs. But then Nikki and Matthew divorced and soon having a fragile young child to take care and a dog became too much work, so Semper moved again to Marianne's parents house, a house that already had two adult dogs. The two older dogs didn't exactly welcome this young pup and Semper didn't do well there. He was able to escape from their fenced yard and roam the neighborhood. I found him a couple of times on the street and took him back home.

Semper was about 4 years old when the Simmons decided that they couldn't keep him any more. It was the Christmas holidays and Brandy was in Cincinnati. With Semper's imminent loss of a home Brandy decided that she could take him, but only if he could stay at our house until she finished her flight training and relocated to Minot, ND at her new assignment. I agreed, but only if Semper and our current dog, Isaac, a large Doberman, could get along. Well Isaac didn't like other dogs, but after an initial get to know each other, they became best of friends and Semper was saved from the pound.

But Semper was a special dog. He and I found a bond that I have never had with any of our previous dogs. He lived up to his name. If I was at home, he was by my side. If I went out without him, he cried at the door until I came back in. He was always there to greet me when I came home from work or a trip. He had a tail that had two speeds, one was just your normal back and forth wag, and then there was what I called his propeller wag, which I always saw when I got home. Semper got along with any dog that came to visit. He loved everyone, but mostly I think he loved me. Semper never made it to Minot. I wouldn't let Brandy have him. He had been handed off too many times, and I decided that he wouldn't ever have to move again.

Semper loved to ride in the car and when Max and I went to visit our children who had houses, Semper came along. We would build up the driver's side passanger seat in our van so he could ride up high and look out the window. He loved to sit there behind me and put his head on my shoulder while I drove. It was at this point that I discovered that Listerine Breath Strips work great for dog breath. Just put one on his tongue, it sticks there and dissolves, and he has minty breath.

Semper also had his own health problems. It seems that Dalmations have a problem with developing bladder stones. Poor Semper was one of the dogs with this problem and he suffered through two major surgeries that included some replumbing of his urinary system. He hated seeing the Vet's office and even whined when we drove by it in the car.

In September, 2007 when Max and I left for my assignment in San Francisco, I didn’t know if I would see him again. He was almost 12 years old, a bit beyond the average age of a Dalmatian. But Amber took great care of him for those 9 months she was there, and she brought Brutus, her "house dog" from college who seemed to give Semper new youth. Then Liz and Michael took over for Amber when she went to Chicago for graduate school and the dogs did well. When we finally returned for good this last December, Semper was there to meet us. He was mostly deaf and mostly blind, but he knew me and greeted us as we came to the door.

These past several months I have noticed a slow decline in his health. His eyesight was terrible at best and his hearing was non-existent. A times he would get anxious in the house because he could not find me, even though I was sitting in the same room. He would start searching for me, not hearing me calling, and not seeing me until I was right in front of him. His bladder problems worsened, and I had to take him out every night between 2 and 3 a.m. and then again around 5:30 a.m. He rarely had accidents in the house, but always told us when he needed to go out.

Yesterday Semper woke me up at 5 a.m. He was throwing up. I cleaned things up, took him out and then got up myself. While I was making coffee, he threw up again. He didn’t eat and when Max got home he had thrown up again and then did again once more. Max called, and I came home. We made an appointment with the vet. I knew this could be as serious as a bowel obstruction or maybe just a sick dog. Regardless he would have to stay at the vets. We knew he was not doing well, and he was terrified sitting in the vet’s office. I made the decision that I wouldn’t let him suffer further. I loved that dog and promised him long ago that he wouldn’t have to suffer in his last days. I held Semper beside me with his head on my lap while the vet gave him a sedative that put him to sleep. Once asleep, he gave him an injection that stopped Semper’s suffering. Promises were kept, and tears were shed. If there is a heaven, Semper is there. The house seems empty. Brutus seems depressed, walking around looking for his friend. He must know Semper isn’t coming back. No, there will never be another Semper.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesdays with Taylor (and Sam and Mary)

There's no place like home- with family... Watching babies grow- Testing new recipes on a captive audience. The rhythm of the ordinary. Breath in- Breath out- Ahhhhh, home.

So Mary and the babes come to dinner- and for the last three weeks it's been Tuesday. On Tuesday nights lately, Kevin has been working late at his new job, so Mary and the kids came to our house. The title of this post: "Tuesdays with Taylor (and Sam and Mary)" simply expresses the relative help we get in fixing the meal. Sam and Mary are there, but the real help comes from Taylor. Now I have to tell you I am reevaluating exactly what we should cook when we haved SOOOOO MUCH HELP in the kitchen. In fact I don't think we would ever eat at all if we had much more help. Taylor is a whole lot faster than Don and me- even on our faster days. In addition to being fast, he also has a strong curiosity and wants to know about everything in the kitchen. We always answer the questions of: "What's this?" which is always followed by "Why?" Usually the first "Why?" gets an answer, but the next several sometimes get a "just because". He also loves to use all of the kitchen utinsils in all sorts of intended and unintended ways. We keep the knives away, but also keep our eyes on him to make sure he doesn't still find something sharp. He is quick.

It all comes back from my years with babies- I remember vividly why Manwich on a bun- or Kraft Macaroni and cheese- were the high points of my cooking during the week. For special occasions I might splurge on a tuna casserole. But I'd forgotten....

So I have help in the kitchen...

Those knives on the table on the left side of the picture got moved fairly quickly once he climbed onto this chair.
I don't know if Sam is really interested in our cooking, or is just ready to eat and encourages us to hurry up.
And I do have the recipe for you- a recipe that holds up under total chaos in the kitchen- and a meal sure to please. DRUM ROLL PLEASE....


This is a recipe that survives distraction- and holds up when you can't remember- did I put that in- or did I just think about putting that in- and "oh my, these avocados are still as hard as a rock, Oh well..."
Yep- this meal has stamina- And allows for infinite creativity.
Do I have you on the edge of your seat by now? Well here goes.

Basic ingredients for all that is Mexican- well for all that is Mexican that I cook!

1. Green onion- I use in everything Mexican (chopped, my job)
2. Jalapeno- use more or less depending on your diners pleasure- I left out of some stuff for Taylor and Sam- and of course piled it on for Don. (chopped, my job)
3. Lime juice- Ahhhhh- from fresh limes of course (she squeezes the limes)
4. Olive oil
4. Garlic- makes everything better (squished, usually my job)
6. CILANTRO! (tedious cutting all of those little leaves off, so Max usually does this one)

1. Apple- 2-3 peeled, cored, chopped (chopped - my job)
2. Jicama- peeled- chopped (are you getting the idea that my job is chopping?)
3. Cabbage- you can just buy cole slaw mix
You can make more of a fruit salad/relish:
4. Peaches (peeled and cut into chunks, my job)
5. Mango (peeled and cut into chunks, my job)

And you can always add in a can of drained, rinsed black beans!
Then add the basics:
1/2 cup of green onions, 1/2 of lime- squeezed, 2 tbsp of olive oil (I don't use with the fruit), salt/pepper to taste, jalapeno and of course CILANTRO!
1. Tilapia- I used two- but could use shrimp- or black beans if you're doing veggie- or chicken...
Cook in olive oil- and garlic- and green onions and lime juice- salt/pepper= and of course Cilantro. Cook until flaky.
2. Grate cheese- or use the pregrated Kraft Mexican cheese.
3. Heat griddle- or skillet brushed with olive oil.
4. Heat flour tortilla on one side- turn- sprinkle with cheese, top with- fish/chicken/black bean, then another layer of cheese- and another flour tortilla. l
5. Wait until the cheese is melting- so it all sticks together- and then flip! and heat/slightly brown on the other side.

You can serve with salsa- or avocados (if they're not too hard of course)- or better yet- mash an avocado with sour cream- adding a bit of squeezed lime juice- and cilantro- WOW!

Enjoy- With or without Grandbabies!

And their beautiful mother.

Of course with Grandbabies you might get fed!

And of course with Grandbabies there's always fun after the eating is all done!

And did I mention that with Grandbabies you get some real decorating help. If you need any assistance in the finer points of "fluffed" toilet paper I have just the decorator for you! I think this demonstrates that putting toilet paper back on the roll is about as easy as putting tooth paste back in the tube. Luckily, Taylor hasn't found the toothpaste while alone in the bathroom.