Backpacking to Middle Rock and Serene Lakes

We hadn’t yet backpacked this summer and I was feeling the urge to get out into nature with the kids, especially with Leini being so petite and ‘packable’ at this age.  So after some research, we thought that a two-night trip to Serene Lake would be perfect.  Our plan was to get out early on Saturday morning and hike 4 miles to the lake and spend our two nights enjoying this beautiful, Oregon lake while the kids ran around and got dirty.

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All throughout the week, we were committed to going.  That is, until Friday rolled around and I was feeling lazy from two days of work (rough, I know), Leini had just gotten sick and Curt clearly just wanted to relax and drink beer.  But, at 9 pm on Friday, I convinced Curt that it would only be summer for a month longer and we wouldn’t be able to do this again for another 12 months. After that reality check, we quickly began throwing things into our packs, setting aside food and forcing ourselves to pretend that we enjoyed it.  Yes, we will have fun.  It will all be worth it.  It’ll be great.

The next morning, Leini was even worse.  Her nostrils were covered with crusted green boogers, she was congested and it was obvious that the she wasn’t feeling well at all.  I asked Curt, “Should we just bag it?  She looks so sad.”  Not being entirely convinced that he wanted to pack 50 lbs worth of camping gear, food and water on his free weekend, he replied, “Yeah, let’s just stay home.” So we went to Laird, “Hey Laird, we’re not going to go camping today.  Leini is sick and isn’t feeling very well.”  The smile on his face quickly disappeared.  The sadness and disappointment in his eyes crushed my heart.  “But I want to go camping,” his voice cracked on the verge of crying.  Curt tried to get him excited, “Well, we can go camping in the back yard.  It’ll be fun!  We’ll still have smores. I promise, it’ll just be like real camping!” But Laird wasn’t buying it, “That isn’t camping.  Camping is only when you have to hike a long ways.”  I looked at Curt, “Okay, then.  I guess we’re going camping.”

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We pulled out of our garage at a record 9:15 am and after 5 stops to pick up various supplies from friends, the store, gas and ranger stations (where Laird did get an ice cream bar) we finally made it to the forest roads that would take us to the trailhead.  By then, Laird had been told that he would know when we were close, as the road would be extremely treacherous and bumpy for the last 4.5 miles.  We eventually reached that road and it was worse than we both had expected.  I thought, “Really?  Well, we can’t turn back now.”  Curt carefully navigated around sharp rocks and deep craters while I prayed that 1) we wouldn’t get a flat and 2) that a car wouldn’t be driving out.  Thankfully, after 40 minutes, we made it to the trailhead at 2:15 and were in shock.  There were cars everywhere.  There was nowhere to park.  WTH?!!!  After 8 years of backpacking, I really have no reason to be surprised that an Oregon trailhead during the summer, no less to a pristine lake, would be crowded.  People love the outdoors here.  That is great.  It just sucks when you want a serene lake to yourself.  But now we were contending with 20 other cars worth of people.

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After quickly unloading and heading down the trail, Laird immediately started falling apart over a worm he had found that we didn’t want him to carry.  After all, we were planning on hiking 4+ miles and there was little chance he could walk down the rocky path and attend to his worm at the pace we needed him to go.  Not if we wanted to arrive that night, that is.   After a quarter mile of crying, he finally calmed down and I suggested to Curt that maybe we should just check out Middle Rock Lake.   A smaller lake just a mile down the trail.  Curt replied, “That seems so short.  We packed all this stuff for just a mile.”  I quickly said,  “I’m okay with it.  I just wanted to get away.  I don’t need to hike 10 miles.”  This is what 2 kids and a 14-yeard old dog does to you.  Four years ago, I, too, would’ve laughed at backpacking one mile.  Why bother.  But, we had two toddlers to deal with; one who was boogery and miserable, and the other who was whining and emotional.  We also had Mango dog.  Old, tired and on anti-depressants.  It was an easy decision.  And it paid off.

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A view of our campsite

We discovered a beautiful, clear lake.  Quiet and serene, just what we wanted.  After walking the perimeter of the lake, Curt found the perfect campsite set along the lake’s edge with a bench, campfire and two entrances where Laird could wade around.  It didn’t take long for Laird to find the salamanders and crayfish that call Middle Rock Lake their home.  And, to my surprise, he quickly waded into the water and snatched one.  This would entertain him for the remainder of our weekend.  I’ve never seen him quite so content and proud of himself.  He was the Salamader hunter (not really, all were safely released).

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L and his friend

We ate our dinner by the fire and had our customary smores for dessert.  Bed time was rough.  As it turns out, Leini is quite the troublemaker.  It happened more than once that I had to pull her from her brother after hearing Laird cry, “Leini, stop pulling my hair!” or “Leini is scratching my face!  Leini, no!  No, Leini!”  This all occurred while Curt and I sat giggling by the fire.

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The next day was beautiful.  We witnessed an osprey dive into our lake and catch a trout for breakfast and hiked two miles to Serene Lake.  Being it was Sunday, we passed most of the backpackers on their way out and had the lake all to ourselves.  We spent a relatively quiet 4 hours basking in the sun and wading around in the water.

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It was emotionally and physically tiring for Laird (and all of us, really) as we hiked back to our campsite.  Gummy savers really were our lifesavers that kept him motivated and continuing to walk.  Four miles of ascending and descending elevation is difficult for some adults, let alone a 3.5 year old.  Laird was glad to be back, there weren’t any salamanders to catch at Serene lake.  The rest of the night was a repeat of the first: Dinner, smores and a long-winded bedtime routine.  I felt sorry for our neighbors across the echoey lake.

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The next morning was again beautiful and peaceful.  However, by this time, Leini’s cold and lack of sleep was finally catching up to her.  She didn’t want to be put down and I could tell she was feeling awful.  Yet somehow she and Laird managed to still have fun chasing each other around and exploring.

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We packed up our camp earlier than we had initially planned and hiked the single mile back to our car.  The once-full trailhead was completely deserted with just our dusty blue Honda remaining.  I wasn’t looking forward to the 4-mile, Mars Rover mission to get out again.  But, we made it after passing one family of 5 on their way in.  They would get the whole lake to themselves.

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When I reflect on if our backpacking trip was worth it, I think of a conversation I had with Laird shortly after arriving at our campsite the first day.  As we sat by the water’s edge looking at the salamanders and crayfish, he asked, “Mommy, are we going to stay here?”  “Yes, Laird, we’re going to camp here for two nights.  Why?  Do you want to stay longer?”  He looked a little sad and replied, “Yes, I wish we could stay here forever.”
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Summertime in the PDX

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Just a little bike ride

Just a little bike ride

As usual these days, it’s been awhile since my last entry. A lot has happened since Peanut’s passing this spring…vacations, camping, work and, well, summer.

Summer in Portland is frenetic. I’ve come to learn, and not necessarily accept, that summer does not truly begin until the 4th of July. Up until then, the weather still remains partly cloudy, with the occasional sun break and temperatures ranging from the 60-70s. Definitely not splash park or outdoor pool weather, and even camping is risky. A couple years ago, Curt, Laird and I went camping the last week in June and were more than annoyed when it rained the entire night and morning. And so when summer does finally arrive in early July, we (and the rest of Portland it seems) put it into overdrive and cram every activity that can be done in warm weather into two months before the thermostat goes down yet again in September.

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Potato sack races at the campground

At the beginning of June, we headed to Orlando, where we met up with my family who flew from Hawaii. While there, we soaked up the shockingly not-too-humid 80-deg weather and exhausted ourselves on roller coasters, water rides and theme park food. Laird seemed to have a blast at the hotel alone and almost overwhelmed at the sight of Dr. Suessland at Universal Studios. We jumped aboard an airboat to spot gators and headed to the coast to meet up with friends and beach comb for shells. Poor Leini was immediately hit with a stomach bug on arriving in Florida and really only enjoyed the last half of the trip.

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

Hawaii cousins

Hawaii cousins

Crashed on the couch the day after coming home from Florida

Crashed on the couch the day after coming home from Florida

For the 4th of July we finally made it back to Nebraska and Iowa to visit Curt’s family. The day we left for Omaha, little Leini decided she was giving up crawling and began to walk 100%. She hadn’t shown much interest in walking prior, so I thought for sure she would be crawling her way to preschool. Within just a few days, she had the toddling-thing down. No doubt trying to keep up with her brother and tag along with all her cousins. Our 10 days there went quick visiting family and friends and relaxing on the Iowa farm with sweet Grandma Rose (who almost outdrank Curt till the early morning hours!)

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Senibar serves nightcaps until 1 am

Laird enjoying a little treat from Grandpa Paul

Laird enjoying a little treat from Grandpa Paul at the Omaha Zoo

I can walk, no problem

I can walk, no problem

Hangin' with cousins :)

Hangin’ with cousins 🙂

The rest of our summer agenda will likely include a couple more camping trips, bbq-ing and swinging in the hammock. Portland really is the most perfect place to be during the summer.  Please visit us sometime!

Cooling off by the Missouri River

Cooling off by the Missouri River

Just another day in an Iowa cornfield

Just another day in an Iowa cornfield

Blueberry picking

Blueberry picking

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So long, my little Peanut…

The day we got Peanut

The day we got Peanut

It seemed like yesterday that Curt and I decided to get a puppy.  We were just college kids wanting a little animal to care for, not realizing the adventure that lay ahead of us.  On a beautiful, sunny day in June of 1999 we traveled from Omaha about an hour to the small town of Red Oak, Iowa.  We’d found an ad in the paper (imagine, no Craigslist!) about a dappled wiener dog that was for sale and decided to see if we liked her.  No one I know has ever gone to see a puppy and not returned with it in hand.

Taking our new little puppy

Taking our new little puppy

When we arrived, the local veterinarian who bred and was selling the doxies said she was the last one of her litter, the runt.  He brought us to a room with the runt and two other tan doxie puppies.  The two tan ones were playing together, the black and silver dappled one was on her own, sniffing the edges of the room.  My first instinct was to go for one of the tan ones, clearly they were playful and got along well with other dogs.  But Curt turned to me and said he really liked the dappled one.  “She’s different and she’s the runt,” were some of his arguments to win me over.  I thought she looked rather odd with her speckled fur, but Curt insisted that she was unique.  Curt very rarely states his preference on things, so I’d learned that when he does, it was best to go along with him.  Irregardless, the decision was over once we held her.  We were sold.  This little puppy was coming home with us that day.  Little did we know, at the time, how significant her exploring on her own would be and how that would define her personality.

The drive home was memorable.  I had never had a dog before and was getting used to holding her on my lap, while also being fearful of her peeing on me (which she never did).  She crawled up onto my shoulder and for awhile was sitting across the back of my neck.  While we drove back to Omaha we began to come up with names for our little puppy.  For some reason, all of mine centered around food and within a few minutes I blurted, “How about Peanut?”  Peanut just seemed perfect.

Curt and Peanut, the first day we got her

Curt and Peanut, the first day we got her

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, we began to fall in love with our Peanut.  We treated her like our baby and, truly, she felt like one to us.  She relied on us for food, shelter and companionship and we gave all of that to her abundantly.  After seeing a picture of this little odd-looking dog, my dad told me, “She looks like a dog only a mother could love.”  That couldn’t have been closer to the truth.  I soon began to empathize with her and what I thought she must be feeling.  This may sound ridiculous, but not wanting her to be lonely by herself on the ground, she could often be found studying with me on the table or chair, or eating dinner on Curt’s lap and from the first night we brought her home, she slept in our bed.  She was our baby.

Typical night of studying

Typical night of studying

A dog only a mother could love

A dog only a mother could love

It became evident that there was a reason Peanut didn’t associate with the other dogs that first day we met her.  As we watched her personality manifest itself, we learned that she much preferred to be on her own, sniffing and finding exciting things.  She was quite adventurous, completely disobedient and very strong-willed.  She didn’t care about sitting, staying or coming, she simply followed her nose and went where it led her.  We took her to Memorial Park in Omaha, where she fearlessly played with dogs much bigger than her and chased after squirrels from tree to tree.

As usual, lost in the grass :)

As usual, lost in the grass in the apple orchard 🙂

Her favorite place by far was the farm in Percival, Iowa, the house and acreage where Curt grew up and where his parents lived.  Surrounded by miles of soybean and corn fields, it was a dog’s utopia.  As soon as we turned off the main highway, Peanut would begin to sniff the air, smelling all the animals and other “wild” scents in the air.  Within a mile of the house, her head would be clear out the window, ears flapping in the breeze and tail wagging uncontrollably.  Pulling into the driveway, she would paw at the door, anxiously waiting to be let out.  Once we opened the door, she flew out and would disappear into the yard.  Her innate hunting instincts would lead her to the bases of trees trying to catch squirrels and through the apple orchard following the scents of rabbits.  I smile remembering the sound of her bark as she desperately tried to catch up to squirrels clearly out-running her across the yard.  Although she never caught one, to my disappointment she had a few baby rabbits for Easter.  When we moved to Oregon and began backpacking, Peanut’s spirit for adventure happily steered us along trails through old-growth forests and her passion for snuggling made her the perfect sleeping bag companion for me.

Camping in central Oregon

Camping in central Oregon

Peanut’s nose and obliviousness often got her into trouble though.  We almost lost her as a puppy on the farm once, when she disappeared into the cornfields.  She was lost for over an entire day and night, and we feared that perhaps a coyote would get her.  I couldn’t sleep and my heart ached to think she would die alone.  Thank God that didn’t happen, but it wouldn’t be the first time that this dog would cause us anxiety.  Over the course of her life, she would get bitten by three different dogs, inhale three boxes of chocolate and would nearly die on a cold Oregon beach.  Thankfully, she always made it back to us and we swore she would live forever.

Despite all the running and romping, Peanut’s favorite pastime was sleeping.  She could’ve, and often did, sleep for hours upon hours.  And it wasn’t uncommon for me to have to drag her out of bed at noon.  When I would come to get her, she would roll on her back and look at me as though to say, “Can’t you see how comfy I am?  Please don’t move me.”  I wondered what she dreamt about, as she yipped and appeared to run in her sleep.  Chasing after a squirrel probably.

Peanut and Mango cuddling as puppies

Peanut and Mango cuddling as puppies

Despite being blind, for awhile Peanut could still locate a cozy place to curl up

Despite being blind, for awhile Peanut could still locate a cozy place to curl up

Life was great for her up until about two years ago in early 2011 (she was 13), when we began to notice Peanut tripping while walking or when trying to jump on our front porch.  At the same time, the colors of her eyes had also began to cloud, which the vet attributed to normal age-related sclerosis.  Over the course of 6 or so months, about the time Laird was a year and a half, her eyesight appeared to get much worse.  Suddenly she was tripping all the time and wasn’t able to find her way back to our house, and she seemed less interested in going for walks.  There was now a definite cloudiness in her eyes and, hoping that it was just cataracts that a simple surgery could correct, we took her to an eye vet later that year.  I was devastated to hear that she had retinal degeneration, a condition that had no cure and would eventually leave her blind.  Within a few months, our beloved dog, who had slowed down but was still full of spunk, could see nothing but faint shadows.  Amazingly, she still managed to get around our house, finding her way to her water dish and up the ramp onto the couch.  But, it was clear, the fire in our feisty Peanut was diminishing.  What saddens us most about Peanut’s deterioration was that it coincided with Laird’s becoming a toddler and Leini’s birth, meaning it all happened without Curt or I really noticing.  It pains me to say this, but the once abundant pictures of her and Mango became nonexistent and both dogs, who had been the center of our lives, were barely noticed at all.

What baby?  I need to catch up on my sleep.

What baby? I need to catch up on my sleep.

A year ago, shortly after Leini’s birth in early 2012, it occurred to me that Peanut was completely blind.  And it seemed that the loss of her eyesight was defeating her spirit.  She simply slept all day, her body began to become quite frail due to inactivity and she no longer wanted to do anything.  I matter-of-factly stated that I didn’t think Peanut would live through the summer.  She did, but she didn’t appear happy.  In fact, she bumped into everything and howled incessantly whenever she felt that she was alone.  Having a new baby and a toddler to manage, I found her howling and need for constant attention to be more than I could handle and would become frustrated with her.  I am filled with regret when I look back at the way I treated my most faithful companion during her time of need.  How did I let life steer me away from being compassionate?

One of the last times she would explore the park in the spring of 2012

One of the last times she would explore the park in the spring of 2012.  She could barely see.

Within the last month or so, Peanut got worse.  Whereas before, we could place her in a comfortable spot and she would eventually fall asleep.  Now, she was pacing in circles and every time we tried to settle her into her bed, she would get up and continue to bump around the house.  She was anxious, depressed, lost and confused.  She needed help.  She needed peace and she begged us for it in her howls.  We just didn’t realize it until now.

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Putting your dog to sleep is a confusing act to do.  To find that perfect time is emotionally taxing, too soon and you are cutting short the potential in a life, too long and you are putting your dog through misery it doesn’t need to suffer.  Not only do you have to make this decision, but you also have to deal with the emotional pain of losing your companion.  I didn’t realize my responsibility as a pet owner was to make this decision for my dog.  I simply thought she would do it on her.  She would have, eventually, but not without suffering through days and possibly years of mental torture.  In retrospect, I wish I could have saved her from the last year of suffering she had endured.  For in 2012, she was definitely not happy and not the same Peanut we knew.  Over the course of the year, we had forgotten who are beloved family member had once been.

It was a week filled with anguish and fear, yet hope for Peanut.  We cuddled her and let her curl up in our bed with us, which she hadn’t done in over a year.  I held her constantly and whispered words of love in her ears, hoping that deep down in her confused mind she could make sense of them.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to say goodbye.  Saturday was beautiful, unseasonably warm and sunny here in Portland.  Peanut’s favorite weather.  My lifelong dream for her was to eventually move to Hawaii, where she could spend her days just laying by the pool in the sun.  For lunch, she ate one of Curt’s famous waffles and we walked to the park we had visited so many times in her life here in Portland.  The kids, Curt and I played together while little Peanut soaked up the warmth of the sun in the stroller.  As the minutes and hours ticked by, the feelings of doom and loss were already heavy in my heart and mind.  We hurriedly strolled back to the house and quickly put Laird and Leini down for their naps.  The time had come.

Headed to the park one last time

Headed to the park one last time

Spending her final day, sleeping in the sun on the stroller

Spending her final day, sleeping in the sun on the stroller

Despite being vegetarians, for her last meal Curt grilled Peanut (and Mango) a bacon wrapped steak and she devoured it within seconds.  “We should’ve gotten a bigger one,” Curt joked with a smile.  We were definitely on edge though and somberness filled the air.  Shortly thereafter, the vet arrived at our house and explained her process to us.  We nodded in agreement while the tears in our eyes began to overflow onto our cheeks.  She said she would give us as much time as we needed.  With candles lit and pictures of little Peanut close by, I held her on the couch as we said our goodbyes.  “I love you, Peanut.  You’re a good girl.  I will miss you,” were words I whispered in her ear through a cracking voice and tears.  She was anxious and wanting to escape from my arms like usual.  We then prayed for her, thanking God for the blessing of her life and the happiness that she had brought to us.

Our last picture together

Our last picture together, trying to hold it together

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

We told the vet that we were ready for the sedative and, while eating a white chocolate truffle, she gave it to her in her hind leg.  Within seconds, Peanut was no longer anxious and no longer sad.  I didn’t realize she would be that sedate, but her body laid gently in my arms, sleeping so peacefully without a care in the world.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders knowing that she was not tormented by anxiety or confusion any longer.  Curt wanted to hold her one last time, so we switched off and relished the last moment we would ever hold her and feel her heart beat.  Knowing this was it, we said our final words of love to the life that we had loved dearly for nearly 15 years.  The life that had been with Curt and I through the good times and bad, as well as our successes and failures.  The life that inspired us to become vegetarians and to respect the lives of other animals.  The life that brought such incredible joy to ours and taught us the responsibilities of nurturing and caring for others, regardless of species.

Peanut's last living picture.  She actually is just sleeping.

Peanut’s last living picture. She actually is just sleeping.

With heavy hearts and an unspoken desire to have this all go away, we signaled to the vet.  While I held and petted Peanut, and we told her how much we loved her, she was given the final injection.  As I continued to talk to her, trying to reach her before she left, I could feel her heart, so little in size, but so large in depth, slowly stop beating.  Every memory I ever had of her flooded my consciousness.  Every lick, every wag, every snuggle.  And within a few seconds, her heart stopped completely.  She was gone.

I’ve never had a life end in my arms before.  I hope never to experience it again, although with Mango just a year younger than Peanut that is highly unlikely.  It is surreal and indescribable.  It leaves your heart feeling heavy with sorrow and your mind bewildered.  You become breathless.  It was the worst experience of my life, yet I can’t imagine Peanut’s final breath being taken any other way.  She was in my loving arms, sleeping.  I am thankful that God gave us the chance to say goodbye, the chance to make up for the last year and the opportunity to end her life without pain and suffering.

Before the vet took her body to be cremated, we let Mango, who had been nearly asleep on the floor, say goodbye.  She quickly licked Peanut on her face a few times, sniffed her and backed away.  It seemed obvious that she knew Peanut had passed on and it truly did appear that she was saying farewell to her sister.  Laird also said goodbye, but without ever remembering the “true” Peanut and the amazing dog that she was, it was hard for him to understand what all the fuss was about.

After she had passed

After she had passed

It's hard for me to see her not wearing her collar

It’s difficult for me to look at her collar

The vet loaded Peanut, who was now in a pet bed, into the back of her car.  I got one last look at her body, in peace, before turning away in tears.  A pit in my stomach, a weight in my chest, I missed my dog already.  Returning to the house, the sense of loss, of a life having just ended, was overwhelming.  We cried and hugged more, trying to comfort one another and begin to face the realization that she was gone.  After getting the kids from their rooms, we headed out to dinner.  What happened at the restaurant is a blur.  I can’t recall if I slept much at all that night, with memories of my dog racing through my head.

Aside from Peanut being gone, one thing that changed immediately is the amount of attention we give to Mango.  Having realized how quickly time goes by, we now shower her with love and attention.  I can only imagine the heartache when she eventually passes on and we no longer have any dogs.

Life without Peanut

Life without Peanut

Sunday was challenging.  There wasn’t a second that passed by that my beloved Peanut was not on my mind.  The hole in my heart seemed to grow the more reality sunk in and there were many times I stopped and just cried by myself and on Curt’s shoulder.  I even cried in front of Laird and hugged him so tightly.  I know he probably thought I was crazy (it’s never too early to start teaching young boys about females and their emotions).  That night I found old pictures of Peanut during our time in Omaha and we reminisced about all the funny and silly things she would do.  It was what we needed, remembering her before the blindness got the best of her.  She was not only a beautiful dog to look at, she was also fearless, rebellious and carefree, completely disobedient and always up to no good.  Yet, she was a lap dog and she won hearts over for simply sleeping peacefully in a lap on the couch.


Always a front seat passenger

People often commented on what a beautiful dog she was.  I have to agree.

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Looking around the house, I miss seeing her basking in the sun shining through the window, sitting in front of the heating vent and racing around the living room after finding out we were taking her to the park.  Most of all though, I miss holding her in my arms.  I don’t know if the spirits of dogs live on, but God, I hope so.  I hope to meet my Peanut with her tail-wagging in heaven someday.  I hope to never forget the joy and happiness she brought to our lives.  And I hope that, wherever she is, she never forgets how much she was loved and adored by her family and friends.

My dear Peanut, I miss you and love you so much.  Thank you for the 15 years you gave to us, years and memories that we will never, ever forget.

Cherishing Peanut

Cherishing Peanut in her final days

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Peanut’s last days

Our beautiful Peanut before she lost her eyesight (2010)

Our beautiful Peanut before she lost her eyesight (2010)

I haven’t slept well the last couple of nights.  I made the phone call that I’ve been dreading for the last 15 years.  The phone call that will end our dog’s life.  Our little Peanut, blind and frail, is not the dog she used to be.  After losing her sight two years ago, her exuberance for life has slowly diminished and the happiness in her little body appears to be gone.  Although she is perfectly content sleeping on my lap all day long, her periods of wakefulness involve bumping into walls and chair legs just to get to her water, or incessant howling out of loneliness and isolation.  I can’t recall the last time I saw her tail wag.  I know it is time.  It has been time for the past year.  Shamefully, I’ve often said that I wish she would pass on.  Yet as I sit here typing this with her sleeping by my side, I already feel a hole in my heart beginning to form knowing that these are our last days with her.

On this particular day, after Laird was first born, Peanut insisted on sitting on this chair and watching him :)  What is this thing swinging?

On this particular day, after Laird was first born, Peanut insisted on sitting on this chair and watching him.  What is this thing swinging?

I look back at the last 15 years of her life and a flood of memories pours into my heart.  She was the first dog I ever had and we have had her for nearly as long as Curt and I have been together.  I know for many who do not own pets, that she is just a dog, not a human, and therefore, not worth the same amount of love or grief.  To them I say that our dear Peanut showed us unconditional love, loyalty and friendship to the same degree, if not more, than a lot of humans I know.

Peanut in her older years preferring to stroll

Peanut in her older years preferring to stroll

My gut instinct is to postpone this, to selfishly keep our feeble dog alive just a little longer.  Just so I don’t have to deal with this grief yet.  I’ve told Curt that I wish she would die peacefully in her sleep naturally and not because of us, because I think that would be easier.  The truth is that I have never had to say goodbye to someone or something so close to me and that I’ve cared for this much.  I’ve thought to myself as I’ve juggled making Laird a sandwich for lunch, unloaded groceries, nursed Leini and carried Peanut out to go potty that putting her to sleep would take away some of my responsibilites.  And now that her death is imminent, I’m beginning to realize that I will miss her terribly.  For the past 15 years, I’ve known that saying goodbye to her would be difficult, I didn’t realize just how difficult.

For the next few days we are pampering our little girl with yummy treats and lots of love and attention.  And although I told Curt that I wanted her last day to be a celebration of her life, keeping it upbeat, I’m really not sure I’m up to it.

Peanut putting a wet one on Laird

Peanut putting a wet one on Laird

Peanut, we are so lucky to have had you as our faithful dog.  You brought so much joy to our lives from the moment we first met you.  We love you and will never forget you.  Thank you for being you.

Leini turns 1!

One already

One already

I look back 2.5 years ago, when Laird turned a year old and laugh at all the time and effort we put into throwing him a 1st birthday party.  I say “we,” as if the idea to throw a completely unaware 1-year old an actual birthday party was also Curt’s, but of course it wasn’t.  He would’ve been fine with our little family celebrating over a home-cooked meal and a simple birthday cake.  It’s not that Laird’s party was anything extravagant.  We invited other 1-year old friends of his that he, of course, didn’t know, laboriously prepared a bunch of food for adults and kids and the pressure I put on myself to decorate a visually appealing cake made me realize that when Leini turned one, we weren’t doing it again.  Not for a one year old.  As a first-time parent, the first birthday party is an especially meaningful celebration and I think all parents should throw one for the experience and to also learn a lesson.  The lesson that it is not necessary.  The kid is too young to understand and they don’t remember any of it.  So, with our second child, by not discussing it at all, we decided to celebrate Leini’s birthday with just our family, plus Grandmoo and Grandpoo who flew in as our guests of honor from Hawaii.  Low key, low stress, but perfect and memorable.

Spending time with Grandmoo

Spending time with Grandmoo

For Leini’s Valentine’s Birthday, I decorated with some colorful flowering plants, made a tissue paper pom pom thingy I saw on Pinterest, and cooked up pink heart pancakes with homemade whipped cream and strawberries for breakfast.  During Leini’s nap, Laird helped me bake some cheesecake raspberry cupcakes for our birthday girl.  And, boy, did she love them.

Valentine's Day breakfast with Grandpoo and Grandmoo

Valentine’s Day breakfast with Grandpoo and Grandmoo.  I think someone thinks it’s his birthday.

My two bakers helping me make Leini's cheesecake cupcakes

My two bakers helping me make Leini’s cheesecake cupcakes

OMG, my first cupcake!!

OMG, my first cupcake!!

Hmmm, not sure I like this.

Hmmm, not sure I like this.

Oh wait, I do like it.

Oh wait, I do like it.

If it could be guaranteed that our next baby would have the temperament of Leini, I might have a few more.  Not that Laird was difficult to deal with, but most people that meet her comment on how mellow and easy going she is.  And truly, she has been a really easy baby.  She sleeps like a hibernating bear sometimes, she never really fusses unless absolutely tired and she is just, well, sweet.  As long as she has her Blankie nearby, she is generally in good spirits.

Who came to visit me today?

Who came to visit me today?

Currently, she has just learned how to cruise, mainly along our coffee table.  And after a recent visit from Grandpoo, who specializes in teaching babies how to climb stairs, she is fearless when it comes to ascending our long staircase.  Coming down is a different story however.  She continues to use her potty and has saved us from cleaning up many poopy cloth diapers.  Although she hasn’t said any identifiable words, she loves to babble, point and gesture.  “Hi,” “bye bye,” “clap clap,” “night night,” “Blankie,” “potty,” “blow kiss” and “banana” are all words she knows and responds to.  Just like her brother when he was a baby, she hates being held down to have her teeth brushed and would prefer to brush her own teeth with the wrong end of the toothbrush.  As far as eating goes, she loves, loves, loves bananas.  Especially with peanut butter.  Other favorites include quesadillas, peas, bread, cheese, Mac and Cheese and oatmeal.  Just like every other kid I know (and adult, for that matter), she’s a carb-lover.

Sweet Leini

Loves those bananas

So far, sibling interactions between Laird and Leina have been generally pleasant.  Occasionally, Laird will snatch a toy from her and, in the past, she hadn’t really cared and he was able to get away with it.  Until recently, when she actually got upset at him and fussed enough that he gave her toy back on his own.  Most of the time though, the two have fun with each other, Laird fetches Blankie and toys to keep her happy, while she adores him and can’t wait to see him in the morning.  If only this could last forever.

Where did everybody go?

Where did everybody go?

Although I was a little reluctant to start working again recently, I feel that the timing was perfect.  I was able to spend almost every minute of every day with my two babies this past year.  There were definitely those days that I wished I could run away and hide and I felt anxious that I was forgetting everything I had learned about ortho.  But most days were filled with spontaneity and play, doing whatever we felt like doing that day, be it going to the zoo or meeting friends for playdates.  And now that I am working again part-time, Laird is in preschool and Leini has gotten used to being in the care of others, I feel that we are all in a perfectly balanced place.

I still can’t believe that a year has passed since our little Leina entered our world.  So much has happened since then.  The only thing that keeps me from lingering in the past, is anticipating what the future has in store for her.

Our forever valentine

Happy Birthday, Valentine

26 hours of service

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If you’re like me, all you could really think of this weekend was the horrible massacre that happened in a small school on friday.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, as the thought that someone could actually gun down innocent children in cold blood was beyond my comprehension.  How could anyone so viciously and callously take the lives of children?  I cried as I pictured parents crying out for their children and imagined frightened kids encountering a deranged killer in their own school.  My thoughts immediately went to Laird and Leini, envisioning something so horrible happening to them brought me to my knees in tears.  I spent the rest of the evening in disbelief and sadness.

After having time to process the tragedy, I began to question how the God I believe in could allow something so horrible to happen to these children.  The left side of my brain has always questioned God, His existence and His motives.  There are things in the Bible that seem so far-fetched and unlikely to me that everything in my brain tells me it can’t possibly be true.  But when I begin to think about how hopeless and insignificant my life would be if it ceased to exist after my physical death, I can’t help but believe that there is a greater purpose, that there is a God in heaven somewhere and someday my spirit will live on with Him.

As I walked the half hour to church today, my thoughts were engulfed with the people that died on friday and I still tried to make sense of it all.  What purpose did the death of these people serve?  What good could possibly come of this?  I lingered in these thoughts as I walked; questioning God’s motives, trying to understand why this was allowed to happen and also empathizing with those who lost their loved ones.  And, as I typically do in these circumstances, I began to think of ways that other people might use these tragedies to create good.  You know how a victim’s family member might become an activist and end up on Capital Hill testifying for changes in policy and laws, etc.  However, I caught myself doing this and realized that I was pawning this responsibility of creating good from evil off on others.  Why couldn’t I be the one to create good in this circumstance?  Well…maybe I could spend 26 minutes in silence for each person’s life.  However, 26 minutes seemed a pretty insignificant amount of time considering the extent of the tragedy that occurred.

Eventually, I felt that God was telling me that I needed to devote more time, more of my energy to honoring those who had lost their lives and use this to help those in need.  I eventually decided that I would devote 26 hours in service to others, 1 hour for each person’s life that was cut short in this tragedy.  I have no idea how long this will take, with two kids and a part-time job starting soon, it may take me awhile.  But, I will do it, as I truly want goodness and love to come of this and for someone in need to indirectly benefit from this horrific tragedy.  More than anything though, I cannot bare the thought that these innocent children died in vain.

I want to add that I did not write this post to toot my own horn and boast about what my plan is, but more to encourage others “to be the change you want to see in the world.”  To not let other people be the ones who create good out of evil.  We all have the opportunity to make a difference in our world, no matter how insignificant it seems.

If you would like to join me in serving others for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy, please just email me.  My hope is to serve a variety of groups of people in different capacities.  I would love to have company and even more love and kindness could be shared.

This is a list of all the victims.  Please continue to pray for their loved ones that they left behind and all those affected by this senseless and tragic shooting.

Stage fright!

Laird is really not the quietest kid around.  In fact, somedays I wish I were deaf (ok, not really).  But, he talks a lot and generally isn’t afraid to approach new people.  So, it came as a shock to us when he suddenly developed stage fright while trick-or-treating this Halloween.  As we walked to the first house, we prepped him: Ring the doorbell and when the person opens the door, you say “trick-or-treat.”  Yet, house after house, he would say (or yell) “trick-or-treat” while ringing the doorbell and instantly become mute when the door suddenly opened.  Just like a deer in headlights.  In his defense, I can only imagine how, as a kid or someone who has never experienced trick-or-treating before, ringing on a stranger’s doorbell for candy might seem a little odd…actually, really odd.  Who came up with this tradition anyway?–and can we make it a weekend only holiday?

Nevertheless, I think he had fun picking out his candy, marveling at all the Halloween decorations and playing with his newly-acquired glow stick.  We didn’t make it very far as Laird was pretty tired and preoccupied with wanting to eat all of his candy.

Baby L, our skunk, seemed to enjoy her stinky little self too.

Trying to interpret and carve out a face from Laird’s drawing

The shy lion pre-trick or treating

Laird: Mommy, I can color the whiskers on Leini’s face!
Leini (thinking): I’ve seen his coloring books, keep him away from me.

Lion & Lil’ Stinker

Someone’s getting tired…

Me: Laird what do you want to be for Halloween?
Laird: A lion.
Me: Why?
Laird: Because I want to say ROOOAAARR!