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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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!

Spoiled rotten: A visit from Grandmoo and Grandpoo

Grandmoo & Grandpoo with L&L

I’m not sure how Laird came up with those names, but those were his nicknames for my parents when they recently came to visit us.  If you’re lucky enough to know L, at some point you will be called a name that is not your own.  Sometimes it’s cute, sometimes it’s simply annoying.

The title is a little misleading, for although they desperately wanted to spoil L&L (mainly with sweets), being the mean mommy that I am (and a dentist), I had to set some restrictions.  Left to their own (and grandpa and grandmoo’s) devices, those two would be stuffed full of m&m’s and sugar.  Trust me, Laird still got his fair share of frozen yogurt buffets and Leini even got a few licks of ice cream at a ridiculously young 7-months, so don’t write me off as being completely cruel.  Who knows what else they got when I wasn’t around. 🙂

Hot chocolate for a chilly morning at the Zoo.  Not to brag, but I also gave both of them haircuts.  So much you can learn from youtube.

Anyway, back to the point.  My parents visited us for a couple weeks and still managed to come in time to enjoy some of the country’s most beautiful weather.  Anyone who has visited Oregon during the summer knows that there is no better place in the world to be.  Warm, dry days and crisp cool nights.

Look at me!  Biking in Eagle Crest, OR.

So for two weeks we strolled the farmer’s market, visited a few jungle gyms, watched L ride his bike in Eagle Crest, celebrated two birthdays, went to the zoo and even managed to sneak in a Timbers game.  Whew.  I think the rule of “nap when your kids are napping” still applies though, and we had ample time to lay in the hammock and watch football.  Sadly, all good things must come to an end and they headed back to Hawaii.  But hopefully they’ll return soon and, more than likely, Laird will have made up new names for them.

Here’s just a glimpse of our quick time together.

Funny faces. Not sure what L is doing here. Being funny, I guess.

Cuddle time. Someone was running a fever and feeling lethargic. Thank goodness for Grandmoo.

Teaching L to climb at Smith Rock. He’s a natural.

Our view of Smith Rock that day.  I confess, the slab of rock we were climbing in the prior pic is actually that rock just above the trail where the river runs off the right side of this pic.  Camera tricks.  🙂

I know this looks a little frightening. It was just a split second and she is still alive. 🙂 I thought it was a pretty cool picture and kind of a lucky shot, as I had my camera settings all off.

See, she’s fine 🙂

Meeting a horse, of course.

Typical Laird = Ridiculously silly

At the Oregon Zoo for his 3rd birthday. I seeeeeee you….

I have to give props to the Oregon Zoo, Laird is about a foot and a half away from this cheetah. I’m not sure of many zoos where this is possible.  If only I had remembered his zebra backpack.

Stopping to sniff the roses at the Rose Garden

Laird and Grandpa going to get some snacks at the Timbers game

My family (minus Curt). Thanks for visiting us!  Come again soon!!

How hard can it be to pick a preschool?

Investigating kelp on the beach

That was my Facebook status a month ago.

Sometime in April, Curt and I decided that we wanted to send Laird to preschool (PS) in the fall.  The only problem was most of the preschools in our area adhered to the strict guidelines set by Portland Public Schools requiring kids to be 3 years of age by September 1.  If you’ve read my previous post, you would know that although Laird’s birthday *party* was in August, his actual birthdate is not until after this September 1st cutoff.  However, after calling around to a few schools, we came across a Christian program that would allow him to start in the 3’s class.  Thinking there probably weren’t many that would be flexible with their age requirements, we didn’t really look elsewhere, paid the registration fee and were done with it.  L would be starting in the fall on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Things changed when Curt recently started a new job and now had Mondays off.  We realized that it would be nice to have 3-day weekends as a family and actually preferred L go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead.   Unfortunately, there weren’t anymore openings for those days at the school L was registered at.  Now what to do?  So, I started calling other PSs and asking friends and it seemed that most would require him to be 3 before he started.  However, there were a few, mainly play-based parent coop programs that would be flexible with the guidelines and also had openings on Tues/Thurs.

“Parent coop?  What exactly is that?  Play-based?  I want my kid to learn, not just play,” were all naive thoughts of mine.  So I initially wrote them off and hoped that someone would give up their tues/thurs spot at the PS where L was registered at.  In the meantime, though, for some reason I began to investigate these play-based programs more.  Actually, now that I think about it, I ran into a few parents who highly recommended a couple of these PSs to me.  My next step, naturally, was to google “play-based learning.”  I was bombarded with a wealth of information in the form of scientific studies and anecdotal reflections on why play is incredibly important in early childhood education.   It didn’t take me long to realize that perhaps the “academic” program we had signed L up at (and yes, the director called her preschool program “academic”), was not at all what we wanted for him, forget about the days being unideal.  This realization hit me just as I was beginning to really see Laird’s personality develop from being with him at home full-time.  Suddenly, the idea of him in a classroom reciting the ABC’s and numbers seemed completely wrong and I couldn’t imagine him trying to sit still and be good for a teacher.

I visited an additional four PS programs and narrowed it down to three.  One was Christian (much like the place where L was registered at, only cheaper), one was play-based and one was a play-based parent coop.  L was thrilled when we first visited the parent coop PS.  The space is actually a kid’s utopia.  The kids are free to run outdoors as they please and have sandboxes, a jungle gym, water tables, trucks, rakes, toys, etc to play with outside.  He quickly started playing with the water and the sand.  Indoors is equally as inviting with blocks, puzzles, art tables, a dress-up area, story book nook and loft for quiet time.  I was immediately drawn to this space and so was L.  I initially planned to be there for a half-hour, but ended up staying for almost 2 hours!  L even scored special treats because they were celebrating some birthdays.  I also spoke to a few moms there and all had rave reviews for the teacher and the program.  I was sold.  Until I discovered the parent responsibilities: Helping in the classroom 5-7 times a year, 5 mandatory business meetings, 2 3-hr workday commitments, an assigned job to help with the operation of the PS and fundraising.  Ai ya yai.  Really?  That much involvement?  Who has the time?  Especially with an infant?

So I began to consider the other two programs.  I liked the idea of sending L to a Christian PS, what a great foundation to build upon.  But, I just wasn’t drawn to it.  Their primary focus was on teaching the Gospel, which I believe whole-heartedly in.  And they do cool art projects as well as put together Christmas and Easter programs.  But, I kind of got the sense that the programs were more gratifying for the parents and less of an opportunity for the kids to be creative in their own right.  That could just be me though.  Suddenly, my pendulum was swinging in quite the opposite direction.

Lastly, was the play-based non-coop program.  It cost a bit more than the other two, but it was closer to our house and the hours were a little longer, so I would actually have time to do other things while L was there.  The big positive was that it wasn’t a coop, so no responsibilities for us as parents.  We could just drop L off and pick him up when 1:00 rolled around.  Easy peasy.  No other commitments.  Between the two play-based programs, clearly that one seemed the most convenient.

And so I went back and forth, and back and forth, pro-ing and con-ing the two.  This PS has this, this one has that, etc, etc.  I was literally losing sleep over this and I couldn’t enjoy anything because this is all I could think about.  Where do we send Laird?  All the while, I dragged Curt through this completely ridiculous drama by being utterly indecisive as usual.  More than once I got the make-up-your-d$%#-mind-already look.  Curt, Mr. Laid Back, really doesn’t care where we send L, defaulting to “I never went to preschool.”  I have yet to respond with, “Well, it only took you 10 years to decide on a career.”  Anyway, I finally gave myself a deadline to make a decision.  Sadly, I have to admit, it took me weeks of agonizing to finally pray about it and ask the Lord for guidance.  And, He answered me, at midnight.

I stumbled upon a blog that made me realize what I had been seeing as downsides for a parent coop were actually huge benefits.  How often do we, as parents, actually get to be inside our children’s classrooms without feeling like we are interfering, or get to have a say in how our kids are educated?  Soon I began asking myself, “How can I not be involved in my child’s education?”  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to nurture L and to play an active role in his learning.  I don’t know how I didn’t recognize this all along.

Finally, I have peace about this and it feels good.  I am ecstatic for L to begin this new stage in his life, to be in his own space, with new friends, learning through doing what he loves…playing.  I should add that this is sooooooo unlike me.  The asian in me wants to drill him and make sure he knows his ABCs and numbers, draws in the lines and recites shapes and colors.  But, I know that to do so would restrict him and smother every bit of creativity he has.

Playing with snakes!

When describing the teaching philosophy at the coop, one parent paraphrased what the teacher told her, “Most kids learn to take the highway when learning.  These kids will learn that there are other roads that lead to the same end point.”  I am reflecting on that as I type this and realizing how well that describes Curt and his meandering career path.  Yes, it would have been easiest for him to have become a dentist right from the get go, but how would he have known that the other career paths weren’t the right ones without trying them first?  If nothing else, his resume is twice as long as mine. 🙂

How fun it is to just run…

Laird turns 3…sort of

I have a confession.  I am either Portland’s smartest mama or the most shameless.  I think the former, but you be the judge.

A little over a month ago, as I sat with my friend, Melissa, watching our kids play near the fountains at the park, I thought, “What a beautiful day and a great place to have a birthday party.  It’s a shame we can’t celebrate Laird’s birthday here.”  You see, Laird’s special day is at the end of September and for the past two years the temperature has been in the low-to-mid 70s at that time.  Weather nice enough to be comfortable outside in, but with the constant risk of rain.  Ugh.  At that moment, the wheels (rusty as they may be) in my brain started turning.  Why do we have to celebrate his birthday on September 26th?  Would it be so horrible to have a party, say, a month before?  I’m sure no one knows when his actual birthdate is, including Laird.

So, as usual, I consulted the answer to all of life’s difficult questions…Google.  Sure enough, other mama’s out there had posed the same question on various forums.  Most responders advised throwing the party no more than a month in advance and having a small celebration on the actual birthdate.  Sweet.  I’m brilliant.  No more cramming a bunch of people into our unfit-to-entertain house, no searching for overpriced birthday party venues.  Laird would be having his birthday at the park.

While planning the party, I asked him, “What do you want for your birthday?”  He responded with a smile, “Balloons.  And friends.”  Done.

Hugs for the boys

This past monday just happened to be a gorgeous 80-degree day.  Blue skies, light wind, happy kids and lots of smiles.  I know Laird had a blast and I’m pretty sure most of the kids did as well.

Now, the only problem is…Laird keeps telling everyone, “I’m 3!  I’m 3!”

“Well, sort of,” is all I can say.

Curt & Alyssa braving the frigid fountain water

Hannah, Laird and Curt get wet!

One of Laird’s favorite treats in Hawaii is shave ice. Recreated here in the form of a cupcake.

“I wish for more balloons.”

Cupcake time!

Playing with the ball throwing game

Cool dudes, Brayden & Laird

Leila and her cupcake face

Hannah and Josie swinging 🙂

Hugging new friends!

An egg-cellent summer

Part of my goal for this blog is to explain to my kids why we live the way we do and to also shed light on issues that other’s might not know about.  Most people who know us, know why we are vegetarian.  But rarely do I ever get into detail about what exactly it is about our food industry that is so appalling and sad to me.  So here I go….

Anyone who knows about factory farmed eggs knows that egg-laying hens might just be the most inhumanely treated animals in our food industry.  These poor animals spend their lives stuffed in cages too small to move, stand and stretch.  And because they are confined to small, over-crowded cages, their beaks are removed to prevent harmful pecking and injury.  Egg-laying chickens are also denied food, water and light to encourage further egg-laying.

I just couldn’t eat eggs from an animal that was treated like this

When I learned of these horrific conditions a few years ago, I knew that I had to buy different eggs.  So I switched to buying “cage free” or “free-range” ones, thinking that these chickens were better off.  After all, they aren’t in cages and are free to go outside to roam; as the box says they’re “cage free.”  Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Similar to their caged counterparts, cage-free chickens are packed into dark, overcrowded sheds without the room to be chickens.  Typically their “access to the outdoors” is a small opening in the shed that the chickens generally do not exit because their food and water are indoors.  After months/years of thinking I was buying eggs from happy chickens, I felt disgusted and resolved to stop eating eggs.  As a family (yes, I converted my family) we adopted a vegan diet for a few months, but switched back to vegetarianism over my concern about Laird’s overall nutrition.  The next best option was to find local, truly free-ranged eggs.  You can find anything on Craigslist.

“Cage-free” eggs. Still seems pretty awful to me.

When I worked in Salem, Oregon, I found it quite easy to get my hands on raw milk and farm fresh eggs through Craigslist.  My office was on the edge of the city near many local farmers, and I never had to drive more than 10 minutes to pick these essentials up.  However, since I stopped working, it’s been a bit more challenging to find affordable milk and eggs nearby.  I did have a consistent Portland egg source but he recently gave his chickens away because of noise complaints.  Luckily, on Craigslist I found Kerry, a man in Yamhill, OR, who has free-range Rhode Island Red chickens and was looking for someone to buy his eggs consistently.  He offered to deliver them to Portland (30 miles) for free if I would get at least 10 dozen a week.  10 dozen?!  “Where will I find 9 dozen people to buy eggs?” was my initial thought.  But, I began thinking of all my mom friends who also want the freshest food possible for their family.  I sent out an email, some texts and asked friends in person and before you know it, I had a clan of women wanting fresh eggs every week.  That was about a month ago.

Eggs from happy chickens

As the egg distributor, every week before the weekend arrives, I take egg orders from everyone and Kerry delivers them to the mini-fridge on our front porch.  Throughout the early part of the week, Curt or I will either do handoffs at playdates, church, basketball camp, bbq’s and make home deliveries.  Thankfully, everyone lives within a 2.5 mile radius.  I’ve had as many as 20 dozen and as few as 10 dozen delivered.  Oh, and the eggs…the eggs are big, brown and beautiful, with blazing-orange yolks and perky whites.  If you’ve never tasted or even seen the difference between a factory-farmed white egg and a farm-fresh brown egg, you MUST.  It’s quite shocking.  The latter actually tastes like an egg.  For me, it’s gotten to the point now that if I know an egg is factory-farmed I can’t actually enjoy eating it; thinking only of how the poor animal suffered in order to make this egg.

On the left, farm fresh egg. On the right, factory farmed white egg. I don’t think the picture does the difference justice.

The eggs are amazing indeed, but as I told Curt, do you know what the greatest perk about being an egg distributor is?  Getting to hang out with friends every time we deliver them.  This must be how it used to be, when the milkman would drop off milk at your doorstep.  Okay, so maybe that’s too idealistic, but regardless.  I look forward to dropping off eggs and catching up with friends, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute conversation.  Five minutes that would’ve otherwise been lost to text or who knows what.  In our incredibly fast-paced world, it’s nice to be doing something that is a step back in time.  Letting chickens be chickens.  Delivering eggs.  Talking to people face-to-face.

Need eggs? 🙂

**Please think twice the next time you buy eggs from the grocery store.  Look on CL, there might just be someone selling free-range eggs in your area. **

From fall to Christmas….

Fall seemed to come and go so quickly, it seems like yesterday I was just planning for Halloween and here we are into the Christmas season already.  Life has been a whirlwind lately after we got back from our trip to California.

Here are some pictures of our fall to winter transition…

I’d never had sauerkraut until I met Curt in Nebraska.  “Fermented cabbage?  Really?  You eat that?” was my first thought.  But, then again, I love kimchee and figured I’d give it a try.  And of course, I’m a huge fan now.  You can’t beat homemade sauerkraut and after trying store-bought kraut (which is “fermented” with vinegar) I was determined to make our own.  So this was the year.  Huge heads of organic cabbage were just $2 at the farmer’s market, so I went to town and bought 6.  After chopping the heads, we added some canning salt, dumped it into Curt’s beer making bucket and waited for 4 weeks.  Sure enough, after a month, the smell of fresh sauerkraut permeated our house and Curt canned them up.  Yummy!!

Grandma chopping 6 heads of cabbage from the farmer's market

Our canning "crock"

The official taste tester

We also made it to the free day at the Portland Japanese Garden where my mom, Laird and I stood in awe at the beautiful fall colors of the Japanese maples.

Fall colors at the Japanese Garden

Grandma and Laird

Japanese maple on fire

Leaf printing

Lastly, we were unsure about whether we were going to get a Christmas tree this year, as we are going to be in Hawaii for 2 weeks.  But, since Laird is older and beginning to understand more, we thought he would enjoy finding one and decorating it.  So the day after thanksgiving we went to a farm just a minute down our road and found the perfect tree.  Having a tree really does make everything seem Christmasy!

Finding our perfect Christmas tree

Laird esta loco

Laird getting instructions from picky Mommy:)

Curt's awesome apple pie with lattice crust top

Daddy's with wee ones at the Zoo lights