Friday, December 30, 2011

A Final Tribute To My Special Friend...

Ever since we had Noah, Ryan makes a DVD of all the videos we record of the kids and dogs from the year and then we send them to all our family members scattered across the country.  This year, Ryan said to me, "I want to end the DVD with a tribute to Chili Dawg".  I told him I wasn't ready to go through all of the pictures of him yet.  I am healing, but I have not reached that part of the journey yet.  Don't believe me?  I have a box of photographs that I ordered before Chili Dawg crossed the Rainbow Bridge that arrived after we put him to sleep.  It is still sitting in the same spot in our bedroom and hasn't moved or been opened yet.

My loving husband understood what I was saying, and sat down at the computer for several days and pulled pictures of Chili Dawg from the 8.5 years that we had with him.  He had only one request of me- I had to choose one of the songs that played in the video.  I didn't want to do that either, but the day came when Ryan forced my hand and I chose a song by Jason Castro (the kid with the dreads from American Idol), and Ryan chose the other song also by Jason Castro.

I know many of you are tired of me writing about Chili Dawg, and that is fine (that's why the heading says "a final tribute").  There are just a couple more things that I would like to share about him before we begin the new year. 

Several people expressed concern that we amputated his leg, saying dogs are meant to have four legs.  We learned through this journey, that as they say on the tripawds website: "dogs are made with 3 legs and a spare".  Since Chili was only with us for a short 3.5 months post-amputation, these "doubters" did not get to see him on his three legs, so I want to share a video of him two months after his amputation.  I don't think he looks like he's having a hard time, do you?

I realize that Chili Dawg was not my whole life.  However, he gave me a gift when he broke me out of my depression after my brain injury.  He was my special companion, my heart dog.  There will never be another one of those.

Today marks four months since Chili Dawg left us, and the last thing I want to share is the video that Ryan put together to remember Chili Dawg.  I think he did a really nice job, he even included my parents' Fred the Beagle & Jaime & Bill's Princess Leia in it who crossed the Rainbow Bridge before Chili Dawg.  So, sit back and enjoy the final tribute to my special friend.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ryan!

Today is Ryan's birthday.  He claims he's a "Fall baby", because Winter doesn't start until December 21st.  He will argue this point with you until you are blue in the face, so don't even try to explain to him that he's not really a Fall baby. 

There are many reasons why I love my husband.  Here are just a few.

5) The man can cook!  Have you ever had his Green Burritos?!? I could eat those every week and never get tired of them.

4)  When we found out in May that the Chili Dawg had a cancer that was fatal, he still made the decision to amputate his leg, knowing that was what I wanted to do, but was afraid to say because of the cost. Then, in August, when we had to put the Chili Dawg to sleep, he made sure the paperwork was filled out so that I got Chili Dawg's ashes back.

3) He has a work ethic like no other (which is good and bad at the same time).  Three days a week he gets up at 4 AM to work out or go for a 5 mile run.  I prefer the comfort of my bed too much to get up that early to workout.

2) He is most content staying home with the family (again, good and bad at the same time, because I think he may turn into a hermit if I ever die and the kids grow up & move away).

1) He is an excellent dad.  He took the day off to take Juliana to the cardiologist, and also was able to make it to Noah's preschool program afterwards.  On Sunday when Noah desperately wanted to have a picnic for lunch, he set up a picnic lunch in the living room with the Polar Express on.

My list could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  Happy Birthday, Ryan!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Surprise...

The last 2.5 years have been a bit draining both emotionally and physically.  Juliana has had a lot going on health wise, and then Chili Dawg was thrown into the mix this past year.  When we lost him, things just seemed to drain me even more.  Going into this month, I wasn't looking forward to Christmas.  I tried to get into the spirit for my kids.  Noah is looking forward to it so much.  He picks the story about Jesus' birth almost every single night.

This week, things stepped into high speed.  Ryan went out of town.  Juliana had her re-evaluation for physical therapy.  I didn't even think about it, because she was discharged from PT back in April, she didn't qualify for it when she was re-evaluated in July, so I didn't even think I should consider it when time came for it this month.  Juli requalified for PT.  It's not a bad thing, I know.  She's going to get the help she needs, so hopefully she won't need it later in life.  It was just one more thing added on.  Tuesday night, I was pretty bummed.  I stayed up later than normal, having a paper grading fiesta (the end of our semester is the 22nd, so I have to stay on top of my grading right now).  When I finally went to bed, I was just drifting off to sleep, when a cry made me sit straight up in bed.  I stumbled into Juli's room and was hit by THE odor.  I started to call for Ryan, because I needed backup, and then I realized that I was alone.  I wanted to cry, because the vomit went from one end of the crib to the other, all over the bumpers, the sheets, blankets, and all over Juliana and her hair.  The saddest part?  She was crying and was sound asleep.

I stripped as much off her crib as I could with her sleeping, got the washer started and a bath ready.  Then I took her temperature and woke her up.  She had a fever of almost 103 and then she began to wail.  I gave her the world's quickest bath to get her as clean as I could and then got her into new jammies and remade her crib (this is where it would have helped to have Ryan home).  Then, I went downstairs, turned on my laptop and wrote my subplans for the next day.  I finally got to bed almost 2 hours later, and of course neither kid slept in the next day. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because it sets the stage for what I am about to write next.  I had originally taken Thursday off (so, yes, I had Wednesday off with sick Juliana, and Thursday off) because Juliana had a cardiologist appointment and Noah had his preschool program duirng the day.  Both were at times fairly close together, so Ryan also took the day off (yes, he came back into town after the puking was over). 

Ryan took Juliana to the cardiologist, and this is where the Christmas surprise comes into play.  I was on my way to Noah's program with my mom, when my cell phone rang.  Ryan told me that Juliana's heart no longer had any holes in it, it wasn't enlarged anymore, and they didn't see any evidence of hardening either.  I cried a bit in the car.  Juliana doesn't need to see the cardiologist anymore.  We get to cross this doctor off her long list of doctors now (don't get me wrong, we LOVED Juliana's cardiologist, but heart problems are scary)!  That is quite a Christmas present.  As a bonus, Ryan and Juli even made it on time to Noah's Christmas program too, and Juli was very proud to see her brother on stage singing and dancing.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tripawd Heroes, Volume One...

The weekend after we put the Chili Dawg to sleep, Jim and Rene announced on the Tripawds website that they were looking to put together a book about Tripawds and their stories.  They were only accepting 25 entries for the first volume.  You were limited to 250 words, to write about why your tripawd was a hero, and send a couple photographs of your tripawd. 

Even though I had just lost the Chili Dawg, I thought I would give it a try.  The hard part was cutting my writing down to only 250 words.  The first draft I emailed in just talked about his cancer, and I immediately regretted that entry, because it didn't talk at all about what Chili Dawg did for me and how he changed my life.  I sat down and re-wrote my entry.  Jim and Rene were very understanding and kindly accepted my second entry as the actual entry. 

I only told Ryan that I entered, I didn't tell anyone else, because I didn't want to be disappointed.  There are a lot of amazing tripawd dogs out there with equally amazing stories to be shared.  Well guess what?  We made it into the book!!!  It was announced to today in the forum, and if you scroll down, you will see Chili Dawg's name in there, he's the 8th name on the list!  So, not only do I get to buy the book about a bunch of Tripawd Heroes, but I can say that my dog is in there too.

Friday, September 30, 2011

So Long September...

I'll be honest, I'm glad September is over.  It's been one month since we put the Chili Dawg to sleep.  It hasn't been an easy month for me.  I have been full of sadness and anger.  I miss my Chili Dawg.  When I had a bad day, I could count on him for a snuggle- he had the softest fur.  He never stopped smiling.  Even on his last day with us, when he couldn't even walk or stand up to greet us at the door, he still beat his tail on the floor, grinning, until we came over to greet him.
Chili's last day- still smiling
I've been angry that he was taken from us so soon.  I know some of you are saying, "he was just a dog, get over it already", but you clearly don't understand the healing power of animals (and I'm not talking about that weird stuff you see on 900 commercials).  He was special.  He brought me out of my darkness.  I know that God sent him to us to help free me from my depression and anger after my brain injury.  I've been trying to find the joy during all of this and it hasn't been easy for me. 

Here is what the Chili Dawg taught me: 1) he loved me unconditionally, just like God does, 2) you can still be beautiful when you're missing a limb, 3) live in the moment, 4) it is possible to smile & be happy through the pain.

If it wasn't for Chili Dawg's cancer, I would never have found the Tripawds website & joined "the club that no one wants to join, but everyone is glad they did".  If I had not found the Tripawds website, I would never have formed the friendships that I have since formed.  The people that I met have helped me through the beginning of Chili's battle with cancer and the end of Chili's battle with cancer, and I can never thank them enough.  The support they have shown me this past month has been incredible- the emails, the cards, the private messages, & forum posts.  I may never meet them face to face, but we are bonded through our dogs.

So while I still have a paw shaped hole in my heart, I will focus on the good memories of my Chili Dawg and try to move on.  Dakota Dawg's Mom, Shari, suggested that Noah and I make a memory book so that Noah and Juliana are able to remember him when they get older.  I think that is a good idea, and we will get started on that soon.  So, run free, Chili Dawg.  I'll catch you on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Faithful friend

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Appointment In Heaven...

"Noah, today is Chili's appointment for doggie heaven."  "But Momma, I'm going to miss him so much!" said Noah, as he began to cry.  "I know, Sunshine.  I'm going to miss him more than you can ever understand, but his body isn't doing good and you don't want him to hurt anymore, do you?"  "No, Momma.  How is he going to get to doggie heaven?  By the cross like us?"  "No, sweetie.  He's going by the rainbow bridge."  "Jesus will carry him, won't he?  Because Chili Dawg can't walk anymore."  "Yes, Noah.  He won't be alone when he crosses the rainbow bridge."

Tonight we said good-bye to my faithful companion.  His pain had become too much for him.  He put on the front that he didn't hurt; kept a smile on his face and continued to wag his tail, but he couldn't really stand anymore and he could barely walk two steps before he fell.  Ryan had to force feed him his pain medicine this morning, so we knew it was time.  I spent part of last night laying on the floor next to him as he tried to find a comfortable position.  I cried into his fur and thanked him for being a faithful companion and loving me unconditionally.  There is no question in my mind that this dog was sent to me from God, and he has been a blessing to our family from the moment he arrived.

Run free and out of pain, Chili Dawg.  I love you so much!

Our last weekend together

My heart is broken...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mission: Kill Barney...

I waited too long.  The mission was to have the Chili Dawg "kill Barney".  The first day, I let Chili and Finchy get a "taste" of Barney.  Then, I dressed Barney up in a PSHS Cougars t-shirt and took him to school for some "edg-u-k-shun".  See pics below (and a more detailed description here).

Then, I gave Chili the chance to "kill Barney".  Normally, the Chili Dawg would have totally chewed on him- he probably wouldn't have destroyed him, but he would have squeaked him many times and rolled on him, etc.  This was his response.

I already knew something was wrong.  He was limping badly, which for a three-legged dog already signals a bad sign.  He has been limping for about 2 weeks, but Ryan and I had hoped he had hurt himself running in the back yard or wrestling with Finchy.  He's also not eating much anymore.  I suspected that the cancer had returned.  A visit to the vet on Friday confirmed it.  The vet took x-rays of hips, and showed me a large mass in his left hip- it's basically consuming his femur and part of his pelvis.  The vet asked me if Chili has cried out or yelped in pain.  I said no, besides the limping and not eating (since his amputation he has gone from 83 pounds to 68 pounds) he has displayed no other signs of pain.  The vet was impressed with the Chili Dawg.  We were sent home with medicine to manage his pain until he lets us know that it's time to send him across the rainbow bridge.  It breaks my heart.  I knew it was inevitable, but I had hoped we would have longer than 3.5 months.  He's my best friend, my "soul dog."

Yesterday, I gave it another shot with Barney.  I wanted him to try it while he was on pain killers, before we sent Barney on to another tripawd.  He showed a little more interest, but I waited to long.  I should have let him do it the day Barney arrived, before he was consumed with pain.  "The cough" started yesterday.  "The cough" is the sign that the cancer has moved into his lungs as well.  His appointment with doggie heaven (what I am telling Noah) is getting closer, and soon I will have to say goodbye to the dog who stole my heart.

While he didn't get a chance to "kill Barney", I gave Finchy the opportunity, and he let Barney have it for him and for the Chili Dawg.  Good job, Finchy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


When the Chili Dawg was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (OSA) and given a short time to live, I never expected the blessing that the diagnosis has turned out to be.  Naturally, I was devastated.  We decided to amputate his leg to remove the pain, the cancer will return no matter what we do, but the amputation at least took away the pain.  The day after Chili came home a "tripod", we noticed he was bruising.  Not knowing if it was normal, I googled post-op amputation images for dogs, and a website popped up:  This website has been a source of strength for me in this journey with the Chili Dawg.  I have formed friendships with people all over the country- our common bond being our amputee dogs.  Not every dog on the website has cancer, but they all have 3 legs.

At the beginning, the community answered all of my questions: how would Chili adapt, how do I not feel guilty for not doing chemo, etc.  Since then, I've been able to pass on what I have learned to new people who are experiencing the same shock that we felt when we heard the diagnosis.  We are able to celebrate our "ampuversaries" together, we are heckled by the 4-legged dogs (also known as monkey-butt dogs), and we also comfort each other when there is bad news- cancer found in the lungs, or our best friend has crossed the rainbow bridge and is no longer with us.

On Monday, a package arrived on our porch.  It was addressed to the Chili Dawg, from Abby.  I kind of knew what was in it, but I didn't know about everything that was in it.  On the tripawds website, there is a tour known as the Killbarney TourJerry G. Dawg (who is no longer with us) is the dog who inspired the Killbarney Tour.  His pawrents are the founders of the tripawds website.  Anyway, Barney travels in a box, with an amazing journal.  Everyone who has hosted Barney writes in the journal about their dog, stamps their dog's pawprint and puts in a picture of their dog.  Also in the box, each person contributes something of their dog's or a momento from Barney's visit- you are supposed to remove an item and then contribute something of their own.  For example, Abby's mom put in some items from Barney's visit to the San Diego Zoo.

It is amazing what treasures this box holds.  It took me 2 days to go through everything, and I am still reading the journal.  Some of the dogs Barney visited are no longer with us, and reading their journal entries have made me cry.  It is amazing the healing that dogs bring, they are truly a blessing from God.  If Chili Dawg had not gotten OSA, I would not have found this community and gotten to experience the Killbarney Tour. 

The Chili Dawg has not gotten to kill Barney yet.  I have taken Barney on an "educational" journey for a couple days, but soon he will get his turn, and then I will write our story in the journal and choose another deserving tripawd to send Barney on to.
All of the treasures

All of the letters that accompany Barney

The journal

Sunday, August 14, 2011

12 Years Ago...

Twelve years ago, I married my soulmate.  There are many reasons why I love Ryan, but this year he did something very special for me that showed me how much he loved me.

Back in May we got the diagnosis that the Chili Dawg had osteosarcoma (bone cancer).  If we didn't amputate his leg, he had maybe 30 days to live.  He was in a lot of pain and could barely walk.  The veterinary oncologist gave us our options.  All of them were extremely costly.  My heart was broken.  Literally broken. 

You're probably thinking, "He's just an animal.  Why are you that attached?!?"  What most of you don't understand is that Chili Dawg basically brought me back to life, and I don't mean in a resurrection sort of way.  After my brain injury I fell into a horrible depression.  H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E.  There are 3 weeks of my life that I have no memory of whatsoever due to the brain injury.  Then there are about 5 months where my memories are extremely fuzzy, also due to the brain injury.  I would get confused going home, I couldn't remember my phone number.  All the easy things that I used to take for granted were now difficult for me, and I became angry and depressed.  Nothing worked to snap me out of the depression.  No medicine, no doctors, nothing. 

Then, I got an email from Ryan.  Someone at his work had a friend who didn't want their golden retriever anymore, and they wanted to know if we were interested.  As soon as I saw the picture, I was interested.  We drove the hour and a half to look at this dog, and as soon as he greeted me, I knew that this was my dog and we weren't leaving without him.  His old owners wanted nothing for him (they had paid a lot of money for him from a breeder- they gave us his papers), they just wanted him gone, so we took him home with us for free.  There was something about the Chili Dawg (we changed his name) that broke through my wall of depression and freed me from it.  After he came home with us, it's like my fog was lifted.  My depression went away, and my anger started to as well.  I still struggled with my memory, and probably will for the rest of my life, but this dog got through to me.

Fast-forward to the cancer diagnosis and my broken heart.  After everything this dog had done for me, it seemed there was nothing I could do to help him.  We couldn't afford the amputation, chemotherapy, radiation, or bisphophatase.  Ryan was out of town, so he couldn't see my face as I read through our options and how much they cost- he was doing the same thing on his laptop in Texas.  He called me to talk about what we should do.  I wanted to tell him that I wanted to do the amputation, but I knew I would sound selfish, because we didn't have the money to do it, so I told him that we could just make Chili Dawg comfortable for his last month with us until the cancer moved to his lungs and we had to put him to sleep.  Ryan got very quiet on the phone and then he told me he would call me back.  While I waited for him to call me back, I wrapped my arms around Chili Dawg and cried into his back, apologizing for not being able to take away his pain.

The phone rang, and it was Ryan.  "I scheduled Chili's amputation for next week.  We need to do the amputation to take away his pain.  I looked at the budget and if we cut out some spending, we should be able to afford it."  Words cannot explain how much this decision meant to me.  Ryan knew how much Chili Dawg meant to me, and he was willing to make sacrifices so that he could be with us for just a little longer.  While I know that the amputation may have only given us a couple extra months with Chili Dawg, because the cancer will come back (even if we did chemo it would come back), I appreciate that my husband put my needs ahead of his own in making this decision. 

And that is just one reason why I love this man.  Happy 12 year Anniversary, Ryan!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good-bye, Ms. Laura...

A few weeks ago (July 18th to be exact), our amazing speech therapist, Laura (I've posted about her here and here), told me that she was leaving the company that she currently worked for to go to a different job, and was no longer going to do Early Intervention.  Let's just say that I didn't take the news so well.  I fought off the urge to punch the wall (only because my children were present) and I fought off the tears until I was alone with the Chili Dawg.  Those of you who have never had a child that required services probably don't understand why I had such strong emotions.  These therapists are MORE than therapists.  They become like family members.  So when they leave, it puts a hole in your heart.  When I was done crying into the Chili Dawg (and on the phone to my mom- thanks mom, by the way), I pulled out my journal to get the "crazy" out.  Oh yeah, I don't post all the crazy on here, you should see my journal. 

Today, is our last session with Laura, so I thought I would post a little bit of what I wrote in my journal so that everyone could see just how special this person is to our family.

Dear Laura,
The day that Peggy told us that she was leaving the company and could no longer be Juliana's speech therapist, I was devastated.  I called my mom crying.  You see, she was our second speech therapist- the first one lated only 2 sessions and then said we stopped services.  As you know, Peggy had helped Juliana a lot and she meant a lot to our family.  Her leaving was hard for us, and so I was bound and determined NOT to let myself get attached to you.  But darn you!  You are just so likeable!  There's something about you that is just so special.  I knew it right awaay, and I knew we were in trouble, because I knew if you ever left the company while Juliana was still in EI, we were going to be devastated again.  And I was right.

Today when you told me you had resigned, a part of me already knew it was coming.  I had a "feeling" for a while.  But I still wanted to punch the wall & I came very close to doing it- so it's good that Noah and Juli were in the room.  Again I found myself on the phone crying to my mom while I had the Chili Dawg draped across me (I told you he's good therapy).

The thing about you darn therapists is that you become like family to us.  Sometimes I text you more than some family members!  you guys are special and whether you know it or not, you make an impact on our lives.  So thank you.  Thank you for everything you have done for my daughter, for my family, for me.  Thank you for standing up to Dr. Fishbein and writing letters for all of our doctor visits.  Thank you for checking up on Juliana when she was in the hospital in October and when she had that "seizure" in March. We won't forget you.

We love you, Laura.  Thank you for blessing our lives!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Momma-Noah Date...

All summer Noah has asked to go on a special "Momma-Noah" date; somewhere without Juliana.  I think with a lot of our days spent around Juliana's therapies he feels like he doesn't get enough attention from me.  So, I've been waiting for the timing to be right for a special date with him.

On Sunday, Ryan mentioned to me that "Kung Fu Panda 2" was at the cheap theater.  Noah has wanted to see this movie since he first saw the previews before school was out.  So, I put in a "call" to one of the kids' favorite babysitters to see if she or her twin sister (also a favorite of the kids) were available to watch Juliana so Noah and I could go on our date.  I got lucky, and one of them was available so we set it up for Tuesday (yesterday).  I didn't tell Noah where we were going, I just told him that we were going on a date.

Tuesday morning, Noah got up and made sure it was the right day for our date.  Then he went and picked out his clothes for our date- he wanted to look nice, so he chose a pair of dress shorts (unheard of- the kid is all about comfy clothing like his mom) and a nice t-shirt.  Then, the bugging began, "Mom, is it time for our date yet?"  "Mom, when's the babysitter going to be here?"  This was all by 7 in the morning.

Finally, it was time for our date.  We got to the movie theater, and Noah still didn't have it figured out (we don't go to a lot of movies).  Then, I bought our tickets and he got super excited.  I had a gift card, so I took him up to the counter and asked him if he wanted to pick out candy or popcorn to bring into the movie, and he looked up at me and said, "Momma, I don't want any candy or popcorn (what kid turns down candy or popcorn when their Mom is offering it?!?)  Could we just share a Diet Coke?"  Since he never gets to drink pop, I got us a drink and we went in and sat down. 

Noah LOVED the movie.  He did get a little scared by the wolves in the movie and needed to hold my hand, but half way into the movie, he yelled out, "Mom, this is the best movie, can we come and see it again?!"  And, he drank most of the Diet Coke himself.  When the movie was over, he said, "This was the best Momma-Noah date ever.  Maybe next year Juli will be old enough to come with us?  Maybe Auntie Jaime, Rori, Liam and Baby Brendan can come too?"  Ahhh, my sweet little man is growing up!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Special Kid...

My mouth tends to get me in trouble.  Not having my filter anymore makes it even more likely that my mouth will get me in trouble.  This past school year, I had a remarkable student that I want to tell you about.  He said I could write this blog about him, and I promised to keep his name anonymous.  Some of you may know him or have heard me talk about him.  He truly is an amazing young man who has risen above his circumstances.

We had just returned back to school after having two days off after the blizzard in February.  My students weren't in the mood to learn, and I was crabby with having to work extra hard with keeping them on task.  Towards the end of the period, I handed out grade sheets.  When I handed this young man his grade report, his face dropped a little and he made an innocent comment about how his percentage had dropped (it was still above a 100%, though).  Well, it was 7th period, and like I said, I was crabby.  Immediately, I said something dripping with sarcasm (I'm really good at that), and walked away.  A few minutes later I looked back over and the young man was crying.  Oh crap, I said in my head, this is not what I had intended.  Usually after I've been sarcastic with a student, they go back to what they were doing and we are fine.  I walked over and apologized for upsetting him with my words, but I still felt bad- I rarely make kids cry, and to me this did not seem like one of those instances where I would make a kid cry.  I kept going over my words (of course, I don't remember them now) and they didn't seem like they were that sarcastic or hurtful.

My guilty conscience continued to plague me.  I again apologized to him after class before I left for the day.  I could see that something was clearly bothering him, but he wouldn't tell me.  So, I tried one last ditch effort- facebook.  I sent him this email:
"I just wanted to apologize again. I was just giving you a hard time, and I didn't realize that you were feeling so much stress. I won't joke around with you like that anymore in class. I realized that you don't quite get my sarcastic sense of humor and I feel badly. Anyway, I wanted to apologize again. You are one of the brightest and hardest working kids that I have ever met and you have a bright
future ahead of you. I hope you realize how smart you are. You are going to do big things with your life. I believe in you
I received his response very quickly, and when I read it, I have to say it was quite unexpected.  He told me that it wasn't me he was upset with, and it wasn't me who made him cry, that he would have cried anyway.  He shared with me that right after he graduated junior high, his father murdered his mother (whoa).  He now lives with his aunt who tells him every day what a horrible and selfish kid he is.  She doesn't let him talk about his mother or visit the gravesite when he wants to.

Wow.  That is a lot for a 15 year old kid to have to deal with.  Did I mention that this kid has a 4.5 gpa on a 5.0 scale?  Did I mention that this kid is one of the nicest young men that I have ever met?  Did I mention that this kid has impecable manners?  The day I missed school because Juliana had her seizure, I immediately got an email from him asking how she was doing.

Wait, there's more.  Towards the end of the school year, his aunt's husband (his uncle) was killed in a terrible motorcycle accident.  I know.  How much more does he have to go through?  He and I had many discussions about God after class.  He knows what I believe and where I stand, but he is searching still.  His aunt takes him to a church, but he feels as if he is judged there, because his aunt tells stories about him that aren't true.  I explained to him that all churches are not like that.

The final blow.  The last day of school, he stayed behind after everyone left.  I used to let my students sign their names on my classroom wall.  I didn't this year, because I was informed it was going to be painted over during the summer.  He asked me if he could please write his name on the wall, so it would be like he existed somewhere.  I let him do it, and then he told me that his aunt was sending him to live with his Grandma and his Grandfather (who has terminal cancer) in Florida for the summer or possibly until he turned 18.  I asked him when he would find out if he was coming back.  He told me his aunt told him to pack as if he was never coming back.  I asked him when he was leaving.  He said 2 days.  He was upset because he had wanted to visit his mother's gravesite as her birthday was coming up (as was his- they are 2 days apart), and he wasn't going to have the opportunity to do so.  We said goodbye, and I told him I hoped to see him on the first day of school.

Well, I just got an email from him.  He won't be coming back.  He told me he will be living with a cousin, and he is no longer under stress.  No one is telling him that he is a bad kid anymore and no one is telling him that he is a horrible human being anymore.  I hope that he continues to shine where he is now.  This kid is special.  He works so hard and it doesn't come easy for him.  He doesn't have the best life, but he doesn't let it get to him and bring him down.  He's rising above it.  I'll keep praying for him, and I hope you pray for him too.  I'm going to miss seeing him when school starts up again.  This is one of the reasons I became a teacher, to experience something like this.  Keep your chin up, anonymous, I believe in you!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Back" to Normal...Well, almost...

Last Tuesday, I woke up early for some unknown reason.  So, I decided that it was a sign that it was time to test out the old hip and go for a run.  I haven't run since the Warrior Dash, I've kept it just to roller blading and swimming.  I went for my run, did a little over 2 miles and then came home, because I didn't want to push my luck since my hip wasn't hurting at all.  I got in the shower, ate some breakfast and then watched the news, waiting for the kids to wake up.  Eventually, they did, and when I got up to get them, I noticed a dull ache in my back that hadn't been there before.  For the rest of the day the ache got a bit worse.  Fortunately we had our weekly session at the chiropractor that afternoon.  After being interrogated on whether or not I had stretched (the answer was yes) and if I had done any heavy lifting or turned weird or fallen in the shower (all no's), Dr. Rich concluded that I had definitely done a number on my low back (hooray for me).  He spent a good 15 minutes adjusting me.  Then he told me to ice it- no heat, and to come back on Thursday.

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 4 AM and I tried to move.  The pain had gotten incredibly worse and I couldn't figure out how to get out of the bed without making it hurt more.  I had felt this pain before, and I remember it well.  My junior year at Bethel, I had torn my psoas muscle in my hip/back and had spent all summer recovering from that.  Somehow I got myself on my stomach and slid out of bed onto my knees and crawled (literally) to the bathroom.  At this point, the room was spinning and I was sweating from the pain, so I stopped and laid down on the bathroom floor, which was a bad decision, because then I had to get back up on my hands and knees.  I thought about yelling for Ryan to help, but then I remembered that he could sleep through a heavy metal rock concert in our bedroom.  I eventually got my business done and made it back to bed.  When Ryan got up for work, I had him help me get up and get downstairs.  By the time he left for work, I had figured out that standing was the best and as long as I kept an ice pack on my back and tried not to move, I could get through the day.  Unfortunately, with kids, you can't be still, so that wasn't going to work.  I called the chiropractor and they got me in for a morning adjustment.  It was a pain filled drive to the office but the adjustment helped and I was able to stand up when I left.  I was told to come back in the afternoon, and that was a smart decision on his part, because a few hours after the adjustment the pain was back in full force.  I was biting my lip and cheeks with any movement and trying not to cry when I took any steps or made any type of movement.

As the week went on and I continued with my "2 a day" adjustments, my back got better.  Ice packs were still my best friend, and I traveled everywhere with them.  By Sunday I was feeling really good and contemplated going to the gym for a swim, but Ryan wouldn't let me saying that it probably wasn't a good idea to push myself after hurting my back so badly.  Monday I felt even better, but then I had a little setback.  Chili Dawg had to have surgery on his ear, and when I went to pick him up, he was still a bit loopy from the anesthetic which if you have 4 legs isn't such a big deal, but when you only have 3 legs it's a bit harder to walk.  He fell a couple times leaving the vet, and I had to pick him up and get him back on his 3 legs, which irritated my back.  I'm sure you're asking why didn't I send Ryan to do that?  Because, Chili is my dog.  I didn't get to be with him for his amputation since that doctor was much closer to Ryan's work, so I was going to make sure he knew I was there for him for this surgery.  Plus, look at how pathetic he looks in this picture.
Yesterday, my back felt good.  I was tired of not getting to be active, so I put the kids in the jogger, strapped on my back brace (ugh!), and put on my skates.  We only did 1.2 miles, because I didn't want to hurt myself.  Then, I iced my back for a while.  When we saw the chiropractor that afternoon, he was pleased with how my back had done after several days of no adjustments, and even more impressed that I went roller blading.  I went skating again with the kids this morning, the same distance and my back still feels decent.  I still have the ache, but the sharp pains I felt on Wednesday and Thursday are now gone.   I don't think I'll go for a run for quite a while, because whatever I did to my back was not quite worth it.  For now I'll stick with rollerblading and swimming, it seems to be my new thing.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Finchy & Juliana...

Auntie Jenny passed on some squeaky toys to Finchy and Chili Dawg recently.  Ryan and I immediately labeled them as "outside" toys.  Finchy has a habit of squeaking the squeaky toys over and over and over and over and over and, well you get the point.  Even with the heat this week, Finchy has wanted to spend lots of time outside with his squeaky toys, so we have had to make a few exceptions with the squeakies so that he doesn't suffer from heat exhaustion.  Every day for a couple hours, I let him bring one squeaky into the house and squeak it to his hearts' content until it drives me nuts and I have to send it back outside. 

One of the reasons we love Finchy is because of his gentleness with our kids.  Boxers are known as good family dogs, and I think the video below with Juliana will prove that as well.  He's a sweet boy, even if he couldn't learn a new name when we rescued him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Arizona Vacation...

A few weeks ago we got to visit my in-laws in Arizona.  We had a great time out there, and got to do a lot of fun things!

Ryan and his dad were smart.  Since we flew into Phoenix, they decided that it would probably work better for the kids for us to spend the night in Phoenix before driving to Tucson.  They were right- Juliana screamed for the last 30 minutes of the plane ride (it was magical).  After we ate lunch, we went to the SEA Life aquarium.  It was really cool!  The kids loved it!  It was set up kind of in a maze format so you moved from room to room, and some of the aquariums had "bubbles" so that you could stick your head up into the fish tank and look in on the fish.  One of the rooms allowed you to put your hands in the tanks and touch anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers.  I wasn't sure if Juliana would do it, with her sensory issues, but she put her hands and arms all the way into the tank and didn't want to leave that room.  The favorite room for the kids was this HUGE fishbowl and swimming in the fishbowl were all sorts of stingrays that would splash the water.  You could view them from up high, and crawl into a bubble and look into the tank- that was Noah's favorite part. 

After we left the aquarium, we went to the Squaw Peak Resort to check in.  Fortunately, all of Ryan's traveling had paid off and we stayed there on some of his Hilton Points (I finally found an upside for him being out of town).  We quickly got the kids into their swimsuits and sunscreened them up, and then met Grandma, Grandpa, and Auntie Diane and went to the pool.  I seriously think that if Noah was a dog he would be a Portuguese Water Dog, because that kid loves the water!  The kids finally crashed (they did really well, since we had to get them up at 4 AM to go to the airport) and we got them dinner and put them to bed before Ryan and I crashed.  We were sure they would get up early the next day, but we were wrong- they were tired!  Noah slept 13 hours and Juliana slept 15.5 hours!  Wow!  After breakfast, we spent the rest of the morning at the pool before we checked out and made the drive to Tucson.

One of the things Noah told Grandpa that he wanted to do while we were there was to "run up a mountain".  So, Grandpa found us a smaller mountain that he thought Noah could hike up.  We didn't end up running up the mountain, but Noah hiked his way all the way to the top!  We only had to stop once, because his shoe came off when his foot got stuck, but he walked all the way with very little help from me.  Juliana tried to walk, but Ryan ended up carrying her most of the way up.  She tried to walk down too, but I ended up carrying her down (Ryan had the easier job on the way up).  One thing we did learn on this day, was that Juliana still overheats very quickly, so this was about all time she could be outside for when it's really hot.

We also visited the International Wildlife Museum, which was pretty cool too.  It had animals from all over the world.  The kids liked it alot.  One of their favorite parts was this tunnel that let them pretend they were ferrets and they crawled through it multiple times.  Juliana's favorite was walking under the giraffe.  Noah's favorite was the Gila Monster- at Grandma and Grandpa's, there was a lizard that Noah named Coco and would leave water out- it wasn't a Gila Monster, but that's Noah's favorite lizard now.  That night Grandpa broke out the Karaoke machine and Noah and Juliana "sang" to us on the microphone and danced for us as well.

One of my favorite places to visit when we are in Tucson is the Desert Museum.  Since we learned early on that Juliana overheats quickly, we kept her "cool" by soaking her shirt in the icy cold water fountains that they have throughout the museum.  I also would take her hat and fill it up with water and dump it on her head.  This way we were able to see more of the museum without her "melting" and we didn't have to worry about her body temperature rising quickly.  She wouldn't even shudder when we put the icy cold shirt back on her.  The kids really liked the museum, especially the hummingbird habitat, the raccoon (because he ran right up to them), the squirrel (because again he ran right up to them), and the cave.
Another part of the Desert Museum that the kids really liked was the digging for fossils area.  I think Noah could have spent the rest of the day there with Grandpa just digging in the sand for the hidden fossils, but after uncovering 3 of them, we had to move on- it was getting close to lunch and if you know Ryan, you know how he gets when he's hungry.

As we left the Desert Museum, Auntie Diane surprised the kids with Prickly Pear Punch.  It was this pretty pink color.  Both kids LOVED it, and Noah is still talking about how he drank it and how it comes from a cactus.  The flight home from Phoenix was a bit more magical than the flight to Phoenix with Juliana screaming for about AN HOUR after the MEAN stewardess FORCED me to buckle her into her seat when she was mostly asleep in my lap because we hit turbulence.  If she had just listened to me and let me continue to hold the mostly sleeping child, everyone would have had a much more peaceful flight, but I'm just a mom, so what would I know?

Forgetting about the plane rides, we had an awesome time out west!  Thank you Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie for showing us such a nice time!  We love you and miss you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011...

Back in December, Ryan, myself, my sister Jaime, brother in law Bill, and his brother, Todd, all signed up for the Warrior Dash in Channahon.  Jaime, Ryan, and I started getting "serious" about it around February/March with our workouts.  Towards the end of March, my hip started to bother me after I would run, but I didn't give it much thought and just started taking glucosamine supplements.  At the end of April, I mentioned it to my chiropractor, and he took some x-rays.

Here's how our conversation went: "Your x-rays show that you have early onset hip degeneration in your right hip.  Basically it's a form of arthritis, and if you don't stop running it's going to get worse."  Me: "Yeah, I'm 34 years old, how can I have hip degeneration?"  "Your right leg is shorter then your left (nice, I'm a gimp) so when you run, your gait is putting more strain on your right hip.  Even if we give you a lift to put in your shoe, it won't be enough to make up the difference in length."  "Well, I can't stop running yet.  I'm doing the Warrior Dash in June, and I'm not missing that!"  "Well you need to find other ways to train like swimming or biking that don't put that repetitive stress on your hip."

Needless to say, I was not pleased with the results of my x-ray, and there was no way I was going to give up doing the Warrior Dash.  So, I continued to train and run, but the pain in my hip got worse, and soon I wasn't able to do more than a 1.5 miles before the pain and tears would force me to stop & hobble home.  I figured my chiropractor was right, I needed to find a new way to train, so I began to swim and rollerblade and then once school ended I started pushing the kids in the jogger while I rollerbladed.

That brings us to Warrior Dash Saturday.  I woke up extremely excited for the day.  I taped my ankles up (yeah, I taped my ankles- I blew one of them playing roller hockey when I was a college freshman & it was a smart decision too), and put on my knee brace.  My parents arrived to watch Noah and Juliana, and then Jaime, Bill, Todd and his wife, Mary Lou (who is 7 months pregnant) arrived.  We took our pre-dash picture and got in the van and drove to Channahon.
While we waited in the long line of cars to get to the parking lot, we watched the people who were currently "dashing".  We saw that some people were walking, and wondered why (later we discovered why).  Excitement in the car built, and finally we were parked.  We grabbed our gear bags and walked in to register.  Then, we took our pre-race picture, and jumped in to the 10:30 wave (we were registered for the 11:00 wave, but they didn't care).
The first part of the race started with no obstacles, and had some hills, mud and a bit of water.  We were doing well and passing people.  My hip was actually feeling good and only hurt a small bit.  We got to the spot where we had wondered why people were walking, it was a hill covered in mud.  I had read that a tip was to stay on the outside of the trail, so Jaime and I were doing that, when my footing gave way and I bit it HARD.  I landed hard on my right hip and knee and I wanted to cry as this intense pain shot through my leg.  Jaime was able to step over me so that I didn't take her out with me.  I scrambled back up and we got up the hill, but I was basically done running at that point.  I managed to do a pathetic jog here and there, but I was the group's handicap for the remainder of the dash.  I'm sure Ryan and Bill would have liked to have run on ahead, but they were nice and stayed with me (Jaime and I had made a pact to stay together no matter what- that's what sister's do). 
Stick together, that's what sisters do!
The obstacles weren't too bad, although they required a lot of upper body strength which I didn't think I possessed, but I surprised myself and did.  We did learn that my T-Rex arms did slow me at climbing (have you ever looked at a T-Rex? They have really short arms- well, so do I- Ryan is always making fun of me for them), but I was still able to do it.  My sister was a BEAST and overcame her fear of heights.  She really scaled those obstacles quickly, and I'm so proud of her!

The last part of the dash involved jumping over fire and then jumping into a giant vat of mud and "swimming" through it under barbed wire.  I think that was my favorite part.  After you climbed out of the mud you were given a medal and were greeted with a table full of cups of water and bananas (which is why I have one in the picture below- I was hungry!).
Once we took our "mud" picture, we headed to the water truck where we were "hosed" down by a fire hose with ICE COLD water.  I'm talking FREEZING cold water.  It was so cold, it took your breath away.  I don't know how he did it, but Ryan emerged from the cluster of muddy people virtually clean, as you can see in the picture below, and he was the muddiest of us all.
The whole reason we did it, the hats of course!
I'm not going to lie, I was sore the next day, and my right leg is an array of various bumps and bruises and there is skin missing in places.  Will I do this again?  In a heart beat!  We are all doing this next year, and are planning to dress as superheroes.  We are also recruiting for next year, and we may be coming for you (yes, Dennis, that means you).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


No, I'm not talking about the dragon from the movie, "How To Train Your Dragon".  I am talking about my two year old daughter and her latest activity.  On Saturday, I was at the Wilton Tent Sale with my sister and 2 friends and my cell phone went off.  It was Ryan.  "Juliana faceplanted in the grass and her mouth is bleeding.  I pushed her lip down and her gum is torn a bit.  I think she is okay.  What should I do?"  In the background I can hear Juliana screaming.  Now, Juliana is not your typical child.  She fell down the steps (all the way from the top to the ceramic tile at the bottom) and did not cry.  When she falls and skins her knees outside, she doesn't even whimper.  My response, "Call the dentist and see what they want you to do."  10 minutes later my phone goes off again, and Ryan tells me that he and Juliana are on their way to Lombard, because our dentist is closed this weekend but the Lombard office is open and they want to see her. 

The next time I hear from Ryan, he is calling because they are on their way home.  "One of her bottom teeth is very loose.  The dentist wanted to pull it right then, but because they couldn't get ahold of her cardiologist to see if she needed to be pre-treated they couldn't pull it."  "So what are they going to do?"  "They are sending us home with a prescription for antibiotics to start today and she can only eat soft foods.  On Monday we have to call and get her into the normal office so they can re-evaluate her and have time to talk to her cardiologist."

So, today was the first day they were able to get us in.  I was able to leave Noah with Theresa, and she told me to bring his swim stuff since it's so hot out.  Dr. Chung looked in Juliana's mouth and noted that the tooth had stabilized a tiny bit and said that we could continue the soft food diet for a few more weeks and then re-evaluate again or we could just pull it today and be done with it.  I made the decision to pull it, because since we started the soft food diet, Juliana has barely eaten anything, and we've been pulling out the "big guns" to bribe her to eat: ice cream, pudding, yogurt, milk shakes, but she has wanted nothing to do with it and instead has wanted to eat the "forbidden" food.  I weighed her this morning and she was already down in weight, so even though I didn't want to pull one of her teeth, I didn't want to go through another few weeks of her not eating when it's hard enough to get her to want to eat.

They brought us back into a room and closed the doors so that her screaming wouldn't be as loud to the other patients.  I got into the chair with her and she knew something was up and began to whimper a bit.  I started praying hard.  First they needed to numb her, so they had me lay back and wrap my legs around her legs and my arms around her to restrain her.  Then a tech held her head down while Dr. Chung numbed her.  Juliana screamed through that.  Then we had to let that kick in a little bit, and Juliana settled down.  Then, Dr. Chung came back in.  I resumed my position, and Juliana started to scream again.  It didn't take long to remove her tooth, and as soon as they were done Juliana stopped screaming.  I think it was more traumatic for me than it was for her (since it seems like I'm always the one doing the restraining).  Dr. Chung said that this won't affect anything, she will just have a gap there until her adult tooth comes in several years from now (all this from falling in the grass!).

After we picked up Noah, he made sure to let me know that I need to put Juliana's tooth somewhere so the Tooth Fairy will find it and bring Juli something special.  What a day!  But Juliana came through it like a champ.  I'm so proud of her!
Juli's tooth!  This big thing came out of her mouth!  Nasty, eh?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Heart Of A Lion...

It takes a special person to work in special education.  I couldn't do it.  I have known a lot of awesome special education teachers, Emily, the Heathers, Rhonda, etc.  Last year was my first year teaching REI Chemistry (REI stands for Regular Education Initiative), and I met my collaborative special ed teacher, Lisa. 

Lisa is a tiny lady with a big voice, an infectious laugh, and the heart of a lion.  You always know where she is because you can hear her coming down the hallway if she's yelling or if she's laughing.  Lisa is a no-nonsense lady who doesn't take anything from any of the kids, but once they break through her outer shell, they see that she is just a teddy bear inside (hee hee).  She has several black belts and almost made the Olympic team when she was younger- how cool is that?!? 

Lisa helps me stay sane, and sometimes our classes think we are nuts (sometimes they think we are the devil as well).  No matter what they think, I couldn't teach my REI classes without her help.  We feed off of each other and when one of us is having a bad day we carry each other.  This year was a tough year for both of us, emotionally and physically.  I know that if I didn't have her support, I would have crumbled halfway through the school year.

Last week we invited Lisa over for dinner (her husband was out of town or we would have invited him as well).  Juliana LOVED her!  Ryan and I have never seen her eat so well, and we think that it had something to do with our dinner guest.  We grilled burgers for dinner, and Juliana sat across from Lisa.  First she ate her part of Noah's burger.  Then Ryan cut her some more of Noah's burger and she finished that.  Then, she ate the rest of Noah's burger that he didn't finish!- Unheard of.  At bedtime, she gave Lisa a big hug, which she doesn't usually do to people she meets the first time.  While she was going to bed, Noah put Lisa to work helping him peel stickers to decorate a paper he was making.  Noah wants to know when she's going to come back over and help him with his art projects.

So, thank you, Lisa, for all that you do.  I look forward to working with you for many more years!

Lisa refused to let me take her picture so I had to get it while she was coming out of another classroom (I know, almost stalker-like)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Preschool Graduate...

Noah graduated preschool a few weeks ago.  One of the nice things about him going to the preschool at my high school is that I was able to sneak in during his graduation ceremony and see part of it.  During my 5th period class, I have a co-taught class and when my co-teacher isn't there, I have a TA in with me, Adam.  Adam told me to stay as long as I wanted at Noah's ceremony. 

I walked into the classroom, and I was sure Noah saw me.  Then his teacher thanked all the parents for coming, and Noah said, "My momma isn't here.  She had to work."  His teacher told him that I was right behind him, and I was able to capture part of the look on Noah's face when he started to turn around to look for me.

Then, the high schoolers started to call their names for them to receive their "diplomas".  I got that on video on my camera (not very high quality, but I didn't want to bring my nice camera to school).  If you watch the bottom corner of the screen, there's a little boy who falls off his chair right as Noah goes up to get his diploma- kind of funny (the kid wasn't hurt, so it's okay to laugh).

As a special present, Noah's teacher made each preschooler a scrapbook of pictures of their 10 weeks with the Advanced Child Development kids.  It was really sweet and Noah shows his to everyone who comes over to our house.  My little boy is growing up!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Of The Best Feelings...

Around 2 o'clock this morning, I woke up for no reason.  The Chili Dawg had some how gotten up on our bed again.  This time, he was curled up next to Ryan and his "cone of shame" was gone (I found it on his dog bed).  Ryan woke up too (unheard of, by the way) and told Chili to get off the bed.  Clearly, Chili is feeling better post-amputation, because he gave Ryan a look like, "you're kidding, right?" and crawled over him to get to me.  He immediately assumed our snuggle position for when Ryan is out of town with his head on my shoulder and let me pet his soft fur until I fell back to sleep- one of the best feelings in the world.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conversations With Noah...

Yesterday we were driving to a doctor's appointment and Noah proceeded to ask, "Momma, when is it Noah's Mother's Day?"  "Well, first you have to be a Mom to have a Mother's Day."  "Well, when is it Noah's Father's Day?"  "First you have to be a Daddy to have a Father's Day."  "How do I become a Daddy?"  "Well, first you have to get a lot bigger and older.  Then you need to find a nice girl and get married.  Then you need to have a baby.  Then you will become a Daddy."  "When I have a baby I know what I'm going to name him.  It's the best name I know."  "What is the name?"  "Jesus.  Isn't it the best name, Momma?"  "Yes, Noah."

After we left the doctor's office, Noah asked, "Momma, where am I going to live when I'm a Daddy with baby Jesus?"  "You're going to live in your house with your baby and your wife."  There was a silence.  I tilted my mirror and saw that he was about to cry.  "What's wrong, Noah?"  "I don't want to live in a different house with my wife and Jesus.  I want to live with you and Daddy in my room."  "Well, where are your wife and baby going to live?  I don't think they will want to live with us."  "My wife can live with her mommy and daddy at her house and Jesus can sleep with Juli in her room!"  "What if Juli doesn't want to share her room with Jesus because he's a baby and she's a big girl now?"  "Well, Momma, she's small and she will want to snuggle with Jesus!  Please don't make me live somewhere else!"  "Sweetie, you can live with us as long as you want."  "Thanks, Momma."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chili Dawg Update...

Chili Dawg came home on Thursday night.  It was a hard night for him and for me.  Ryan brought him home around 5:30, just as I was finishing getting the kids' dinner ready.  Ryan needed help getting Chili out of the back seat of his car- Chili was heavily sedated and didn't want to move.  I grabbed a chicken nugget and helped lure him out of the back seat.  Chili gave a yelp of pain, but we were able to get him up and get a towel underneath his body as a sling and get him in the house.  We got him onto his dog bed.  I showed the kids where they could pet him and where they could not pet him.  Noah immediately sat next to him and started stroking his back.  Juliana was terrified and literally tried to climb back inside of me.  When I picked her up, I noticed that we had irritated one of Chili's staples and he had blood running down his side.

Normally, I can handle anything, but I wasn't prepared for what the scar and staples were going to look like.  Combined with the blood, not sleeping and not eating because I was worried, I got light headed and started to sweat.  I had to sit on the floor for a little while until the world stopped spinning.  Once that was done, I was ready to take care of my dog.

The first night, Chili slept on the main floor.  There was no way we were going to allow him to climb all the steps up to our bedroom.  Around 11 o'clock, I awoke to Finchy whining on my side of the bed and I heard Chili barking downstairs.  Finch and I went downstairs.  Chili had gone into the kitchen and couldn't figure out how to turn around with the cone on his head.  I got him turned around and back on his dog bed.  Then I went upstairs and got my pillow and spent the rest of the night on the couch.  Every 2 hours Chili would get up and whine trying to find a more comfortable position.  I would help him adjust and then go back to sleep.  It was a long night.

I am happy to say that that was the only night like that.  Chili refused to sleep downstairs the past few nights.  He takes the steps like a champ, and now goes down the steps too (the first morning, Ryan had to carry him down, because he was afraid, but he has conquered that fear).  Juliana is no longer afraid of him as well.  She gives him hugs and pets him as well.  Noah is still a gentle heart and gives him a hug and kiss every time we leave the house.  You can tell that Chili feels better too, because he greets you at the door when you come home and his tail is wagging- 2 weeks ago he didn't do that.

I'm posting a picture of Chili, but it won't be an up close one of his amputation- for those, you can go to his blog that I have started (I haven't had time to make it anything nice yet, though).  He is still beautiful, just in a different way now.
4 days post amputation

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Tomorrow is the Chili Dawg's amputation.  I am nervous and scared for him.  He's in a lot of pain right now, but he tries not to show it- I think it's the nature of the Golden Retriever.  He keeps a smile on his face almost all the time, but you can see when he's walking on three legs that he hurts.  He moans and cries in his sleep.  He has stopped eating.  The past few days, I have sat on the floor and hand fed him because the oncologist told us that he needs to be strong for the amputation.

I have been reading up on dog amputation, and he should adapt well to life on three legs- he already is using just three.  He also will no longer have pain from the bone cancer so he should be back to his normal self fairly quickly.  We have also been preparing Noah for what will be happening to Chili.  I had to pull up some video on YouTube of three legged golden retrievers so that he could see that they could walk and run and play, because as soon as I told him that Chili was going to have a leg removed he burst into tears afraid that Chili wouldn't be able to move around.  Every day he asks me the same questions making sure that Chili will be able to walk and run.

The Chili Dawg is my special friend.  My crying blanket.  I hope that our decision was the best decision for him and will not cause him any extra pain.

Chili's Last Weekend With Four Legs

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jaimers!

Today is my sister, Jaime's, birthday!  Jaime and I are 13 months apart, which meant that I always had a playmate growing up, as well as someone to fight with- oh wait, we never fought, did we, Jaime?  NEVER!  Jaime is one of the coolest mom's on the planet to three of the most beautiful children on the planet (and I'm not just saying that because I'm the aunt- I'm really saying it because Rori Rose still owes me a bracelet- kidding!).

Jaime and I have been through a lot in her 33 years on this earth (wow, Jaime, you're getting old), and there is no one I would rather have by my side then her.  Happy birthday, Jaimers!
Back in the day when I was the taller sister

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Monday, as we were driving home from Juliana's 2 year check up, my cell phone rang.  It was Ryan.  "The vet called about Chili."  "I'm not home yet, so don't tell me the results."  Now, I don't know if Ryan heard me since his phone was crackling, but he then proceeded to say, "I don't really have anything new to tell you.  We just have to decide what treatment we want to do."  "So it's cancer for sure then?"  "Yes, and it's in the ulna which is rare.  They are recommending amputation and chemotherapy which combined could get him to a year.  6 months if we only amputate."  I started to hyperventilate (which is why I didn't want him to tell me until I got home) and told him I couldn't talk right now.  I pulled to the side of the road because I thought I was going to throw up.  I started crying, hysterically and hitting the steering wheel with my hand.  As I was about to yell the "f-word", I heard, "Mom? Why are you crying?" from the back seat.  I realized that I still had my kids in the car, and if I had started to swear, I'm sure that would have been a word they both would have picked up (wouldn't that have been an interesting conversation with Juliana's speech therapist- "Juliana said f*** today. Where do you think she heard that?).  I settled myself down and drove the rest of the way home, still crying, but no longer in hysterics.

My special boy, my best friend, has terminal bone cancer and is in pain.  None of the options will cure him.  What do you do?  Amputation will remove the pain for the remainder of his life until the cancer moves to his lungs and he's already only walking on 3 legs.  Radiation will control the pain but will weaken the bone making him susceptible to a broken leg and is more expensive than amputation.  Chemotherapy will kill the cancer but it will come back and may buy him a year and is the most expensive of all the options. 

If I were to be totally selfish & we had an unlimited supply of money, I would choose amputation and chemotherapy to keep Chili with me as long as possible, but that is only thinking of myself and not him or my family.  I have done so much crying over this decision I am exhausted.  Every night I lay on the floor with him at bedtime and tell him how sorry I am and what a good dog and friend he has been to me.  If you're not a dog lover you probably think I am nuts, but if you've ever met the Chili Dawg you'd understand.

Ryan and I have done a lot of talking about this.  Last night he called me and said, "Chili's amputation has been scheduled for next Wednesday.  I want him to have no pain for the time that we have left with him."  Me, too. Thank you, Ryan, for helping us make the decision.

My heart is broken.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Juliana!

Today, my little girl turns 2.  Wow.  It has been a year.  She has come so far since her last birthday!  On her first birthday, Juliana couldn't sit up on her own, she couldn't roll over on her own, she wasn't pulling up, she didn't have any words, and she had just qualified for Early Intervention.

Now, on her second birthday, she climbs, she walks, she runs, she has about 15 words or pieces of words, and has been discharged from the physical therapy portion of Early Intervention.  I'd say that is cause for celebration!

Juliana you are one stubborn little girl.  I think your stubborness is one of the reasons that you have been able to accomplish things that you shouldn't be able to given your caloric intake.  You give me and your daddy (and sometimes your therapists) a run for our money every day!  You have your daddy and your grandpa wrapped around your finger, and I'll add Ms Theresa in there too.

You can be a bully one minute and a charming little princess the next.  You love your brother and love to terrorize him at the same time.  You love to dance, and whenever you hear TobyMac's song, "Tonight" come on, you immediately begin to dance, even in the car.

You love animals, especially Finchy and Auntie Jaime's dog Igor.  Your favorite parent is your daddy, but every once in a while you will choose me.  You love to look at books, especially touch and feel books.

Juliana, we love you so much!  You have come so far in a year, and we are so proud of you and all you have  accomplished!  Happy birthday, baby girl!
Dancing to "Tonight"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Miss Suzy...

Meet Miss Suzy.  Suzy is Juliana's Occupational Therapist.  Our first OT was Ms. Connie, and we loved her to death, but she had to leave us unexpectedly and Miss Suzy took her place in October.  Suzy works with Juliana on her fine motor skills, sensory issues, and moving from task to task.  She definitely works hard (all our therapists do- have I mentioned that Juliana is stubborn?).

Juliana loves Suzy and is excited when she comes to the house.  As soon as Suzy enters, Juliana immediately begins to point at Suzy's giant bag of "toys" because she wants to play.  With Suzy's help, Juliana has started to use a pincer grasp really well with her right hand, she's still developing it with her left.  She can use a spoon fairly well and is starting to be able to use a fork.  She now holds her bottle or sippy cup (yes, she still drinks out of a bottle- don't judge me until you try to feed her yourself) by herself.  She tolerates bouncing on a pilates ball- she used to scream if she was seated on it for even a moment, she didn't like being bounced on it or rocked on it.  She is also just beginning to use her left hand- most of the time it just stays at her side.

Suzy was also the therapist who was with me the day I had to call 911, and I will be forever grateful that she was in the house with me.  She helped me to stay calm and keep my head even though I wanted to cry and scream and freak out because my daughter wasn't breathing.

So, thank you Suzy, for all that you have done for Juliana, especially for being there on that very scary day that is burned into my mind forever.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Miss Meghan...

Meet Miss Meghan.  She recently discharged Juliana from Physical Therapy, but before she did that, she worked wonders with our little girl.  When we met Miss Meghan, Juliana was almost one year old.  Juliana could not sit up on her own (you had to sit her up), she couldn't roll over on her own, she wasn't crawling, pulling up, or doing any of the "normal" things that a typical one year old child does.

The first few sessions with Meghan involved lots of crying by Juliana.  Meghan made Juliana work hard and she didn't like it at first.  Meghan would put weights (we called them "pretty bracelets") around Juliana's legs and make her stand up, go up and down the stairs, or crawl on the floor, and Juliana didn't like it one bit at first.  She would scream and scream the entire time.  Meghan usually saved that part for the end, but it paid off.  Juliana is now walking and running.

Learning to stand up last August while popping bubbles
Juliana and Noah loved Meghan.  Both would wait at the front door for her.  Meghan always let Noah participate in Juliana's session, and Noah appreciated that a lot.  At Christmas time Meghan bought both kids Christmas presents.  Now that's generosity!

When Meghan was doing Juliana's re-eval, I knew she was going to say that Juliana did not qualify for Early Intervention.  It made me happy and sad at the same time.  Happy, because that meant that Juliana had caught up- she only has a 20% delay now.  Sad, because in that year we spent with Meghan, she became like a family member and now we don't get to see her anymore.

Thank you for everything, Meghan.  We love and miss you.
Meghan's last session with Juliana