Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Christmas Ever!

The kids have officially declared this "the best Christmas ever!"  That's mainly due to the fact that each of our children received a pretty intense gift from us this year...they all got tablets!  Holden (5) and Haylee (8) each got the Nabi 2.  Hayden got a Maylong T-100CP.  Now to do this, I had to give up my dream of upgrading to the iPad Mini.  Sigh.  The things we do for our children.  Enough said.

I waited in line on Thanksgiving night at Walmart to get the first Nabi 2 for $129.  Little did I realize that we'd end up wanting another one so they wouldn't have to share.  Getting the second one turned into a real fiasco, including a bum ebay purchase that resulted in a Buyer Protection Case being filed to get my money back, not to mention about 8 failed attempts at ordering it from because of a fraudulent purchase that was made on my account a couple of months ago.  This entailed a couple of lengthy calls to Walmart's customer service (not recommended), which still didn't solve my problem.  I ended up having to open a whole new account with a different email address and a different credit card before I could get the order to go through.  I sure hope the kids appreciate the lengths I went to in order to complete this purchase!  I ended up paying $199 for the second one.  Not so good, but mission accomplished, and I'm glad that we were able to give them each their own.

Now for Hayden's tablet, I stumbled upon a one-day cyber sale at Best Buy's website, and I got his Maylong tablet with keyboard, case, and earbuds for half price...a mere $79!  Wish I could have been so lucky with the others, but I don't regret purchasing the Nabi 2's for them...they rock!  I did lots of research on tablets made for kids, and it is by far a superior product with top-notch customer service.

All 3 of the tablets have the same operating system...the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.  I love the parental controls on the Nabi 2's, and I love that we can get apps from the Amazon Android App Store instead of being limited to some obscure third party app site with limited app availability.  So far, I've been able to get the kids 99% of their favorite apps from iTunes in an Android version.  They are thrilled!

I also love the built-in chore lists that enable the kids to earn Nabi coins for completing their chores.  The Nabi coins add up and earn them the ability to purchase a game app from the Nabi Store.  The Nabi 2's came with a good variety of well-known game apps, as well as the Nabi University section with lots of age-appropriate educational apps.  They also got 30 free e-books from MeeGenius included.  What's more, I signed up for a school account as a homeschool teacher with MeeGenius and got our account upgraded to 75 free e-books.

I told the kids to remember this Christmas forever, because they aren't likely to have such a generous haul again in the future.  The only reason we were able to swing these major purchases (they also got a Wii U) is because we re-financed our house this summer and got a couple of large, unexpected refunds from excess real estate taxes and escrow paid on the previous mortgage.  Now we're back to squeaking by, but we're so happy to have been able to give the kids the tablets, especially. 

The tablets are a great tool for our homeschool, too.  We set up Google Calendars on each of the tablets, and now I can enter their assignments for each day onto Google Calendar from my computer and have each assignment pop up as a reminder on their tablets throughout the day at the designated times.  This helps them stay on task as the hours roll by, and it also enables Steve to view their work progress at any point in the day while he is at work.  If he sees they are getting behind schedule, he can email them directly on their tablets and prod them a bit to get back on track.  I love the reinforcements so I don't have to yell! 

With the house less cluttered, I didn't feel as rushed to pack up the Christmas tree and decorations this year.  I actually waited until the evening of December 26th, which has to be a record!  LOL.  My friends enjoy teasing me about how I stand up as soon as the presents are opened and declare Christmas is over...pack it up!  :)  The funny thing is that this description is not far from the truth!  ha, ha.

I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas as much as we did.  I'll remember this Christmas the most because all of the kids were old enough not to squabble or whine or complain about something right in the middle of the festivities.  Everybody was happy and appreciative, and Holden was old enough to get *really* excited about each and every gift.  I loved seeing his face light up like that.  His joy was contagious.  :)

Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year to come!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Doggy Story, Part 2

There was much sadness after the loss of Suzie, and Holden was taking it especially hard.  He kept asking days later why Suzie didn't "just come back already."  His little 4-year old mind just couldn't wrap itself around the concept that she wasn't ever coming back.  My heart broke just a little more that this was breaking his, too.  He was sniffly and sad out of the blue and kept telling me how much he missed her.  He started wetting the bed a couple of times a week.  His pediatrician said this was a totally typical grief response in a child his age and that I should talk to him about our belief system and what happens when a loved one dies.  The trouble was that I couldn't talk about it without sobbing myself, so I kept trying to avoid the conversation because he is really sensitive to my feelings, and I didn't want to upset him more by showing him how upset I was myself.

Finally, after a few weeks, I was able to sit down and talk to him without sobbing hysterically.  I told him that hopefully, Suzie will be in heaven waiting for us as part of our own reward in heaven.  He seemed okay with that. 

Steve and I talked and decided maybe it would be good to get another dog, not only to help fill the void we all felt without Suzie, but also so Lilly, our yellow lab, would have a companion, too.  So the kids and I started looking around, both in local pet stores and shelters and online.  We were preparing to go on vacation at the end of October, and we thought it would be best to get the new dog after we came back.

Well, it just so happened that I stumbled upon an ebay local ad for a beautiful little dog that was located at the Eastern Shore SPCA shelter.  Once I saw her picture and read her little story, I couldn't get her face out of my mind.  I dreamed about her!  The kids really liked her, too.  I wrote back and forth to the shelter and got more information about her, and the more I learned, the more I was sure that she was *the* dog for our family. 

Her name is Teenie Tiny, and she was about 8 months old.  She had been at the shelter for 2 months already.  Her owner had turned her in along with her brother and another dog because the owner was working 12-hour shifts and had no time for her animals.  The shelter said that sadly, Teenie had spent most of her life in a crate.  So sad!  Teenie is a mix of beagle and labrador, our two favorite breeds, and her designer breed is known as Beagador, Labeagle, or Labbe.  I researched about the breed and found the personality and common traits to be a good fit for us and in line with what we're accustomed to having in a dog.  I also thought that with her being half labrador, she would be more likely to get along well with Lilly, being more hyper and playful than Suzie had been in her old age.

So the kids and I laid out a plan to convince Steve that we should get this dog right away before she was gone and before she had to spend another day in that shelter.  I made up a flyer with her photos on it blown up really big.  It had her name at the top and a message to please save her at the bottom.  We put it on the fridge and didn't say a word.  Within a couple of days, he totally caved and said we could get her! 



Won’t you bring me home?

Please save me!

I ordered a kennel for her that could fold up for travel, and we made arrangements with the shelter to come up that Tuesday to see her.  I had to bring Lilly and all of the kids to make sure everyone got along before they would allow us to adopt her. 

The big day came, and it was rainy outside.  We all eagerly piled into the van with our breakfast and headed up to the Eastern Shore to Onley.  This was about healthy drive of about 1.5 hours each way with a big toll at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel along the way.  We were nervous that Lilly would be aggressive with her, but they actually did okay!  When they first brought Teenie out, she was shivering and shaking and just a nervous wreck.  She starting tinkling on the floor involuntarily...something she does when there are strangers around and she feels nervous...and was just a ball of nerves!  But she got right up in my lap and was so friendly and sweet, despite her being scared.  She even peed on my lap!  LOL.  When we moved on to introduce Lilly, we knew everything hinged on that.  But it went pretty well. 

Finally, they decided we could adopt her and agreed to waive the 24-hour waiting period since we lived so far away.  They gave her a bath and microchipped her for life, and off we went!  Amazingly, about 30 minutes into the drive home, she calmed right down and stopped whining.  She laid down and rested on her new comfy bed.  About an hour into the drive, she got carsick...something we later learned would always happen to her...but other than that, it was an uneventful trip.  When we got home with her, she made herself right at home!  Lilly kept guarding her...trying to confine her in small spaces so she couldn't go explore.  But eventually, Teenie claimed a particular sofa and wouldn't let Lilly even come into the room without growling at her!  It was so funny that Teenie Tiny became the agressive alpha dog...who would have guessed that?!?

Now that they've been together for just over 2 months, they are truly the best of friends.  They play together every day.  They both sleep in our bedroom and share their toys.  Their favorite activity is to play tug-of-war with a fake animal pelt.  They could play and nap together all day long.  We only have to separate them for meal time (they get aggressive around food), but they've both fallen into a routine of going to their kennels in the morning when it's time for food and water to be distributed.  They are so cute!

Now it feels as though Teenie has always been a part of our lives.  She has such a sweet personality, and she's a great little lap dog that loves to cuddle.  She greets me with kisses every morning when my alarm clock goes off and she sees me start to stir.  We love her to pieces!

So while we still miss Suzie and shed a tear now and again when we think of her, having Teenie around has helped to ease the pain a bit.  Holden has stopped wetting the bed again.  All is well in the House of Burgesses.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Doggy Story, Part 1

In September, my beloved dog, Suzie, finally passed away.  This was so emotional for my family.  She was 18 years old!  She was a beautiful little 18-lb. Beagle/Black & Tan Coondog mix.  I remember the day Steve and I bought her from a pet store inside the mall in Newport News.  We were going to see my parents for lunch after church and stopped to walk through the mall on the way.  We were planning our wedding at the time and had no intentions of getting a pet.  But when we saw her shivering in the back of her cage, we just had to rescue her!  The other dogs from the litter were chewing and pawing on her and biting her ear, and she was just whining and shaking like a leaf!  We took her out and played with her, and we immediately fell in love.  When we showed up at my mom's with her in tow, she instantly fell in love with her, too.  I walked her around the block in my arms, and she slept there like a baby.  She was the cutest thing ever!  As she got older, we discovered she was lightning fast and loved to explore, nose to the ground.  She got out of our fence so many times and ended up at the pound.  She even ran away on the eve of our wedding!  We took a short honeymoon in town so we could look for her, and we found her at the pound just in time!

She was really spoiled and treated like our child.  She slept in the foot of our bed under the covers.  I sewed a Santa suit for her and had a professional pet portrait made for our Christmas cards.  She wore costumes for Halloween and helped us pass our candy to the neighborhood kids.  When we started looking to buy a house instead of our townhouse, I took her with me every evening after work as we drove past this house and daydreamed about all the space she'd have to run around if we bought it. 

When our actual children came along, one at a time over a period of 8 years, she was already 5 when that process began.  She protested from day one, soiling in the house wherever the baby was.  She bit 2 of my 3 children at some point along the way.  I considered getting rid of her but decided instead that she would have to live outside.  It was hard having her become an outside dog, but my babies had to come first.  She went with the flow, and the kids grew to love her.  She eventually figured out they weren't so bad, but she never became housetrained again, so she continued to spend most of her time outside.  We did, though, get another dog to keep her company.  In her very long lifetime, she outlived 2 labs who were her best friends and then lived with a 3rd one who was her arch-enemy!  When Lilly came along and they got along so horribly, Suzie again became an inside dog.  In her old age, she returned to the comforts of our home, complete with kennel, fashion doggy diapers and Depends pads, and Martha Stewart dresses.  I'm so thankful that we pampered her so much for her last stretch of life.  We were able to again spend lots of time with her and show her how much she mattered to us.

I loved her so much.  I loved her.  Real, honest-to-goodness love.  She was my companion and a part of my family for so many years.  She had always been a part of "us."  On her last night in this world, my oldest son and I cried and hugged and developed a plan to wrap her in a blanket and hold her in our arms, taking turns, through the night, so she would not be alone and would know that we loved her always.  She'd been losing a lot of weight, and we knew the end was near.  She cried that night until we held her.  Then she was comforted enough to go to sleep in our arms.  Her breathing was labored.  My son laid her down beside him, and that is where she left this world at the break of dawn.  We were so sad that she had finally gone, but as I saw her fighting that last night, I told her it was okay to let go and let the peace wash over her.  It was okay.  She had so much trouble just getting through the day to day those last few months.  She could no longer get up on her own.  Her eyes were frosted over with cataracts.  She could barely hear.  Even still, she wanted to fight like the spunky girl she had always been.  But I told her it was okay this time...just relax and let go.  And she did.  May God bless her and keep her always.  I pray she is in doggy heaven waiting for me to join her someday.  I hope she is part of my reward, and I hope I earn a place to be with her again.

Rest in peace, Suzie girl!