The Family

The Family

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fantasy in Lights

This weather pattern known as El Nino has put a real damper on things this holiday season. Even now, as I type, there's a steady and constant rain outside my window.

Because of all the rain, I thought we weren't going to make it to Callaway Gardens to see the yearly display of Christmas lights. We took Jack when he was about three, and I wanted Mattie to be able to experience the Christmas magic. Luckily, the light show runs through Jan. 2, so last night, during a break in the rain, we headed toward Pine Mountain, Ga. to catch the show.

Most of my pictures of the actual show are somewhat blurry because I had to snap them on the moving "Jolly Trolley" ride.

There's plenty to do if you arrive before your scheduled departure time on the trolley. We ate hot dogs and loaded nachos, danced around in the pretend snow (bubbles coming out of an overhead machine) and took silly pictures.

The line to get to the trolley ride is quite lengthy. There are two stops along the way before boarding the trolley. The first checkpoint is where the ticket barcodes are scanned. The second is a large tent where everyone meanders through.

As we approached the second checkpoint, Jack asked if we were going to have to take off our shoes. Now that's the sign of a well-traveled child! He breathed a sigh of relief when I noted that only airports require you to do that.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Getting In the Spirit

Down here in central Alabama, the temperature has been unseasonably warm all fall. It certainly doesn't feel like Christmas and winter are approaching.

In order to get us all in a more festive mood, we've been partaking in some local Christmas festivities.

1. The Nutcracker

This year Mattie is taking pre-ballet lessons. Her dance company puts on a yearly performance of The Nutcracker, and we made it a girl's afternoon last weekend. If she sticks with dance, it will still be a few more years before she makes it into a performance.

2. S'mores and Hot Chocolate

A local hotel, affiliated with the university here in town, has hosted several S'mores and hot chocolate evenings.

3. Gingerbread Village

The same hotel also has a gingerbread village, with replicas of campus and city buildings, as part of its display.

4. RamCorps

Our church hosted a performance by this student group from the University of Mobile. It's a brass and percussion ensemble that puts on upbeat and lively performances.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Puppy - Round 2

Back in September we made the BIG decision to get a second dog.

We have an Australian Shepherd that is about a year-and-a-half old, and I've always kept an eye on the breeder's website. One evening I was browsing through the pictures of her new pups when I told Matt I thought we needed another dog.

He thought I was kidding, or crazy, maybe both, for two reasons:
1. I'm not much of an animal person.
2. We have enough on our plate as it is.

Jack had been asking for another dog since we brought Sirius home as an eight-week old pup, and Mattie is a dog lover, so there wasn't much convincing to get them on my side.

We found a cute black-tri pup (Sirius is a red-tri), and thought he would be the perfect companion. We didn't have to do too much begging before Matt gave in.

Problem is, not all dogs fit every environment.

We picked up the new puppy on a Friday in October and right away there were warning signs. I didn't pick up on it because I don't know much about dogs.

When I reached out to take him from the breeder, he yelped. I don't mean a puppy wimper. I mean he went into hysterical shrieks. He actually wet the owner.

I assumed my loud voice had scared him and figured that because he was a different puppy, I shouldn't expect him to act the same way Sirius did. He yelped several more times throughout the weekend when friends and neighbors come over to visit, but me, still oblivious to the signs, thought nothing of it.

Fast forward three day's later at the vet's office when he did it again. The vet, with a very serious expression upon entering the room, let me know right away that a scared puppy is a real concern. Scared puppies often grow into scared adult dogs and that can lead to skiddish if not downright aggressive behavior.

The vet kept repeating the phrase: "puppies should be playful."

I left the vet's office knowing we had to return him. Problem was, I didn't want to admit that to anyone. I mean, what kind of a person gives back a dog?

I got in touch with the breeder a few hours later. She was wonderful about the entire situation. She had actually e-mailed me before we arrived home the day we picked him up because she was concerned about his behavior when I reached out to hold him. I didn't want to put her on the defensive, so I told her that our vet had expressed some concerns. Right away she offered to take him back and offered us another puppy.

My husband took some convincing. I sent him to the vet's office because he hadn't been with us on the initial visit. The vet informed him that if he had his choice of puppies, the dog we had would not be it. He kept repeating the phrase:"puppies should be playful."

I called a long-time friend who was once the PR director for the local humane society to get her take on it. She made me feel a whole lot better when she told me that the best decision to make would be what my gut was telling me. She had seen a lot of situations, and the last thing we would want would be for the dog to grow up and attack someone, possibly even our own kids, and have to get rid of him or put him down at that point.

As hard as it was to do, we gave him back.

I'm glad we did, for two reasons:
1. When we picked up our new puppy the day before Thanksgiving, who is playful and oh so cute and cuddly, the breeder informed me that the dog we returned is still very skiddish. She found an elderly couple who was willing to take him and work with him.
2. I have two children that come first, and any pet that could potentially be aggressive is not a good idea. We need a pet, like Sirius, that is part of this family. Our new pup, Rocco # 2 as he is affectionately called, is definitely a keeper.

Our new pup loves Sirius. He follows constantly at his heels. Sirius has growled a few times, but has warmed up quickly to his new brother. Interesting fact: Rocco really is his brother. He has the same parents. After the scare we had with the other pup, we decided to go with the same gene pool for round two.

When he isn't running around in the yard with Sirius, my kids are basically carrying him around everywhere they go!

I cannot say enough good things about the breeder. In no way do I think it was her fault or that she doesn't take care of her dogs. I think this was a fluke, and in no way reflects poorly on her. I know she isn't running a puppy mill (just incase that was going through your mind). The whole encounter with Rocco #1 actually makes me think more of her because at no time was she defensive or trying to make excuses. She realized there was a problem and worked with us to help us find the right fit for our family. We had already gotten a quality dog from her in Sirius, and had no doubts that we would get one this time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Program

On Monday Jack participated in his first Thanksgiving program. To be clear, it was his first ever anything program.

As a homeschooling parenting this is one of those things I was sad to think might never happen. Luckily, another mom took it upon herself to organize a homeschool Thanksgiving program.

There was also a time, a few years ago, when Jack never would have agreed to something like this. I've always been slow to push my children into any activity, so when I brought this up I thought he might immediately say no. I think I started the conversation with something like: "Now hear me out before you say anything..."

After telling him that the program would be full of his friends from art class and that everyone would sing the songs together, he shrugged and said "Ok!" To my delight, he actually enjoyed learning the three assigned songs:  "My Country Tis of Thee," "Over the River and Through the Woods" and "This Land is Your Land."

We practiced them for about two weeks. Only once, after about eight straight days of singing the songs, did he complain about it being boring, which by that time I felt the same way.

The children chose either a Pilgrim hat or Indian headpiece to wear for the program. We had to make them ourselves based on some links the organizing mom sent out. Because I desire to be crafty, but am not, I got our babysitter to make them one afternoon when she was at the house:-)

It was a wonderful program. Some of the children had reading and speaking parts. Each child also had to stand and say what he or she was thankful for. We ended the program with a Thanksgiving feast prepared by all the parents.

You'll notice Mattie in some of the pictures below. This was the practice session before the program. Stage fright hit big time once the dads and grandparents started filing in. She sat grumpily with Matt and me throughout the actual program. She was fine come feast time, which is typical. Everything for this child is food related!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

What We're Reading

Here is a list of recent and current books we've been reading in our house:

1. Chronicles of Narnia Series:

We are reading this series in the order shown here, not the order in which each book was published. This order provides more of a chronological account of the Pevensie children before getting into other characters not related to those high queens and kings of Narnia. These are wonderful books about adventure and bravery and no boy or girl should go through their childhood without experiencing these noble stories.

2. Goosebumps:

After finishing the Lemony Snicket's series on Audible last week, Jack begged to hear some Goosebumps stories. They are for sure a stark contrast to the C.S. Lewis classics mentioned above, but I've always been a sucker for a spooky story. Jack and I went to see the movie a few weeks ago - it was great I must add - and he wanted to read the stories. I thought listening to the stories, each read by a different narrator, would be the way to go. When I looked up the order of the books on Wikipedia I was stunned to see more than 60 titles. He keeps telling everyone that we are going to listen to every single one of them. Not sure if my wallet will agree.

3. "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri

This one is for me. It's been on my list for a while, and I finally checked it out at the library last week. It's a moving story about two brothers from India, one timid and content with living on the sidelines and the other more passionate, yet also reckless. The noble actions the older brother takes after the death of the other, rebellious brother, is a story not often heard.

4. "Teaching From Rest" by Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah Mackenzie is one of my new favorite people. Her podcasts about building a family culture around reading aloud are encouraging and inspiring. I flew through this book, and it, along with "Teaching the Whole-Hearted Child" by Sally Clarkson and "A Well-Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, will be a yearly read. This short book gets straight to the heart of the matter. And don't let the title fool you. She's not talking about being well-rested. I actually have to hurry up and finish this post so I can tune in to Sarah's book club on Periscope!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Night Sky

For his birthday Jack got a telescope.

Our first observation didn't go so well. We set up in the front of the house as the sun was going down. Even when it got dark, there was too much light to see well.

Matt also happened to point out a bat flying above the driveway, which sent Mattie shrieking. She was so freaked out by the time it got dark that I had to come inside and sit with her.

Our second observation we at least located some stars.

The third, we saw an awesome glimpse of the quarter moon.

I wish I could say we've used it more than the three times we have, but it seems like every time there is something to see, like the recent lunar eclipse super moon, the sky is cloudy.

A few days ago when I let a new puppy out at an incredibly early hour, I decided that was likely the best time to look through the telescope. I'm fairly certain I observed the star, Sirius, shining in the east. I say this because my husband had recently read an article about Sirius being observable in the early morning hours - more like the witching hours - in October. What was most amazing is that when I went back out 45 minutes later, what had previously been a large and bright spot in the sky had faded so much it was barely visible.

I was only half teasing when I told everyone I was going to wake them up one morning at 5 am for our next telescope observation.