Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

sibling squables

My friend Renee posted about already dealing with the sibling squables now that her kids are out of school for the summer. (Ha! Angela isn't out of school until June 11th!) Her post reminded me of how I handled that problem when my boys were little.

When the boys were kids, I established "The Taddler Rule". I was tired of the constant taddling (Ugh! Bryon was the WORST!) and didn't want to hear about anything unless the person was bleeding, unconcious, or (in the case of my house full of boys) doubled over and unable to talk due to a well-aimed throw or something similar! Keep in mind there was NO wrestling allowed in our house, and no hitting of any kind, so those types of things were never really a problem, but the constant bickering was driving me crazy!

And so "The Taddler Rule" came to be. You see, the taddler got into the same trouble as the taddlee!  So, the boys REALLY had to think if they wanted to taddle about something. If it was something serious, they knew there was nothing to worry about, but if it was something silly like, "He's bugging me!" they knew they were going to get into trouble right along with the person doing the bugging. 

As they boys were getting used to the new rule and how it worked, there were a few times when one would come to taddle, and I'd ask them, "Before you taddle, I want you to think about weather it's worth it or not? Are you REALLY hurt? (or is someone else if they were sent to taddle by one of the other brothers) If they were SURE it was worth telling me about, (No mom, really, it's worth it! Noah was in my room AGAIN!") then I'd say, "What do you think Noah's consequence should be?" So, I would dish out that consequence to BOTH boys! Needless to say, there were many tears. But, it only took about a week for everyone to figure out I was serious!

This worked GREAT, and totally ended the tattling in our house! Funny, if they knew I wasn't going to do anything about it, they were able to solve their little disputes themselves. I also knew that when someone came running to tell me something, I knew there was REALLY something wrong.



If I rode naked, would you notice me?

Age, speed, and stupidity

On Saturday of Memorial day weekend we had the pleasure of enjoying the entire day on our bikes. (motorcycles that is) and were traveling north on Wisconsin 35 along the river. We had pulled off the road for a bit, and as we were getting back on we had to stop to let a fire truck with lights and sirens fly past us. We weren't behind it very long, because it was headed to this accident:

Man dies in motorcycle crash

PRESCOTT - A 19-year-old Prescott man was killed in a single motorcycle crash Saturday evening.

Anthony P. Freiheit died after his motorcycle struck a guardrail at 6:11 p.m. in the Pierce County town of Diamond Bluff, according to the State Patrol.

The crash occurred after a Pierce County Sheriff's Department deputy attempted to stop Freiheit, who was traveling south on Highway 35, for speeding. The motorcyclist increased his speed and lost control of the vehicle, which crossed the centerline and struck a guardrail.

Freiheit, who was wearing a helmet, died at the scene, south of 1005th St.

The crash remains under investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol.

I wish there were some type of rule for sport bikers. Well, motorcycles in general! First of all, there is no reason a bike with that much speed needs to be on the road. They're designed for RACING, not general riding. Now, I used to ride on the back of a sport bike, and I loved the feel of it. I was also behind a very responsible driver. I had no reason to feel fear. But there are too many KIDS, who don't even have enough driving experience in a CAR, much less a motorcycle, to have that much power underneath them!

I personally think the motorcycle safety class should be required for all motorcycle drivers. You learn things you will NOT learn by teaching yourself. Right now, in MN, there are two ways to get your license: Take the course, and the test is given at the end of the course, or just go take the test on your own. The failure rate of those taking the test without the class is very high! Why? Because there are skills they haven't learned yet, that are BASIC to motorcycle riding! 

How often have you seen this: You're sitting at a light, and along side you pulls a sport bike (aka crotch rocket) with a young man driving. He might be wearing a helmet. Good for him! But, he's also either shirtless or wearing a tank top and shorts, and tennis shoes. Behind him, clinging to him for dear life, is a hot young chick wearing a bikini top, daisy duke shorts, and flip flops. BUT...she has a helmet on. (maybe) What they don't realize is that helmet is going to do NOTHING for them, because WHEN they go down (and every motorcyclist knows it's not a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when") they are not going to have ANY skin left, because it's all going to be left on the pavement. Their legs will be badly burned by the engine parts, usually damaging deep tissue. (I know, I had a motorcycle burn as a 15 year old kid!) So the light turns green, and this young couple FLIES down the road ahead of you, often making abrupt lane changes, never looking over his shoulder because...well...what's what mirrors are for, right?

I see this scene time and again on the road, and it makes me shudder every time. 

So, the accident we came upon on Saturday was all about speed, and probably alcohol. I mean, that kid had no reason to try outrunning the police unless he had a chemical of some sort in his system, or perhaps had a suspended license already. Put youth and stupidity on the seat of a hunk of metal capable of traveling at high speed and it's a death waiting to happen. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Orange and purple

Yesterday Angela got her braces on! Yep, and since she was wearing orange sweat pants, and wearing her purple glasses, she picked orange and purple rubber bands. LOL Tomorrow I'll try to get a picture. 

I gave her Tylenol before the appointment, and she did AWESOME while they were being put on. And she did great all day. She did wake up sore last night, and was a little bit swollen this morning. I gave her Tylenol again, and she was fine all day until dinner time. doesn't work so well. Poor kid!

Tonight she was great about letting me floss, and brush, and all the other junk that goes along with caring for braces. I'm thinking it's going to be a long 3-ish years though!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Looking for something?

If you came here looking for something (say the swimming calendar?) I've had to move things around a bit. You'll find the links on the right sidebar of this blog.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New blog/New look

I am starting a new blog! Oh, don't worry, this one is here to stay! The one I'm starting is for a new journey that I'm embarking on. However, the new blog will be set to private, mostly because it's...well...a more adult topic. If you'd like to be invited to that blog, drop me an email and I'll add you. 

Also, THIS blog will be undergoing it's own facelift over the next couple of days, so hang on for the ride!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How does he do that?

Ignore the first couple of boys. They're good, but they can't even compete with the next kid!


Watch the WHOLE video! This kid has some great moves!

The video says it all

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Last week, I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something most women my age have long since given up. 

Yep, I joined  a mom's soccer league through our local YMCA. 

I know, I'm nuts, and I discovered this was true last week on Thursday. 

You see, we started playing on Wednesday.  We had teams of 5 people, so we were able to play 4 on 4, and let one person sit out a few minutes. You know, so they could breathe and stuff. We could also rotate into goalie, so there were TWO opportunities to sit out.

I sat out a lot, but I also played a lot. I know, because all my clothes (socks, underwear, bra, shirt and work-out pants) were all soaking wet. This is proof that I actually DID play.

On Thursday I had proof that I was nuts because when my alarm went off Thursday morning, I couldn't move. It was like my arm wasn't attached to my body, except that it was screaming in pain and stiffness. I was so sore, that I skipped my Thursday step class, something that I haven't missed since my case of food poising a few weeks ago. Actually, I've been working out 6 days a week for a couple of months now, and I'm feeling AWESOME.

Except for the day after soccer.

But we had A LOT of fun! I've never heard so many "Oh, I'm sorry!" or high pitched squealing on a soccer field, until last week when this group of moms took to the grass. I'm sure for any outsider watching it would have been hilarious.

So today is Wednesday again. And the grass was wet. As soon as we stepped on the field I remembered I had forgotten to go buy myself some soccer cleats. 

And shin guards.

I made a couple really nice goals, one of them while I was about to have a heart attack from having run the length of the field. (Did I mention we shortened our field a little bit? LOL) Another that I made included a very long stretch in order to get my toe to the ball. Yup, that was a groin injury waiting to happen! There goes "date night" tonight!

Even with sore muscles, bruised shins, and a sore groin that is going to make tonight's motorcycle ride nearly impossible, it is TONS OF FUN!!!! We could sure use more players though! So, if you're a member of the Southwest Y in Eagan, and you have an hour Weds mornings, come join us! It's just a bunch of moms, several who've never played before, and we're just there to get a good workout. How good you ask? Today the instructor's calorie counter said 680 after one hour of playing! That's an awesome workout!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The end of a good weekend

It's been a really weird weekend for me. Dean went up north for fishing opener, and I was feeling a little abandoned. Yes, getting a weekend to yourself is what a lot of mother's want. But really, I get several hours to myself every day, and I had in my head that Dean and I could do something together today. So when he decided to go up north I was feeling sorry for myself that I was going to spend Mother's Day alone. None of my kids would be here, and I doubted any one of them would remember to call me. 

Angela was supposed to go to her dad's, but she had the area track meet yesterday so I took her to that first. Her dad and friend met us there. I'm glad he was able to see her compete in her last race, which was a relay. Really, the relays with the younger kids are a hoot to watch! 

When I left the meet, alone in my car, I really didn't want to go home. I didn't want to be home alone this weekend. Maybe because I was home alone last weekend too? Who knows. As this morning rolled around I realized I was feeling VERY hormonal, and that my feeling lonely probably had more to do with that than anything else. So I figured it was time to put on my big girl panties and get something done! I went to work getting the last of the junk cleaned out of Angela's old room, and steam cleaned the carpet as well. Now Dean and I can get the spare bed moved upstairs to that room so we'll have a spare bedroom. Next project? THE OFFICE! If anyone is in need of one or two very nice cherrywood desks, let me know! We'll be listing them on craigslist soon!

The phone rang around noon, and Rob was the first to call me. The first words out of his mouth were "Happy Mother's Day!" which made me cry. I'd been on the verge of tears all weekend so this was really no surprise. He updated me on what's going on in his life (please add him to your prayer list!) and the kids. Rob has 3 kids who I've never met. (see my previous post, when they came up 3 years ago they came without kids.) It's hard for me to consider the my grandkids because not only have I never met them, but I really don't know where my place would be with them. They do see their biological grandmothers pretty regularly. I'm just some lady their daddy talks to on the phone!

Dean was the next to call. And I tried really hard not to cry AGAIN! It was an effort for him to call, since they don't have cell phone service where they are. I'm glad he made the effort, because I needed that today.

The next phone call was from Noah and his girlfriend Kayla. They said they were going to stop by, until I warned them I'd put them to work moving some stuff for me.  Since they were a little under the weather from last night's escapades, they decided not to stop. LOL That was fine with me since I was really headed for a nap! 

A little while later Angela's dad brought her home. Bryon was along. I haven't gotten to see him for several weeks, so it was a pleasure. I wish we had a chance to just sit down and visit. One of these days we will!

When Angela got out of the truck she came running at me with one of her bear hugs that can take an adult down. (and they have!) She and I went in to watch our favorite Sunday evening shows together. When it was time for bed we sang her favorite song, "Tomorrow", which she requests every night. As I gave her a kiss goodnight ("On my cheek, not my forehead mom.") she wrapped her arms around my neck. "I yuv you mom. I miss you I gone." 

Tyler was the last to call me late this evening. It was good to hear his voice. I'll be picking him up in the morning, helping him get to his next step on the road to recovery.

So, while I started the weekend feeling down and lonely, it ended with me having heard from everyone I love the most. Really, that was the best Mother's Day gift of all. I didn't need people around me, I just needed to know that the people I love are alive and well. 

Elbows On My Bed

Elbows On My Bed

Author Unknown

I was but a youth and thoughtless, 
As all youth are apt to be, 
Though I had a Christian mother 
Who had taught me carefully 

But there came a time when pleasures 
Of the world came to allure, 
And I no more sought the guidance 
Of her love so good and pure. 

But mother would not yield her boy 
To Satan's sinful sway, 
And though I spurned her counsel 
She knew a better way. 

No more she tried to caution 
Of ways she knew were vain, 
And though I guessed her heartache 
I could not know its pain. 

She made my room her altar, 
A place of secret prayer, 
And there she took her burden 
And left it in His care. 

And morning, noon, and evening 
By that humble bedside low, 
She sought the aid of Him, who 
Best can understand a mother's woe. 

And I went my way unheeding, 
Careless of the life I led, 
Until one day I noticed 
Prints of elbows on my bed. 

Then I knew that she had been there, 
Praying for her wayward boy, 
Who for the love of worldly pleasure 
Would her peace of mind destroy. 

While I wrestled with my conscience, 
Mother wrestled still in prayer, 
Till that little room seemed hallowed 
Because so oft she met Him there. 

With her God she held her fortress, 
And though not a word she said, 
My stubborn heart was broken 
By those imprints on my bed. 

Long the conflict raged within me, 
Sin against my mother's prayer. 
Sin must yield, for mother never, 
While she daily met Him there. 

Mother-love and God-love 
Are a combination rare, 
And ones that can't be beaten 
When sealed in earnest prayer. 

And so at last the fight was won, 
And I to Christ was led, 
And Mother's prayers were answered 
By her elbows on my bed.

who are THEY?

A reader emailed me, asking about my bio on the left sidebar of my blog. "There you mention 5 kids, Rob, Noah, Tyler, Bryon and Angela. And yet, you never mention Rob or Bryon on your blog, why is that?"

Let me tell you about Rob and Bryon...

In 1990, when Noah was 3, and Tyler was not quite 2, their dad and I divorced. Wow, it's hard to believe it's been almost 20 years ago! Anyway, in 1993 I remarried, to the man who would later be Angela's dad. He came complete with 2 boys, Rob and Bryon. He had custody of his boys, so on the day of our wedding we had 4 boys ages, 6, 5, 4, 3, with EXACTLY 3 years from the oldest to youngest. 

I'm not really at liberty to go into long details her without permission from the boys, but I raised them as my own for the year before we got married, until we divorced in 2001. When Rob was 15 (?) he went to live with his mom in IL. I think it's around that time that our marriage started to fall apart. When I moved out of the family home, taking Noah, Tyler and Angela with me, Bryon went from being the 2nd youngest of 5 kids, to an only child living with his dad. There have been very clear affects of this on him, at now 20 years old. Bryon was abandoned more than once in his life, and I was one of them, but I have to say it wasn't by choice. 

When Angela's dad and I first split up, I asked that Bryon be able to spend the weekends with us. After all, he and Tyler had been raised like twins (being just 4 months apart and sharing a room for all those years.) to suddenly "unbrother" them was going to be damaging to everyone involved. Not everyone liked that idea of Bryon coming for the weekends, and in fact, he wasn't allowed ANY contact with us for quite some time. I made sure he was invited to all our family reunions, and other events.  Really, we had none until he moved out on his own at 17. It wasn't until that time that I learned what he'd been told about why we left, and why he wasn't allowed to see his brothers. I was furious, and heartbroken. I cried many tears for the damage done to his heart by all us adults in his life, myself included. Bryon is 20 now, and trying to find his way in the world. I pray for him often. He comes around once in awhile. Fortunately Angela gets to see him quite often when she goes to her dads!

Rob and I had lost contact as well. This broke my heart, as Rob holds a very special place there. He was my oldest. When I was pregnant with Angela, and spent from week 16-35 on bedrest, Rob was the one to get his brothers ready for school in the morning. Getting breakfast ready for them, and bringing me any forms, etc. that I needed to sign for school. A few years ago, Rob's maternal grandmother passed away and he came up for the funeral. But he and his fiance at the time didn't have anywhere to stay, so they stayed here. What a blessing that was! God knew it had been driving me crazy that I never had the chance to tell Rob how much I loved him, or what had happened along the way. When they stayed I was able to do just that, and we were able to clear the air about many things from the past. I hear from Rob quite often, and he knows if he needs help with something he can call me. Rob is really struggling with life and relationships at the moment. Sadly, I see history repeating itself. I wish he lived closer. Being a 18 hour drive away, Angela gets to see him once a year at best, but she does get to talk to him on the phone.  She adores her Robbie, and misses him a lot! He's the best big brother ever. 

Here's a picture of Rob and Angela 2 years ago. I don't have anything "recent" of Angela with Bryon. 

Mother's Tears

Originally posted Mother's Day 2008, it still seems very fitting.

Mother's Tears

It's not until we become mothers ourselves that we understand the tears a mother cries for her children.

Noah, my firstborn. As he was placed in my arms and I felt, for the first time, the joy only a mother can feel. He is the only one who got those very first mother's tears. They carried with them a bond only he and I can share. I cried tears of fear when, as a toddler, his finger was amputated in an accident, and tears of anguish as I handed him over to the surgeon to have it re-attached. When he was two I cried tears of delight when I found him dragging wet worms around on the driveway, and when I asked what he was doing he told me, "I'm painting!". When he was 12 I cried tears of "Why him?" when we were told he'd need to give himself shots every day, and tears of frustration when at 14 he suddenly refused to do them anymore. I cried tears of sorrow for the teenager who ran away from home several times, and tears of gratitude when he returned safely. There were the tears of pride when I saw my handsome boy dressed for prom, and more at graduation. He'll be 22 soon. My tears for Noah will continue as I watch him struggle his way through adulthood, as I'm sure my mother still cries for me.

Tyler, the middle child. I spent 3 months crying when Tyler was born. He came into this world confused and angry, as if he was upset about having been ripped out of the nice warm cocoon he'd had all to himself. My tears for Tyler were usually in frustration, not knowing how to help him, how to make him feel comfortable in this world that required touch. Tears of sorrow for the boy who struggled to be understood and would repeat himself over and over again until we finally were able to put together what he was trying to say. There were sad, helpless tears as I held him down for repeated blood draws to figure out why his blood cells were different from everyone else's, and tears of apology when I was able to comfort him afterwards. There were lots of tears of joy for Tyler too! Like when he was finally able to say his own name, and when he walked on his feet instead of his knees. Tears of pride at his ability to understand words far bigger than him, like "bioluminescence". There were the tears of fear when mental illness reared it's ugly head and we learned more than we ever cared to about the world of psychiatric care. Really though, those tears of fear and frustration that flowed from me for Tyler were prayerful tears, asking God to show me how to help my son. Now at 20 I see a wonderful young man with a heart of gold. Caring and thoughtful, he holds a place in my heart that no other can ever have. I know I have years of tears for Tyler ahead of me, but for now, when I cry for Tyler, I cry tears of pride as I watch this amazing young man.

When Angela was a baby, I cried many tears for her. Tears of "Why me? Why HER?". Tears of sorrow as we were given bad news over and over again. Tears of fear as I handed over over to the surgeon time and time again. At 8 years old, when I cried at her first her track meet, she asked me, "Why crying mom?" How do you explain to a child you're crying because as she runs across the finish line, you remembered a doctors voice telling you she'd never live past a year old. "Why are you crying mom?" after her recent theater performance. Those tears of pride for my baby, for all the hard work she put in, this child who would likely never talk. "Why are you crying mom?" as she leaps fearlessly into the deep end of the pool and comes to the surface with a huge grin on her face. "Did you see me mom? Did you see?". Tears of thanks to God for allowing me 13 years to see this beautiful, wonderful child of mine.

A mother's tears. Joy, sorrow, fear, gratitude, love, happiness. All the things mothers cry about. I'm so thankful to Him for allowing to shed mother's tears.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

SOS Players

You may remember my post awhile ago about SOS Players, the theatrical outreach group that Angela is involved with. So far, Angela is the only actor in the troupe who has a disability, but that doesn't stop her from participating! Tonight was their showcase performance. There were kids doing monologues, and others doing skits. Like last year, Angela did a dialog with Andy, the artistic director. I'm so proud of  her!

All of the kid's monologues address social issues. There are some talking about cancer, a pesky sibling, a favorite stuffed animal, or someone's hopes and dreams. Angela's dialog is called "Puzzle Pieces", and was about a social issue that she, unfortunately, has to face on occasion. If you listen CLOSELY, you can hear the audience reaction to that dreaded word.

After the show, Angela was invited by Sue Oberg, the executive director, to perform her dialog at the upcoming open house next week, along with several of the senior troupe. Angela is very excited to have the honor of being invited to this event! 

Sue and I have become very good friends over the past couple of years, even since she contacted me about having one of my dogs perform in a large stage production of "Seussical the Musical", which ended up being Angela's introduction into theater. A couple of months ago Sue wrote a lovely letter of recommendation for Angela, that I'd like to share here. (TISSUE ALERT!

To Whom It May Concern,

I first met Angela when I was directing a production at the Phipps Center for the Arts. Angela attended rehearsals with her mom, Leah. Leah was the dog owner/trainer for the dog in the production. Angela became an immediate favorite of everyone in the cast. She had a sincere delight for every rehearsal she watched. She knew all the music and knew every character by name. With 55 in this production that was no easy task. She was always quick with a smile and a greeting as people arrived and when they left for the night. I was impressed with the genuine kindness and friendship that she gave to all. I often wondered if she would become tired of watching the rehearsal night after night. But her behavior was exemplary. Her enthusiasm was contagious and she became an intricate part to the production staff. After 8 weeks of rehearsal and 4 weeks of performances the production came to an end.

At the time I was also the Executive Director for the SOS Players, Inc. We had recently added a new company of younger children. I asked Leah to bring Angela to an audition. I saw this as a perfect match and hoped it would give Angela a chance to not only support a cast, but be on stage herself. I knew she had a strong desire to be an actor. I thought SOS could help her achieve her dream. Angela was the perfect match. I was excited to see her blossom and grow under the direction of the SOS Artistic Staff and interns. Each child in the company works on their own monologue for a performance at the end of the year. Not being to sure what Angela’s abilities would be, I asked her mom to write a monologue for her daughter. She wrote a monologue on the story of Angela’s birth. It was a beautifully written, simple story that brought tears to everyone, every time Angela presented the piece. Our academic intern had a special connection with Angela. He knew her from the earlier production but also grew up with an older brother who had special needs. There was an instant trust between these two. So to make Angela’s first experience on stage positive, we put our intern on stage, and he told the story with Angela. I have been involved in theatre for over 30 years and never in my life have I seen such a moving performance. Yes, every adult in the theatre had tears in their eyes but every child (age 6-12) understood how special this moment was. It was a big moment for Angela as she jumped up and down with her success and hugged the intern at the end of the story.  Did Angela achieve her dream of being on stage? Absolutely. But the real gift that night was what Angela gave to us. This young girl in a short presentation taught us all about compassion, understanding and that if you are positive and work hard anyone can achieve their dreams. 

Angela continues on with SOS and we look for her every Thursday.

Q & A time

Well, seems a lot of my bloggie friends are doing Q & A's this week, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. So, what would you like to ask? (and no, I will not answer silly questions, but I'm not  naming names, right J.B.? LOL) 


For those praying for Tyler, thank you. Hopefully over the next 6 months I won't have much to worry about!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

While we're talking dogs

Since I'm already talking about dogs, and since it's spring and a lot of people are working in their flower beds, or re-landscaping their yards, I thought it would be a good time to bring something to your attention.


It is dangerous to dogs if they eat it. And, since it smells lovely, many dogs do, indeed, eat it. Even if you don't have a dog, your neighbor might. Yeah, it's your neighbor's responsibility to keep their dog on their property, but that's a whole other blog post now, isn't it? LOL

Here's a link with more detailed information about Cocoa Mulch.

Puppy Housetraining 101

My friend Courtney has a new puppy (Congratulations Court!) and asked if I'd post something about potty training a new puppy. There are lots of conflicting opinions about how to house train. Lots of "old school" methods are known to cause more problems than actually help. While you may have a dog who doesn't potty in the house, you might end up with other issues because of how you trained. 

We are firm believers in positive training for dogs. That means rewarding the dog when he does what he's supposed to. This makes him THINK for himself, "How did I get that reward?" and try the same thing again. Punishment training, or force training, takes MUCH longer, and only creates fear and anxiety for your dog. 

I've potty trained my share of dogs. This is the method that we've found works best, and FASTEST. The last puppy I placed, "Otis", went to his new family at 15 weeks and had never pottied in our house. 6 weeks later and he's never had a problem in his new home either. Some of this has to do with how he was raised from birth-8 weeks old. It's really important that a litter of puppies is raised in such a way that they are able to practice their natural instincts when it comes to keeping the next clean. This makes it MUCH easier to house train them when you get them home. And, if you brought a puppy home before 8 weeks of age, it's going to take you longer to potty train. Weeks 6, and 7 are CRUCIAL for puppy development in several different areas of their life, and one of them is potty training! 

So, the information below is copied from my website. Hopefully someone will find it useful. Remember, if you have a new dogs, even if it's an older rescue or 6 month old puppy, it's never too late to go back to square one!

Time to potty train your puppy! But where do you start? What's the right way to do it? The days of spanking your puppy with a newspaper for peeing in the house are far behind us. We know far more about dogs and dog psychology than we ever have. There have been many studies done on how dogs learn, what motivates them, and what doesn't. Potty training your puppy is one of your first steps in learning how this all works. Crate training is NOT cruel! If done correctly and with a positive approach, your puppy will very quickly learn that the crate is a safe place.

The first thing you need is a crate. But don't run out and buy the biggest one you can find. Just the opposite, you need a crate just big enough for your puppy to turn around in. There are wire crates and solid plastic ones. Many makers of wire dog crates have followed the trend and are now making crates with moveable walls so your puppy's crate can grow with him. If you get a crate that is too big, your puppy will very quickly figure out that he can pee or poop in a corner, and sleep on the opposite side without having to step or lay in the mess. If your crate is the right size, your puppy will keep the crate clean, because he doesn't want to sleep in the mess. Dogs are very "neat" animals and don't want to sleep in that any more than you do.

Now you need to decide where to put the crate. It should be in an area where the people are. Your puppy is part of the family and should not be isolated away in a laundry room or bathroom, etc. Put the crate in a high traffic area like the kitchen, or main entryway, or even in your living room. Some people like to have two crates, putting the second one in the master bedroom so the puppy can sleep there at night.

Your puppy's first few nights home are full of changes. When he was with his litter-mates, they slept in a pile, all nice and warm and cozy. Now he's alone, and its dark, and he's in a new place. He may cry the first few nights. If he does, you need to ignore this. He will eventually fall asleep. However, if he falls asleep for a couple of hours and then wakes up crying, you need to get him outside to pee. After a coupe of weeks your puppy should be able to sleep most of the night without going outside.

 Do not put blankets or towels in the crate to sleep on for several weeks. Even if the crate is the right size, he will pee on it and still not have to lay in the mess. Also, puppies , particularly doodles, like to chew things, and putting a towel or a blanket in with your puppy puts him at significant risk of eating a large piece of material which can be life threatening to a puppy.

You can make going into the crate a positive experience by giving your puppy a treat every time you put him in it. We use the word "Kennel". We tell puppy, "Kennel", then put a treat right in front of his nose, using it to lead him into the crate. Once he's in and turns around to face you, give him a treat and tell him what a good boy he is. Do this EVERY time you put him into the crate, and within a couple of weeks your puppy will go in on command. Remember to never chase your puppy to get him into the kennel. If you do, you've turned it into a negative experience (or a game of "catch me if you can") and you're defeating the purpose.

So you have a crate that is just the right size, what do you DO with it? Here's what a typical day of crate training with a new puppy would look like.

6:00 am. wake up, put a couple tiny treats in your pocket, and bring your leashed puppy directly outside to the area you want him to use as his toilet. Don't stop to play on the way, business first! Tell you puppy, "Go potty....go potty!" in your happiest voice. THE VERY SECOND HE PEES, give him a treat and love him up. Puppies have a memory about 1 second long, so it's crucial you reward him immediately!

Time to go inside and eat! (Your puppy is going to eat about 4 times a day during the first couple of weeks.) Feed your puppy, then spend a few minutes playing. DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF YOUR PUPPY DURING THIS TIME! Remember that what goes in must come out! Within about 15-20 minutes of eating your little buddy is going to need to go outside again. Bring him out, tell him "go potty", and remember to reward him when he does. Your puppy might want to play a few more minutes, and then it's time for a nap! He's tired already. This routine will repeat many, many dimes per day during his first few weeks home.

At any time that your puppy is out of the crate, your eyes need to be 100% on him. If his nose touches the ground, or he seems even the slightest bit distracted from your game, you need to get him outside NOW! Remember if your puppy pees or poops in the house, he didn't have an "accident". He did exactly what he was supposed to do, but YOU didn't watch quite close enough! Whatever you do, don't yell at your puppy for peeing in the house. Once he walks away from the spot, he has no memory of what he just did that got you so upset. Don't worry, within a couple of days, after paying close attention, you'll learn to recognize your puppy's signals that he needs to go out.

Remember that in these first few weeks, if your attention can't be 100% on the puppy, he needs to be in his crate. The first few days he might cry. If he does, IGNORE IT! If you go to him, he will very quickly learn "if I cry, the people come back to get me!"  

When you go to bed at night, your puppy should be in his crate, NOT IN BED WITH YOU! A puppy can easily pee on a bed without you knowing it. Their urine has very little odor to it, and they pee very tiny amounts. You DON'T want your puppy to pee on your bed. If it happens once, it will happen again. Not only that, but sleeping on the bed as a puppy tells him that he is your equal. In a pack, the leader gets the good spot, and the other dogs get the less-preferred spot. Later, when your  puppy is older, you can invite him up on your bed for a cuddle, but then you need to have him sleep in his own spot.

Your crate can be used at other times too. The kids come home from school and everyone is wound up and the puppy is getting a little too crazy....time to hang out in the crate for a little bit. The family is eating dinner and the kitchen is really busy, time to hang out in the crate for a little bit. In other words, if your eyes can't be on him, he can't be out. If you feel like the activity level getting out of hand, he needs to go in the crate. But if your puppy is spending more time in the crate than he is out, you're crating him too much. Yep, your puppy needs LOTS of supervision during these first few weeks. Many people compare this time to having a new baby in the house. Guess what? YOU DO have a new baby in the house! But don't worry, your diligence is going to pay off, leaving you with a reliably housebroken puppy!

When your puppy can go a week or so without peeing in the crate, you can give him a TINY bit more space. (this is where the crates with moveable walls comes in handy!) Keep expanding his space as he grows, and as he keeps his space clean. When your puppy has gone a full month without a single accident in the house, you can expand the space he has when you can't watch him. A puppy playpen works well for this. But, if your puppy pees in there, he's not ready to have that space and you need to go back to square one.

When you have to leave your puppy home alone, put him in the crate. As he gets older, and you trust him more, you can start to leave him in a larger area like the kitchen or a puppy play pen. But remember, if there are problems, don't hesitate to go back to the crate.

If at any time, even if your puppy is 4 months old, has an "accident" in the house you need to go back to day one with crate training. But remember, it wasn't your puppy's fault. Someone gave him more freedom than he was ready for. As your puppy gets older (somewhere past 8-10 months old or so) you can start to leave him out of the crate at night. Maybe he has a bed of his own, mabye he's just on the floor of your room. (our doodles like to sleep on the cool kitchen floor!) But pay close attention, and don't hesitate to go back to the crate if there's a problem, weather it be pottying or getting into trouble.

The most important thing to remember is HANG IN THERE! This is the hardest time of puppy hood. But it's a short few months and before you know it, you'll have a housebroken puppy who's moving onto adolescence

The setup

Well, Tyler's court order was set up in a way that if he really needed help, there'd be no choice in weather or not he got the help he needed. Tyler has made the decision that he does need more help, unfortunately there isn't a space available for him until Monday. I'd sure appreciate if you could add Tyler to your prayer list, for safety in general, and that Monday comes around very fast. Tonight it feels forever away. 

Advice for husbands

I totally lifted this from my friend Kristen's blog. Some good advice for all husbands.

Monday, May 04, 2009

You gotta be kidding me!

Go read this news story, about a 13 year old boy who has Asperger syndrome, took his dad's car, drive 30 miles to the airport. Bought himself and airline ticket so he could go visit his mother. How in the WORLD was he able to use his dad's credit card without ID? This is ridiculous that he got that far! Can you imagine the panic his dad was feeling, knowing his 13 year old son was driving the CAR? What were the odds he'd make it somewhere without crashing? WOW!!! Still, shame on the airline with their archaic regulations.


This post will be told in the voice of Rubee. (Rubee talks kind of like Eeyore, by the way, and moves a little like him as well.)

Ohhh, I heard mom pull in. All those other obnoxious dogs are in their kennels, but not me. I'm not obnoxious. I decided to go  say hi to her at the door.

Hi Mom! 

"Hi Rubee girlie. Whatchya do'in? Wanna come out front with me? "

Oh, I get to go out front? On the driveway? Oh I love you Mom! 

Aaaahhhh the sunshine. I miss the driveway. When it was just me here, the driveway was my favorite spot to lay in the sun. I could sleep there all day and nobody would bother me. When I had that first litter of puppies I would bring them out here to play, then show them how nice it is to just lay in the sun. One time Mom came outside and said it looked like a yard-full of dead puppies, because they were all sleeping so nice on the driveway.

Dudley got to stay with me, and soon Zurri came along too, then Roman. But last year, when the fence went up, was the end of my napping in the sun on the driveway. 

Oh well. Today is another day. 

Mom came and gave me a scratch behind the ears, "You wanna lay out here Rubee? Ok, you can lay out here for little while. At least I know you won't wander off like the other dogs. Have a nice nap old girl." 

I slowly walked around, sniffing for just the right place to lay down. Aaah...that's it. On my side is best......sigh......  

There was the tiniest of breezes blowing, and on it the faintest of scentsl? I got up to sniff in the grass. Myy back was a little itchy so I rolled around a bit to scratch it. sniff sniff....

I looked around. Mom wasn't outside anymore. sniff sniff Well, I decided I was gonna go check out that smell. I sniffed around the driveway, which lead me down to the mailbox. I looked back up the hill. Nope, no Mom. I sniffed a little by the neighbor's mailbox, then I lifting my nose to the air, I cought the scent floating by. mmmmmmmmmmmmm I crossed the street, and headed up into the woods, following the heavenly scent of rotting rabbit.

Ahah! Found it! Won't Mom love to see what I found? I give it a couple of licks, but something has already picked the ribs clean. All that was left was the head, spine and tail. That's ok, even Rabbit fur smells lovely. 

I walked home slowly, carrying the rabbit, loving how it felt as it swayed back and forth in rythm to my slow walk. I don't know when I started walking slow, but I really don't feel the need to rush at all anymore.

I finally make it back up the driveway, and there was Mom. Her hands were on her hips. Shoot, that usually means she's not happy. "Rubee, where did you go, and what do you have? Oh Rubee....DROP IT! Ish!!! ISH ISH ISH! Yuck Rubee! Why do you have to go get stuff like that? And, where did you go to get it? 

I spit the rabbit onto the ground, just like mom told me. I wagged my tail a little bit, and looked from the rabbit, to Mom, and back again. Hoping she wouldn't be mad and let me keep it. I would love to lay in the sun and chew on that for awhile. I might even share it with Roman, or Zurri if she's nice. I'll even let Dudley have a piece.

Mom went and got a shovel, then another, and scooped the rabbit up, dumping it into the garbage can, all the while saying things like, "Ish!" and "Gross", and "Rubee yuuuuuck!"

Mom looked at me, "Sorry Rubee. I know you wanted to lay on the driveway, but I thought you would stay in the yard. I guess not. To the backyard you go. Sorry old girl."

That's ok, there's good spots to lay in the sun in the back yard too.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Making a "cake"

Thanks to my friend Jane, I decided that Angela and I would make a popcorn cake tonight. (I'm not sure if this technically counts as "baking", but I did have to melt stuff!)

First, dump into a very large bowl

10 cups popped popcorn
1 cup M&M's
1 cup candy corn
1/2 cup peanuts
(Do NOT mix the ingredients. Just pour the candies on top of the popcorn, otherwise they'll all settle to the bottom and you'll have a hard time mixing it up later.)

Doesn't this look pretty?

Now, have a buttered pan ready. I used two bread pans and that worked quite well. I think Jane uses a bundt pan.

Next, melt together the following ingredients. As soon as it's melted and mixed it, move fast, and pour over popcorn stuff, and stir together. 

20 Marshmallows
20 Caramels
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup butter

Very quickly push into your pan(s). Looks like a tasty rainbow, doesn't it?

As soon as it's cooled off you can turn it out of the pan. 

Then it's time to enjoy! It passed Angela's taste test. This weekend will be the last time for quite awhile that she can have popcorn. Monday she gets her braces on so this is kind of "last chance" celebration.

The teachings of Jon

"The Teachings of Jon" has been out for awhile, but I don't think I've ever shared it here. Thanks to Christine for reminding me of it! Anyway, the video below is just the trailer. You can find the full version on the PBS listings.

Friday, May 01, 2009

When he's good, he's very very good

A week ago he was suicidal, entered the hospital and started on meds.  That was Tuesday last week. By Saturday when we went to visit him he was already thinking much more clear. The real Tyler was showing. His incredibly quick sense of humor, his intelligence, but mostly his smile and ability to think clearly.

I still pushed for inpatient commitment, since I know his history. A few days off meds and he'd be back to where he was to enter the hospital. We went court, got a 6 month stay of commitment, and big long list of stipulations he has to abide by in order to stay out of an inpatient facility. 

Today he called me to let me know how his intake with the outpatient program went, (and that he starts on Monday) then said, "And you know what? I came out and realized the adult learning program is right across the street! So, I went in and filled out the paperwork to enter classes starting next week, made requests for my old transcripts and IEP's, so I can get my GED once and for all. (actually, I think because he's not yet 21, and only has a few credits left he'll still be able to get a diploma.) AND I called my social worker, and told her I wanted to find housing, or a group home, or something. Since I'm going to treatment AND going to school there's no way I can work too, to pay rent. She said she'd help me find a place."

Granted, he may not be able to follow through with all of his plans, and if he doesn't, I'm ok with that. It's his choice, afterall. What thrills me to no end is that he's TRYING to do these things, and doing them ON HIS OWN!! That's more progress in 3 days then he's made in the past THREE YEARS put together!!!

Can you hear me singing the praises of his meds. LOL