Thursday, December 25, 2008

How we spent Christmas

Playing video games

Playing computer games

Playing with toys

Snuggling with sweet, old dog 

Hope you had a merry Christmas, too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Poor guy! He finally gets a day off, and he gets sent out to shovel snow and ice.  Don't let the bright sunshine fool you.  It is bitterly cold, below 0 wind chill!
Winter has definitely arrived!  It will be a white Christmas.  Just watch out, cause that's all ice under the inch of fresh snow.  I spent my 40th birthday on Monday, holed up from the weather.
Personally, I think Mickey has the right idea.  Curl up in a warm, cozy bed and hibernate for the winter!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Piano Recital

Ok, it's not great video, but here it is. My first attempt at posting video.  I have a lot to learn about my computer and manipulating video.  This is Daughter's piano recital from Friday night.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter walking

I am a huge fan of dog trainer and agility competitor, Susan Garrett.  I was reading her blog today about walking her dogs in the winter, and how good it is for dogs and people alike.  There is beautiful sunshine outside today, so I figured I should crawl out from under my blanket on the sofa and walk some dogs. After all, Susan Garrett lives in Canada, surely I can handle some Nebraska weather.  I bundled up in hat, coat, gloves, and scarf, and tucked Maverick into his high tech, high priced dog coat.  Papillons have no undercoat, so he has a wind proof dog jacket. Annie got by with her god-given Aussie coat. We were all pretty comfortable, other than my nearly frost bitten thighs. Next time, (next time?!!)  I'll remember to add long johns under my jeans. I decided to check the temperature when we got home. 21 degrees F, with a wind chill of 5 degrees.  The sun may be shining, but southern California this is not!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

a warm vacation

We spent Thanksgiving week having a wonderful vacation courtesy of Nana and Poppa. We spent the week in warm, sunny southern California at Disneyland and Sea World.  We hung out with my parents, Nana and Poppa, and my brother, his wife, and their two boys.  We had such a good time being with family we hadn't seen in a long time. It was such a great week. We came home exhausted!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Here are our two papillons, who are good examples of the opposite ends of the spectrum for the papillon breed.  Mickey, the smaller dog, is a well-bred and typy papillon. He is about 8.5 inches tall and 6 lbs. His coat is on the softer side and he has a lot of it! He also has miles of long ear fringe. Maverick is the taller dog. He is way over the acceptable size limit for a papillon at about 14 inches tall(maybe a little more). He comes from a rescue group and is of puppy mill breeding. He has a nice, flat wash and wear coat. His drop ears are acceptable for the breed.

Both boys are great little dogs. Mickey is my bed buddy, and Maverick is in training to be our daughter's agility dog. He has the best personality of just about any dog we've had.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catching Up

Wow!  Time is really flying by.  We have been so busy the past few weeks.  I am finally substitute teaching.  It took four months to complete one class and jump through all the hoops, paper work, and delays with the state of Nebraska for my certificate. I am into my second week of subbing in our district and am thrilled that I have been almost universally happy with what I have been seeing in the schools. These are good kids and good schools.

I have also finished my first real estate course and am still on schedule to have a real estate salesperson license sometime early next year. 

The kids are doing well. Our club hosted our swim meet this weekend and both kids did very well. Son is turning into a breaststroke specialist and Daughter continues to excel in the backstroke and individual medleys.  Daughter was honored at school this morning as her class student of the month for October. 

Only the doggies are suffering from my new found employment. They are having to adjust to  more time home alone and less time spent on walks and training. We are working on balancing all the demands on our time for both needs and desires. It's a work in progress!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin farm

We went to a nearby pumpkin farm yesterday for some Halloween fun. We rode the hay wagon, and picked out pumpkins. I had a good time taking pictures. We tried out the haunted house, but it was a little too scary in the pitch dark!  The kids had fun exploring all the haunted aspects of the farm and playing in a playground where they could ride a zip line.

Report cards came home on Friday. I have to say that both kids are doing very well. Son is doing as well and better, as we have hoped. His grades are mostly good. The elementary school here does non-grades, using a 1-4 scale of proficiency. I think I like this. Best all all was his separate report card for band. Son's grades for flute were straight 4s, the highest marks possible!  We are very proud of  him. 

We are slowly settling in to our life in Nebraska, and day by day it begins to feel a little bit more like home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Maverick says

Hi Everyone!  Maverick here.  I just wanted to tell you how great my life is now!  I've been with my furever family for a whole year now!  I have my very own girl, who takes me for  walks and teaches me things. She doesn't know that I'm training her well, too!  It was just a little tough this last summer when we packed up and moved from Louisiana to Nebraska. All my family came, too, so it wasn't  too bad. I still have my aussie that I boss around, and grumpy, little Mickey, who is the other papillon in the family. I'm much bigger than he is!  The sheltie and the cats came too. My new house is big and has a great, fenced yard. Best of all, is the walking trail that goes right behind our house!  I bark at the people on it to stay away from my house, and my girl and my mom take for walks along it down around a little lake. I've been going to class to learn something called flyball. I get to play with a tennis ball and run fast, so it is really fun! My aussie goes, too. Mom and Dad say I'm going to start agility classes again soon.  I can't wait. I picked my family out at an agility trial, so I'm glad they know that I want to do agility.  I'm sure glad I saw my family that day. I just had to tell them that I was supposed to live with them. Now we are all very happy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On the mend

Here's Annie after her surgery, Friday. The vet sent her home with a jaunty, new fall bandana, but it didn't entirely distract from the big, shaved hole and 11 staples in her butt!  She is recovering well. The cone has been a pain, but all the staples are still in. She will get them out next week. She seems to be feeling much better now that big, nasty cyst is gone. We might even be about ready to leave the cone off. 
It finally quit raining today, and I took Annie and Maverick for a walk after lunch. Annie got to try out the new doggie backpack I just had to get for her. It has a special place for dispensing poop bags and a pocket to carry the used bags home. She carried my keys and cell phone today. I'm thinking it will be useful in the summer when I usually walk in exercise clothes with no pockets. I'm having these visions of camping and hiking with the dogs next summer. Those who know me will be shocked if this actually happens. Meanwhile, I'm giving up on the new walking shoes I bought last month. Usually New Balance are good shoes for me, but I've been wearing this pair and they just are not comfortable, so I'm going to be on a quest for new shoes. I'm doing my small part to stimulate the economy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Poor Conehead

Poor Annie!  She burst open a cyst on her hip Wedsnesday. I'll spare the gory details, tomorrow she is having minor surgery to remove it. Meanwhile, she is moping around the house and bashing into walls and the back of my legs with her cone. I suppose we'll have to put up with it for another week or so, she is determined to lick her "owie" if she can.
I just wanted to share a couple of pics I took of the wonderful butterflies at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.  It is a fabulous zoo, and we can't wait to share it when we get visitors from out of town. Yes, that's a hint!
I have a small confession. Duane and I ate sandwiches from Subway on Monday night while Daughter was at dance class. Otherwise, we've kept to the no eating out rule this week. Hey, it's my game and I guess I get to make up the rules. I forgot to impose a penalty for breaking them!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Outdoor Ed

Son left this morning for Outdoor Ed, otherwise known as 6th grade overnight camp. He was a little nervous, since he's rarely slept away from us. I didn't let him know that I was going to miss him a lot more than he would have time for missing us! I know this is going to be a great experience for him, but I'll be one of the first parents at school tomorrow afternoon to pick my boy up.
The not eating out experiment is going well now. We have not eaten out since Oct. 1. Somehow just taking it off the table as an option is making it much easier to live with. We have been eating more sandwiches and leftovers. I hope I get more creative with fast, easy ideas for dinner. The hardest thing is that we are rarely able to eat at the same time during the week, as it seems like every night we are getting the kids to various activities, and they get home late enough that they need to eat before we go. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The good, the bad, the poopy

I took Mickey along to Petsmart today, and he put in an unofficial and unanticipated therapy dog visit. We met with a nice young teenager named Steven with Down syndrome who was out with his teacher and another student. Steven spent about 10 minutes sitting on the ground petting and snuggling with Mickey. For Mickey, it was the only part of the trip he enjoyed!  I was proud of the little guy. He seemed to know just what to do. 

So, I have this grand plan for the month of October. After reading an article in Reader's Digest, I decided that it would be a great experiment for our family to go the entire month without eating out;  at all. As of Oct. 1, the score is:  dinner at home 0, Qdoba Mexican Grill 1.  And this after I explained to a friend about not being able to go out to lunch! 

I thought I was done cleaning up dirty bottoms when the kids were toilet trained. Having hairy dogs, I should know better.  Yesterday I finally confronted the source of my stinky Aussie dog.  I put Annie in tub and scrubbed the business end. Yuk! No wonder she didn't smell good. Then, since I'm not diligent about keeping the dogs off the bed, the linens went in the wash! I'm considering the idea that my next dog should not have a hairy butt.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

I am happily sitting here typing this blog on my living room sofa. I'm happy because my Mac Book Pro is back home with me, and I'm wireless again! How quickly we get used to the good life. I have only had my Macbook since July, yet a week without it was torture. My computer had to go back to Apple for a new LCD screen. I'm not happy that there was a problem with a new computer, but I have to say that Apple took care of it very quickly. I took the Macbook to the Apple store on Saturday and was told I'd get it back in 7 to 10 days. They called on Tuesday to say the screen had been replaced but they thought there was still a problem and it was being sent to Houston for repairs. Because it was sent out, they could ship it directly to me when it was fixed. I was told that they were backed up due to Hurricane Ike, and I could expect my computer back in 10 to 14 days. What a surprise when DSL rang my doorbell at 9:00 this morning with my fixed computer in a box returned to me! I have a new LCD screen on it which no longer flickers and turns crazy colors and everything seems to working well. Hooray! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cool Tools

I went shopping last week looking for a digital voice recorder for my son and came home with several cool, electronic gadgets I'm hoping will help him with his school work. I did get the recorder, and a calculator, and my favorite, an electronic dictionary and thesaurus. Son is not very keen on using the voice recorder to pre-write his essays, but he really likes the dictionary. It works like a spell checker on a word processing program, so he can type a word in the way he thinks it sounds and the dictionary will offer the correct spelling. Very cool!
On a personal note, I am still waiting for my substitute teacher certification from the state of Nebraska, so I'm sitting home not doing enough.  Yesterday I signed up to start taking correspondence courses towards the real estate license I'm wanting to get. Yes, this seems like a crazy time to get into real estate, but the market in this area seems pretty steady and I figure I'll be well-positioned when things improve. It's exciting to think of doing something new just because I want to do it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

squirrel and school

The stoopid, city squirrellie arrived, and Annie is keeping it safe from papillons and other predators. Thanks, Patience!
Maverick is trying mental telepathy to convince me to help him steal the squirrel. 
Mickey says, "I'll just stay here and look beautiful. Maybe, Mom will give me a treat. I hope no on mistakes me for a squirrel." 
And Casey, well, he didn't bother waking up to check out the excitement. 

On the kid's side of things, I had a meeting yesterday with Daughter's teacher. I am so excited to be able to say that I was completely thrilled with the curriculum and projects planned for this school year. I no longer have any fears that my bright child will be bored in school this year. I think they will keep her busy and interested!  It was such a relief to learn that this school really has what we have been looking for in an educational program. It was a big decision to leave Louisiana and make the family move yet again, and the schools were a big part of our decision. I feel much more confident now that moving was the right choice for our family. Our son is  also doing a little better as he settles into a routine. I'm wishing he had had more than one year at this school. 

Saturday, September 6, 2008

running in circles

Its been an interesting week. We are still trying to get Son settled into school.  He is getting more organized and bringing most of his homework home, usually, but he has had a lot of it. This week it has been having to redo his math almost daily. I have long thought it likely that he has dyslexia, but this is not something the schools will test for. It is quite a challenge trying to tease out what is really going on with kids like this that are seemingly bright, yet struggle in school. There is no communication between people like the teacher and resource specialists and the occupational therapists. And then parents are on their own to try to find someone qualified to evaluate for dyslexia and other similar conditions. We have been running in these circles for years. With junior high next year, I fear we are running out of time for my Son. Each year the difficulties are magnified. We live near a large city now, so I am more hopeful that I will find the right people to help us to help him.

Monday, September 1, 2008

fun weekend

We're having some fun this weekend. Son is very into World War 2. In particular, he is interested in the airplanes. We are in a good area to promote this interest. Saturday we drove about 20 minutes down the interstate to visit the Strategic Air and Space Museum. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon. It's all inside in the air conditioning!  This is the third SR-71 Blackbird we have seen in a museum.

Sunday afternoon, Annie and Maverick got to go to flyball class. Maverick is making good progress. He is overcoming his issues from coming to us as a rescue dog, and gets braver all the time. He is a fast, athletic little guy. I'm having fun at flyball, but I miss agility. I need to find a way to get back into it here.
Another four foot member of family figured out that if he did something cute maybe he could get into the blog. So here is Bugs, posing as a bibliocat on the half unpacked bookcase. We have a block party later today.  We are looking forward to hanging out with our new neighbors, even though it is pretty hot today. 

To our friends in Louisiana - you are in our thoughts and prayers. We are glued to the Weather Channel. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

changing direction

Well, the first week of school has been interesting.  Son came home with four incomplete homework slips in the first five days of school. Many emails with is teacher have been exchanged. I have met after school with his teacher and resource teacher. Side note - I'm excited that he has a resource teacher in his classroom to help him in the afternoons. The short story is that I decided on Tuesday that he needed to be back on his medication. I would like to say that I agonized over the decision, but I didn't. Son takes a low dose of an extended release form of ritalin. It is night and day between whether he can focus in school and do the tasks he has to do. I wish he was "normal". I really wish he could function without this expensive drug that causes side effects I don't like. I don't get to choose. I am going to do whatever it takes to help my son. Last night as we were leaving swimming practice, Son's coach stopped me to tell me how well he had done at practice. She specifically commented on how well he payed attention and followed directions. It had been all day since he had taken his medication. She had no idea I had given it to him. The medication makes his life easier and better. I will accept that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

flyball class

We finally got back to flyball class today. It was good to get out and play with the dogs. That's my Annie learning how to get the ball from the flyball box. She is learning quickly. All her agility training is helping. She has figured out how to run the line of jumps with almost no work. I'm so proud of my Aussie girl.

Duane and Daughter are both working with Maverick. His lack of training is showing. It's going to take longer to have him ready to run for a team. His rescue background shows in his lack of confidence. Still, he is going to be a fast little height dog, eventually.

Son gave Annie some attention during down time. They were chillin' together.
Daughter with Maverick waiting for another turn. I like how focused on her he was at that moment.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to school

The kids went back to school yesterday. The first day was only half a day. The house seemed very quiet and empty without them, and I missed them. Then they came home, and I had to go to the grocery store. I remembered that I am glad school is back in! We met their teachers Monday night. I liked them both. It seems like both kids may have a good year this year. We are all very excited about their new school and new teachers. 

On a side note, I saw a short blurb in today's paper about the actor Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry Potter. He told Britain's Daily Mail that he has a mild form of dyspraxia. According to his publicist "his condition is very mild and at worst manifests itself in an inability to tie his shoelaces and bad handwriting". My son  is not alone, one of his heroes is just like him!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Scare

Casey (my sheltie) gave me a pretty good scare today. I was leaving to take Son to his OT this afternoon.  We were putting the dogs in their crates before we left, and we could not find Casey. The kids and I searched throughout the house with no sign of him. I was pretty sure he hadn't gotten out, so I decided to take Son and drop him off and come home and continue the search. I really kind of thought he'd be waiting when I got back saying "where'd you go?". Daughter and I came in and there was no sign of him. I thought I was pretty smart for thinking of ringing the doorbell. He always goes nuts barking if the doorbell rings. I rang the bell several times and there was still no sign of Casey. The other dogs were in the basement barking in their crates. By this time I was starting to panic. I didn't know how he could have gotten out, but when he didn't show up for the doorbell, I thought he had to have gotten outside. The gates were shut, and he wasn't in the backyard. I went on one more search of the house, starting upstairs in the kids' rooms. I looked in Son's room and in his closet. Just being thorough, I walked all the way around the far side of his bed. There was Casey, sound asleep. Through the barking, calling his name, leaving and returning to the house, and ringing the doorbell, he hadn't heard a thing. 

I've been fairly sure his hearing isn't too good anymore. I guess this confirmed it. I had to touch him to wake him up. I'm not sure if there is a cognitive issue, or if he is almost totally deaf. He seems to respond to be spoken to sometimes. I think this is probably also the source of his conflict with Annie. She acts in her normal provoking, bouncy way, and he can't hear her so he has become overly defensive, which she then reacts to. So I'll be making Casey an appointment with the vet so see if we can get a more definitive idea of what is going on with him. My heart dog is getting old. I think his agility days are over. 

What is SPD?

So what is SPD?  Sensory Processing Disorder has also been called Sensory Integration Disfunction. It is a neurological disorder affecting the sensory abilities. It is estimated that the condition affects as many as 1 in 20 children.  The following quote is from the book Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D, OTR.  "Children with SPD experience touch, taste, sound, smell, movement, and other sensations differently from typical children. Some feel sensations more intensely, others feel them less intensely, and some just don't get sensory information 'right' - 'up' feels the same as 'down', or a penny feels the same as a button. Because they don't process sensory information the way other children do, sensational kids don't behave the way other kids do, either."

Like other disorders, such as AD/HD, SPD affects people to varying degrees, and in different ways. As I've said, my Son is on the mild to moderate end of the scale, which is not to down play the way it effects his life and our family. In fact, getting a diagnosis and services to help him has been very difficult because his behavior is closer to "normal". SPD can look a lot like AD/HD. Son actually also has a diagnosis of AD/HD inattentive type, which I will refer to ADD for simplicity. He is not hyper in the classic sense. He does find it hard to sit still and be comfortable. In the classroom he has obvious difficulties remaining focused and on task. Son also has a mix of how SPD affects him, in that in some areas his senses are over responsive and in others he is under responsive. Some examples; sudden loud noises tend to distress him more than the average person. He has some dispraxia, which is a difficulty translating sensory information into physical movement. For my Son this shows up in things like the difficulty he has in perfecting his swim strokes. He can swim, (it's a great activity for people with SPD!) but getting his strokes to a level where he can be competitive on the swim team is tough.  He has trouble with planning and executing the tying of shoes.  He can be over or under responsive to his environment which makes it difficult for him to focus in class. This is where it can be hard to tell SPD from ADD. It is possible to have both. I am sure Son has SPD. He may have ADD, too. I don't know, and I don't think anyone else really does either. I'm just trying to help him become the most successful person he can be as he grows up, even when I have to fight to get him help and accommodations in school. That is our version of SPD, for now.

By request, I've included some pics of our house.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

more planes

We went to see Mama Mia! this afternoon. I laughed so hard I  was crying. Still, it's a little disturbing to be of an age to identify more with the Meryl Streep character than the young girl. I'm having withdrawals with not having any dog training class to go to. Next week is finally flyball again! Here's some more pics of the planes. I love when my pictures come out!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Air Force Week in the Heartland

Today we went to Offutt Air Force Base to their open house and Defenders of Freedom air show. The air show was awesome, and it was so cool to see the planes up close. Son loved the World War 2 planes, particularly a dog fight between a P-51 Mustang and a replica Japanese Zero.
Daughter checks out the cockpit of a plane used for electronic warfare. The crew just flew it in a couple of days ago.
Does she have a future in the Air Force in computer weapons?
Son checks out the cockpit of an F-15 and the pilot answers questions. Thank you to all the men and women defending our freedom and answering questions today!
Duane with Son and Daughter are ready for transport in a C-17.
This P-51 Mustang picture was taken specially for my dad.