Farewell Old Friend

Don't read this post if you don't feel like having a good cry.

I (John) adopted this dog in the spring of 2002.  I remember that I was on crutches at the time after my knee surgery.  I had scouted around at various animal shelters and was looking (at my mom's recommendation) for an Australian cow-dog.  I found one named Giorgio on the website of the shelter in Shawnee, so I drove out to meet him.
As I hobbled in on my crutches all the animals were going crazy and every dog in the place was barking his head off except for the one I had picked out on the website.  I walked up to him and said hello and he accompanied me on a short walk outside and then calmly sat next to me in the sunlight.  His history was that he had been picked up in a park, he and another dog had been tipping over trash cans.  His accomplice had just been adopted the day before.  I signed the papers and took him home.
I knew he wasn't going to keep the name Giorgio, but I struggled with what to call him.  Until one day when I came in from working outside and I dropped my Carhartt overalls on the floor and sat on the couch.  He came and laid down on top of the overalls and I was struck by how his fur matched the canvas color so perfectly, and what better rugged name for a rugged dog, than Carhartt.
Carhartt made many friends over the last 14 years.  They were always drawn to his calm personality.  He was independent and not needy, but at the same time he would dutifully make his rounds when I had people over, stopping in front of each person in turn so they could enjoy petting his big head.
What many of those people may not have realized is that he was a comical dog too.  I found this picture of when I decided to have him "help" me drag some branches up to the house.  His branch was tiny but he ultimately collapsed in the harness with an overly dramatic sigh.
And I will always remember the time we went camping together out at Hillsdale Lake.  At dark I crawled into the tent and invited him to join me, but duty compelled him to place himself alertly at the entrance, ears pricked, on guard.  Within 30 minutes or so our campsite was a veritable symphony of rustling noises, splashes, and other small animal sounds.  Carhartt barked, growled, and on a couple of occasions jumped up and charged into the underbrush to chase some small animal back into the water from which it came.
After a full hour of this type of guard duty he returned after chasing his last animal and he walked through the door of the tent and gave me a look.  That one look said "Why on earth did we drive out here to this very dangerous place where all of these animals live.  This was not my idea, and therefore I am done with guard duty."  Without breaking stride he walked all the way to the back of the tent, made sure that I was solidly between him and the door through which any animals would attack, and he curled up at my feet and went to sleep.
Carhartt saw our old modular home get torn in two and hauled away.  He saw us take forever to get a new house built.  He tolerated a young lady coming into our life with her sneezy little dog.
And then probably toughest of all when we brought home too very loud little boys who were very curious about doggies. 
And he took it all with so much grace.  I remember one time either Seth or Colin grabbed Carhartt and hurt him and Carhartt was forced to grab their hand in his mouth and remove it from his body.  He did it as gently as he could but of course it still scared the little boy.  Before I even realized what had happened Carhartt rushed over to me and looked up at me with his gentle eyes that said "I'm very sorry, but I need to file an incident report."
There is one more story that is particularly poignant to me.  I took Carhartt with me down to Osawatomie one day to work on the old modular home after it had been relocated onto its new lot and put up for sale.  I let him out of the truck and opened the front door for him and we went inside.  Immediately he got very excited and started quickly pacing around the familiar rooms looking here and there with joy.  But then he looked out the window and the sight was unfamiliar and he looked at me with questioning eyes.  I couldn't explain to him that it is impossible to turn back time.  It rushes by changing everything around you, and when you settle to the ground again like a wind-tossed leaf you look and see that it has changed you too.

Carhartt and I took our last ride today.  He normally doesn't enjoy car trips but I took my time on the old dirt roads and I rolled down the window so he could see outside.  And although time made him deaf and partly blind, and certainly in pain, I think I saw him smile as the world rolled by outside. 

He had nothing left to do in life, but just to finally rest.  So I laid him to rest in the back field behind the barn.  And I cried.  And the young lady did too.  And so did the little boys that aren't so little anymore.

Kim calls him the greatest dog ever.
It's helpful to me in times like this to remember that he wasn't.  I read last week about a dog that died rescuing people from an earthquake.  He certainly never did that. 
He had his faults.
Despite my repeated admonitions he chased a lot of cars in his younger days until he lost his leg in that pursuit. 
He killed an awful lot of the neighbors chickens.
He chewed up all of Shirley's porch cushions one day.
He also ate a pie that she put out to cool.
He would go over to the other neighbors' place and pick fights with their dogs.

So you see, he wasn't perfect.  But he was an awful good dog for me.

Single Parenting Through the Storm

Kim is out of town this week to help with family in the hospital.  This leaves me (John) in the situation of being a single parent not only to the two boys but also to Kim's increasingly large flock of chickens.  Yes, I'm calling them Kim's chickens.  The reason I'm doing that is because she is the one that decided to get 13 more of them this year. Yes, she has changed a lot in the past few years.
When I heard that there was a big storm coming through with a chance for hail, I decided that the small chickens in the mini-coop probably needed some extra protection.  They have a few sheets of tin over their heads, but I had Colin help me haul an old carpet scrap out of the barn and throw that over the middle part of their coop which is otherwise just wire.
Then we made sure the truck was parked in the garage and everything else was storm ready and we settled in for the night. 
But then the weather radio started going off.  Very loudly.
I got up and shut it off and went back to bed.
Then it went off again.
And then it went off again.
I finally unplugged it, pulled the batteries out of it, and just turned on the radio next to my bed.  I figured they would interrupt the Royals game if any tornadoes touched down.
The problem was that my AM radio station kept getting more and more static-y.  Then suddenly it sounded like our house was no longer a house, but a boat going through a waterfall.  The hail struck very quickly and very loudly on our metal roof.  I figured Kim would have moved the boys to the basement long ago, so I should go ahead and do that.
Seth woke up at the noise and came out of his room, so I just had to tell him to grab his pillow and go downstairs.  Colin did not wake up and was very groggy when I got him out of bed so I had to hold on to him so he wouldn't fall down.  Once we got to the basement Seth wrapped himself up in a blanket on the couch and I put Colin on the floor and made him a sleeping bag burrito.
 Then I went around the house looking for leaks and checking things.  I looked out the back door and I could tell through the flashes of lightning that the carpet somehow had already blown off of the chicken coop and the hail was surely going right in on the young chickens.  I thought about running out in the hail and rain to see if I could put it back in place, but thought better of it.
The next morning they were totally fine.  I assume they figured out where to go inside the coop such that the metal roof protected them.
Lots of storm damage to the trees, but other than that everything seems fine.
Colin did not remember the trip to the basement at all so I guess he never really woke up that whole time.  Guess he was just really surprised to wake up in a different place from where he fell asleep.

Happy Birthday - Round 2

A few pictures of the birthday festivities today.  Seth turned 9 and Colin 7.  I find it all a little hard to believe!

As kids, we celebrated lots of special occasions with these red "You are Special Today" plates.  I love that my kids now get to have them too...

...and thank you to my sister for buying me another one so both boys can have one on this special day!

I cut the cake and as I was putting Seth's piece on his plate, I heard him quietly mumble to himself, "I'm so glad I'm alive."  Me too Seth! 

We got the boys a few small things to open on their actual birthday.   They both got origami books.  Seth got one on making paper airplanes and Colin got animals.  Should be fun!  I envision lots of paper floating around this place soon!  I mean...more than usual.
Thank you Chad and Katie for the gift cards.  This is Colin saying, "Whoa!"  They are excited to do their own shopping!
Happy Birthday boys!  Next up...a surprise visit from Grandparents tomorrow!  They have no idea.  Hee Hee!

Happy Birthday 2015

The boys have a birthday this week.  We surprised them with a quick trip to The Great Wolf Lodge after school on Friday.

They were surprised and loved almost every minute of it.  They woke up at 5 am Saturday morning and were shocked to discover that the water park did not open until 9 am.  We powered through our disappointment and had a great rest of the day.

We have a few more birthday activities planned for this week but I thought I'd get these pictures posted for now.

Birthday Boys!  Seth will be 9 and Colin 7.

This was right before he performed what he calls his, "famous back flop".

I think this is a game of tackle water basketball?

Pure joy!

Seth was too cool to wear his wolf ears so I wore them most of the weekend.  I haven't been cool for quite some time.

Goofing off in the elevator

Colin wanted to hear the bedtime story read by Wiley the wolf in the lodge lobby

This was Seth five minutes after we got back to the room.  One tired little wolf pup! 
Happy Birthday boys!  Here's to a fun week (we celebrate birthday weeks around here.  Unless your John, in which case, one day will do.  One more way he earns his "low-maintenance" title!)

A Cool Project...Help if you want

So there's this guy.  We were kids together.  Our parents were the best of friends.  I remember him mostly as a clown (sorry bud it's true). But he was a smart clown.  He was witty and creative.  A lot like his mother, an artist.

That kid grew up into a thoughtful artistic creative young man with a heart for Jesus.  He wrote a book and put together a talented team of people to help him.  They've now asked for help in getting the project funded.

They didn't ask me to spread the word I just wanted to.

These folks are genuine and trustworthy, with their hearts in the right place and focused on the right thing...the only thing!

See the video below for more of their story.

For more information you can visit their website www.thesugarlion.com

We support it and hope others will too.

And for you local Royals' fans (or maybe not so local) he and his team also wrote a children's book about the 2014 American League Wildcard Game against the Oakland A's (if you're really a fan, you know the one!).

You can find it on Amazon here.

I get no credit, kudos, or kickbacks for any of this.  I'm just proud of my friend and wanted to share. 

First Day of School 2015

Our First Grader

Our Third Grader

Off They Go!
The boys started school today.  We sent them off bright and early (actually it was still a little dark outside but it was indeed early!).  This is the first year that both boys will be in school all day.  I enjoyed a quiet morning of news watching and coffee drinking and then joined my husband for lunch. 

We ran into a friend at lunch who asked where the boys were.  I told them the boys started school today and she said, "Oh, isn't it so sad when they go back to school?"  I thought about just nodding my head in agreement to be cordial but after a brief moment I said, "I've got to be honest and say that this year...I was ready.  So ready.  So very very ready!"  And in reality, the same can be said of Seth and Colin.  We were all ready for school to start. 

We had a great summer.  Nothing to complain about.  We enjoyed camping, baseball games, visits to and from grandparents, swimming in lakes and pool and even mud puddles.  But towards the end, I craved some peace and quiet.  Seth wanted some structure back in his days.  And Colin, well, Colin just wants to be with his friends again (there is a downside to this idyllic country life...no neighbor kids to play with).

I wish I was the kind of parent who had an endless amount of summer plans that both entertained and educated.  I try to treasure every moment with them but let's be honest, not every moment is one I'd like to remember.  There have been moments of impatience, frustration, boredom, and full fledged meltdowns (not all of them from the boys).  Our boys want to be active...all the time...every day, but unfortunately they were matched with two pretty low-key parents.  We try to provide activities they would enjoy but there's just no way to provide them at the same rate and frequency they would like.  So we've had our moments of learning to be creative with free time and taking on the responsibility of entertaining ourselves.  There was a long learning curve.  We made it but probably just by the skin of our teeth. 

So...welcome school year 2015-2016.  Our family for one is happy to see you!  

If I Tweeted...

Parents and children who make it through school supply shopping without hurting someone or swearing should get a medal.  For the record...we'd get that medal.  But thank the good Lord we don't have to do that again for another year.