Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What's that SMELL?

When I walked in the house, I said, "The house stinks." 

"I don't smell anything," Bridger said. 

"It smells like dogs, and it does NOT smell good."

I have a hyper-sensitive nose. The funny thing is Bridge and I had just been talking about the scent of a home. Everyone's home has a smell peculiar to the family who lives there. Bridger said when he came to visit us in Illinois, one thing he noticed is that the house didn't smell different from what he was used to because it smelled like me and the house to which he was accustomed.  The foods we cook, and the cleansers and fragrances we use all work together to create the "bouquet" of the home. 

Bridger and I had just returned from a yummy meal out at Fuddrucker's restaurant in Schaumburg where we'd met Chuck, Matt, and Katie for hamburgers. When we came home, we left the new car smell of the Highlander, and came into a smell new to me. It had to be the smell of a house inhabited by dogs. Dog (singular) is enough to change the fragrance of a home. Dogs (plural) just multiplies the smell molecules to what I would say approach the heightened level of STINK.

Replacing our usual fragrances of baking cookies, simmering suppers, laundered clothes, fruity soaps, and floral lotions were the odors of puppy breath, gigantic bags of dog food, and microscopic remnants of puppy accidents that I surely missed during my HAZMAT cleanups. The house had gone from the aromas of Bath and Body Works to the odors of Petsmart in a matter of weeks.

My goal this morning was not just to DEodorize the house, I wanted to REodorize the house. I didn't just want to eliminate the bad smells, I wanted to incorporate good ones. 

The puppies had already been bathed this week, so they weren't the problem. There were secondary puppy issues that needed to be addressed. Everything they had come in contact with needed to be cleaned and freshened. 

This is Bridger's last day with us, and I was letting him sleep in a bit. The first thing I did was put Bristol and Sam in their crates, so I could work without tripping over puppies all morning. Then I stripped the sofas of their protective blankets, and washed them. 

While the blankets were being laundered, I microwaved a splash of PineSol diluted in water which had an immediate effect of making the air smell like I'd already been cleaning. I wiped down the microwave while I was there, and then I swept and mopped all of the vinyl floors. After I dried the floors with a towel, I made a homemade room freshening spray with a cup of warm water, 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda, and 5 drops of lemon essential oil. I spritzed the upholstered pillows and couches and chair, and for good measure, I sprayed the carpet and the curtains. I added some lemon oil to my oil diffuser, which always makes the house smell homier to me.

My last project was taking the dogs out of their crates, and wiping the vinyl trays with an odor remover, and putting down fresh blankets. Of course, my canine companions had to oversee my work, making the job take just a little longer.

Whew. It was a lot of work, but within an hour and a half of Chuck's leaving for work, our house is starting to smell like it belongs to us again, not the dogs! Next on the agenda is opening windows to let in fresh air when the day warms up a bit, and running the vacuum. 

So, I realize sweeping and mopping are critical, and have already stepped up my game there. Am I missing anything? Are there special cleaning or fragrance products you particularly like? If you have tips to share with us about ways to keep our house smelling fresh and clean, please tell me! I would be ever so grateful. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spending Up a Storm

Ding-dong! Yep, another Amazon package just landed on my front porch. That seems to be a regular occurrence at our house since we adopted Bristol and Sam. We've ordered crates, harnesses, Nylabones, several Kongs and Busy Buddy toys, a puppy play pen, and even potty training jingle bells for the doors.

The puppies HAD to have matching hedgehogs because, well, HEDGEHOGS!
Ever since my kids and I had a pet named Miss Tiggywinkle, I've had a soft spot for hedgehogs. 

Amazon is not my only supplier of puppy paraphernalia. It seems I wander down the pet supplies aisle whenever I go to Walmart, and occasionally, a fun toy or two will make its way into my cart. When I go to Goodwill, I stock up on extra fleece blankets, and stuffed animals. We have the most spoiled puppies on the planet. (Unless we count Margaret's Captain Jack. He receives a Bark Box package in the mail every month; we haven't gone THAT far. Yet.)

Of all the toys we provide for them, do you know what they play with most? The puppies love this empty minced onion container, and old Powerade bottles. Bristol is also fascinated with his tail. Go figure.

When I was a kid, I was the same way. My parents would go to all the trouble of finding the very thing I wanted from the Sears & Roebuck Wish Book at Christmas, but after all the presents were opened, they laughed that the things we kids seemed to love the most were the boxes the presents came in. 

One of the things I bought for potty training were jingle bells to hang on the doorknobs to our front and back doors. At first, Sami thought she could ring them every time she wanted to go outside to play. I felt like I was living an extended version of the boy who cried wolf. If she went to the trouble to ring the bell, who was I to question her motives? I just made a quick assessment if her trip was for business or pleasure, and hurried her back inside if it was the latter. 

Bristol has been a little harder to read when it comes to the bells. Some days he whines, some days he brushes up against the bells, and some days, he just let's loose wherever he is. One day, I videoed the puppies playing with the jingle bells, and sent the clip to my kids with the message, "Think they really need to go potty? Or are they just teething on the bells?"

Moments later, I followed up my text with, "Well, color me embarrassed, Bristol just peed on the floor. I guess it was urgent. I am a very slow learner."

We have so many friends offering us advice for tried and true methods to help us with issues that have come up since our world was turned upside down when we added puppies to our lives. The toys should occupy their little minds, and give their mouths a good workout while they're teething, and give our furniture a break. I just want to raise good puppies who grow up to be good adults, without destroying our house in the process. 

Our puppies have completed their preschool classes, and next we're going to Puppy Kindergarten!

When all of this puppy business settles down, and the spending frenzy slows, I think the thing I will realize gave us the greatest return on our investment is the Puppy Professor classes, and the time we spend playing and working with Bristol and Sami. Just like when our children were younger, it's always possible to spend too much money, but we could never spend too much time with them.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What's Better than Pizza?

There is one food our family can all agree on: PIZZA. We all love pizza. We don't all like the same toppings, but we all like pizza. 

Our three youngest. ;-)

Our son Bridger is visiting us from Utah. He's been working out, and eating healthier, so I wasn't sure he'd want to indulge in a Chicago-style, deep dish pizza from Giordano's during his stay. It's not exactly health food. 

When I asked him about it, he told me he HAD to have Giordano's because, well, PIZZA. 

Bridger said the helmet was two-fifty. "Buy it!" I told him. "That's a bargain."
"As in $250," he clarified. "Well, that's just ridiculous," I told him. Chuck reminded
me that the men dodging bullets on the battlefield might think it was worth every penny.

So Saturday after we spent some time in Oakbrook Terrace at an Army surplus store and Guitar Center, we called in our order for pizza. Bridger and I would share a medium pizza, half pineapple, half pepperoni. Chuck would get a small sausage one of his own. 

I could listen to my boy play guitar all day long.

To kill a little time, we stopped in Wheaton to show Bridger the Wise Penny consignment shop, one of Chuck's favorite places to spend his money when he was a child, and we HAD to visit the Popcorn Shop. 

One of Wheaton's specialty shops is the Little Popcorn Store, established in 1921. This business set up shop in an alley between two larger stores. Measuring just four feet wide, and thirty feet long, it is an unusual configuration for such a popular place frequented by locals and tourists alike. Chuck swears their popcorn is the best, and they only sell plain popcorn. Judging from the line of customers waiting to buy their selections, Chuck isn't alone in his opinion. 

The Popcorn Store also sells candy. There are rows and rows of candy lining the wall back toward the popcorn machine; everything from the new gummi candies to the vintage penny candies. 

Even though I'm not eating candy right now, I felt like SOMEONE should indulge in my favorite candy from childhood, the Zagnut bar. Bridger was starving, and was more than happy to take me up on my offer. He said it tastes like Chick-o-Sticks, which are another favorite of mine. 

We'd finally wasted enough time in Wheaton to go pick up our pizza; we could hardly wait. Bridger was the most excited of us, I believe.

If Bridger's Snapchat is any indication, he was excited about getting pizza.

When we got home, I took the puppies out while the guys got things ready for our late lunch. I knew something was wrong when I came back inside. Chuck was on the phone with Giordano's, and Bridger had a crestfallen expression on his face as he showed me our box of pizza. There was no deep dish pie waiting to be eaten; it was a thin crust. Bridger's disappointment was palpable. 

While we waited for Giordano's to make the pizza we'd ordered, we were free to eat the "mistake pizza," and you can bet we did. Bridger only ate a slice, though; he was waiting for his deep dish pizza so he could thoroughly enjoy his much- anticipated meal. 

While we were eating, Bridger said, "There's only one thing better than pizza." I raised my eyebrows, as I looked at him to see what he would say. Just when I was thinking he would say NOTHING is better than pizza, he said, "MORE pizza." I guess you could say we had a pretty good day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Celebrating National Puppy Day

How will you celebrate National Puppy Day? You didn't know that was a thing? You must not follow Sandra Boynton on Facebook. She alerts me to all of the little-known, but amazing holidays like Chocolate Day, Donut Day, Pizza Day. So, of course, I was very excited to discover today was National PUPPY Day.

Sandra Boynton's Facebook post can be found HERE.

Did someone say PUPPIES? I have some of those! As if you didn't know. But how will YOU celebrate?

Maybe you'll watch a few cute puppy videos, or recall fondly the days when your dog was a pup. Maybe you're just not a dog person, and this day will totally fly below the radar for you. It's okay. Rest assured; I'll celebrate enough for the both of us. 

At this very moment, the sky is beginning to lighten ever so slightly, and it is very dark in the living room, except for the lovely glow of the Himalayan salt rock lamp. I can't even see Sami who is black as night, but I can hear her, softly breathing as she is stretched out on more than her half of the sofa. The glow of the computer is softly illuminating the pile of grey puddles beside me, lovingly known as Bristol. He is snoring loudly, as he is wont to do. I'm celebrating this very moment VERY QUIETLY, so as not to disturb their slumber, and I am enjoying every single second of this peace and quiet. 

The puppies were up earlier at 5:00 for their breakfast, and while they ate their homemade meal of boiled ground beef, white rice, and green beans, I prepared their Kongs for the freezer, filling them with Braunschweiger. (Don't know what that is? Read HERE.) No, I'm not treating them to a gourmet meal in honor of Puppy Day. This has been their vet-recommended diet for awhile now, until we get their tummy issues under control. I cook for the puppies more than I do Chuck and me; twelve cups of cooked rice and five pounds of hamburger at a time. These growing pups have big appetites. 

The puppies and I have a big day planned. They'll take lots of naps, and I hope to join in on one of those. When the doorbell rings, as it does most days, after I settle Sami down from the frenzy that initiates, I'll see what Amazon delivered for the puppies THIS time. We've become very regular Amazon customers, since the puppies came to live with us. Amazon has delivered two more crates, a harness, Kong toys and Nylabones. We have a grundle of puppy toys, but there's always something new our friends recommend for us to try. 

Today we're hoping Amazon will bring more jingle bells to put around the house so the puppies can alert us when it's time to go out. Pretty exciting; I know, but not many packages contain things for the humans in the house any more, so I have to muster some enthusiasm for all of the puppy packages that arrive. Often.

Later today, I'll pick up their puppy toys for the umpteenth time, wipe down dog crates, mop paw prints off the floor, and finish up with a rousing game of Poop Patrol, kind of like a disgusting Easter egg hunt for dog owners.

Since I have reinforcements today (our youngest son Bridger flew into Chicago last night), maybe Sam and Bristol will both get to go for a walk at the same time around the neighborhood. And later, I hope we get to check out a dog park. We haven't gone to a dog park yet. Tonight, we have our last puppy class at Anderson Animal Shelter

Precious puppy paws.

I guess National Puppy Day won't be much different than any other day at our house. But we'll KNOW it's a special day, and we'll treat our puppies "extra-special," not that that will be much different either. Every day's a celebration with Bristol and Sam in the house.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PUPPY TALES: Dog Mama Memes

Everyone's making memes these days, even old women like me. I'm not sure I'm considered techno-savvy in any area, but thanks to dumb luck, and poking around on the internet, I've found some fun apps to use with our dogs.

The Bark Cam has several features which make it user friendly. It is available from iTunes for iPhones and Google play for Androids. To "make your pet a star," simply download the app, and then when you want to take a pic of Fido (or your version of Bristol and Sami), simply choose a sound to get your pup's attention, and your camera's shutter goes off a moment later. The sounds available include a duck, a doorbell, a dog barking, a treat bag being torn open, jangling keys; there are quite a few!

Bark Cam sounds allowed me to capture this quizzical look, and Canva helped me
with the editing.

Sami goes a little berserk when the doorbell rings, so I've been using Bark Cam's doorbell sound during our clicker training. Bark Cam is helping desensitize our dogs to other unusual sounds. During our puppy classes, we play a sound like a dog barking, then use a clicker to get the pup's attention, and reward them for paying attention to us, rather than the sound. There are specific apps for that, like iSounds, but I've been using Bark Cam for now. 

My back pocket camera captured this fun action shot of Sami when I bent down to take
a pic of the dogs sitting on command. We'll keep working on "sit."
Editing done with Canva.
Bark Cam will also let you upload pictures from your phone, and edit them with text, conversation bubbles, and stickers. It has been fun to play with our pictures, and share them with friends.

When my daughter's beautiful Boxer Rocky escaped from the kennel at her dad's house last weekend, it was a sad day indeed. He was gone all afternoon, all night, and Sierra did not find him until after sunrise the next day. He had us all worried sick about him. I kept texting Sierra throughout the night to not give up hope, and I kept reminding her miracles happen every day. 

After a very fitful night, I was so happy to get her phone call that she had Rocky in the truck with her, and they were heading home for food and a bath and lots of naps. I made a couple of memes with Bark Cam for them later that day.

My husband and I are photographers, and sometimes, only a really nice portrait will do. When the sun is "just right" in our living room, we often break out our cameras, and have an impromptu photo session with the puppies. I used the sounds from the Bark Cam app to get Bristol and Sam's attention, standing behind Chuck while he took his shots, and he did the same for me. 

Sami looked up from her relaxed position with her big, brown eyes when she heard the squeaking sounds coming from my phone. I was very happy with the results from that photo shoot.

When a friend suggested I make some puppy memes, I decided to download Meme Generator by MemeCrunch. Sue has had fun caption ideas for the pictures. The possibilities are endless with these two precious faces. (Thanks for all your great ideas, Sue!)

Not my idea. Totally stolen from Sue!

It's been a fun couple of weeks experimenting with Bark Cam, Meme Generator, and Canva. I just love capturing the everyday silliness and sweetness of Bristol and Sam. 

What about you? Do you have any favorite programs or apps that you think would be useful or fun for us while we are raising these pups? This dog mama is all ears for good tips. 

Bark Cam

Meme Generator by Zombodroid

Meme Generator by MemeCrunch

Note: I only generate my own memes, but in looking a little further into these apps, I noticed that one of the sites requires users be 17 and older. Digging deeper, I found the reasons include mild violence and sexually explicit graphics. There is questionable material to be found if you browse memes others have made; don't say I didn't warn you. Just stick to making your own fun memes, and you shouldn't have any problems. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Shocking Profanity in Children's Lit

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a school teacher in rural Utah, at one of the best elementary schools in the world. Occasionally, I wrote down little incidents I wanted to remember later, when my rememberer wasn't working so well. This is one of my teacher stories.

One of my students walked up to me during our silent reading time, and whispered, "Teacher, my book's got a lot of swear words in it!"

"Really? What are you reading?" 

It was Farm Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Seemed innocent enough, but goodness knows I've been wrong before. 

Farmer Boy

"Look," he said, opening the pages so I could see. I smiled. 

There, in black and white, the shocking word glared up at me.


"That word is 'he'll' 'he WILL,'" I explained.

"Ohhhh," he responded, mulling over this new information, as he returned to his desk. 

No wonder my student was thinking it was such a shocking piece of literature. I doubt that the book was making any sense at all with little things like apostrophes standing in the way of basic comprehension. Some of us obviously needed a review of contractions. I made a note of it in my plan book, silently chuckling to myself. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

PUPPY TALES: If You Bribe Them, They Will Come

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth

As a new puppy mom, I have two dreams. I'm living for the day I no longer have to clean up puppy accidents in the house. When our little canines understand that the ONLY place they should relieve themselves is outside, that dream will come true. My other dream is that they will come, without fail, every time we call them. 

During our most recent Puppy Start Right class, our trainer Maggie told us we need to reward dogs with an extra special treat when they are learning to come when called. Getting dogs to respond to our recall command, NO MATTER WHAT is critical. I had learned just how important that skill is two days earlier.

My worst fear was realized when Bristol and Sam found the only gap in our fence wide enough for them to escape. My heart raced, and my eyes went wide as I watched in horror as our two precious puppies slipped through the gap between our neighbor's fence and ours. I threw my hands in the air, kibble raining down on the deck, as I ran to see how I could get them back in our yard. 

My mind raced as Bristol and Sam were running back and forth outside the chain link enclosure. What if they take off out of the city park? Keep calm, I told myself. Don't let them know how upset you are.

"Here! Here! Here!" I yelled, as cheerfully as I could. Oh, please, don't run away. Please don't run away. I ducked under the limbs of our big pine tree, and when they saw me, they ran to the opening, and slipped back through the fence, and ran to my outstretched hands. 

Oh, that was so close. I didn't even have a treat to give them; I'd thrown their kibble in the air when I panicked, so I just loved on them, and praised them, holding them tightly. 

When Maggie told us we should up the ante with a high value treat, we upped the ante. We chose a secret weapon that wouldn't break the bank. Enter BRAUNSCHWEIGER.

Braunschweiger is a spreadable lunch meat made of pork liver sausage. It is a vague memory from my childhood. Occasionally, there was a tube of the stuff in our fridge, and on Saturdays, Mom let us make sandwiches with it. I slathered it on mom's homemade bread with a thin layer of mayo. I remember tubes of liverwurst, too. They were interchangeable, in my mind. 

Chuck has fond memories of braunschweiger, too. What? CHUCK??? I know; I was shocked. Apparently, he is a more adventurous eater when it comes to processed foods. I asked him how he preferred to eat it. "With ketchup, on rye bread." Oh, my. To each his own. 

Our puppy trainer emphasizes rewarding positive behavior with treats. Besides their regular kibble, we have used cheese, turkey hotdogs, and Easy Cheese. The Easy Cheese is sold in a pressurized can, but it's $4 for 8 ounces. I was hoping to find something a little more budget-friendly, since so much of our budget goes to the dogs these days anyway. 

When I went grocery shopping after The Great Escape, the Braunschweiger caught my eye in the meat department. It was only two dollars for a whole pound of it. What a bargain! 

I'm happy to say my first training session with the liver paste went very well. I wasn't the only one happy that day. The puppies like just about any treat for a reward, but they LOVE their Braunschweiger. I think this puppy mom will be having tubes of it in HER refrigerator, too.