Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Family Bed

Night two of the puppies sleeping on the bedroom floor went very well until three o'clock this morning when I got up to go to the bathroom. When I came back, there was a big, black puppy snuggled up against the back of Chuck's legs. "Oh, well, if he doesn't mind, I don't mind," I thought. 

The big grey puppy noticed where the big, black puppy was, and within moments had his front paws up on the mattress. Well, why not? "Come here, Bristol," I whispered. With one big clumsy leap, he was halfway on the bed, with his big haunches hanging over the side. I pulled him the rest of the way up, and he stretched out beside me along the edge of the bed. Chuck was beside me; Sami was behind my legs, and Bristol was against my tummy. I draped my arm across Bristol, and he let out a big, satisfied sigh, and went to sleep. I smiled. The family bed. What a sweet feeling.

By 3:30, I decided I was ready for coffee and books, so I headed downstairs with my canine companion. Chuck and Sami joined us much later. 

"Somebody jumped in bed when you went to the bathroom," Chuck said as he came in the kitchen. 

"I know. I was surprised to see her there, but I figured you were okay with it."

He said, "I thought you would push her off when you came back to bed." I smiled into my coffee cup.

Poor Chuck. My sweet husband knows me better than anyone else, but there are some things he doesn't understand about me. The way I saw it, we just had one family member missing. There was only one thing to do, so I did it.

I love our little pack.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Battle for the Bed

We are entering a new chapter in our lives. Ever since February, when we welcomed Bristol and Sami into our home, our house has been turned upside down in some respects. With the purchase of four dog crates, trying to get the right size for our quickly growing pups, and discovering the value of the two-doored style, our house has seemed overrun with crates. There have been dog toys and blankets covering every floor surface. 

Wanting to block the puppies' access to certain furniture and rooms, we have creatively, but not artistically, blockaded sofa surfaces and room openings with other furniture and large boxes and totes. In an effort to hear the puppies when they needed to go out (or in Bristol's case, needed to be covered with a blanket in the middle of the night), we set up an air mattress in the family room so we could sleep downstairs near the fur babies. Basically, our house has been a wreck. Yes, Our House Had Gone to the Dogs

Slowly but surely, we are taking back the house, and making it into less of a dog house, and more of a home for a family consisting of two humans and two canines. 

Last night we moved back upstairs to our bedroom, and invited the puppies to come; no crates this time. They would have free range in our bedroom. We hung a set of bells on our closed door, in case either one needed to go outdoors.

Chuck had been concerned from the get-go about having the puppies sleep upstairs without being in crates. I spend most of every day with those two, and I was quite confident once they fell asleep, they wouldn't be a problem. I watch them sleep nearly all day long; once they are asleep, they are absolute angels. 

Neatly folded stacks of fleece blankets were available for the dogs on the floor, but as we got ready for bed, there was a big misunderstanding. We ended up having a three-ring circus when Sami and Bristol showed how excited they were that we were generously providing a queen-sized bed for them to sleep on. 

While I got ready, Chuck kept telling them to get off the bed. As Chuck was brushing his teeth, I repeatedly pushed the puppies to the edge of the bed, and had them slide to the floor. It was a futile fight, so I just let Sami lie on Chuck's side of the bed, and Bristol sat behind me, licking my shoulder, until Chuck could help me battle the insurgents. 

Finally, we took back the bed from the canine occupation, and each of the puppies stretched out on the floor. We turned out the light, and within a couple of minutes, Bristol and Sam found a place to sleep, and except for Bristol's changing locations on the floor a couple of times while we slept, we had an uneventful night.

This morning I let all of the air out of the spare bed in the family room, and removed it from the room. I folded all of the blankets, and washed the bed linens. We are going to have a family room again.

Whew. I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever come. With each passing month, we are getting closer to our dream of having two calm dogs to share our home with us. Dinner time is much more pleasant these days, and we enjoy having their company in the office with us when we are editing pictures. And now we are sharing our bedroom with them, and I think once the lights are off, they will stay where they're supposed to stay. We're making progress, my friends!

Monday, August 28, 2017

We Got Us Some BIG Dogs, Y'all!

June 8, 2017

Just for fun, I thought I would weigh the puppies this afternoon. Bristol is coming up on his (let me count on my fingers...) ninth month Saturday, and Sami will be 9 1/2 months old.

April 4, 2016
Yeah, I thought weighing them would be fun for me; I love seeing how big they've grown. I forgot that the less fun part of figuring out their weights is I have to step on the scale first to get the number to subtract from the weight of the puppy plus me on the scale. DANG. That number was bigger than I wanted to see.

May 6, 2017

Depressing moment aside, I can't tell you how happy I am that we have such big lovable mutts. Bristol weighs 70.4, and Sami weighs 59.6. Holy moly!

Remember when I wrote Growing Like a Weed (or Two), and I shared the maybe-not-so-scientifically-proven-mathematical-formula for predicting a dog's weight when full-grown? If we were to believe the formula, which is to double the puppy's weight at four months, Sami should weigh 44 pounds, and Bristol, 65 pounds when they are adults. 

June 2017
Guess what folks? These are not going to be little doggies. And I couldn't be happier! I'm the kind of dog lover who thinks "the bigger, the better." I just adore Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, and Cane Corsos. Since Chuck is more of a mid-size dog person, I knew I couldn't search for a big dog outright, but no one said I couldn't choose the biggest pup of the litter.

April 15, 2017

When I saw the size of Bristol's huge, honkin' paws the first time I held him at Anderson Animal Shelter, I knew he was going to be a whopper. He is not going to let me down.

And that beautiful Sami girl has been growing right along behind him, getting longer and taller every month. Bristol is shorter than Sam at the shoulders, but certainly outweighs her!

Here is a size reference for how long Sami is. In the picture below she is lying on the box that encased Bristol's crate we just replaced. She is LONG. (Bristol slept in it curled up in a ball, trying to keep warm; we weren't being cruel! Sami stretches out as much as possible.)

I love big mutts and I cannot lie. How fun! How exciting! The Puppy Tails Adventures continue. I can't WAIT to see what they weigh in another month or two. But I think I'll let Chuck do the heavy lifting, and he can use HIS body weight on the scale next time! Yeah, that's a really good idea.

Photo taken four days before today's weigh-in. Big dogs, I tell ya. Really big dogs. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Falling for Fall

The autumn fairy has always been one of my favorites.

The puppies woke up at 3:30, but I didn't mind. I had things I wanted to do. Fragrances of fall are drifting through the house; apple, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice candles are burning on my desk, and there is my version of Amish friendship bread baking in the oven. 

There were pictures to edit from yesterday at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I've been yearning to bake something, and knew the perfect recipe once I took a break from my photos. Before we leave for Wisconsin this morning, I want to get some reading done, too, and spend some time with the puppies. 

While we were at the faire yesterday, I noticed several of our friends from the Guild of Saint Michael had found leaves on the ground, and tucked them into the bands of their hats. There were big, yellow leaves scattered beneath the trees. From a distance, I watched as leaves swirled to the ground behind the jousting yard. 

Ever since the Festival of Lammas when the harvest season is celebrated at Bristol, I have been having autumnal thoughts. Oh, who am I kidding? My feelings for fall run deep, and I think about it all year long, but especially after Lammas. Seeing the wheat stalks worn as decorations was all it took for me to make the jump to pumpkin spice and cinnamon apples.

The air was cooler at Bristol; thank heavens. I didn't mind, at all, wearing the underskirts beneath my dress. I had toyed with the idea of adding a wrap to my costume, but once we entered the gates, I was so glad I didn't; there was a soft breeze, but the sun was warm. Thanks to so many friends for their concern and suggestions for avoiding dehydration, we had a full day at the faire, and I did not require first aid even once!

Fall is coming, friends. It is almost time for summer and the season of faire to make way for autumn and its promises of fall foliage and cooler weather. As sad as I am to say goodbye to our friends at faire, I count my blessings to have so many wonderful people to miss. It helps knowing we will see each other at smaller faires this fall and next spring. 

As soon as the sweltering summer temperatures begin to cool, I start "falling for fall," and I want to spend more time in the kitchen. I've already tried a sweet potato-ginger soup that will be a staple in my lunch time lineup. And today the baking season started. 

One of my favorite fall recipes is Amish friendship bread. You know that recipe that requires ten days of smooshing bread batter in a Ziploc bag before you can bake it? Seriously? Ain't nobody got time for that!

I knew there had to be a better way, so I shortened up the wait time to ZERO days in my recipe, and after 20 minutes or so, I had Amish friendship bread in the oven. If you are like I am, and prefer not to wait ten days to satisfy a craving for cinnamon-y, sugar-crusted bread, you might like this recipe, which can be found HERE

Retailers know there are nuts like me out there, and are already stocking the shelves with harvest themed decor and pumpkin spice everything. I can't say I mind at all.

Have you tried it? It's a winner!

So while while the Ren faire season is winding down, I am going to look for the silver linings.  There are just so many yummy reasons to fall in love with fall.

Yes, fall is coming, and once again, I feel the familiar tingles of excitement. I love the flavors and scents of the season. I love the cooler weather. I love sweaters and jeans. And this year I realized, fall means I won't have to mow the lawn for awhile, so what's not to love about that! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shoot First; Ask Questions Later

As my friend Susan and I were making our way through the dewy grass toward the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in Saint Charles, Illinois, we were wondering out loud what we had decided our weekly meet-ups were called.

"Was it Coffee and Cameras?" Susan asked.

"I've been meaning to ask you about that, English professor. Should it be alphabetical?" I asked. "Cameras and Coffee?"

"Well, today we're going to take pictures first, and then go out for coffee, so I guess today it's Cameras and Coffee, and sometimes it has been Coffee and Cameras."

Coffee and Cameras. Cameras and Coffee. I suppose it doesn't really matter the order, but today, we basically decided to shoot first, and ask questions later. 

Whatever it's called, I'm just glad we do it. 

Today we explored the community gardens beside Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. The well-tended plots were full of plants heavy with ripening vegetables. The sunflowers were so huge and heavy, they hung their heads, looking like forlorn and road-weary travelers. Tomatoes were red and ready for picking, and the pumpkins were turning deeper shades of orange in preparation for the harvest. The plots were surrounded by zinnias, marigolds, and other brightly colored flowers whose names I do not know. 

After only walking partway up a mown path, and across another path to the parking lot, we decided we would come back soon to explore the trails further, and take more pictures. Then we headed off for a local Barnes and Noble, knowing we could find a quiet spot in the Starbucks there to talk and visit. 

Nearly every week, Susan and I get together to practice our photography and visit at a local coffee shop, but not always in that order. Sometimes we get exotic drinks like Lavender Latt├ęs, or Lemon Mint tea, but mostly we just get plain, hot coffee with cream. I always sweeten mine; Susan never does. 

We decided early on that there would be no complaining about our husbands during our koffee klatch time. Complaint sessions wouldn't last very long for us anyway. We both married well, and we know to count our blessings. Our husbands are the patient, loyal types, who put our needs before their own. We know that we are their first priorities. We aspire to be as good as the men we married. 

Susan and I talk about our children, our grandchildren, and the families of our childhoods. We talk about our dreams for the future, and our photography, and our writing. We talk about God, and church, and becoming the women God wants us to be. It is so wonderful to have a face-to-face friend here in Illinois. It took me a long time to feel like I belong here in the Midwest, but now I really do.

Everyone needs a friend like Susan; someone who lifts your spirits, and always has a kind word. I hope I can be the friend to her that she has been to me. 

I knew just how lucky I was today when I realized I had a friend that would shoot with me, and ask questions later, or vice versa. Asking questions, and then shooting works, too, especially when you are friends who are photographers.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Recovery Monday

Good morning, world. It is a quiet day here in the west suburbs of Chicago. The skies are overcast, which must be so disappointing to those anticipating the solar eclipse today. It's no big deal to me. I figured if I couldn't look at it with my eyes, I'm not interested. We're fresh out of welders' masks or eclipse viewing glasses, so I'll just sit this one out.

Today is a recovery Monday. Oy vey. We love, love, love our time at the Ren faire, but it sure takes a lot out of us. Those who spend their weekends at the Renaissance faire know all about recovering after the weekend. Most of us, like Chuck, still have to go to work. A few, like me, wallow in every comfort we can find while our bodies rest and rejuvenate.

Today I'm just listening to seventies music, and editing pictures. Yeah, I'm conserving my energy, and moving as little as possible, for the most part. It's one of those days when simply making the bed and taking out the trash feel like major accomplishments. 

After last week's confession about My Drinking Problem, I'm afraid I succumbed to the heat again yesterday, and dehydration kicked my butt even worse than last time. This time, Chuck was adamant that I seek first aid. 

One of our friends who works security at the faire had just arrived where we were in the military encampment, and Chuck asked for his assistance in getting me some help. When our friend's wife joined Chuck in encouraging me to go to first aid, I started to cry. Again. What is with the tears? Dehydration turns me into a big cry baby. Doesn't my body know I need to conserve those body fluids. Ugh. 

It's so weird. Both times I got dehydrated, I cried. I wasn't in pain. I wasn't scared. I just became so disoriented, and everything felt so confusing, my brain couldn't process what was going on, and the waterworks began. I couldn't help it.

My son said pickle juice is the original Gatorade.

It wasn't for a lack of trying to avoid dehydration this time! I drank water with Himalayan salt first thing that morning. I even drank dill pickle juice before we left home. That stuff is so nasty, but I thought if it would keep me hydrated, it would be worth it. I drank water on the way to the faire, and we stopped at the water fountains often throughout the day. My hydration plan worked Saturday; Sunday was a different story.

The day started out great. We watched the Bristol Buskin Frolic dance around the Maypole. We enjoyed our time at Tuscany Tavern watching the actors perform their favorite scenes from Shakespeare. We took so many fun pictures. 

True confession. My favorite picture from Sunday wasn't even one I took with my nice camera. It's just a cell phone pic taken by someone I don't even know.

I was so happy when Chuck offered to have our picture taken at the thrones across from the Kids' Kingdom. I had been wanting to do that, but thought he would think it was just silly. Just looking at the picture makes me so happy. There we were; the two of us, in our color-coordinated outfits, smiling big for the camera, just enjoying spending the day together at our favorite place. We always have the best time at the faire. 

Except when we don't. Chuck says he can see it in my eyes when I start going down from dehydration. My speech slows dramatically. I can feel my thoughts getting cloudy, but I am stubborn. 

Chuck asked me why I was mad at him when he was trying to assess my condition. I wasn't mad; I was just concentrating really hard on being coherent, and wanted him to believe that I was really okay. I wasn't, but I thought if I could just act like I was, eventually I'd feel better, and really be okay. 

Have you ever wondered what the first aid station behind the scenes is like? To someone overcome by heat and exhaustion, it is a mecca of relief. It's no Taj Mahal back there behind the fence, but they have everything a parched and overheated body needs. The first aid station is outfitted with air conditioning, chairs, stretchers, cold water, and Gatorade. The staff is kind and understanding. 

When we first got there, a young man asked me if I would like a cold, wet towel. That sounded so wonderful, and it was  as refreshing as it sounded. I wrapped the towel around my neck and pressed the coolness against my hot cheeks. I drank three small cups of Gatorade and a cold bottle of water. And then I just laid there, and tried hard not to cry. 

I don't even know how long we were there, but it felt like way too long. I could hear Moonie's whistling on the stage just outside the first aid station, and the crowd's laughter. I kept thinking of all the pictures we were missing. I wanted to feel better, and get back out there. After they took my vitals to make sure I was okay, they released us, and encouraged me to come  back if I felt worse. 

We received word from one of the flower vendors that she had a flower for us; one of our friends wanted us to have a rose. We chose a beautiful yellow one since yellow roses signify friendship. We are so lucky to have such wonderful friends at the faire. 

Thank you, Nancy!

We managed to enjoy a couple more hours, but then I started to feel unwell again. We had special plans for the end of the day; things we wanted to make sure we photographed. We had young friends who were leaving for college this week, whom we wouldn't see until next year, and there were goodbyes to be said. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew we needed to get out of the heat and humidity, and go home. 

Olivia, I wish we could have stayed until the drum jam. I know we missed a special performance.

Heat and humidity are not my friends. This girl was made for cool temperatures. I am dreading the end of the faire season after Labor Day, but there is a part of me that so looks forward to fall. 

Today I am very grateful that I can be home, and just rest.  I want to take this chance to thank Chuck for taking such good care of me, especially when I'm resistant to help because my brain is fried. I'm going to make sure I'm strong enough to enjoy these last couple of weeks at the faire. I love that place so much; I don't want to miss another minute because of dehydration. 

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to refill my glass with some refreshing lemonade, and listen to some old tunes from Jackson Browne. 

Here are of my favorite pictures from this last weekend which was Bristol Faire's Fantasy weekend.