Peyton Turns Nine

This could be a very short post or it could be long. One never knows when it comes to the world’s happiest dog. Peyton turned nine two days ago, not that anyone seeing her would ever know that unless they saw the grey around her muzzle. That’s the only clue you have that this dog is getting older.

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Peyton has had a tough transition this year. Sam was the boss around here. Everyone, including Peyton, danced to Sam’s tune whatever it happened to be that particular day. My first true realization that Sam might be in trouble the night she died was the way Peyton was acting. She was whimpering and trying to shove in the gate that separated the two of them. The next morning, we let Peyton in to smell Sam and to see her so she would, hopefully, understand that Sam was gone. We think she did, but she’s been a very different dog since that day.

February brought more stress in that we had discovered lumps on Peyton a couple of months prior. Given our experience with Sam, we all agreed that removal and biopsy were the only option. The kids were told that Peyton was going in for a routine teeth cleaning (which was also happening), but I knew there was a chance we’d lose her on the table if he opened her up and found cancer everywhere. I was more or less prepared for that possibility and thank God that he had someone call me the second she was open and he DIDN’T see anything indicating she was essentially a walking dead dog.

So, after that drama, we settled into life with Peyton as an only dog. She doesn’t love this life, I don’t think. She doesn’t like being the one in charge. She doesn’t like having to remind people to feed her. She’s not a noisy dog, so there have been days she’s been forgotten for awhile until we start looking for her. Every time she can, she escapes into my room and lies down in the exact spot where Sam died. It is more than a little freaky. The first time she did it, she scared me to death (to be honest) because lying down, you really can’t tell the difference between the girls.

Peyton had her annual pain in the backside ear infection. I swear, when I schedule Ben for full day camp this summer, I’m just going to go ahead and schedule a vet appointment for Peyton. Every year since he’s started going to full day camp, I have had to take her to the vet.

Peyton went to her first animal blessing this year. I’m not sure she really understood it. She was so excited to be OUT with PEOPLE. She almost doesn’t know what to do with herself.

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She’s also enjoyed, sort of, the slightly more open house where we let people come here. The last two years of Sam’s life, no one came to the house unless it was absolutely necessary. Now, the kids have friends come over and we have a dog who doesn’t think a kid playing with one of her kids is necessarily attempting to kill her kid. In fact, Peyton likes to join in. What kid doesn’t enjoy being tackled by a 68 pound Lab?

So, the happiest dog in the world remains the happiest dog in the world, with occasional melancholy moments. She did allow me to get a birthday photograph and I will be very grateful for that.

Easing Back In . . .

with a little story of homeschooling success. Ben uses Life of Fred for math, but he mightily resented the Honey cards and memorizing multiplication facts. This wasn’t a serious issue for him until about chapter 5 of Kidneys when he announced that he felt he should have paid more attention to those math facts earlier on and wanted to know what he could do about it. As luck would have it, I had discovered a fascinating card game called Speed. We have been playing Two Speed for a couple of weeks now and yesterday, Ben came up with a proposal. He wanted us to let him work on each level of Speed for a month and then test him to see if he knew his facts. If he did, then we could move on to the next level of speed. I counter-proposed that we work on Speed for two weeks, try the test, and if he didn’t pass, do two more weeks and try again. He agreed.

He took his Two times table test today and aced it. He was bursting with pride and showed the test to his dad. He then demanded that we get out Three Speed and work on that. He is very proud about that.

He is also fascinated by a new book called The 52 New Foods Challenge although he’s not thrilled with some of the foods on the list. I did not realize that this author also has a game out: Crunch a Color that will be in our hands today. If I can even get him slightly interested in eating food that isn’t white, I will consider it a huge victory.

We have been hanging in there. Some days without Sam are really hard, some days we seem okay. The kids are busy with lots of activities and I am determined to start updating this blog more regularly. Mostly with homeschooling stuff and dog stuff, but we’ll see where we go. I’ve missed being out here in the blogosphere and I hope that this time I’m really coming back.

Triumphs

Ben has had a series of breakthroughs in the last few weeks that are nothing short of remarkable. I think some of my readers know that Ben is a dancer. He doesn’t just take dance; he’s a dancer (big difference, at least in this mom’s opinion). He started ballet in October and it has been a serious struggle. He didn’t like it. He was frustrated because he just couldn’t seem to keep up and get his body to do what it was supposed to do. He’s a natural tapper. You can explain a step to him, he’ll fool around with it for a few minutes and then he’s ON IT. But ballet is not coming as easily and he was frustrated. Then literally the Tuesday after Sam died, his ballet teacher changed. This was a decision that was in the making for a while, but the suddenness of it was a bit of a shock. Fortunately, he knew the new teacher (she was Katie’s teacher last year), and he adjusted to her pretty quickly. The thing is he’s about a year behind the girls in his class, and he knows it. About three weeks ago, he asked me if I thought he could take some private lessons. I told him that if he wanted to do that, he needed to ask his teacher and work with her on a schedule. And he did it. The funny part is that everyone was shocked that he wanted private lessons for ballet. But he has a goal, and improving his ballet technique is part of reaching that goal. He has his homework for the next couple of weeks and he’s pretty committed to doing it.

We started back with All About Spelling recently because he doesn’t like the way spelling is taught in Learning Language Arts through Literature. He loves everything else about the program, but not the spelling, so we agreed to go back to All About Spelling. He’s discovered he can spell a lot more and a lot better than he thought he could. Yesterday, we tried an experiment and discovered that he can type a response if he’s dictated to, so we have dictated phrases and sentences in the last two days and he has done them all right. He is so proud of himself, and he’s now understanding what the purpose of learning how to type actually was. Hoping that means he will actually start working on that again.

He’s also finally getting a grip on how to harness his imagination and powers for good. I can’t wait to see who he becomes. We’re on an amazing ride with this kid.

“God Sighting”

Every year in VBS, the kids are told to pay attention to the things going on around them and to look for what the curriculum we use calls “God sightings” — moments where you can see God’s hand moving in your life or someone else’s life or in the world. I had an experience this week that could have been the work of no other but God.

It all started with a drawing that Ben made back in November to put on our Christmas tree this year. He drew a cross with heart imposed right at the cross’s center. He said it represented his heart for God and his understanding that Christmas is about the cross as well as a birth (um, have I mentioned that I am raising two very serious little Episcopalians — my daughter had a fit when we used something other than the BCP to pray over Sam after she died, and pitched a tantrum of rather epic proportions when we tried out a grace at dinner not from the BCP). Sure hope the Episcopal church hurries up and writes the blessing for the loss of pets.

Anyway, fast forward to the day after Christmas and Dayspring’s annual sale. I’m not sure what made me go take a look because I had just received a beautiful Kelly Rae Roberts’ cross that I love, but I went to look and found this. Of course, I ordered it immediately. When it came, I knew I was going to order another one for Ben the next time they had a sale because it isn’t super girly, but not overly masculine and it perfectly captures his art and his heart.

Last week, I finally found a sale on it that made me feel comfortable and I ordered it for him. At the same time, I ordered initial tags: one for him and one for his sister. They both like the fact that I wear their names on my necklace every day and asked if they could have an initial with their crosses when they got them (Katie got hers when my new one came in). All of this arrived on Wednesday.

When I opened the box with the cross in it, my breath caught in my throat and I immediately started to cry. See, I have been praying since Sam died that I would get a sign, something that I could understand, that she was happy; she was okay. I’ve worried that I should have done something more than I did the night she died, and I wanted some reassurance that she was okay. She’s come to some other folks in their dreams, but not to me. Anyway, in the box was the cross with an “s” initial tag on it.

I could not believe what I was seeing at first, but then I recognized it for what I believe it is, God providing me with a tangible sign that Sam is with Him and okay.

Of course I contacted Dayspring to see what they wanted me to do about it and they explained that it had been a return that was put back into stock by “mistake” and that I didn’t need to worry about returning it. At this point, I told them the story I’m telling you and they agreed, God put this in my path. The “s” is now on my chain with my cross, my kids’ tags, and the pearl I wear for P. I feel calmer and I feel more at peace than I have since she died.

Who knew that God would use a FedEx truck to deliver a sign?

Katie’s Neuro Follow Up 2014 edition

Every year around this time, Katie goes to see “her Dr. T” to see how she’s doing and how she’s progressing. There were a few phone calls back and forth to set up this visit because no one was sure what Dr. T actually wanted to do this year. He decided that he would check her head and then decide, so we made the appointment in November and then waited patiently for the end of January. Her appointment was Tuesday.

On Sunday Katie lost her second tooth in five days, so she asked the tooth fairy to leave her tooth so that Dr. T could see it. Tooth, being a gracious soul, left it for her to show him. On Monday, Katie made a list of things that she wants to do that her father and I cannot agree on (Dr. T has graciously served as mediator as Katie has been growing and wanting to explore more and more things). This year, her list was written partially by her and partially by me (I wrote the letters she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of yet). This year’s list: riding a two-wheeled scooter; no training wheels, ride a horse, and downward dogs in yoga. I brought along some information on a class I’m interested in letting her take assuming she’s interested.

We were early for our appointment, which worked out well for us because Dr. T was running ahead too. I know, I know; doctors never do, but somehow, Dr. T is always on time and he is extremely forgiving when you get hung up somewhere in the hospital that isn’t as, um, efficient as he is. They did her height, weight, and head circumference. All normal stuff and as usual, Katie is near the bottom of the growth chart, but her head measures normal for her size. Praise God for that.

Katie was her happy, chatty self and completely enthusiastic about her visit. She was honest to God excited about seeing Dr. T. Given that she used to scream at the sight of his PA and was terrified of every person in scrubs she saw, this is amazing and awe inspiring. Dr. T came in and she was so happy to see him and he just goes with it. He got to feeling her head and he was pleased and not pleased. She now has bone everywhere but on the right side. We are rapidly approaching a crossroad, and he did think for a minute before he decided that was going to give her one more year to grow the bone on the right side. He didn’t think she could grow the bone she has so far, so we will continue to pray that God will make those little bones grow and she will get to do all the things on her list.

He did say, you could just use your common sense. I said, yes, well, one of us (pointing at P) wants to wrap her in bubble wrap; the other one of us wants ┬áto let her try things within reason. He said, do you say no? I said, sure, I’ve said no to acro (which her hero Bri does and she wants to try), and he said, okay, so we’re going to let Mom decide for the next year when Dad wants to reach for the bubble wrap, mom has the deciding vote. He also said that next year we will have to move if she hasn’t grown the bone. This is a faith journey — big time. She is a permanent resident of the prayer list at our church and I would respectfully ask that if your church or religious group has a prayer chain or prayer list, please add her to the list. God can do big things and I’m praying that He will do one more big thing for Katie. If He doesn’t, then I believe it means that this blog is serving a larger purpose.

Sitting in my closet right now is a two-wheeled scooter (pink and purple with Tinkerbell on it). She has asked twice already when she’s going to get her scooter, and that will likely happen tomorrow. So we will watch, wait, and pray.

One week ago . . .

You were here, and now you are gone. One week ago I thought I had plenty of time. You were suffering with your pressure sickness and it would be gone in a day or so and you’d be back to yourself. Note, I don’t say happy self or playful self. Those were never words that accurately described you, but loyal, true, steadfast, dedicated. Those were you.

At this time last week, I knew you were in trouble. I didn’t know quite how bad yet, but I knew there was a good chance that my phoenix wasn’t going to rise again. I hope that by the time I figured out how bad it was, your spirit had made the journey to the bridge and that you were playing with Carson and having the best time you ever had. I hope you have had plenty of steak.

I feel so bad for your dad. He made steak tonight and he thought it tasted wonderful and was expecting me to comment on it. It tasted like ashes to me. We had steak last Wednesday and I painstakingly cut you pieces from my steak so you could share. What did I care if you ate table scraps? For one thing, the only way you were getting them was if someone gave them to you. No way you were getting up on those back legs of yours to steal. For another, you needed the food. Your body was starting to waste away and I knew I wasn’t far from having to make a decision I didn’t want to make.

Dr. Chip sent me a card telling me how sorry he was that you’re gone, but glad that you took the decision out of our hands. I don’t know if you did that consciously or if this just happened to you like you slammed into a brick wall (and you’d actually know something about that feeling — what a klutz you could be at times). He’s right. I don’t think I would have had the heart to let you go as long as you were in the fight. And that’s how I saw most of your life.

And that is how I will honor your life. I won’t walk away from a fight, Sam. You never did. You never quit. You never gave up. I would be shaming your memory if I did any less. But I understand, too, that there was a difference in “fight” for you. You had to care about the outcome and it had to matter *to you* for you to fight. Being with me mattered and you fought. Peyton stealing your toy? Eh, there are others and her big bowling ball head couldn’t get to the good ones anyway.

We’re all starting to adjust to life without you, but it is so different, so weird, and so hard. We keep waiting for you to come to the gate, the door, the window, and you don’t. So far, no one here has dreamed about you. If you can, visit Ben. He misses you so much and he needs to know you’re okay where you are.

And this is mama being brave. Who knew I would have to put this word into action so quickly? I should have known that this word choosing me was going to bring a whole new level of stuff to the surface, but I am brave and it is a big brave and you will always have part of my heart.

A Brief Update

Sam had a massive stroke late Thursday night. She died at 4am on Friday morning. I am so grateful that she likely never knew what hit her and that, for her, it was incredibly quick even if it took her body awhile to catch up with her spirit.

I know that she is running free and eating what she wants and she has no pain. I know that she is finally free of fear and is truly happy. We loved her no matter what and that won’t change even with death.

Good rest and Godspeed, Sam.

If you want to make a donation in memory of my girl, her favorite organization: Labrador Life Line.