Sunday, August 26, 2012

Camps for the Boys

This week Mike had the opportunity to participate in a unique college freshmen orientation activity conducted by one of his doctoral advisees, a Wayne State University Freshmen Quests canoe trip. We took off bright and early Monday morning and spent Monday through Wednesday on the Au Sable River near Mio, Michigan.
Mike and Bill telling the freshmen how to make their professors happy

Chris, our fearless leader, speaking sage words of wisdom

Learning the Wayne State Fight Song

You never know when a random camera might snap your picture. Always be prepared with something worth taking. . . .

In the meantime, Hallie held the fort with the kids. Landon spent mornings from Monday through Friday at the Knapsackers Camp.
Landon with a knapsackers camp counselor

Mom was so eager to get Landon there on Monday that she forgot the house key. Good thing Dan was available to help get everyone back in.

Mark and Miles enjoyed the afternoon’s entertainment. “Better than cable!”

Said entertainment included jump-starting Dan's car.

Eliza is very active but not very vocal for 18 months. To make sure everything is OK, Hallie took her to the audiologist. No problem there! We’ll keep waiting for her to move into communicating with words. She successfully communicates what she wants via sign language and visual signals.
"A Utah fan am I!"

"Mid-afternoon nap? Yeah, right!"

The school district came the next day and did an evaluation that said everything is fine except for she is not speaking. So come fall she will do group speech one day a week and they will give us a home plan. Hallie also had the opportunity of meeting Nancy Kaufman of Kaufman Children’s Center recently. Nancy did a brief evaluation of Eliza and made the recommendation for Eliza to come for two half-hour sessions starting in September. We are glad the cars get relatively good gas mileage.

Landon started soccer this week up in St. Clair Shores with a program we heard about from Sean and Jen. He seems to be very excited, and his coach seems good. He asked on the way home from church when does real soccer start. Hallie tried to explain that practicing is part of real soccer. We will see how well he understood that come practice this week. Come September 5, Landon will be back doing cartwheels and flips all around the gym at Extreme Gymnastics.

While on the river trip, Mike had some delicious camp food (no, seriously), including couscous and an improvised version of gumbo for dinner. He enjoyed the soup and a later chat with Dan about soups so much that he got inspired on Friday to make gumbo. Using a rotisserie chicken and spicy sausage from Costco, Creole and Cajun spices from Bulk Foods, and a couple of recipes he found online, he concocted something that tasted yummy even if it might not have been totally authentic. 

He even made stock from the chicken carcass to be used in a later soup. He’s looking forward to trying out Grandma’s beef and barley stew in the fall among others.

For her part, Hallie found inspiration from the I Heart Organizing blog. We now have file folders all set for when the kids go to school. While neither kid is going to school quite yet, Landon will start preschool three days a week and a Kindergarten readiness program two days a week. Eliza will go to a “mom’s day out” program come September, so they will spend some time out and about.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sometimes You Have to Make the Hard Call

After confirming our conclusion that we needed to find a better home for Leo over the weekend, Hallie put a call out on Facebook to find resources and information. Her friends from the GP Mom’s Club pulled through with some great suggestions, including the name of a lady whose boyfriend was looking for a dog.
Some parting photos. As Mike was preparing the blog, Landon saw them. He wishes we could still have Leo or that maybe someday we can get his brother. We hope so too!

This is Eliza's favorite thing to do with/to Leo. We considered getting her a saddle. Leo would just put up with her, hopeful that one of the grown-ups would intervene.

Parting with Leo was an issue of timing and fit. We had to place him in a better situation after recognizing that the situation he was in with us was not working out. Our decision was for him as much as anyone else. Leo is an amazing puppy. So smart and well-behaved, and he has a great disposition. However, he was one of three “puppies” in the home, and Mom and Dad have our hands full with our other two at this point. Now was just not the right time, and it was better to give Leo a good home than have everyone keep struggling. We would never have done this if we didn’t feel we had to, and it breaks our hearts.

The experience gave Mike a (very small) look into the world of adoption placement from the point of view of the person making the placement. We knew it was not right for us to keep Leo, and we didn’t just want to get rid of him. We tried to do right by him and us both. We still have a lot of conflicting feelings about how this situation came up and what the best way to resolve it was. We can only imagine how much harder it must have been for Natalie and Zoraida and how they must have felt before choosing to place their children with us. But sometimes you have to make the hard call and be willing to bear whatever criticism or consequences follow.

His new owners renamed him Huck (a la Huckleberry Hound). He looks like a good Huck.

Placing Leo with another family was a hard call to make, but we knew it was the right one pretty quickly. Neither of the kids really seems to have been affected by Leo’s departure. Landon asked about him a couple of times, and Eliza came downstairs Wednesday morning looking for him, but that was the end of it. It’s debatable how well either one will remember that we even had a dog a few months or years down the road. A week after Leo’s placement is too soon to tell anything. In the meantime, our routines have reverted back to their pre-puppy level of insanity.

We finally let our creaky lumpy futon give up the ghost, replacing it with a relatively more comfy couch that imposes itself on our family room like a gigantic hibernating mocha-colored bear (good thing we had switched family and dining rooms!). The kids have a hard time clambering up as the seats are fairly high off the floor.

On Wednesday Mike and Hallie went with Sean and Jen to Shogun Bistro and had teppanyaki-style steak and chicken served up hot and steaming right before our eyes. Our chef was a real cut-up.

Mike attended an orientation meeting for the Wayne State Freshmen Quests canoe trip down the Au Sable River he will participate in from Monday through Wednesday next week while Hallie holds down the nest with our active brood. Should be challenging and fun, for both of us!

We have battled a pretty nasty cold this week, complete with a whole set of symptoms passed from one family member to another. Each of the parents tried to give the other a chance to sneak a nap in, and we let the kids sleep as much as possible. Sleep, cold medicine, and pain killers kept us functioning through it all.

Friday was a fun filled day with our neighbors Dan, Doreen, Elliott, and Owen. In the morning everyone played outside. By 10:30 their family and ours headed to Barnes and Noble for story time. Landon, Owen, and Hallie ended up at Buddy’s pizza for lunch. In the afternoon the kids got back together and the adults pulled their resources and we had our GP Hillbilly BBQ on the front porch. We all had so much fun and the kids really liked their yummy Drumsticks for dessert.

By Saturday, we all felt well and desperate enough to get outside and see the wide world. We drove up to Armada where we had free corn on the cob at Blake Farms and then consumed corn dogs, cheese fries, and elephant ears while inspecting the animals and enjoying the carnival rides at the Armada Fair, “A True Country Fair.” Landon especially enjoyed going in circles on the motorcycle and riding with Dad on a burlap sack down the super long slide. A kid challenged us to a race, and we pulled out a win right at the finish line!
Fresh corn on the cob. So sweet!

The kids saw a bunny!

Of course they had to get a closer look.

"Yeah, right," said Bugs.

"We won't let no stinkin' fence stop us!"

Today the hare won.

It's surprising how much noise all the animals make.

Feeding time! We'd make some noise too.

At the Miracle of Life tent, . . .

Eliza looked at the baby animals . . .

while Landon played with trucks.

"Let's go on the Ferris Wheel!"

"Hi, Mom and Eliza!"

The mild weather continued through Sunday, and after church the kids played in the backyard while Mike gathered some veggies for dinner.  

Our cucumbers are especially smart. They grow into ready-made letters for spelling:
They spell a real word. Just "pull" real hard on your left ear and tilt your head (darn photo editing software). 

As you can see, we used real manure to grow these babies. 

Anyway, you get the idea. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Challenging Week

We continued our visit from Grandma on Monday with her, Hallie, and Landon going to Jungle Java and occupational therapy. Meanwhile, Mike, Eliza, and Leo enjoyed the sun and shade of the backyard. Eliza has learned how to remove her clothes and diaper, so Mike decided, why fight it? The girl reveled in the caress of the dappled sun on all four of her olive cheeks. Problem was, she enjoyed it so much we had a hard time getting her to get back into her pajamas for bed. We made salsa Monday night.

On Tuesday the ladies and kids went to Greenfield Village, dropping Mike off at Wayne State along the way. He took a gander at his office:

While at Greenfield Village the gang got to do things we had never done before such as ride a Model T and a horse drawn carriage. Landon loves everything with wheels or that moves. He was in Heaven. In the end we enjoyed the yummy mac & cheese at Taste of History and frozen custard.

All too soon Wednesday came, and Grandma had to leave us. Grandpa missed her too much (next time you can come with!). 
A family portrait before Grandma left. . .

. . . and the close-up
They left a little early with Landon to run a couple of errands while Mike looked after Eliza and Leo. Landon started showing symptoms of what we thought might be pinkeye and by the end of the day he was miserable.

On Thursday, Mike helped a new family move into the branch. Eliza started showing signs of goopy things in her eyes. Hallie started feeling sick herself. We were hoping that it is allergies.

We attended a concert by musician Jim Gill on Friday. Before leaving, we took Leo out for a potty break. He decided not to come in, so we chose to leave him in the fenced-in back yard. At the concert, we found that Jim Gill was even more fun to listen to live than on his CDs. Very talented.

When we came home, we found Leo in the company of Miles and Dan. He had squeezed through a gap in the side yard fence, run into the front yard, and nearly got hit by a car. A kind soul corralled him, and Miles claimed him as ours. Thanks, Miles and Dan! Not good, Leo. . . .

Hallie was able to get an appointment to take the kids to the doctor, where they were both diagnosed with conjunctivitis. Boo. They received eye drops, and of course they are not too fond of them.

Hallie asked us to give her a happy Saturday, and we did try. We started the morning with chocolate chip pancakes covered in strawberry freezer jam, and then we went upstairs to get some cleaning done. Hallie and Landon went to get Hallie’s repaired cell phone while Mike and the other babies played outside. Shortly after Hallie and Landon’s return, Mike came inside while Landon took Leo out for a potty break. Again, Leo had squeezed through the opening in the fence that Mike had thought he closed after the prior day’s escapades. We quickly caught Leo and brought him back to the yard. Mike and Landon set to work closing off the gap for good with wire, Sugru, stakes nailed into the ground, and so on. The idea was not only to keep Leo in but to prevent the electric meter reader (the cause of the gap) from taking that shortcut through our yard on his rounds.

In the meantime, Eliza took a nap and we watched some Olympic action. After she woke up, we put Leo in his crate and went back upstairs to work. Hallie asked Landon to get something from downstairs, and Landon decided to say hi to Leo, leaving his crate open in the process. Some time later, Mike came down to find that Leo had left his crate and completely destroyed a DVD we had borrowed from the library. In itself, the destroyed DVD was not a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but as a straw, it was the last one, sealing the slowly growing realization Mike and Hallie had come to over the month that we really were not ready to deal with three very active little ones and the chaos they bring in their wake. Leo is a great dog and deserves to be in a situation where he is the center of attention rather than one of three needy "puppies."

Unfortunately, between Leo’s misadventure and the other kids’ needs, Hallie’s perfect day had imploded. We put Leo in his crate with some music playing while the rest of us ran some errands and otherwise cooled down from the emotional charge. Once we returned home and Mike took Leo for a walk, things resembled normal again.

Hallie stayed home with the kids while Mike went to church on Sunday. When he got home, we made the decision to look for a new home for Leo. This is not a decision we take lightly. We’ll try again when everyone is more ready, and in the meantime, we’ll try to make sure Leo goes to a good home.  

We had dinner in the back yard, again with the kids enjoying the mild weather in their all-together. Again, why fight the inevitable? 

Trader Joe's Joe-Joe goatee