»  mark    29 Aug 2019 @ 09:56    

Time flies, and not just when you’re having fun. 9 years ago, tired, needing a break from writing, I stopped posting to this site. I’ve considered resuming our adventure tales many times since then, but momentum is a tricky thing. It is good when it is working for you, but it can work against you just as well. And once an object (or a habit) is at rest, it takes a lot of energy to start it moving again.

So much time has past, I will not attempt to fill in the gaps, at least, not right now. But today, I wanted to stop and reflect, I needed to stop and reflect.

One of the blessings of moving to New England, was finding a place to rent that was both big enough for and accommodating of larger pets. True, we did have the beta fish Sirius Purple, that successfully crossed the country with us in a 32 oz. cup. But the kids (read: Maya) had been “hounding” us for years for a dog. Settled in our vintage 1790 New Hampshire Farmhouse, we knew the time had come. After scouring adoption placement ads for a few weeks, we decided that “Abel” was the dog for us.

I admit more than a little apprehension as we brought him home in early January 2014 from Rochester, Maine (just across the New Hampshire border) after he had traveled the previous day from Georgia. This was going to change our family, and I wasn’t altogether sure how. Looking back now, he has been a blessing in so many ways.

“Abel” just didn’t fit, and not because I have anything against Bible names. After some consideration, the family agreed to name him Albus, after the wise old headmaster of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School. Albus has always seemed a wise dog, even when we adopted him at the age of 5 or 6 (who knows?). He was friendly, active, and caring. From the first night, he climbed the super steep stairs to jump up on Maya’s bed. He would do that for many years. Through some very cold winters, in a bedroom that often had ice on the inside of the windows and got down to the 30’s, he provided as much warmth as he received.

Albus had many amazing qualities: he almost never barked (until he met Ronan), he was gentle and patient with small children, he loved meeting other dogs, and enjoyed romping with the kids both inside and out as they would hide and seek, kick a soccer ball around, or wrestle playfully. He never stole food from the table or countertops. We used to be amazed that we could leave a frozen piece of meet by the heater vents on the floor to thaw and he never took them.

He could get into mischief when left attended outside, and we did not have a fenced yard, so we had to depend on clipping him to a tie-out or keeping him on a leash. The times he escaped, he loved to explore strange things in the nearby swamp, or visit other homes in the neighborhood where he knew dogs lived. Most times, this was innocent enough, and other than requiring a bath on a few occasions (which he hated), all was well. One evening, he slipped out of a not-entirely-closed door and wandered over by the highway that ran adjacent to our home. In the dusky light, he was struck by an oncoming car. The driver stayed with him while our neighbor came to get us. We hurried to his aid and rushed him to a vet who fortunately hadn’t closed for the day. They ran some x-rays, but found nothing seriously broken. A few fractures would heal on their own and they cleaned up his paws that had suffered numerous scratches from the collision.

Within a day, Albus was feeling a bit better, but he did no want bandages on his feet, so he continually yanked on them so he could lick his wounds. This would be a struggle for the next few weeks as we had to try and keep the wounds covered so they would dry and heal, and he did whatever he could to pull off the socks and other protective coverings we put on them. Eventually he returned to health and we were able to remove the bandages.

When we moved to Maine the next summer, Albus was glad for the new scenery and enjoyed exploring the woods and paths in our neighborhood. He continued to climb the stairs to the second floor to sleep on Maya’s bed and also enjoyed resting by the warm fireplace in the winters. We knew he wouldn’t stay young forever, and in time, making the climb upstairs became too difficult and he preferred to just sleep downstairs.

After some time, we were blessed to find another dog to adopt, a much younger and lively pup. Ronan would test Albus with his jumpy in-your-face demeanor at times, but Albus let him know his place. Only once did they appear ready to rumble when we brought home a large bag of chicken bones. But they soon acclimated to each other, and although I don’t know if they were ever close friends, they learned to live in peace. In recent weeks, we have observed Ronan “grooming” Albus more than he ever had, licking his head, ears, and feet. At the time, I attributed that to just Ronan getting in Albus’s face again, but now I’m not certain. Albus was getting old and was having increasingly difficult time standing up and moving around. He stopped going on walks and slept most of the day. Near the end his legs were so wobbly, it was difficult for him to support his weight.

We knew the end might be near, but whether that was in weeks or months, who could tell? Yesterday, the day had come, and after spending much of the day writing letters, drawing pictures, and trying to surround Albus with as much love and beauty as we could gather, we said goodbye. I know that some people are attached to their pets, and I think I was unfairly judgmental of some who I perceived to regard their pets as children. Albus would never replace my own children, certainly, but I would be remiss to not consider him an important part of our family.

He was the family dog of my children’s early years, a faithful companion, and a joy to our home. I marveled on multiple occasions as he grew older that he never complained, never whined though I knew he was uncomfortable or even in pain. Albus showed me what it meant to age with dignity and grace, an example I hope to emulate as I grow older. We have traveled together, shared walks, adventures, and difficult times, too. I think the bond between people and their animals grows strong as they reflect the same love and care that a child needs. We care for them when they are hurt and sick, look after their needs for food, activity, and shelter. We lean on them when we are sad or in need of support. And somehow, they seem to understand.

Today, we will lay his body to rest in the backyard, a task I expect to be nearly as difficult as the events of the past 24 hours. But I wouldn’t trade this task for an easier way out. Just as Harry Potter gloried in the manual labor of creating a resting spot for Dobby, I too feel that this is one last chance to show my love for this exceptional animal that has meant so much to our family.

We will all miss Albus dearly, but I wouldn’t trade that decision we made 5.5 years ago to invite him into our home for the loss we feel now. I truly believe that we will see him again in another life, and perhaps unencumbered by the pain and stiffness of old legs, we will have another chance to romp and explore once more.

Someday I’ll be a master barber, just like François

»  mark    5 Jul 2010 @ 13:40    

Maya, oh, Maya. We thought her days of trimming hair were past… Yesterday, after the kids had been quite for a stretch of time (unfortunately, this is usually a bad sign), I went in the bedroom to investigate. Among the boxes that had been snatched and cut up I saw a few locks of hair on the floor.

I quickly grabbed the hair and held it up to both Maya and Elijah to match by color. But they both have the same brownish hair, so I had to look closer. Well, I didn’t really have to, because I could see that Maya had trimmed Elijah’s fringe and lopped a few of her longer strands on one side.

The funny thing is we had planned on cutting Elijah’s hair just yesterday, but he fell asleep in the car and wouldn’t wake up. We ended up just putting him to bed. I guess Maya felt it was her job to pick up the slack and finish the job.

I must admit, it isn’t the worst cut she’s done. But Olya and I could do without the cardiac arrest each time we find hair clippings on the floor.

Anya funnies

»  mark    5 Jul 2010 @ 13:30    

Our little Anya is really growing up fast, but not just her body. Here are a few of the things Anya has said recently that make us laugh.

More lemon water, please
Lemon water = watermelon (great anagram; obviously working on her Scrabble skills)

Oh! I hear the sour cream truck!
What? Don’t you have one driving around your neighborhood playing music and selling treats to the kids?

Monsters, Inc.
Me: Anya, when did you get to be such a monster? (referring to her size next to Ivy)
Anya (smiling): Maya’s a monster, too.

I don’t like sweet things

»  mark    29 Apr 2010 @ 11:34    

Elijah is a funny kid. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was Phil’s twin brother. Picky as can be, he survives on a diet of bread, peanut butter, cold cereal, and cheese.

Of course, thanks to our Vita-Mix, we’ve been able to give him a vegetable and fruit infusion at least once a week. I’m sure that’s helped. Still, we continue to try to expand his horizons with invitations to whatever fresh fruit we have. Occasionally, we try the tactic of telling him how good it tastes.

“Elijah, have a bite of this mango, it’s so sweet!” Without even a thought he replies, “I don’t like sweet things.”

Of course that isn’t true, because he loves desserts and candy, sweet drinks and ice cream. But if fruit is sweet, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. The funniest part of it, is that he often likes derivatives of fruits, but will stubbornly refuse the fruit itself.


Elijah likes

but not…

applesauce, apple juice
orange juice
spinach raviolis
real blackberry ice cream
pasta sauce
any fruit in kefir
bananas if he is hungry enough

any fruit
bananas with “black specks”

Is this the same child?

»  mark    25 Apr 2010 @ 11:07    

Perhaps some may not think it worthy of a blog post, but Anya’s sleeping habits have been so good lately, I had to write something.

Many of you may remember that this is the child who has not slept more than 5 hours in a row for the first 18 months of her life. Well things have slowly but steadily improved since that time, and this last couple of weeks have been amazing. I just put her in the bed, cover her with the blankets, put a favorite stuffed animal at her side, say goodnight, kiss her on the forehead and say “See ya!”

She responds with a “See ya” of her own and I walk out of the room. No fuss, no calling me back in, she just stays there and lies quietly until she is asleep. It is almost too good to be true; I hope it will last.

Potential cub scout skit

»  mark    22 Jan 2010 @ 20:52    

Sometimes, our kids do the unthinkable: they play together nicely. This never seems to work when requested, of course, it has to be spontaneous. Recently, Elijah has been enjoying the P.D. Eastman story The Best Nest. In fact, he’s heard it so many times, he can recite it back to you with just a few word prompts to get him going.

Inspired by this lovable story, Elijah and Maya were playing in the bedroom building a “nest” together. Elijah found a nice piece of wooden bread from their pretend kitchen set and being the dutiful papa bird, brought it home for dinner. Olya overheard the ensuing dialog, that went something like this.

Elijah: Here is some food.
Maya (taking it in her hand): Hey, why is it wet?
Elijah: I brought it in my beak.
Maya: Oh, Elijah, next time just pretend your hand is your beak.

Catching up on the past few months

»  mark    27 Dec 2009 @ 22:03    

Hi, All!

*crickets chirping, stage right*

Yes, I suppose that is what happens when readers don’t see any new posts on the blog for awhile. I don’t blame you for deserting. It isn’t that we haven’t had anything interesting to report, I just haven’t had the will power to sit down at the end of the day and write. Shame on me.

But for those that are still out there, the wait was hopefully worth it. I’ve just posted a bunch of articles for your reading enjoyment. Dates are approximate to when the events happened, so the sequence of the blog will stay intact. And we’ll try to be a little more regular contributors going forward.


That was for me

»  mark    27 Dec 2009 @ 21:02    

Do you ever give talks in Church or teach a class and the subject is really just for you? That was the case today, as members of the bishopric spoke in Church, a ritual in our ward on the last Sunday of the year. The topic was up to us, but I picked something that I needed to hear, and hoped others might find useful too.

Usually, I don’t hear whether it was or not. Other than the occasional thanks or a pat on the back, I don’t expect much feedback after my talks. And I certainly didn’t expect much today, as I didn’t really think the talk was one of my best.

But I was humbled when one of the senior missionaries that serves in our ward came up to me at the end of Church and told me that my talk was just for him. He had not planned on attending our ward today because his wife was ill. He thought he would just go to his own ward, but was prompted to come to ours instead, and did so, wondering if it was the right decision. I guess something I said struck a chord because he said he knew that my talk was the reason he needed to come to our ward today.

Wow. I’m still in awe. And I still believe that talk was for me.

I don’t have the manuscript (I never write out my talks in full), but if anyone is interested, I took pieces from the following three talks and ended with Joshua 24:14-15.

We are Women of God
Sheri L. Dew, LDS General Conference, October 1999
I love her analogy of life as a “sight-seeing or a shopping trip” and shared that first story from her talk.

The False Gods We Worship
Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, June 1976
A classic. If you’ve never read this one, you’re in for a treat.

Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change
Dale Renland, LDS General Conference, October 2009
I love the story of him skipping Church, then subsequently repenting, making simple changes, and feeling the zeal return to his life.

After dark deliveries

»  mark    26 Dec 2009 @ 21:51    

In our usual last-minute style, we decided it would be fun to take some goodies around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve. The kids, in an amazingly unselfish gesture, agreed to share some of our beloved Clementine oranges (peaches, as Anya calls them).

Olya sewed up some simple bags out of fabric she had on hand, Maya contributed some tags she had prepared from her coloring book, and Maya, Elijah, and I set out to deliver them in the dark.

Most people we greeted were surprised to see us out so late, but the kids had so much fun, they didn’t complain about the 20 degree weather. Maya couldn’t stop talking about how much she liked seeing the people’s smiling faces when they came to the door and saw us. She summed up the evening well: “Service feels great, doesn’t it?”

Tubing in the backyard

»  mark    24 Dec 2009 @ 09:21    

We had a fun afternoon tubing with my family in the backyard yesterday. Well, it was my parents’ backyard, and a good thing too, since they live on a farm in the mountains at 5200 ft. elevation. It was rather nice taking 10 steps out their backyard to get to the slope.

The kids got cold, but not before beating up the trail pretty good. Olya told me later that this was her first time on a tube, ever.

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