Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Hi, I'm Naki! I found my FUR-ever home this Saturday with this crazy family. They're crazy, but they're happy. I get lots of love, hugs, kisses, exercise and food. I had it pretty good at my foster home, too, but there's nothing like being in my permanent pack. I was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Tennessee by this really cool lady that had lots of German Shepherds. She gave me a bath, brushed me, fed me and loved me, but I had to share her with so many other dogs. Until I met the Dickensons! I now have an older brother, Hannibal, and just like a little sister, I pester him. Little being the operative word...I outweigh him by a good 20 pounds and stand a good 3 inches taller than him. But we play and fight just like siblings.

I love my new family, as they were very sad when I showed up, but when they see me, they smile and talk about how similar I am to a friend named Riley. This Riley girl must have been something special, because they say I am very much like her in looks and personality. She must have been great, because I'm nearly a perfect dog! Nothing like a dog that won't wag her own tail, huh?

My other sister, Pyper, loves me too. She is always hugging my neck, feeding me cheese and dressing me up. I follow her and my little little sister, Raegan all around the house. I love kids and I make sure to watch over them. Every morning a nice lady named Jenn, comes over and my mom and dad go to work. Jenn has 2 rambunctious boys, but I love them, too! I get so much loving and scratches behind my ears. I'm in heaven! The fact that I'm never alone is wonderful, as I have spent most of my life alone. My mom and dad said I'm an answer to prayer. That MUST mean I'm special.

I hang out in the playroom with my sisters. While they play, I relax and make sure nothing will harm them.

I get to go outside a lot and run and play. They have a lot of land with cats, chickens and horses. I love to run the fence line with the horses and watch them carry on. I'm very respectful of them, and am sure to herd them, but not hurt them. I do the same with the chickens. They are a noisy bunch, but sweet. I herd them up and sometimes lunge at them just to ruffle their feathers. I know it's ornery, but it's fun! I get tuckered out after all that running, I have to take a nap...

It's so great to meet your acquaintance! I hope to meet you in person soon, as I love new people. I'm going on my first big trip this weekend to my Mamom and Pop-Pop's house in Northern Virginia. They have a dog, too, and I can't wait to meet Uncle Toby!!!

**We adopted Naki from Imminent Danger German Shepherd Rescue in Greenville, Tn. She came from a shelter, and we guess she's around 5 years old. Like she said, she is nearly the perfect dog. Very mild mannered inside, yet excited to go outside and play. She was extensively tested with children, cats, dogs and yes, even chickens when we requested her. She arrived up to date on all her shots, microchipped, and spayed. Deb Lewellen runs the rescue and she was a delight to work with. I truly do believe that Naki is an answer to prayer. Our hearts were so heavy and sad when we lost Riley. Naki is a salve on that wound. We also worked with Southeast German Shepherd Rescue. They, too, were amazing to work with, we just didn't get a chance to meet any of their dogs. They were very vigilant in ensuring we would find the right dog for our family, and when we told them we found Naki, even at a different rescue, they were delighted. If you ever want to rescue a German Shepherd, I would highly recommend either agency. My favorite breed is RESCUED.**

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Re-homing or Coq Au Vin

Last week, Stewpot, our resident rooster attacked Pyper. Pyper loves to help me feed all the animals and while we were in the chicken coop, Stewpot flogged her. I had turned by back for just a split second to pour feed into the feeder, and I heard her screaming. I turned around to find Stewpot's talons tangled in her hair. Pyper had had the sense to lay down, and I had the sense to drop kick him. He went flying and I tended to Pyper. He left terrible welts on her legs and I marched her inside and told Shannon that we were going to get rid of him. In my mind, I was envisioning making a delicious Coq Au Vin...

We didn't eat Stewpot, however tempting it was. Instead, I listed him on Craigslist on Monday morning and by noon had a new home for him in Bluefield. Easy peasy. You may be wondering why we didn't eat Stewpot, as we did name him such in case of said event...but it's just because he was a great rooster. Really. He protected his flock but I also had to protect mine. When we mentioned Stewpot to Pyper, this was her general feeling. She said he was bad and she would readily show you her "chicken boo-boos." She's so funny.

We loaded Stewpot up and headed to Bluefield. You would think that having a rooster in a cat crate would damper his crowing, but in fact, I felt like he crowed even more just to let us know he was still kicking. Stinker.

We loaded up the kids, and Roxy, a temporary German Shepherd foster dog we took in. My friend Frances called me on Friday morning to tell me about a nice shepherd pup that was at her clinic that had been abandoned by her owners. They couldn't afford to pay the $100 bill, and told Frances to find her a good home. So, Frances called me, and I got in touch with a Imminent Danger German Shepherd Rescue in Greeenville, Tn and Deb Lewellen agreed to take her. First, though, because Roxy wasn't housebroken, we decided since we were heading to Tazewell to visit Shannon's family, we'd bring Roxy along to run and play on the farm. She had a great time!
I'm so happy to note that Roxy has a family in New England that wants her. I love happy endings like this! Deb Lewellen at Imminent Danger GSD Rescue is amazing to work with, so if you ever want a shepherd, look into rescuing. We have an application on one of her rescues. A post later this week will fill you in on that! :)

Here is Stewpot with his proud new owner, Rex. He has a flock of hens that need protecting, and I could tell that he loved chickens. So, it worked out for everyone involved!

I must admit, though, that I do miss hearing Stewpot's crowing. Oh, well, so is the life of a farmer...ha!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saying Goodbye

This is the hardest post I've had to write to date. Saturday, St. Patty's Day, we laid Riley to rest. Our friend and vet, Frances, came over and put her to sleep with us whispering "I love you" to Riley the whole time. Looking over to Frances, I saw that she, too, was crying. I wondered out loud how she does it.

Many years ago, Riley saved my life. A man broke into my house in the middle of the night, stabbed me, and escaped out the front door to have Riley pursue him, jump on his back and rip the side and back of his neck open. Not too many people know that story, as it's not one that I tell often. If it hadn't been for that courageous dog that night, I may not be here today with my family, having a family. She is my hero even after death.

Her cancer had spread, she had tumors, and weeping cysts. She looked tired and sad. She had lost weight. She threw up several times on Saturday morning. I called Frances and she said it wasn't a good sign. It could mean her kidneys were starting to shut down. Enough was enough. We had loved her, cared for her, and she did the same for us. It was, as my sister in law Kerry, eloquently said, our last act of love to give her a dignified and loving death.

Shannon dug a nice grave in our pasture so Riley could be laid to rest with the horses. The horses she loved to go trail riding with, chase around the round pen and later in life, watch from the back porch. I buried her, and Shannon came to help as I grew weary. It started to rain. As we put the last bit of dirt over her, I started walking up the hill, head down, crying. Shannon told me to look up. I did, and saw the most beautiful rainbow. I ran to get my camera. I had to document God's promise to us. It gave me hope that Riley was with all the other loved and unloved pets in Heaven. I don't believe pets have souls, but I do believe they have spirits. And I do believe I will see her again.

Yesterday, we were driving home from dropping off a German Shepherd puppy at a rescue, and Shannon said that it seemed as though our family had a hole in it now. I couldn't agree more. RIP Riley. 1998-2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Compromise is Key

I have always heard nightmares of suffocating your child while co-sleeping. When I started working for the health department, I toured the Va State Medical Examiner's Office during a training in Richmond. They stated the #1 cause of death in infants was caused by co-sleeping. That scared the poo out of me! I would nap with Pyper, but never falling into a restful sleep scared of rolling over and suffocating her. She slept in her crib as an infant from day one. She didn't even like sleeping in the cradle my dad made for her. I am ashamed to say we let her "cry it out" as that's what everyone told us to do when she woke us in the middle of the night. I still harbour guilt over that. Things have changed this time around. I don't know why, but the idea of having Raegan "cry it out" makes my skin crawl. I can't imagine not responding to her every time she needs comfort, food, or just to hear our voice to reassure her. I am still a bit frightened of co-sleeping, so my friend Brandy (a true mentor to me), blogged about how they incorporated a sidecarred crib into their bedroom for both her children. Doing as I always do, I Googled it. Anyone that knows me, knows I am the Google Queen! This (below) is a version of a crib that is sidecarred to our bed. It's the perfect compromise of co-sleeping and safety wrapped into one. Having said that, I don't doubt that co-sleeping can be done safely, I just can't fully rest with my infant next to me, afraid of smothering her like I did my love bird in high school...that's a different story for another post...ANYWAYS! I put an extra crib mattress in the crib, lowered the railing as far as it would go (some people even remove it all together) and bumped it up against our bed. It's perfect for the middle of the night comforts and not having to get out of bed completely and not being able to get back to sleep. Pyper likes to crawl up in Raegan's crib and play while we read stories or just have fun.
Sisterly lovin'

If I weren't so lazy, I, too, would remove the side railing and bungee the crib to our mattress. Perhaps when Raegan gets older and really starts moving around. Right now, she's still swaddled at night, like a little Glow Worm.

Kicking their legs up in the air. Pyper displays perfect gymnast pointy toes...

So next time you hear a debate about co-sleeping, perhaps you can suggest this wonderful and safe compromise! We love it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beautiful, Beautiful Blue Eyes

It's hard to believe my little blue eyed girl is 6 months old today. Raegan came into the world on September 12, 2011, with such a sweet disposition. She is the calm in the chaos, the sweet to the bitter, she is our gift from above. My mom was down this past weekend and kept commenting on how very sweet and happy she is. She is ready with a smile when you look at her and lovingly touches your face as you feed her. At 6 months she has FINALLY rolled over! We knew she had rolled over other times, but had never witnessed the act. This time, on March 8, she rolled over while we were Facetiming mom and dad. We all applauded her and she beamed! She's hesitant to eat solids, preferring to stick to her bottle, but picks up Pyper's sippy cup with gusto, trying to drink. She sleeps through the night for the most part. Waking in the early morning hours to feed. Then slipping off to sleep in her crib side-carred next to our bed. She naps 2-3 hours a day typically and always wakes with a smile. She is fascinated with her feet and loves to chew on her socks. She is our heart and I can't imagine life without our little redhead. 1 week old

1 month old with daddy

2 months old, loving to be swaddled

3 months old, tuckered out from Christmas baking

4 months old

5 months old

6 months old with Hammish, our sweet cat.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

All Natural

I've been reading this great book, Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Children by Kim Payne. Isn't that what we all want? Happy, secure and (GASP) CALM children??? The basis of the book is to de-clutter your home and your life. Children don't need things, they need you. They need to know they are loved, they need comfort, discipline and of course food, shelter and clothing. I've started really looking into this since Pyper's last birthday. We requested no toys at her party, instead requested craft items such as play-doh, glue, markers, crayons, coloring books, paint, etc. Everyone pretty much respected our request. Most understood why. Like so many, we had toys coming out of our ears. Containment was an issue. Until we started purging. And we continue to purge. What got me at Pyper's 2nd birthday party was that when she was presented with a gift, she ripped off the paper, peered at what she got, tossed it aside and started on another gift. It was disgusting. One friend and her two sons lovingly made the wrapping paper their gift came in. Pyper didn't even pause to admire the love and workmanship it took to make it, and I only got a quick peek at it. Sad. I am normally very good about writing out personal thank you cards for gifts, but I was at a loss this year because I had no idea who got her what. It was literally a blur. Then came Christmas. It was one of the best Christmases I can remember in a long time. We had a great time playing games, dancing with the kids, cooking, etc. Pyper and Raegan both got toys, but not so many that we needed a U-Haul to bring them home. It was a "respectable" amount for their ages. One gift was this Elmo (below) from mom and dad. Pyper loved it. It sang and danced, played the drums and tambourine. Please note that I am using the past tense. Elmo no longer works. It's just March 7, and this toy that cost $60 is broken. Pyper was very sad, and I was again, disgusted. What has happened to quality???

RIP Elmo, may you sing with the angels.

This toy is a very nice VTech ABC toy given to Pyper at her first birthday. She has played with it maybe 5 times. Again, sad.

Pyper got this computer from her Great-Grannie. An expensive toy that captivates her and holds her attention to the point that she wants to sleep with it. We have had to put it away...far, far, away so that she will actually play with other things, eat and even sleep without the constant lights and beeping.

A few months ago, I posted about unplugging my kids. Unplugging our parenting style. This, I have found, includes uplugging the toys. In the book, Simplicity Parenting, it discusses how less IS more. When you introduce a calm, clutter-free environment for your child, they have more focused and imaginative play. I'm slowly starting to weed out all the toys that beep, light up, talk, sing (how many of you out there would LOVE to never have another annoying noisy toy brought into your house???) and even those that merely require batteries.

I've found with my very limited parenting experience, Pyper prefers the boxes to toys. Bowls filled with dried beans to "make soup." Making forts out of sheets and ladder backed chairs, and playing in the sink or bathtub. She rarely picks up the blinky, battery operated toy (the exception being that crazy and annoying computer!).

This was a difficult decision, and one that I thought a lot about. I have read books and endless blogs on Waldorf style education, Charlotte Mason's methodologies, Montesorri and even classical education. I have taken a bit here and there and leave the rest. I have decided to start buying wooden or natural toys for my children. Not only is the quality superior to those made of plastic (remember Elmo?) but often times they are open-ended and engage her imagination. This is a sticky subject that I try not to discuss too openly, because I get comments about how I'm a tree-hugger and I'm all crunchy now. I guess I am. But that also doesn't mean I'm not appreciative of the gifts we have received. We have been blessed beyond measure with hand-me-down toys and clothes, and gifts. I just know when I'm purchasing the items, it's going to be all natural. Below are some examples.

I just bought this mixer for Pyper from Magic Cabin for 50% off. It will either be one of her birthday presents or Christmas presents. It's made from wood and natural fibers. As much as she loves to cook, I can really see her enjoying this.

I also got her this ironing table with iron from Magic Cabin. Again, 50% off and again, a future present. The one she has, is so low to the ground, she doesn't really use it and wants me to pull her learning tower up to my ironing board.

I got her these blocks a few weeks ago. She really likes them. She and the boys play on the floor and make all kinds of things from them. I love to see her little mind race with possibilities with open-ended toys.

Another epiphany I've had, and I haven't even discussed with Shannon, is to either fore go the birthday parties all together, or request any gifts be donated for needy children at either the Family Resource Center or Toys For Tots.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Laundry Day!

Pyper loves to help me do the laundry. She is very good at separating by color, and tells me what temperature to wash colors and whites. She loves to transfer the wet clothes into the dryer. I can't wait to have her help me hang clothes on the line and smell the sunshine on our clothes. I have been looking for a wooden washer and dryer but they run around $250! YIKES! Below is a picture of what I envision. I have asked my dad to make one for the girls as a Christmas present. Since I am impatient, and since Pyper's love of laundry seems to only grow with the piles of laundry, I decided to MAKE a washer and dryer.
I decided to make it out of a cardboard box. We have lots around the house with my addiction to Amazon and working at the health department. This box held car seats for the WIC program. Perfect for washing clothes! I separated the large box in half with some cardboard left over from the cave we made a month ago out of the same kind of box.

Then I traced a dinner plate to make the opening for the washer.

I used an envelope I had nearby to be the door of the dryer. You could use a piece of paper, I just had this handy.

Then I used a serrated bread knife to cut out the shapes. I like bread knives to use on cardboard because they are easier to handle and cut with.

I needed knobs for the washer and dryer. I went into the craft closet, pulled down the huge craft box and rummaged through it. Jenn had saved some plastic pudding cups. Perfect! I then got some pipe cleaners, as they are easy to bend and shape, and fairly sturdy. I poked a hole in the bottom of the cup, doubled up the pipe cleaner, threaded it through and then poked a hole in the cardboard backing. I had cut a piece of cardboard from the said cave box to use as the knob panel. I threaded the pipe cleaner through the panel, knotting it to secure it.

I had knotted the pipe cleaners inside each cup to secure them as well.

I then traced the face of the cup to some foam board and cut out the template. I glued them on the face of each cup to hide the pipe cleaner. I liked the bright green. :)

Here it is with the knob panel attached with knobs. I just propped it up and taped it. I used lots of packing tape. It's great stuff.

Side view of the knob panel.

I then had to make handles for the w/d doors. I used 2 pipe cleaners that I had twisted together to add strength.

Here it is. I had considered painting it, but decided against it. Pyper is relatively gentle with her toys, but the boys are a different story. They're boys after all. Their play is completely different. And let's be realistic--this is made of cardboard. It won't last very long. ((sigh))

I set it up before Pyper could play with it. I placed her iron, ironing table, hanging tree, empty detergent bottle and basket with odd pieces of laundry next to the washer and dryer. She saw it, and her whole face lit up. She said, "Oh! I do laundry like momma!" She had to go in and get her little cleaning apron before she started. Watching her play brought such a warmth to my heart.

Here she is moving her laundry from the washer into the dryer. The best thing, besides seeing Pyper play, was that this washer and dryer cost me nothing but time and a bit of imagination. Sometimes I am short on both, but today I scored.