Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Take the Climb by Otter Creek - Dedicated to Tyler Clementi and all others who have or are struggling

I first fell in love with Otter Creek when I heard a four-part interview with Peter and Mary Danzig on Mormon Stories, a podcast of various interests having to do with Mormonism.

My sister had sent me a link to their story, saying I might find it interesting. It was basically the story of their lives together and their journey from devout Mormons living in a small town near the small town I grew up in to their eventual (and very painful) leaving of the Mormon Church - in part due to the Church's stance on homosexuality (which is interesting seeing as how they are a straight couple :)).

I found it interesting that Peter was going to school majoring in social work when he started to seriously question the Church and its standing on social issues. I completely understand this - perhaps because social work classes focus on not only forming your own opinion about things - questioning things and seeking answers (things which are all shied away from in the Mormon Church) - but also looking at social justice issues impacting all people and teaching students to fight for and with those who are marginalized.

So, as a gay, formerly Mormon social worker I obviously found a lot that I could relate to with this couple.

Anyway, I have been following them a bit via Facebook and their webpage and saw that they had written a song dedicated to Tyler Clementi, the Rutger's teen who took his life after a video of him with another man was posted online by a fellow student.

I emailed Otter Creek requesting a copy of the song and got the following email along with the song:

In September I had just started to teach a violin lesson when my student's mother picked up her New York Times and gasped. She told me she had to show me something after the lesson. After I finished teaching, she showed me an article about a young violinist, Tyler Clementi who committed suicide after his roommate live streamed Tyler's relationship with another guy over the internet. As I read the article and looked at the picture of a young man holding his violin with such beautiful technique, I was filled with sadness.

The week before I had heard Hilary Hahn perform the Tchaikowsky violin concerto. During her incredible performance I had thought about the speculation that Tchaikowsky commited suicide because his "friends" told him that it would be better for him to kill himself than to be gay. I had thought about the magnificent gift that Tchaikowsky's gift has been to the world and what a loss his untimely death was for all of us. As I gazed at the picture of Tyler, I grieved the loss of a young man who had already brought so much joy and would have given a lifetime of beauty to so many. As Peter and I talked later that evening we wished there was something we could do. We decided to write a song and hope that maybe it does some good for someone. Some talented musician friends helped us make a live recording at Holladay United Church of Christ. Attached is the song. They lyrics are below. We hope you enjoy the song. If you do, please feel free to send it on with our hope that one day we will learn to treat all people with love and respect.

Take the Climb by Peter and Mary Danzig Recorded live at Holladay United Church of Christ vocal and acoustic guitar - Peter Danzig violin - Mary Danzig electric guitar - Bill Green bass- Jani Gamble drums - Amy Boettger recorded by Winston Gamble

Take the Climb
In memory of Tyler Clementi

It was late in the evening one September night
When Tyler found out what they'd done.
They'd taken a scene from his private life
And shown it online just for fun.
Now he didn't do anything wrong
He'd just fallen in love
Instead of drowning in the Hudson
He should have been high
Should have been left to climb high on the mountain of love.

There stand many others alongside of Tyler
Who have been thoughtlessly shamed
By those who profess that the core of their nature
Is unnatural sick and profane.
now it's not really that hard
To grab hold of their hands
Walk with them in the valley below
And take the climb high
Take the climb high on the mountain of love.

Now I have a message for preachers of hate
I think you may be confused
The road to salvation's not paved with rejection
Intolerance or abuse.
So stand down your guard
And I'll do the same
Let's meet each other in the valley below
And take the climb high
Take the climb high on the mountain of love.


If you would like an mp3 of the song let me know.

Friday, November 19, 2010

All I Want for Christmas Is...

Dear Santa,

This year, all I want for Christmas is a new butt.

Or a pair of jeans that fit the nonexistent one I seem to have.

I have never been very picky about the fit of jeans. I would just go to the store, search forever to find the right color of jeans, buy them based on color, and head home a happy girl. But over the past few years I have lost a bit of weight. I still have a ways to go, but I've lost 75% of the weight I want to lose. I'm wearing smaller sizes in everything, but I'm down 5 full sizes in pants. Which is great. The problem is that I have lost more from my butt than I have from my waist. So now, when I shop for jeans it's not just looking for the right color but for the right fit for a butt that isn't big enough for my waist, I guess.

Regular women's jeans in my new size all have the woefully unattractive saggy butt. I tried juniors, but hello, they are all ultra low rise these days which does nothing for an almost 32-year-old woman with a stomach that needs to catch up in the weight-loss race . I tried men's jeans, and while the butt fits great, the legs are way too wide.

So now I'm on the hunt for the perfect jeans. Or a new butt. Or a smaller waist that is proportionate to my butt.

Is that too much to ask, Santa?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

Okay, Robyn. For your viewing pleasure (including photos for added assistance and a bit o' fun):

Kristin's FABULOUSLY CHEESY Chicken Enchiladas

1 - 2 lbs chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
Sliced mushrooms
8 soft tortilla shells
2 cans enchilada sauce
1 small can chopped mild green chilies
1 small can sliced olives
2 cups shredded cheese
1 additional cup shredded cheese
Sour cream

Cook chicken and fry mushrooms
Then prepare to get your hands dirty (thanks to Kristin for being willing to get hers a little dirty for the camera :))!

Lay a tortilla shell on a clean surface. Pour some enchilada sauce on the shell.

Spread the sauce around. Turn the tortilla shell over and cover that side with sauce.

Place chicken in the center of the tortilla shell.

Add mushrooms and green chilies.

Place olives.

Add sour cream.

Sprinkle cheese on top.

Fold the tortilla shell until it looks like...


Place in baking dish. Repeat until all shells are filled with yummy goodness.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the finished enchiladas.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Add 1 cup of cheese to the top and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

That's it. Simple, fast, yummy. I apologize for the lack of photos of the finished product. By the time it was done I was starving and kind of forgot about taking a final photo of it :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Halloween!

This year was a pretty low-key Halloween for us. I went in to Kristin's classroom on Friday to help out with "pumpkin math" and brought the kids some cupcake treats...

Sunday we carved pumpkins which was a lot of fun. This was only my second year carving, so I stayed with a simple design. I used a stencil, but Kristin just dug in...

I thought the final products were awesome...

And of course we had to take the annual "Ellie with the pumpkins" photo (and yes, that is a rose still blooming on the rose bush!)...

Sunday night the doorbell started ringing around 5:30 and over the next 2 1/2 hours we got around 200 little ghouls and goblins. I love that this neighborhood has so many kids!

And now we head into November where we're sure to see our first snowfall and the fun of shoveling and bundling up begins!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scotch Fur Fighter

Another product I love - Scotch Fur Fighter

I have tried half a dozen new fur removal products over the past few years on our couch. Some things worked better than others, but none have worked as well as this one! It was fast, easy, and left the couch looking like it had just been shampooed. And to top it off, it was fairly cheap ($5 bought the tool and several refill sheets). The sheet did fill up fairly quickly, but the cost of the refill sheets will be worth it to have hair-free couches in less than three minutes!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Strange Shopping Trip

So today at the store the woman ahead of me in the checkout line (we’ll call her Jane) had a very full cart of items. Groceries, household items, office supplies, clothing, etc. As the cashier was finishing up with the person ahead of Jane, Jane began taking items out of her cart and holding them up one by one, inspecting them. Holding up a pair of jeans, shaking them out, turning them around, checking the size. Holding up a gallon of milk, looking at the expiration date, turning it around in her hands, shaking it a bit. Holding up a package of pens, reading the brand, straightening out the plastic, inspecting individual pens within the plastic. This went on and on. She was sorting the items into two piles. One she put on the conveyor belt, and the other she set aside. This was a long process, and both the cashier and I were just waiting. I could have gone to a different line, but to be honest, I was curious to see what Jane was doing.

After she had finally finished sorting everything, Jane put the “other” stuff back in her cart and pushed the cart up to the cashier. Jane told the cashier that she didn’t want the stuff in the cart. We aren’t talking about one or two or three items here. She had well over half a cart of stuff she didn’t want. Jane also told the cashier that she would need a second cart to take the things she did want out to her car, and could she (the cashier) please have someone bring her one?

I thought I was going fall over. It seemed so surreal. The cashier, however, didn’t seem fazed. Is this something that happens with any sort of regularity? Do people really do this all that often? And if they do, can’t they make these decisions before getting into the checkout line? Has anyone else ever seen something like this happen?

Visit from Mom and Dad Ricks!

This past weekend my parents came to visit from Utah. It was good to see them again! We spent Friday in Duluth where my dad measured up to the lighthouse,

Kristin pulled a Larry Craig in the bathroom (at least I think it was Kristin!),

and Dad and Kristin anxiously awaited the 3:15 boat.

Saturday we went to Minnehaha Falls among other Saint Paul sites and were able to have dinner with Kristin's sister and her family who were in town for a high school marching band competition. Sunday we headed to Silver Bison Ranch where we took in the views and bouth a little bison meat (yum!) before heading home.

After a little relaxation, we headed to dinner at Benihan's (Kristin's choice!), where despite the fact they didn't have any ketchup in the entire restaurant, and the Shirley Temples got more Shirley as the night went on, a good time was had by all.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but we were thrilled to see them again and enjoyed their company!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beautiful Fall Weekend in South Dakota

Kristin and I headed to South Dakota this weekend to enjoy a little family time. We spent a lot of time outside on Saturday. I picked some apples (which Kristin's mom quickly turned into a yummy pie), Kristin mowed....

And Ellie hung out and took it all in...

And then the camera died. :) We were able to spend time with Kristin's sister and her family on Saturday and Sunday. We celebrated her nephew Jacob's 13th birthday on Sunday as well!

It was a fun time and we were sad to leave, but look forward to seeing them in the Cities this coming weekend for a high school marching band competition (Go Lincoln!)!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Believe...

I Believe...

by Unknown

I believe-
that we don't have to change friends
if we understand that friends change.

I believe-
that no matter how good a friend is,
they're going to hurt you every
once in a while and you must forgive
them for that.

I believe-
that true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I believe-
that you can do something in an instant
that will give you heartache for life.

I believe-
that it's taking me a long time
to become the person I want to be.

I believe-
that you should always leave loved ones
with loving words. It may be the last
time you see them.

I believe-
that you can keep going
long after you can't.

I believe-
that we are responsible for what we do,
no matter how we feel.

I believe-
that either you control your attitude
or it controls you.

I believe-
that regardless of how hot and
steamy a relationship is at first,
the passion fades and there had
better be something else to take
its place.

I believe-
that heroes are the people
who do what has to be done
when it needs to be done,
regardless of the consequences.

I believe-
that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I believe-
that my best friend and I can do anything
or nothing and have the best time.

I believe-
that sometimes the people you expect
to kick you when you're down,
will be the ones to help you get back up.

I believe-
that sometimes when I'm angry
I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn't give me
the right to be cruel.

I believe-
that just because someone doesn't love
you the way you want them to doesn't
mean they don't love you with all they have.

I believe-
that maturity has more to do with
what types of experiences you've had
and what you've learned from them
and less to do with how many
birthdays you've celebrated.

I believe-
that it isn't always enough to be
forgiven by others. Sometimes you
have to learn to forgive yourself.

I believe-
that no matter how bad your heart is broken
the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I believe-
that our background and circumstances
may have influenced who we are,
but we are responsible for who we become.

I believe-
that just because two people argue,
it doesn't mean they don't love each other
And just because they don't argue,
it doesn't mean they do.

I believe-
that you shouldn't be so eager to find out a
secret. It could change your life forever.

I believe-
that two people can look at the exact
same thing and see something totally.

I believe-
that your life can be changed in a matter of
hours by people who don't even know you.

I believe-
that even when you think you have no more
to give, when a friend cries out to you
you will find the strength to help.

I believe-
that credentials on the wall
do not make you a decent human being.

I believe-
that the people you care about most in life
are taken from you too soon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Boiling Hamburger...Who Knew?

So as I previously mentioned, Ellie has been sick the last several days. She is now on a "bland" diet consisting of hamburger and rice. The vet told us to "boil" the hamburger. I had never heard of such a thing, so I looked it up online.

I thought it would be complicated, but no. Boil water, dump the hamburger in, come back in two minutes. Yes, I said two minutes.

So this morning I get a pot out, get the water boiling, and start to crumble the hamburger into it. The little pieces immediately rose to the top already done. I threw the package away, washed my hands, returned to the pot, and wah la! A half-pound of hamburger browned to perfection. I drained it, rinsed it, and mixed it with the rice. Ellie loved it.

The article I read online said that it's a fast way to cook hamburger, but because you're taking all of the fat out of it, there isn't much taste left (which was true, I tasted it)...but for recipes calling for hamburger that will also have other spices or flavoring in it (tacos, for example), this works great! Also, if you have some frozen hamburger you can just dump the whole frozen piece of hamburger into the water. After a couple of minutes break it apart with a utensil and leave it to cook for a few more minutes. Soooo much faster than thawing it on the counter, in the fridge, or in the microwave and then frying it up.

Obviously boiling hamburger wouldn't work for every recipe, but I'm excited to "discover" this trick that I can use for some recipes or when I'm in a pinch for time!

Craigslist Addicts

We just went and picked up a reel mower that Kristin found on Craigslist. I love my self-propelled mower, but it is tearing the steep hills in our yard apart, so I wanted to get a lighter mower to do those with.

After we picked it up I realized we have A LOT of stuff in our house from Craigslist. We have probably saved thousands of dollars over the past few years by purchasing so many things second hand.

Here is a quick list of some things we have purchased that we are still using (I'm sure there are more, but this is what I could come up with in a few minutes):

Entertainment Center
Kitchen Table and Chairs
Cat Perch
DVD/CD Storage Unit
Day/Trundle Bed
Reel Lawn Mower
Deck furniture
Bathroom Storage Unit
Plastic Wardrobe Units
Dog Bed (converted camping mattress)
Butcher Block

Hmm...I'm sure there's more...but that's a lot of stuff...all of which we got for very cheap or free (the couch was a little spendy but much less than we would have paid had we gone to a store to buy it!).

Thanks to Kristin for finding all the deals...I'm not big on perusing Craigslist, but am always happy with what she finds :)

Welcome, Mollie!

On Tuesday we adopted a new puppy, Mollie! Her paperwork says she is any mix of the following: German Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Rottweiler, and Australian Shepherd. I tend to lean towards the Rottweiler and Bernese Mountain Dog...but who knows. She's pretty cute, very lovey, a complete wiggle worm, and extra soft.

While she seems to have some things to learn (like potty training - she doesn't give much of a signal when she needs to go out), she seems pretty smart and her over-the-top sweetness makes it hard to get mad at her when she does have an accident.

She is only 8 months old, so she is still in high puppy mode, but I think she's going to be a great addition to our family!

Ellie hasn't shown much interest in her as of yet, but she has been really sick with some stomach thing (we think she swallowed something she shouldn't have), so I'm hoping once she is feeling better she will love Mollie just as much as we do.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ellie Then, Ellie Now

So one year and eight days ago we recorded this video:

She seriously hasn't gone near the cat toy for a year. Then, tonight?

Midwest Animal Rescue (MARS)

This summer we decided to foster dogs and were quickly drawn to Midwest Animal Rescue (MARS) located in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Most of their dogs are rescued from high-kill shelters in the south. We went through the application process and began fostering. We were so excited! However, our experience quickly turned from something exciting to something terrible.

When we went to pick up Burke, our first dog, the atmosphere was one of chaos. While this might have been somewhat expected since they were getting 50 dogs in that weekend, it was really out of control that night. It took quite awhile for anyone to acknowledge us and when they did, they handed Burke over to us without any explanation or checking to see if we had any questions. I made the comment that night that it was good we were familiar with dogs because it would be weird to just be handed a random dog and pushed out the door if we didn’t already have canine experience.

We quickly fell in love with Burke! He was a nice, mellow dog who adjusted quickly. Kristin sent many pictures and updates to the woman we had been working with. A week or so later, his rep contacted us upset that she hadn’t received any updates. Apparently the updates had not reached her. No one had told us where to send the updates, but apparently it was our fault for not figuring it out.

When a family showed interest in adopting Burke, we took him in for his meet and greet. When the woman said she wanted to take him home they started going through what he still needed as far as shots and his neuter appointment. They told her that we hadn’t brought him in for his appointments for shots, so those would need to be restarted. No one had ever told us he had appointments, but it still seemed to come down to negligence on our part for some reason.

When we first got Burke his ear was red, inflamed, and warm to the touch. We called MARS who told us it was probably just dirty and we should buy some ear wash and clean it, which we did. When we took him to the groomers a week later she said he had an ear infection and should have it looked at. We called MARS again but they refused to let us take him to a vet or have their vet look at him. When we took him in for his first meet and greet, one of staff/volunteers looked at his ear and said it was not infected. She was furious that we kept saying that it was (she, by the way was not a vet or vet tech). She must have somehow missed the pus coming out of his ear. Anyway, he went home with the family.

That adoption didn’t work out (the other dog in the house didn’t like having another dog in the house), so the girl returned him. Kristin went to pick him up, as we had agreed to foster him again. The girl was entitled to half of her $400 adoption fee back. She said she would just like to donate the entire fee to MARS because she felt so bad that it hadn’t worked out. The staff at MARS didn’t even thank her for the donation, simply shuffled the girl out the door and sent Kristin and Burke on their way (with a dirty, disgusting crate).

When we took Burke in for a meet and greet with a second family, Kristin mentioned that Burke needed to be watched especially close right now because he was teething and chewing on everything. She mentioned he had chewed on a friend’s window sill, for example. One of the MARS reps gave Kristin a “don’t tell them that!” look. Apparently getting Burke adopted was more important than warning the family of issues that may arise (Update 10/19: Burke was adopted by that family and aside from a ruptured ear drum (from the ear that was definitely NOT infected), seems to be doing well!).

While the whole MARS organization seemed wildly disorganized, we decided to foster again because we really had loved Burke and hoped we could help another dog. We got Turk a few days later (see previous entry for how that worked out) and the craziness continued. For example, anything negative we put in his updates that might be important for a potential family to know was removed before they were posted online. When we were talking to them about what breed Burke may be they told us they don’t ever know (which is true of all shelters/rescues), but they try to pick something that lots of people like. One staff member told us that a dog had been in a foster home for awhile. They were trying to figure out how to get him adopted and decided to change his breed to a golden retriever even though he was obviously not one in order to get more people to consider him.

After our experience with Turk, the loss of Sabrina (see previous entry), the overall disorganization of MARS, and the seeming lack of resources to take care of all the dogs they are trying to rescue, we have decided not to foster or adopt through them. While we loved the dogs and felt like we were helping a worthwhile cause, we just decided it’s not worth being made to feel like we are doing everything wrong and blamed for any issues instead of being appreciated for helping their organization.

For those out there who are looking for a new pet, I would highly suggest skipping over this group. Their adoption fees are high, they don’t seem to care about the animals’ health, completing adoptions seems more important than telling the truth to potential families, and they are difficult to work with.

Turk, Sabrina, and Midwest Animal Rescue

This past Wednesday, Turk got out. Before I get into that, let me say that when we went to pick Turk up to foster him, we had fallen in love with another dog, Sabrina. We had applied to adopt her and were approved to pick her up on Saturday. More on that later.

So Kristin let Turk out into the yard so she could apply Ellie’s ear medication. At that point we had had Turk for 11 days, and he had never once tried to jump the fence or leave the yard. Several Midwest Animal Rescue (MARS) staff members had told us that while animals could never be unleashed in an unfenced area, it was fine to leave them unsupervised for short periods of time in a fenced yard after several days of close monitoring to assure the animal would not leave.

So Kristin let him out. Five minutes later she went out, and he was gone. While it remains unclear as to how this happened, the general consensus is that someone most likely opened the gate to the fence in our backyard, removed his collar, and sent him on his way.

We notified MARS and searched around the neighborhood in the car. An hour and a half later we heard from Animal Control who had captured him. Turk was found running around the Capitol. When they attempted to catch him, he ran in and out of traffic, nearly getting hit by cars several times. The Animal Control officer said that Turk was lucky to be alive. They also told us that he could be picked up, but that there would be a charge of $11 to license him in the city of Saint Paul as well as a fee of $109 for additional penalties and fees. The officer explained that all dogs, including foster dogs, needed to be licensed in the city of Saint Paul.

Kristin called the MARS office to make sure they were aware that Turk had been found and to ask about whose responsibility it was to pay the fines. She was informed that it would be our responsibility to pay the fines since Turk had been in our care. Kristin said that we would pay the fines but that perhaps we should talk about finding him a different placement since we were worried he might escape again and didn’t want to pay the fine again. A different woman came on the phone and reiterated that we would be responsible for paying the fine since Turk was our responsibility. Kristin told her that we understood we would need to pay the fine but needed to look at finding Turk a new placement in the coming few days. Kristin also said that we felt it was somewhat unfair for us to be required to pay all of the fines since a large portion of them were due to the fact that Turk wasn’t registered in the city of Saint Paul. Even if we had known he was supposed to be registered, MARS would have needed to initiate that process, which they didn't. The woman acknowledged they weren’t aware dogs needed to be registered (kind of seems like an important detail for a rescue to know) in Saint Paul and that she was working with the impound to get the fee waived. She asked us not go pick up Turk until we heard back from her.

Two hours later we still hadn’t heard back from MARS, so I called to check on the status of the “negotiations.” Our greatest fear at that point was that Turk would be left at the pound overnight. The woman at MARS said that someone from MARS was going to pick Turk up at impound and that he would be taken to a new foster home. When I expressed shock that he would not be coming back to us temporarily she said “what, are you changing your mind now? Isn't that what you wanted?” I said that we felt it was probably in everyone’s best interest to have Turk go to a different home but didn’t expect it would happen so abruptly. The woman said that everything was taken care of and hung up on me.

We were confused because just two hours before the plan was for us to pay the fee (if it wasn’t waived), pick Turk up, and discuss better living arrangements for him (if he seemed likely to escape again) at a later time. When we called two hours later suddenly MARS staff were going to pick him up and place him somewhere else.

A couple of hours later, a MARS staff member called saying she was on her way to pick up Turk’s things. She asked multiple times on the phone if we had his collar. I told her he was wearing the collar when he went out that morning. She seemed so concerned about the collar that I walked around the perimeter of the yard looking for the collar thinking maybe he got caught trying to get out and ripped it off somewhere. The collar was nowhere to be seen.

When the woman showed up, I helped her carry Turk’s crate and things to the car. She asked again if we had his collar. At this point I just kind of looked at her like “are you serious?” because I really didn't know what else to say. She asked yet again and I said “we DO NOT have the collar. He was wearing it when he went out this morning.” Turk was in the van, and I attempted to talk to him (Kristin and I had both become extremely attached to him in the 11 days we’d had him and I kind of wanted to say goodbye), but the woman told me not to talk to him (he might get wound up before their long drive home) and asked the other woman in the car to close the door. Which she did. I told the woman that we both felt terrible about what had happened and were extremely sorry. She stated that it is “always sad when people don’t watch their animals and let them run away” after which she got into the van and left.

And now I come back to Sabrina. Remember her? The one we were slated to adopt? Well, it appears that throughout the day on Wednesday an employee or volunteer at MARS twisted the story into something different than it was. We’re still not sure what the story morphed into (most likely something like that we were abandoning Turk at impound and refused to pay the fee), but while everyone was supposedly running around wild over fear of Turk’s safety, someone decided we were not only unfit foster parents but shouldn’t be allowed to adopt Sabrina either. On this crazy hectic day that decision wasn’t enough, however. It was also decided that one of the MARS staff members should drive to Wisconsin to do a home visit and then promise Sabrina to a family there.

We spoke with the foster rep several times that evening once she told us that we were not allowed to adopt Sabrina. She agreed to talk to the director and see if the director would contact us. The director would not, but after hearing our side of the story through the rep, she agreed to put us back on the “good” list so we could foster and/or adopt through MARS again. The rep said they couldn’t go back on the promise to the new family, but that if the adoption didn’t go through we would be second in line for Sabrina. The new family fell in love with her, of course, and she went home with them today. I guess we’re supposed to feel ok about it because we can still foster and adopt other dogs through MARS again. Great.

The thing that still bothers me is that everyone we talked to from MARS told us that Wednesday was a crazy day there and everyone was super busy. I still don’t understand why anyone would think it was so urgent to set Sabrina up with a new family that they would drive all that way to Wisconsin that very day and then promise Sabrina to another family when we already had a meet and greet set up. I also don’t understand how the director could just hear whatever story the staff member was telling her and agree to never let us foster or adopt again before even speaking to us (especially since we had been fostering for them for several months without incident). The whole thing seems very vindictive, shady, and unprofessional.

The important thing is that Turk was found safe and unharmed. We loved him like crazy and were just so happy to hear that he was okay. It was just unfortunate that everything ended the way it did, and that the MARS staff acted so completely unprofessional and cruel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Turk came to stay with us on Saturday. He's a 2-year-old yellow lab mix and although we had a rocky start with him (he seemed to have some severe anxiety issues), we have since settled in and things have calmed down.

He loves his food and eats a TON. We can often find him helping himself to the bag of food in the kitchen.

He's a very sweet boy and will make a family very happy, I'm sure :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

In Memory...

This past week has been a hard one for us. Roger, Kristin's dad, passed away a week ago today. He had been battling cancer for eight years. In the many years I have known Roger he quickly went from Kristin's dad to my friend. And when he officially became my father-in-law, I considered him my second dad. He was (and still is) truly one of the greatest men I know.

Roger loved to laugh. And to make others laugh. He always had a joke ready to share with us when we called or went for a visit. His smile was infectious. And he had a way of making those around him feel better. About themselves and about the world. Roger loved music. All kinds of music. From Celine Dion to Santo and Johnny to the Gaither Brothers to Johnny Cash. I will never hear a Johnny Cash song without thinking of Roger and Kristin's brother, Mike, singing along to Folsom Prison as we watched Walk The Line together.

Roger, I thank you for your smile, your laughter, your kindness, your love, and your acceptance. You will truly be missed.

Welcome, Taylor!

I'm a little late in posting, but on July 21, our niece Taylor Elizabeth joined the family! She's adorable - just like her brothers. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Burke is Back!

So Burke went to his new home on Saturday afternoon. We picked up our new foster dog, Jaime, on Sunday afternoon. Then we got a call on Monday morning that Burke's new family was returning him. This was no small decision, obviously, since they would only be getting half of the adoption fee back. Apparently he was fine, but their dog, Olive, went nuts with him there. I was disappointed they didn't try to make it work for a few more days, but whatever.

So the rescue organization asked us to take Burke back. We agreed as long as they would work on finding Jaime a new foster home. They are searching, but for a few days we have three dogs. That's right, three. But there was no way I was going to tell them they had to send Burke to yet another temporary home while they try to find him a permanent one.

Kristin and Jehn went to pick him up this evening, and I was thrilled to see my little gentle giant again. I am seriously in love with him and feel super protective of him now. The next family who wants him better have the perfect setup or I might have to turn into a mama bear. :)

Burke's Stats
Weight: 42 pounds
Age: 5 months, 3 weeks

Weight: 45 pounds
Age: 6 months

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jamers, Jamison, James, Jaime

Today we got our second foster dog, Jaime. So far she has done fairly well. She and Ellie seem to get along okay, and while she seems to have an interest in the cats, she hasn't gone after them yet. She had her first bath tonight and was TERRIFIED but was such a good girl! While she seems to think the living room rug is her personal potty ground, I don't think it will take too long for her to get house trained. She is a total snuggler and is all about being a people pleaser which should make training easier as well.

Here are her stats:

Name: Jaime
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier Mix
Weight: 21 pounds
Age: Approximately 6 months

I will continue to update this post while she is with us (rather doing a bunch of little updates).

Today we worked hard on potty training. I think everyone was a little stressed out because Jaime refused to go to the bathroom for most of the day, but finally this afternoon she went outside and I think the guy across the street thought I had lost my mind I was so excited :) She is definitely a dog who will do anything for praise and is so sweet. She had her first visit to the dog park this morning. She and Ellie were the only dogs there, but they still had fun wandering around without leashes on.

Today Jaime went to her new foster home in Minnetonka. While she had crazy energy she was a sweet girl, and I hope she is able to find a forever home with lots of kids to wear her out. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unspoken Rules

Dog parks are interesting places. We've been taking Ellie to the Roseville Dog Park for several months now. They have a small fenced area and then a larger area that's not completely fenced. She never goes very far from us, so we typically take her to the bigger area, but since we've been fostering Burke we've been sticking to the smaller fenced area since he doesn't respond to his name most of the time.

While there are usually other people at the larger park, the area is big enough that typically people don't just stand around together. In the smaller park, though, the human visitors tend to sit or stand around in a circle near the chairs and picnic table. We have noticed that the culture within this small area is unique. A good friend, Jehn, even compared her first visit to visiting a foreign country and trying to figure out the cultural norms.

Here are just a few of the unspoken rules for dog parks in which humans are confined to a small area:

1. Upon entering the park you must acknowledge each and every dog who comes up to you. Use a cheerful voice and tell each of them how cute they are. Even if they're not.
2. Once you stake your claim to a space (sitting or standing) you must remember NOT to talk to the other humans visiting the park. Do not acknowledge them by saying hello. You may speak to the dogs however. In fact, it is quite acceptable to ask any dog a question and expect a response from the dog's human friend. For example, if you want to know what breed a certain dog is you would say "what kind are you?" If a human doesn't answer simply repeat the question in a louder voice until someone answers. The answer will come from the human who will attempt to imitate the dog's voice "I'm a golden retriever," (imagine this being said with the voice of Goofy) for example.
2a. If you MUST talk to other humans at the park, make sure you only talk about the dogs or the weather. Avoid making conversation about anything else at all costs.
3. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT look at other humans. Your eyes should be kept on the dogs or at some point in the distance at all times.
4. If you attempt to go to the dog park during small dog hours your dog MUST be at least 15 pounds under the 35-pound maximum. If you attempt to take your 30 pound dog into the park during the small dog hours you will be asked to leave by the fanatical human owners of 5-pound dogs.
5. Dote on the dogs constantly. This can include petting them or saying "good puppy!" Whenever you talk to the dogs you should use a baby voice. This is the only acceptable way to speak to any canine friend while within the park boundaries.
6. You should always laugh at the dogs. Even if they're just laying there. Laugh your head off. This will not only alleviate the weird silence that seems to hang over the group of humans, but it will also make the dogs even more hyper, thus wearing them out faster.
7. When your dog is sufficiently worn out, ask the dog if he/she is ready to leave. This can be done by asking "are you all tuckered out?" or "ready to go?" When the dog indicates that he/she is indeed ready to leave, guide the dog to the gate, leash him/her and leave. DO NOT say goodbye to the other humans. If you feel awkward leaving without saying goodbye, address your goodbyes to the other dogs.

Following these simple rules should make your visit to a small-space dog park more comfortable. We, on the other hand, are hoping our next foster dog knows his/her name better, and we are able to skip the smaller dog park altogether. :)

Burkle, Burkasaurus, Burkey, Burke

Several weeks ago we decided (well, Kristin decided and then convinced me) to foster a dog. We decided to foster through Midwest Animal Rescue (MARS) and filled out the application. After a home visit we were approved!

Burke arrived on June 27. We had asked for a small- to medium-sized dog, and they told us he was 25 pounds ad 6 months old. When we picked him up, however, we found out that he was actually 35 pounds (a little bigger than I had initially wanted) and 5 months old. The first couple of days were a little crazy, and I think we both, at times, wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. But he quickly shoved himself into our hearts.

Burke and Ellie seemed to get along great from the very beginning. Ellie has been a great big sister, sharing her toys from the very beginning. Sharing the humans was hard for her at first, but she has adjusted well.

In the two and a half weeks that he's been with us, Burke has learned his name, how to sit, and become house trained. He's super sweet and loves kids. He also ignores the cats, which is nice.

Since he arrived I have said that Burke is the perfect dog...for someone who wants him. Our house and yard are just too small for such a big guy, or we may have ended up keeping him! And it looks like he may have found a new home! The family already has a border collie mix and is looking for another one. They have been approved, and now we'll just go to the meet and greet on Saturday to introduce them! If all goes well there, we'll be heading home alone. While I will be sad to see him go, I know he'll be happy with a family with another dog and a big yard to play in...and we'll be getting another foster dog on Sunday. Whoever he or she is has some big paws to fill :)

Name: Burke
Breed: Border Collie Mix
Weight on Arrival: 35 pounds
Age on Arrival: 5 months

UPDATE: 7/17/10 - Burke went to his new family today! His new mom, Lindsay, was at the MARS office to meet him and brought along his new big sister, Olive, a border collie. While they didn't seem to love each other, they didn't fight (basically just ignored each other), so that's good. Lindsay seemed very nice and Olive was very well trained. I think Burke is going to like being a part of their family!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's Raining Cats and Dogs!

We are having a storm here and the weather guy said that hail would reach Saint Paul at 6:11. It was 6:05, so we ran outside to move one of the cars into the garage. We were out in the rain for less than a minute and the following was the result. Of course as soon as we came in, the rain let up, and as of hail. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Veggie Lasagna

By popular demand I present Krisitn's Veggie Lasagna recipe. It's divine. :) The original recipe came from Heather Swann.


Lasagna Noodles
1 Package of Frozen Spinach
1 jar of red spaghetti sauce
1 medium tub of ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1-2 cups of Mozzarella cheese

Cook lasagna noodles according to directions on package
Thaw spinach
Chop mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic and sauté
Add red sauce to veggies and heat through
In a bowl, mix spinach, eggs, and ricotta cheese together
Layer ingredients in a 9x13 pan as follows:
Thin layer of sauce
Veggies and sauce mixture
Mozzarella cheese (1/2-1 cup)
Ricotta and spinach mixture
Remaining sauce
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes
Add remaining mozzarella cheese to the top 5 minutes before removing from the oven

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kristin's a Master!

After two years of hard work, Kristin finished her master's program in Differentiated Instruction. I'm so proud of her! For her final project she had to write a capstone paper, complete a board, and attend a gallery walk to show it off. The gallery walk was on Monday where I was finally able to meet the awesome people she has spent her Thursday nights with over the past couple of years!

Congratulations, Kristin! I love you!

Kristin with her cohort.

Kristin with her board.

Kristin and me.

Kristin and Jehn.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cassi Visits!

Cassi came to visit this weekend! We didn't do much but had fun exploring all Saint Paul has to Ax Man, the Minnehaha dog park, Bibelot, Mall of America, America's smallest dedicated park...and more that I can't really remember...but I'm sure it was fun...because I know we had a good time. :) As I was looking through the photos we took while she was here, though, I realized we didn't get any of us together! Ah well, we'll have to remedy that during the trip to Denver in three weeks.

Cassi and Ellie along "my" trail by the Mississippi.

Cassi snapped this picture of Ellie at the dog park. I loved it. :)

Proof we were at Albert Park. :)

This is where we found Ellie after Cassi left (in the bed where Cassi slept while she was here). She stayed there for a long time. She misses her favorite Aunt Cassi!