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Twelve Years In

12 years of marriage.  16 years together.  2 years of parenting a little human together. You are my favorite human being. You are always by my side, and supportive through everything.  You are the greatest gift of my life, and each day spent with you is truly a gift.  I look forward to many, many more years together, knowing that we can get through anything together, as a team, which has definitely been the case during this very different year we have experienced. Most of all, I have enjoyed witnessing you become an incredible Daddy to our girls! We are so blessed.  I am truly grateful for you. Happy twelfth anniversary!

Beautiful Dog Lettering: Cielle Graham

I fell in love with the work by Cielle Graham, an illustrator.  In Cielle Graham’s illustrated book, An Alphabet of Dogs, each letter takes the form of a small shiny ball surrounded by a cast of different dogs.  Her work is beautiful and highly intricate.  Nearly 200 dogs are contained in her book.  A few images of Cielle Graham’s work from this book are shown below.  Alex would love this book, a perfect combination, combining her love of dogs and letters into one!  There is even a sheltie friend shown below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images are courtesy of Cielle Graham.

Snapshot: Summer 2020

I took a break from the blog this summer to spend time with our little family and to complete my proposal for my photography project and finish the copyright process, which are done, finally, after much work!

Fall is here, one of our favorite seasons, which we are fully embracing before the winter sets in. Even though we are in the time of COVID-19, we did our best to make things as normal as possible for Alex (and Victory) this summer. We enjoyed a lot of time together at the outdoor pool, and Alex still has the tan lines from her swim suits to prove it! Alex loves the water and she can even tread on her own for a few seconds; she is a pro at maneuvering all over the pool on her buoy; she loves jumping into the water; and, by the end of the summer, she was wearing her speedo goggles! Alex is fearless and she will be swimming on her own in no time! This summer Alex also acquired two Big Joe floats: an angel fish and a frog, which we affectionately named, “Big Joe” and “Froggie Joe,” respectively! We were so grateful our pool opened, albeit late, but it opened, with safety rules, as we were desperate for safe activities for Alex during this strange time! We also went to a variety of parks with Alex; and, to close out the summer, we took Alex go-carting, which she loved! We have a lot of good memories from this summer, despite COVID-19. It is definitely a summer I will never forget for many reasons. A few photos from our summer are shown below!

Finland: Coronavirus-sniffing dogs at Helsinki Airport

 

In a recent article, Finland has recently launched a pilot program involving coronavirus-sniffing dogs at Helsinki Airport, in the hopes that dogs can play a key role in screening for the virus.

The voluntary canine tests will deliver results within 10 seconds and require less than a minute of travelers’ time, said Anna Hielm-Björkman, a researcher at the University of Helsinki who is using the trial to gather data.

Researchers in other countries, including the United States and the United Arab Emirates, are also studying canine coronavirus tests.  However, the Finnish trial is among the largest in scale and farthest along.

Changes in health can affect the way people smell, researchers say.  Dogs have long been valued for their ability to sniff for drugs and bombs, and have also proved able to detect cancers, infections and other health problems.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki this year found promising indications that dogs can detect the virus.  Scientists say only large-scale trials, such as this one, can demonstrate just how effective the method will be in practice.

The dogs to be deployed in Helsinki will sniff sweat samples and will not come into contact with travelers.  People who agree to the test will swab their own necks to produce a sample, to submit through an opening in a wall, said Hielm-Björkman.

Regardless of whether they test positive, they will be urged to take a standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test, so that researchers can monitor the dogs’ accuracy. All tests are free for travelers arriving at the airport.

Hielm-Björkman added the dogs may, according to preliminary research, be better at spotting coronavirus infections than PCR and antibody tests. They “can also find [people] that are not yet PCR positive but will become PCR positive within a week,” she said.

Out of the 16 dogs trained, four are ready to work.  Six others are still in training, with another six found to be unsuitable for a noisy airport environment.

Experts have warned that canine tests, however effective, can be difficult to scale.  Training is time-consuming and expensive.  Even so, researchers are optimistic that it will come to play a role, even if it cannot alleviate the demands on the world’s overstrained testing systems.

You can view a video of these dogs here.

*Photo credit: Washington Post.

Gone Fishing . . .

 

I am taking a break from the blog for the remainder of the summer to soak up our days together; rejuvenate; and continue working on completing the final step of my photography project!  I plan to be back, to the blog, sometime this fall.  Thank you all, so very much, for reading the blog.  Whether you are a recent reader or have been following the blog for awhile, I am honored you take time to read the blog.  I am truly grateful.  Finally, as I take this break for rest and rejuvenation, I hope you find periods of rest for yourself as well.  Stay safe.

Meanwhile, if you are in a blog-reading mood, you are warmly invited to visit the archives — the links are shown below.

Dog Related posts

Dog Rescue posts

‘Dog-Centric’ Artists Interviews

For Artists posts

Photography posts

Personal posts

Victory Related posts

Alex Related posts

Happy Summer!

 

Twenty Three Month and Twenty Fourth Month Snapshot: Alexandra

I completed the monthly snapshots of our beloved Alex during her first year.  Here is the snapshot of Alex’s twenty third month and twenty fourth month!  Alex is two, already!  We cannot believe it!  (You can view Alex’s thirteenth and fourteenth months here; Alex’s fifteenth and sixteenth months here; Alex’s seventeenth and eighteenth months here; Alex’s nineteenth and twentieth months here; and Alex’s twenty first and twenty second months here).

“You will never have this day with your children again.  Tomorrow, they will be a little bigger than they are today.  This day is a gift.  Breathe and notice.  Smell and touch them.  Study their faces and little feet and pay attention.  Relish the charms of the present.  Enjoy today.  It will be over before you know it.” — Jen Hatmaker

This above quote is so true.  Our time with Alex is flying by.  Babies do not keep — Alex is turning into a little girl before our eyes.  This year has been really fun with Alex, and we have done our best to keep things as normal as possible for her during this time, as the last third of her second year has been impacted by COVID.  However, COVID has not stopped Alex.  She loves her books, and she goes to sleep with them and she wakes up with them in her crib.  She is still very curious about everything!  I think her favorite phrases are, “Help please,” and “What’s that?”  She has a big personality and is so strong in every way!  This spring we got rid of Alex’s paci, for good, cold turkey, after making it through quarantine/lock down!  For the first week, she would say, to us, “Where’s ‘pat pat!’  We told her that ‘pat pat’ went to help another child.  Then, she seemed to have forgotten about it, thankfully!  She also got her first hair trim this spring, and I kept a few locks of her hair for her Promptly Journal, which I do my best to keep up with.  Alex also loves to pick out her clothes, socks, and shoes each morning!  Alex’s car seats are now forward facing, and she seems to enjoy her car rides more, as a result, along with having more space for her legs and feet!  We also are transitioning her to the Stokke chair, as she is getting too big for her high chair.  She is also, currently, cutting her two-year molars, which is no fun.  We were able to get her into the dentist this month, as her spring appointment was rescheduled due to COVID.  She did fairly well, and her teeth are looking good, thank goodness, and I hope she got Doug’s teeth and not mine!  Before we know it, she will have all 20 of her baby teeth!  We have her two-year doctor’s appointment coming up — I am sure she will be off the charts, again, with her measurements!  We are already transitioning into size seven Pampers!

This spring, we got a small pool as our pool was not open, and Alex loves to play in it!  However, our pool did open late, with many restrictions and limitations, due to COVID.  Alex loves going to the pool — she has absolutely no fear of the water!  She is a little fish!  (A few videos of her in the pool are shown below!)  So, we get Alex to the pool several times a week, to take advantage of this time, so she can do some swimming, and we recently even got her to wear her goggles for a period of time.  She is learning to tread water a bit, currently, and she loves to jump in the pool!  Alex also really loves music, and she especially loves to dance to music, which she asks us to put on for her everyday!  This is still her favorite song, which we listen to daily!  She also loves art, especially painting!  She also loves to build with her Legos and Magna-Tiles with her Dada!  But her favorite thing to do is to look at books and spot objects, letters, numbers, and colors, etc.  She is recognizing more colors, letters, and objects everyday it seems!

Additionally, we celebrated Father’s Day at the end of June at home!  Doug set up Alex’s pool that day, and we all had fun!  Alex loved opening Doug’s Father’s Day gift we picked out for him, of course!  We also celebrated the Fourth of July at home.  Doug got Alex some sparklers, but they were not a big hit with Alex this year.  During this time, on these hot summer days, we have enjoyed taking the girls to get ice cream at Vaccaro’s and Rita’s, which they both truly love (and we eat our ice cream together in the car)!

Importantly, during this time, we celebrated Alex’s second birthday!  We cannot believe she is two-years-old, already!  It was quite a journey to parenthood, so we will always celebrate Alex’s birthday, as it is a very special day for us!  This year, due to COVID, we had Alex’s birthday celebration at home with the four of us followed by a trip to the pool, and take out for dinner!  Alex had a great day and we all had a nice time together!  She loved her rose cupcake we got her, as she ate it all up!  We had Alex’s second birthday cake, a butterfly cake, made at the same place as last year, on a smaller scale.  And, we also got Victory an unfrosted vanilla cupcake, which she loved, too!  (We were supposed to be on vacation this past week, over Alex’s birthday; perhaps, we can try again next year.)  And, we just finished putting all of the magnets on our fridge capturing Alex’s second year!

Alex is her own little person, and the time is going by so quickly, especially this second year.  Even though this pandemic is awful, it has been nice to have this period of time together that we would not have otherwise.  Alex is changing all of the time.  My favorite time of the day is putting her to bed at night after she is done playing.  We sit together in the glider and read books, and she spots letters, colors, and objects.  Then, she will cuddle before I put her in her crib.  I know this time will pass, but it is simply the best holding her in my arms, with her head pressed against my chest and I can feel her smooth, soft skin along with her damp curly hair.  I know one day, she will be too big for this, so I savor our present.

We are so grateful for this journey.  We are incredibly fortunate that we get to be Alex’s parents — it is the best job ever!  She is a bright, beautiful, amazing little girl!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few iphone images from Alex’s twenty third month!

 

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty third month — Alex watering our plants!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty third month — Alex swinging!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty third month — Alex and Doug talking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some iphone images from Alex’s second birthday celebration!

 

 

 

 

There has been so much change in a year’s time!

 

 

 

Here we all are at age two!

 

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty fourth month, her second birthday — Alex on her birthday surprised with her gifts!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty fourth month, her second birthday — Alex and Victory together on Alex’s birthday — Alex feeding Victory treats!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty fourth month, her second birthday — Alex having her cupcake on her birthday (she was not a fan of the candles lit!)

 

A few iphone images from Alex’s twenty fourth month!

 

 

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty fourth month — Alex swinging on a bar with all of her strength!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty fourth month — Alex swimming with no fear!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twenty fourth month — Alex jumping into the deep end of the pool!

Dogs: Foster Child Development

 

In a recent article, a study finds that a family dog has the benefits of helping young children learn social and emotional skills.  Specifically, owning, walking, and playing with a family dog could encourage a small child’s social and emotional development.  The study found that toddlers from families who owned a dog, who participated in the study, were 30% less likely to have conduct and peer problems in comparison to preschoolers from families who did not own dogs, the researches found.  Even at this young age, toddlers can benefit from interacting with a pet while supervised.  Dog ownership has also been linked to responsibility, positive identity, and trust.

According to data, toddlers from dog-owning families were more likely to exhibit higher levels of prosocial behaviors, and they had lower overall difficulties.  Children who walked a pet dog with their families at least one day weekly and played with their dogs at least three times a week had higher prosocial scores than those who did so less often.  “These results highlight that even a small to moderate commitment to involving preschoolers in time spent walking with the family dog may provide important social and emotional benefits for young children,” the study said.  One current worry about children’s development and loneliness in the absence of friends and activities during the pandemic “fits nicely with the positive effects of dog ownership for young kids,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Center for Human Growth & Development at the University of Michigan, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Additionally, as separately studied in adults, children might have experienced “vicarious pleasure” and happiness when playing with the dogs, which can also lead to better prosocial behavior.  Animals are sentient beings with feelings and thoughts, but they can’t talk with us, Radesky said.  “You have to work to read what your dog is thinking and respond to their behavior.  That gets kids out of their headspace and more thinking about what another being is thinking,” Radesky said.  “That’s [the magical factor] of empathy and social reciprocity, meaning the back and forth of relationships that helps us heal during times of stress.”

Outside of children, there are so many benefits that adults derive from having a dog, which we have experienced.  We will always have a rescue dog in our family.  Biscuit and Victory have added so much to each of our lives, and we cannot imagine life without a furry family member.  We literally refer to Victory as our ‘older daughter,’ our regal princess!  Alex loves having a fur sister, and their bond is unique; and Alex understands more and more about Victory (and other dogs) as she grows older.  Alex affectionately spots and refers to every dog as a “baby” or “puppy!”  She loves dogs, and I hope that she always will, as a result of growing up with Victory!  Simply put, dogs make life so joyful!

Loving: Summer 2020

Happy summer!  Summer is here, despite the ongoing pandemic.  Below are a few things I have been recently loving this summer!

 

 

1. Podcast: The Way We Live Now — I love this podcast!  The episodes on this podcast are relatively short, and the content is really interesting and timely, providing insights into others’ lives during this time.  I highly recommend!  And, Episode 31, is one of my favorites!

2. Money Heist  — Doug had heard that Money Heist was really good!  We do not get to watch too much television, but we have been watching this show, in the evenings, and it is really good and quite addictive!  (It takes us much longer to get through a series — gone are our days of binge watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu!)

3. Dog I.D. Tag — We recently had to replace Victory’s I.D. tag, and we really love this one.  It is small and simple, while containing the necessary information.

4. GLDN Necklace — For Mother’s Day Alex (and Victory) got me this necklace with her name engraved on it.  I love it.  It is simple and lovely!

5. Chesapeake Bay Candle  — I love this line of candles!  A good friend gave me one for Mother’s Day this year!  They come in a variety of scents, and they smell really great!  I have given them to friends who have also loved them, too!  We have been lighting candles a lot more in the evenings during this time, and they are a nice way to end the day.

6. The Conscious Parent —  This book by Shefali Tsabary is very good.  I am part way though, and I have learned so much helpful information that I was not aware of prior to reading.  There is always so much to learn, each day, raising a little person!

You can view other things I love here!

What’s Bringing You Joy Right Now?

 

Due to COVID, this summer looks a bit different than past summers.  Presently, we are enjoying the pool that Doug set up for Alex, on Father’s Day, as our neighborhood pool has been closed, including the pool where Alex took her swimming lessons prior to COVID.  So, we are making due with this pool, for now; and, fortunately, Alex really loves it!  She especially loves getting in and out of the pool, while playing with her toys!  It entertains her for hours, which is so great!  And, it is even big enough for her to lay down on her tummy and move around the little pool!  So, we are enjoying the small things together.  Due to COVID, we have all been home, together, and we have all bonded even more.  Alex really loves her Dada, who is her favorite person right now, who she wakes up asking for, who plays with Alex for hours and reads all of Alex’s book requests on demand!  During these challenging times, these little things matter more than ever.

What have your silver linings been these days?  What has brought you moments of joy?

Elisabeth Eagan: Life Advice for My College-Bound Daughter

 

Elisabeth Egan is a novelist and essayist, and she writes about parenting.  Below is a brilliant letter she wrote to her daughter, when she headed off to college…

The time is fleeting with our little people, and I am sure many women have felt similarly, as described below.


I was 14 when my family moved my sister into her freshman dorm at the school where our parents met.  I don’t remember the official goodbye, but I do remember what happened when we got back into our mauve Mercury Sable with its suddenly huge backseat and opera blaring from the speakers.  My mom turned to my dad and said, “If she doesn’t wave one more time, I think I’m going to die.”

Despite her passion for ear-splitting arias, my mom doesn’t do emotional outbursts in real life.  Her response to any injury, from a paper cut to a fractured pelvis, is “You’ll live”; she tosses heartfelt cards in the garbage without a second thought (“What? I read it already”); and, on the morning of my dad’s funeral, she actually said, “No blubbering, girls.  We’re channeling our inner Jackie Kennedy.”

The day we dropped my sister off at college was the one time I’ve ever witnessed the faltering of my mom’s stiff upper lip.  I can still see her profile — hand clasped over mouth, eyes filled with tears — as she watched her firstborn walk across a courtyard to the high rise she’d call home for the next nine months.  Thankfully, at the last possible moment, my sister turned and shot us a dazzling smile.  Then she lifted both arms overhead, gave us a double wave and stepped through a door held open by someone else’s sweaty dad.

She was gone.  We drove away.

My mom cried for the next four hours, then sporadically for about a week.  I didn’t have much sympathy.  I was deep in the sneer and loathing phase of adolescence, and my sister had been so ready to go, she’d taken her shower caddy for a summer-long test run, leaving me without shampoo or saline solution in the bathroom we shared.  Plus, there were the clothing leftovers for me to feast on in her closet!  And the cassette tapes to steal!

Now that my oldest kid is graduating from high school and getting ready to leave for college, I see my sister’s leave-taking in a new light — the light of parenthood, which is one of the brightest bulbs there is.  In a funny, happy twist, our daughter is going to the school where my husband and I met 25 years ago.  She is as ready for the next phase as her aunt was, and as likely to make a beeline into it with arms open wide.  She may toss us a bonus wave at the last minute, but will not permit a love- and advice-fest in the parking lot.  And, unlike my mom, I’ll definitely want to host one.  So here, in no particular order, are the important things I’d say to my daughter if only she’d hang around long enough to listen.  The most important one is at the very end.

  1. I love you.  I’ll miss you.  Thank you.
  2. Ignore the New Jersey jokes.  Not everyone can be from a state as great as ours.
  3. I hope you’ll consider a hiatus from social media for the first ten days.  Scrolling through other people’s pictures may give you the false impression that your friends have settled effortlessly into their new schools.  This is just a filter.  If things are so great, why are they on Snapchat?
  4. Give orientation activities a chance even if they’re weird, boring, too early, too late or too far away.  I met one of my best friends on the bus back to campus after a canoe-jousting competition.  Have you ever known me to canoe-joust? No.  But I gave it a whirl that day, and we all love the wise, sparkly woman I met as a result.
  5. Along those lines: you’ve grown up among my college friends, but that doesn’t mean it was love at first sight with all of them.  Some are people I discovered after graduation; others I never would have stuck with if I hadn’t peeled away a few layers.  My point is, give people a chance.  Give them five chances.  However:
  6. Trust your instincts.  If someone seems like a creep, they probably are.
  7. Take your work to the library even if you have everything you need to get it done in your room.  There’s no place cozier than a college library at night.
  8. If you’re lucky, you will have long, late-night, soul-searching conversations with new friends.  You’ll trade stories about your high school, your town and your family.  Please go easy on us; we did our best!  And I’m definitely not the only mom who gossips, uses foul language, gets tons of parking tickets, drinks Diet Coke and steals her kids’ Halloween candy.
  9. Do not, under any circumstances, drink from a cup you haven’t filled yourself.  You never know what someone has slipped in there.  And definitely avoid punch, which is a recipe for trouble.
  10. I’m sorry I complained so much about picking you up from swim practice.  I’ll miss your red cheeks, your chlorine perfume and the gravity-defying bun on top of your head.
  11. I’ll miss your half-finished friendship bracelets taped to the dining room table.
  12. I’ll miss your trail of Cheez-Its on the kitchen counter.
  13. I’ll miss the thud of your backpack in the hallway and the particular rhythm of your feet on the stairs.
  14. Thank you for loving the books I love, with the glaring exception of Anne of Green Gables.
  15. Thank you for being the best big sister.  I can’t say anymore on this topic without crying so, moving on…
  16. Your room is an appalling disaster.  Still, I understand why the pets flock to your bed.
  17. When someone invites you to do something you don’t want to do, you don’t owe an explanation for why you’re declining.  You might say, “Sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it,” or “I have other plans, but thank you for thinking of me!”  Or just plain, “No, thanks.”  Don’t wait until your forties to learn how to say these words.
  18. You’ve already had the experience of not being invited to do something you wanted to do.  Watching you make other plans reminds me why I picked Grace for your middle name.
  19. Complicated relationships aren’t more meaningful than easy ones, they’re just more work.  The best people are the ones who make you laugh.  This applies to friends and lovers. (Yes, I said lovers. I couldn’t think of a better word!)
  20. Have fun!  Ride a cafeteria tray down a snowy hill, jump in a pile of leaves, make mug cakes at midnight.  You’re there to learn, but your brain needs a break.  And I’m not talking about back-to-back Grey’s episodes on your laptop.
  21. Listen carefully — to classmates, professors and the sound of the wind.
  22. Ask questions, ask for directions, ask for help.  Even if you think you can find what you need on Google, ask a human being.  We still know more than our phones.
  23. You’ve come to me with problems I didn’t have solutions for.  This is a strange feeling for a parent, like being upside down on a rollercoaster.  The upside is, I’ve watched you make good decisions on your own — which is not to say all your decisions will be good, or have to be good.  Just that you have the tools to make a smart call.  I admire that.
  24. You don’t need an earth-shattering reason to go to your professors’ office hours.  Just show up; they’re waiting for you and sometimes they have snacks.
  25. There are free condoms in the health center.
  26. Get a job, and please don’t waste all your money on chai lattes.
  27. I’d aim to do laundry once a week, which is roughly three times more than you do it at home.
  28. Be brave.  Go rock-climbing (on actual rocks); take an engineering class; join a singing group; be the hallmate who organizes a trip to see a lecture you saw advertised on a flier in the student center.  (Do they still have fliers?)
  29. Failure is an option, although I prefer to call it redirection.  You are the daughter of a writer, so you know what it means to start a story that doesn’t go anywhere.  The point is to start something, have the guts to admit when it isn’t working, and the gumption to begin again.  The world has an infinite supply of stories, but courage is a diminishing resource as you get older.  Dive in now.
  30. Try to resist the urge to “brand” yourself, which is so much less rewarding than establishing a meaningful, nuanced identity.  For instance, Daddy went for Deep Philosopher during our first semester of college; I went for Cheerful Girl (I’m sure this is hard for you to imagine).  Twenty years into our marriage, we still bump up against these boxes, which are empty and take up more room than they deserve.  Worth noting: we didn’t find each other until we’d stepped out of them.
  31. You know how I told you I’m your mother, not your friend? I lied.  I’m both.
  32. When you were in fourth grade, going through normal friend gymnastics — high bar, low bar, balance beam, backbend — I gave you a locket that my mom gave me for my tenth birthday.  Inside, I slipped a little piece of paper that said, “Be you.”  The locket is long lost to the sands of Maine, but the message remains the same.  Be yourself, no contortions required.  And know, with each step you take away from our house, that you are the living, breathing, blue-eyed, big-hearted embodiment of the word engraved inside your parents’ wedding rings: Beloved.

Elisabeth Egan is the author of A Window Opens and the author of @100postcards.