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Happy Halloween from our Crayola red crayons!

Happy Halloween!  I cannot believe how quickly the time is flying by that it is already time for Halloween, one of our favorite times of the year!  We love the fall season!  It is Alex’s third Halloween!  Victory is a Crayola red crayon this year for Halloween along with her little sister, Alex, shown below!  We think they look pretty adorable!  Victory (along with Alex) was Super Woman last year; a unicorn (with Alex) two years ago; Wonder Woman three years ago; a fifties girl four years ago; a lioness five years ago; a butterfly six years ago; and a ladybug for her first Halloween, seven years ago.

(It is still somewhat tricky to get the girls to sit together; and everyone’s patience was at capacity, as we took these photos after celebrating Victory’s birthday! I did my best, shown below!)

Doug spent roughly five hours, the other day, so earnestly working on carving our Halloween pumpkin, featuring a ghost trick-or-treater in honor of Alex and Victory!  He did a wonderful job! A short video of our lit carved pumpkin is also shown below.  A few photos are shown below of the girls with the pumpkin Doug diligently carved! 

Additionally, here are links to other pumpkins carved by Doug: last yeartwo years agothree years agofour years agofive years agosix years agoseven years ago; and eight years ago!

Alex has greatly enjoyed going on daily walks (and drives) spotting pumpkins, which she affectionately refers to as “punkies!”

Here is a short video of the lit pumpkin Doug carved for us this year!

We hope that you all have a wonderful and safe Halloween!

Since this has been a trying time for kids, during COVID-19, we believe Halloween is an opportunity to celebrate since it takes place outside. We plan to set out candy and take Alex trick-or-treating, weather permitting!

Here is a look back at Victory and Alex over the years on Halloween!

Victory: A Birthday Celebration — 9 years!

October 12, marked seven years since we adopted our sweet dear little Victory!  The time is going by much too quickly!  We decided to make October 12 Victory’s birthday — the day we went to Michigan and adopted our sweet fur girl.

As such, we recently celebrated Victory’s birthday marking her seventh year with us since her adoption!  This also marks three years of being a ‘big sister’ to Alex!  This year, for Victory’s birthday, we did a pink theme with a gold accent! (As shown below, last year, we did a pastel rainbow theme with a silver accent; two years ago we did pastel theme with a gold and silver accent; three years ago we did a gold and champagne theme; four years ago we did a light pink and gold themed birthday; five years ago we did a pink themed birthday; and six years ago, we did rainbow themed birthday for Victory!)  We purchased some fun pink-themed decorations, party hats, balloons, and a pink sweater for Victory, a tradition, in honor of her birthday!  Victory also enjoyed her very own cupcake (with no icing, of course!) Victory looked absolutely adorable and beautiful on her birthday, as always, shown below!  This is the third birthday that Victory celebrated with her sidekick, Alex! It is wonderful to witness their relationship blossom as Alex grows older. Alex loves giving Victory treats and hugs (with supervision!) Victory had a fun birthday and she truly enjoyed being over fed and the center of attention!

We are truly the lucky ones to share our lives with this wonderful, loyal, and loving being.  Victory has been such a source of comfort during this pandemic. She is always by our side. Victory has also fully embraced her ‘big sister’ role!  Victory is very attuned to her little sister and loves to greet Alex in the mornings!  It melts our hearts!  Victory continues to join us each morning and evening for play time and story time, in addition to all feedings!  We also do our best to keep Victory fully integrated in our outings as well, and she has gone on some fun, fall outings with us, as always!  We are so very grateful and thankful for our Victory.  She means the world to us and we love her very much.

For Victory’s birthday, we gave her a new: leash; and a new pink sweater!  

(All birthday decorations are via Sweet Lulu.)

Here is a video of the girls celebrating our fur girl, Victory!

A look back at Victory’s birthday celebrations over the years…

Here is a look back at Victory and Alex on Victory’s birthday!

If you are considering getting a dog, especially during this difficult time, I hope that you consider adopting a rescue dog.  There are so many dogs in need of a good, loving home, especially now. As shown below, Victory, a rescue, has changed so much physically and emotionally over the years since we adopted her, pictured on the left (image from Victory’s foster mom via the Michigan Sheltie Rescue).  You really can save a dog’s life, while simultaneously enriching your own life/lives. We cannot imagine not having a rescue dog in our lives!

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!