reading round up 2.13.15

[What We’re Up To] 
This has been a fairly out-of-control few weeks. My grandmother recently passed away, so Annie and I spent over a week in Michigan for the funeral, and came  home with wicked colds. I’m still not entirely recovered, probably due to her waking up congested/crabby/hungry 4-6x every night for the past several weeks. We’re surviving, but we’re also wearing our pajamas for several days in a row and the house is a complete disaster. (As in, “it’s a good thing no one is calling CPS on us” dirty.) But! The disarray is also here because we’ve got stuff pulled out all over the place to prepare for installing the new floor in the whole upstairs starting this weekend! Then we’ll use a gift card and go out to eat, because making progress on DIY projects and not having to cook speaks love and romance to me in so many ways. Aaron is a good man and he knows this about me.

Annie is now six months old, so in celebration we presented her with an exciting, but not quite age-appropriate, toy. Max understands it better than she does. (And now that enough time has passed and I’m sure my thoughts on the whole thing are not crazy, or at least they haven’t changed with this much perspective, I may get brave/annoyed enough to share some *non-graphic* thoughts on the “birth culture” in America.)

[Valentine’s Reading]
My all-time favorite treatise on love and finding contentment with the simpler life is The Romance of Domesticity, written by the husband-half of one of my all-time favorite couples.
Despite a few nagging theological differences, I think a series on marriage from a while back at Like Mother, Like Daughter really hit the nail on the head for me. I was very encouraged to know we’re building something of spiritual value in marriage, even before we had kids, and even when building up marriage and each other comes at the expense of other “good” things. Now, this can be taken WAY TOO FAR, and I think the book below provides some balance to that, but there were some encouraging thoughts found here. 

[Books]
I’m reading You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, which can be purchased on their website or downloaded free in PDF format. (I chose the free PDF.) I really appreciate the focus on the Kingdom of God instead of the glorification of marriage, which is what usually oozes out of stuff I read. If I hear one more thing about how the primary key to Christian life is “Building a Marriage-Centered Family” or something like that without this balance, I might scream. (It’s dangerous and idolatrous.) Instead, I’m finding this very refreshing:

You are more than a spouse. If you have been blessed with kids, you are more than a parent. You have a unique role in the Kingdom of God, and he has great works for you to do… For some of you, it isn’t about the “Christian Bubble,” it’s just the plain old idolatry of the family. I want you to seriously ask yourself: Do I spend more time focusing on being a good spouse and parent, or more time focusing on being a godly person?

[Science] 
This excellent Ted Talk asks, “Can You Feed 9,000,000,000 People?” and goes over much of the truth the “organic” crowd misses when they condemn GMO crops. I’d ask any of my friends to thoroughly examine these claims before condemning genetic engineering in crop science.

[Music] 
Mostly classical and nerdy this week…
The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
Toccata and Fugue in D-minor, BMV 565 by Johann Sebastian Bach.

[Fun]
One-Star Book Reviews are just plain fun. As I think about children’s literature, I can’t help but appreciate the kindly reviewer for The Flopsy Bunnies: “The focus on killing baby bunnies and fighting over what to do with their bodies once they were dead, wasn’t very child friendly.” Duly noted.
These New Titles For Children’s Books (Based Entirely On Their Covers) is providing much entertainment here. My favorites? “Whoever Is On That Boat Is About To Be Disemboweled,” and “When The Colorblind Decorate.” Maybe “Midget Girl Adopts Satan’s Puppy,” too.
Unrelated to kids’ reading, Elizabethan Superheros is also worthy of a few chortles.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy weekend!

eager patience

Well, a month of radio silence here… I just thought you should know I have not fallen off the face of the earth nor have I had the baby and kept it a secret. I also have not experienced complete mental atrophy, since I have about 20 blog posts half-written.

Mostly…
party… I would probably feel like this every day even if I wasn’t pregnant, but coffee makes my feet swell three times their normal size, much like the Grinch’s heart overlooking Cindy Lou-Who at Christmas, so I can’t really do anything about it.

Caffeine issues aside, I’m not really reading anything, which is probably the biggest setback to writing efficiently. Between the responsibility of caring for energetic Max and a new baby coming any time now,  I’m not expecting to sleep much in the next several months so  this reading situation is unlikely to improve. I need to jump back on the audio book bandwagon very soon, which will at least start recalling the brain I know I have somewhere. It might even be the preventative measure that protects against committing some of the tackiest common mom-offenses: saying things in person or online (1) about bodily fluids to anyone other than the child’s father or grandmothers, and (2) claiming the “victory” of “keeping the kids alive” all day to anyone, ever, at any time.


After spending three weeks of hearing “You’ll go in to labor any day now! I mean it! You’ll have a baby before your next visit with me!” from the doctor every time I see him, I’m planning to go all Buddy-The-Elf on him if I get to the next appointment and haven’t had the baby yet.

With what seemed to be a medically-indicated earlyish arrival on the horizon for weeks, it’s been a new thing to wake up every morning and say, “If the baby is born tomorrow, what do I want to have accomplished today?” instead of working every day towards some extreme list of weekly/monthly/annual goals. This is good discipline for a planner like me, and every day is a new lesson in eager patience as we wait. And somehow at the same time, the latest possible day she could be born still seems extremely soon compared to all the waiting of the past. Part of me feels like I’ve been (emotionally) pregnant for about five years, so what’s a few more weeks compared to the past half-decade?

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:22-25

 

peculiar beauty

As usual, our summer has had plenty of visitors and traveling already! A few weeks ago, Aaron’s parents visited and did amazing things like keeping my dog exercised, fixing our lawn mower, and painting trim while I napped. The following week I visited my parents, which required successfully transporting my 8-months-pregnant self and a 7-month-old dog on a 10-hour solo road trip through the midwest without losing my mind. I have been missing the ease of certain things about life in Iowa, but I must say that driving across Wisconsin is so lovely that it’s almost worth the extra time in the car compared to driving across Iowa and Illinois.

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Successful completion of this trip is due in no small part to indulging in a few of the 49 cent ice cream cones at McDonald’s.

After arriving in my hometown, a friend from high school asked if it was weird or hard for me that my sister is expecting a baby without facing any of the heartaches I battled. I can honestly say it noticeably affects how we handle certain aspects of our pregnancies, but I’m mostly glad not everyone has to suffer in the ways I did. We celebrated my daughter’s impending arrival, so I opened presents for her and spent time laughing with my extended family, full of hopes for the two girl cousins growing up having as much fun as my sisters and I have with our girl cousins.

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praising God for all five girls in this picture!

Other parts of the weekend were more sober. I stayed a little longer than I originally intended because my grandparents were both rapidly declining into very poor health, so I was able to spend extra time with them and help my mom, who bears most of the heaviness of their care right now.  Is there something ironic about uncomfortably leaning over a giant belly to wash a sink of dishes for the chemo patient you’re naming your baby after? And having inspiration about what foods might work for her to eat because you’ve also recently experienced more nausea than you ever imagined possible? I thought so. It was certainly a week of peculiar beauty.

This is exactly what I meant when I said that most of life bears witness to the old funeral text: In the midst of life, we are in death. There is tension, there is heartache, there is so much joy and so much awareness that everything’s a little askew. Because I want my baby to know personally how sweet my Grandma is and how special it is that we have this same middle name that keeps passing down for all the girls, and I don’t know if that will happen. I would have loved if we hadn’t lost the babies before her so she would “just” have hand-me-downs from older siblings instead of fancy new duds from a big baby shower. It’s not a sign of discontent to acknowledge that things are messed up and you wish it could be different.

But at the same time, I am so thankful that anything that ever holds together is evidence of grace. We see so much of it right now.

max in lake michigan

little max in lake michigan at sunset.

 

A contented heart looks to and … sees the wisdom of God in everything. In his submission, he sees His sovereignty; but what makes him take pleasure in God’s wisdom? It is this: the Lord knows how to order things better than I. I only see things at present, but the Lord sees a great while from now. …I know that the love of God may as well stand with an afflicted condition as with a prosperous condition.”
-Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Available for free on Kindle!)

Seven months of Max

In the midst of the moving preparations last fall, we talked a lot about something we’ve been dreaming of for years: a little lab puppy. Aaron grew up with dogs and still misses the black lab, Abe, that he raised from a puppy while he was younger, and we’ve always known that we would have a string of Labrador Retrievers when we “grew up.” The original plan was to get a puppy in between our first and second children, since we wanted our kids to grow up with a dog and we might as well just make that a very intense toddler/puppy/baby season and get it over with. As I’ve mentioned before, “original plans” are kind of a joke for us at this point. The baby thing got complicated and then every time we looked at our open back yard and white carpet, we knew the Iowa house wasn’t the place for a dog. Some of our friends had a fabulous chocolate lab that we loved, and we talked about adopting one of his puppies sometime around when Aaron graduated. As it happens, they had a litter due the week after Aaron’s PhD defense and the puppies were conveniently located just north of our new hometown in the Twin Cities. It seemed like an ideal situation, so we allocated the proceeds from the sale of our chickens towards our hoped-for puppy. We looked for houses with fenced back yards, and “passed” on several fabulous options that weren’t dog-friendly. We ended up buying one in a quiet neighborhood with a doggie door already installed.

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On Veteran’s Day, we got the text message that puppies had arrived! Less than two weeks later, I handed a positive pregnancy test to Aaron and said something like, “Well, I don’t know how this happened, and if it works out, we can’t afford to get a dog anymore… but I will probably die if something happens to this one and I don’t have my puppy.” Wanting both a dog and a baby very badly, we decided that it wasn’t worth panicking about the finances after making gazillions of sacrifices for the sake of “financial responsibility” during the past five years, and that we wouldn’t regret having both together in the end. We sent in the deposit for our puppy the next day. I showed pictures of “my puppy” to all my piano students and asked for their choice between my two favorite names (“Sam” and “Scout,” neither of which was a big hit with Aaron). One little boy suggested I name him after a composer… “Just not J.S. Bach, because people would think you were pretending to be a chicken if you yelled, ‘Bach! Bach! Bach!’ out the back door.” I felt this was a very astute observation.

max on lap

After we brought the puppy to our new (and unpacked) house in Minnesota, Aaron made a few other name suggestions and we tried them all out on the pup for a few days before settling on Max, which came from three of Aaron’s favorite movies — The Grinch, The Great Race, and Get Smart. I was the one who told Aaron he was definitely a “Max,” but warned our family that if this was any indication, we would have to rely on Jewish traditions that don’t announce a baby’s name until the 8th day of it’s life. (We managed to get settled there with relative ease.) Today, this little guy is seven months old! Though our couches are looking significantly worse and I have to do tons of laundry because he drools all over us, we have loved the hilarity, play times, and strict exercise regiment he has brought to our life. (Walking twice a day during the Polar Vortex was still a better option than having a brand new house demolished by a young dog.) This year has been full of almost as many big, stressful life events as you could pack into a 12-month period for people of our age, and I’m grateful we’ve had the joy of a happy, licky, waggy, too-jumpy puppy to bring so many smiles to our faces in it all. family

We took Max on his inaugural canoe ride this weekend, which went better than expected with NO TIPPING during his impromptu dives off the side. That night we laid in bed with lots of extra pillows for my pained hip, laughing at the snores of the dog we wanted, marveling at the impending arrival of a child we have really, really, really, really, really wanted, and expressed our joy to finally live near water, which we have both missed so much. It’s not how we thought this would all come together, but it seems to be coming together just the same.

[Puppy Anecdote: Max knew it was bedtime on Monday, and crawled under our bed in hopes that we would forget to put him in his kennel overnight. Whenever this happens, he doesn’t know that his tail still sticks out from under the bed skirt. It’s pretty cute as he wags it s-l-o-w-l-y with anxious excitement, though he’s still naughty to do it. I tried to grab his haunches to pull him out, but he scooted further under the bed to the other side, where Aaron was standing. Max belly crawled along under the edge of the bed, which we watched as the bed skirt swayed, and finally stuck his tongue out far enough to lick Aaron’s toes. Then he looked surprised that we “figured out” where he was hiding. Ha!]

I would look for a smart and touching quote to include at the end of this post, but Max is simultaneously barking at the FedEx guy and drinking out of the toilet. See ya!

 

reading round-up (5.30.14)

Happy Friday! This week held a very noteworthy celebration: The first “real” piano student sign up of my Minnesota piano studio! We toasted this occasion with the most despicable-tasting sparkling cider available in the Target clearance aisle. (Seriously. It was awful. We both said something like, “We should have just had champagne. I think pregnant ladies in Europe drink sometimes and their kids are okay…”)
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Here are some reading suggestions for the start of a beautiful weekend…

[One] You guys, it’s been legitimately sort of HOT this week. We haven’t turned on the AC yet (we rebel against that sort of thing for a while), but it’s toasty enough to reschedule Max’s mid-afternoon walk so we can go to the basement for downstairs chores and naps instead. I have been really happy with my strategic door-and-window opening plan, which was inspired by this old post about “Living without A/C and Liking It!” from Like Mother, Like Daughter. We actually don’t know if the air conditioning unit works in this house, so we’ll get it cleaned out and hope for the best when it starts getting hotter! (I keep thinking… if you can’t make it until June for a/c when you live in Minnesota, you’re in serious trouble.)

[Two] I’ll probably whack out a whole post about how ridiculous the “mommy wars” are, especially in evangelical Christian subculture, but this post from Jen Wilkinson was particularly encouraging as I gear up for being a part-time working mom.

[Three] This look at the stairway to wisdom from David Brooks includes some great thoughts about the personal stories behind statistics, especially in relation to teen pregnancy.

[Four] I’ve seen this post about homeschooling popping around among friends quite a bit. I’m not going to deny that if I wrote an article about homeschooling (as someone who was homeschooled, has worked closely in tutoring other homeschool families in upper grades, is married to someone who was homeschooled, and will need to make some decisions about educating my own kid in the future) it would say the exact opposite of this one. In general, my opinion is that 85% of homeschool families need a more serious attitude about academics and a lot less restrictions for everything else. But it’s worth reading and reflecting critically whether you agree with it or not!

[Five] I love these thoughts on “scruffy hospitality” and welcoming people into life as you are!  Good, good words from Jack King.

“Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’ …Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

[Six] Two different friends have recommended the “Hillsdale Dialogues” series to me for combating intellectual decay. These lectures on literature have provided some mental stimulation lately, so they are worth checking out even if you’re a little intimidated (or not immediately interested) in hearing about The Illiad or Sir Gawain.

[Seven] Maybe especially because, finally, some things are really coming together —PhDbaby, duckling, puppy… what else could we want?– we’ve been battling a lot of thoughts about hopes, both the ones we felt were dashed so many times in the last few years, and the ones we’re still not sure about for the future. There are questions about calendars and things that don’t look like we thought they should at this point, birthdays that came before all the things we wanted to do by that age were done, and uncertainty about how to redream for some of life. I loved this encouragement from Ann Voskamp:

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination. Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy. And so what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing. All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles.
“Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”
Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope.Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope. We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

The mosquitos are particularly nasty, but we’re hoping for another weekend of bonfires, laughter, Max adventures, and some more painting. (I can tell it’s making a big and beautiful difference in this house that needed a lot of “lipstick and rouge,” but will it ever end? I think “soft flipping” a house and getting a puppy effectively eradicated the possibility of ‘relaxing weekends’ before the baby arrives. )

(You can enjoy more quick reads at Conversion Diary!) 

 

 

 

 

making way for a (belated) duckling

A few weeks ago I mentioned Aaron’s childhood dream of incubating duck eggs, which fueled years of seemingly fruitless prayer, study, and excessive searching through the appropriate habitats in pursuit of a mallard hen’s laying ground. We did some massive minimalizing before moving to Minnesota, during which he finally tossed the old incubator he’d built specifically to hatch those longed-for childhood ducklings. Sometimes his sciencey nature completely baffles me, like when I peek at the detailed lab notebook he keeps every year for his garden with spreadsheets tracking how many plants germinated with what fertilizer and watering schedule, etc., and in those times it’s good for me to remember they are just the grown-up expression of everything that made that little boy hunt for duck eggs.

In the same post I also mentioned that we were not going to be raising any waterfowl at this house. You know, because Aaron works long hours and already caved on the “no-garden thing,” we now have a dog, we have no money, we’re having a baby, and even small hobby livestock is illegal in this city, among other things. (I try not to be a pessimist, but I manage to come up with a long list of reasons not to do almost everything “cool.”)

With all this in mind, it makes perfect sense that nearly 20 years after the height of the egg-hunting, Aaron went exploring with Max and discovered a lone duck egg on the shore of a small lake, which he promptly brought home and kept in a drawer while waiting for a new incubator to come in the mail. (Mama Ducks lay their eggs one-at-a-time at the water’s edge while they build their nest for a few weeks, then recollect whatever hasn’t been eaten by raccoons and start sitting on them all together, so they hibernate for a bit, and it was OK to set this one on it’s own for a couple of days.) It’s now been incubating cozily in our closet for the past few weeks, and Aaron is very proud that we can see the outline of little duckling growing when he holds it up to a flashlight.

There are many possible devastations that could yet occur with this little duckling, like a failure of our extremely low-quality incubator or the fact that we are simultaneously raising a dog with the specific breeding to instinctively put birds in his mouth. We also have no idea what we would do with it once it becomes a grown-up, since we have no backyard pond. (It’s one of those dreams we had to let go of for this house.) I’ve heard that hand-raised ducks often migrate when they see the other ducks flying south, so that might happen… We’ll see. For now, we’re just turning the egg according to schedule, and monitoring the temperature of the incubator while laughing about how birds keep showing up as tangible expressions of God’s love for us.

mallard

Come on, little duckling! We are rooting for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

reading round-up (5.16.14)

red tulip

[One] It’s hard to shake off the joy that creeps up along with the new blades of grass each spring. Did you know one of the oldest notated English songs celebrates this very fact? It’s true. Sumer is Icumen In!



[Two] Earlier this week, my younger sister (also a homeowner and expectant mama) and I chatted about our yards, which feels incredibly grown up. We’re both trying to cultivate beauty and order in houses that were poorly neglected by previous owners with the intention of turning a profit by selling in a few years. I’m not even sure what we used to talk about, but now it’s the merits (and resale value) of investing in grass seed, pavers, mulch, walkways, and firepits. So with that in mind, I really appreciated this article about how the primary work of man — that is, tilling the soil — makes nature more beautiful, and how much benefit there is to subduing the wilderness. My favorite quote? “If farming is the Martha of man’s relationship with nature, gardening is the Mary.” [Get Out of the Wilderness and Into the Garden.]

[Three] Ever wonder what you should really know about American History? Here’s a five-minute clip from David McCullough to assist in your quest for greater knowledge (or just a higher level of cultural literacy.)
[Four] If you’re looking for an hour-long podcast, we thought this interview in defense of genetic modification of plants was extremely interesting. Even if you are skeptical (or disagree) with the practices, this discusses the history of plant breeding AND some other common methods of modern plant breeding that are, in my opinion, infinitely  more concerning than mainstream cis- and trans-genic modifications. (Seriously. Should we be eating plants that came from parent plants blasted by radiation in order to produce the desired mutation? Or should we use precise technology to get the exact mutation we want and avoid the unknown effects of radiation or other changes? If you are lost in this part of the discussion, you need to study further before “taking a stand” on the GMO debate.) Furthermore, I thought his points about how your worldview shapes everything you believe were very insightful, especially in regards to the lack of “inherent virtue” in nature. (Maybe this relates a little bit to the necessity of man tilling the soil after the fall? Nature alone isn’t going to fully sustain anymore and scientific progress is going to have to improve things? Much to think on here.)
[Six] Poor Max has his first ear infection. Dogs have deep, crooked ear canals and those things can get nasty. I won’t link to this, but a cursory glance of Google search offerings about caring for a dog’s ear infection before you can get in to the vet uncovered another world of crazy. Not only are there major “mommy wars” about food, medical care, and vaccinations, but also “doggy wars” about those things, too. I mean, if some tincture of coconut oil, raw unfiltered with-the-mother apple cider vinegar, leftover organic red quinoa water and a splash of sriracha (I don’t know what that is, but I’ve seen it on pinterest too many times for it to not be the next big item in your naturopathic remedies) makes your dog feel better, great… but I kept finding people saying things like, “I tried this natural remedy for four months and his eardrum finally ruptured – now he feels great!” It disturbed me. I hope they aren’t doing that to their kids, too. I’m pretty confident this is the result of some trapped water leftover from his weekend swim and some combination of anti-fungal and antibiotics should solve the problem.
SAD EYES
[Seven] I could (and probably will) just write a whole post about how much we have loved (and learned) in having a dog for almost six months. In the meantime, several of the points from this list are really hitting home for me. (Also, there are whole lists of videos on YouTube where military service-members reunite with their dogs. I accidentally watched one of them right before Bible study a few weeks ago and was late because I had to go downstairs and redo all my makeup afterwards. Then I cried when I put Max in the kennel and he looked at me with the sad eyes. It was rough.)
happy max
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! We are hoping to enjoy some time in the sunshine with Max, evening bonfires, and have hopes of getting LOTS of painting done inside and outside the house. (It’s about time!)

foggy

There’s not as much goin’ on in my head as I really think there should be, and I’ve been reminded multiple times in the past few days that “pregnancy brain fog is a real thing.” I’m not sure if I can blame my mental fog on the baby as much as the fact that I’m conscious of my caffeine intake, and everything I’d consume gives me heartburn anyway. Additionally, Aaron is working long, long, long hours. Maybe 4 extra per day MORE than we had been hoping for. Thus, speaking mostly to a dog all day is not particularly mentally stimulating for me. We’re desperately hoping this is not permanent, as three straight years of this (with a city commute before reaching the wife, baby, and doggie at home!) is not generally the way to create a satisfactory life for anyone involved. My brain feels a lot more worn out than usual, and I can’t even blame something like a busy college semester for this sad fact. So, Aaron’s frustrated by the excessive demands of his job, I’m frustrated by my lack of a job, and we’re both unreasonably jealous of the other person. Everything’s a little hazy here.

In this foggy state, “The Lesson of the Chickens” still holds true: when you’re pressed on every side, you probably need to do something that restores and enriches you even though you definitely don’t have time for it. (If you did have time, you would already be doing it and then you wouldn’t be under so much pressure in the first place.) This means right now the kitchen looks like a grow house for the vegetable garden we were “certainly not” going to plant this summer, I’m priming the trim even though that time would be “better spent” job hunting or piano recruiting, and I’m doing some cute (but not necessary) baby/house crafting.

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That being said, the house and yard still feel foggy in many ways. Nothing is really “done,” so I’m trying to focus on finishing the little projects we’re juggling (mostly painting some furniture and getting pictures up) to power me through for the bigger ones, like painting the trim and ceilings. This also makes me feel funny about showing pictures since everything is absolutely in progress! Also, it’s getting a lot easier to have a young dog, but pulling out some of our old stuff and keeping the stuff we do have looking nice seems a little pointless with Max at the large puppy stage. (Especially if the baby is 2 when we sell this house, I will have a puppy or a toddler the entire time we live here… is it worth unpacking those awesome ceramic blue candle holders I used all my 24th birthday money on? Big questions in life right now, I tell you.)

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(Here’s hoping some white paint will make drastic improvements for our terrible trim and foggy, frustrated outlook on life!)

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” – Samwise, in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. 

pup snippets

As expected, getting a new puppy right after moving has been a great way to start settling in to our new community. I take him on walks several times a day, which is great for improving his behavior and my mental health. While we’re out, we chat with the retired guys shoveling sidewalks, we meet the girls waiting for the middle-school bus who think he is “sooooooo precious!” and we explore new parts of the neighborhood. As it gets warmer and our walks get longer, this will start getting even better.

We’ve also ventured to the dog park on the edge of town, and have therefore been introduced to some of the drama of being “pet people.” There are the people who tell me it’s okay for Max to jump on them when I have just chastised him, because “he’s just a puppy.” I have seen an untrained Labrador knock over a child, which is unacceptable for a domestic animal, so please excuse me while I teach my dog to behave better than yours. Others make snide comments about how “you know what you’re getting because all Labs look the same,” and tell me they fell in love with their rescue dog just before he was going to be put down, which makes me feel like I should reassure them we worked with an ethical breeder and that strong breeding lines benefit dog owners everywhere. I usually smile and tell them their dog is wonderful even if I think it looks like, well, a real dog.

And crate training is apparently very controversial, too. Some dog owners think it’s awful and abusive to “lock your puppy up in a jail cage.” In contrast, I feel great about establishing myself as the head of the pack by teaching Max it’s a privilege to be in the house with me, and that he likes playing by himself in there anyway.  I don’t even want to know what people would say about shock collars on the little guy if it is needed when we start retriever training this spring.

Sometimes it’s a bit of a dog-owner-eat-dog-owner world out there.


Maybe it’s because I’ve home by myself all day for a month, but I feel like I really have a sense for what Max would be saying to me if he could speak.
“No biting! That hurts me!”
-“Yep, sorry. I know that.”
“You can chew a stick or sit by my feet.”
-“I’m just licking my stick and your sock now. Licking, licking, lick/nibbling, licking, it’s more of a tooth massage than a bite anyway, licking, you don’t have to notice this bite, licking, licking with mouth on you, BITING, OK I’M JUST BITING AND I’M NOT ASHAMED.”

God must think I am such a puppy sometimes, too.

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Though Max is still naughty, and what he has gained in maturity just barely compensates for the fact that his increased size means he’s more powerful in disobedience, there are still so many wonderful moments where we all get to enjoy life in our new home. My friend Bethany reminded me that living harmoniously with animals is nature as it was truly intended. We are reclaiming a bit of Eden and proclaiming a bit of heaven, and we’ve been soaking up all these wonderful moments.

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Whoever coined that phrase about “Biting the hand that feeds you,” was most definitely thinking about raising a puppy.

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