December 24, 2009

Christmas in the Park

It's tradition for our family to go to "Christmas in the Park" near our home. It's simple, cheap, and fun. First, we stop at Quik Trip for hot cocoa or a cold Coke, and then take a bee-line straight for the lights.

The display started small 22 years ago and has grown into one of the most popular events around. Now mind you, I was warned to go as soon as the sun went down to beat the long lines, and I listened, but found myself wanting to finish the evening news. As a result we ended up joining the crowd as opposed to beating it.

It was a beautiful 53 degree evening, so the long wait didn't seem to matter. In fact, it made our time of fun last even longer. With Dani and the dogs piled in the car, we rolled down the windows, turned up KLOVE, and absorbed the holiday atmosphere. For 65 minutes we traversed hill and dale and crept through patches of low-lying fog, all while enjoying the smell of winter woods. As we left, the line of cars had grown miles longs setting those yet to see the lights up for a 1 1/2 - 2 hour wait. I have no doubt they enjoyed their trek through the lights as much as we did. It's a popular holiday attraction that's sure to put a smile on everyone's face.

One of many welcoming elves.
45 minutes into the wait
some folks had to make a pit stop.
Not us. We kept going.
We arrived!


Christmas in the Park (cont.)

Merry Christmas to you!

"In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made;

without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

John 1:1-4

December 20, 2009

Mother of Invention

If necessity is the mother of invention, we hit the mother load with a BIG necessity. Our yellow Labrador is 2 years old and has had chronic ear infections since the get go. He's been on nearly every antibiotic, anti-fungal, antihistamine, ear drop, pill, capsule, cream, and special diet you can imagine. Each ear infection costs $150 on the average and is back in no time at all, which is why we began looking beyond conventional medicine for help. After a quick gander at Google we discovered a simple but highly effective home remedy that's proven to keep Ecclesiaste's ears under control as well as get rid of Cocoa Bean's first case of bilateral ear infections a few weeks ago.

Our medical supplies include: extra virgin olive oil, white vinegar, a few cotton balls, and some Q-tips. Mix 2-3 Tbsps of vinegar with 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a small bowl and stir with a Q-Tip. Dab a cotton ball into the mixture so it's about 1/2 absorbed. Coat the inner ear wall and squeeze a few drops into the ear canal. Coat a Q-Tip with the mixture and use it to clean deeper into the ear canal. Repeat this process until your cotton ball and Q-Tip are clean after wiping out the ear.

Ecclesi gets this treatment each day or maybe every third day if he's stable. He loves it so much that as I prepared these supplies to take this picture he begged me to swab his ear. (His ear looked great but he got a "treatment" anyway.)

Please understand that until you know exactly what you're dealing with you should take your dog to the vet before trying this remedy. If by chance, however, your dog turns out to be chronic like our Ecclesiastes and you've tried everything else under the rising sun, this home remedy is worth a try. Beats $150 by a mile!

How we know when to treat our dog's ears: Inner ear is swollen, red, and smells sweet. They itch their ear(s), tilt their head to the effected side, and often shake their heads.

A healthy ear will appear light pink in color, show no signs of puffiness, and smells more neutral than sweet. Checking your dog's ears every day or so will help you develop the skill for knowing when to use your home-made remedy. At first your dog will not like want you to handle his/her sore ear, but if you are patient and gentle he/she will soon learn you mean no harm. Cocoa Bean is not nearly as compliant as Ecclesi, so we allowed him to sniff the soaked cotton ball and started out with "mini treatments" to gain his trust. He's a pro now and has healthy ears to prove it.

December 16, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes

My sister's mother-in-law recently passed away. She was 98 years old and will be greatly missed. Having outlived all of her friends, the family didn't expect a lot of people to attend so they chose to have a small memorial rather than a formal funeral service. It proved to make the gathering far more intimate and touching.

Jimmy stayed home with Dani who was ill, so I went to the funeral home alone. Promptly greeted by my sister, she led me to the front of the chapel to a beautiful collage of pictures representing Marie's life. We giggled and gawked over how silly we looked in years past and marveling at how our children have grown. She showed me the bouquet of flowers that sat next to the urn and two special hand-made cards constructed by my grandniece and grandnephew. After a time of visiting with all who were in attendance, the group sat quietly in the sanctuary. Then, with the great ease and authority, my grandniece (Olivia age 7) walked to the podium in order to explain her card which was on display behind glass.

Olivia's Card
Olivia explained that in the picture her great grandma is in heaven
looking down on her son and his wife saying, "It's ok. I am in heaven."
I was fascinated that she drew a line between heaven and earth,
naturally understanding the divided.

Then Calvin, her 5 year old brother, approached the podium and explained his card on display next to hers.

Calvin's Card
Writing to his grandpa he penned,
"Imsoree da yr momdieed."
(I'm sorry your mom died.)

Olivia and Calvin bravely and proudly
speaking at the podium.
After the great grandchildren spoke, Marie's son, daugther-in-law, and grandchildren shared as well. It was a humble ceremony void of any pomp and circumstance, somehow making it extra special. A simple, quiet, hard-working woman honored for her life and service to family left me pondering King Solomon's summary of our purpose in life in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

It also brought to mind the priceless value little children hold in the heart of God...

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,

and do not hinder them,

for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:14

December 12, 2009

Late Night Early Surprise

In honor of the big 5-0 visiting me tomorrow, I was met with a pleasant surprise last night just before I hit the sack. It was 10pm and Jimmy was letting the dogs out for their last visit to the latrine and turning off the TV and lights, as I headed to the bedroom. Turning back the covers my tired eyes met an early birthday present. New night clothes and a book!

It's become tradition for Jimmy to pick and purchase my night clothes. He seems to have a natural knack for it and not only do I always love what he selects, but they never fail to provide a perfect fit. You can imagine my joy to find hidden amidst the pre-warmed blankets a new night outfit and book I've been interested in, "The Same Kind of Different as Me." It's received rave reviews and I can't wait to delve into it. (But first I must finish "Twinkle.")

I have a feeling celebrating my half century mark isn't over. Jimmy's asked me to keep Monday open. When asked why he was struck silent. Hmmm.

December 9, 2009

A Bee in Her Bonnet

Getting a picture of Dani smiling is as scarce as hens teeth, but we hit the jackpot the other day. More proud than Autistic, she happily modeled for this photo.

Jimmy had just bought this new hat but before he could put it on his beautiful bald head, Dani got a bee in her bonnet to wear it first. It was well worth the purchase just to capture her smile.