Saturday, April 18, 2015

Crosby Ate A Needle


This wonderfully awful dog gave us quite a scare last week.  On Wednesday afternoon he vomited out of the blue.  It was hours after he ate and he had no strenuous exercise that morning because we were at a funeral and he was crated.  Greg was home and he and I shared a look across the room.  No words were necessary to convey what we were both thinking......here we go again.

When we adopted our last Goldendoodle Jake, unknowingly we adopted a dog with a belly full of rug.  The rug had unraveled and coiled around his intestines.  Exactly a week after we brought him home, we rushed him to the emergency vet and paid a small fortune to have the contents removed, as well as part of his intestines.  

So when a dog vomits in our house, it is never “just throwing up”.  Unlike Jake, this seemed to be a one time event.  His behavior was “normal”, as normal as can be for a high energy, badly behaved 8 month old puppy, until the next day.  Thursday morning Greg and I were woken up at 2am and 4 am from his vomiting.  Every two hours means our worries were well founded and he needed to be rushed to the vet.  

Our vet is simply amazing.  I cannot say enough about the staff and owner of Ridge Hill Animal Hospital in North Haven.  They saved Daphne’s life two years ago when the odds were not in her favor, and here I stood before them again with a serious condition that would not cure itself.  After an x-ray and ultrasound it was confirmed that there was indeed something in his stomach (not his intestines) and that something looked an awful lot like a sewing needle.  

Seriously?  A needle?  This is my dog.  An eater of needles.

This was clearly not how I wanted to spend my Friday or my money.  However, something happened that day that changed my relationship with my dog.  Until this day, I honestly did not like Crosby.  I felt I had made a ginormous mistake in bringing him into our lives.  He did not have the personality or the temperament I was looking for in a companion dog.  We had no bond.  

As I sat in the office waiting for the tech to come and lead him away to prepare him for surgery, he looked at me with his puppy-dog eyes and for the first time in 6 months, I felt a connection to this dog’s soul.  He just looked at me as if he were saying “I know you will make me feel better” and I teared up a bit because I realized that deep down I do in fact, love this dog.

He is recovering and there has been a change in him.  He now seeks affection and seems to have stopped nipping to get attention.  He follows up from room to room and he genuinly wants to be with us.  This is a dog that would sometimes pick the further room away from us to be in which always baffled me.  Now he is underfoot and participating in family life rather than excluding himself from it.  We have a trainer lined up to work with him on the issues he needs to overcome in order to truly be the family dog we desire.  Once his incision has healed he will begin a two week intensive training process.  


Since this mishap, there have been no tears of frustration with this dog.  Perhaps this was a very costly lesson in love and acceptance and perseverance.  Crosby will be with us a very long time.  I hope this is the beginning of a recovery process not only for his health, but for our relationship as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Shelling in Coastal Connecticut, Rhode Island

It is a wise father that knows his own child.
William Shakespeare



Our family has always embraced each other’s interests.  We almost take them on as our own.  I have attended two weather conferences with Grace.  I have run a baking camp for Lilah.  It is truly wonderful when we discover an interest that we all share. For us, this interest is shelling.  

You can’t shell as home.  After a long and at times difficult week, Greg and I decided to skip our normal Saturday routine of food shopping, running errands and having a nice family dinner at home, in favor of exploring beaches in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  We threw food into a cooler, grabbed water bottles, our microscope, shelling bags (mesh laundry bags), and headed north.

Our first stop was Rocky Neck State Park.  We have mixed feelings about this beach.  We love the soft white sand and the glacier formations to climb on and the contrast of colors created by the water, the sand and the rock, but we disliked the Amtrack trains that speed by every few minutes on their way to New York or Boston.














We were not sure we were going to find any shells until we explored the rocky shoreline.  The rocky, slippery shoreline.  Greg took a nasty fall and we were all very grateful he got up with no injuries other than a cut finger.  Grace made a huge discovery here, a Knobbed Whelk, our first discovery of this shell.  It was just sticking out of the sand.  I am sure we have walked by countless shells because we did not notice them, or take the time to dig a little.  Greg and Grace will turn over countless rocks to find what shells have washed up and been trapped under or around the rock. 





Driving towards I95 we passed by The Book Barn, a huge used bookstore in Niantic. Lilah asked if we could go and since it was a “yes” kind of day, we went!







We could have spent much longer browsing, petting cats, feeding goats, and wandering through shelves but we had another goal for our day, to visit Watch Hill Beach in Rhode Island.  We vowed to come back again -- soon!



Watch Hill is one of the prettiest places I know and I can’t believe I have never taken my family here before.  We found whelk cases, sea urchin, drills and sea glass.  The sea urchin is a bit of a mystery to us.  It is definitely dead, but it is not dried out.  Unlike the “shell” that washed ashore in Sanibel, this urchin has not been dead that long or it was somehow preserved.  We are letting it sit, waiting and hoping that it will dry up and pull away from the shell casing so that we can extract the body without damaging the shell.  





We are always learning.  This discovery of shelling has truly captivated our interest, our imaginations and touched our souls.  The very best part of shelling is that we are outdoors, together, in awe and wonder of our surroundings and the gifts we are able to take home and treasure long after our day has ended.













Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Shelling!

This week a fellow blogger referenced something we began earlier this year, our quotes journal, and looked on my blog for a link but could not find one.  This is because I have relied more and more on Instagram to share our projects, our travels, and our great finds.  It is very hard to reference an IG picture or search for topic, (if what you are searching for is specific) since you have to match the hashtag.  You cannot search for key words in the comments or caption on Instagram like you can on a blog.  

This revelation reminded me of the importance of blogging.  Yes, it is redundant at times.  It does not have the audience that my Instagram feed does, therefore, I do not get immediate feedback and suggestions.  It is not as creative.  It is not as personal.  However, it is detailed.  It is thorough.  It is reference-able.  It is chronological.  It can be more than what I make of it.

To be honest, I don’t always see the value in a blog post titled More and More Shelling or Another Day, Another Beach.  But someone searching for shelling or places to visit in CT might!  People who are considering homeschooling high school may find value in knowing that my 9th grader left Teaching Textbooks because she was not “getting it” and switched to McGraw Hill’s Key to Algebra and now she “gets it”.  Or that my 7th grader found a sea urchin in Rhode Island and it contained the entire body, unlike the sea urchin we found in Florida and we are not sure what to do with it!

I am a bit behind in my blogging but not so far behind that catching up is impossible.  

Let’s catch up on shelling, shall we?  
The interest is still there and with that interest comes more and more learning.
The girls read from Apologia’s Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures and we tried Apologia's Marine Biology as an audiobook but it does not work well as an audiobook.....


Lilah is working on a shell necklace to enter into the Cape Cod Shell Festival in June:



Grace is taking pictures of her local shells and using the photo cube to print the pictures which she then adds to her journal and is creating her very own Shells of Long Island Sound field guide.  


Lilah is doing the same except she is drawing and watercoloring the individual shells. 


We bought an inexpensive caliper off Amazon (non digital, $7) to take accurate measurements.  We travel with our field microscope and field guides, our laundry bags (which make great shelling bags) and our $10 fish nets from Cabela’s!



Lilah found a great book:  The Seas A Celebration of Nature, in Word and Image by Courage Books at The Book Barn in Niantic.  She read it to us in the car.


We researched the use of Muriatic Acid a.k.a. Hydrochloric Acid to remove mineral deposits from the outer layer of shells and decided to go with a safer alternative, CLR.  I adore how our moon snails look after a 4 second soak and rinse with tap water.  However, we feel this process changes the character of the shells and we won’t do this with our prized shells, but for little drills and moonsnails, it turns them into gorgeous pieces to place in a glass jar on the mantle.



We are on the lookout for the best shelling beaches in the Northeast, New York and New Jersey.  Recently we discovered Rocky Neck State Park in CT and Watch Hill, Rhode Island, but I will save those pictures for the next post!



Friday, April 10, 2015

21 Strong


It is important to me that the girls volunteer but it is also important to me that they are not forced or coerced because that negates the very definition of volunteering.  When I think of volunteering I recall the Gilmore Girls episode when Paris is having a meltdown because her resume is not padded with volunteering and she frantically begins calling shelters at Thanksgiving and is told they have no need for her, which sends her further into her meltdown because how will Harvard accept her without this volunteer work?  

Sadly, this scene is all too true among many teens, especially those caught up in college admissions drama.  

"If you want to be important-wonderful. If you want to be recognized-wonderful. If you want to be great-wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
The Drum Major Instinct, February 4, 1968 Atlanta Georgia
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Volunteering is not about collecting service hours for high school credit or meeting an obligation set forth by school or church.  Volunteering is about giving a part of yourself freely to someone else and discovering a bit more about who you are and what makes you great in the process.

Grace and Lilah have had the opportunity to volunteer at a YMCA that offers programming to families of children with Down Syndrome.  Most recently they participated in World Down Syndrome Day hosted by 21 Strong.  Grace was an aide to a 10 year old girl and Lilah spend the afternoon in the arts and crafts room.  Both had an incredible experience and both would love to do this again.  


I did put this on Grace’s academic resume, but only to highlight the many things she is interested in.  She is curious about working with children, utilizing her sign language skills, and perhaps teaching music.  This experience is relevant to her goals.  She learned a little bit more about herself while she gave a bit of herself to someone else.  There is such beauty in watching your child mature right before your eyes.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Conchology

We are back and we are settled and a week has gone by which has thrown us right back into the routine of our life.  We had horseback riding and piano and sign language.  I worked in the home to prepare for some major renovations happening soon and I worked outside our home at church.  We went to the Living Stations of the Cross Friday night and a Celtic Women concert Saturday night.  There were moments of longing for sunshine and warmth, especially when 6 fresh inches of snow fell. There were longings for lazy mornings, especially when Grace went to volunteer at the kennel.  And there were longings for walks on the beach in search of the perfect shell.  That one, however, we can satisfy here in Connecticut.



The beaches are certainly not as pristine.  The water is not as blue.  The sand is not as soft.  It is easy to fall prey to envy and forget to find the beauty in what our town has to offer.  We do have miles of beaches along Long Island Sound and those beaches contain marine life.  

After church on Sunday, Greg had the brilliant idea to pop over to our town’s beachfront dining establishment for family breakfast.  We watched barges pass and the seagulls and Canadian Geese float by.  And for a few blissful minutes, Greg and I enjoyed our last sips of coffee while the girls combed the beach.  




They found some amazing treasures.  Shells that we are not used to finding on our beaches.  This passion of shelling has turned from just an interest, to a true passionate exploration of science.  We are learning habitats, ecology, geography, marine biology, zoology, art, technology, research, record keeping, photography, and the use of the Internet to enhance learning.  






We cannot find many documentaries on shells.  However, there are hundreds of YouTube videos in which people who share our same interest teach.  It is up to us to verify the information, which we can do through our growing collection of books about shells.  



This family project will lead us into spring and summer.  Last night we were all talking about how we could be like Storm Chasers, only we chase the tide after a storm seeking the remnants of what was churned up by the powerful surf.  We have easy access to beaches from Delaware to Maine to explore.  Heck, Rhode Island and New Jersey are just 90 minutes away!  We have never explored New Jersey beaches or Rhode Island beaches........and now that we have a dog sitter who loves our crazy puppy, overnight ventures have become possible again.
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