Another graduation in the books

Posting here has been scarce lately and it doesn’t sit right with me. I have to sometimes remind myself of what I want this blog to be for. It’s a scrapbook for my little family and a place to write down the little things I know I will want to remember in 5 or 20 years. I know these few years now are sacred for Zach and me, between our tradition of moving every year and getting in our parenting mistakes on a dog before the real thing, and just learning how to be a married couple. That’s what I want it to be.

But I also have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I have current photos from my DSLR to add in or not, or if more than 5 people read it (hi guys!); what matters is I get down what I need to get down even if it means a big old wall of boring text. It’s MY big old wall of boring text, and writing just makes me feel good. It makes me feel relaxed and not a lot of things do that. It gives me a sense of control. I can’t control the life I’m writing about but I can control how I write about it. I have to remind myself about a lot these days but I suppose that’s part of what being in your twenties is all about.

This weekend we went down to Blacksburg for Kevin’s graduation from Virginia Tech, also known as the greatest school in the world. It was the most surreal thing. It feels like just a minute ago I was the one graduating and he was about to continue his journey there without me (I was so jealous he still had three whole years left! What I would have given!). Watching him sit in Cassell in his cap and gown, and walking across that stage, was one of the proudest moments of my life. I know that’s usually reserved for the parents to say, but I feel that I can too. I have taken my responsibility as a big sister very seriously my whole life, even if we did get in a couple pretty serious fist-fights over whose turn it was to use the computer. One of the most unique things about siblings is how crappy you can be to each other and still love each other a whole lot!

My favorite memories are from when we were little together, playing outside until it got dark, or playing Crash Bandicoot on PS1, taking turns when the other one died. Or arguing about whether or not it was a fair death and how we should really get a “do-over” turn. Then our relationship evolved a little and Kevin would come inside from the playground to tell me if someone was being mean to him. I’d go out there with my serious sister face and demand to know who was being mean to my little brother? I’ve never been more enraged than when someone was being mean or unfair to Kevin. I’ve never been more nervous than when he was about to tell me if he got accepted to VT. I’ve never been more grateful for him than when we would move and be each other’s only friends for the first little while. Those times were special, because I remember only love. I could cry to him about how homesick I was and he’d sit on the edge of my bed and just be quiet. He could tell me his things and I could give him the best pep talks. No one knows him in the same way that I do and vice versa.

After the ceremonies and whatnot we all went downtown together and it was great to be celebrating with all the grads with one last night at the bars. Kevin has always been the most likable guy and I couldn’t help but smile as countless people came up to him to congratulate him and say hello. “That’s my brother!” I thought to myself. He’s always up for anything, he’s always in a good mood and is always ready with a joke. That’s why it killed me so much whenever someone did him wrong, or worse, when I did him wrong.

On our way out of town Zach humored me by driving around everything on campus I wanted to see one last time. He made fun of me for saying things like “Aw, thats my favorite gas station!” But man I really loved that gas station. I got a little choked up as we left the drill field behind because I dont have a tie there anymore, not like when Kevin and I were actually living there. Kevin felt the same way and while I obviously dont want him to feel sad, I was glad. Because it means that he had a good enough time there to be sad to leave. He didn’t stress too much about classes, but succeeded in doing well academically and made memories and relationships that will last a lifetime. Words cant explain how it feels to share that with him and our little town in the mountains. And now, we can make some new memories as adults together in the big city. Cheers to the real world!

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I majored in Faking it Until You Make it

Sheepskins are all the rage, making appearances in artsy Instagrams and draping over the backs of Pottery Barn chairs everywhere. Unfortunately, I don’t have a casual $300 to spend on a real sheepskin rug so in keeping with my recent favorite passtime of faking it ’til you make it, I decided to make a fake one.

On a recent trip to Home Goods, I came upon some faux throws. What a find… I was pumped. Then I checked the price tag; $50. Now for some people this would be a total steal and they’d snatch that baby up! That’s fine but $50 for me equals a couple other way more important things like – call me silly – food or my electric bill. So I passed it up and kept walking. While perusing around the bathroom decor I stumbled upon a mat that looked exactly like the throws. “Must be in the wrong place,” I thought. I checked the price tag anyway though… ten dollars. That’s more like it, talk about a game-changer. It wasn’t shaped like a sheepskin but I figured I could make it work. With a little help from my trusty sidekick, I did.

DSC_0350Here you can see a glimpse of my inspiration for having a sheepskin, his name is Duncan.

DSC_0354DSC_0357 DSC_0352Did you ever see anyone so eager to help??

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The Zoo

Last weekend Kevin and his girlfriend Cynthia came up to visit. We all get along great and it was fun to have a laid back weekend to do whatever we wanted. We spent Saturday at the Zoo, which was a nice change of pace from the usual DC spots. I hadn’t really been since we were little, and it was a totally different experience than I remembered. Thus I present to you:

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Ah, the Zoo! Who doesn’t love the Zoo?? Hundreds of caged animals just waiting for young children to bang on the glass and demand to their parents that they wake the hell up. All while enjoying the sweet aroma of hundreds of animals living together on a hot day. What’s not to love?

First of all, the Zoo is free. Yes! Something affordable to do in DC for those of us that are ballin’ on a budget!

Walking around 500 wild animal pens on a summer afternoon leads to other necessities though. Like a working water fountain, for instance. TOO BAD! Did you think they would maintain the water fountains at every corner when you could be buying a bottle of Dasani for $5? Wake up, America. The water fountains are for decoration.

Then right off the bat you notice there’s an absurd lack of actual animals. Wait, this is the Zoo right? Why is there a sign at every exhibit that says “We’re not Home Right Now!” No, no, Katie, that’s not fair… It’s only at the panda, lion, tiger, gorilla and giraffe exhibits. So if you’re there to see the donkeys and wild dogs you are totally fine.

So you make your way to the indoor exhibits, the small rodents and reptiles! Finally, you think, a nice dark cool spot to walk around for a little while to escape the heat. Wrong. The Zoo is free, remember? You should have known there would be no A/C in here. But it’s too late, you’ve been swept up by the crowd of toddlers refusing to sit in their strollers and are already passing up the ferrets.

What you didn’t realize was that these exhibits are lairs in which the worst side of children emerge. Most of these adorable critters would rather sleep than get peeped at by millions of people (shocker), but unfortunately these breaks weren’t approved by 3 year-olds everywhere. The screams of “I CANT SEE THEM WHERE ARE THEY WAKE THEM UP” echo around the amazingly acoustic walls, complimented by the frantic knocking on the glass of the parents trying to appease them. Those “don’t knock on the glass” signs are merely a suggestion.

Once you escape the 7 layers of Zoo inferno, you walk towards the food area. Time for a snack to recover from that incredible overdose of birth control. Hold up though, did you think for one split second that you could afford a snack? Let alone lunch? You better get ready to dip into your 401k for that grilled cheese and french fries. Ignore the small voice in the back of your head that is sobbing, “was it worth it?” You think it was worth it, deep down. Eat another fry.

With renewed self-confidence you set off to find the elephants. Elephants are the best. They aren’t in their outdoor pen, no surprise there. But darn it if you aren’t going to see one legitimate wild animal today at the Zoo so you venture into the indoor pen. There they are, the majestic African beasts. You marvel at the beautiful hugeness of the pair of elephants inside. They’re stunning and you’re entranced. Until your eyes begin to water from the musty poop smell and you start to notice how they’re pacing back and forth, back and forth, and the one over there keeps trying to pick the lock on the gate with his trunk. You decide it’s time to leave when you start daydreaming about that field trip group of middle schoolers being the ones in the cage instead of the elephants.

Enough is enough and it’s time to exit this messed up social experiment, after a quick pass through the Zoo gift shop (no A/C here either). It’s like a war zone in there. Stuffed animals strewn everywhere, animal magnets littering the floor and a toddler having a meltdown in the corner. How do you explain to them that $30 is unreasonable for a stuffed panda? Impossible. Consider it bought. You faintly recall calling this excursion affordable and wish you could punch 6-Hours-Ago-You in the face. The check-out staff is barely alive, in fact you debate checking their pulse on your way out.

As you walk out the impressive iron gates, you turn around and think to yourself “that wasn’t so bad.” Because the Zoo is one of those things that always sounds like a great idea and despite how horrible it makes you feel, you forget instantly and will definitely do it again. Like walking up the down escalator (confirmed). Or eating the entire box of macaroni and cheese (confirmed). Or childbirth (not confirmed yet but likely).

The bottom line: dust yourself off and start planning your next trip! Who doesn’t love the Zoo??

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Fake Açaí Bowls

Happy Sunday! Comin’ atcha from my comfy bed post-visit from my brother and his girlfriend. It was a fun weekend full of sunshine and laughs and good food. Ever since I went to Miami to visit my BFF’s a few weeks ago I’ve become obsessed with açaí bowls (clearly I’m late to the party on this one). Originally from Brazil, they’re really popular in Miami and other health-conscious trendy cities and they were SO. GOOD. I have been wishing I could recreate them at home but haven’t been able to find açaí berry puree in any of my local grocery stores. Whole Foods isn’t worth going to for one thing in my book, sorry. Raise your hand if you’re all about those Food Lion MVP points! So I decided to make do and recreate them using an antioxidant-packed blend of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Practically the same, sort of, but it tasted exactly like what I remembered in Miami and I will definitely be making it again. It kept us full all morning and the best part is how good for you it is. Enjoy!

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Homemade Façaí (fake açaí) Bowls

-1 large bag frozen mixed berries (mine was “antioxidant blend” from Giant)
-cut up fresh strawberries and bananas
-plain granola
-2-3 tbsp peanut butter

Directions:
Blend berry mix (add water to achieve your preferred thickness. Should be a little thicker than a smoothie.) Add peanut butter and blend in.

Top with granola, and sliced fresh fruit.*
*Optional and recommended: also top with coconut flakes, cocoa nibs, honey, more peanut butter or literally anything else because it will still taste amazing.

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In which I cry over a dog

Rescuing an adult dog from the thug lyfe on the streets has its perks. The primary being, well, they’re off the streets. Obviously. But also they’ve outgrown some puppy habits like nipping and peeing anywhere/everywhere. All that beginning hard work and the long nights are already behind you and you think hey, the shelter says he “seems pretty chill” and he “loves everyone” so we surely lucked out – better go get a WhoRescuedWho? bumper sticker and start your new life with your dream dog! Go you! So pumped.

Zach and I always knew we wanted to eventually get a dog, because we both grew up with dogs and know the value they add to life in general. There is nothing exactly like it. When my parents moved up to Green Bay last summer, that meant no more extended stays for Gus at Hotel Raymundo. That was a hard pill to swallow, and since we were getting ready to move we quietly enforced various dog-friendly parameters. Pet-friendly, dog park, first floor units.

IMG_0720Fast forward to New Years Day and we’re driving home from Philly with a 60lb fur baby in the backseat. Zach drove and I would sneak Duncan treats every once in awhile in my attempt to make him comfortable and happy at this bizarre point in his life. He’d been picked up, separated from his sister, put in a few different foster homes and made the journey from SC to PA. Happy ending stories and uplifting blog posts told me that this was the best moment ever, the moment you entered your home with the dog you valiantly rescued, him looking up at you with gleaming eyes of gratitude. I’m not naive and knew it wouldn’t quite go like that, but as we adjusted to life with Dunk I realized I’d been a litttttle naive in thinking I knew so much about his personality based solely on what the rescue said (and how could they know everything about him from a just a week or two?). Zach took everything in stride and reminded me constantly that it was going to be a work in progress – thank goodness for him. I’m also thankful for the kind people at Home at Last Dog Rescue, because they are still always just a text away and were so helpful when I was overwhelmed. They are seriously committed to what they do and a support system is so necessary.

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First things first, he was 100% potty trained – hallelujah. The guy hasn’t had a single accident since he’s been with us, bless his heart. A sad voice in the back of my mind wonders who taught him that? And where are they? Same goes with how he already knew how to sit for a treat? But I really can’t dwell on that. I have to focus on the fact that he’s with us now and will never be made homeless again.

To be honest though there were a couple things that shook me up at first. Duncan was said to be chill, and happy to lay around all day. Well that was a farse, he can’t go 10 minutes without whining out of boredom if he hasn’t had enough full-on sprints through the neighborhood exercise. He was also said to be great on walks and great with other dogs. LOL. Maybe it’s because he knows we’re his owners now and he wants to protect us, or maybe it’s just boundary frustration, but for awhile there I lived in raw fear that we would see another dog on our walks or potty breaks. And he absolutely can’t greet another dog on a leash, lest he start the transformation into his alter-ego, fondly named Chewbacca for his beautiful singing voice! Then we had a scary incident with a toddler getting too enthusiastic about petting him. No one was hurt praise the Lord but it really freaked me out; I had to come to terms with being the owner that says “no, sorry” when people ask to pet him in public, at least until we can trust him. Which is hard when someone stops me every walk to exclaim at how beautiful he is! So I cried about it. I cried about it a lot. Overwhelmed was an understatement. And I wondered how everyone else that’s adopted a dog keeps this part a secret? The ones that said “oh it’s exhausting but it’s so worth it!” That’s hardly accurate. More like “you’ll cry alone in the shower for a few weeks but it will be worth it!”

But you know what? Little by little, he’s coming around. He’s come so far in just the last 3 months, and I had to learn to perceive victories differently. I’ve been running myself ragged for this dog and it’s paying off. He’s teaching me how to be patient, and how to not have an anxiety attack every time something unexpected comes along (still working on that one). He’s teaching me how to not be a lazy POS and now that we’re getting somewhere with his reactivity, I don’t dread going on walks. He is teaching me about celebrating little microscopic wins and the joys of a regular pee schedule. We’ve gone through some obedience class, he knows a whole repertoire of tricks, and most importantly, he is bonding with us. He comes to me for love and lays on my feet when I’m getting ready in the morning and THAT gives me all the feels. I think he realizes he is home, and I felt a significant change within me when I also realized he was part of my home.

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Every day we see a little bit more of Duncan’s personality and every day he gets a little less feral. It took him some time to come to us voluntarily just to say hi, or get pets. For awhile he didn’t lay at our feet, but under the kitchen table or out of sight behind the couch, and looked at us like we were aliens when we talked to him in our silly dog voices.

He loves his toys, especially ones that have treats hidden inside. He will do ANYTHING for a treat, making training pretty fun when combined with how insanely smart he is. He can learn something new in 10 minutes and then do it randomly in front of you hoping you’ll reward his initiative. His current favorite is roll over, so every now and then he will stop drop and roll, and look up accusingly, “now human, it’s time for you to uphold your end of the bargain.” He’s a go-getter, this guy.

Despite how much he adores treats and food, he always sits and waits to be released to eat meals, which isn’t very long due to the puddle of drool this produces. He also lets me do anything I want to him while he eats, including cleaning his ears.

He is a gymnast. Now that he’s learned how awesome it is to get loved on, if you sit on the floor he will run up and do a full on head-butt summersault into you so that you can give the optimum belly scratch. How considerate!

He knows he always gets a PBK when he goes into his crate, and when he sees us making one he goes and sits next to it and waits. He doesn’t mind his crate, but when he gets out of it he cries and cries with joy. Even if it was just for 20 minutes, he will burst out of there screaming and chirping and contorting himself into a pretzel between Zach and I. His tail doesn’t wag without his whole body wiggling back and forth (we call this the swiggity).

One day last week I was in the bathroom getting ready, and he came in and sat down between me and the bathroom counter. He was relaxed and had his tongue hanging out, just looking up at me with a big grin. And when I reached down to pet him, he leaned in and let me for awhile. My heart was full. One of the best things about rescuing a dog that requires a different kind of work, is that moments like this mean so much more. Adopting a dog is hard work, but it is worth it. It gets to be more worth it each day. In the beginning it seems impossible but sooner or later the improvements outweigh the setbacks and then one day you wake up and you can’t wait for that white tornado to come tearing into your room to say GOOD MORNING MOM WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY? And it’s worth it.

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A taste of spring

Last weekend, the weather was glorious and we took advantage Saturday by heading over to Pohick Bay (where we romped around with Titus and Aspen on this day). It’s just a short 5 minute drive from our place, but it feels like the other side of the state. It’s peaceful and still, and I think I liked the winter version better than the last time we went. If only it was 50+ degrees every day in winter. Where can I move for winters like this? I love a good scarf as much as the next girl but this is getting ridiculous. A break in the weather couldn’t have come at a better point this season. I was having a ferocious case of the winter blues. The sun setting at 4:30pm and not rising until after I even got to work in the morning was really not doing it for me, and with temperatures dipping below 10 lots of days I was starting to wonder if I would ever feel the warmth of the sun again. Like EVER. And if anyone out there is ever contemplating adopting a young dog in the dead of winter, when frequent walks are necessary and adolescent boredom is in full force… yeah.

It is snowing out as I type this and the fact that we don’t have work tomorrow makes it maybe not so bad at the moment. One more day to put off doing laundry, one more day to force Duncan to cuddle with me, one more day to finally try making that pancake in a Japanese rice cooker.

But on this day, we celebrated. By running on the beach, scaring the herons and playing with shutter speeds on the Nikon. 30 days until spring….. I can do this.

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The Crate Escape

I’ll be honest. When we first brought Duncan home, I flew into a little bit of a panic. And when I get anxious, it manifests via my stomach, so for the first couple days at home I might as well have had the stomach flu. It was mostly irrational anxiety that disintegrated more and more as we all got used to each other, but I feel it’s still understandable. Adopting a dog was/is new to us, let alone adopting a one year-old with a big personality and an unknown past. But what it has taken is time. Time for us to get used to each other, get into a new routine together and time to learn some rules. Rules for both parties, i.e. you don’t jump onto the couch, I won’t leave my slippers out unattended. Here we are 5 weeks later and Duncan can sleep through the night and I can eat without throwing up.

In the beginning Duncan was not a huge fan of his crate. That is most definitely because it was way too small, but it had to do for the first few days until we could exchange it for a bigger one. His fosters had said he’d done well in a crate, so imagine my surprise when the first night the poor guy cried for half a dang hour! That’s not that bad, I realize. But TRY telling me that at 12am on a work night. Every night he did a little better though and after a week or so he went to bed without a peep. Now he is happy to giddy up on in there especially when there is a PBK (peanut butter-stuffed Kong) waiting for him!

A week into our new family formation, we realized that despite the rescue’s claims that he was 1-2 years old, Duncan was in fact not done growing. On our first vet check-up, she actually estimated him to be under a year old and still very much a puppy! Well since his crate was already a little snug we decided to upgrade to the larger one (cha-ching). We got it on a Saturday and the next morning we headed off to church and to do some Sunday errands, leaving Dunk in his new luxurious crate with his PBK.

Well as it turns out, the upgrade didn’t close the same way as the former crate.

I’m not going to name any names, OK IT WAS ME, but someone didn’t shut the door correctly that Sunday morning.

Cut to later that day when we stroll into the apartment and who greets us but Dunky Doodle Dandy himself, scurrying up to greet us with a huge grin on his face! I panicked immediately and ran around the place looking for the damage. I found it in the guest room; this dude had torn up the guest room comforter and ripped apart our vacuum sealed bags of quilts! Needless to say I double check the crate whenever we leave after that little house party.

And how can you stay mad at this face? DSC_0206

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