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I must have had too much water at Casa de Suenos because I was up at 12:30 am to go to the bathroom. When I exited the bathroom, there was the youngest walking back from the kitchen. I followed him to our room where he was sleeping in the twin bed. “He attacked our bed”, she told me because she’d woken her up, “I think he’s sleepwalking.” This was a first for him. We’ve never known him to sleep walk, but apparently he did. He had no memory of all this when he woke up the next morning.

The next morning it was also raining as we packed up the van. I really wish we could have spent some time relaxing but I had to preach the next morning so we needed to be home late afternoon/early evening. I was not looking forward to another day of “How much longer?” and “Are we even close yet?”. Yeah, these were long rides only made longer by the numerous questions being asked.

But first we had a breakfast prepared by the Baileys. It was good to not have restaurant food. Blueberry pancakes, sausage, and some Florida’s Natural OJ. The latter has a special place in our hearts since we used to live near the processing plant. I wish we could have stayed longer talking. It has been a difficult year of ministry. Little did I know what awaited me when we got home (maybe some other time). But we did take time for a tour of the very interesting building. It has been built in stages with no coherent plan. So it has plenty of character.

As we were getting ready to go Jim let me know about the waterfall down the road. So … this necessitated a detour. Then it was time to head back down the mountain.

When we were more ignorant of New Mexican geography, I thought we could hit Carlsbad Canyon on the way home. That, however, would have been a 4 hour round trip and time at the canyon which would make for a very late night. Maybe some other trip.

On the way down we saw another deer along the side of the road. As we pulled up, he stayed put which allowed the eldest to take some pictures of him/her. The occasional rain made us wonder if we’d be able to enjoy White Sands National Monument. Friends from FL has enjoyed it before visiting us and we had the saucers they used to sled down the dunes. This just sounded quite cool. As we went down the mountain we could see the whiteness of the dunes in the distance. Quite beautiful.

The price to get in was $5/adult, but since we had a fourth grader, we got in free. That was two national parks in two days for free thanks to the fourth grader. We stopped at the broad walk to get a grasp of all this. I wasn’t sure what to expect. They are like sand dunes at many beaches with brush, flowers and critters. Some were barren, like an albino version of the Sahara. When we drove further down we got out where some others were sledding. On top of a dune you could see just how disorienting it all can be with all that white. It would be easy to lose track of where you were and where the vehicle was. We warned the kids about this and to stick together.

Our first attempt was pretty much a disaster. I thought it was steep enough, and was wrong. It was like trying to sled in deep, fluffy snow. Was this going to be a major disaster? We moved to another dune that looked better and it was better. A little. A bit further up the dune it was better. One of the kids tried snowboarding and that went well. We were just about ready to give up, a bit disappointed when I saw it. a blue cube of wax. I waxed the bottom of the saucers and things went much better. All in all it was two thumbs up from the little people. Some pretty good memories, me thinks.

Back at the entrance we made a pit stop and polished off the last of the pizza. And we were off!

Our time in Las Cruces was interesting. We passed the intersection for I-25 and I wondered why. It may have brought us out a bit farther east on I-10, but it was all highway. We are about to enter a 35 mph zone with lots of lights. So we asked Siri who proceeded to take us around the block and put us back in the same direction. Exasperated, I just went with the flow cursing Siri under my breath. Eventually we were on I-10, westbound and down. On this trip it was The Force Awakens and another round of The Lego Batman Movie. There was a dialog between A. and the eldest about Siri’s time estimates. We made good time. Somehow we made it from White Sands all the way home in NW Tucson without making a stop for food or “rest”. Doing that with 4 kids is astounding although we thought one of them needed a potty break based on the stench wafting thru the van periodically. But home we were and all the pent up emotion emerged in a series of irrational tantrums. But we had a mostly good trek through New Mexico. The Hodyssey served us well. Now it was in serious need of a bath. And detailing. Yes, detailing (lots of gypsum from White Sands).


I had a restless night thanks to green and red chile peppers, lots of water due to the really dry air, and a nose full of dried blood and snot also due to the lack of humidity in the high desert.

One of the great unknowns about Presbytery meetings is if you need to meet the next day. That question meant that we had to be flexible in our Friday plans. Before the meeting resumed, it was time for breakfast. I was ready for that breakfast sandwich I planned on making. I was disappointed. No bacon. But they had some chicken sausage and andouille. So, not quite what I planned on but still good.

She dropped me off at the church and went back to finish packing. I heard lots of reports for  the next 2+ hours. Getting close to the end I gave the “all clear” for them to head back to pick me up. As they arrived we finished the meeting proper but left some time for “goodbyes”. As Tito was speaking I realized that all of the Hispanic pastors were now going to be in the Rio Grande Presbytery. My new Presbytery will be less ethnically & culturally diverse. This is disappointing, and must be rectified over time.

At this point the plan was to head to Cloudhaven, a study/retreat center near Cloudcroft, NM, way up in the mountains. Since it was about noon, it made sense to have lunch before we left. Back to Dion’s so they could enjoy the pizza. We ordered a large for the kids and a medium for us parental types. They proved to be large enough to have leftovers. Then we were off, heading farther east.

On Day One I learned you can’t escape KLOVE. There we were, after watching Pinocchio, in the middle of nowhere we had KLOVE. So I geared myself up for more KLOVE. We were saving the other movies for the ride home the next day.

And a long drive it would be.. First we went down 25, south of Saccaro. Then we went due east along a mostly straight road There was not much traffic. But some went slow. I always find the slow ones. Shortly after the Valley of Fire (tons of volcanic rock) we turned south along another mostly deserted road. These two roads were along the perimeter of the White Sands Missile Range.

Somewhere in there we finally lost a signal for KLOVE. It’s really sad when you wish you had KLOVE. We should have connected my iPod. Only hindsight is 20/20.

Once again we had a bathroom issue. The daughter wasn’t excited about going behind a bush. Finally we came across a “trading post” which was “Native Owned, Half-Breed Operated”. I almost expected Billy Jack to come around the corner. I was beginning to wonder if this child actually had to go to the bathroom while we wandered around looking at art and trinkets. But we were too close to Tularosa, NM, where we planned on stopping for dinner.

Right next to this trading post was the entrance to the Three Rivers Petroglyph site. So off we went down the alleged 3 mile road to the site. It was actually 4.7 miles, but since when has our government been able to do math. The volunteer in the office was quite excited to see real live human beings and gave us far too much information leaving us too little time to actually walk along the ridge to see the petroglyphs. They are done on volcanic rock, and there were 3 dormant volcanoes at this particular location.

Back on the road toward Alamagordo we went, stopping in Tularosa at Casa de Suenos. I avoided any more chile peppers and went with rolled tacos (floutas). We were not the only large groups. Thee place seemed made for large groups. Thankfully they were used to the silly accidents that happen with kids. You know, one annoying another who then spills the ginormous cup of water they provided. Everyone enjoyed their meal and it was off to Cloudhaven for the evening.

We ascended the mountain as the sun was setting. We got some glimpses of great scenery as we drove along the steep cliffs. When we got to Cloudcroft it was dark. I was behind a truck, glad since there were probably plenty of deer in the area. That is when he pulled over so I could go first. I was wondering if that was so I’d hit the deer when I saw one. Just standing there on the side of the road, so I stopped until he moved on.

Soon we were at Cloudhaven (about 8,100 feet), the home of Jim and Katy Bailey. I was utterly beat after all the driving after the late night. They showed us to the guest house so the kids wouldn’t be too distracting to them. As I was unloading the van I called out the kids. The stars were just plain amazing.

A. took advantage of the washer and dryer to do a load of laundry so she’d have one less when we got home. That there was only one bathroom meant I went to bed later than I wanted. I barely made it to 10:30. And so ended Day 3.


The bed was pretty comfy, but the air seemed even drier than in Tucson. A nose full of dried snot can make it hard to sleep. But I was thankful for the fact that I went to bed earlier than usual due to the time change. But my meetings didn’t begin until 10 so I could lounge there until the kids, okay the 3 youngest, started playing with the curtains and generally being annoying. I don’t blame them, it is hard to deal with hotel rooms as a kid.

Due to the renovations going on, the breakfast was served in the room below ours. The good part of that was our kids couldn’t wake anyone up with all their stomping and other antics. The bad part- fewer steps on a day in which I’d be sitting more than usual.

Boy, was it crammed in there! Hard to move around and get food. Don’t get between this man and his waffles! My inner Homer Simpson comes out- “Mmmmm, waffle overflow.” I should have made myself a “breakfast sandwich” with the bacon, cheese & English muffin (no tortillas for a wrap/breakfast burrito?). It was a good breakfast for the 5 of us. Oh, the oldest was still asleep and still cranky for introvert overload the previous day. As A. would say, “Seriously?”

Some of the guys tease me for my cargo pants. It is great to have those pockets for the phone & wallet (my aging, easily put out of alignment hips love them). But, in honor of our final Presbytery meeting I wore jeans. Yeah, jeans. We’re classy in the Southwest.

We were closer to the host church than I thought. And so began a day of meetings. In the am, I had my RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) committee meeting. We discussed the transition at NMSU in Las Cruces (I hate to see Ben leave for the Southeast), and how things are going for the new campus ministry at the UofA (glad to see Dan & Brittany here in Tucson).

Meanwhile … I got a text about how the oldest didn’t want to go to the petroglyph site on the west side of town. She’s so grumpy, she says, that she might hit an annoying sibling. This is starting well.

Turns out they all had a great time, even the oldest. Okay, one child struggled with a fear of heights on the sometimes narrow path. The boys? Mountain goats.

Back at the church…. committee meeting is over and the other Ben is lamenting about eating too many of the delicious breakfast burritos that Adam V. picked up on his way in. I don’t do eggs so this presented no temptation for me. I already had tea so I didn’t investigate the possibility of those fat pills known as donuts. It was a tad early for lunch and Justin presented two nearby options. The chicken and waffles place was a mile away. 1. I’d already had waffles. 2. I had no car and would have to bum a ride. The pizza place was about 5 blocks away. Perfect walking distance for a guy in need of steps. AND that pizza place was Dion’s. Our friend Shannon, who spent time living in ABQ recommended it in one of her texts. So, a bunch of us walked down to Dion’s, talking ministry and life. Many of their pizzas looked great so I settled on the Napoli: red sauce, provolone, sausage, Kalamata olives, pepperoni, roasted red peppers and Parmesan. I resisted getting green chiles on my pizza. I have to beware of chile overload.

Meanwhile …. A. took the kids to the Blake’s Lotaburger by the hotel. We are just now getting them in Tucson and I am envious. They put some of that dangerously delicious green chile on their burgers. The food was great, she says, but the service was a bit lacking. While they took time for rest, introverted or not, we began our meeting proper.

Shall I bore you with details?

Each of the newly authorized and soon to be existing Presbyteries had a caucus. For the AZ Presbytery, we looked at the 8th draft of our Rules of Assembly which determine how we’ll function as well as our priorities. We had some kingly gifted guys running this thing so stuff happened. Maybe too much. But we hope to vote on those at our first meeting this January. The Rio Grande is a slow moving river, and so is the new Rio Grande Presbytery. They needed to reform their transition committee and have much more work to do in the next few months.

We examined a pastor for transfer, which means we just examine views and exceptions. It isn’t a long or involved exam. Usually. This pastor had an unusual exception, particularly for our Presbytery. As a result, what usually takes 10 minutes was well over an hour as he tried, in vain, to explain why this exception wasn’t a big deal. I cut to the chase with a question (okay, I’d had about 6 previous questions) “Was this approved by your previous Presbytery or is it a new exception?” Two previous Presbyteries has approved of it. So, while I personally had some discomfort I voted ‘yes’. I hope I don’t regret it.

As a result, when a candidate for ministry came for his floor exam he was asked no questions. The context matters. We’d examined him in January for licensure. I guess I could have asked if anything changed since then, but no one wanted to stir up unnecessary trouble. We trusted that the committee had been doing their work and moved on to other matters.

While we were still “working” the family arrived. The boys had pent up energy and made good use of the whole building while they waited. Since the taco truck arrived, they got a head start on dinner. The kids all chose the nachos, which I think had some meat and red chile sauce. A waited for me and we talked in line about how the meeting had gone so far, and talking with the guys around us in line. When I got near the front of the line I had a hard choice. Everything sounded good. Well, there was that one thing. I’d never had a fried avocado taco. Hey, you only live once and who knows if/when I’ll be in ABQ again. One of each, please. That taco (all of them actually) was delicious! And I finished one of the kid’s nachos.

The rest of the family went back to the Residence Inn while I stayed for the worship and time of fellowship at a local establishment. Worship when well, with one of our church planters in ABQ, Adam, preaching. Afterward we slowly began shuffling off to said establishment. Not having a vehicle, I tagged along with some other Tucson guys (Ben, Dan & Charles) in their rental. We had to wait on Dan and moved to the front of the building. We were surprised to find 3 police vehicles and 5 officers standing in the street. Apparently we should have given them a heads up on the unusual activity. We braved the construction riddled road with all kinds of lane changes until we got to the establishment with severely limited parking.

The establishment was Kelly’s Brew Pub, it looked like it was a converted service station. We sat outside in the cool night air enjoying a pint and conversation. You might be surprised to discover this is my favorite part of Presbytery meetings. I resisted the temptation to get food knowing there would be one final Whattaburger run. I did see a falling star while I was sitting out there. And a huge drone with green light on the rotors passed overhead (there is an Air Force Base in town). Around 10 was last call. 10!? Isn’t this a college town? It seemed early to close, but our rather large group was pretty much it at that point.

I had precisely 1 Scottish ale. It had a little more APV than most Scottish ales, and at a mile up that was enough. A friend picked up my meager tab and off we were to Whattaburger. One of the guys from Santa Fe gave me a ride so we could talk some. Turns out the Whattaburger is just down the street from my hotel.

I’m not the only one who has issues with Siri. She seemed to take us on the least direct route for some reason. This is a bit of a tradition for us, getting a midnight burger. Not just any burger, but a triple patty burger. Not wanting to have a lousy night’s sleep due to grease, the first time I went on this run I had a double which resulted in an unfortunate nickname- Dub. On a subsequent run, one of the Bens had a Jr. and became the shame bearer, though we don’t often call him Jr. Last time Josh had 7 patties and probably descended into another meat coma (I passed on that trip since our church was hosting). This is beyond the meat sweats. Bo decided to top him with an 8 patty burger. Yeah, 2 lbs. of hamburger meat. I’m not sure about the physical and emotional toll it took on him.

I had my usual double, but with green chile to top it off. Possibly a mistake after the chile peppers with dinner. The other customers were amusing. They humored us by taking our pictures (as did an employee). They were humorous in that they took out their tasers. Yeah, they had tasers.

Thinking it was time for me to go, I said my goodbyes and prepared to walk the 2-3 blocks to my hotel. About 4 different people offered me a ride. I wanted steps, but wisdom won the day. Kelly gave me a ride in my 3rd different vehicle of the evening. He thought he saw a crack deal go down while getting gas just down the road. I returned at 11:30 to a room full of sleeping people. I was done….


I think we are still recovering from the great move of 2010. At least the oldest is, and she reminds us of this periodically. We’ve had a few families visit us on road trips, and there are places in the Southwest we, meaning the parents, still want to see. With most of our vacation time spent in NY road trips are a challenge. But we bought the Hodyssey to make road trips. We tricked it out with a DVD player to make road trips. When will we get to take a road trip?

Going to Presbytery meetings has largely been a solo affair- just me since I have to go (I enjoy parts of it- food & drink with friends basically). We’d pondered going as a family when it was held in northern New Mexico. With the division I mean multiplication, of our Presbytery at the state line, this was the final shot. The final meeting of the Presbytery of the Southwest was taking place in ABQ. Road Trip!

Preparations were made: getting my sermon done early, A. finding subs for her Friday classes, someone to watch the dogs and all that jazz. The plan was to leave Wednesday after speech therapy & A’s exercise class. On the previous weekend I notice that pesky tire pressure light was on. I found a way to procrastinate until Wednesday morning. The QT down the road has free air, so no problem. Before speech therapy I drive down to fill it up. But it wouldn’t fill. Was the problem my digital gauge or the pump? Ain’t nobody got time for this, I’ve got a road trip today!

So… off to the Discount Tire which provides free air pressure checks, notifying A. of this delay, promising I’d be back in time to bring E-fly to speech. There is no way all 4 tires had leaks. Has to be the pump. The stress was building anyway, particularly as another car was there getting checked. “Come on!” was the voice in my head. Thankfully the tires were filled, though he encouraged me to overfill a little. Time to get home and go to speech.

A quick stop at Costco for gas and we were on the road around 11:30. Not quite the best time to leave Tucson. Too early to eat lunch in Tucson. Needing to get on the road. Remembering there isn’t much between Tucson and Deming on I-10. Familiar with the McDonald’s in Willcox thanks to trips to Apple Annie’s for produce, we decided to stop there. No Happy Meals for the little people as they already had their annual Happy Meal. Not seeing a simple double cheeseburger I had to settle for the 2 cheeseburgers and the additional useless carbs in two whole buns. I can just see myself gaining 10 pounds on this trip.

It was, thankfully, largely uneventful, as we watched (I listened to) The Lego Batman Movie, one of the few movies everyone enjoys these days. I would end up talking like Batman for much of the weekend. This is the price they must pay. We got off I-10 in Deming on the way to connect with I-25. It was some interesting landscape but essentially deserted desert. At some point they started to watch Pinocchio , much to the protests of the eldest. I didn’t realize how boring that movie actually was. I had a hard time staying away.

Soon, though, we were to Hatch, Chile Capitol of the World. I was wishing we could have waited to eat at Sparky’s. The speed limit in Hatch drops to 25 so we see EV-ER-Y-THING. But there isn’t much to see besides fields, mobile homes, and road side shops selling peppers and shirts. But … it was remarkably green. The reason? The Rio Grande river. We passed over it near 25. It was to be our companion for the next stretch of road, creating a great disparity between the east & west sides of the highway. East there was lush green with trees and fields in the valley. There were a few lakes too. West? Barren wasteland. Well there was that one series of groves with a man-made waterfall on the end. That was pretty much it.

But there was no place to stop. The towns were small, and there were no rest areas. We know because someone had to go. This is why you don’t drink on road trips…. what goes in must come out. Finally we came to an exit with a few gas stations with convenience stores. The one we choose was kind of small. We were the only people there so we felt compelled to buy something to compensate them for the use of their facilities. Bye-bye to the rare cash reserves in my wallet. After we passed thru that town there was a rest area. Arrgh! Why put it near a town with places to stop?! Silly New Mexican government. This would appear to be a common set of circumstances in New Mexico.

We rolled into ABQ around 7 pm still on the original tank of gas from Costco. We found our currently-being-renovated Residence Inn run by very friendly people. We brought our stuff into the suite and headed off to dinner with members of Presbytery at Sadie’s. It was a bit noisy although we had a small room to ourselves. My kids had their own table while we ate with some guys from Presbytery. About 4 or 5 tables were pushed together for the larger part of our group. We had one child suffering from introversion overload, not wanting to be in a loud restaurant. The guy across from me, a missionary to the Ukraine I’d never met before, had a dish too spicy for him to eat. Those New Mexican chile peppers can get you. We enjoyed our meals, and I enjoyed my Isotope Amber Ale as well. With tired kids, we begged off early. This is when Siri threw us for a loop. Expecting to take the same route back to the hotel, she took us on some strange convoluted journey back to the hotel. This would be a common issue in ABQ for some reason.

Our suite had a bedroom with a full or queen downstairs which was claimed by the eldest child. She, the introvert, wanted the space to recharge. We took the loft style bedroom upstairs. It had a half wall. The other 3 crashed in the living room. It had a pull out couch for the boys, and the younger daughter fashioned a bed for herself on the floor.

There were two problems. The first was the half wall. Light from the TV was seen by the kids, distracting them. And then there was the boys who were tired and goofy, unable to fall asleep. Finally we moved the older boy to under the kitchen table so they both would sleep. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

I would try to ignore the fact that the hotel had security in the parking lot all night long. Thankfully that would not come back to haunt us.

 


Amie, by her own admission, is not the most empathetic person in the universe. Sometimes that happens when your recovery from a car accident results in a bunch of surgeries. As a result, I’ve been the one to go with him for all his surgeries except one, his locally done tympanoplasty. This time she was going to LA and dealing with the stress of uncertainty regarding rides, housing etc.

The Lead Up

She needed to get some details sorted out in preparation for their trip on Saturday. They were going to stay with a friend on Saturday night, but needed to nail down details for Sunday and Monday. Our friend lived about 45 minutes away from the hospital. I’d been told she may be able to stay in the PICU the night after the surgery. At Shriners’ they required me to stay overnight if he was staying overnight (that only happened once, thankfully). But they were uncertain, and she needed to be certain. She also needed to know if there was a spot at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.

So the phone calls began: the hospital, Shriners’ and the Ronald McDonald House. She discovered that parents did not stay in the PICU, but there was a “Community Parents’ Room” with curtains between beds. “Sorta like camp?” “I’m really not sure.” This was not sounding like a great option, but rather a last resort.

On the RMH front, nothing. She left messages. She got the weekend loop of “Dial 0” which brings you back to the same message. She had to go the “hotel points” route for a nearby hotel. Accommodations were set, but it took awhile and some frustration.

Despite his little brother having a runny nose all week, Eli didn’t seem to have any cold symptoms. He may have escaped illness which would postpone the surgery.

Heading to LA

It was a 12:30 flight to the City of (Fallen) Angels. This meant we could have our usual Saturday breakfast together of waffles and bacon. While talking that morning before breakfast she mentioned:

A: “I really wish you were going, not me.”

S: “I am a cad and a scoundrel.”

A: “You know why I can go?”

S: “No.”

A: “Because there are no exercise classes that week. I didn’t need to find a substitute.”

Praise God for the little things.

Eli never really unpacked his backpack which was already bursting with books, toys and his tablet. He just added to it. This time he remembered a charger; two actually. Not wanting to mess up her neck meant bringing her pillow, which meant bringing a bigger suitcase (violating my travel light policy). Thanks to the “pre-op” appointments this was a longer trip than usual.

It was an easy ride to the airport. Child #1 bailed on us since she hates car rides. “I can say ‘good-bye’ here.” She just wanted to be dumped at the curb. Contrary to her wishes I came to a complete stop.  They made it to the gate and waited. And waited.

A weather system was slowing down flights. Their plane was coming from Denver which had recently suspended flights indefinitely. Thankfully their plane had taken off, although late, before the suspension. But there was the appointments, a schedule to keep. This creates stress. Despite the delay, they arrived in LA in due time, met our friend and were off to the appointments at the hospital.

Keep in mind, these were necessary “pre-op” appointments to take place within three days of the surgery. I’m thinking blood work and stuff like that. They weighed him, measured his height, took his blood pressure, a nasal swab, and an oral history. The first two were done on Monday. The last was all in his file which they should have had. No off book surgeries in Mexico. So they made Amie and Eli travel early and spend an extra day so they could take his blood pressure and a nasal swab. Yeah. But at least they got to celebrate Dr. Thomas’ birthday with her and her family. They enjoyed some good Indian food, reminding them of the times Reena would cook for community group.

On our end, things were pretty uneventful. In light of an upcoming trip, and the fact that we only had one key for the van, I stopped by a place to get a spare. It was 40 minutes of whining by the little people. After rest time I popped some corn and we watched the rest of The Princess Bride, which we had started the previous week. Child #1 even joined us (that tween thing). We had some red beans & rice for dinner.

Sunday

Sunday was rather uneventful. But there were two key moments when it created unfortunate circumstances for me. Those were the moments Amie called.

Since I had “medical leave” I was not preaching. I taught SS and lead the liturgy, but one of the assistant pastors of a sister church in town preached for us. Since I planned on being home all day Monday, I printed off a bunch of stuff for our Session meeting Monday night. Then I got the phone call. Distracted, I forgot to send the liturgy information to my admin, and forgot to get my paperwork from the printer. I did not yet realize this unfortunate reality.

One of the things she told me was that he was groggy and had a sniffly nose. Perhaps he was coming down with Asher’s cold. But one side effect of the pain meds we were supposed to give him was drowsiness. Who really knows.

After giving them lunch, I watched the Patriots beat the Broncos (yes!!).  Then we all watched Chicken Run since Micah wanted to watch it. Asher loves that movie, laughing all the way through even if he doesn’t catch all “The Great Escape” allusions. Then it was time to work on dinner. I forgot to thaw chicken which I intended to cover with Bisquick and creole seasoning. So I used the last of the Tyson breaded chicken which was just enough, barely, for the 4 of us. I made some cheesy risotto and was sauteing spinach. At the critical moment, Amie called.

In a panic. She had the borrowed Civic and her phone was going to die. She needed it for directions but couldn’t find the plug to charge it. Reena and her mom were in the worship service and couldn’t be reached. With the food at the point of being done or burning, she wanted me to look up the schematics to discover the location. I couldn’t find it, but she finally did (passenger side in the obvious location of under the dashboard- there is a special place in Hades for engineers like this). And my spinach burned.

The Day Of

Eli was scheduled to be there at 5:30. His was the second surgery on tap, but you just never know if they may have to switch the order. Nope. So began the wait with Eli watching the Cartoon Network for a few hours, awaiting his turn. Eventually they were brought to a room to watch more Cartoon Network and play on his tablet. Finally Dr. Magee showed up and the process of preparation began.

When he’s had surgery at Shriners’, they give me a pager. I can walk around to get exercise, pray, read and go get something to eat. At this hospital, Amie was trapped in the family waiting room. They didn’t let her go get food. I told her, “Ask if they’ll give you free migraine medication since they won’t let you go eat.” They had her cell number in case of emergency, but they wouldn’t let her leave.

Dr. Magee came out and talked to her. He thinks the sphincterplasty went well, and he did remove two teeth that were growing through his palate. If he’s happy, I’m happy.

In recovery and PICU he struggled with nausea.  More so than usual. The night nurse had a similar problem and was all over it. After she went to sleep, Amie went back to the hotel to get some sleep. I wanted her to peek into the “family community room”, but you can’t always get what you want.

Back on the home front all was going well. We did school work and then went to Wal-Mart to pick up some ingredients for the shrimp scampi that was on the menu that night. We were taking advantage of Amie’s allergic absence. I had invited the elders over for dinner, so just in case there wasn’t enough shrimp, I bought some 4-cheese Italian sausage. We picked up lunch at Chipotle since there were no leftovers from the night before, and ate at the church office so I could get my materials for the meeting.

The Aftermath

The next day he was still struggling with nausea. While he’d already peed, he needed to keep a meal down before he could leave. And so the wait began. And the stress due to the immovable flight time. At least on our end.

While she was waiting, we did school work after our second morning in a row of pancakes. Then it was off to work for about an hour to do some things I couldn’t do from home. Then back home for some leftover scampi and angel hair pasta.

Eli seemed to be well enough, so Reena, aka Dr. Thomas, arrived to get them to the airport so they could wait. LAX was horribly behind. 40% of the flights were late, and 40% were extremely late. On time was no longer a possibility, so which would it be- late or extremely late.

I checked on the plane’s arrival to LAX from Phoenix. That it was in the air was good. There was still plenty of confusion on their end as flights back logged, The plane couldn’t get to the gate because another flight was boarding. When they boarded, it looked like there were about 90 minutes behind schedule. So the rest of us ate the turkey soup I made. My first soup. Just before we left, I checked again. Apparently they spent another half hour sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off. Now it was an 8 pm arrival instead of 5:45.

When we got to the airport, they were now scheduled for an 8:15 arrival. This just keeps getting better. But they arrived safe and sound. Soon we were all home again.

Eli has been doing well. When asked about this pain he often say “1” or “0”. He has been getting more active. He has had trouble swallowing the pills. He also is less excited about pureed food. We’ve noticed he sounds different. But the food thing can be a pain for him. We stopped by a local theater to get a “loyalty shirt” which gets you a free medium popcorn when you wear it to the movies. I didn’t realize they’d actually give me one today. Eli was upset that Micah could have some, and he couldn’t. Yes, disappointing. But he’s on the right track.

 

The 9th Surgery Approaches


4 am.

That’s when the strains of Charlie Peacock’s West Coast Diaries Vol. 1 awakened me.

They didn’t play long because I hadn’t slept well. I’d gone to bed later than desired, watching The Walking Dead’s mid-season finale (finally Rick realizes they need to join together to destroy Negan and the Saviors).

I was up at 4 am because our flight to LA left at 6 am. After a shower to wash the smell of the fire pit off of my body, I was dressed and ready to go. Eli already has his backpack on his back. I think it weighed 20 pounds, filled with his tablet, toys, books and who knows what else. He was ready for an adventure. I was ready to go to bed. But we had some pre-op appointments to make in LA.

It was a smooth and quick ride despite the exit at Prince Rd. being closed due to an accident. We could see the vehicle which looked like it rolled a few times. We decided to try the “economy parking” lot, only $4/day. Since it is December I wasn’t worried about covered parking. As we walked to the shuttle stop I could see the shuttle bus approaching.

With no bags to check we went straight to the security line. While we waited, the TSA guy chatted me up about the Red Sox and D’Backs since I was wearing my long sleeved Red Sox jersey. And so we soon sat waiting for the flight to board. I started Faithful Presence by David Fitch in preparation for my upcoming series on 1 Peter. I would read it throughout the day. I decided not to read any of the other two work books I brought. Eli was anxious; rocking, roaming, eating an apple and going to wash his hands (after I suggested the common sense idea).

There aren’t many direct flights to LA from Tucson these days, so it was the early flight. I decided not to buy a Chai and wait for the flight’s drink service for my caffeine- Coke. It was an uneventful flight as I read, he did some Minecraft on his tablet and the guy next to us slept on the short flight.

I love not having to go to baggage claim. I wasn’t exactly sure where the Shrine van would meet us. The corridor turned right, and there were doors to the curb in front of us. I saw a van, and the driver looked vaguely familiar. Finally I saw the name on the van and knew it was the right one. He mentioned calling twice, as if we were late or something. “We just got off the plane. I didn’t hear a call.”

And we were off to the Shriners’ Hospital for our 4 appointments. It was about 7:30 Tucson time, but 6:30 LA time. Even though I had the luxurious breakfast of peanuts, pretzels and Coke, I was still hungry. But first the van right, which seemed exceedingly bouncy. I was reminded of Trena’s “burping ‘Burbon” which made her kids puke. Tires? Shocks? Then I noticed the PSI light was lit.

Finally our bouncy ride was done. I thanked him, and noted the light. It was now time to check in. You might say we were early. No one else was waiting. After checking in we went by radio to wait. And read. And play Minecraft. I took a few texts for work-related stuff and read.

Finally it was 8:30 and the cafeteria was to open. Breakfast! I made sure I had cash (a rarity) since that is all they took. And we waited. They were a bit slow getting going. He picked scrambled eggs and bacon with juice while I had a breakfast of champions: bacon, hash browns and a Vanilla Coke. Sweet nutrition.

As we were putting our trays away, I heard his name being called. Figures…. We walked to the nurses station and they begin the preliminary work. The boy has actually gained 6 pounds since May. He has been eating like a horse, so it has paid off.

Then we waited. I read. “I’m bored!” He only had 42% of his battery left and he forgot to bring his charger. I noted the 20 lbs of toys & books. No go. So began the time of playing with medical stuff, rolling around on the stool and generally driving me crazy. We took a few walks up and down the hall to get ants out of pants, but there were too many ants. Way too many ants.

The doctors showed up late, at least 45 minutes for the first appointment. But they were all nice. The anesthesiologist talked about a new protocol they were using to reduce the use of narcotics by kids post-surgery. We would begin dosing him with painkillers on Saturday so they’d be in his system already. We’d have to chart us dosage post-surgery. He usually has a high pain tolerance and turns down pain killers after a day or two.

We talked about the surgery with Dr. Magee. They would be rotating some muscles in the back of the throat so he can fully close the airway connecting the nose and mouth. This way he can make all the sounds necessary to speak. Hopefully this helps more people understand him, and makes him less self-conscious. He will have to re-learn a few things. The opening will be smaller so he will snore (more than he already does) and have a hard time hocking a loogie to get excess mucus out.

There are risks. They will be working close to the spinal column and the carotid arteries. This is why they will do it at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena instead of the Shriners’ Hospital his last 3 surgeries have been in. Any future surgeries will likely be in the new outpatient surgical center they are building near Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

Our flight was at 3:30 and the cafeteria didn’t open for lunch until 11. More waiting. I sat and read while he went to see “the show” they had. Apparently when they asked if any kids spoke English he didn’t raise his hand because most of it was in Spanish. The humor seemed similar to El Sabado Gigante, and he enjoyed the part when one guy kicked another in the bottom. Always gets the 10 year-old boy in the audience.

I got the meds, read and we went to the cafeteria for a far more affordable lunch than at the airport. He had spinach manicotti and a roll while I had chicken parm over linguini. And more Coke for me as I struggled to stay awake.

I saw the van driver and said we were ready when he was. He passed us off to another, younger guy. But they made sure he still got a gift. In addition to the bag, there was another item and he could choose another. One of the things I love about him is that he can be quite generous. He was thinking about which things his siblings would like. When he wasn’t talking to me about this I was talking to the driver. First about the new restaurants in the area (where were they in 2012 when I had to walk over a mile to Korea Town for dinner???), and the new facility.

One of the benefits of this ride was learning the LA method of “discreet” public urination. In Tucson, I’ve just seen guys “whip it out” by the bus stop. Yeah, public johnson sighting as I drove by. In LA the method, witnessed in two cases on this one ride, was to get close to the wall, or lamp post, to minimize any visuals of said johnson. Thinking of the children, obviously. Though I imagine it would splash all over your pants so pick your poison- public exposure or wet, stinky pants. Life in the big city has its charms.

I think it was my quickest ride to LAX ever! It was quite congested when we got there. Dropped off at Southwest we went to security. They sent us to the family line which was short. Okay, non-existent. “Whose printer did this?” he said. They worked in Tucson this morning, I noted. “That’s Tucson…” he said forebodingly. Sure enough, his boarding pass refused to be read. I tried to pull them up using the SW app. It also told me to go to the kiosk. Back down the stairs. Back up the stairs with a newly printed set of boarding passes. Through security and to the gate.

Back at the homestead …. Cody the Destroyer was digging again. I’d filled a hole this weekend. Well, back to the same basic spot. There is something about that spot that he really likes. If there was a rodent hole, we can’t tell because of the Cody hole. We have realized how difficult it is to get dirt out of artificial turf.

And so we waited back at the gate. Again. I read and he fidgeted. Another reference to the backpack full of books and toys. Nah. Eventually he wanted water. At lunch I bought him a bottle of water. He drank about 2-3 ounces before I had to throw it away before we got to security. Tired, and in need of even more caffeine I bought a Chai Latte and water.  Our plane was late arriving, but we were only about 10 minutes late departing.

Being at the end of the “B” group we were way in the back in the only 2 seats we could find together. He was happy to be able to use the tablet again. Tired of Faithful Presence and it’s overuse of the word “space”, I read some of War Room by Michael Holley about the Patriots and team-building. Our whirlwind trip to LA was nearly over.

We arrived on time and next came a classic Eli moment. It took us quite some time to get off the plane, so I asked if he needed to go potty. “Nope.” He then proceeded to remove the burden of his backpack and head into the men’s room.

The shuttle came quickly, we headed home. Nearly home, I got the text that one of the other children had become curious. “Hmmm, what will happen if I stick these metal tweezers into the outlet” kind of curious. Thankfully said outlet was in the bathroom and therefore GFCI. This meant the circuit broke before this child could electrocute themselves. Thankful for small mercies that result in big mercies. The tweezers were damaged, but the child was only traumatized as Dad explained the reality of electricity and conductors later that evening.

We arrived home to the dogs and fish since the others were at BSF. I checked the outlets, reset the breaker and then the GFCI outlet (both tripped) and reheated some pizza while I turned on the Patriots’ game. It was a good game except for the 14 seconds or so in which they allowed the Ravens to score 2 touchdowns.

And so we wait until Saturday when Amie and Eli head back for some pre-op appointments at Huntington Hospital.

This Is Us


This past weekend we started to watch This Is Us. It stirs up lots of dust, lots of emotions, particularly as an adoptive parent.

It is a show that just sucks you in as they slowly reveal the truth. Some of the truth is about the lies we tell ourselves, or the lies we’ve been told. Sometimes the lies are driven by fears, and sometimes the lies create fears.

The show shifts back and forth between two time frames; childhood and the present for three siblings. One of those siblings was adopted, a black boy in a white home before it was common. One of his struggles was the longing to know his biological parents. He didn’t love his adoptive parents less but he wanted to understand who he was. Understandable.

His mother struggled to connect with him initially. She was mourning the death of one of her triplets. Desperate, she seeks for the man she saw lurking at the hospital. She stays in touch with him, but prohibits him from contacting her son. She bonds so well with him, that her biological son feels left out. When he’s discovered to be a gifted student it only aggravates his brother’s wound and the sibling rivalry that tears apart their father’s dream of the Big Three.

There are those moments when black moms offer help. We’ve had those moments, like one in Hartsfield Airport near midnight. Some people are kindly about it, and others not so much. You feel judged as incompetent, uncaring, a “great white hope complex” etc..

As parents we struggle with these fears, these tensions, longings unfulfilled. We have our own wounds from childhood and are afraid they will have the same problems we do.

We want our kids to be close not just to us but one another. There are those beautiful, magical moments when they all play outside together. The laughter is as beautiful to me as a brilliantly composed and played symphony. I cherish those moments. There are times I’ve just pulled up a chair to watch and soak it all in.

Then there are the other moments, those ordinary sibling moments that my fearful heart can easily blow out of proportion. There are the stages as they grow older to pull away from us, from one another.

It gets back to this: I often feel like a wholly inadequate father. It is like they want what I don’t have, and don’t want what I do. For instance, I want to share sports with them. They really aren’t interested in watching a game with me (they are missing the beauty of Dustin Pedroia play defense, or Tom Brady leading the offense). One those rare occasions when they want to toss the ball around, it is so hot outside I struggle.

I’m not a handy guy; I’m more of an intellectual. I read. I think. Thankfully we live next door to a neighbor who works on his truck often. The boys are drawn like a moth to the flame. He’s able to scratch an itch that I cannot. Nor should I begrudge my neighbor for the time he spends with the boys because it isn’t about me, but them.

I love my parents, even my mother who can’t remember who I am. They are from a very different generation. They did the best they could, but there were …. gaps. For instance, they wanted me to control their anger but couldn’t show me how. My mother was an angry, fearful person. They really didn’t know how to process grief. When our dog was hit by a car on Easter Sunday, my father had to pull over the car on the way home. It was the only time I remember seeing him cry. We didn’t get another dog. I never had another pet until I was a young pastor living alone.

Kids, especially adopted kids, can expose those wounds, those gaps and those inadequacies. It is humbling. It can be paralyzing, like it was for the mother in This Is Us. Our kids can’t perceive the fear we have. They just see the anger and control that the fear produces. It can teach us to be patient with our parents’ shortcomings. We can finally put ourselves in their shoes.

Hopefully my kids will show me a similar mercy in years to come.

I will have to trust God for the future. I will have to trust for the outcomes: whether they will share our faith, love each other well, discover, cultivate and utilize their gifts. I will have to trust that they will choose to call one another, hang out together. I can’t make it happen, only provide opportunities. Yes, you often feel helpless. Welcome to parenting.

Life with a New Dog


As we considered life with a second dog, we had in mind an “older” dog, not a puppy. It didn’t quite work out that way. The dog formerly known as Dante is about 2 years old. Little did we know we would be in for an interesting time.

Meeting Zeke

After we brought the dog formerly known as Dante home a few things needed to be done. I thought Dante was a great name (now I think it is even more appropriate since we’ve entered our private divine comedy), but the Girl had other ideas. She was thinking Hunter, and I know not why. We hit PetSmart to get our freebies and discounted items due to the adoption. We needed a collar and harness as well as a crate. I had not priced crates, and nearly choked when I saw the price tag on the crate. “Free dog” is just like “free hamster” …. never believe it. I was standing in the check out line and she keeps wanting to get the inscribed name tag. I see more money I can’t afford, particularly since we just bought 2 new hamsters, and stuff with them, the week before. The Girl is killing me, even if she’s promising to reimburse me. “Can we hold off on the name tag? Let’s settle on the name first.” Somehow I prevail, which is great because in less than 24 hours the name changed again.

Day one of the Dog formerly known as Dante and Hunter seemed to be going very well, all things considered. He seemed eager to please. He seemed to be very gentle with the kids. It took him a few hours to stop panting, but no big deal. He was a “Visa Dog”- every where you want to be.
Fast forward to the kids’ bedtime routine. First he kept wanting to head upstairs with us. Well, he is a Visa Dog. But a light whack on the bottom and he was racing down the stairs with his tail between his legs. (more on that tail later). He sat in the kitchen while I went back up. When I returned I noticed a clump of aluminum foil on the floor, and some Saran wrap. I’m confused. Amie came down behind me. “Was there still some applesauce bread left?” “About half.” In the immortal words of Inspector Clouseau, not anymore. He’d taken the bread off the counter, opened it and eaten it in the few minutes we were upstairs. No food will be safe! Such, apparently is the peril of a bigger dog.
The tail. He’s missing the end of his tail. Not a bob. It is like someone injured his tail it was removed. Or something. But at this point it is one less part of him to shed. I sometimes call him Sir Sheds-alot. He is a Shed-o-matic like Huck was. Amie is really happy about getting Bob, the robotic vacuum. Thankfully the dogs are not freaked out about it like they are the normal vacuum. Anyway … back to night one.
We’d set up his crate in the home school room while Lulu’s was in the living room behind the couch. I let them out before I went to bed and then put them in their respective crates. It was a Saturday night and should have already been in bed since I had to preach the next morning. I went upstairs, brushed my teeth and went to bed. And the whining started.
I tried to ignore it. Maybe he’ll go back to sleep. It was only a few minutes but it felt like hours since I didn’t have any time to goof around with this drama. I went downstairs to see if my presence would chill Dante/Hunter down. He was fine, for about 5 minutes when the whining resumed with the occasional bark. This was not good.
I had an idea. He shared a kennel at the shelter. Maybe if I moved Lulu’s crate next to his … so there I am in my underwear at midnight hauling a crate trying to avoid scratching the wall because I don’t want to paint it again. Now, Lulu, who doesn’t do well with change like this isn’t wild about getting back into her relocated crate. Finally she reluctantly slinks into the crate and I’m off to try and get sleep.
It was quiet. It stayed quiet. Until I heard a panting dog arrive next to my bed at 4:30 in the morning. I looked to see if Amie had gone down stairs but she was next to me. But she woke up as I try not to scream “What are YOU doing here?!” As soon as she gets up he jumps onto her side of the bed. Oh, she was not happy about that. Downstairs, we discover that the side door has opened up. Nothing else seemed to be displaced, chewed or otherwise destroyed. Apparently he immediately went upstairs looking for us. Soon he was back in his crate and I was in my bed trying to sleep.
We survived Day 1 with Dante/Hunter.
Week 1 has been interesting. He has had the name Cody for over a week. I think we can get the engraved name tag now, maybe. We did have a little scare as he barked at the older son one day, and the younger son the next. It could have been the older son’s head gear or that he was bothering his brother. This is a shepherd mix, and could be protective. The younger son seemed to have surprised Cody and gotten in his face, as if he was Lulu. He’s not, and this is all new to him. But it has been a week since all that, so we are slowly trusting him with the kids alone.

Not the Superhero- a brown dog tick

Then there was the tick. Not his fault. He didn’t ask for the tick but it was not just bloated with blood but laden with drama. I felt it behind his ear but it was hard to see what it was. The Girl assured me he had no ticks. The next day the Girl freaked because it was a tick. It had been over a decade since I’d removed a tick from a dog. He refuses to hold still while I’m trying to gently pull this thing off, not wanting the head to remain burrowed in his skin. Amie was not pleased that I was using her tweezers, so I promised to sterilize them with alcohol. Soon I had the tick removed, and in a bag with alcohol, just in case he gets sick.

He has tried to head upstairs a few times, only to be shooed back down. Not a big deal. He likes to jump, still, and we’re trying to train this out of him. Sometimes I’ll go outside with him and wrestle because he has so much energy. But this is the Girl’s dog, not mine. I don’t want him to attach to me, just listen to me. She hasn’t been so great about the walking and grooming yet (big surprise- and when I told my father he laughed at me).
He hasn’t really gotten any food again. That’s because the leftover baked goods are now placed on the top of the refrigerator. But we are careful not to put the plates on the table too soon since he goes cruising by the table and his nose is at the top of the table. One day there was The Licking, as he got a lick or two in on the Girl’s leftover meal.
But when he’s bored and unattended he tends to chew and or destroy things. Lulu loved stuffed animals and flip-flops. He tore up one of the girl’s sneakers. He ate one of our remote controls rendering it useless and us unable to watch Dish downstairs until the replacement arrives. He tore Lulu’s pretty pink bowl apart. He tore straps off Amie’s old foot brace. We rescued my reading glasses from him. He chewed on the hose nozzle in the back yard.
Has he touched the toy tire out back? No. But he hasn’t avoided all toys. A tennis ball is shredded. The shark was decimated (finally acceptable chewing!). He is still in serious chew stage. He may bankrupt me.
This morning was the hole in the backyard. By the irrigation. When Lulu was a puppy, we had a dust
bowl for a backyard. Now we have a nice, irrigated backyard. The frustration factor is growing because no place is safe. Like a restless 6 year-old boy he often neglects his toys to discover trouble. Thankfully he doesn’t have opposable thumbs and can’t stick anything into an outlet. Or use scissors.
But we kind of like him. Lulu likes having another dog to play with, though they compete for affection. Lulu grew out of the incessant chewing (and resulted destruction). We are hoping he does too. SOON! Before Amie ends up on Xanex!

I thought we were done.
With this crazy notion of a second dog. But the robotic vacuum had been ordered. I also knew the eldest and her friend up the street would not cease and desist in the search for a new dog. I had to take some control over this situation or …. I’m not sure what delusional fear I had. But I went on the local shelter’s website to see if we missed a good dog. We’d done this when we adopted Lulu, even though I don’t think she was one of the dogs we’d identified. I was looking for the shy dog we’d seen to see if there was a profile for her.
On the website I noticed that they were having a special pet adoption weekend with no fees (license excepted). I didn’t have to look for a dog that no one wanted and had been there too long. I went through the list, passing over the bazillion Pit Bulls. There were a few dogs that I found interesting, and sent their profiles to Amie in an email since she had long since gone to bed. There were 2 females and 2 males.
The next morning was a normal Saturday morning in that I made bacon and waffles. The shelter wouldn’t open until 10 anyway. Before I cooked breakfast Amie narrowed down my list from 4 to 2- the 2 boys: Dante and Fritz. The Boxer mix got the heave-ho. The eldest came down stairs wanting to adopt Willow, the shy dog. I mentioned that she may have been abused. She thought we could help the dog return to “life” again. My little girl has a redemptive heart, at least where animals are concerned.
This time we took along the older boy. And our dog. I figured we’d better see how any potential dog got along with Lulu as well as being around 2 of my 4 kids. Back down Silverbell we drove with its dips and bumps to return to the noisy, smelly shelter.
When we arrived I thought I’d look into Willow first so we went to the tent. The volunteer quickly pointed out she was shy, and next to that on the form was “no other dogs.” Ixnay on the illowway. So it was back to the customer service office that was in need of the paint job (and no small amount of air freshener). We found a shady spot among the pavilions for PetSmart and other vendors for this pet adoption extravaganza. She stayed with Lulu while the boy came with me, and waited. No one was staffing the office. Finally a too skinny for words woman showed up to help us. “Dante is off-site. He’ll be at the Oro Valley Pet Smart until noon.” He was so stinking cute I couldn’t see him coming back. By the time we got there, assuming he hadn’t been adopted, he probably would have been packed up and brought back. Our timing sort of stunk on the Dante front. We got the kennel number for Fritz and off we went.
He was a shepherd mix. I was hoping the other part of the mix would knock the size down some. Maybe it made him bigger because the dog was huge. Nope, not for us. Why don’t they put weights on the profiles online. I would have known instantly, not for us.
I thought we were done.

The eldest snuggling up to Huck

On the way out we saw Kado,  a really cute Lab mix who was almost all black. I suspected he was part Chow due to the spot on his tongue. He reminded me of Huckleberry but without all the extra fur on his shoulders. He seemed gentle and licked Eli thru the kennel door. He was hooked. But I saw dangling man parts. I didn’t want to have to pay to get him neutered. Oddly, though, he was next door to Dante’s kennel spot which was shared with another dog.

As we made our way out we had to pass by the noisy boys who barked at anything and everything. In that confined room it was REALLY loud. Earlier they barked as one dog wearing a cone of shame came through. It was slow moving because he was frantically trying to get it off his head. It was hilarious except for the incredibly loud barking some of whom had cones of their own. It reminded from the end of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World when Ethel Merman slipped on the banana peels and all the men in casts and tension roar in laughter.
So we drove home. The kids were disappointed. I was too. I was also frustrated by the traffic. She was trying to assure the boy that Kado was not the dog for us.
I thought we were done.
When we got home she talked to her co-conspirator in the house up the road. “Oh, they neuter them for free.” Now I was in a bind since this dog was only about 1 and should still grow. I wanted an older dog. She suddenly wanted Kado. Dante, 2, was about as young as I was willing to go. Amie went on line to see this dog. They want me to go back. Back through the traffic. Back to the buildings filled with barking. Back to the smell. Back to the 50 other people too cheap to pay adoption fees for a dog. Back….
I still hadn’t stopped sweating. I wanted lunch before I descended into the madness for the third time in about 24 hours. There was the thought of having to make another trip later in the week after this dog had surgery. Why does everything seem to be so difficult? It was my day off and I just wanted to read the Mitch Rapp novel I got from the library the day before while I got my tire repaired.
This time I had my daughter, her co-conspirator and Lulu to evaluate the dog. As we drove I noted that now the really backed up intersection was clear as a bell. Figures…. There we were arriving not sure if Kado had been adopted. Once again the lot was jam packed and we were in the auxiliary lot making sure we didn’t step on any snakes out here in the desert. At least I knew where I wanted to go. I grabbed an adoption survey and filled it out among the incessantly barking dogs (that other dog didn’t seem to bark!) and then waited for a volunteer to assist me. I told the older woman which dog we wanted to visit with and went to his kennel. I noted that Dante was back. His kennel-mate had been adopted but he hadn’t. Dante, a shepherd-lab mix was bigger than the picture indicated due to its bad angle. The volunteer took us to one of the visitation areas while my daughter went to get her friend and Lulu. It was hot out there as the canopy didn’t cover the whole area. While we waited for Lulu the dog seemed far more interested in sniffing and peeing than in me. I’m surprised he didn’t think I was a tree and peed on me. All seemed well when Lulu arrived. There was the perfunctory bottom sniffing as an introduction. And they started to wrestle. It seemed okay.
Suddenly it shifted. Lulu had enough, for some reason, and there was some growling. We separated them. Lulu ended up under a chair and the pup came right back, ignore her “leave me along” signals. He was like a drunk 22 year-old in a bar full of women. I wasn’t so keen on this. “Can we meet Dante?” Kado was very active, and still quite puppy-ish. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all that again. I’m getting old.
Off she went to exchange the dogs. Based on how long it took her to get this dog out of his kennel I feared we wouldn’t leave til sundown or Jesus returned, whichever came first. I was pleasantly surprised when she returned before I suffered heat stroke. Thankfully it was only supposed to be about 100 that day.

The Dog Formerly Known as Dante

Not much happened when Dante arrived. There was the usual sniffing. Soon they were wrestling. This time he growled and we separated them. Lulu kept a little distance while he seemed really interested in the treats she had (warning, warning, warning). But the two dogs developed a workable relationship of play and respecting boundaries. The volunteer was pleased. Dante was neither afraid of nor all over the girls. He’d lick hands and move on.

Scary to think of how little time you spend with a dog before deciding whether or not to bring it into your home with your wife, 4 kids, dog, 3 hamsters and a fish. What are we thinking with all these pets (largely the eldest’s fault)? But it isn’t like they’ve got a loaner program and I have all day to figure this out. He is already neutered so if we bring him home today we need to head to the pet store for a crate and a collar.
I’d been texting and giving Amie the updates. It was really good we got the new vacuum because he is a serious shedder- Sir Sheds Alot.
The volunteer took Dante back while I went to finalize things and pay for his license. I got to look more completely at his info. His previous owner brought him back after the landlord got upset. He was a Visa Dog- everywhere you want to be. He liked visitors. The clerk told me he was chipped already. I was asked if I needed a leash and the next thing I knew I was walking him thru the parking lot. It took awhile since he seemed reluctant to get in my front seat, but he was fine on the ride home. My not so little girl got her dog. The dog formerly known as Dante…..

I was perfectly happy with one dog. We all were. All of us, except one.

The eldest wanted her own dog, one who would love her above all of the rest of us, especially me. I am Lulu’s alpha dog. She is most likely to listen to me, and to come to me. The eldest wants this love. The hamsters, due to their personal limitations cannot show this love.

I don’t remember when the barrage began, but it was some time ago. It went on mostly ignored and put off.

She decided to up her game. And she gained a co-conspirator. It was her friend up the street (literally since she lives on a hill) who had recently gotten her own dog and wanted to share this great delight with her friend. She looked long and hard for her dog, so long I figured she’d never get one. But she did. It was an older dog, about 5 years old. This intrigued me slightly. It was, in part, a function of her idealism. For me it was- no house breaking. The thought of a friend for Lulu was appealing since the promises of walking her would largely fall to the ground after a week or so. There is way too much for an 11 year-old to do.

And then her co-conspirator sent her a link to a 5 year-old dog at the local shelter. It had been there a few months and there was now no adoption fee. She felt urgency- what if they have to put her down. “It’s a no-kill shelter.” “Are you sure????” “Yes, this is why they have to spend all that money to build a big, new one.” Silently I thought, so it can be a rest home for Pit Bulls. The pleading continued.

Since it was a Friday, we decided to appease the child. But first I had to make a deal with the devil, I mean my wife. Another dog, IF we get a robotic vacuum. The free dog would cost me a $200+ vacuum. Sometimes I wish I could be the selfish husband and father. There is stuff I want too! A practice amp for my recently re-acquired electric guitar, some music new & old. You know, important stuff.

Deal in place, we went to see the dog with an eye toward adopting it. We took the youngest along so he’d stop annoying his siblings and the eldest and I went to the shelter.

I hate the shelter. It is really loud and smells, like dog. Like hundreds of dogs. Hundreds of wet, sweaty dogs. And then there is the barking, echoing off the cement block walls. Some dogs go nuts every time they see someone or another dog. They are surely to be avoided.

One of the great things about Lulu is that she very rarely barks. When she wants to play she’ll bark. Otherwise it is a whine which the eldest calls a yodel claiming she is part Besenji, oddly enough a breed that originates from the Congo and known for its yodel.

We arrived to discover a very full lot so we had to park by the road. We arrived just in time for it to open as we discovered. So we braved the barking to find the customer service area. We had the dog’s number but needed to  get its kennel location. So we found ourselves in the small, smelly office with walls seriously in need of new paint and a new computer.

The daughter stepped up to the plate and handed the worker the dog’s number. The woman put the number in and searched. “She was adopted.” “But we saw her profile last night.” Apparently they need more help to update the website. I mentioned this as a possible volunteer option for the daughter when she was older.

I thought this was the end of the search, at least for now.

I was wrong.

And so began the odyssey of wandering among the barking, stinky dogs trying to find the one dog that didn’t bark, wasn’t too big or too small (no Chihuahuas) that would be a great companion for Lulu and great with the kids. I wasn’t asking for too much. If you wanted a Pit Bull or PB mix you were in luck. Tons of those. But I wasn’t.

We also went through the sick ward and heard the whooping of kennel cough. Been there with Lulu, rather not go there again.

They had to expand, and there was a tent we saw on the way in. Getting there…

We found another poor, lost soul wanting to get over there. Finally we found a volunteer instead of one of the highly tattooed inmates who works there. Instead of there being a way from inside the “compound” you had to go out the gate. Okay, that is easy but a sign might have been nice. You know, one right next to the signs saying there are plenty of dogs to see in the tent.

The tent is where they put the intake dogs, and the new strays picked up by Animal Control. We saw but one possibility- but she seemed shy and previously abused. Our search seemed to have reached its end.

I thought we were done.