Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Letter

I've never done one of those letters that get mailed out around Christmas time.  You know, the ones that update you on what happened with a family during that year.  I know jokes get made about them, whether they are embellished or just full of lies.  I really enjoy reading them.  I never get to keep in touch with my friends as much as I'd like, so the letters are very interesting. 

Here's my chance to give this Christmas letter writing thing a try, and everyone can take it or leave it!

2012 has been a wonderful year.  As usual, it has flown by faster than I could imagine.  My kids are growing before my eyes and each year passes faster than the one before. 

Our family has been busy as usual.  With four kids and a mini-farm full of animals, there is never a lack of work to be done.  We added ducks this year and have started working the aussies on stock.  We also have a new family kitty, a calico named Sage who joins our 3 teenage calico cats.  Our 2012 aussie litter was born in February - 7 blue merle babies from Owen and Ellie. We are due to take our 2012 family picture with the dogs as soon as the weather cooperates and it will be a very full picture!  We transferred membership to Dover Christian Church and have been greatly blessed by this church family.  We enjoyed a great family vacation at Patoka Lake with my parents, as well as several family camping trips. 

Tim started a new job recently.  He left Pace Dairy and is now employed with Land O Lakes/Purina Nutrition.  He works in a plant that makes livestock feed, mainly for race horses.  The new job is a bit further away than his old one, but he is on a nice, normal day shift with most weekends off.  He's home for dinner and is able to spend his evenings with the family. 

I've been busy with the dogs.  I personally finished two conformation champions that I bred, and watched another dog I bred earn an Altered CH, and go on to a Finals invitation where she earned 5th place!  I also got to watch a co-bred dog earn her CH.  I was thrilled to complete Glory's ATCH, the Agility Trial Championship.  I showed Ryder to several Best of Breed wins.  I stay busy at home and running to several dog shows a month.  I also substitute teach occasionally, teach classes in the 4-H dog project, and do several 4-H judging assignments during the summer.

Madie is 10 years old and is growing into a young lady, no longer our little kid.  She's in the 5th grade, sings in the choir, and loves training and showing her dogs.  She put several titles on her dog Ellie, earned her first 500 club in the first 4 months of the ASCA year, and won 1st place in her showmanship class at the Indiana State fair.  She now co-owns Quinn and is doing great using him in junior handling, earning many Best Junior wins.  Madie has added horse-back riding to her hobby list, and also ran her first 5k this summer.  She showed in dogs, goats, and rabbits at the county fair.

Emma is 8 years old and is doing very well in the 3rd grade.  She got her first puppy this spring, a blue merle aussie named Nicki.  They are best buddies and she's doing very well training her.  They've already earned a Best Junior Handler win together!  She's looking forward to starting a gymnastics class next month.

Drew is 4 years old and in preschool.  He loves school and is a great student.  He has learned to read his letters, say the days of the week and months of the year, and loves counting to 100 with a little assistance.  He loves trains and trucks and is the best big brother to his little sister.  He did another dog show this fall and loved it. 

Macy is 2 years old and thinks she runs the world.  She is a talker, and so opinionated that she always has something to say.  She's Drew's shadow and tries to keep up with everything he does.  She too is learning to read her letters and loves to count.  She sings all of his preschool songs.  She plays with My Little Ponies and Matchbox cars.

We're already making big plans for 2013.  Both Madie and Emma with be in 4-H this year.  Drew is hoping to start T-ball.  Our dog show schedule is full and we plan to attend the ASCA Nationals in Greeley, CO.  Tim and I are making more home improvement plans.  I pray that we will continue to be as blessed in the new year as we have been in 2012. 

God Bless you all!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
-The Williams family.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tough Love

Sometimes being a good parent can make you feel like a rotten person. 

My 10 year old Madie and 8 year old Emma are in a Bible club at school.  (A public school!)  Each week they have an assignment to read 7 chapters and then write a summary.  My girls are notorious for putting this off or forgetting about it as the week goes by.  Each Wednesday night or Thursday morning we have drama as they rush to get the assignment done.

Last week as I scrambled to find them each a flashlight so they could complete the Bible assignment on the morning bus ride, I warned them, "There is a new rule.  If you don't have your assignment done by 8pm on Wednesday night, you don't get to go to Bible club on Thursday."  Heads were nodding and two little girls quickly agreed.

Fast forward 6 days and there we were again on a Wednesday night and there were moments of panic as they remembered their assignment.  Sadly, neither girl had completed the work by 8pm. 

I had to do it.  I hated to do it.  I told the girls that they would have to come straight home after school the next day, they couldn't stay for Bible club.  What followed was noisy, to say the least.  There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Emma went upstairs to her bed where the wailing could still be heard all over the house.  Madie pleaded her case, told me how important Bible club was to them.  I responded that if it was so important, they would complete the assignment on time. 

I know the girls were upset with me.  I know Tim didn't agree with my decision to keep them from this activity.  He offered me several suggestions to get out of the declared punishment. I moped around all night, disheartened to see my girls so upset.  Madie came down at 8:15pm, the end of their reading time, to tell me she had finished the Bible assignment.  I told her she hadn't made the deadline and would not be able to go.  More tears.  Emma announced the next morning that she had finished hers.  When I reminded her of the rule, again, there was more crying. 

I sat both girls down and explained my situation to them.  I have to have their respect and trust.  I have to follow through on what I say, or they wouldn't be able to believe in me.  I need them to take me seriously and know that I mean what I say.  One day I will tell two teenage girls that if they are not home by curfew, there will be a consequence.  They will know I mean it and that I will back up my words.

I hate to see my kids sad.  I hate to see them miss out on fun events, especially in a situation where they weren't being bad, just made a mistake in their organization and time management.  But I'm teaching my kids about life.  I'm teaching them about consequences.  I'm teaching them that I love them enough to be tough on them and teach them about behavior and consequences. It started with the first time I swatted their toddler bottoms to keep them safe and obedient, and will last through these childhood days.  It will last through the tough teen years, and will follow them through the rest of their lives when I will be the constant voice of a mother, of experience and wisdom.

The good news is that they survived the consequence.  They never thanked me for being a tough mom with strict rules, but they have laughed and hugged me and declared me the 'best mom ever' just after the incident.  Sometimes loving them is easy, and sometimes it's hard.  But I love them enough.

Friday, September 7, 2012

In Their Eyes

     I was driving down the road today with only two-year-old Macy with me in the van.  She's my fouth child, my third daughter.  I didn't plan to have a fourth child, but God laid it on my heart to have one more child.  I can't imagine life without her.  We were talking about random things...okay, she was talking about every little thing and I was half listening.  The radio was on and the song "In My Daughter's Eyes" came on.  I started listening and soon realized that Macy's non-stop chatting had stopped.  I looked in the mirror where she sat in her carseat right behind me.  Our eyes met.  She said "Turn it up, Momma.  I like this"  We listened to the song, a tear-jerking story of the relationship of a mother and daughter. I remembered, one more time that day, how very blessed I am.
     I remembered that my actions speak louder than words in the world of my children.  They are always watching me.  It's the reason I try to bite back the angry words when someone cuts me off in traffic, or why I choke back the bitterness when I'm hurt or frustrated.  Why I try to smile at everyone and make an effort to always be polite, even when I don't feel like it.  I have little eyes watching me, and I am their role model in life, at least for now.  I know all about hypocricy, and how clear it is to children.  I'm not going to change the world, but if I can be a positive influence in the eyes of my children, then I have left my legacy.
In My Daughter's Eyes- Martina McBride
In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
  I am strong and wise and I know no fear
  But the truth is plain to see
  She was sent to rescue me
  I see who I wanna be in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
 Darkness turns to light and the world is at peace
 It's miracle God gave to me
Gives me strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe in my daughter's eyes
And when she wraps her hand around my finger
 Oh, it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
 I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart has had enough
 It's giving more when you feel like giving up
 I've seen the light
 It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
 A reflection of who I am and what will be
 An' though she'll grow and someday leave, maybe raise a family
 When I'm gone I hope you see how happy she made me

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Olympic Experience

I anxiously counted down to the start of the 2012 London Olympics.  Not only do I love the Olympics, but the Summer Olympics are by far my favorite and this time they were located in a city I would LOVE to visit someday.  I enjoyed watching every minute of it.

I appreciate the two and a half weeks of the Olympics.  Not only is history made, but it is a time of 'peace'.  It is a distraction, perhaps, from life around us.  For just two weeks we can push aside politics and wars in foreign lands and just cheer for the home team.  At this time, we Americans are all cheering for the same team.  We're united as a country in our desire to see our athletes succeed.  We hope they can be the fastest runners, highest jumpers, and best paddlers or shooters in the world.  We secretly hope the crying Russian girl stumbles or the Chinese get slightly out of sync on a dive.  We cheer together for weird sports we've rarely even seen, (trampoline?!) and shout like a coach at the TV when our Americans 'take your mark' on the track.  Not only are we united as a country, we are watching individuals who spend the rest of the year competing against each other, now come together and work as a team.  They depend on each other and work together for the win.  Athletes of different sports are attending their fellow Americans' competitions just to be heard as an American crowd.  Even better, the big picture is a huge competition of people from all around the world who on any other day, might be enemies.  But these two weeks they cheer and hug and pick each other up when one falls down.  They shake hands and congratulate the winner and forget about their differences, even if it's just temporary.

These Olympics have already made history.  I watched the opening ceremonies wondering what drama lay ahead.  Would judges cheat or someone test positive for drugs?  We watched amazing feats such as a man with no legs run a race, history made in women's gymnastics (first African American All-Around gold medalist as well as the first American to win gold in both All-around and team), badminton players disqualified for trying NOT to win, and a legend of a swimmer earn his 22nd Olympic medal to make a statement in Olympic history that may never be broken.  These athletes from around the world include ages 15 to 71.  There are countries I've never heard of being represented.  Countries are being represented by anywhere from 2 athletes, to over 500.  New world records are being set all over the place. 

While the spirit of the competition and the truly amazing ability of these athletes are what draw us to watch, it's the personal stories that steal our heart.  We hear the stories of triumph and failure.  Whether an athlete is overcoming an injury, mishap at a former Olympics, positive drug test, or a barely missed qualification in the past, they celebrate their true achievement of being an Olympian, and just hope for the chance to stand on the medal stand.  Just being there, for a chance to represent their country and compete in the sport they love is a dream come true.

I spent far too much time over the past two weeks watching TV.  I laughed, I cried.  I cheered for the Americans, and when they weren't competing, I cheered for someone else who looked like they deserve the win.  I learned the rules of water polo and feel an odd desire to try white-water kayaking.  I ached, usually in vain, for more coverage of the equestrian events.  I averted my eyes during weightlifting, held my breath during gymnastics, fell asleep during rowing, and paid my bills during some ridiculously long tennis matches.  My kids sat with me to cheer for the US and watch what can happen when you are truly passionate about something and work hard, sacrifice everything, and strive to make your dreams come true.

We will wait another 2 years before the world comes together like this again, and 4 years before another summer games.  Many athletes are already dreaming and training for the next Olympics.  They spend their lives in a strict training regimen of practice, exercise, and diet.  Some are already dreaming of redemption for something gone wrong at these 2012 games.  I admire their dedication, wish them luck in their training, and anxiously await the next time we get to cheer for them as they chase their dreams.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Raising Kids in Dog Shows

This past weekend has been a reminder that I am raising my kids in a sport.  They are learning about life through a type of competition.  I stood and had a conversation with a reputable figure in our breed and she commented on my parenting, as well as the passion that the girls show in the sport.  They want to be there, they aren't doing this for mom.  They are largely among adults who take this sport and love of the breed very seriously.  They have been forced to act in a mature manner as they play an adult's game.  Along the way they are making friendships with other juniors that will last them a lifetime.  They will learn how to win, how to lose, and how best to play the game. More than anything, I want to teach my children to play with honor.  No matter what sport or hobby your family is involved in, there are opportunities to learn good and bad lessons. I can speak at my kids all I want, but they will follow what I do, not what I say.  The best I can do for them is to be an example. 

These are the lessons I hope they learn:

  Hard work in training your dog will reap the best results.  It takes effort and dedication to be successful.  It takes a sacrifice of time and money to follow your passion.  If it is truly your passion, you won't mind what you give up.

 You will lose.  Lose with grace. Congratulate the winners and be truly happy for their success.  We are all there for the same reason, because we hope to win.  Pouting because you didn't win won't change the results.  It's best to rejoice with the winner and hopefully they will celebrate with you when you get the chance to experience the joy of winning. 

You will win.  Win with dignity.  Thank the judge and happily accept congratulations.  Remember that each win is truly an honor and a celebration of your hard work and effort.

Play with honor.  Follow the rules and hold your head high that you are playing an honest game.  As long as you know you are honorable, you have nothing to worry about.  When people attack or question your ethics, you can walk away knowing you are right, and they were wrong to question you. 

Politics are a part of every sport and game.  The strategy of bad-mouthing, back-stabbing, and playing the two-faced friend never has a good ending.  It's better to avoid it all.  The immaturity of high school comes back into play too often in life.  I'd rather win or lose knowing that it was based on the merit of my dog, not because of who I am, who I know, or any tricks I played. 

No matter how much you love the sport, it is never worth a hit to your integrity.  Always keep in perspective what is truly important in life:  your self worth, your faith and values, your family and friends.  Play the game and take the lessons it offers, but never let the game play you.  Always remember who you are and why you are there. 

The dog you came and leave with is valuable because of the love you share, not because of ribbons won.  The dog didn't choose this sport nor ask to go to the show.  Cherish them and take care of their every need as you enjoy the time you spend with them.

Authority figures are to be respected.  Judges, coaches, and leaders have earned the right to our respect.  We must follow their instructions and speak to them with the respect they deserve.

It is better to listen than to speak.  Wisdom comes from experience and from the words of those with experience.  Knowledge will come quicker when you accept advice, rather than trying to figure everything out on your own.  Humbly acknowledge that you don't know everything, that regardless of what you already know, there is always more to learn.

 These are the lessons I hope my children learn in life.  Dog shows are the venue I have to teach these life lessons.  I pray that I can be a positive example to my kids.  I know they have a love for the sport and could continue for a long time.  I would love to continue showing with my adult children.  Along our journey, as they move toward the teen years and adulthood, I hope they become young women and a young gentleman that I can be proud of.  I hope they become positive influences not only in this sport, but in life. 

I will raise my children, not just watch them grow up.  I will guide them with instruction and with discipline. I will guide them with love as we enjoy this adventure in dog shows.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

NOT a Stay at Home Mom!

I never thought I could be a stay at home mom.  I wasn't even sure what they did all day, but I did know that I didn't want to be stuck at home that much!  Heck, I didn't even like kids much.  It sounded like some sort of torture to be home with diapers and laundry and bills and daytime television.
That, of course, was before I had my own children.  I went back to work after my first baby.  I loved my job, but hated that someone else had my baby all day.  After my second baby, I quickly went to working part time, and after the third, I quit teaching all together to stay home with the kids.  It was a hard decision, but I was completely at peace with it.  That's when you know it's right.  I had visions of finally getting my house clean and organized, and keeping it that way.  The bills would always be caught up, the checkbook balanced, the meals would be works of art from cookbooks, and I would always be dressed with my hair fixed before the kids woke up in the morning.  During the day I would sit on my clean floor and play puzzles and read books to the kids.  During nap time I would knit a scarf or read a book.  If you are, or ever have been a stay at home mom, you're laughing now.

None of that happened.  I can't keep the house clean, the laundry is never caught up, and my to-do list never seems to get any shorter.  I LOVE my job!  I love that I am with my kids all day and can't imagine doing anything else.  Besides the fact that I have four mess-makers, why can't I get everything done?

I really thought I was just doing it all wrong until my aunt, also a mother of four, made the comment that I really wasn't a stay at home mom.  I am an 'On-The-Go' mom!  Ah Ha!  That's the problem.  In order to have a clean house and cook big elaborate meals, you must actually be IN the house!  I'm rarely at home!  Sure, the first few years of your child's life are based around the house.  But soon enough, your little ones are heading off to Vacation Bible School, T-ball practice, ballet class, or piano lessons.  Then come the invitations to friends' birthday parties, choir practice, and now the sports have practices AND games/meets.  Whoa, now add in summer camps and school field trips and 4-H and more sports... 

That's just one kid.  I have four.  And that's just the kids' schedule. I'm proud to say that I still have a life too!  I have dog shows and...., and..... well I just seem to have dog shows.  But that keeps me VERY busy!  I compete two or three weekends a month, and several of those are out of town stays.  I feel like I'm always packing or unpacking.  As a family we have church, family get-togethers, weekend camping trips, and a week-long vacation.  My calendar is filled with notations.  It's rare to ever see a day without something written on it.  Our six lives are filled with adventures and commitments.  Sure we could cut some out.  We could sit home and play puzzles on the floor, but this is the life we have chosen and love.
That's not to say that I don't get to sit down and play with the kids.  I love to read them books and cuddle each one on the couch.  But it's much more likely that I will spend time chatting with one of my older girls about life on the drive to a dog show.  I'll laugh and hold hands with Drew on a hike during a camping trip.  Macy will fall asleep in my arms on a boat in the middle of a lake on vacation.  My most vivid memories may not be made at home, but rather in those moments when we are away from our house.

 I may be technically a 'Stay At Home Mom' by name, but good luck finding me there!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Adventures of Drew. Part 2

**I've had some technical difficulties and haven't been able to post for a few weeks.  Hopefully I can get my laptop and this website to get along!

Tim asked me last night if I could have guessed how special my little boy would be to me before becoming a parent.  I said definitely not. I wasn't raised around boys and had always dreamed of having little girls.  When they laid that tiny little baby boy in my arms, my heart melted and my life changed.  Never have I kissed a baby as much as I did Drew.  He's certainly different than my girls, but so special to this momma's heart! 

And then there are days that he drives me nuts! 

   I remember the winter he had a bad cold, one of those where his nose was running constantly.  We taught him to blow his own nose and were proud that he was so independent in taking care of that chore.  It was a few days into the cold that I stopped to inspect his 'tissue', only to realize that he was using Swiffer sweeper cloths to blow his nose!  The box was nearly empty!  Any Swiffer fan knows how much those darn things cost!!

I knew I was truly broken in as a mom after one particular trip to Sears.  My mom and I had taken the 4 kids to get their Christmas picture taken.  I had baby Macy in a stroller and was trying to make her happy in her cute little dress.  Madie and Emma had wandered off with my mom to look at the pretty clothes in the girls department.  Drew was interacting with a mannequin model.  She was headless, and wearing a shorter skirt than my girls will ever wear.  Drew decided to climb up on the pedestal with her and started belting out a song that made perfect sense only to a two year old.  He was dancing and bopping when his poor headless lady friend went flying!  She ended up on her shoulders (no head) and the little skirt flipped up.  Drew jumped down to retrieve his lady friend, hoisting her back up on her stand into the upright position.  I was barely paying attention to all of this, but was impressed and grateful that he had righted the situation without my assistance.  With one last shove, Drew sticks up his little hand and shouts "STAY" at the plastic lady, and wandered away like it was no big deal. 

I was sitting on the couch one day when Drew came over and kindly put chapstick on my lips.  What a sweet boy!  Then he motioned to our old schnauzer who was laying in her chair with a somewhat annoyed expression and said, "I put on Abbi face too!"   Lovely.

The first White-out adventure made a reputation for Drew.  I also got to hear a lot of White-out jokes and threats of gifting Drew with a case of white out.  It was the SECOND White-out adventure that really sealed the deal.  Poor Drew now has a restraining order from the stuff, not allowed within 10 feet. 
Tim and I were sitting in the living room chatting when we realized the two 'little ones' were being very quiet.  I said I was sure they had just gone into the kitchen, which meant they were just a few feet away.  I walked into the room to find the two of them on the floor.  Drew was covered in White-out and in the process of giving Macy a matching paint job.  Of course I had to grab the camera.

One of Drew's biggest misadventures didn't even require him to be present at the moment.  I was getting ready for bed and went into the upstairs bathroom to remove my contacts.  I couldn't find my glasses or contact case.  There were some other odds and ends missing too.  I usually sat these things on the windowsill and noticed the window was open.  With one last look around the bathroom, I sighed and stuck my head out the window.  As I suspected, on the porch roof below the window sat my glasses case, contact case, as well as some random toys.  Random BOY toys.  I had no doubt who the suspect was.  I needed those items.  The bathroom window is small, not designed for human beings to be crawling in and out of, but I figured I could manage it.  I stepped up on the tub and awkwardly stuck my legs out the window and dropped to the porch roof.  I quickly realized that the roof of the porch is much lower than the inside floor of the bathroom.  The windowsill was now nearly at my neck.  I picked up the various items and tossed them back into the bathroom and contemplated my situation.  It was nearly midnight and I had a bedroom on each side with two sleeping kids in each of them.  Tim had already gone to bed downstairs and probably wouldn't hear me even if I did start yelling for help.  I decided against jumping off the roof of the porch, and I definitely wasn't dressed for a fire rescue team.  I had a moment where I imagined my family finding me the next morning, shivering outside the window.  I finally decided that I had to find a way to get back in the window.  With a lot of jumping, flailing, struggling, and kicking the side of the house on my way up, I was able to fling my body into the tiny window far enough to wiggle in so that I was hanging half in, half out.  I am SO thankful that we do not have any neighbors to the west of our house to see that sight!!  At that point I realized there was no way to swing a leg through to land on my feet, so it was with an ungraceful 'thump' that I landed back in the bathroom with a scraped belly and very little dignity remaining. 

As Drew sits here snuggled up next to me,  I can't imagine life without him.  Through all of his crazy adventures, he has a heart of gold.  He's the first to run to comfort when someone is sad.  He gives me random hugs now and then, 'just because'.  He is full of laughter and joy, energy and inquisitiveness, just as a little boy should be.  He stole my heart from day one.  God gave us this child to keep us humble and to make us laugh.  I am forever grateful and even look forward to whatever new stories he will bring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Adventures of Drew, part 1.

I've done some serious posts lately and thought it was time for a bit of levity. It's time for some Drew stories! Over the past two years, I've noticed that Drew stories come in threes. Just when I think the boy has settled down and things will be 'normal', he suddenly pulls out a serious of Drew adventures that make good story material. I should knock on wood before I say this, but he hasn't been up to much mischief lately. We'll have to see how long this dry spell lasts. Here are a few 'oldies but goodies'...

As soon as Drew could walk we knew we had a character on our hands. One my first memories of his 'big boy' adventures was when he was around a year old. I found him in the bathroom with his two sisters who were screaming in the shower. He kept flushing the toilet, stealing the hot water from their steamy shower. When they screamed, he would laugh so hard he would double over. Evil little toddler! This may have been the day Drew went from being their adorable baby, to an annoying little brother!

One day I was sitting at my computer desk, working on the computer. Little Drew toddled into the room with a mischievous grin on his face. He had recently started putting things in his mouth. He didn't chew or swallow, just carried them around in his mouth. I could tell by his mouth and the sparkle in his eye that he had something. I called him over to me and told him to open his mouth. He obediently opened and stuck out his tongue. There sitting on his tongue, very clean and shiny, was my wedding ring. There is a time to scold a naughty child, and there is a time to smile and carefully move closer until you can snatch your jewelry out of his face!!

Drew has always loved our litters of puppies. I remember him when he was in his walker, wandering down the hall to the laundry room. He spent many hours there with his tiny fingers through the x-pen bars for the puppies to kiss. It didn't take long for him to repay the generous nature of puppies. It was the next litter when he woke us to a stampede of puppies. Tiny puppy feet stomping down the hall on the wooden floor, followed by tiny toddler feet. When he woke up, instead of coming into our room, he just decided it would be fun to release the litter of puppies and run around the house. They were all having SO much fun!

I read in a magazine that your face cream will stay fresher if you keep it in the refrigerator. Ever since adding a male child to our family, I seem to be getting fine lines. In every attempt to avoid wrinkles before my time, I use special moisturizer on my face. In every attempt to preserve and maximize its efficiency, I keep my face cream in the fridge. It's unfortunate that toddlers can't read. Face cream appears to a two year old to be a yummy snack. I found him sitting on the floor with an open refrigerator door, snacking on my anti-wrinkle cream. I hadn't thought of that method of application. No wrinkles for Drew! Lesson learned, not everything in the refrigerator is edible!

Drew's most famous escapade may be his adventures with White-out. Ah, but which episode you ask? Well you'll have to wait for the sequel until another blog. This one is the original. You know how they say to never trust a quiet child? I learned my lesson quickly with that one. Just one day after watching his two older sisters paint their toes, Drew disappeared upstairs by himself. A few minutes later I go to check on him, and find myself following white footsteps on the stairs, past a large white puddle smeared into the upstairs hall, and into the bathroom. A little boy with white toes, white legs, white hands, face, clothes.... The mom in me, the mom that was not yet used to mothering a little boy, grabs him and puts him in the tub. Some soap, water, and scrubbing later, I discover that White off does not wash off! Quickly accepting our fate, I redress the child and snap a few photos. He's thrilled with his new look. The white blob on the floor remains in our upstairs hall to this day.

I'll have to stop there for the night, but don't worry, I'm not out of Drew stories! There have been a few times when I've almost missed the humor of a Drew story. I've now become so used to his antics that they fail to phase me. It's only when I step back, having survived with some dignity still intact, that I realize the humor. I am always quick to point out that the boy never means any harm! He has a heart of gold and just falls into these situations quite innocently. While that is definitely part of his charm, it's also part of the entertainment!
I treasure these memories of my little buddy!

More Drew stories coming soon!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How are those New Year's Resolutions working out?

I'm probably very similar to other people in that I make big plans and goals on January 1st, only to let them fade and be forgotten. This year, I have a public record of my 5 New Year's Resolutions. Three months of this year have already passed. It's time to check in on my progress and see if my goals are being met. I've decided to give myself a report card.

1. Write a weekly blog. I'm going to give myself an A on the blogging! I set the goal to blog once a week, even said I'd post them on Tuesdays, and I've done a pretty good job of sticking to that! Only once did I miss my deadline when I had a post wiped out because of computer problems. I still got that one posted the next day that I was on the computer. The only problem I have with the blog is my nasty habit of procrastination. Sometimes I feel like I'm back in college with a paper due at my 8:30am class on Friday. I tend to wait and whip something out Thursday night. (Back in my day, we had to have the thing printed and neatly presented for class. We didn't have the luxury of emailing it to our professor by a midnight deadline!) You can often find me right here, typing away on a Tuesday night to meet my self-imposed deadline. I very well know that if I had started earlier, with more time to rethink, revise, and edit, the end quality would be better. Still, I'm satisfied with the work I'm putting out and think I should pass the class. =)

2. I'm going to give myself a C on my health goal. I wanted to lose weight, exercise more, and eat better. I haven't really lost any weight, just maintained. I do exercise pretty consistently, and better now that the weather is warmer. My diet is my weak point. I love yummy food. I don't do well with portion control, especially when it comes to my favorite yummy foods. Probably my biggest weakness would be my love for sweets. I love desserts, especially chocolate. My best strategy is to record the foods I eat. As long as I have to write down everything I eat, and how much, I feel more accountable and better able to resist temptation. I started out the year writing everything down, but haven't continued with that. I prefer to just eat whatever I want. I do realize that's not best for my body and will try to improve in this area.

3. Bible Study. I'm going to be honest and give myself a D on Bible Study. While we've done pretty well with Church attendance this year, and we uphold our daily prayers and walk with God, I've been pretty bad about reading my Bible! I'm going to move the Bible to the top of my pile of books by the bed and try to improve on this. This goal only takes a few minutes a day to achieve and certainly shouldn't be the area where I'm failing!

4. Organization. I get a B on this on! I've actually made some improvements in my life to get things in order. Paperwork has been my big nemesis. I have piles of paperwork everywhere. You name it: bills, papers from school, 4-H stuff, ASCA club stuff, and tons of dog papers. I went and bought 4 portable file boxes. One is for 4-H, divided up by the different projects the girls do. Another is for the dogs, one folder per dog. I already had a file system for them, but this one is updated and easier to keep handy. Another file is for each litter and the breeding program. I have a folder for the paperwork involved from each litter, as well as for my stud dogs, and one file for all of the paperwork that goes into the puppy binders. The last file box is just mine. It's a miscellaneous collection of all of the paperwork that sits around and has nowhere to go. School papers, club papers, bills, and on and on. I'm very happy with my new system. I also made up new dog binders, organizing all of their registrations, health clearances, titles, etc. That makes it so much easier to find everything. I still have a long way to go in getting my life and house organized, but I am happy with the progress.

5. Goals with dogs. I get a B+ on this one! I have several goals in training and certain titles I want this year. The main four titles I'm after are 4 big ones! I want a MACH, ATCH, ASCA CH., and AKC CH. It's the first of April and while I haven't achieved any of those titles yet, I have made some good progress!! Ryder got a major in AKC, meaning he just needs a 4 point major to finish his CH. Quinn picked up a major in ASCA, meaning he just needs 2 point to finish his CH. I'd have to look, but I know Glory has earned at least two QQ's so far this year towards her MACH. We haven't had any ASCA agility trials yet, so no progress on the ATCH yet. I'm always happy with progress, it takes me a step closer to the goal!

We're only a fourth of the way through this year. I've already seen great things happen and am in no hurry to see this year rush by. My goals are just that, things that I strive to achieve. If I reach the end of the year and haven't accomplished them, they can be next year's goals! For now, I'll continue to work on my resolutions, they give me focus and bring me joy, peace, and satisfaction. They cover many different areas of my life and can only help me become a better person. I'll check back in a few months and see how things are going at the halfway mark. Until then, carry on and keep reaching for those goals!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


We had to make a big decision here recently at Revelaire. You'll have to suffer through a story or two to hear what I've done.

When I bred my first litter, it was from my red tri girl Sky. I dreamt of a red tri boy that looked just like his mom. I could imagine gaiting him around the ring at shows, or picture him posing in the back yard. When the litter arrived, there he was! He was gorgeous- full white collar, great bone and structure. But he wasn't mine. As weeks passed it became obvious that the red merle male was obnoxiously begging to be mine. I felt no connection with the beautiful red tri male of my dreams. But a young lady on the waiting list, who had hoped for a red merle boy, was drawn to the red tri. Go figure. We all followed our hearts and it was a very happy ending. That red merle is my beloved Boom. The red tri boy went to the perfect home where he accomplished great things.

Fast forward several years to my Spencer x Glory litter. I was hoping for a black tri female. Good girl Glory gave us three black tri females to choose from! I spent the next several weeks looking over the three girls, dreaming of which one might be mine. I tired to ignore the pesky dark blue merle girl that was trying to get my attention. Guess who stayed here at Revelaire? Yep, that pesky blue merle is my Libby. I can't imagine life without that special girl.

I'm a breeder and once a year we have a litter of pups join our lives for 8 weeks. While I love each puppy we produce, I don't get attached to them. I get great joy of sending them off to their perfect homes. I love meeting up with them at shows or when they come to visit. They are happy to see me, but happier to go home with their loving owner, the person or family they were meant to be with. People ask if it's hard to let puppies go to their new homes. It's not really, they were never meant to be mine. I have no connection with these pups beyond that as their breeder, they have a destiny with someone else. When the right person is matched with the right pup, it's a beautiful thing!

And then there comes a time when you weren't even looking for a puppy, but one chooses you. Yes, it's time for the confession. A puppy picked me in this litter. I wasn't even keeping a pup. Emma was getting her first dog out of this litter, and the rest were to be sold. I've tried to ignore this puppy for the past 7 weeks. Every time I walk by their pen, he's staring at me. The others are wrestling and playing. When the puppies are out and about, he's between my feet, just to be near me. When visitors came to see the litter, he ignored them. I don't know why this is meant to be, but I'm sure it is.

I always have a hard time with big decisions. You should have seen what I went through with each decision to add a child to the family! I've stressed and worried and prayed over this. This isn't a child, we won't be sending him off to college or planning a wedding. Still, we are adding a new pup to our family. It's important. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart. I've learned that everything happens for a reason, and your gut feeling is usually God leading your life. In this case, God put a pup at my feet. It took a while for me to give in, but I did. I picked that pup up and let him into my heart.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Checking in on puppies..5 weeks old.

Time is flying by and the puppies are already 5 1/2 weeks old! They are now little dogs that run, tug, bark, and chew on your shoes. A lot has changed in the last three weeks, it's time to catch up!

The puppies don't need momma Ellie much any more. She checks on them and nurses them about three times a day. We're working towards getting them fully weaned in the next week or so. She doesn't sleep with them anymore. They still have a small x-pen in the laundry room, but spend their nights in a kennel in the dog room. With the weather so nice, they have been spending much of the day outside in a double x-pen.

They started on puppy mush around 4 weeks old, and are now on dry puppy food. They drink water from a dish just like the big dogs. They love to carry toys and the girls have even introduced some of them to walking on a leash. They play in a tunnel and climb up and down steps. We'll add more agility equipment soon.

Today the puppies got their first bath! It was interesting to observe their personalities with this new experience. Tailor and Jokey fussed, Hefty didn't make a sound or struggle a bit. They are listening to CDs of household sounds, farm animal noises, and dog show racket. At night they listen to country music like the rest of the dogs. We raise good down-home, country dogs here!

Around 7 weeks old they'll go for their CERF(eye) exams and we'll do an evaluation of each puppy. At that time, based on my observations of temperament and personality, we'll start making decisions. First we pick which puppy or puppies stay with us. We've done the breeding with the intent of continuing our bloodlines, and will pick the pup/s that have the strengths we are looking for. I say that like it's purely science, but must admit that often it's certain puppies tugging at my heartstrings.
I'll admit right now that there is a certain...*cough*...MALE puppy that is begging to be mine. I told him that I'm not looking for a new puppy right now, and he's the wrong sex anyway. But then Tim reminds me that's exactly what I said about Ryder, and look how that turned out!

When we're sitting out on the lawn I watch the puppies carefully. I'd love to focus on how cute they are and who is pulling on the ear of another puppy, but what I watch is how they move. I scan for the puppy that is moving at a gait (trot), away from me, towards me, or just gliding across the yard. I watch for stride and topline and neck. I watch to see if they are converging or flipping a foot. When they stop I look for angles and presence. I always keep in mind that they are only 5 weeks old and still have a lot of developing to do. But even at this age I already know who has show potential and who will probably do better in a performance-only home.

When they are playing, I watch for temperament. I observe how they react when Macy picks one up or Drew goes running by like a banshee. Do they startle when a ball lands near them or the cat jumps in the pen with them? How far do they wander from the rest of the litter or from people? How quickly do they respond when they see people, or when we call 'puppy puppy' for them? How pushy are they when I open the gate, set down their food, or when they want attention, or down from being held. Honestly, we don't have any bullies in this litter. I have some that are more out-spoken or adventurous, but nobody is too dominant. None of the puppies are skittish or shy, although we've already seen them go through minor fear periods. Those tend to come and go extremely quickly as they grow.

Soon it will be time to make decisions. I love that many buyers rely on my input when choosing a pup. I always try to steer them towards the pup I feel is best for them, but still want them to have options. Obviously that depends on the waiting list and number of available puppies to the buyer. My favorite thing is to watch how puppies react to the buyers. Often I've watched puppies pick their person, only to get ignored as the person looks at another puppy. In the end, the puppy usually gets his/her way, once the buyer feels the same bond that the puppy already felt.

I know our time with this litter is drawing to an end. It's been wonderful (and confusing!) sharing our time with these seven blue merle babies. I'll be sad to see them go, but excited for each of them as they are paired up with a new owner. There is nothing better than sending a pup out the door knowing they have a great life ahead, and knowing that a special partnership has only just begun.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Snapshot In Time

One of my motivations of blogging was to capture memories, a diary of sorts. My life is flying by and I don't want to forget one precious moment. Four of my most precious treasures are asleep upstairs right now. They give me joy and inspiration in every day. There is no better topic that I need to capture, as we all know their youth is fleeting. So now I'll snap this one moment in time to remember them as they are today.

My darling Madison recently turned 10. She's officially a pre-teen, or a 'tween', somewhere between a child and the young lady that she will soon become. She's still my little girl at heart. She's outgoing and bold, motivated and a bit bossy. Unlike her younger siblings, there isn't a shy bone in her. She's a born leader, with an opinion and a bit of a selfish nature. She loves competition and loves to succeed. She does very well in school and enjoys the 4th grade. Her friends are very important to her. She's not really into boys yet, but I can tell she's becoming more aware of them. She likes projects and goals. She's very sensitive to my emotions, always checking on me if I seem stressed or tired. I've always had a very strong connection with this little girl, my first born. Her best buddy is her dog, Ellie. They have a very special bond. While I'm proud of the young lady that she is becoming, part of me wants to hold on tight to her and keep her to myself.

My sweet Emma is 7 and in 2nd grade. She's such an honest and simple little girl. She likes pretty clothes and wants her hair to look nice, but can climb a tree like a monkey and wears dirt like a tom-boy. She is gentle and a bit shy. She's a follower. She does well at school and loves to please her teacher. She has friends but doesn't work to please them. She likes salad and sweets, but no pizza. What she sometimes lacks in confidence, she makes up for in natural ability. Athletics and academics come easily. She's laid-back, and sometimes stuck in slow speed. She always wants to do the right thing. She's always been in a rush to keep up with Madie, walking and talking at a young age. Sometimes we forget that she is 2 1/2 years younger than her sister, and needs to be treated like the little girl that she is.

My buddy Drew is 3. He's in preschool and loves socializing with friends. He's all about dirt and cars and climbing things. He's very active and loves to talk and sing. He likes Barney, the big purple dinosaur. He hates thunderstorms. He wants to be just like his dad, snuggle with his mom, and never be too far from his stuffed elephant 'Blue'. His partner in crime is our youngest miniature schnauzer, Kira. He plays with trains and dinosaurs, and loves to take a bath. He adores his little sister and while they can fight like cats and dogs, he carefully watches over her to the point of pampering her. He has a kind heart and never means to get into trouble. He can walk into the room and have a conversation with a dog like any friend. He lives to help others, and to keep everyone happy.

My baby Macy is 21 months today. She's a doll. She's a grumpy little man in the body of a toddler. She can scowl one moment, and grin the next. She is a talker! I have no idea how big her vocabulary is, but it must be several hundred words. I stopped writing her list of words when it hit 100, and that was several months ago. She speaks in four and five word sentences. She sings her ABCs and counts to 10. She loves to sing songs, most are ones that Drew has taught her, so not all of the words are right. She has a rainbow-colored stuffed animal named 'Bear' that she wants to carry everywhere. We have to hide Bear away during the day because when Macy has her, she pops her fingers into her mouth. Without Bear, no fingers. Macy is a lightweight, but she's tall. She is a picky eater that seems to exist on fruit, bread, and meat. She won't touch pasta, has never even tried it! She's a good sleeper and loves to snuggle when she's sleepy. She's my last baby and I may hold her just a little tighter.

And now I'll sneak off to watch them sleep, a tear in my eye. I watch them grow each day and know they are slowly slipping away, each destined to be something bigger and greater than just my child. Someday they will make their mark on this world. But tonight they are all mine, and this day has been documented and locked away in my heart.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Glory

I was asked to write an article for our club website. It features the story of a member's dog each month. I was excited to do this, but the big decision was, which dog? I've had dogs that have touched my lives in so many ways. I grew up with dogs that inspired me to continue in training. I had aussies that made me fall in love with the breed. I've had dogs that took me to big titles, dogs that gave me an education. This is the story of a dog that has been my teacher and my friend.

Loyal Spirit Be My Glory CGC MX MXJ OF GS-E RS-E JS-E-OP

There are dogs who let us learn on them, and dogs who insist on teaching us whether we asked or not. Glory has been a dog that insists on teaching me. She wants me to be a better handler, a smarter trainer, and quicker at dispensing treats. In return ,she pours enthusiasm and heart into everything we do.

A breeder friend was planning a litter and asked me if I might want a pup. I was still young in the breed, planning and dreaming. I was gathering dogs that would be my competition partners, as well as the future of my breeding program. I looked at her plans, pedigrees, and pictures, and put my bid in. I told her I’d really like a blue merle bitch. Yep, I was one of THOSE buyers. The one that not only asks for a certain color and sex, but wants a BLUE MERLE FEMALE! The litter was born and there was ONE beautiful blue female in the litter. I got to hold her in my hands as a newborn and hoped she would be mine. I waited and watched, and returned to get my perfect blue girl 8 weeks later. We bonded from day one, she was stuck to my side.

We spent her first week playing with a clicker and a dumbbell in my kitchen. She was highly food motivated. (still is!) In just a few days, she was retrieving a dumbbell to my hand. I knew she was a smart girl and was driven to learn new things. I put her in a puppy class where she spent the playtime running from one obstacle to another on the puppy agility equipment, while the other puppies chased each other and wrestled.

She brought home some nice wins in conformation from the puppy classes, became a junior handling dog for a friend, and trained in agility. Agility was, and is her passion. She quickly moved up through the classes in both AKC and ASCA. She’s a demanding partner, running with drive and passion . She barks. I mean she BARKS through the whole course. It’s not stress or frustration, it’s pure joy. I never have to rev her up to run, nor calm her down. She walks on the course like she owns it, and runs with me because she loves it.

She never gives me an easy run. She runs at a distance, which requires perfect timing and communication on my part. She’s sure to let me know when my cues aren’t clear, are late, or are just WRONG! It’s never her fault when we mess up. She doesn’t run to please me, nor make a mistake to spite me. We run as equals, both for the love of the game.

Sometimes a dog is just a great dog. And sometimes they are your friend, your partner. You have those special dogs in your life that teach you to be better. They love you and cuddle with you, and then push you to be a better trainer, handler, person. Glory is that dog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two weeks of new life.

It's time to check in on the litter. They are two and a half weeks old, and a lot has happened since I shared their birth story.
The first two weeks are always one of my favorite times. The mom is content to snuggle and nurse her babies. They sleep quietly most of the day and night. They stay in one place and really don't make much of a mess at all. We change their towels once a day and that's all of the maintenance their area requires. The mom keeps them clean and manages their toiletry needs.

One would think the first two weeks are quite boring. Actually, these puppies have been through some amazing adventures already! After surviving the harrowing experience of birth, they were rubbed and licked and pulled and rolled. Some even got to swing head-down to clear their airways. What an introduction to life! They were deaf and blind and knew nothing other than to smell their way to mom and nurse. They couldn't walk but pushed around with a swimming motion, shoving their heavy head in front of them. Soon they were able to lift their heads, climb over siblings, and sleep in creative positions.

The first few days of life included a trip to the vet. This is my least-favorite part of being an aussie breeder. The puppies need their tails and dewclaws removed, and need it done in the first few days of life. I always supervise this, although I hate hearing them squeak. Honestly, they yell more about being restrained by the tech than the actual procedure. As soon as they are back in the box they snuggle in and go back to sleep. I'm not sure who is more relieved when this is over, me or the mother dog. She checks over her babies and cleans all of the vet cooties off of them. They nurse and sleep and forget all about it.

We leave them alone the following day, but then it's right back to their education. Besides tons of holding and fondling, we do ENS. That's Early Neurological Stimulation. It's also called "Super-dog Program". There are five exercises that are performed on the puppies that are shown to stimulate brain function. They include holding them in different positions, touch stimulation, and thermal stimulation. This conditioning has been shown to produce puppies that are stronger, healthier, and more resistant to stress.

We also begin to introduce different surfaces. The puppies have crawled on towels, linoleum, wood floor, and several types of fabric. They have been carried and held in different positions, smelled many different smells, and slept in our laps. They have had their nails trimmed and mouths pried open.

As they reached the 2-week mark, their eyes and ear began to open. Now, just a few days over 2 weeks old, they can wobble around on all four legs, even climb up on the piggy rail in the whelping box. One puppy had to show off and walked all along the length of one rail. They can bark and growl. They are beginning to play and wrestle with each other and one even tried gumming a puppy toy tonight.

I can already see personalities developing as I watch them greet the world and interact with what is around them. In just 18 days of life they have gone from helpless little beings, to wobbly, curious little puppies. I watch in awe as they develop daily into the dogs they will be come. In another 2 weeks they will be bouncing around, bringing chaos to the house. Just 2 weeks after that they will no longer need their mommy. And yet just two weeks later, they will leave us, ready to take on the world and live their lives.

Their 18-day lives have already had an influence on who they will become. They are innocent, but I dream of what lies ahead of them. A great group of people wait to find out which puppy will join their families. These individuals have big dreams, I have great hope. Take your time growing up little ones, let us enjoy you for a while.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What is it about dog shows??

What is it about dogs shows that makes us do crazy things? Why do we willingly get up at 5 am on a weekend, when we could turn off the alarm clock and sleep in? Why do we spend weeks of planning, days of packing, and countless hours of grooming and bathing, just to get ready. We spend our hard-earned money on the best dogs, dog food, and grooming supplies, while we dress ourselves in Goodwill suits and shoes from Walmart. Every extra penny goes to entries fees, while we use a discount code to stay at the cheapest Motel 6 we can find. We purchase our vehicle based on the amount of crates it can hold, amusing the car salesmen with the tape measure we pull out of our pocket. We drive hundreds of miles, spending hours on the road in all types of weather. Showing dogs is a huge time commitment and a test of spirit. It takes dedication and passion to seriously show dogs. To succeed is to sacrifice other areas of your life.

What drives us to this sport? Perhaps it's the love of dogs. We love spending time with our pooches and a dog show seems like a good way to get away and focus on our best canine friends. Perhaps it's a competitive nature and the dog is just the tool. Maybe it's the challenge of the training, to set a goal and accomplish it. Or maybe it's the camaraderie, the enjoyment that comes from spending time with people who have similar interests and understand why you make the sacrifices just to get to the show. I'm guessing it's a combination of it all.

They made a movie called 'Best in Show' that poked fun of our sport. I'm waiting for them to make a movie about crazy stamp collectors or people who build miniature train sets. (Do you have any IDEA how much those little trains cost??!!) There are hundreds of hobbies that draw people in. Some people train and run marathons, others collect antique clocks. They gather at conventions to scrapbook, dress like their favorite characters in Star Trek, or trade guns from the Civil War. People scour EBay for rare books or spoons from around the world. They donate their time at their church or volunteer for community projects. The Internet has become a network to meet and communicate with people who share the same hobbies and interests.

No matter what the hobby, sport, collection, convention, or network, it gives us a purpose. Beyond the 40 hour work week, bills, and responsibilities, we need something to set our minds on. We look forward to the next event or correspondence. We plan and practice and squeeze out any extra money and energy for this passion. The passion that gives us a purpose beyond everyday life, the passion that defines who we are.

Over the years I've done sports and horse shows. I've run a half-marathon and played in a band. Through trial and experience, I've picked my hobby. I'll take dogs shows. I'll get up at 5 am after a late night of bathing dogs and packing the van. I'll take my discount suits or running outfit to a show or agility trial, and celebrate that my dogs ate premium food and have the best care possible. I'll sacrifice going out to eat for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a dog show. I'll skip having extra free time so that I can train my dogs. I'll plan and dream and write my goals. I'll hug my dogs and rejoice in each success we share. I'll enjoy the time I spend with them, the time with my best canine friends and best dog show friends. I'll come home exhausted to loads of laundry and a long to-do list to catch up around the house, only to think ahead to the next show. It's my hobby, my passion, my dream. I don't know what it is about dog shows, but count me in!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Beautiful Babies Arrive!

I both fear and enjoy the birth of a litter of puppies. There is something amazing about watching new life come into the world. You watch the mother work diligently to bring forth her babies. You watch instinct guide a first-time mom to chew a cord, break open a sack, eat a placenta, dry and stimulate a puppy, and nurse a baby. She never read a book or watched another bitch go through this. It's completely God-given instinct. It's beautiful. Late Friday night, February 3, 2012, we watched Ellie, one of our Australian Shepherds, give birth to her first litter.

Thursday was day 60 for Ellie. (Gestation period for a dog is 59-65 days) She didn't eat her dinner that night and I knew her time was drawing near. I went to bed with the video monitor near my bed and woke several times during the night to check the monitor. She slept peacefully most of the night, but woke twice to scratch at the floor near the back door. Around 8 am she began shivering. By 10am, she began panting and became very restless. She wanted to go out to potty and then right back to the whelping box. A few times she again dug near the back door and tried to lay down in a small spot near the utility sink. At noon, she threw up, mostly water and bile.
Soon after this, she settled down and took a nap. Eventually I got tired of waiting and worried that she might be avoiding labor. I took her outside for a walk and potty break. She ran around, feeling pretty good. She pottied several times, but not the repetitive squatting that is triggered by pressure. She came back in and labor seemed to be going again. She went back to the whelping box and continued digging and panting. We continued this pattern over the next several hours. She was being a typical first-time mom, taking her sweet time.

Finally at 10:30 pm, her water broke (back end is wet and dripping) and she became much more animated. She dug and pulled at the towels and asked to go out several times. Just before 11pm, I finally began to see hard contractions. She would stop panting, squint her eyes, and wait for it to pass. She stayed very calm, preferring to lay down. Soon she began to push, stiffening and grunting with each push/contraction.

At 11:06pm, the first puppy arrives and Ellie stands and turns to it. There is a gush and a mess at the puppy delivers with the placenta and quite a bit of amniotic fluid and blood. The first puppy is often the messiest. Ellie, like all moms, goes directly for the cord. The moms are obsessed with the cord, and will continue to fuss and trim it until they are satisfied with the length. They cut and chew the cord with their side teeth, as far back in the mouth as they can get. These teeth work to crush and clamp the cord, cutting down on blood loss. The act of pulling at the cord actually stimulates the puppy, particularly the breathing. While Ellie was fussing with the cord and trying to eat the placenta, I moved it and cut the sack over the puppy's face, giving him a chance at his first breath. I could have waited for Ellie to get to this, but it's very nerve-racking to watch and wait, especially when a puppy starts to gasp. This first puppy is a blue merle male, weighing in at 15.5 oz.
11:18pm, Ellie quickly delivers another puppy, jumping up to clean this pup. This is another blue merle male, weighing in at 12.6 oz. He was born already out of the sack, and without much fluid. Just a puppy that dropped out. He starts breathing immediately.
Ellie takes a short break and then starts contractions around 20 minutes later. This is pretty normal for puppies to come in pairs, and then the bitch rests as two more puppies move down the uterine horns.
As each puppy is born, they instinctively work their way to mom to nurse. They can neither see nor hear, but they can smell and feel the warmth of mom. The act of nursing helps release oxytocin in the uterus, stimulating contractions and helping the remaining puppies come down the uterine horns and into the birth canal.
At 11:45pm, puppy #3 is born. This is another blue merle male, weighing in at 13.1oz.
She's still working on #3 when #4 arrives just five minutes later at 11:50pm. This is another blue merle male, 14.4 oz. He is born breech but this doesn't seem to give Ellie any trouble. I watch her give an extra push or two and he comes out. Sometimes breech puppies need extra stimulation to breath or must have amniotic fluid cleared from the airway. This puppy doesn't need either.
At this point we are seeing a theme. Every puppy is blue merle, and they are all BOYS! Poor Emma is anxiously waiting for a girl or two! She gets our pick pup from this litter and is desperate for a female. She doesn't care about color, just needs a girl.
At 12:12am, Emma finally gets her wish. Another blue merle is born and as soon as I get the chance to check, I find we finally have a girl! I can feel and hear a rattle in this puppy. She has fluid in her airway. I rub her vigorously, clear out her mouth/nose, and swing her. Holding the puppy carefully, I hold her head down and give her some strong swings to push the fluid down and out the mouth and nose. I repeat this is a few times and she is cleared out and breathing fine. Emma is thrilled and helps rub the puppy dry. She weighs 13.4 oz.
At this point the box is getting a bit crowded. Ellie is trying to satisfy the puppies that want to nurse as well as dry the most recent puppy and check the cords for any bleeding. In the meantime, she must stop now and then to deliver another puppy. Busy girl! She has delivered 5 puppies in just over an hour! This usually signals that it is a good-sized litter, the uterus is in a rush to push them out.
Finally the contractions stop and she settles in to care for her babies. An hour passes and Madie and Emma have wandered off to watch a movie. I finally send them to bed. I've palpated Ellie's sides and I don't think she's done. She still feels and looks pregnant. (flank hair is turning out, and I can feel a lump on each side) After two hours, I decide she's rested long enough. I tried giving her cottage cheese, but she's not interested. This is another sign that she's not done. I take her out for a walk. She potties several times, squatting repeatedly, again showing me that she still feels pressure. Not long after we get inside, the contractions start up again. Poor Ellie looks up from where she is laying and nursing puppies with a look on her face like "not again!" The contractions increase and she begins to half-heartedly push. I can tell she is tired. Her pushes and grunts are soft and short. I made her get up to let gravity help a little.
At 2:15am, she delivers puppy #6. It's another blue merle female! She comes still in the sack, which I again cut open. I notice the puppy is a bit limp. When you rub a live, but limp pup, they will stiffen, stick out a leg, or open the mouth. As long as you know what you are doing, you can easily stimulate these puppies and get them going quickly. If you rub a limp puppy and get no reaction, you may have already lost the pup. There is still a chance, but often these already passed during labor or delivery.
Again I have to swing, rub, and stimulate this puppy. Due to the delay in labor, she's lethargic and it takes a while to get her going. I pick at her and irritate her until she is squealing and growling. I like them a bit mad at this point, they will fight to live. She quickly perks up and starts crawling and nursing. She's 14. 6 oz.
At 2:27am, Ellie delivers her last puppy. It's a blue merle male. He weighs 13.2 oz. He comes easily and cleanly and starts breathing and crawling right away.

At this point Ellie visibly relaxes. She lays with her babies and cleans and fusses over them. Her sides are now sunken and soft. The panting stops. I change the towels in the box, take Ellie out to potty, and give her some meat and cottage cheese, which she gobbles. After observing the happy family for a while, I wander off to bed around 4:30am, my face right near the video monitor. I love the soft sound of the happy puppies squeaking.

I'm thrilled and blessed to have a healthy litter of puppies and a perfectly healthy mother dog. We didn't loose any puppies. They all came without much fuss, the bitch was not harmed and handled the delivery perfectly. Their weights are good, are all nursing. They are beautiful puppies, destined to become the loving companions, performance competitors, and show dogs that they were bred and born to be.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Family Traditions

Our family runs on schedules and lists. Our refrigerator is covered with checklists, time schedules, memos, and calendars. We have six people here with six different schedules, all trying to live in harmony. We come together at dinner every night to talk and laugh. We play and pray together. We are busy and rushed, but we've come up with certain routines, or traditions, to make sure that life doesn't push us around. Here are just a few of the 'family traditions' we have developed to keep our priorities straight.

1. Special day of the month: Each person in this family has a special day of the month. It's "MY DAY!" This occurs on each family member's birth date. Madie's day is the 4th, Macy the 8th, Tim the 14th, Emma the 17th, Drew the 20th, and mine is the 31st. (Today actually IS My Day!) This tradition is really all about the kids. I was an only child and had my parents' full attention. I want my children to cherish the fact that they are each one of four, not regret it. So in order to make sure each child has his/her own special time, we started MY DAY. Special benefits of MY DAY include picking the meals of the day and helping mom cook the dinner they picked. If we are out and about, he/she picks the restaurant. This child also gets to say prayer at dinner. The big bonus of the day is that he/she gets to stay up 20 minutes past bedtime to hang out with mom and dad, and pick the activity. Typically they pick playing a game, reading a book, watching a show, or playing the Wii with a parent. The activity almost always includes cuddling with mom or dad. I know the kids look forward to their day each month, they are the family celebrity of the day.

2. 'Screen-free' Wednesday. This concept wasn't originally loved much by either the family or my friends, but it has been the best family tradition so far! Each Wednesday we fore-go all television and computer. For Drew and Macy, that's giving up their cartoons. For Madie and Emma, it's going without the Wii. Tim grumbles a bit each evening when he sits down at the end of the day to relax and can't watch TV. Hands down, I miss the computer the most. I can't check my emails, look something up, or socialize on Facebook! I don't think my friends like 'Screen-Free Wednesday' much either. Since most everyone relies on the Internet to stay in touch these days, I'm completely out of the loop on Wednesdays. It's a 'Leave a message until Thursday' situation. BUT, Wednesday is the most productive and family-focused day of the week! I actually finish my to-do list on Wednesdays! I get extra cleaning done, get caught up on the laundry, spend more time training the dogs, and more time playing with my kids and interacting with the family. After dinner on Wednesday, we often play a family game or have family 'Show-and-tell'. It did take a while for the kids to adjust, but now the two oldest come home on Wednesdays and run off to their room to play. They don't even mention the TV or computer. Drew and Macy use their imaginations and play together all day and bring me extra books to read to them. Tim and I have the longest conversation of the week on a Wednesday evening after the kids have gone to bed. I love this day for the fact that, to a point, we've shut out the rest of the world and it's just us. We don't have a TV program coming on or an email to respond to, we just have each other.

3. Our newest family tradition is the Word of the week and Bible verse of the week. We have a white dry-erase board on our refrigerator. Each Sunday we pick out a word that we will add to our vocabulary. This word is to be used daily. Madie and Emma will also learn the definition and how to spell the word. Drew and Macy just need to be able to pronounce it. (Hopefully they'll add it to their vocabulary too) We also pick out a Bible verse to memorize. I help Drew with a shortened version. Obviously the goal of the word and verse is educational, but also to reinforce our values. God is number one in our lives, and we place great importance on education.

Family traditions can be old or new. They are the routines and beliefs of each family. They make a family unique, and are what the children will take into their own families someday, even if only a piece of it.
I'd love to hear some of your family routines/traditions!

Monday, January 23, 2012

New life is coming to town!

For as long as I can remember, I have loved dogs. From the young age when I started showing, I dreamed of being a breeder and producing fine dogs. I dreamed of litters of puppies that I had researched and planned. I dreamed of watching those puppies grow, sending them into the perfect homes, and watching them become dogs that I could be proud of. I dreamed of entering a competition with a dog of my own breeding at the end of my leash.
Dreams can come true.

We have a Revelaire litter due in just over a week. This will be our 7th litter. It's time to set up the whelping box, hook up the video monitor, get out the supplies, and panic a bit. Yep, having puppies is a very nerve-wracking event! I've given birth four times, but I am much more nervous whelping a litter. Every move, every decision, every problem that comes along is my responsibility. While this moment is exactly what we planned, prayed, and bred for, it's also the scariest part of breeding dogs.

When all goes well, it's a beautiful event. I prefer the times when I get to sit back and watch, take notes, weigh pups, and just observe the wonder of nature. It's as exciting as Christmas! When each puppy arrives, you get a quick glimpse at the color as mom does her job. Then I anxiously await my chance to move in and peek at the sex. As long as mom is active and competent, I stay out of the way and let her do the work. She chews and crushes the umbilical cord, licks to clean and dry the pup, and helps each pup find his/her way to nurse. In the end, you have a litter of beautiful puppies nursing on an exhausted, but joyful momma dog.

But then there are times of tears and pain. The times you fight for life and do anything you can to save your bitch. All the time, knowing you got her into this and you will do anything to make sure she lives through it. The times you have a lifeless newborn in your hands that may live or die because of what you do next. You may save the baby, or you may have to eventually make the decision to set that one aside and move on to help another. You may have a puppy that is struggling to breathe, pass away in your hands. Or you rush your bitch to the vet to save her life, only to lose the litter. Or you lose the bitch, but save a litter of orphans. With life, comes the chance of death, and there is nothing as heart-breaking as holding a baby being in your hands that never got a chance to live. He or she never got to know what it is to love and cuddle, never would play with a ball, or run through a tunnel.

After a long, hard event, you are left with a box full of potential and responsibility. The blind/deaf newborns are at the mercy of your care. Their momma will provide the milk, you provide the safety, comfort, and clean environment. Their journey begins.

So now I wait. This last week and a half we'll pamper Miss Ellie as she prepares to enter motherhood. I plan to blog about the delivery, as well as follow the development and experience of this litter. Obviously it goes perfectly with the title and intention of my blog.
As her time approaches, I prepare for a long, sleepless night of worry and anticipation. I'm not sure who is more relieved in the end when it's all over, me or the momma dog. I love the point when I feed and potty the momma, change the bedding in the box, and tuck in the new family, all warm and cozy. Then if I can, I sneak off to bed for a few hours of sleep, waking occasionally to peak at the video monitor, lulled to my dreams by the squeak of nursing newborns. My heart is fulfilled. Yes, dreams do come true.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just the facts, ma'am.

So I mentally wrote a few different blog posts in my head this week. But when I sat down to type something, nothing was working. I didn't have a topic in mind that fit my mood right now, and honestly, it had to be something good after last week's post. I mean, how DO you follow that?!
After some writing and deleting, I settled on a topic that should be easy enough, and perhaps is something I need to do early on in this blogging experience. I'm going to write about ME. Sort of a 'Let me introduce myself" post.

My name is Dawn Lee Williams. I was born in Beechgrove, Indiana, on July 31, 1976. I was a bicentennial baby and had a special birth certificate to celebrate that. My parents were young, but that meant they were energetic and fun. My childhood is filled with memories of camping, hiking, canoeing, travel, and generally staying busy. I'm an only child. It makes me a bit of a loner, as well as being somewhat selfish and opinionated. I was loved and cherished, but not spoiled. My best buddy growing up was our family dog. We got her when I was 5 (kindergarten) and lost her sixteen years later during my senior year of college. My parents both worked and I alternated spending my days with my grandparents. My one Grandma had boxers. She had been a former breeder, and was still very active in the local boxer club. I would go to obedience practice with her and read through her books and play with her dog statues. Here I learned to be quiet, play by myself, and solve the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune.
My other grandma is busy and energetic. That side of the family is from southern Kentucky. I loved hearing about our relatives in my grandmother's sweet southern draw. Still, when I'm sitting around the table with family, I hear myself slipping into that twang.
I lived on the east side of Indianapolis for several years, in a neighborhood where you could walk your dog or ride your bike around the block, but "If you cross the street, I'll spank your bottom!" My best friend's mom was a dog trainer and I still run into her at dog shows with her border collies. In fourth grade we moved down to Brown County, IN. We only lived there a year while we built our house in Trafalgar, where my parents still live. I attended Indian Creek schools and graduated in 1994. I ran cross-country and track. In my younger years I tried basketball and swimming. I was very active in 4-H. I showed dogs, cats, horses, sheep, as well as other projects. My passion for dogs was encouraged by my two amazing leaders. One took me under her wing, bringing me into the world of showing collies. She trusted me enough to send me into the ring with her beautiful bred-by dogs, and took me to many shows and seminars. My other leader took me to ASCA shows, where I could show my mutts in junior handling and obedience. It doesn't surprise me that the multi-talented aussie caught my eye at these shows.
During high school, I also met my future husband, Timothy James Williams. Granted, at the time he was dating my best friend.... Obviously they weren't meant to be and we were. =)
After graduation, I attended Franklin College where I got my BA in English, and went right back for two more years to earn my teaching degree. While in college I ran track and played soccer and field hockey. It was during field hockey that I had a ball slam into my face and broke the orbital bones in 4 places. During college I worked at a pet store, mainly in the fish room. After college, I married my best friend, Tim, on June 26th, 1999. At this time we researched and decided on the Australian Shepherd as our breed of choice. We added a miniature schnauzer to the pack and I showed our dogs in conformation, obedience, and agility. I started work at Kingsway Christian School in 2000, teaching middle school English. I LOVED my job and place of employment. In 2001, I became pregnant with our first child. Our daughter Madison Faith Williams was born January 4, 2002. Two years later, we added Emma Grace Williams on May 17, 2004. During this time, I decided to work only part-time, and found a position in the preschool at Kingsway. I liked to tease my former middle school students that teaching preschool was exactly like middle school!
A few years passed and we decided to add one more baby to our family. On June 20th, 2008, we had a beautiful baby boy- Andrew James Williams. He was born a month early and was tiny and could not maintain his blood sugar. He was in the NICU for a week. Just a week after we took him home, he stopped breathing in Tim's arms. I was able to revive him while we waited for the paramedics to show up. Drew soon overcame the complications of his early delivery and developed into a healthy little boy. At this point, I became a stay-at-home mom, subbing now and then. Since we believed our family was complete, we sold all of the baby items and moved forward as a family of 5. And then it happened...I had these strong urges to have another baby. I didn't believe our family was complete. I truly believe that God laid it on my heart and that our 4th child was always meant to be. On June 8th, 2010, our Macy Lee Williams was born and completed our family.

I am a simple country girl who loves being a stay-at-home mom. I am most comfortable in jeans, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt. I do pony-tails and tend to go make-up free as much as possible. I'm low-maintenance and easy-going. I'm pretty honest, and can keep a secret. I'll be your friend if you ask me, but I'm still not very out-going. I love to read and take naps. My children and dogs are not only what keep me busy, but they are my passion. I find such joy in them. I have dreams and goals, but none more important than raising my children to follow God.
This is who I am. A piece of my parents, a product of my life. I hope and pray that this is just a small part of my story. I have so much more I want to do, so much to live for.

Fast facts about Dawn:
1. I don't drink alcohol or cuss. I don't mind those who do, but I have no use for it.
2. I've been pulled over 7 times for speeding, never got a ticket. I know how to be sweet when it counts. =)
3. I was painfully shy as a child. One of those kids who hid behind her mom and hated to speak to strangers.
4. I dreamed of being a veterinarian, but I'm too squeamish for severe injuries and surgeries.
5. I started out as a Biology major but couldn't do the Calculus classes so I switched to English. It made much more sense, it was always my easiest subject in high school.
6. I ran the Indianapolis mini-marathon in 1998. I finished in a respectable top 1/3 in both age and gender. (I would love to do this again!)
7. I worked as a horse-back riding instructor in New Mexico in 1998. My back was broken when a horse pinned me. 4 vertebrae and damaged kidneys. Once I recovered, I had to walk with a cane for a while.
8. I once rode in a rodeo as one of the flag girls who perform a routine on horseback.
9. I have been in trouble with the law. (obviously not speeding! haha) It's a when-you-get-to-know-me-better story that I save for close friends.
10. One of my greatest memories is the day I earned my first MACh, with my darling Abbi. Madison was there to take part, as well as most of my closest dog friends. They had a wonderful celebration ready. I'll never forget that day, it was the finale of a long and wonderful journey.
11. My lucky number is 13.
12. I always dreamed of breeding dogs. That dream came true in 2006 with our first Revelaire litter. More about that dream later!
13. I started showing dogs at age 9.
14. I got my first horse at age 12 and started showing right away. I found my niche with barrels and poles. I love all gaming classes.
15. I never wear the color red.
16. I love all kinds of red soda pop.
17. I hate jellyfish. Ewwwww!
18. I crave chocolate.
19. I'm left handed.
20. I've never flown in a plane.