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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You haven't lived until...

There are certain things you will experience in life that 'make it real' and keep you humble. At least one time in your life you need to fall down in public. Since you won't take it well the first time, I suggest trying it more than once. Slip on ice. Don't forget to flail your arms around. Trip up or down steps. Stumble on the sidewalk and break into a jog. I'm sure no one will notice.
Let's not stop there. Drop your soda in the middle of McDonald's. Wait until your groceries are all rung up, or the gas is already in the vehicle, to realize you forgot your wallet. Get pulled over by a cop on a road where several of your friends and co-workers are sure to pass. Splatter your outfit with food or baby spit-up first thing in the morning, but don't notice until you get to work. Wear two different shoes, or blue socks with your black dress shoes.

These are just a few of the experiences we need to remind us that we are flawed human beings and keep us from being overcome by confidence or arrogance. But there are some experiences in life that really define your existence. They test your fortitude.

I've discovered that you really haven't lived until you take two toddlers with you to the gynecologist.
Okay, so this is a girl thing. Guys, you'll have to try to pick your own experience that may be the equivalent. Let's not be embarrassed. All women (should) go to the gynecologist for a yearly exam. A simple check up, like getting your teeth cleaned. Or not.
Yesterday I survived the annual modesty-stripping adventure.
Drew was excited to go to the doctor with me. He always enjoys his own check-ups and walks out with a sucker or sticker. He figured this would be just as fun.
I was prepared to distract them. I had a diaper bag filled with cheerios, a sippy cup, and two packages of fruit snacks. I told Drew he had to wait until the doctor came in to get the fruit snacks. You see.... I had a plan! In the mean time, Macy was munching on her Fruity Cheerios, leftover from breakfast. By the grace of God, the nurse and doctor didn't keep us waiting too long. I'm guessing the squeal of the 19 month old when her brother tried to steal her cheerios was a signal to the staff that we had a ticking time bomb in the room. I quickly changed into the half robe-thing and the paper skirt. Drew, of course was already asking questions that only a 3 year old can come up with. I reminded him that he and Macy took their clothes off to get checked at the doctor. He accepted that and insisted that I sit on the pretty paper-covered table. He grabs the swinging lamp and crawls up the table using the stirrups as handles. Before I could come up with answers to his questions about just what was that equipment used for, the doctor and nurse arrive. My sweet doctor was thrilled to see the kids. "Oh, they are growing so fast.. so cute.. how are the other two?"
He casually starts the exam.. Now it's time for my plan to kick in. I direct Drew to the diaper bag, strategically placed on the chair behind me, to retrieve the coveted fruit snacks. I had this mental image of him sitting contently on the chair, enjoying his fruit snacks during the exam. Well he must have inhaled the darn things because he was back in about 5 seconds flat, trying to supervise the doctor. The doctor chuckles and comments "We have a budding gynecologist!" I mumble "oh great..." and quickly realize I've probably insulted the doctor and his profession of choice. But really, what good is a doctor in the family if he's a gynecologist? It's not like any family members would go to him!
The kind nurse quickly distracted Drew, drawing him over to the counter to show him her equipment and make small talk about his toys. I sighed and looked to my right only to find Macy watching everything the doctor did with a look of awe on her face. She's was slowly placing each fruit snack in her mouth like popcorn at the movie theatre.
Like any good doctor, he started up a conversation, trying to distract me from what he was doing. I really didn't need any help in that department. I was trying to keep an eye on Drew as he's attempting to grab sterilized equipment, and rationalize with Macy who now decides she wants to come up on the table with me. "Up, mommy! Up, mommy!" Sorry kid, I'm a bit busy right now! And now I'm supposed to hold an intelligent conversation about what we did for the holidays among all of this action?!
My friends, if you are nervous about getting your yearly exam, I suggest taking some kids with you. You won't remember a thing. It was over quickly and the doctor helped me up and happily announced that my bladder and organs are NOT falling down. Well gee, that's great news! Does that happen at 35? Does that happen...ever?! Great, something new to worry about.

Now that the tough part is over, the doc and I can have a face to face conversation. Drew decided he was still hungry since he forgot to taste the fruit snacks. He starts munching on Macy's now-forgotten cheerios, setting the snack cup on the doctor's stool. Oh, this stool spins. One great spin like a Wheel-of-Fortune contestant, and we have a beautiful rainbow of Cheerios flying through the air. Hundreds of tiny, fruit-flavored cereal pieces covered the floor. To my horror, Macy delighted in the crunching sound they made when you step on them. At least it stopped the "Up, Mommy!" recitation. To give the doctor credit, he never skipped a beat in his lecture on the best types of contraceptives as his leaned over to push a button that would signal a clean-up crew. With a sweet smile on his face, he discussed options that will prevent me from adding any more cheerio-flinging or cereal-crunching imps to my family.
We finally wrap it up and the doctor sweetly bids me a good day with a kind smile on his face. I start to get off the table, still in my fine blue robe-thing and paper skirt, when Drew has to find one last way to embarrass me. "Oh, are you done? Is it my turn? I have a pee-pee spot too!" and starts to jerk down his pants. Oh have mercy!

I love that through all of this entertainment, I get a blood pressure reading of 110/80. The nurse looked rather impressed. Oh come on, I've taught middle school, train dogs, and have four kids. It takes a bit more than this to raise my blood pressure!
A few minutes later, as I was quickly trying to usher my two little ones out the door before Drew thinks of any more questions to ask loudly, the doctor laughs and says, "I bet when you were younger you never imagined all of these fun experiences you would have with kids." And I'm thinking if I had a nickle for every time that thought crossed my mind, I'd be able to afford to hire a babysitter and fly solo to my doctor's appointments!
As we finally walked out the door, sans suckers or stickers (to Drew's great disappointment), we passed a mother with two kids that looked exactly the same age as mine. It may have been a bit sadistic of me, but I mentally wished that she have as much fun as I did. I even considered offering to share our cheerios with her.

Monday, January 2, 2012

If I could stop time...

If I could stop time, I would do it right now. Life is good. I have a sense of satisfaction and peace. My kids are at ages I love. Madie is 9 (not for long!) She's grown up enough to understand the world and carry on great conversations. I love watching her . Emma is 7. It's a wonderful age of innocence and companionship. I enjoy hanging out with her even though she talks non-stop about every trivial thing. Her world is just her family and friends. She is so giving and cuddly. Drew is 3. This is an amazing age for a little boy. Physically he can conquer pretty much anything. While he's never been a big talker, he can tell the stories of his adventures, argue with the best of them, and defend himself when his creativity leads him astray. Macy is 1. She walks and talks and climbs and plays. She tells you what she wants or doesn't want, but she's still a baby. She needs her momma and fits perfectly on my hip. I don't even mind the diapers. I have a snuggly baby, a fun toddler, a cuddly little girl, and a budding young lady. Yep, I'd keep them just this way if I could.

I like being 35. I have wisdom gained from experience, but am young enough to still have energy and feel pretty good. I can run and play with my kids and keep up with my dogs in agility. I'm sure I'll chuckle at the fact that I felt 'wise' at 35 when I'm 45 or 55, but I am sure a whole lot wiser than I was at 25 or 15!

My family is still very much intact. My parents are youthful and healthy. I am blessed to have three out of four of my grandparents still living and a part of my life. All aunts, uncles, cousins, are accounted for. My old dogs aren't too old. My childhood horse still romps through the fields around our house. My friends are following their dreams and sharing happy memories.
The government may be a bit shaky, but it hasn't failed yet. Our economy may be in the pits but my husband has a job. There is food on the table and the bills are paid.

I know things will change. I know there are hard times ahead... sad times, difficult decisions. There will be times of tearful prayer and anguish. But today things are good, and if I could stop time, I'd stop it right now.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Let's give blogging a try...

Today is January 1st, 2012. It's a day of New Year's Resolutions. Like many people, I've been thinking about what I need to do to make this a good year, reach my goals, and be a better person. The idea of a blog came from many friends that write blogs. Sometimes I drop in and read them and get a little insight into their lives. I've always had mixed feelings about blogs. Why would someone want to read about what I do, feel, think? Everyone has his or her own life to live. One of the reasons I decided to try a blog this year was for the purpose of documentation. I would love for my kids to have our memories written down to look over some day. I've tried a journal, I'm years behind on photo albums, and I'm not much of a scrapbooker. This year I'll try a blog and see how it goes. I keep a website for our show dogs and update that every Monday. My goal is to add a post to the blog every Tuesday.

It wouldn't be a proper New Year's Day without some resolutions:
1. Blog. I want to give this an honest, one-year attempt.
2. Health.. I want to lose weight, exercise consistently, and improve my diet. I have some health issues that I would love to overcome and I know diet would help. After having four babies in the last ten years, my body could certainly use some toning. As I'm now in my mid 30's, it is time take care of this body so that I can be around for a long time! Ironically, I do plan to keep a food/exercise diary for accountability.
3. Bible study. I would like to spend some time in God's word every day, even if I only get to read one verse. God did give us an instruction book for life, and it's foolish that we try to muddle our way through life without reading it.
4. Organization. This one is rather generic. I would love to get my life in order, get all closets clean, files in order, and just generally de-clutter my house and life.
5. Goals with my dogs. I do have a full list of goals for each dog that will be competing this year. The big ones are a MACH, ATCH, AKC CH. and ASCA CH. I don't worry too much if I don't reach all of my goals, but they are good to acknowledge. They motivate me in my training and help me get out of bed on those early dog show mornings. (especially the cold,dark mornings!)

I have an English degree that I seldom get to use as a stay-at-home mom. I do hope this blog will help me stretch my writing muscles now and then. Here's a poem to start off the new year:

A New Year

Life is filled with loss and gain,
May your year have joy and little pain.
May your outlook be optimistic and fair,
What you gain is what you share.
Each step towards a goal is closer to the End,
Be mindful how each day you spend.
Look forward with hope, live today with love,
Give thanks for each blessing you receive from above.
Live for no regrets, hold your loved ones near,
With head held high, charge into this new year!