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Farewell

After leaving this blog unattended for the better part of 2015, I have decided to officially retire it and start a new  blog called Just Kidding.  I hope to see you there!

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Orange peelNow that Maya has mastered the art of moving about, her next challenge is communication.  She only speaks about half a dozen words so far, but no one is worried in any official capacity because she also has learned at least 50 signs (signs, as in American Sign Language), at least twenty or so of which she uses daily.

Hold your hands in front of your face, palms facing you.  Now wiggle your fingers.  You’ve just made the sign for “wait.”  I was surprised at how quickly she took to this sign, since it’s more conceptual than most of the other signs we’ve learned, which are mostly nouns, like “daddy,” “food,” and “bath.” But she picked it up right away, repeating after us when we told her to “wait” for a snack or to have a book read.  Within a week, she was commanding Bo to “wait” at the grocery store when he asked her to hand over an orange so it could go through the check-out process.

More carrot, anyone?

More carrot, anyone?

But lately I’ve noticed a slight shift in the way that she uses “wait.”  For her, it’s no longer about… well, waiting.  Instead, she seems to be placing the emphasis on the getting.  If you think about it, “wait” can have two connotations:  one is about not getting (or not doing, etc.) right now, and the other is about getting (or having, etc.)– later.  When she asks for something and one of us tells her to “wait,” we’re not giving it to her, but neither are we saying “no.” So suddenly, Maya was using the sign for “wait” a lot– because to her, it was a way of asking for something, not asking for its delay.

I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon with the sign for “all gone” (for this one, put the heel of your hand in front of your mouth and blow across your horizontal palm.  Or, if you want to be like Maya, just put palm up against your lips and go “pppft! ppftt!”).  Because it’s rare for something (usually food) to be truly “all gone,” as in “gone forever,” Maya seems to have gathered that like “wait,” “all gone” might mean that she’s going to get whatever it is, just a bit later.  This is especially true in the case of night nursing (sorry if this is too much information– skip the rest of this paragraph if it is!).  I night-weaned her a few months ago, and now she nurses at bedtime and then not again until 6am or later.  In the few instances in which she asked to nurse in the middle of the night, I told her that the milk was “all gone.”  Now, she sometimes wakes up and makes the sign for “all gone” by way of asking to nurse.

I know I am a word nerd, having taken multiple linguistics and dead language courses in college that did not apply to any major, minor, or “area of concentration.” I just liked learning about language.  So, I spend a lot of time pondering words like “cleave,” which refers to the idea of two things being simultaneously together and separate (as in “cloven”– you can only have hoofs that are cloven if there are two of them and they are together).  Of course, I was introduced to this word while studying the metaphysical poets and have never heard or read of anyone actually using it in modern times.  But how about a word like “viscous”?  I wasn’t even sure what that word meant at first.  Does it mean something is oozy and flowing?  Or does it mean that it’s gummy and not flowing (the definition, which I eventually learned in a basic geology class, is “resistance to flow”)?  In my Homeric Greek classes, I was fascinated with the idea that a certain class of nouns had a “dual case” that was neither singular nor really plural, but applied to items that always come in pairs, like shoes or oxen.

There’s an idea that kids learn language so quickly because they have an innate sense of grammar, but now I wonder if anyone has studied kids’ language acquisition as a window into our collective psychology.  If not, I guess we’ll just have to wait.

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New Toy

We caved and bought a Nook tablet last weekend.  I won’t list all the reasons we “need” something like this, because I’m of the opinion that most of us don’t ever much, if any, of the technology that seems to surround us.  But it will be nice to have something small to use while traveling or feeding the baby.

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Oh, did I mention the baby?  Amazing how those gratuitous baby photos just seem to pop up out of nowhere.  I wanted to test the photo adding tools of the app I’m using to write this post, and so far it’s even easier than on the fullsize computer.  See?

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I can even add a caption easily

That’s a banana next to Maya’s cheek.  We thought she might be interested in solid food– and she is. Very.  Now that it’s two days later, though we’re not sure her intestines liked it. I’m right now holding a sleepy baby who wore herself out struggling valiantly to poop. Oh well, it’ll make its way out eventually.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep playing with my new toy.  Bo caught me doing the crossword on it last night, and gave a look of disgust. Need?  No, I’m pretty sure we don’t need this.  But it’s fun anyway.

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Auto Lift

IMG_7004His calm demeanor conveyed none of the drama as he said, “I didn’t want to worry you when I came back to bed last night, but the cops were up the hill shining flashlights into our backyard, looking for a car thief.”

What?!?

As far as we can figure…  Someone got pulled over by the local police in the middle of the night (three guys, it turns out) for a traffic violation and it was discovered that the car was stolen.  The car thieves tried to escape, the police gave chase, and they all ended up at the dead-end street up the hill from us.  The thieves ditched the car, ran down the hill, vaulted over the fence into our backyard, and kept going.  In trying to get out of our yard, one of them body-slammed the wooden gate on the side of the house.  This is what woke up Bo.

After ascertaining that no one was trying to break into our house (which is what it sounded like), he started wondering why the bright flashlights kept sweeping across the backyard from up the hill, and why the dog next door was barking like crazy not in the direction of the lights, but, as it turned out, in the direction our car thieves had run.

After awhile, he decided to investigate, which meant walking toward the cops with the flashlights.  Except that he didn’t know what the lights were or who was holding them.  The fact that he didn’t get shot or arrested by antsy officers is Lucky Thing #1.

Once he heard the gist of what was going on, he wanted to get back to the house, but of course the cops wouldn’t let him backtrack through the area they were watching, so he had to go all the way around the block and up our street, which was crawling with the rest of the local police force.  The cops up the hill radioed ahead so that their fellow officers wouldn’t, you know, shoot him or arrest him.

IMG_7008When he arrived home, there were police officers in our backyard, with the K-9 unit, searching for signs of the perps.  We don’t know if they found anything, but they left without taking the brand new Chicago Bulls cap, or a pair of shiny ear buds.  Or the bloody latex glove (is this starting to sound like an Agatha Christie novel yet? or a crime scene involving a former Buffalo Bill?).

IMG_6946Further investigation (by us, not the cops) revealed that the fence-hoppers had indeed landed in our garden, which seemed likely given the placement of things.  About 30 unripe tomatoes fell off our roma plant, which was knocked over but not killed.  The rest of the plants were likely saved by the cucumber trellis, which would have been visible even in the dark.  Lucky Thing #2.  And #3:  nobody was impaled on the fence stakes or rebar serving as tomato cages.

Our neighbor across the street said one of the perps was arrested in front of his house shortly after sunrise.  And more than a week afterward, we found out that our neighborhood Tea Partier who’s always reporting people for various delusional crimes had, true to her nature, called the police to complain that the single mom renting the house kitty-corner to us “must be doing something wrong because so many police cars are parked outside her house.”

IMG_6996cropMe and Maya?  We slept through it.  Through everything– the gate crashing, the dog barking, the police and K-9 investigators right outside the bedroom window.  So either that is Lucky Thing #4, or it’s the fact that Bo woke up and made sure we were all safe.

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Joda, in memoriam

L-J1stday-sized

I first met Joda on a summer day in 1997 under the back stoop of the National Park Service visitor center in Hagerman, Idaho.  My co-workers said that four puppies had been left back there, but when I went to look, only three sleeping bodies lay in a heap in the shade of someone’s car bumper.  I crawled on my belly under the stoop—uniform be damned!—until I was nose to nose with the missing fourth pup.  When I was about an inch away, she woke with a start and enthusiastically started licking my face.  I emerged from underneath, dust on my shirt and spider webs in my hair, and asked Scott, “can we keep this one?”

bicyclingJackass

Thus began my friendship with Joda.  At first it was intermittent, as Scott and I didn’t always live in the same place, and even when we did, those places weren’t always dog-friendly.  Joda wasn’t always easy to be around, either.  I learned to move around the house quietly and unobtrusively, because she’d jump up– ready to go!– if she heard abrupt sounds, like keys clinking.  Anything soft and attached to your hand on one end was clearly a toy for a game of tug-of-war.  She destroyed things—especial favorites being bar soap and decorative flowers, but she also could be catholic in her tastes: shoes, boxes of tissues, soccer balls, and anything else plastic, rubbery, or goopy.  The first time I took her to Syracuse to meet my parents, I awoke in the morning to find that she’d already gotten up and ransacked the bathroom garbage pail, gleefully spreading used feminine products all over the living room floor.

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guarding us from the cattle

Poor manners aside, once Joda was old enough, we became great traveling buddies.  From running along Dayville’s  backroads to walks in Buffalo’s Delaware Park to hikes in the hills above Dayville or the Skillet Handle trail along Upper Klamath Lake, and finally to short strolls along Clear Creek in Golden, we covered many, many miles together.

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Spring Creek, Oregon

When I start telling Joda stories, the tales of mischief come to mind first: running out to greet me at the end of the work day with a small trash can lid stuck over her head, killing the jackrabbit by accident in our yard, walking herself down to Dayville to hang out inside the gas station convenience store while I was at work (but always being at home when I returned so that I didn’t even know about these excursions until after we’d moved out of town), giving me the slip during a long walk and coming home dragging part of a deer carcass, “burying” half a rabbit leg under the corner of the carpet in my bedroom while I was asleep.  But of course, there was more to her personality than mischievousness.  There was the wordless companionship during most of those hikes and walks, or the way that she’d snuffle up to me when I was upset to make sure I was okay, the almost imperious presence she would summon when I’d been working on my dissertation for too long and it was time for a walk, the occasional bursts of galloping, prancing puppy energy she’d get even in her old age, the simple nuzzle she’d give your hand or leg when she was ready for some affection.

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I started thinking seriously about her age when she was 12 years old and the vet’s office sold me the “senior pet” wellness plan and someone wrote “geriatric dog” on her chart.  For the most part, her age didn’t seem to matter.  We still walked and played and went on trips, the same as before.  When she was 13, we embarked on a mammoth 2.5-month tour of the US, arriving in Colorado from Oregon by way of Texas, Florida, and New York.  Joda clearly wasn’t pleased with it all the time, especially staying at other dogs’ homes, but she put up with the travel and enjoyed many of our stops.  Once we got settled in Colorado, however, her age began to show itself ever more persistently.  Walks became shorter, naps longer.  The tile floor in the kitchen became treacherous territory as her old joints and weakening legs failed to prevent her paws from skating out from under her.  She had good days when she’d be up and ready to go, and bad days when she’d sleep until past noon and show no interest in walking.  We’d sometimes find her standing in a corner staring at the wall, seemingly trying to recall how and why she’d gotten there.  Despite the extra attention she needed, all the night time bathroom trips and bed checks, the times we had to help prop her back end up or remind her which way we were headed on our walk, she continued to be the best companion she could be.  She got more affectionate in her old age, coming over to us often for petting, and even sitting on my lap for long stretches.

Joda's last Christmas present

Joda’s last Christmas present

Her last few days went by like a blur.  We’d discovered three weeks before that she had lymphoma, but that didn’t make much of an impression on me.  She was tough; the vet’s time estimate was certainly too short.  We started her on the steroid drugs, which may have caused side effects, or maybe the cancer was more progressed than we realized.  On Friday she refused to get out of the car to walk in her favorite spot along the creek.  On Saturday I tried to take her for a walk, but after about 10 steps, she sank down and curled up into a ball and refused to remain standing even when I propped her back up multiple times.  On Sunday, we carried her about the house and out to the back yard, where she lay on her bed in the sun for awhile.  This was when I experienced what I had both dreaded and hoped for: the moment that she told me that she was ready to go soon.  On Monday, Bo spent the whole day tending to her bodily needs, moving her and bathing her, calling the vet for more information about the drug she was taking, and updating me at work every few hours.  That was the first day she refused all food and water, even when we brought it right up to her mouth.  We spent the evening next to her, petting and massaging her as she slipped in and out of sleep, and we knew that if she continued to be this way in the morning, we’d have to take her to the vet.

So, then it was Tuesday, January 22, a sunny but windy afternoon.  The vet clinic had a small courtyard with benches and a worked iron gate, and that’s where we stayed until the end, and after.  She slipped away peacefully and quickly.

withLia

I miss Joda, and will continue to miss her.  Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this.  But with her death, which was, of course,  inevitable, comes a certain freedom: to remember her at all stages of life, not just her old age.  I can see her now, bat ears flopping as she runs, thumping her back end down firmly in expectation of a treat, snout snuffling as she glides through the still waters of a lake.

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Anticipation

a high-altitude popover

Do you remember what it was like to bake a pie or cake for the first time?  You put it in the oven and had to wait for a certain amount of time before you could open the door and see the transformation that had happened inside.    Did the filling spill out from the pie and turn black on the oven bottom?  Did the cake rise properly?

My mom used to make popovers for breakfast sometimes.  These were eggy muffin-sized pastries that puffed up in baking so that you could melt butter and honey or jam in the hollow inside.  The thing was, you absolutely, positively COULD NOT open the oven door while they were baking!  If you did, they would fall and… well, not pop over.

My first memory of a failed project like this goes back to when I was about six years old.  My mom brought home oranges and whole cloves to make cloved oranges for Christmas gifts.  The concept was a little shaky to me, but I dutifully pushed the cloves (sharp little things! They could really hurt your fingers if you weren’t careful) into the oranges at carefully spaced intervals.  We then put them away into a dark place in the basement to dry out.  The oranges would desiccate over a period of time—a week?  Two weeks?  I don’t remember; it was a long time for me at the time. When they had dried, the oranges would have shrunk so that they would look like a mass of cloves, and you could tie a ribbon around them and hang them in your closet to make things smell nice.  At any rate, when it was time to retrieve them, we brought them upstairs and… they were all rotten and moldy.  We were supposed to have rolled them in powdery stuff called alum before setting them to cure, and for some reason we didn’t, so they spoiled.

I have been living with this feeling of anticipation lately.  I am pregnant, my third such endeavor in the last year.  Obviously, the first two didn’t pan out: no heartbeat at the 8-week prenatal exam.  At age 42, I’m apparently too old for this to go smoothly, and my egg supply is a crapshoot.  Are any of them still fresh and good?  All I need is one good one.

On learning that I was pregnant once again, I had to wait for 4 to 6 weeks before opening the metaphorical oven door to see if what was there was pleasing, or an inert mess once again.  And this time…. ahh, this time, the ultrasound showed something alive, with a heartbeat and arm- and leg- buds and a cephalic promontory (that would be a precursor to a “head”).  This happened in mid-September, so we closed the oven door to wait and see if this little life form would continue to develop.  And it did!  Last week the second, rather detailed ultrasound showed us all the features that are expected: fingers and toes on hands and feet that were waving around, ears,  nose, beating heart, vertebral column, and even a brain inside what was formerly that cephalic promontory.

We have to wait until mid to late April before we really get to retrieve our little project from its metaphorical oven.  There still are plenty of things that can go wrong in the next 22 weeks.  But we’re certain enough that there will actually be an end-product that we’re just happy and relieved to have the long wait and the anticipation it inspires.

PS: I am determined not to be one of Those People who posts photos of my naked pregnant belly or ultrasound stills online.  I have adhered to this resolution here.  We’ll see whether I persevere or if my hormone swings eventually make me do something against my better judgement.

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Edges

Last year on her birthday, we presented Joda with a “Coolaroo” bed, which was supposed to help her keep cool and relaxed out on the porch during the summer months.

Joda tries out the new bed after some coaxing

She laid on it when encouraged, but more or less ignored it in favor of her pillowy beds.  So, we tried putting one of the pillowy beds on top of the Coolaroo and moved it inside.  Et voilà!  She loves it.  Now she can climb slightly up into bed, which somehow eliminates the step where she circles approximately 17 times before laying down.  And… it turns out the elevated edges of this double-decker creation enable the user to drape various body parts in ways that, presumably, stretch them out and lead to maximum comfort.  For example, here’s a classic front paw drape:

Then there’s the Stretch, where as many edges as possible have body parts sticking over:

And the more subtle poses, with only small use of the edge:

I wasn’t able to get a picture of one of my favorites, the  Face-plant pose, in which the flexible tip of her snout is mashed against the floor.  But my vigilance with the camera did lead me to discover an entirely new one to me.  I really have to applaud Joda for her creativity and versatility with this one:

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