Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Riley has cancer.

Riley's lungs are horribly squished by a massive tumor in his chest.  The tumor is causing a buildup of fluid that's making the problem even worse.  They drained two liters of fluid and still couldn't see his heart on the x-rays due to the tumor.

Our choices are bad and worse.  Without any treatment, he has maybe a couple of weeks.  With predisone, a little bit longer.  We (and the vet) feel he has enough quality of life to not put him down immediately, so we're going with the prednisone to shrink the tumor (if it works) to give him some more room to breathe.

Pretty soon, though, we're going to have to put him down.  Of course it's also Christmas, and I don't want to do it too close to the holiday.  We'll have to see how much the prednisone helps and make that decision when it's time.

The boys have been told.  Justin is a wreck.  Kaden just keeps drawing pictures of him over and over.  One for each of us, one for Riley, and I think one for the fridge.  

What a difference a day makes.

Riley is really sick.

Really sick. Darrell asked me to take him to the vet today because of some swelling in his neck, as well as obviously not feeling well. I figured it was just a cold that he'd get over - not a big thing.

I'm so glad Darrell had me take him. It's not a cold. Far from it.

I totally expected the vet to look him over, tell me it's an upper respiratory infection, here's some meds, yada yada. Instead, he listed to Riley's heart for a few minutes (which was hard since Riley's breathing is labored), checked him over, and then told me that he wants to admit Riley for xrays, bloodwork, fecal testing, who knows what else.  I felt like I'd been run over by a bus.

He threw out words like possible cancer, lung deflation, cardiomyopathy (heart failure), pneumonia.

I held it together until I got to the front desk, then started crying. I know it's a different situation, but I can't help by think back to Kiwi, the cutie pie black kitten we adopted in South Carolina that died ten days later. I called Darrell in the car in the parking lot. He didn't answer, so I planned to drive to his work. I knew he wasn't teaching, and would probably be able to talk with me. On my way over, I noticed his truck in our driveway (we live just off the main road through town). Thank goodness.

I went in, without Riley of course, and Darrell asked me where he was. I couldn't talk and freaked Darrell out. Finally I calmed down enough to tell him what was going on.

It came from nowhere, ya know? He's been 'fine'... We've only had him for six week - up until three days ago, he seemed 'normal'. At least as normal as he's been since we got him. Turns out that he's not 'fine' or 'normal' at all.

I thought he was just out of shape. No, he's got 50% lung capacity, which is why he was getting tired so fast. I thought he just breathed faster. No, he's got something wrong, pushing on his lungs, or maybe there's fluid in there, or something. I thought he just had a cold!

The vet called back just before 2. He says the bloodwork is fine - no viscosity issues, no abnormal readings. It's not heartworm or lyme. And the other stuff shows it's most likely his heart or he has a tumor. The vet asked if he could do an ultrasound on his heart, and if he could insert a tube to drain off some of the fluid in his chest cavity - both to relieve some pressure off of Riley's lungs, but also to see what type of fluid it is.

And that's where we are now. The clinic closes in about two hours - I'm expecting a call sometime before then.

We're so attached to this dog already. I know it's only been six weeks, but when you plan to have a pet in your family for the rest of it's life, you get attached, ya know? I just hope we're still talking YEARS of the rest of his life. Still too early to plan anything. It depends on what's wrong.

Darrell and I have been 'what-if'ing any of the possible scenarios, but really there's nothing to plan or decide until we know what the situation is.  I just told the boys that Riley's at the vet.  They haven't asked anything further.

I'm not mad at the rescue organization - there's no way they could have known. But the vet says that there's no way that Riley is only three years old. He's getting five or six. We wouldn't have adopted him if we'd known that. This is the exact situation we were trying to avoid. We wanted a young dog so that we weren't dealing with this kind of thing for many many years. Instead, six weeks later, here we are. It is what it is, and we'll deal with it, but I'm.... what, mad? I don't know. Certainly disappointed, devastated, sad. And yeah, a little bit mad.

We love him, that's for sure. This totally sucks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's starting...

The tree is up!

As much as I don't like putting up the tree, I love it once it's up.  You can't tell, really, in this picture, but I like a little bit of tree with my lights.  That takes forever, especially towards the top (having to keep putting my arms down for blood flow *laugh*).

So far, the dog has left the tree alone.  And since the cat has banned herself to the second floor (to stay away from the dog), the tree might be safe this year.

I love our tree.  I love the mish-mash of ornaments we've collected over the years.  I'll never understand the family Christmas trees that follow a different theme each time.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sam's favorite mashed potatoes

And mine too. Oh my goodness.
Thanks Tyler!

4 pounds golden creamer potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a bowl. Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. Mix together with a spoon.

Another yummy recipe

Crockpot meatballs.  Couldn't be much easier, and they're super tasty!

Christmas Crafts!

Carol, Justin, Kaden, and I (well, Darrell made one too) spent an hour or so making button ornaments today.  I originally saw the idea on Pinterest, and had hoped to make enough to send to everyone for Christmas gifts since our two income household became a one income household.  But now that I'll be gainfully employed soon, we're keeping most of them for ourselves.

Anyway, it's super easy.  The hardest part is finding the right buttons.  I found mine here.  I wish the average size was larger; we ran out of the big ones long before using up the small ones.  But, it was a fun and easy craft, even for Kaden.

I bought long pipe cleaners from Walmart and folded them in half.  Used the two ends to go through the buttons, then twisted the very ends for the loop to hang on the tree branch.  Ta-da!

Can't go wrong with cheese and bacon.

Bacon and Cheese Chicken.  Who would have thought to pair teriyaki with cheese/bacon?  Not me, but I'm glad she did.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The annual E8 board has concluded and results will be released early next year.  Darrell's had a few chances at this promotion, but hasn't been selected.  Last year, out of over two hundred eligible 11Cs, five were selected.  With those numbers, you'd have to be BFFs with a board member or walk on water to be selected.

With the economy in the tubes, many senior NCOs have chosen to stay in the Army longer than they planned.  Since they're not getting out, there aren't as many openings for the rank below to be promoted.  This is the situation we're stuck in now.

However, the Army has started to make it more difficult to just stick around a few more years.  Soldiers with 20+ years in are finally leaving; whether by choice or not, it opens up higher probabilities that Darrell will make the list this next time.  As the Army draws down, his chances will likely improve each year.  But dang, he's been a Sergeant First Class for quite some time now.  We're hoping for better luck this time.

Pretty smart guy.

  • Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. 
  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. 
  • If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself. 
  • It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer. 
  • In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. 
  • I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. 
  • If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? 
  • Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results. 
  • I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. 
  • Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. 
  • A ship is always safe at the shore - but that is NOT what it is built for. 
  • The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. 
These are attributed to Albert Einstein. No idea if he actually said all or any of them.

Meet: Riley

Riley is our new-to-us boxer dog.  We've waited YEARS to get a dog; it never seemed to be the right time.

Well, our waiting is over.

We have many friends with boxers and we knew we wanted to adopt from a rescue organization that fosters their dogs to families rather than keeps them at a shelter somewhere.  Since we have younger kids and a cat, we had to wait a while before a dog became available that wouldn't harass one or the other.

Riley was found as a stray.  He's an estimated three years old and was super skinny when brought into the rescue.  He still has about ten pounds or so to gain to fill out all the way, but we're getting him there.

At some point in the near-ish future, we'll probably get another one.  We'll wait until the time is right, and until then continue to get to know Riley.

Kaden and the Wiggle Seat

Kaden is in kindergarten.  His birthday is only a few days before the cutoff.  Kaden is a boy.

Therefore, it is not too surprising that Kaden is having difficulty sitting still in class.  He's a very young kindergartner and he has a first year teacher.  His teacher is not young; she has a few children of her own.  However, she doesn't yet have a lot of experience in a kindergarten classroom.  It's been pretty challenging, and on the advice of friends with more experience than the teacher and I have, we're going to try out the Wiggle Seat.

From Google's first search result link:
If your child is full of energy and fidgets and wiggles, sitting in a desk chair for prolonged periods of time may be a particular challenge. Kids who have trouble sitting still may wobble their desks, rock their chairs, spring out of their seats, or otherwise do things to annoy the teacher without even realizing they're doing it. How to keep your child comfy on that unforgiving wooden slab? Here are five quick solutions to talk over with your child's teacher and try for everybody's relief.
Solution number one is a cushion generally called a Wiggle Seat.

Anyone who has been around Kaden more than a day or two knows his favorite color is yellow.  So, I Amazon-ed us a yellow wiggle cushion.  He'll bring it with him to class after thanksgiving break is over, but I figured we'd try it out at home during mealtime in the interim.

I'll keep ya posted.

Thanksgiving without Sam

For the first time in many years, we won't be going to my best friend's house for Thanksgiving. (Sob!) We're on our own! Yikes! My sister will be coming to visit, but it'll still be a smaller dinner than we've gotten accustomed to.

On the menu: turkey, ham, homemade mashed potatoes (using Sam's favorite recipe), stuffing (Stove Top), gravy, corn, honey carrots, rolls, pickles/olives, cheesecake, and apple pie. Darrell might toss in some sweet potatoes and store-bought pumpkin pie. I plan to brine the turkey (a la Alton Brown).

It's our first turkey at home since, I believe, our first Thanksgiving after we got married. If all fails, Pizza Hut is open - right?

Civilian living in the Army

Yes, we're still an Army family, but we're living in the middle of Army-nowhere. The nearest Army post is hours and hours away. I thought I'd like it, but I don't think I do.

Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful here. We loved living in Colorado Springs with the mountains right next to us. Although there aren't any mountains in view, we are living in a house less than two blocks from a small lake. A completely different kind of beautiful. I've never lived lakeside before, and we're looking forward to taking advantage of it. Apparently it will freeze over this winter - I've already seen flyers for an ice putt-putt fundraiser. Fun! And of course we hope to rent a boat at some point.

Also, we're in the lake effect region of the country. You'd think we would have gotten lots of snow in Colorado, but not where we were in the Springs. The average snowfall here is about 150 inches per winter season. Yikes!

So as much as we're enjoying the location, I'm missing the camaraderie. I haven't made any friends yet, there aren't any new-military-family events, and until next month, I haven't had a job. I've very much enjoyed taking some time off, but I'm starting to get stir crazy. I've read literally hundreds of books, taken the (new) dog for many walks, and enjoyed many naps, but I'm raring to get back into the working world. And for those of you who are my Facebook friends, you'll get this complaint again - I really miss the commissary! We've been so spoiled being able to buy groceries at super low prices. The sticker shock hits me every time I go to the store here.

We're not completely alone; Darrell isn't working by himself, after all. There's just no comparison between brigades worth of Soldiers and their families and a small office with less than a dozen coworkers. It's different, and it's reminded me of how much I really do like living in an Army community.


Easy Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I made this for dinner last night and finished off the leftovers for lunch. Super easy, and kid approved.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A year and a half?

I knew it'd been awhile since I posted here, but had no idea it had been that long.

As a blogger, I suck.

Anyway, update time. We now live in Pennsylvania. The nearest Army post is hours and hours away. I thought I'd love living like a civilian again, but actually I miss the whole Army lifestyle thing. The commissary especially, but also the camaraderie.

We've adopted a dog, Riley. He has some isolation anxiety issues to deal with, but is otherwise a great fit into the family. At some point in the semi-near future, we'll probably adopt another rescue boxer to keep him company. The cat is not pleased, but she'll just have to deal.

The boys are doing well in school. J has made some friends in the neighborhood and is playing the trombone again. K is loving kindergarten but is having problems sitting still. We're hoping a wiggle seat will help (basically a nubby plastic cushion to sit on).

I recently accepted a job offer and will be starting in early December. It's a federal position (yay!) but for now is intermittent. They hire their full time staff from their intermittent pool, so I'm hopeful for permanent full time work in 2012.

D is relaxing as much as possible in his instructor position. It's nice not having a deployment looming on the calendar, but this job isn't as laid back as we thought it'd be. Still, he's home for dinners and weekends most of the time. We'll take it!

The promotion board results will be out in January/February. If D makes the list, there's a good chance we'll be moving this coming summer. If not, we'll be here at least another year.

That's what we're up to at the moment. Hopefully it doesn't take me so long to update again...