Riding the high of a snow day

Finally, we’ve had a good snow. You’d think snow was a regular winter thing at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, but no. It’s rare, and when it happens, it’s like a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Yesterday, we got a big ‘ole heap of it. Since we homeschool and our usual Tuesday activities were cancelled, we didn’t have to leave the house. The same goes for today. I’m almost out of milk, but we have electricity, which means we have the Internet and a working coffee maker. The necessary provisions are stocked.

It’s not lost on me how fortunate we are. So many families were separated last night because roads and highways were clogged with wrecks or simply impassable. The stories out of Atlanta and Chattanooga are tragic. Kids were stranded at school, people had to sleep in their cars. Many abandoned their cars and walked home. Commutes that usually took 15 minutes were stretched to eight hours or longer. No, it’s not lost on me how fortunate we are.

We finished school as fast as we could yesterday and went outside to play. It was beauty-full.

LightpostMagnoliaWe don’t have a sled, but it didn’t matter. Heavy duty garbage bags work just fine.Snow dayDown the hillWipe outJack goes down the hillJeremy goes down the hillHappinessEven the beast liked the snow. Blue tickCute? Yes. Major loves the snowBut so naughty! (He steals gloves.) Cute but naughty

Sunshine!

Let’s all take a minute to observe the warmer weather.

SunbathingWe’re all jumping for joy over 45 degrees, which is leaps and bounds better than 2. I didn’t like 2. I hope you were all good pet owners and cared for your outdoor family members appropriately. (Condolences to those with busted pipes, flooded rooms, and other Polar Vortex-induced calamities.)

Our family has been quarantined for the week while dealing with coughs and sneezes. Since we haven’t had temperatures or vomiting, I’m not calling it the flu. I’m not sure what it was, but I’ve sufficiently disinfected the house and crossed my fingers that we’re on the tail end of it.

I’m back to working on the novel every day, though progress is slower since I’m intentionally not rushing. In my free time (i.e., running on the treadmill), I’m indulging in British dramas, which I find far more entertaining and creative than most of what’s being made here. I highly recommend Broadchurch, Mr. Selfridge, Sherlock, and White Chapel, if you’re into that sort of thing. And of course, Downton Abbey. Not sure I could love the Dowager more.

Vulgarity

Waving the white flag with long division

Single-digit division was a snap. Double-digit division was a breeze. Triple-digit division with remainders has left Jeremy in the pit of all that is wrong with math. He gets caught up in the process, forgetting where he is in the multiplication and subtraction, forgetting to add back the remainder when he checks his work, forgetting his multiples of seven and eight, and so on.

We nearly didn’t survive yesterday, so today I’m declaring that triple-digit division is on hold until January. Did you hear that squealing? That was Jeremy. He’s thrilled. He loves me again.

Jackson, on the other hand, cannot be held back. He zoomed through an entire math unit in one day and got a hundred on his test. Wait until you have to do long division, says Jeremy.

I’m floating along in a stupor this month unable to fully devote myself to any one thing. I can’t believe we are a week away from Christmas. I must have blinked. (If you haven’t received a Christmas card from us it’s because I didn’t write one.)

We’ll be boarding Major next week while my family is here, which has me both relieved and sad. I’ve never excluded our pets from Christmas morning rituals, but our blue tick hound would lose his ever-loving mind in all the commotion of unwrapping presents. He would try to steal the turkey off the dinner table and he’d probably knock down my grandmother in an attempt to lick her face. In the last 24 hours, Major has stolen Jackson’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich off his lunch plate, chewed the computer mouse from the boys’ school desk, destroyed a piece of mail, and nearly swallowed a Lego. That is in addition to three new holes dug in the backyard and waking me up at 6:30 three mornings in a row.

I swear. If I didn’t love running with this dog…

Do I sound like a Scrooge? I promise you I’m not there yet. However, Chuck finished reading my novel yesterday (what I’ve written thus far) and gently told me last night that he doesn’t think it’s realistic to finish by New Years. He knows the general direction the story is going, and based on what he knows, he thinks I’d be rushing myself unnecessarily to meet some sort of faux deadline. I conceded that he was right. I’m not sure why I’m rushing, aside from blaming one of my distorted perfectionist flaws. Technically, since this book is my capstone project to complete the master’s program, I don’t have to finish it until next December. I have a solid year to write and edit it.

Speaking of Chuck, I’ll end this post with his contribution to this year’s Elf on the Shelf:

Everybody poops

Yay baby!

So yesterday I had the most awesome privilege of seeing brand new life appear on earth. Lesli and Jimmy, parents of Henry, had their second child, a precious little jewel named Catherine. I was over-the-moon excited to be there with them to capture her first few hours.

Catherine's dark hair

Wide awake

My favorite of Catherine

 

She is a beauty. Now, between Susan, Lesli, and me, we have three boys and two girls. My heart is bursting. I want them all in a room together as soon as possible.

Don’t think I didn’t freak out when Jeremy said, “When Catherine is ten years old, I’ll be twenty!” Wait, what?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our little baby, who officially turned one year old yesterday.

This was Major at six weeks old, sleeping soundly next to his older brother:

sleeping togetherAnd here we were last night, cuddled for about ten minutes until Salem was over it:

Major and Salem on Dec. 9I’d forgotten that it was Major’s birthday until I came home from the hospital and the boys told me I needed to join them in a round of singing Happy Birthday to the dog.

Novel Writing and Schizophrenia

In my limited experience, these two things are well-paired.

I hit 60,000 words last night and completed Part Two of what could be a four-part book. I initially thought it would be three parts, but the characters are telling me otherwise. I’ve strayed so far from the outline I wrote four weeks ago that there’s no point in looking at it anymore. The characters are in charge and I’m doing my best to accommodate them. Like everything else I try to control, it has slipped out of my hands.

Last night’s bout of writing is a great example. I was skating along in a chapter, going where I was being led, when the scene suddenly ended. It didn’t end where I originally planned, but the character made it clear that it was time to stop and shift. So I did. (She’s a bit bossy.)

Likewise, my main character surprised me last night with a bold move and I let her roll with it. I couldn’t say no.

In other news, I’m on the verge of completing my last assignment for Literary Theory and I’m thoroughly relieved about it. It was a required class, but it couldn’t have been more out of my realm of interest and ability. You know what’s not well-paired? Novel writing and Literary Theory.

Have you missed the boys? I’ve not forsaken them completely. Here they are, all three of them:

Autumn day at the park

Word Count with a Ladybug

As of last night, I’ve hit 45,700+ words of the required 50,000. The catch is that I’m only halfway through the plot, so I’m looking at an 80,000-word novel at least. My goal is still to finish by the end of the month, but our creative writing professor has allowed us until December 13 to complete the project. That’s really good news and it means I’m set to accomplish the terms of NaNoWriMo.

In other news, our house is still a haven for ladybugs, particularly in the master bedroom. A few have even wandered out into other areas of the house. Seriously, aren’t they supposed to be gone by now? Or are we just special?

LadybugMajor has been in fits lately. He’s so bored, and I don’t blame him. I’m not running with him as much as I had been this summer and early fall, but frankly, I’m busy. I’m not even running as much as I’d like to, but that’s the deal with November. Major obviously didn’t get the memo.

Hence, he’s chasing his tail wondering when the heck I’ll show him attention again.

Chasing tails

Novel progress and a baby, unrelated

The novel is sailing along at more than 32,000 words. No doubt I’ll hit the 50,000-word limit by the end of November to meet the terms of NaNoWriMo and my creative writing class, but this book will be well over 50K when it’s finished. I’ve employed my dearest friend, Corey, to read it and advise me, and by “employ” I mean that I’ve cashed in 20-plus years of friendship in exchange for her expertise as a creative person. She has no idea what she’s agreed to. HA! Sucker!

Yesterday was a labor of love, but not with writing. I agreed to babysit our littlest cousin for the day, so in addition to the boys (and their school work), the dog (and his nonsense), graduate school (Lit Theory sucks), and really, really cold weather (hello, winter!), we had a tiny blue-eyed visitor. Seriously, why would you say no to babysitting this guy?

Connor at 11 months old

The boys thought babysitting Connor meant a day off from school, but nope! HA! Suckers!

School with Connor

Connor was a complete angel, and I’m not just saying that because his parents and grandparents will probably read this blog entry. He really is a calm, cheerful baby. He did not cry or whimper or thrash around or vomit or explode in his diaper, all of which I was geared up to handle. The boys can vouch for my babysitting report. They were even trying to convince me to adopt another baby, and I was all, “NO WAY.” We are just fine here, thank you. Have you met Major? The dog who ate your Mandarin action figure last week? Who steals your peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the plate? Yeah, we’re good here.

Speaking of the dog, he was oddly very sweet with the baby. After sniffing every inch of Connor’s tiny little body (he’d never seen a human that size before), Major followed him around everywhere he crawled. When Connor sat still, Major laid down next to him and waited. It was a nice display of canine loyalty and protectiveness that made me think, “Okay, we’ll keep you another week.”

Major and Connor

Our toddler

He is one of the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen. Deeply loyal, Major has been a wonderful addition to our family.

Except when he digs, barks, whines, chews the couch, paces in anxiety, antagonizes the cat, eats our socks, and tries to steal our food off the dinner table.

Otherwise, he’s perfectly lovely.

SideshotButch pleaseJust look at that face!

(This photo was taken right before he stole Jackson’s pencil.)

I am very much looking forward to having a mature dog who naps all day. Doggy toddlerhood can bite me. (Literally.)

It’s Football Time in Tennessee!

You knew we were gonna do this. We just had to wait for football season to start.Game time

In fact, I bought a dog jersey from the pet store last week but ended up returning it because a large was too small. Major is nearing 60 pounds.It's football timeDo not be fooled by his good looks. I took this photo right after he stole a green tomato off the picnic table and ate it. What a stinker!

Go Vols!

The Would-Be Hunter

I swear we missed the mark on this one. Major should’ve been a hunting dog. I’m not saying he still can’t be trained, but we’ve already neutered him and Chuck doesn’t hunt nearly enough on a regular basis for anything to stick. Still, after buying a rabbit pelt for him (just to see what he’d do with it), I see now that Major has a strong instinct to seek and destroy.

Sometimes I pull the pelt around the yard on a stick for him to chase, while other times I’ll lay it over a tree limb. Either way, madness ensues.

By the way, our nine-month-old puppy is 55 pounds and can reach my shoulders with his front paws when standing on his hind legs.

Almost reach it Major and the pelt Major wants the pelt rabbit pelt

Major's bayFirst day of school report: Jeremy’s curriculum is too hard for him and Jackson’s is too easy. Never a dull moment.

 

River frolic

This is how I spent my birthday: the boys on my bday

Major at the river

River frolicMy 35th birthday was magnificent. Thanks to all who were a part of it either in person or in spirit. *Much love*

Weekend: Ready, Set, Go

In short:

– Girls Weekend starts tonight! Hurray! Since Lesli moved back to Tennessee, traveling for GW has lessened significantly. I will drive all of 30 minutes to get to her house, which is vastly differently from when I lived in Amarillo and she lived in Washington DC. Furthermore, we’ll be able to carpool when it’s Susan’s turn to host. We haven’t all lived in Tennessee since my boys were babies.

-Jackson will practice football in full pads tonight for the first time. His little lanky body can barely support the helmet, so it will be particularly adorable to see him in full uniform. Pictures to come!

-Major has been the best little running buddy lately. I barely ran in the spring due to shin splints, but I’m shooting for a November race so it’s time to get back to it. Major is improving his ability to stay focused and pace his trot. (He is a natural sprinter, so I’ve worked to slow him down and increase his overall endurance.) The challenge remains to be his attention span, as it pertains to squirrels and birds.

-The cucumbers have taken over the garden. I have more pickles than I ever imagined. If you like dill pickles, please raid my refrigerator.

I’ll leave you with a lengthy video of the animals. Jeremy and I wanted to see what the dog would do if we draped a deer skin over a lawn chair. The cat saw it immediately (of course!) while it took the dog nearly a full minute to notice it (of course!). Enjoy, and happy weekend!

My Money Maker

We’ve reached a pivotal point with the dog. He has to start earning his keep. No longer do I view his shenanigans as a path to my slow, painful demise. Instead, these events are becoming content for a children’s book series. I came to this realization after he snuck in my bathroom, where I was mopping, and stole the bottle of Softsoap.

I can’t fight this force of nature any longer, so I might as well make him work for his vet bills. I mean, if he’s going to lick the Clorox bleach off the kitchen floor after I mop it, why not work that to my benefit?

You want to drink the Softsoap? Help yourself!

You want to swallow a dirty sweat sock and vomit it up four days later? HAVE FUN WITH THAT.

You want to steal a paring knife off the kitchen counter for a chew toy? GO RIGHT AHEAD. Start with the pointy end and see what happens.

Yes, really:

Eat a knifeThe children’s book idea is not my own. A Facebook friend left an ingenious comment in May on one of Major’s pictures:

Major StorytellingIs this possible? Would anyone care? Could this be the solution to my lack of having a beach house? I answer that with a strong maybe.

I know letting him in the backyard without a leash is a huge risk. It means he’s probably going to dig aggressively for the speck of whatever smells wonderful five feet underground. It means he might finally rip the cucumber vines off the garden fence. It means he might chew the cover off the grill and swallow it whole. It means he might eat the citronella candle, wick and all. I sort of don’t care enough at this moment because if I didn’t put him outside right away then I was going to kill him for chewing on my laptop cord when there was a rawhide bone RIGHT BESIDE HIM.

This is after he snatched the sugary crust off my freshly-baked zucchini bread as it was cooling in the pan.

So this means I need an illustrator, an agent, and someone to constantly tell me to do this. Now taking applications for all three.

Until you find Major in a bookstore, you can follow him on Twitter @MajorHound.

 

 

Hardest Life There Ever Was

I actually missed this little menace while I was out of town, if you can believe that nonsense.Major naps

He lives a hard life, so I’m happy to accommodate his sleeping preferences.
Hard lifeHappy Weekend to you, reader! May it be filled with all sorts of immodest napping.

Squirrel!

I’m happy to report that Major is getting better and better at walking on a leash. In fact, I love taking on short-distance runs. He’s done so well with –

SQUIRREL!

– walking on his Gentle Leader that it’s been a pleasure to take him to the park. The only thing –

SQUIRREL!

– that we’re still working on is keeping his attention focused –

SQUIRREL!

– on the walk. Being a coonhound with a proficient nose, you can imagine how –

SQUIRREL!

– distracted he can get. Still, taking him for short runs allows us both get out some energy and enjoy the nice weather.

(Click here for the SQUIRREL! reference.)

Major runs Major's Gentle Leader

Happiness is…

…best friends coming in town for a much-needed visit:

Millers and Valocvins 2013

Jennie and Amy 2013

Chuck and Matt 2013

Grace 2013

Jeremy 2013

Jake 2013

Jack 2013

…sitting by the fire:Fire…and watching your garden grow:Red Bell Pepper

Parsley

LavendarHappiness is also finding out that the dog finally vomited that sweat sock he swallowed four days ago, but I don’t have any pictures of that.

He’s the boss of Major.

This mischief happened earlier in the week. I considered it a challenge of authority:Major on the tableBut then this happened shortly after, and then I was reminded of who’s really in charge:Who's the bossIn other news, I saw something on Pinterest that I had to try. Actually, there are dozens of things on Pinterest that I’d like to try, but this seemed doable. Instead of tossing my romaine lettuce cores in the garbage, I stuck them in water and placed the glasses on the window sill. I was surprised to discover that the lettuce leaves actually grew back.

Growing lettuceThey aren’t spectacularly long lettuce leaves, and it’s taken a while for them to grow, but nonetheless it worked.

And finally, I got word today that the insurance claim to cover Jeremy’s hearing aid was denied. This is a very expensive denial, so I will be putting on my boxing gloves and going into the ring to fight it.

The day Major was good.

This was not the day Major was good. Mr. Persistant

StuckBut on Mother’s Day, he was exceptional. It’s as if he knew he needed to keep Mama happy. We took him to the river and he was wonderfully behaved, even when we met another blue tick hound and all hell could’ve broken loose. Though he has more brown markings than Major, this eight-month-old was pretty much his twin. (Major is on the right side of the photo.)

Twins

Major even allowed Chuck to lead him into the water, which is what we were hoping for. HandsomeThe dog was calm and obedient and walked on his leash like a pro. Unfortunately, all that goodness was left at the river because he’s been a pain in my arse all morning running around like a nutcase. Every time I tackle him to the ground, I whisper into his floppy ears, “You’re getting snipped tomorrow, big boy, so enjoy this while you can.”

The Perfect Pet

A few nights ago, on the eve on Chuck going out of town, I let out a big sigh, groaned in exhaustion, and jokingly asked, “So which kid are you taking with you tomorrow?”

He paused, then answered, “Salem.”

Yes, after three months of wrangling a blue tick puppy and nearly ten years of parenting, even Chuck prefers Salem, which is how I always knew it would be. He finally sees it my way.

Salem may be fat and irritable, but he is the most fabulous little being in this family. He doesn’t require much from us and he occasionally brings us presents. The boys love asking me to rank everyone in order of who I love the most and I answer consistently with, “Your dad, then Salem, and you two are tied for third.” It makes them laugh, they know I’m (mostly) kidding, and they’ll ask me to say it again a few days later.

But seriously. He’s awesome.

In the tree

the hunterWhat about Major, you ask? Yeah, he’s on the list. Somewhere near the bottom. Because when he’s not scratching my legs or chewing a Galactic Hero or barking at nothing, he’s doing this:

Lounge chair

Too big for the cat door

In the last week, Major has vomited in the kitchen, chewed a library book, stolen Jeremy’s sandwich, scratched my left leg to pieces, and pulled back the wire fence that protects my unplanted garden to eat the compost. It stopped being cute three months ago.

That’s probably why I enjoy this video a little too much. He can’t get the one thing he wants and I like watching him suffer for it.

He loses his masculinity in nine days. Pray for a miracle or this dog will be on the curb with “Free to a loving home without a garden” sign.

Major and Top Searches

I love how WordPress keeps track of the top searches that lead strangers to this blog. The three searches that consistently top the list are “jennie creates,” “,” and “boy feet.” (Which is because of this post.) I love that “boy feet” bring people here. What a riot!

But today, instead of “boy feet,” the third search term on the list was “hairy fat.”

Hairy fat? 

Naturally, I had to know why “hairy fat” was connected to me, so I typed it into the search bar and up popped my complaint about Punxsutawney Phil in March. Thank goodness I’d not written an Ambien-induced post in reference to body hair. I knew I had some standards. However, I guess that’s what I get for name calling.

As promised, here’s our fast-growing puppy who is just four weeks away from getting neutered. Thank the sweet Lord. 
Major's close up

Side shot