Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sweet Astro



On March 2, I woke up and began my normal daily routine.  I immediately let my three dogs out.  The two boys, Astro and Luke, plow each other over trying to be the first outside.  Lillie strolls out after them.  The boys run around like crazy, chasing rabbits and doing God only knows what else.  Astro barks a few times as he always does.


As I'm getting everything ready, my oldest son says, "Astro is having another seizure."  It had become almost daily now that Astro would have one in the morning.  I immediately got him some food with honey to try to bring his blood sugar up.  The vet had told me recently that Astro most likely had Insulinoma, a cancer that causes blood sugar to drop dangerously low due to an overproduction of insulin.  This is what was causing the seizures.  I could usually get him some honey in his system and it would pull him out of the seizure.  Lately, it hadn't been helping, but I was going to try anyway.


Astro seemed to stop seizing for a little while and I proceeded with getting the boys' breakfast and packing their lunches for the day etc.  The next thing I know, Astro is panting ridiculously hard; he's drooling everywhere and then the worst comes.  His legs stiffen and spread out to each side.  He cannot get his grip and he begins to shake more violently than ever before.  But what really haunts me even today is the howls he begins to let out.  I try to comfort him, but nothing is helping.  My husband comes in from the garage asking what all the noise is.  He sees Astro and doesn't know how to respond.  I bury my face into him and tell him, "It's really bad."


But it gets even worse.  Astro end up on his side, still howling, and begin convulsing.  He looks like he's trying to run, but I know he has no control over what is happening.  And the howling won't stop.  Astro releases his anal glands and has an involuntary bowl movement.   I'm an emotional wreck at this point.


I rush the boys out of the house and into my car.  I can't just leave Astro like this, but we have got to get the kids to school.  My husband volunteers to stay with Astro as I take the boys to school.  Astro stops seizing, but he's completely motionless.  I panic because I think he's dying right in front of me.  His eyes are wide open and he seems to be staring off into space.  I hug him and leave.


On my way back to the house after dropping the boys off, I call the vet's office to see when they open.  When I let them know what is happening, they tell me to get him there by 8.  Once I'm home, I immediately ask my husband if Astro is still alive and he says yes.  Astro can't walk though.  We have him on a sheet and carry him to my car.  I am crying the whole way because I know this is about to become one of the worst days of my life. I was right.


The team at my vet's office immediately brings a stretch and helps us get him into the room.  Every single woman working the front office has tears in their eyes, and these are people who have only met Astro once before as we just recently switches clinics.  They even bring a Spongebob comforter to put under him. 


He still can't walk.  He is conscious and is calm.  His blood sugar, even after the honey, measures at only 30.  70 is low and is when they begin to get concerned.  He was far beyond that.  The vet talks to me and lets me know that everything he is experiencing is characteristic of the Insulinoma and will only become more frequent and more severe as his body cannot process the insulin and cannot handle such low blood sugar.  She mentions that she thinks he cannot see after the seizure as he is not responding will to stimuli.  This leads his to believe that he could possibly have a tumor on the brain. 


Our options are either to go to a specialist to see if there is any possible treatment, though with his age and the rapid progression of his symptoms, she was pretty sure it isn't, or humane euthanasia. 


While I knew this was coming, it's not an easy reality to face.  All I can do is hug Astro and cry.  And that's what I do.  The vet tells us we can stay, but let's us know that dogs with seizures sometimes have strange things happen once the medication hits.  They can seize as they pass, sometimes they have muscle spasms after the pass which can scare people.  I decide I shouldn't stay as those would traumatize me.  Ernest stays.  We know Astro cannot be alone during his final moments.


I go out to the waiting room and have a break down.  I know that my sweet boy is behind that door about to take his last breath.  I hear Ernest talking, so I know it has to be done.  I knock on the door and ask if I can come in.  The vet says sure, looks and me and says, "he was ready."


They assure me he passed incredibly peacefully, no seizing, no nothing.  He said Astro looked up at him, then began to close his eyes when the sedative took effect.  After she gave the euthanasia medication, Ernest said Astro looked like he was sleeping.  Ernest kept his arm around him with his hand on his chest until he could no longer feel it beating.  The vet checked and said, "He's gone."


All of this helps my heart a little, but as I lie down next to him and pet him, my heart breaks as I keep his face one last time.  I look at Ernest and squeak out an, "I don't want to go...I don't want to leave him here."  Ernest just helps me up and we leave together. 


Leaving my beloved dog behind in that room is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I know some people don't understand, but he was not just a dog.


You see, we picked him out at the humane society when he was only about 6 weeks old.  Astro and his siblings had been dumped on the side of the road in a cardboard box.  Luckily a mom at the humane society had just weened her puppies and took on Astro and his siblings to feed. 


Astro was initially named Houston by the humane society.  He wasn't the puppy I actually wanted, but Ernest wanted a chocolate lab and Astro looked just like one.  So, we got him.  To make matters even more sad, Astro's leg was broken by a large trash can falling on him.  It was not reset properly, and he started having some serious issues later.  I had him X-rayed and the vet said we could do surgery to input a pin, but it would go through the growth plate and could cause issues with it growing properly.  So we opted, instead, not to, but to put him on high quality food and joint supplements.  Luckily, he healed well.  He had a knot where it fused together improperly, but it never caused him issues.


I will never forget the day I brought him home from the humane society.  My husband was my fiance at the time and lived in Houston.  I was in Corpus Christi where I was teaching at the time.  I was living with my parents until Ernest and I were to get married.  I tried to put Astro in the kennel that night and he cried and cried.  So I moved it further into the laundry room hoping I wouldn't hear him.  I still did.  So I moved him into the garage.  He still cried.  I can hear my dad telling me, "Jenn, he's had a traumatic day.  He was taken away from him family and is in a new place.  Maybe you should let him sleep with you."  I did.  He didn't wake up at all that night and he cuddled me.  Astro potty trained really well.  He rarely had accidents.  As a matter of fact, I can remember him holding it until he was literally dribbling. 


Astro moved with us to Katy once we were married, along with my Boston Terrier.  They were best pals.  Astro was scared of loud noises though.  When I was VERY pregnant with our first child, we had an unfortunate incident happen.  It was Halloween night and the church behind us shot off fireworks.  I had taken the dogs out front to potty, but Astro spooked, wiggled his way out of his collar (he was on a leash) and bolted.  My heart was broken.  He was gone for 3 weeks.  The day I brought my son home from the hospital, I got a phone call.  Someone had found him a week ago and had been taking care of him.  They met us at a gas station nearby.  I will always remember when their truck pulled up and I saw his head pop up in the back.  I lost it.  My baby was home.  He was skinnier and a little banged up, but he was so happy to see us. 


Astro used to climb on the back of the couch a lie there behind Ernest's head as he watched TV.  When my son was in his cradle and would cry, Astro would go check on him and then come get me.  He loved his humans. 


He barked at everything.  As a matter of fact, he lost his voice while staying out in the country with my Aunt while our house was being built.  I mentioned how he was afraid of everything.  He hated thunder storms and could always be found in my closet whenever one came.  He escaped from our yard several times by scaling the fence (I still don't know how he figured this out).  He alerted us when there was someone at the door.  He made me feel safe when I was home alone with the boys while Ernest had to travel for work. 


Astro was a lover.  He slept on our bed between my legs.  I never realized how much I loved feeling his body press against me until I no longer felt that.  He was also a talker.  He would come up to you and just talk.  You could even talk back and he'd continue.  He got really excited whenever it was time to eat.  He loved chasing rabbits.  He rarely ever did anything wrong.  He never chewed up things.  He didn't dig.  He didn't get into things he wasn't supposed to.  When I say he was a good dog, he really was. 


There's a huge void that he used to fill up.  I feel it when I walk in the front door every day and don't have him there to greet me.  I feel it when I feed Lillie and his food mat is still there, but there's no bowl and no one there howling at me to hurry and feed him.  Or when I'm watching TV and he's not sitting right by me anymore.  I feel it when I have to look a picture now in order to see his face...


And my heart misses him so much more than I ever imagined. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Snow in Houston

Last night it snowed.

I'll back up by letting you know I was skeptical and thought people were crazy for getting excited about a 10% chance of snow.  When you used to live in a place the would receive 6+ feet of snow, a 10% chance isn't enough to get me anxious.  Ever since moving to Texas, it really has been a struggle for me to be really excited about Christmas.  I do the decorations; I do the lights.  I love the way it all looks, but there's always a big piece missing, and that's snow.  I struggle to get 100% into the spirit without it.

Last night, I looked at my phone around 7, and it said there was now an 80% chance of snow at our house around 8 pm.  But 8 o'clock came and went and there was no snow.  I was a little disappointed especially when I saw the chances had dropped to 30%.

I longed for the snow and the feeling it gives when you have the ground covered in the powdery white amazingness while Christmas lights are on and tree are decorated.  Rooftops covered in a blanket of white.  Tree tops...It's all just so crisp and clean looking!  I never could put into words the feeling snow brings me, but now, the word that comes to mind is "refreshing".  The cold brings in refreshing air.  The snow somehow seems to refresh my soul.

So when the snow first started, I have to admit, I'm pretty sure I was the most excited.  I yelled for my kids to come outside, but they weren't very impressed because it wasn't sticking.  Shortly thereafter, I went back out and BIG, THICK, powdery flakes were flying.  Again, I yell for the boys.  My oldest came running and I cannot explain to you the joy I felt in my heart when his mouth fell open and he just stood there in amazement.  He then began running around, catching the flakes, and then eating them.  Apparently, "Snow tastes good!"  My youngest wasn't as interested.  He just came out and went right back in. 

This morning, though, I hear little feet and tons of excitement when the boys woke up and saw that the snow had continued to fall through the night and actually stuck.  They immediately got bundled up and went to play in the snow.  My heart couldn't be much happier, except when one of my dogs began running in it and trying to lap up the snow as he was running.  Snow balls were made and thrown.  Snow angels.  Everything you have to experience when there is snow.

When I say my boys were upset when I told them to go get ready for school, that's an understatement.  My oldest pleaded that the snow would be gone when they got home.  Part of me really wanted to let them stay home and play in the snow until it melted away.  I know this is an experience that they won't get to go through very many times in their childhood and my heart has often broken when I think of the fact that they have never ridden a sled in the snow.  But we went to school. 

And when I came home to get ready for work, my heart sank a little when I saw all the footprints in the snow.  Brayden is right.  When they come home, the snow will be gone.  There will be no more footprints, no more snow balls, no more snow piled up on the cars. 

The snow of '17 will already be a memory for my boys.  While I wish it would have lasted longer, I'm forever grateful that it is an experience they were able to go through even for a short while.  I'm thankful that for a short time, nobody was worried about anything other than living in that one moment.  I'm thankful that neighbors came out, smiles were shared, laughter was abundant, and time slowed down.  Even if just for a minute.

THIS is Christmas.






Friday, September 29, 2017

The Mom/Wife Life

Proverbs 31:25-30
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

I never realized how thankless a job it can be to be a mom/wife until I became one.  Funny how that works.  It's just like thinking I'd be the most amazing mom who would never (fill in the blank) until I became one.

Yesterday I had planned to go home after work just to change and then meet up with my husband and kids at their football practice.  Once I hit I-10, those plans changed as my drive time was almost 2 hours to get home.  So I just headed straight to the football field.  Practice started at 6; it was already 6:10 and I still had another 10 minutes before I got there when I got a text from my husband asking me to bring bug spray.  If you know anything about Houston, you know we have mosquitoes that could probably carry off one of my husband's football players if they really wanted to.  We had rain coming in, and anyways the mosquitoes have been insane ever since all the flooding Harvey brought.  So I run in to Kroger and grab a couple of bottles of bug spray and continue on to practice.  I have never seen a group of coaches and kiddos so happy to see bug spray. 

After practice my family stops to eat some dinner, and it's this time I remember that my son has a couple of tests tomorrow for which he needs to study.  Anyway, long story short, we go home, boys bathe, we study, I get the boys in bed.  I'd love to go to bed then, also, but I have laundry that needs doing.  Dogs need feeding.  The list goes on.  As I am switching over the laundry, I just wonder to myself if my boys will ever realize all that I do for them.  They don't realize I stay up late cleaning up after them, washing their clothes and folding them, making their lunches and laying out their clothes, ironing if needed.  They don't know I make sure every day that they have a clean pair of football pants and jersey.  Or that I spray the heck out of their cleats because they smell so God awful that I thought I'd die.  They don't know that I go through their bags at night to make sure I've signed everything I'm supposed to so they don't get in trouble with their teachers.  I know they don't appreciate that I have everything ready for them, in a pile for each boy, so that we can just wake up, eat, and get going. 

And I got a little down about this.  It's hard to work so hard long after everyone else is asleep, and not ever hear a, "Thank you."  So as I dumped the clean clothes on the bed containing my sleeping husband and began to fold, I just wondered if I will ever be appreciated.  Will my husband ever look at all the mundane, every day tasks I complete and think to himself, "She's amazing."?  Will my kids ever think, "Man!  I never realized how much mom did for me every day!"  Will they think I was good at what I did and that I was a valuable member of our family?

I believe so.  It may not be for many years.  Maybe not until they are having to juggle their full time job with family and all that comes with it.  But I do believe that one day my boys will think of me and smile knowing that Mama did everything she could to give them a good life. 

And though my husband doesn't say it often, I know that what I do helps make his life better.  And that gives me satisfaction.

So sweet friends, in those moments late at night when you are doubting all that you are doing, or when you are feeling completely defeated, overlooked, unappreciated, don't forget that your Heavenly Father created you for a specific purpose.  He sees all that you are doing and will not let it be for nothing.  There is NOTHING greater that you can be invested your time and energy in to than your family.  They will ALWAYS be worth it.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Physical Self

Throughout my life, I always struggled with my self image, as many girls do.  I "matured" at a very young age and began getting curves before most girls my age.  Many boys mistook this as me being fat; I was far from it, but I did have thigh and hips and all the womanly curves at a young age.  I had been in cheerleading since I was 6, so I was athletic and had an athletic build.  But being called fat at 9 years old was damaging, more so than I realized even then.



As a teen, I developed an interest in sports, specifically volleyball and tumbling, and I was in competitive cheer.  Furthermore, I ran.  I ran a lot.  I worked hard on staying fit, but would still look at my tiny friends around me and my size 3/5 body envied their 00 body.  I didn't even know you could BE a double zero!  So even though I was only around 120 pounds, I would still look at people like Brittney Spears (yes I know) and wish I was shaped more like her.

I tried out for my high school's cheer squad my freshman year and didn't make it.  I was devastated and gave up on this dream.  It was at this time that I made up my mind to graduate high school a year early.  I would have to cram my classes in to the remaining 2 years I would have, and I was also working a part time job.  Needless to say, I gained about 10-15 pounds by the time I graduated high school.  I was still only 135 which wasn't bad for my 5'2" frame even though some scales said my BMI was high. 

College came and along with it, some of the absolutely most stressful times of my life.  My weight climbed.  My confidence plummeted.  I had someone I cared about walk out on me, and I just knew it was because I was no longer attractive.  This was hard for a 19 year old girl.  I began seeking approval from people I had no business seeking it from.  I lost who I was as everything I had ever known was changing, including myself. 

My last year in college I met my now husband.  He was working full time to put himself through school.  He was funny, outgoing, handsome, and spoke Spanish (I love this about him).  He made me feel beautiful again for the first time in many years.  He constantly told me how pretty I was and would leave me sweet little notes on my car at work.  My confidence started to come back.  He was slowly helping build me back up to the person I used to be.  I also began going back to church which helped me to remember my true identity.  I had forgotten that I was carefully made, that God looks at me and sees nothing but beauty. 

Fast forward to my first kid.  My weight was out of control again, eating for "two".  My thyroid was not functioning properly, and even when I began trying, I couldn't get the weight off.  After my second child, I got serious with clean eating and working out.  I lost 45 pounds and was beginning to feel good about myself again.  But life struck again.  I went through touch times personally and professionally and have now gained almost all of the weight back.  I'm no longer comfortable in my own skin.  I don't eat well or exercise regularly.  My days consist of waking up at 5:30 to get the day started, and ending them past 10-11 most nights due to football practice for my boys. 


I'm struggling right now to remember that I am beautiful on the inside, because what I see, and what everyone else sees on the outside isn't matching up.  I'm feeling like I've let myself down by working so hard and then letting it all go.  I worry that my husband is struggling to stay attracted to me.  I know men are very visual beings and I feel like I'm letting him down in this area.  I want him to be proud of me and think I'm beautiful.  I want the compliments to come often from him without me having to fish for them.  I'm self conscious.  I'm uncomfortable when I sit down.  I'm uncomfortable when I stand up.  For goodness sake, I'm even uncomfortable in jeans now.  I love dresses but definitely am not comfortable in those either...So I'm not in a good place right now...

When I look at this issue from a biblical standpoint, The Bible refers to our body as the "temple" and tells us that we should glorify God in our body.  So, is it a sin to be overweight?  I think so, not necessarily because of the weight but because of the fact that gluttony is what tends to cause being over weight, at least in my case it is.  Why is this a sin?  I believe that it's because when I am overeating, it's because of something deeper going on inside.  My outward self is a reflection of what is going on inside.  When I have been in shape, it's because I'm usually in a good place mentally.  When things are not going well in my life, I turn to the comfort of food.  I didn't used to be this way and I'm not sure why I am now.  Maybe it's because my support system is no longer what it was or because my trust in people is all but gone.  Either way, it's not healthy, and I know that.

So I'm making some changes.  First, I'm going to change my mind frame to remember that regardless of what anyone feels about me, I am a beautiful person.  Second, I'm going to get back into reading the Word more and confiding in God the way I need.  Third, I'm going to begin taking the time to care about what I am putting in my body and making sure that I am eating to fulfill my hunger, not just to snack and definitely not to get full.  Third, I am going to exercise.  Yes to lose weight and tone up, but more so for the energy and to feel better.

Will you pray for me in this journey?  I feel like I'm running out of time to get this under control, and to be honest, my will power is low.  To those going down this same road, I'm here for you! 


1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Time

I don't know why certain thoughts come to me the way they do, but they do, none the less.  The other day, I was just thinking about the number of hours each day that I ACTUALLY get to spend with my kids.  Up until this year, I have been the one who wakes them up, gets them dressed, takes them to school, brings them home from school, does homework with them, lugs them to baseball or football or whatever season it is.  Now that I have taken on a more demanding job that requires more time away, I'm realizing how little quality time I get with them.

I still wake them up, get them dressed, take them to school and sometimes bring one of them home from practice.  But my husband is doing much more now because my work hours are typically later than his.  I no longer pick them up from school or take them to practice.  He does.  That's taken away about an hour and a half that I used to have with them. 

When I calculated, I think I am getting about 2-3 hours a day with my kids.  This doesn't count the hours they are at home, asleep.

This kind of breaks my heart.  It just made me realize that they are born, and before you know it, they're grown and gone.  And you get so LITTLE time with them between...

I don't regret my decision to be a working mom.  I don't regret my decision to have my boy in competitive sports that take up over 2 hours a day of their schedules also.  What I do regret are all the times I have had with my kids that I have not utilized to its fullest potential.  I regret yelling at the kids when they are taking too long to hurry up and shower and get in bed.  I regret telling them, "Not tonight, I'm too tired."  I regret getting frustrated when they want me to come tuck them in and give hugs and kisses because that means I have to go BACK upstairs and I just want to go soak in the tub.

I know every decision a mother makes can be criticized.  I know there are people who think I'm wrong for chosing not to stay home; that's their prerogative.  I know there are others who think stay at home moms are crazy for making that decision.  I think every situation is different and quite frankly, I don't think it matters either way what you decide.  What matters is that we have to remember that the time we are blessed with is very little.  It's gone in the blink of an eye.  I want to make it my mission to end the day with a smile on my face because it was simply a good day where I got to love on my boys a little while more.

Psalm 127:3
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Break Our Hearts


I watched a video of a big, beautiful, grey pit bull being rescued.  My heart sank when I realized she had been dumped by her owners and just left there to fend for herself.  You could tell she was very healthy, and the video showed her nuzzling in to the rescuers.  She just wanted to be loved.
I cried at this video.  Yes, I cry at a lot of things, but this really got me.  It cut me deep for a few reasons. 

First of all, I will never understand how people can be so heartless.  This is just one example of what is wrong with people.  It overflows into how people treat other people as well.  In every decision I make, I try to consider the feelings of others.  How will this affect my kids?  My husband?  My friend?  How would I feel if I was the homeless person sitting outside the Valero and everyone just kept walking by me?  I try to put myself in others' shoes, and I feel that this is what it takes for people to just care more.  I fail at times.  I make bad decisions that hurt those around me, but it kills me when I do.  I hurt when I hurt those around me...You see, I think people have gotten so wrapped up in self that they have simply turned a blind eye to the fact that their words and their actions DO affect others.  When you lie, you are damaging another person, even if you get a way with the lie.  When you cheat, you sever any trust in a relationship.  When you talk down to others, you break their spirit.  When you walk out on your family, you cause abandonment issues, distrust, and heartbreak.  When you leave a dog on the side of the road, you cause them to doubt humanity.

Secondly, this dog, once she realized the rescuers were good people not trying to hurt her, she buried her head into the chest of one of the men.  After being abandoned, she still just wanted to be loved.  She just wanted a kind touch and some reassurance that everything would be okay.  Friends, I believe deep down, that is what we all want.  This is why it hurts so much when those you love break your trust, hurt your feelings, or abandon you.  I also think this is why I love animals so much.  They don't break that relationship once it's formed; as a matter of fact, many animals will fight to defend those they love.  Their love is pure, honest, and unadulterated. 

So my prayer today is that our heart would be broken for those around us.  That we would be able to treat others with the love and respect they deserve, and that we would learn to put our selves last.  In essence, I pray we can learn to love one another the way a loyal pet loves its humans. 
 

I just cannot imagine what a beautiful place we would live in if our priority was figuring out how we can better love those around us. 


John 13:34-35
A New commandment I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciplines, if you love one another.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life Changes

I'm not sure if it's because I grew up in the military or if it's just my personality, but change isn't something scary to me.  I have always welcomed it, even longed for it at times. 

The latest major change came when I felt that I was being led to quit my job as a teacher.  I was completing my 8th year as a teacher and was simply struggling to find joy in my career choice anymore.  I could go in to detail, but that would be another blog in and of itself.  To summarize, I was tired of politics involved, of all the demands beyond teaching, and of nasty parents. 

After much discussion, my husband and I decided this was what I should do.  I had a friend who told me about a company needing teachers to work with homeschooled kids, just one day a week.  I agreed to this, but had many concerns that I just couldn't shake.  There wouldn't be any benefits, I'd basically be an independent contractor.  Very little stability etc. 

Then I had the opportunity to completely leave the education industry and venture out into a world I have never known.  I accepted a job as a project engineer for a commercial general contractor...the company is the same one with which my husband is a superintendent. 

My husband's dream has always been to have his own construction company.  Maybe now I will be able to one day help him run the company effectively. 

The learning curve is astronomical as I know little about the industry.  My motivation is sky high though.  For the first time in many years, I am excited about my future and the opportunities I now have. 

 So, don't be afraid of change.  Sometimes these changes can bring about more joy in your life than you ever imagined.  Don't settle for a job you aren't happy with because there is one out there that is a perfect fit for you.  And sometimes, it's in a place you'd never expect. 

Sweet Astro

On March 2, I woke up and began my normal daily routine.  I immediately let my three dogs out.  The two boys, Astro and Luke, plow eac...