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perhaps the best client i’ve ever had

I was dreading the moment when Mona Chica’s parents would come to collect their other fantabulous pooches. Two others, to be exact. If you read my post, she died in my arms last night, you know we’ve had a really rough week. Since Mona Chica passed, we’ve been dealing with the emotions of it all. It’s rough. Not just for me, but for my whole family. And since then, we’ve been caring for Mona Chica’s older brother and sister.

Until today.

As a professional pet sitter…I’m thinking that’s now an oxymoron. Because there is nothing professional about crying on the phone when you tell your client that their pet has passed. The professional part was that I downgraded from all-out bawling, which I reserved for my family. But, then, a week later (they were on a cruise, don’t judge)–today–when they came to collect their other animals, once they started to cry, so did I. And we hugged, which is also not considered professional in the professional sense. Mona Chica’s mom remembered that Campbell (my 4-year-old daughter) was over the moon to take care of a Chihuahua, her dream doggie. So she brought this for Cam:

20131008-200422.jpgUnbelievable, right?

Let me break it down for you if you haven’t heard: I was taking care of these dogs for the first time. Though the clients knew their Chihuahua was sick, they didn’t know how sick. Mona Chica’s death, though not unexpected, was shocking. Then, when returning from their stay away, immediately after dealing with her beloved’s remains, upon collecting their other dogs, they presented my daughter with a toy Chihuahua (Mona Chica look-alike), simply because they knew Campbell had been excited to help me care for Mona Chica.

I think these brand-new clients touched something in me, and in Campbell, that we didn’t realize before, and probably won’t fully realize for some time. I didn’t think as much about my own daughter’s feelings of failure as I did about my own, the professional pet sitter, or as I did about my clients, who had suffered the ultimate loss. Sure, our family went through the emotions of loss and talked it out, but I never even conceived that my girl might feel a bit of failure that the dog who she most likely felt ultimately responsible for died in our care.

We now have a new Mona Chica in our lives. And though she can’t truly compete with the original Mona Chica, she’s something special, and she lets my daughter–and me–know that we’re something special. And that we did the best we could. And that loss sometimes just happens anyway.


the wild horses of the Arizona desert

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There is a stretch of road–the infamous highway 347–that stretches between Phoenix and the city of Maricopa through the Gila River Indian Reservation. As a day-in day-out commute, the desert’s beauty can sometimes lose it’s luster, but there is one main attraction. If you’re lucky enough, you can catch a glimpse of the wild horses.

We’ve all seen horses, so it may not seem spectacular, but it is rare to see so many at once in the wild. They come out predictably just after the rains that stimulate the brush to be as lush as it can be in this parched climate.

Since it rained a lot last week and we had to drive that stretch of highway a couple of times this weekend to visit some animals, I thought we had a pretty good shot at catching a glimpse of them. Searching for them keeps the littles occupied during what would otherwise be a long, dull trek. There are only so many cacti a kid can take.

Typically, the horses appear as tiny figurines in the distance, their movement and grazing barely perceptible. Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to catch them running. The tell-tale dust cloud is easy to spot, but when it’s so hot, they are usually still, conserving their energy.

What a fantastic surprise it was to see them grazing just yards from the road yesterday!

Since I’m always telling the littles that it’s far too dangerous to stop on the 347 if they’ve dropped their shoe or graham cracker, they were amazed when I pulled over. They could see just fine from the safety of the air-conditioned minivan, but I braved the spectacular danger of standing inches from cars blazing past, commonly at 90 mph. There were several of us parked by the road in awe, and I’ve seen some fantastic pictures–far better than mine–posted on my friends’ social media feeds. What a treat!

We could see their sinew and ribs, but they seemed strong and powerful. And so calm, considering they had human spectators and screaming-fast cars just yards away. The sight of them was truly spectacular.


are animals food? last night’s dinner conversation

We eat meat very rarely in our house. I’m borderline vegan, but I do make meat for the kids a couple of times a week. They can make their own choices when they are older and understand all of the information before them. I let them know why I don’t eat meat, and I tell them why people do. I never criticize them for eating it or tell them it’s bad, but I don’t serve it frequently, either.

Last night for dinner, I made the kids some cod and veggies. They had the greatest conversation with no intervention on my part. (In case you’re new to my family, my son, B, is sixteen. My son, Porter, is six, and my daughter, Campbell, is four.)

Campbell: So, this is fish, but not the kind that swims. That would be hilarious!

Porter: Um. Yes it is, Cam. What kind of fish did you think? Fake fish?

Campbell: So, am I actually eating an animal right now?

The boys: Yup.

Campbell: And they squeeeeeeeeze the eyeballs out so it tastes good?

B: Well, that’s one way to put it.

Campbell: One time, I want to try eating fake animals, because I don’t like eating real animals.

B: You kind-of have. Didn’t you eat at McDonald’s?

Campbell: Oh, yeah! That’s not real food!

Exactly.

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taming a cat the Minecraft way

Every Friday, my six-year-old son, Porter,  gets excited. It’s stay-up-late, skip-the-bath night, and he can’t wait to play Minecraft. If you have a boy at home between the ages of five and forty-five, you’re probably familiar with this highly-addictive game. I am opposed to video games, in general (that’s a WHOLE other ball of wax you don’t want me to go into here), but when a few of my trusted mommy friends began singing the praises of Minecraft and Porter began to beg for us to “just check it out,” I decided to cave–literally–and let Porter give it a shot. It seemed creative and something that might require actual thinking with a brain rather than mind-numbing button mashing.

For those of you unfamiliar with this game that can be played on basically any platform you can imagine, the Minecraft Web site summarizes it:

Minecraft is a game about breaking and placing blocks. At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew, players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things.

It can also be about adventuring with friends or watching the sun rise over a blocky ocean. It’s pretty. Brave players battle terrible things in The Nether, which is more scary than pretty. You can also visit a land of mushrooms if it sounds more like your cup of tea.

The game developers release periodic updates. One of the recent updates is a big hit in our house. You can have a pet cat! Or lots of pet cats!

I’ve talked before about the why I don’t have a cat. But virtual cats? I let the kid bring home as many as he could wrangle.

You see, these cats don’t start out purring in your hands. They begin their Minecraft existence as ocelots, roaming wild and free. In order to have them as pets, you have to gain their trust through being near to them and offering fish. Lots and lots of fish. Fish = love.

And the best part? No litter box!

So Porter showed me how he trains ocelots to become suitable pet cats. Talk about a fun way to spend a Friday night! First comes the approach, and like any decent cat would demand, you must prove yourself with a delectable offering, getting close enough to the ocelot so he can smell it, but not so close that you scare it. Once you’ve enticed the creature and gained his trust, you give him fish. More fish means more love, and your new pet cat isn’t shy about showing his affection.

MinecraftOrangeCat

After you’ve earned this kind of devotion. You can’t shake it. So Fluffy then follows you everywhere, practically winding between your legs. And if one isn’t enough, you can go for more.

MinecraftTwoCats

Just as Porter had trained his pride, the rain set in. And we all know how much cats like to stand out in the rain.

MinecraftCatsInRain

So in order to keep his feline family happy, Porter had to quickly build a structure. He has gotten very good at building, so he threw something up rather quickly and baited the cats inside.

MinecraftCatsInside

Everyone needs something to do in the rain, right? It was then that I noticed the kitten. It appeared as if the cats had already gotten busy entertaining themselves in the inclement weather. I asked Porter where the kitten came from. He explained it well: “Well, Mommy, when you have two cats, you get a kitten.” I didn’t probe for additional details. Cute kitten, right?

In Porter’s rush to create a shelter for his new cat family, he skimped a bit on the windows providing only bars as a barrier to the open air.

What happened next is too graphic to show you, and it happened so fast that I was unable to capture a photo. As the virtual storm grew to a crescendo, the lightening began to strike. Porter started to block up the windows, anticipating the inevitable. In a split second with a flashing crash, two of the cats were struck simultaneously and went up in flames. It was heartbreaking.

As the duo burned in a meowing fury, Porter summed up the whole experience: “Oh, NO! Cats are much more harder to take care of than dogs.”

RIP, kitty-cats.

We can’t replace our beloved pets in real life, but, thankfully, Porter can spawn new kittens in Minecraft. We don’t want the cats who have passed to feel as if they have been replaced. But they’ve been replaced.

Minecraft demands a lot of animal interactions, but this new cat training update is proving to be a fun challenge both to play and to watch.


it’s okay that my first grader is failing Spanish

He got +2. He’s IP (in progress) in Spanish.

He’s going down. Mayday.

But let’s put this into perspective, okay? He’s in first grade. It’s Spanish. And he didn’t know there were hints at the bottom!!! He didn’t know! He said he didn’t know, and I totally believe him, because he’s rad, and he would have gotten them all, had he noticed.

So let’s look at the positives, shall we? Of the two he got right, he got 2/2 for pets. So, technically, he got 100% where it really counts, right? And he even threw in some French. Because he’s so advanced. You know…I don’t want to brag.

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my son has an admirer

It’s bad enough when your son brings home his first gift from a girl.

What’s worse? When you’re a professional pet sitter and the gift your son brings home from this much-too-forward first-grade admirer is a dog bone-shaped calendar picture-frame magnet-ad from a competitor. No joke! What are the odds?

I’m sure the admirer is a lovely girl. In fact, I know her to be so. I also know her mom, a realtor. Let me see if I can dig up an old agent’s notepad so that Porter can send a gift back to his lady friend…

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National Geographic Kids goes totally techy

IMG_7325I grew up with a library of National Geographic magazines in my home, so it’s only natural that my jr. pet sitters have a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine (called National Geographic World back when I had a subscription). We love, love, love reading it together! We’ll usually read an article or two after our nightly book-reading ritual so we can savor the magazine all month.

Since we’ve been busy with summer activities and slackin’ on the reading a wee bit, we were behind on the last issue. We noticed only a couple of days ago that a few of the articles have a new techy feature that blows my mind. There are now “digital extras” in the form of “bonus videos” that you can watch on your phone. No joke!

All I had to do was download the “free NG Kids Scanner” on my iPhone, scan the picture in question, and up popped a totally awesome video that showed footage of what was described in the article. How crazy cool is that?!

Totally simple instructions…IMG_7326

AND we just received the September issue in the mail today! And it has driving dogs. Enough said.

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National Geographic Kids magazine was already awesome, but this adds another level of excitement. I’m happy to say that my littles are already really excited about reading, but this takes the magazine-reading experience to a whole new level. And I imagine it might entice children who don’t enjoy reading to give it a try. And, again: driving dogs. Yes.