End of this season of my life, and this blog

The Rowan Family high up in a ancient castle in Sintra, Portugal

Some 11 years ago I started this blog. I was flush in the nesting phase of life: building a marriage with my new husband, preparing for adding two children, and focussing on the family we were building. I spent my evenings perusing adoption blogs, envisioning the life I was trying to sculpt. Jason and I were alone in rural Alberta, and writing about my own learning and aspirations as a parent made us both feel that we were part of a greater international adoption community. We felt less like the oddballs who had chosen to walk a different path, and more like members of a very purposeful movement.

When the girls first came home, I was so proud ( and still am,) of the beautiful little beings and trusted in my care. Through our family blog, we expressed our joy, hoped that we would inspire others to adopt, and shared many precious moments with our family and friends.

When the girls were little, I appreciated the blog as a place to archive pictures, curate memories and discuss the challenges related to international, transracial, adoption of older children. But as time passed, I found that the issues we were dealing with were much too private to be shared in a public forum. Instead, we collaborated with fellow parents in our local BC community.

When the girls grew older, Africa Sleeps was a growing business and my blog had become a part of my personal brand. I also used this blog to put a human face to the humanitarian work I did with Vulnerable Children Society, and thought it was too valuable tool to let go.

Noe seven years since the girls have come home, I’ve sold my Africa Sleeps business and no longer rely on my personal connections to spread the word of the good work done by our charity. Although the Vulnerable Children Society continues to thrive, it has its own deserved reputation that is independent from mine. And as much as our family and friends still check the blog for pictures of the children, it’s unfortunately a one-way communication that doesn’t fill up my cup for connection.

This last few months have been really hard for me: financial stress related to our juvenile business, long hours and lack of time off, and undermet needs of social connection and intellectual stimulation. In short, I’m in one of those awkward transitional phase is between the seasons of my life, figuring out what it looks like. I find myself evaluating everything I’m doing and it’s relevance for my life at this stage. In fact, I made myself a list the other day of the things that are good for me and my family, and what’s important to me. Have a look:

What is good for me?
Walking, especially with friends
Meal planning
New projects and challenges

What is good for my family?
Slower pace
Home cooked meals
Less technology
Steady dose of adventure and exploration

What is important to me?
Visiting with my children after school
Spending time with my friends
Talking with my husband
Learning and filling my intellectual cup
Keeping in touch with family
Making a difference and helping others
Travel and adventure
Tending our home
Creativity and projects

At this point, my blog, as attached as I am to it, doesn’t fill up any of those cups. So it’s taken me six months, but I’ve decided to fold this site up in 10 days time. With one more little dose of pictures, I’m signing off.

If you are friends with me in the real world, I’ll see you in person. And if we’ve been friends online, I hope to meet you one day and have a cup of tea.

Much love and blessings, and many thanks for your kind words over the years,
Arnica

Walking 15 Irish Wolfhounds

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

It’s now becoming an annual Christmas tradition… This weekend we went on a lovely walk with 14 other Irish Wolfhounds and their people down in Mission, BC.

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Our own year old baby, Tully, had a blast hanging out with other equally giant dogs. None of the puppies were even intimidated by his size, and he romped and frolicked with the other wolfhounds to his heart’s content.

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

It was great to connect with other wolfhound people, commiserate, and  ask questions. For example, we weren’t sure if Tully was lean enough, as he’s been packing on the weight in the last month or so. It’s hard to tell, though, since we don’t have any other wolfhounds to compare him too. It was great to get the feedback (although I’m sure Tully won’t appreciate that he’s going to have to lose 10lbs.)

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our boy and more beautiful wolfies! Last year’s walk pictures too!

Tully the Irish Wolfhound Rowan Family Tree

Our little puppy, now 120lbs

You’ve likely seen him on my Instagram account (my daughters say all I post there any more is Tully,) but I thought I’d do a little post on how our wee pup is doing.

Tully's MOSTLY awesome with the kids. They don't like his stuffie stealing habits, though. Nothing drives an 8 year old girl more crazy than stuffie theft. Oh, and drool.

Nothing drives an 8 year old girl more crazy than stuffie theft. Oh, and drool.

Tully is doing great. He’s sweet and gentle, and loves to get hugs several times a day. He just settles his massive bum on your lap, or sidles up to you and leans in, expecting your arms to wrap around his neck.

A lap dog...

A lap dog…

He’s is bigger and bigger, although his rate of growth has slowed now at seven months.

That's a kind sized bed...

That’s a king sized bed…

I’m expecting when I take him to the clinic today for him to weigh in around 120lbs. That’s a whole lot of muscly dog. As Jason commented, most of the time he takes up less space than his size. Tully will curl up in a ball on the bed (yup, that no-bed pledge went out the window) or sprawl across the then floor and we simple step over him. But sometimes his size is a thing. Despite his usual heeling and good behaviour, I found about 20lbs ago that if he sees a squirrel, or wants to meet someone, then it is hard for me to hold him. So I got a no-pull harness, which really helps. I love it so much, I started selling them at the shop. Last night, though, I took it off and got into a peck of trouble. I was running him around the park on a 30foot long leash, and had attached it to his collar instead of harness, so he wouldn’t trip. Mistake. He saw a shitzu on the other side of the park, and took off straight for it (to say hello in his friendly huge way,) and I got dragged across the park on my knees/belly. Not pleasant. I am so bruised up today, and have now pledged that we won’t have any park exercising without the harness.

Walking the big boy on the dog beach in Summerland. Note the no-pull harness...

Walking the big boy on the dog beach in Summerland. Note the no-pull harness…

Other aspects of his bigness are just management issues, however. Oddly, he eats a lot. lol. We actually had to take him to the dentist, because his bottom canines were growing into the top of his mouth. Yikes! So for the last few weeks, he’s had to eat mush, and I’ve switched to an all raw diet before I really wanted to. But to give you an idea, every day he eats four pounds of ground chicken, four eggs, six cups of brown rice, a couple of cups of squash and green vegs, kelp, vitamins, minerals and calcium. When he gets his dental appliance out (right after Harambee in two weeks!) then he’ll be eating more chicken necks and tripe for meat, which will cut the food costs in half, and I won’t have to additionally supplement with calcium as much.

Handsome boy!

Handsome boy!

Tully still fit in the back of our station wagon… Mostly. He has to do a bit of a squish dance. The only trouble in the heat (we are into our hottest summer ever in the Okanagan, so this is a real problem as next week is supposed to be 38-42…) so I’m thinking of getting a little fan that pushes our AC from the front of the car to the back, just to help him cool. Generally, he doesn’t handle heat well, so we practice siesta at home and he just goes out in the morning and night. Whereas the other dogs can dig cool holes under the back deck, he doesn’t fit! So Tully has been working on some craters in the back yard, and mostly hunkers down in the shade of the apple tree.

Downward dog...

Downward dog…

His training is going well.. Tully can sit and lie down and the like. But more than that, we’ve been working on skills that make our lives easier. Since his head is more than counter height, he’s learned to lie down in the kitchen whenever I’m making food. When he does this, he gets a little nibble thrown down to him ever now and then, and that keeps him off the counters 90% of the time. His shoulder is table height, so we do the same thing at the table… Make him lie down, and then he gets something, at some random point during the meal. It works pretty well, actually. Otherwise you can imagine he’d be helping himself constantly.

Sofas are his favourite. He's claimed this chaise as his own in the living room.

Tully’s claimed this chaise as his own in the living room.

When we are at the clinic, Tully has a mat behind the counter. He lays on the mat, and if someone comes in, I either let him slowly meet them or put him hastily in the back. He would much prefer to meet people, as he is SUPER friendly. And he’s great with people. Everywhere we go, people stop us and ask “what breed is he?” Or occasionally, “is he an Irish Wolfhound? I’ve always wanted one!” He gets so much attention, it’s almost like when the girls were little and everyone wanted to talk about them. But it is a lot easier, since I don’t have to worry about Tully’s privacy. I just have to worry about his manners. “You can pet him! But please wait until he sits down first.” It’s a work in progress.

I have no idea who broke the pillow!

I have no idea who broke the pillow!

I think Tully has a lot of potential as a working dog. He went to the girls’ grade three class once a month for the last five months, to visit, and be measured and weighed. They made a class project out of him, and practiced all sorts of math. “How much did his tail grow from last month?” He was an angel, honestly. He’s so amazing with kids.. I think that’s his real strength. If we were to do any special work, I would likely get him to work in schools. He’s suited to being mauled by 20 kids at a time.

Sugar and Tully

Sugar and Tully

My previous dog, Hamish, was a therapy dog. We used to volunteer at the U of A hospital. Those who have been following my blog for a long time may recall that our dearest Hamish (really, our first kid,) died tragically of cancer just a year before the girls came home. Hamish left a gaping hole in Jason and I’s hearts… We loved him so much. Even though Tully looks nothing like Hamish did, there are so many similarities, we find that hole being filled up, six years later. He goes to work with me, like Hamish did. Just like Hamish, Tully is very empathetic, and seeks you out if he thinks you are hurt or feeling sad. He’s smarter than we thought possible, and plays some of the same games that we played with his predecessor. Like the finding game, where I show him one of his many stuffies, and then hide it for him to find around the house. He’ll bypass his other toys, just to find  the one I’ve showed him. Pretty cool. Any mainly he’s just an easy pup (drag across the park as the exception.) he wants to please, is easily trained, and share his love with all that meet him.

At five and a half months... Tully and me!

At five and a half months… Tully and me!

In short, Tully is a joy. I’m so glad I got him, and happy to spend my days in his company.

Even if he's huge, he's still a puppy!

Even if he’s huge, he’s still a puppy!

Ecotherapy: Spring gardening with my puppy

It’s the first day back to school after spring break, and I just finished an hour of yard cleanup in the backyard. The birds are chirping, and I can see Laughlin and Tully are sunning themselves on the back deck. (Maggie, meanwhile, has chosen a quiet place in the sunny living room.)

We’ve been working away at the yard for almost a month now… Boy! It takes a lot of work to keep our little backyard homestead running.

Gardening with my puppies

Gardening with kids and dogs is a messy business. First of all, we don’t look outside for four months of the year. Except to pooper scoop of course. But besides that, we just let everything run amok over the winter months. Then in the spring, there is a lot to do. There are toys, garbage, and overgrown vines everywhere.

The kids add a bit to the mess as well, as they are finally getting outside and playing our d the neighbourhood. Below is a “nest” they made in the front yard magnolia tree last night. They’ve also set up the hammock, despite the apple branches still all over the ground.

Kids and spring gardening

On top of the usual maintenance, we didn’t really do a lot last fall. We were so in the midst of starting our clinic that we didn’t even eat all the tomatoes on the vine. Sacrilege! We just didn’t have the time. So there were tomato vines to take down, perennials to cut back, and all the usual autumn maintenance as well, on top of the spring work this year.

There is something deeply satisfying about all this work, however. Last year in the spring when I was dealing with bad health and stress at work, I took to starting my day with a half hour in the garden. It was my own little ecotherapy program. I found that every day I did this, my heart was later and my productivity was higher. There are many studies that show our connection with nature feeds the soul, and focuses the mind. It’s good for me to start the day with some exercise and fresh air, and the dogs love being outside with me together. They are calmer and more content through the day as well.

Spring flowers coming up

Gardening with the puppy has its challenges! This morning I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder. I usually let the chickens run around the backyard when I am doing some gardening, so they can get some extra greens. Tully is still learning about chickens, and how, specifically, to leave them alone. His sight hound instinct comes out, and I can see his body strengthening, lengthening, and aiming right for the hens who at peacefully nibbling. Then he bounds with joy towards their fluffy bodies. I had to throw myself on him a couple times, as he was galloping towards the poor birds, who were by this point madly clucking and running away.

It’s a work in progress. Just like a spring garden.

I remind myself that Maggie, especially, was horrible about the chickens when they first arrived, and now neither of the two older dogs pay them any mind. I will just have to be patient with him, and soon, too, he will be chicken proof. And as I train him to leave the chickens alone, I will also get more peaceful time in the garden.

They’re so happy! Video by Sugar and Spice

Along with writing emails to their family members, the girls have used their spring break to start hobbies in videography. Check out one of their video creations… Starring our cocker spaniel Maggie, our Cairn Terrier Laughlin, our Irish wolfhound Tully, and our rescue cats Vega and Haatim!

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