A Letter to the Chubbuck, Idaho, Police/Animal Control:

It’s been nearly two years since a member of your department did something that I’m sure he had no idea would change lives forever.

A very large and timid (sometimes mistaken for aggressive) German shepherd had been walking your streets with no leash, no collar, no way to contact an owner but clearly well-fed and healthy. He was house trained and didn’t chew on furniture but he was scared of people. He liked to play only with balls but if they weren’t available he would settle for a rock. (You probably remember him now because that was a strange trait of his.) When he barked, which was rare, he sounded more like a bear than a dog. He never over ate and never tried to run away; but if you accidentally backed him into a corner, he growled in such a ferocious way he was quite terrifying.

When I first saw this very large GSD, I was pretty hesitant to take him home. He was stronger than I and I wasn’t sure if his fear of me would equal into him attacking. But there was something very special about this puppy (read: dog of six years old or older who was quite cuddly and thought he could climb on my lap even though he weighed more than I).  He had not been fixed and likely had never been vaccinated. But his eyes were the most loving and tender of any animal I had ever seen. I could not resist him, even though I thought his habit of using his front legs to push rocks behind him so he could chase them was odd.

I brought him home and we named him Ruger.

I am writing this to tell you that by saving this older dog and letting him be adopted, you gave him a wonderful and loving two years of life and you gave my family memories we will cherish forever.

It took some training, but it wasn’t long before I tricked Ruger into thinking I was tougher than he and to teach him the humans were in charge. He never stole food from the kids, he never tried to bite or attack anyone but he would tear through the dog door into the backyard and give his ferocious bark anytime someone came too close to his family and property. He was protective without being dangerous.

He was loving and playful, and learned how to be a service dog to a child diagnosed with anxiety among other things.  He didn’t like certain people and let me know it without being aggressive. He loved other people and let them know with kisses. He played with the kids and wore them out constantly. He taught our family more than I would have expected and while some warned me that I shouldn’t adopt an older puppy because they don’t live long, I couldn’t have picked a better dog for our family.

While I wish Ruger could have given us five or six years, the two years he was with us were filled with great memories. And I’m so grateful Ruger had a family that loved him and took care of him during his final days.

One month ago, as all moms do, I noticed when Ruger began acting differently. It was that same gut feeling I had when my son had his car accident. His appetite was decreasing and he was trying to sleep on the kids’ beds at night even though he knew he wasn’t allowed on the furniture. After a month of vet visits and careful watching, an x-ray showed us Ruger had a tumor and advanced liver cancer. There wasn’t much we could do but love him and keep him comfortable until it was time to give him peace.

Today, we said a tearful goodbye to Ruger. And while my heart is breaking, I had to take a moment to say thank you for giving us the last two years. And thank you to everyone who chooses to adopt senior puppies and let them live their remaining years with a family to love them.

The 30-Day Challenge

There is this odd thing that happens when you turn 30. My mom had warned me for years that my high metabolism would eventually go away and I would actually have to start taking care of myself and skin. It took until I was 31, but overnight I noticed it. I woke up and did my morning normal routine and there it was. Staring at me in the face like a pimple on the tip of your nose.

Yep you guess it… aging spot and pesky crowsfeet.

Not only could I eat anything I wanted without seeing some kind of result (generally negative), and I could no longer keep up with my kids. I was losing energy and losing it fast also my skin is feeling it too.

It didn’t take long to realize that I was going to have to watch my diet and exercise a few times a week. And after starting a nice routine, I found a good balance in weight and energy. And then just when I hit my peak and I was in a nice routine and hitting the gym, life did what life does. It got stressful. Over time life piled up on me and I was slowly letting it take over.

By the end of 2013, I had completely lost my motivation.

I’m not sure if it was the cold weather and the snow, or just a general lack of desire to do much after the holiday excitement dissipated; but my every-other-day workout routine was non-existent and I was in hibernation mode. I was tired and I wasn’t eating as healthy as I had previously, and that general lack of care was showing.

So when our morning meteorologist Liz emailed me the 30-day challenge, I accepted. I had written out my 2014 goals and getting back into my exercise routine was on the list. While the workout challenge wasn’t exactly a hard-hitting workout per se, it was a daily reminder that being active is important. And I felt accountable to Liz to complete it once I started. Plus, after spending the last two months with half-attempted workouts, I thought starting off small and slowly building up each and every day would get my motivation going again.

I started February 1st and I’m already noticing a difference. I’m more awake and alert, and I have a better attitude in general about being physically active. And not to mention that my abs ached a little on day 3 which was also a sign that I had definitely let my lack of exercise get out of hand.

I’m sharing the 30-day challenge with you for those who would like to join us. My hope is that after 30 days, not only will I feel more energy, but that I will have a renewed love for exercise like I did prior to the holidays.

Helping Your Child Improve Grades

I once heard “If you care more about your kids grades than he or she does, there’s a problem.”

I used to put too much stock into that quote. If I was honest with myself, I didn’t care one iota about my grades as a kid so should it really surprise me if one of my offspring doesn’t either?

The truth is, my kids don’t have to care. But they do have to finish. And they have to finish with grades that match their abilities. So when my 8th grader, who recently tested at an 11th grade level in math, comes home with a C in the class, I start to care a lot more than if he brought home a C in English (a subject he detests because it doesn’t come naturally to him). And I definitely care more than he does.

I would prefer straight As of course because it would broaden his college scholarship opportunities, but if school isn’t his top priority, that tends to be a lot to ask. And I don’t want a teen so focused on perfect grades that I cause anxiety and a perfection level so high that he feels he can never reach it.

The problem we’ve had is that schooling isn’t a priority at all sometimes for my kids. And that’s frustrating. I’ve been trying to find ways to help them, and I spent years banging my head against the wall until I found a groove that worked for each child and myself. It took several years. So I thought I would share some ideas for parents going through what I’ve experienced over the last eight years and what I’ve learned.

The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my own lack of inconsistency. I would try something for too short of a time and my kids learned they could just wait me out and I’d give in. So if my rule was that homework had to be done immediately following school or practice, then my kids would do it for a few days and then eventually go straight from school/practice to the video games. I didn’t enforce my rules after a few days/weeks and often forgot what rules I had made.

The other problems we had consisted of:

– Letting my kids negotiate too much;

– Me not understanding their homework;

– Allowing too many after school activities;

– Vision impairments;

– Keeping their schedules too full.

To further their struggles, both of my children had gone through a difficult and traumatic event that we had no control over and could not prevent. They were overloaded with dealing with that emotional stress and school was not something they could focus on.

Over the years we’ve learned how to work through these life issues and a lot of it was thanks to Empowering Parents. I receive their parental advice via email and no longer say to my kids, “That’s life and it can be really brutal” or “When I was a kid …” Because my kids don’t respond to that. Besides their children – they need to understand how it affects them, not me. I can teach empathy a different way.

One of the best suggestions I came across was from a mom who commented on Empowering Parents Facebook page. She was mocked and ridiculed by other parents but I instantly recognized her ingenious and how this would help my kids. If the students had all As, clearly they’ve got this and just need check ups from mom or dad. Bs mean they need some guidance. Cs or below means they need daily guidance or tutoring. It was a lot of work to follow through on that idea, but it really helped. So did these other tips:

– Get vision screenings. A child who can’t see tends to not do well in school. We do yearly vision check ups. When I wait even six extra months, his contact prescription changes drastically and I didn’t realize he couldn’t see anything.

– Evaluate what’s going on in the house/home life. When one child’s grades dropped in every subject across the board, I knew it wasn’t one class bringing him down. Other signs included not eating or sleeping well and being quick to anger. Find what’s going on and resolve the issue or your child will struggle for many years. Sometimes, school isn’t the issue. Something greater in the child’s life at home is the culprit.

– What’s going on at school? Same as above but start asking teachers what they’re seeing in the hallways and find the issue or concern your child is having. It’s incredibly difficult for a student to learn when their personal life is in shambles.

– Did the subject matter become difficult? I hate math. I got lost somewhere around division and never recovered. When my kids struggle in a subject, it’s generally because they tripped up on a new equation. Once they learn it, they can usually continue on as normal. Don’t wait too long or they will have a hard time catching up. If you don’t understand the subject, reach out to family or help your child set up tutoring times with the teacher. I’ve never had a teacher say no to helping for a half hour after or before school. Once my son figures out the new equation, he moves through math pretty easily from there.

– Are you talking to the teachers? To your child? Every day after I pick up my kids from practice and while I make dinner, we talk about the day. I talk to one child at a time. We bring up PowerSchool and open backpacks and binders. We go one class at a time and I find out which assignments were turned in and which are due soon. Sometimes I find completed assignments left in the binder and not turned in and we talk about it. I ask about grades that are doing well and I email teachers for updates. After dinner, I sit down and we go through homework together. Each child gets a chance to talk uninterrupted and then during dinner we talk as a family. It’s A LOT of time and effort and I’m exhausted but it really works. I start with the oldest because the youngest is more willing to open up after he sees his brother do it. Also, he is so excited for his own “mom time” by the time I’m done talking to the oldest that the youngest opens up about school quickly without me feeling like I’m dragging it out of him.

– Don’t nag about school in the morning. I always wanted to talk about grades before school because it was on my mind. But it stressed out my teen so bad it would turn into a full blown argument. Now I wait until after he’s had time to calm down. After school or before bed generally works for us. There’s no reason to start  a fight at a time of day you know will stress out your child. Then it becomes an argument over respect to parents, not a calm discussion about schoolwork.

– Set up rewards and limits. I now write down the rules. Anything below a B means no PlayStation on school nights. Above a B means it is limited to 30 minutes a day after I’ve checked homework. I also end electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. So sometimes video games just don’t happen. Anything below a C means no video games on weekends either. Stick to your rules and most kids will work to bring their grades up. The punishment should be centered around the issue. I don’t say, “You’re grounded for a week because of grades.” I say,  “You’re grounded until grades are …” And I write it down.

– Let you child have natural life consequences. Sometimes having to  attend Saturday school or retake an entire class can remind your child that they have consequences for not doing the work. Those consequences can change an attitude quicker than a nagging parent. If it doesn’t, I suggest seeking help from a school counselor, therapist or your child’s pediatrician.

Now that I sacrifice a great deal of time each night to their school work, we work together better and my kids’ grades and interest in school has greatly improved. I’m amazed that they are once again excited to tell me about their day and what happened at school.

The Car Accident | Between Broadcasts

I ran, right into the road myself without looking because at that moment there is no common sense for safety when your child has been hit by a car. I picked him up and carried him out of the street.

It was a hot summer day. I have never tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but I imagine on this particular 4th of July, it would have worked.

Summers in southern Utah are always hot and it was no surprise that this day was particularly bad. When most parents are telling their kids to play outside, we were telling our children to get inside with the air conditioning. That’s almost impossible on a holiday when there are parades, cotton candy stands and several events to attend.

My oldest had just turned eight and I was several months along awaiting the arrival of my second child. We were outside waiting to climb on one of the floats to lead the parade. Our small southern town was home to about 5,000 residents and an organized 4th of July was one of the things it was lacking. Cars were everywhere. Luckily, in small towns, there is still a lot of common sense. We were used to driving slow, stopping at any moment down the main street because a family of chickens will cross the road whenever they please. Not kidding.

This was before my son became a teenager and riding his bike was more cool than the Playstation. But he was also a kid. We were in the police station parking lot which was directly across from my home. I told my son to put his bike in the garage so we could get on the float. I turned my back after hearing a parade volunteer call my name. Then I heard the shouts.

There were no brakes screeching, the mayor’s car had not been driving that fast. But I saw the look on the face of my former sister-in-law, staring in horror at the scene playing behind me. I turned, already knowing I was going to dread what I saw. Already knowing, from some maternal instinct, that it was something I never wanted to see as a mother.

One shoe was gone. His bike had been thrown. He was hobbling toward me saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t be mad.”

In that moment my only thoughts were: “He’s walking, he’s talking. It can’t be that bad.” And then I ran, right into the road myself without looking because at that moment there is no common sense for safety when your child has been hit by a car. I picked him up and carried him out of the street. Then I talked to him calmly, telling him it was OK, and no, he was not grounded. I told him not to move.

The scene around me was blurred and my only sense working clearly in that moment was my hearing. I couldn’t see anything other than my son looking up at me with dirt covering his camouflaged BDU’s I had bought them the year before. He liked the military gear that resembled the fact that both of his parents had once been security forces in the Air Force.

But I could hear everything around me. I heard the mayor telling an officer he had hit my son with his car. I heard the officer on his radio calling in an ambulance. I heard someone clicking away with a camera. Family members were asking what they could do. And then I heard the ambulance sirens.

The paramedics cut his BDUs and my son complained. I was telling him I would buy him new ones; these ones were too small anyway. He was so calm and I figured there couldn’t be any broken bones, but I still worried, as a parent always does. What if there was internal bleeding? What if he had a concussion and that’s why he wasn’t talking much? And where the heck did his shoe go?

They cut off his bike helmet and loaded him on the stretcher. I sat in the front seat and watched him behind me. He was completely calm. Right up until they put the IV in his arm in which he screamed bloody murder before the needle was even within an inch of his skin. And then I text my family. I didn’t exactly want to deal with it alone but my calm text (He was hit by a car. He’s alert and awake and so far the damage can’t be that serious.) spread like wildfire through my family across the U.S. and was interpreted like this: He was hit by a car and he’s going to die.

Every test at the hospital came back normal. He was completely fine. His bike helmet probably saved his life, the doctor told me. That bike helmet that he had begged me to let him not wear because it wasn’t cool and none of his friends wore them anyway. We were both glad he lost that argument. The mayor had been going less than 10 miles an hour according to a police investigation by another city. My son had pulled out in front of a parked fire truck. He had stopped before the truck, but not after, and neither he nor the mayor saw the other. The car insurance companies battled it out for several months, but eventually they both paid the hospital and ambulance bills.

It was an accident. Accidents happen. But he was my son and for a moment, I thought he was going to die.

That was five years ago and today the only thing that concerns me is when my son tells people, “I survived getting hit by a car. That’s how tough I am,” as if he’s invincible and can survive anything. Just a few months ago he crashed a pocket bike going pretty slowly with a worried mother standing guard, again hitting his head, and again getting saved by a helmet. I don’t want my children living in fear (although I have pretty much banned all pocket bikes and anything that resembles a motorcycle), and so I let them do things knowing accidents happen. But I also don’t believe in being reckless.

As spring comes upon us and our children head out to play, the one thing I ask of you is to make wearing a helmet a mandatory rule in your house. It saved my child and it can save yours. Because no matter how careful you are, accidents happen.

DIY Distressed Hall Table | Between Broadcasts

Several years ago I purchased an adorable hallway table from Target and over several years it has been put to great use, even doubling as a computer desk at one point.

Years of cleaning and moves have worn out the poor table and I nearly got rid of it last month. I’m really glad I didn’t! A lot of TLC and a little paint have given the table a whole new life.

When I decided I wanted to try refurbishing the table, I knew instantly that I wanted something distressed in an antique white. I began researching how to do it and found paint you can put over a piece of furniture to distress it without having to strip it, sand it, etc…… AND Sgt. Gummy Bears (as my coworkers have taken to calling my Marine because he likes me enough to bring 3 pound bags of gummy bears to my office) was not having any of that.

He wanted to do it the right way. (Read, the long way).

The steps:

The table was first stripped and scraped which sounds much harder than it looked but included several steps in itself. (Make sure to wear gloves)

Next, he sanded it with steel wool and rubbed paraffin on the edges where the table naturally gets worn. The point of the wax is to prevent the paint from adhering to the wood.

From there, he used the antique white paint I purchased at Home Depot. The table only took one coat which was nice. Once it was dry, course steel wool was used to remove the wax, thus giving the distressed look. The table was then lightly sanded as well to complete the distressed look.

Now was the hard part, I wanted to immediately put the polyurethane on the table and then get it in the house. Nope. Sgt. Gummy Bears said the paint had to cure properly, which meant letting the table sit for an entire week. An entire week I had to see this beautiful table sit in my garage and I could not bring it into my house.

But once the week past, I put two coats of polyurethane over the table over the course of two days. A little goes a long way and I had to do some light sanding to remove the excess polyurethane in between coats.

But finally, after more than a week, my newly distressed table is in the hallway covered in framed pictures of my kids.

I spent about $60 on materials for a table that cost me about $120 many years ago. It was definitely worth it and I’m glad I didn’t toss it and spend more money on a brand new one. I also have tons of materials left and have already started going through the house deciding which piece of furniture to do next.