Goodbye, Lizzie...

Yesterday our family had to say goodbye to one our beloved pets: Lizzie, one of our two Dumbo rats. She was a little over two years old, and she was such a sweetheart. Yes, I know, most of you are probably cringing over the idea of having a rodent for a pet, which I do understand, as rats are usually known for being pests that infest busy urban hubs. In fact, I wasn't too thrilled about getting them in the first place, but we all do strange things to make our kids happy. Lizzie and Casey proved me wrong, and they quickly warmed my heart. First of all, we were able to potty train them. How cool is that! They both had their own unique personalities, and they were very affectionate and friendly. I loved watching them run around Jeromy's room, playing and climbing, always willing to let us humans pet them and nuzzle them.

Unfortunately, Lizzie developed a mammary tumor which started to show about a 1 1/2 months ago. We knew then that she wouldn't have too long to live, and that having it cut off was pretty much pointless because she was already so old, and plus, according to our vet, about 80% of the time they do grow back immediately. So putting her tiny body through that would have been cruel. We decided it was best to just watch her and let her live out the rest of her time with us as joyfully and happily as possible. Up until about a week ago she was managing with the tumor fine. It had grown slowly, but she was still very mobile and agile. However, this past week, the tumor grew so rapidly, that by yesterday morning it was twice the size of her head. Also, Lizzie was nipping more when you touched her, and she didn't want to be touched or held, which believe me, is so NOT normal for her. At that point we knew what we had to do, so we called the vet and scheduled a time in the early evening to bring her in to be put to sleep. As painful as this decision was, we knew that we couldn't continue to watch her suffer and deteriorate in pain. The only human thing to do was to give her a way to pass on peacefully. Thanks to our wonderful vet, we were able to give that one last act of love and mercy to Lizzie. Jer and I said our goodbyes to her at home, and Daddy took her to the vet, where he got to say his final goodbye. Because Dr. T. sedated her before putting her to sleep, Daddy got the chance to pet her a little, and tell her that we loved her and would miss her, and she would be going on to a better place, one without pain and suffering.

As any of you parents can imagine, helping your child go through the death of a beloved pet is one of the hardest things to do. Jeromy was of course distraught, as Lizzie was very much a friend and companion for him. But I have to say, and I'm not trying to brag here, but he handled it with so much strength and courage. Of course he cried and said how hard it was, how much he would miss her, but he actually said to me, "Mom, I love her and I'll miss her, but I'm kinda glad that she can go to heaven now where she won't be in pain anymore." That kind of unconditional love and compassion is not always evident people, but it always amazes me how easily it can be found in the hearts and minds of children. We had a round cardboard box that I let Jer decorate while Daddy was at the vet's with Lizzie, and he wrote her a note, too, plus he wanted to include a picture of her. Wrapped in a small blanket, we placed Lizzie in the box, then we went out and buried her. Jer was so brave as he placed the box in the hole Daddy had dug, said goodbye softly, then fell in my arms where I just held him and let him cry.

So this post is dedicated to you, Lizzie, our loving and funny little rat... we will miss you terribly. I will miss seeing you climb up Jeromy's shelves only to swan dive back to the ground. You were always so fearless, so curious, and always ready for playtime. We will take care of Casey for you, and make sure she doesn't get lonely in her cage, though I know she will miss you too. Thank you for being such a great friend to my Jeromy, and we will never forget you.

UPDATE & Worldess Wednesday: Marvel Edition

Yea, I know, this is supposed to be a Wordless Wednesday post, but it just wouldn't feel right unless I say a huge THANK YOU to all my lovely blog friends who've expressed concerns and prayers for my community. The good news is that repairs and reconstruction are underway, however many homes are still uninhabitable. Fortunately my community is very good at rallying to help one another, so although it's a slow and tedious process, everyone is coming together to get the job done.

Ok, now on to Wordless Wednesday:

Welcome to Wordless Wednesday! The pictures I post for this meme all have a story (usually a hiliarous one) to it, but instead of telling you that story, I'd love for you to tell me what you think would be a great caption for the photo(s). I know, it sounds like I'm asking you to do work. But hey, it'll be fun! And join me.... just grab the button on my sidebar and start your own Wordless Wednesday series!

October, 2005

What do you think this photo says? Please, do tell!

Major Water Main Break In My Community!!

(I took this photo from my TV)

I was really hoping to do a giveaway for my 100th post, but instead I'm posting to report a horrible event going on in my town: a HUGE water main break caused by a collapsed highway has caused massive flooding, not very far from where I live. Cars are submerged almost completely under water, homes are flooding, and people are being evacuated by boat. People are wading in waist-deep water to try and get out to dry land, and many people will be displaced from their damaged homes for quite a while. Hubby's best friend Doug lives not very far from where the flooding is. Although his home is safe for now and has not flooded, he will not have power, gas or water in his home for several hours. My father in law will be out of work for a while since the grocery store where he works is located right across the street from the highway that collapsed and caused the water main break, and it is now completely flooded. This is going to cause millions of dollars worth of damage, and our community will be feeling the effects of this for several months. Please, my blogger friends, keep our community in your prayers.

For more information, please visit THIS NEWS SITE.

"Aloha, cousins!" - Polynesian Resort

These are the scrapbook pages I've recently completed:

Photos taken: October, 2008 - Disney World, Florida
Scrapped: Um, a few days ago.. yes, I'm a bit behind!

The inspiration to scrap seems to hit me in phases. Sometimes I'll go months in between completed pages, and other times I'll go whole weeks with page after completed page. I just had to share these with y'all because they are some of my favorite pics from our vacation last year. Stitch is my son's favorite Disney character, and the first thing we got to do at Disney World was meet Lilo, Stitch, Goofy, and Mickey at a character breakfast at the Polynesian Resort. And it was a great way to start an awesome vacation. I hope y'all enjoy these pics as much as I enjoyed scrapping them!

Week One Down...Several More To Go

This post is to share with you all how the first week of home-school here in Casa de Bliss (well, at least I like to think of home that way) went. The difference between last year and this year is so dramatically apparent already. There was no crying, no whining, no wanting to crawl in the fetal position.... and Jeromy did very well too. As I had posted before, we decided to do things different this year by not using a pre-made, pre-boxed curriculum, and I am now fully in charge and in control of what and how Jeromy learns. Instead of going on and on about the numerous things that we are just loving about this year (and you all know I'm long-winded!), here's a short break down of our top five (in random order) reasons this year's homschooling is, quite simply, DA-BOMB-DIGGITY!...

FREEDOM - I love having the feeling of having total reign and control of how our school day is gonna go. It takes more work on my part in terms of lesson planning, but it is sooooo worth it.

FLEXIBILITY - I love that if I think a particular assignment or reading seems redundant and unnecessary, I can just say, "HAH! Don't have to do it, 'cause that's how we roll! Mwahahaa!!"

AFFORDABILITY - Yea, I gotta tell ya, it's so awesome not shelling out over a thousand bucks for a pre-made curriculum.

NO TEARS - Yes, like I mentioned before, there are no tears this year.... well, at least not yet.

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENTS - There has been such a wonderful shift in Jeromy's attitude towards school now that his studies are so much more geared towards his learning style. He is always so excited to start school now, unlike last year, when the mere mention of "Calvert" made him break out into hives.

And you fellow homeschoolers out there, I'd love to hear how your homeschooling is going this year. Or if you don't homeschool, I'd still love to know how your week has been!

Maryland State Fair

Yes, my lovelies, I am back! It's been a very busy time for the family and I these past few days, what with last-minute summer outings and getting ready for another fabulous home school year to start. The good news is that we're off to a great start. It's so much more relaxed and calm now that I'm in charge of the entire curriculum, versus using a pre-made one that drove us nuts last year. But before school could start, the guys and I had a great time at the annual Maryland State Fair, thanks to some free tickets that our friend Bo gave us. Thanks man, you rock! We hadn't been to the Fair in almost five years, so this was a real treat. Here are some pics from our fun trip:

Ready for takeoff...

"Dad, we're flying! Woo-hoo!"

No matter how big he gets, the giant slide is always something
Jer has to go down at every carnival or fair.

"Nothing cools you down like a rainbow slushie!"

A few prize cows.
Jer got to pet a 3-day old pig.

Aw, how could you not love this face!

Bye everyone! See you at next year's fair!

This was great way to spend our last official day of summer. Now that fall has arrived, we have a great school year, cooler weather, and beautiful fall holidays to look forward to. More on those later!

So has your autumn been so far?

Before & After: Jeromy and Kim

Taken in the Fall of 2004
Jeromy was about 4 years old, Kim was about 12 or 13.
Kim was a blue belt in karate, and Jer was a white belt.

Just barely a teenager, Kim was already on her way to being an assistant instructor to her dad, who was the Sensei of the school. Even then she was playing a vital role in helping the younger students learn the karate techniques, always making them feel comfortable, and explaining things at their level to make sure they understood. And even at this age, her skills as a 'child whisperer' were evident. All the little karate kids would flock to her because they knew she always had a warm hug and smile for them.

Jeromy was just starting out, a bit terrified of course, but Kim was always there to make him feel comfortable, and guide him patiently through every step of the way. He was so cute in his little karate uniform, and I loved watching him learn not just karate moves, but self-confidence and discipline. These two became fast friends, and Jer looked up to her as an example.

Summer of 2009
Jeromy is almost 9 years old, and Kim is 17.
Kim has earned her black belt in Mixed Martial Arts, and Jeromy his blue belt.

Five years later, and these two are still great friends, closer than ever. Kim is a full-fledged instructor at her Dad's school, and she has remained a very important part of instructing the younger students. This young woman, as tough a warrior as she is, has perfected her gentle assertiveness, and the little mma kids still continue to flock to her, because she has never run out of warm hugs and smiles for them.

Jeromy has come a long way since his white belt days, and not just in his knowledge of mixed arts techniques. He's learned much more important elements of the art: confidence, discipline, respect, humility, and compassion. Following Kim's example, he's been known to help out students of a younger age and/or lower rank. I still love to watch him as he practices techniques, throws, and even the ground fighting (the ju jitsu portion of the class).

I've watched these two grow so much in the past five years, and how they've grown closer in that time. Kim works as a lifeguard at the pool where her mom, my BFF Lisa, has been generous enough to take us this summer. And when Kim isn't on life guard duty, she and Jer enjoy hanging out and swimming.

I know these two will be friends for a long time. And I must say, I can think of no better friend to have my Jeromy's back than a kind, strong, and loving young woman like Kim.

Ft. McHenry

I've lived in Baltimore for almost nine years now, and I had no idea that a historical treasure was a quick 8-minute car ride away from where I live. Our homeschool group went on a field trip to Fort McHenry yesterday, and we had such a blast. It was a beautiful day, too. The sun was out, so it was nice and warm, but a cool steady breeze kept us company the whole time, making it a very pleasant outing.

The wonderful National Park Service Rangers and volunteers made our trip both educational and super-fun. They started by showing our group a short movie about the Defense of Baltimore and the Battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Then one of the Park Rangers talked to the kids more about the Fort, followed by a guided tour of the star-shaped fort.

Statue of Commander George Armistead

Afterwards we all explored the grounds and the buildings, all the while learning about the great history of Fort McHenry.

Heading into the bomb shelter...

and having fun making loud echoing sounds in the bomb shelter.

The room where they kept all the!

My son sitting on a bomb...never thought I'd say that without panicking, he he!

Then another Park Ranger brought out a life-size replica of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry the night that Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone in the group participated in discussion of why that flag is so significant, and what it still represents today.

This was really a great way to start our school year. Jer and I both learned so much, and we've both gained a much greater perspective of how historically significant our fair city is. It's made us both appreciate it even more. We're both looking forward to exploring more historical landmarks here in Charm City.

Now here's a trivia question for YOU:
Without looking it up (meaning NO CHEATING!), how many stars and stripes were on the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry the night Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner?