the beginning of riley’s story

Back in 2004, I took a trip down to Jordan, Minnesota, with a friend of mine so she could visit with a litter of puppies. I was along for moral support, because I lived in a house with two roommates, already had the daunting responsibility of taking care of two tortoises and also didn’t really like dogs all that much anyway. They pee on things, smell bad and their hair gets all over the place. Even their food smells bad. No thanks. But I will, however, take a mini-road trip down Highway 169, look at the two puppies that were remaining and take pictures of them because anything that tiny is cute, whether it’s going to poop on my shoe or not.

My friend decided one of the puppies we met was destined to be hers. The other one was this guy:

LOOK AT THAT FACE. Is that not the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen in your life?

I couldn’t get that wrinkly, pink-nosed face out of my mind for one hot minute. I some how struck a deal with my friends that had adopted his brother. I don’t know how it happened, but TWO WEEKS after not being able to get this puppy out of my mind, I was making a deposit on him. My incredibly generous friends were going to let him live there until I ended up in a dog-friendly apartment and there wasn’t any type of time constraint at all. Hello, gigantic amazing and fortunate gesture that I could never possibly repay.

After a few months, I finally found a place of my own and, since then, we’ve only been apart a few days at a time. From apartment to apartment and from house to house, this guy’s been my consistent since about three years after I moved to Minnesota. He’s been with me through job changes, deaths, moves, pain, successes, failures, relationship mistakes, love, adding to our family and a baby. He’s logged thousands of miles in my car with me and fooled people into thinking he’s a vicious guard dog.

He’s some kind of master of escape which leads him to becoming the master of disaster. He stays in a gigantic kennel when we’re gone, which is held together by an extra carabiner and multiple industrial strength zip ties. Otherwise, he’s been known to open cabinets and knock cans of food out of it, open cans of wet cat food and eat the contents, examine everything in every trash can and lock himself in the bathroom. Evidence from 2005:

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Riley, who’s never bitten anyone or anything in his entire life, has a hatred for mailmen that runs deep through is veins. He sounds like he might come through the window anytime a mailman would approach the house. And once he did. It didn’t help matters that the mailman was a jackass and yelled and barked at him every day. (Nice hiring decision, USPS.) Straight throw the window. Busted that whole thing out. Then ran around the house in a panic turning our whole first floor into what looked like a murder scene from Dexter. Wound up with a ton of stitches in both front legs and had to wear the cone of shame for a long time. He used that cone like a battering ram and everyone had bruises on their shins to prove it.

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Our maillady at our hold house pushed the door open on accident once and then ran down the sidewalk screaming that Riley bit her. Except… Riley’s eight teeth are the size of Chiclets and SHUT UP. HE DID NOT. (Rumor has it she did this to everyone in the neighborhood. So, again, improve your hiring practices, USPS.)

This dog. He spent a handful of training sessions with a pit bull that had some severe dog aggression. Riley was there because he’s Riley. Dog near me? That’s cool. He got to sit for an hour and eat Vienna sausages out of my hand. We fostered over 50 dogs and cats and he was the sweetest, gentlest thing to all of them.

My grandpa calls him Rilo and, once, we surprised them with a visit and let Riley go to the door first. My grandpa didn’t say hi to the rest of us for at least half an hour. My grandpa also watches the Weather Channel so he knows what the temperature is at Rilo’s house. He’s also taken to calling him One Eye recently. Weirdo.

If someone doesn’t immediately fall in love with Riley when they meet him, then I’m pretty sure their soul is dead and their heart is a dirty piece of coal.

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His time is limited to less than two weeks due to a tumor in his chest that’s causing fluid build up in his entire chest cavity. To go with that, there’s an enlarged prostate, a bladder that just won’t empty and some pretty rough arthritis in his spine and down into his back legs. I don’t want to lose him, but I won’t be selfish with him in any capacity. He’s never been selfish towards me and has given me 10.5 great, great years. I’ll honor him by making sure he can leave the physical world with dignity and without excruciating pain.

I don’t have any regrets when it comes to my time with Riley. My friend Angie said it best today. He’s been a constant through years of change, my rock through a lot of good times and bad times and he’s earned his place in wherever it is that dogs go when they’re not sleeping on my couch anymore. In my mind, he’ll meet my grandma and my grandpa. He won’t have to worry about my step grandpa breaking his ribs because he pets him so hard. He’ll have unlimited soft tacos with no lettuce from Taco Bell, puppy cups from Dairy Queen and puppuccinos from Starbucks.

He’s a good one. There won’t ever be another one.

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here’s 2015

I only do this every year when Chele does it, because that’s the only way I can remember to do it. Thanks for being my blogging reminder, lady!

What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

  • Drove from Minneapolis to Key West
  • Mistook a dog barking for a chicken
  • Went to Disney World and Universal Studios
  • Saw manatees in the wild
  • Bought a house (!!!)
  • Celebrated my son’s 1st birthday
  • Watched the 18 year old graduate high school and head off to college
  • Got a snow blower (hey, that’s a big deal for a Minnesotan!)
  • A bunch of really intense work projects that increased by knowledge by one billion
  • Took a baby massage class
  • Went to something called MOMMYCON
  • Got my hair cut at a barber
  • Watched the Lynx win the WNBA Championship in person
  • Missed a flight
  • Saw Salt n Pepa live
  • Camped in the back of my car

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?

Nope. I never make any.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Cindi and Adam, a handful of pretty great co-workers, probably some people I’m forgetting

Did anyone close to you die?

My friend Angie’s mom, who was a complete mom to me growing up. That was hard.

What countries did you visit?

USA. USA. USA. Amelia’s getting her passport in 2016, so that will hopefully change.

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

Travel. Gym time. Self-care. Mindfulness.

What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My son’s first birthday. The week I drove almost 2000 miles. Our Disney vacation.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Raising Ozzy. I mean, I managed to do my part in keeping him alive. I’ll call that an achievement. Lots of work stuff. Buying a house.

What was your biggest failure?

Man, I dropped my wife’s brand new phone in the parking lot of Animal Kingdom the second day of our Disney vacation. TOTAL FAILURE.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nah. Weird virus thing a couple of weeks ago was about it.

What was the best thing you bought?

Our house.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

My wife’s. Always my wife’s. My grandma’s.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Ugggh. So many that it really bothers me to think about it. I don’t know if having a kid makes you more critical of people and the way they treat others, but it really did for me. People that treat others with disrespect appalls me and depresses me. Be nice to each other, you guys. Be truthful to those you love.

Where did most of your money go?

OUR HOUSE. Pictures of Ozzy.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our house. I wasn’t super excited when we started looking, but once someone told us this house was ours, I was SO excited. Helping Jenni and Matt move was exciting, because I got to be a part of their super awesome adventure of moving to Key West.

What song will always remind you of 2015?

I have a 9 minute commute now and I can’t remember the songs I heard this morning. SO NONE. Maybe the theme song to every Disney Junior cartoon or the soundtrack to Descendants. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) Fatter or thinner: Somehow close to the same.
b) Richer or poorer: A little poorer, because listen, liars, it’s not cheaper to buy than it is to rent.
c) Happier or less happy: Happier.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spent alone time with my wife. Traveled. Spent more time being present. Tried new things.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Focusing on other people’s issues when they don’t directly impact me. Not walking away from relationships or conversations earlier opposed to later.

How did you spend Christmas?

In Sedalia, making two visits a day to the hospital to visit my 91 year old grandpa who broke his ankle on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t the Christmas I had planned, but it was my Christmas and I loved every minute of it.

Did you fall in love in 2015?

If you’re with someone and you don’t fall in love every year, you’re doing it way wrong. Yes. Yes, I did.

What was your favorite TV program?

Bloodline, Transparent, VEEP

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I try not to hate because that’s a terrible word. Plenty of people who I dislike, but it’s not their fault they happen to be turds.

What was the best book you read?

Gillian Flynn books. I don’t know if it was because it was a gigantic break from school or what, but I just liked them. I also read books by Jay McLean and Shae Scott, both self-published authors on Amazon and it was like straight candy reading their books. Very much needed during school!

What was your greatest musical discovery of 2015?

I got nothin’. Really.

What did you want and get?

There wasn’t anything I was really yearning for. I wanted a happy year and, for the most part, it was.

What did you want and not get?

FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

What was your favorite film of this year?

We didn’t see a lot this year… baby and all. We opted for binge watching TV shows at home instead of movies.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 37, which doesn’t bother me one single bit. I get weirded out when people freak out about their age. You can’t stop it, dude. Accept it. I think we went to Lemongrass as a family, but I was still in major sleep loss mode for the first few months of the year.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Unlimited paid parental leave. Get with the program, America.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

Biz casz during the week and cargos/jeans and t-shirts/thermals off the clock. Ain’t nothing changed about that for years.

What kept you sane?

Family. Therapist. Medication. Two different stints of ocean time.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

People that aren’t dicks and stand up for what they believe is truly right.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Racism. Guns. Refugees. (Please see above recommendation to be nice to each other.)

Who did you miss?

Jenni and Matt. My family in Missouri (gets harder when your grandparents get older and you have a baby that everyone loves). My grandparents that have passed.

Who was the best new person you met?

Uhhh. I can’t really pick one, I don’t think. Our realtor was pretty rad. Probably some new co-workers could fit the bill.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:

Do you. Always do you. It’s hard to understand that when you’re young, but you’ll get to a point – maybe when you’re 12 or maybe when you’re 80 – that it finally feels good to do that.

downsizing our christmas shopping this year 

Before you get too proud of us for not being all about material things and not spending money on gaudy wrapping paper and deciding not to send out Christmad cards, hold on a sec.

We travel to Missouri for Christmas each year, with our boys and our dogs. We upgraded our car a month or so before Oz was born and that was one thing we kept in mind when car shopping. Last year, even without the teenager in tow, we had that damn thing packed to the gills. This year, the teenager is scheduled to travel with us, SO EXPECT GIFT CARDS, FAMILY.

I LOVE to buy things for people. All the time, for any reason. I have to be careful around the holidays or I’m likely to go broke buying coffee for the people behind me and buying dinner for the old guy that’s eating by himself. My point in mentioning this to reiterate how seriously difficult it is for me to not want to buy the people in my life ALL of the things.

This year, we’re trying to stick to a four present plan of attack for the boys like this review by TechTage:

  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read

I’m sure you’ve seen it on the Internet, but sometimes the Internet has really good ideas, guys! Whether or not Ozzy needs a 3-in-1 tricycle is yet to be seen, but what does he know? He’s 13 months old. He knows the toilet seems like a great place to splash in and we’re currently hiding the remote in the Christmas tree to hide it from him, so I’m not giving him a lot of credit right now.

Always being away from home for Christmas might lead to some logistics related questions when it comes to Santa, so we’ve had a talk with that creepy old guy and he’s going to drop presents off in Sedalia in a smaller dosage. And no oranges. Please, Santa, don’t leave your rotten fruit in my kid’s stocking. Citrus and his digestive system aren’t friends yet. Give it some time.

We adopted people through the Aliveness Project again this year. This is at least the 11th year I’ve done it with Jenni, with the adding of spouses, friends, etc over the years. This is the first year we didn’t have a giant group shopping trip for it, so it was a little bit of a different vibe. And this was one area of Christmas where we didn’t scale down. We got to buy for five single guys this year, which means are dining room table is full of things like dress shirts, a flannel shirt, jeans, sweaters, gloves, hats, a toaster, baking sheets, wooden spoons, spatulas, pillows, and pillow cases. Those were the things they asked for which are the things they should just have and not worry about asking a charity for those.

We also tapped into the fun things they listed, like a book about a pro-wrestler, some DVDs, random Latino music CDs and a PlayStation 2 our pal Art is parting with for a pittance. We still need to buy a couple of winter coats this week before dropping everything off, so if you know of a crazy good deal somewhere in coats, pass it along!

(I don’t know where this post was going. I started it four days ago.)

watch me brag about my parenting skills

First off, I’m kidding.  I already had to call poison control once on this child of mine and I watched him hit the floor face first off the couch yesterday. I’m scratching all that up to normal wear and tear, dude. Gotta break something or force vomiting sometime in your life, you know what I mean?

But to earn my Parent of the Hour Award, I’ve been making him homemade muffins the past two Sundays. 

A little backstop on what prompted that: He’s on an iron supplement because, after two really pleasant blood draws, he’s showing up as anemic. No major concern for us, as he’s not showing any other concerning symptoms of anything worth any worry. We’re focusing more on iron rich foods and making him take this dirty feet tasting medicine every morning. 

We had a bunch of baby oatmeal and baby food hanging out in our cabinet, so Google led me to this recipe and then I modified it a bit since I’m apparently a non-racist Paula Deen and a non-jerkface Bobby Flay. And off to Flavor Town we go:

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup baby oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used whole)
  • 8 oz baby food (the jar or purée stuff)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. One bowl for the dry ingredients and one for the MOIST ones to mix ’em and then put them together. Ask your wife to come in and grease up the cupcake pan. It’ll give you enough for 12 muffins and then throw them in for 20 minutes. 

You can really use whatever you want for baby food. Last week, I used 4 ounces of sweet potatoes and 4 ounces of some apple, pear and squash combo. This week was more sweet potatoes and an exotic apple/prune mixture. You could also mash up a cup full of bananas if you had done lying around. They’re hella easy and even I haven’t screwed them up yet. 

BOOMSHAKALAKA. 

 

This guy approves:

 

  

so much to be thankful for this year

What’s dumb is that we, any of us, shouldn’t be waiting until Thanksgiving Day to post about the things we’re thankful for. I don’t know why we don’t take the time to realize and talk about the things that we really are thankful for each and every day. But all that aside, I’m going to jump on the ol’ Thanksgiving Day Thankful List right now, too.

  1. I’m thankful for my boys. The almost 13 month old that’s crawling around in turbo mode, refusing to say ‘mama’ and headbutts everyone and everything is everything I’ve dreamed about and more when it comes to being a parent. His contagious laugh, open-mouthed kisses and obsessive high fives continue to be the highlights of my every day. The 18.5 year old, although completely absent in my every day life, still makes me so proud of who he’s become as a man and how he continues to grow into his own person, tackling constant challenges that would cause most people to crumble and loving his brother so much that it makes my heart explode. IT WOULD BE NICE TO HEAR FROM HIM TIME TO TIME.
  2. I’m thankful for my wife. I don’t know, you guys, every single day I’m thankful for her and all that she does for me, our sons, herself, her family, you name it. She’s this person that will challenge and inspire you. And she’s this person that will love you, care for you and defend you until the very end. This year has been a doozy for the both of us with 12 trillion things going on at once, both incredibly awesome and really, really hard, but I can’t imagine going through it all with anyone else in the world.
  3. I’m thankful for my family. My parents have naturally morphed into grandparents, coming to visit twice in the last six month, trying to talk to their only grandson via speakerphone once a week and always checking in on him. Being the grandparents in a small town with a grandson that has two moms could be easily be a hard thing for them, but they seem to like this baby just a little bit. My brother continues to be this solid dude that I completely adore, which is a far cry from the little douche that carved swear words in the soap and blamed it on me. My brother’s girlfriend is such an amazing person and, despite the different last name and lack of ring on her finger, is such an important piece of our little family.
  4. I’m so thankful for my grandparents. They’re the people I want to grow up and be like. At 89 and 91, they’re still both just as whip smart as they’ve ever been and watching them spend time with their great grandson has been such a beautiful experience. I wish everyone were fortunate enough to have grandparents that are genuinely full of love, compassion and acceptance.
  5. I’m thankful for the rest of my family. My aunt and uncle who always welcome us into their home anytime we’re in town and are proud to talk about us and our family to anyone that listens. My cousin who’s always that person I can text about random crap, important stuff or completely offensive pictures. My other cousins, aunts and uncles from all over the place that are all around pretty great people.
  6. I’m thankful for my in-laws. I struck gold when I landed a mother-in-law that’s as amazing as mine. Whether she’s at our place or we’re at hers, it all falls into place likes we’ve been doing it for years. She’s crazy about her grandkids, can serve up an awesome meal for 10 in no time at all and works her tail off in everything she does. I’m thankful for a father-in-law that’ll give you the business in one breath and make baby sounds to his youngest grandson in the next. I’m thankful for my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew and niece. Who knew that four extra people could really help complete a whole family, you know?
  7. I’m thankful for my friends. Holy cow, am I thankful for my friends. No matter where they are, on the other side of the river or the other side of the country, whether I see them every day or every other year, I’ve hit the jackpot with all of them.
  8. I’m thankful for where I work. I left my old job to come to this one with the hope that they really followed their mission statement and, lo and behold, they sure as heck do. My co-workers are way rad and every single person in a leadership role have traits that I admire and aspire to be like.
  9. I’m thankful for the three domesticated beasts we have living in our house. The 10 year old boxer has the patience of a saint when it comes to the other dog, the cat or even the baby laying on him at nap time. For the past 10 years, there hasn’t been anyone else in my life I’ve let hog the bed as much as I do him. The tiny three year old dog that’s so anxious about everything in her life really is the sweetest thing in the world when it comes to our tiny family. Plus, she does a great job of keeping my butt warm in the middle of the night. The five year old surly tomcat that sits in the bathroom sink any chance he gets somehow just fits into this family in a way that just works.
  10. I’m thankful that I can sit in my living room with a roof over my head, a functioning furnace and a belly full of chicken and dumplings without worrying about how I’m going to afford to feed my family or get the healthcare my family might need. I’m thankful that worst of my problems is I only have two hours to write a five page paper. I’m thankful that I can live openly and honestly about who I am without being in constant fear. I’m thankful my family can do the same. I’m thankful for you.