Early pregnancy: first kid vs. second kid (oh, also, I’m pregnant again.)

wood-152

“Point to Mama’s belly, Connor! Point at the belly! Point! Ugh, okay, FINE. Let’s just get the shot.”

When Chris and I started down the path of Having Children (capital ‘H’, capital ‘C’) we agreed we both wanted “more than one.” How many more was generally left up to “let’s just see where we are after two and go from there.” The question of sibling spacing in our family was pretty firm, especially after I did a long, fully-researched, self-serving article for a publication on that exact subject. We knew we wanted our kids to be no closer than 2.5 years together. We would rather have them be further apart than what we considered “desirable” than too close. We knew we wouldn’t start “trying” (“trying” meaning “taking the goalie down”) until the kiddos would be at least 2.5 years apart.

So I guess this all is really my roundabout way of saying YOU GUYS I’M PREGNANT AGAIN AND I AM ENTIRELY BAFFLED BY THIS FACT. 

Continue reading

Dearest Trains (A love letter from my toddler to trains)

A letter from my toddler to trains:

Dearest Choo Choos,

You guys. Literally. This happens EVERY TIME we ride the train. I hope you don’t mind me using my pet name for you in such a formal letter, but I feel it is only right.

I can no longer remember a time when our love did not spring eternal. For me, there has only ever been trains, and there only ever will be trains. I think about trains as I sleep. When I awake, my first thought is not of food, nor water, nor dogs, nor cats, nor walks, but rather you, my one, my only, my Choo Choo.

There is a tall woman in our house with me all the time who calls herself Mama. She sometimes also plays with the trains and the tracks on which we can build empires, but I know her love is only surface level. I can see in her eyes she does not seem to possess the passion, the fervor, the pure adoration I have for you, my trains.

The Tall Woman often takes me for walks and strolls. Many times I see you passing overhead like the shining beacons of fascinating wonder you are. Sure, Tall Woman may sit and wave “Hi Trains!!” but it is only after I hear them first. I must wonder if she even cares if I’m not there. Tell me: if a train rumbles by in the city without a toddler, does anyone wave?

There are also days where we go far across the city and those days are the best days. We must stroll along the tracks of wonderment to a loading station that, as the Tall Woman describes every time as, “not our closest station but one that has an elevator because seriously Chicago, it’s not like it’s 20freaking16 or anything.” We ride in the elevator that somehow smells like my dirty diaper bin mixed with “industrial solvent” (Tall Woman’s words) and then, finally, we are there and our time has come. Our time has finally come!

I can see the lights of the train approaching. I start waving to you, my only, my love, and then, you come! You glitter and gleam in the sunlight! You have arrived! Sometimes in my excitement the man or woman in the front of the train waves or even makes the train make a strange squeaking sound the Tall Woman tells me is the train “honking.” I know not of this honking, but only of the fact that we can be united at last.

I close this letter to you hoping only to be united sooner rather than later. Do know, my dearest trains, that even when I look at other toys or take other modes of transportation I think only of you, my one, my only, my Choo Choooooooooooo.

With only the deepest of loves,

Wee Connor


Thomas and FriendsA special extra bonus note from the Tall Lady! You guys, it’s a giveaway!)

As you might have guessed, Wee Connor has officially hit the “toddler train obsession” stage. It’s adorable. I love it. And, for the record, despite what Connor’s letter says I really do enjoy this more than most any other toy he has in his possession.

So, in honor of this phase in our lives, I (for reasons I cannot fathom) have actually been authorized to do a special Thomas and Friends giveaway of their brand spanking new Blu-ray! Released just this week, I can officially give out 5 copies of the latest Thomas and Friends Blu-ray.

All you have to do to enter is write me something in the comments! Tell me what your child’s latest obsession/craze is! Is it trains? Cars? Dolls? Planes? Space? I love all of these things and want to hear about what’s going on with your family!

After the giveaway I’ll pick 5 comments at random and you’ll be contacted by me for more information on getting the Blu-ray. Good luck!!

Slinkies and school supplies and back-to-school fun, oh my!

Supposedly fall is approaching. I know this for a few reasons including, but not limited to:

  • The beginning of the onslaught of pumpkin spice-flavored ev.er.y.thing.
  • The temperatures in Chicago slowly but surely starting to edge toward “habitable,” if not “downright lovely” (mid-to-high 70s, yes please!)
  • People continuing to tell me it’s the middle of August despite all my sensibilities telling me we’re just starting into June, and people ending up being correct
  • The start of my Facebook feed being overwhelmed with pictures adorable, well-kept, freshly-clothed children standing in front of their homes with backpacks on

That’s right. It’s back-to-school season. And, for what it’s worth (which is admittedly not a lot), I adore these back-to-school pictures. Never stop, Facebook parents. Never stop. These back-to-school pictures are enough to make me channel Meg Ryan’s character in the beginning of “You’ve Got Mail” and start waxing poetic about bouquets of pencils in the fall (autumn? Does she say autumn? Probably.).

Wee Connor is still too young to go to school*, let alone back to school, but it turns out that doesn’t mean I can’t join in on the fun.

image001Enter the Gill Park Back-to-School Bash on Thursday, August 18th. While this is probably an atypical blog post for me in promoting an upcoming event, I wanted to put the word out because I think community events are important and, more importantly, fun. Also, slinkies. There are going to be so many slinkies.

Community events like this are not only fun but remind us why we love living in the city. This event is not “just for” anyone, it’s for everyone who wants to come out, play (with a 4-foot tall slinky because ohmygoshthat’sathingtheydid), and interact with other people from the neighborhood who are prepping the space on their cameras and phones as needed for these back-to-school pictures they’re about to take. The first 100 guests will receive a free backpack and slinky, and there is even face painting, mascots, and snacks as well. You guys, this is going to be fun, even if I don’t have a kiddo going to school this year.

Wee Connor and I will definitely be there, and I hope if you’re at all interested or just want to find out more about Chicago neighborhood events you’ll come join us. If you see us and we don’t know you, please say hi!

So quickly, let me tweet the deets:

The What

Gill Park’s Back to School Bash

The When

Thursday, August 18th
4 – 7pm

The Where

Gill Park
825 W. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL

The Cost

FREE! Now you seriously don’t have an excuse, right?

The Why

Because it’s back to school season and that’s a million times better than anything flavored with pumpkin spice. More importantly, because it’s going to be a ton of fun and community events in Chicago are awesome. They’re why we live in the city!

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

 

 


*You can bet your sweet bippy when that fateful day comes I will be snapping those pictures of my fresh-faced, backpacked child and bemoaning the passage of time with the best of them. Also, I’ll be crying. Not the cute one-tear-down-the-cheek while I reminisce about the little Winston Churchill lookalike I took home with me from the hospital what seems like 10 minutes ago, either. I’m talking real-life, Mom-is-so-uncool-and-not-in-a-cute-way, nose-running ugly crying. Admitting it is the first step, I think.

I made a pancake cake in a rice cooker and now there’s no going back

The Pancake Cake

The greatest thing to happen to brunch since the mimosa.

(Pssst, here’s a jump to the actual recipe at the bottom)

You guys.

You guys.

You guys.

I need to tell you about this thing I just did. What did I do? I revolutionized the pancake breakfast/brunch/brinner.

Okay, well, I didn’t revolutionize it, but I followed directions from the internet and did the thing and now feel all empowered. So, yeah, vive la revolution! (Or whatever the appropriate phrase for “did the thing on the internet and succeeded” is.)

What is this magical pancake brunch revolution I’m talking about? Glad you asked, homeskillet. Repeat after me.

Pancake. Cake.

Now stay with me, because here’s where it gets crazy.

Pancake cake. Made in a rice cooker.

“Pancake cake?” You ask. “Isn’t that just like…a cake?”

But it’s not! It’s so not!

“In a rice cooker? Huh?”

I know, right?

Allow me to explain how this all came to be. After literal years of being a rice cooker snob (e.g., “Why buy a rice cooker when I have a perfectly good stove and pot?”) I broke down and bought a rice cooker after reading a few articles about the ease of cooking rice in the rice cooker, other cool things you can cook in a rice cooker, and the fact you can set a timer and have perfectly-cooked rice without babysitting a stove. We’ve recently switched to brown rice, which meant even longer cooking/stove babysitting times, and if we wanted rice with dinner it meant almost 0 chances of post-nap park playing. And that, my friends, was really the straw (or, dare I say it, grain of rice?) that broke the camel’s back.

I used some Amazon credits we had left over and bought the mack-daddy of rice cookers: a 5.5-cup Zojirushi. As I understand it, Zojirushi is to rice cookers what Kitchen Aid is to stand mixers. It has a bunch of different settings for whatever you’re cooking: white rice, brown rice, porridge, cake, and also has a steamer function, which if we ever have another kiddo might come in handy when I need to make bigger batches of baby food than our Beaba can do. You can set a timer for the food to be done at a certain time, and it also has sensors that adjust the temperature and cooking time based on the consistency of the food (a feature, I now understand is called “fuzzy logic”). I went all in on this rice cooker.

Once I got the rice cooker I made some brown rice immediately to try it. It took a long time but was completely hands off and came out perfectly. I was still sort of wary, though. Another appliance/space-taker-upper? In my kitchen? And then, breakthrough.

Pancake Cake SlicedI read about the famous (“famous” meaning “famous among people who read and write about rice cookers on the internet”) pancake cake phenomenon and decided I had to try it. It’s so simple it’s mystifying. You simply mix up your favorite pancake batter, pour it in the rice cooker (or, something I’ll do next time, mix it in the actual rice cooker itself), and turn it on for 45 minutes. When the rice cooker is done, you’re left with what is essentially a very large, thick pancake you can cut into slices. This appealed to me for a few reasons: first, #pancakecake. Second, no slaving over the stove fretting about the temperature and silently resenting everyone else enjoying their pancakes while you’re still attempting to use up all the batter. Third, #pancakecake. It had to be said again.

The pancake cake was a smashing success. I used the New York Times Everyday Pancakes recipe for pancakes because I basically think Bisquick is the devil* and pancakes have literally 5 ingredients. I then decided to use chocolate chips because I’m also apparently 5 years old and there is a limit to how sanctimonious I can be regarding processed food (Bisquick? No. Chocolate chips? Obviously yes). I set the Zojirushi to the “cake” setting, which is the equivalent to “on for 45 minutes” on other rice cookers (I am not sure of how other rice cookers function, so don’t quote me on that), and then came back to my beautiful pancake cake.

Connor couldn’t stop eating it. Chris couldn’t stop eating it. I am probably still eating it as the other two normal people in the house are in a brunchy pancake cake-induced coma. Seriously guys, it’s the best thing to happen to brunch since the mimosa.

Pancake Cake Connor EnjoyingIf you have a rice cooker, try this, guys.

You’ll feel like a mad scientist.

You’ll feel revolutionary.

You’ll feel like your brunch life has meaning again.

Pancake cake.

You’re welcome.

(And now, the actual recipe.)

(Also, you should probably consider getting a rice cooker. I’m officially a convert.)

Rice Cooker Pancake Cake Recipe/How-To

(Adapted from the New York Times Everyday Pancakes recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups milk 
  • ~½-1 cup pancake fillings such as chocolate chips, fruit, etc., as desired

Instructions

  • Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) together in the rice cooker
  • Beat eggs into 1 ½ cups of milk, then add to the dry ingredients
  • Mix all ingredients, and if the batter seems too dry, add more milk as necessary
  • Add mix-ins as desired
  • Close rice cooker and cook for 45 minutes (set to “Cake” setting on Zojirushi)

Recipe Notes

You can use ANY pancake recipe you love and it will work in the rice cooker. Just be sure not to fill it too high as the pancake cake will expand as it cooks. The recipe above fit perfectly in a 5.5-cup Zojirushi rice cooker.

 

Bisquick ingredients list


*Flour, baking powder, eggs, milk, and a pinch of salt are what go into pancakes. Take a look at the ingredient list for Bisquick. DATEM? Distilled monoglycerides? Blargh. I’ll take the extra step of mixing 5 ingredients I can pronounce any day over willfully ingesting an additive of diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides (that’s what DATEM is, by the way) as an “ingredient”. [Steps off soapbox, probably falls into own glass house.]

Dear elevator button panel manufacturers…

There comes a point when you arrive at a certain age and you actually start thinking this exact phrase:

I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter about this.

This is the exact face I make when I say I'm going to write a strongly-worded letter. I might expect one from Connor over this lunch any day now, apparently.

This is the exact face I make when I say I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter. I might expect one from Connor over this lunch any day now, apparently.

Whether you say it out loud or simply think it, the phrase is there forever in your psyche without warning. It doesn’t matter if you mean email instead of letter. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t bought stamps in four years. The phrase is the same. It’s the 10-word equivalent of, “harumph!” and it happens to everyone at some point.

It’s happened to me for years, but there are certain strongly-worded letters I’d like to write as a mom that seem to trump over all other annoyances I’ve experienced lately. And so, having explained all this, I’d like to start a segment just for this on this blog. I’m creatively calling it, “Strongly-Worded Letters*.”

The first is one I know every mom with a mobile child has experienced because I can’t get into an elevator with another mom without discussing it: elevator button panels.

To whomever designed the layout of elevator buttons:

Thank you so much for putting the “call” and “emergency” buttons exactly at toddler level. There are special thank-yous in order to the ones who make those buttons red and extra-enticing. If handicapped individuals need to be able to reach the top buttons, can you not put those buttons at that level instead?

Do you realize how many elevator operator-people (no, I don’t know exactly who it is that answers those phones) I’ve talked to, apologizing? Or, rather, run out of the elevator from exactly as they pick up, embarrassed, knowing that what I’m doing is wrong? Or, even worse, realizing that half the time nobody is there because too many toddlers have pressed those buttons and now if there’s a real emergency we’re all SOL? Too many times is how many times. And yes, I watch my child and try and teach him correct behaviors, but sometimes I (god forbid!) have something in my hands, or am trying to find my keys, or any number of other things that may happen at any given moment when we are in the elevator. So thank you, elevator-button-designer-person.

Thank you indeed.

XOXO,

Motherhood What

P.S. Quick question: do the “close door” buttons actually do anything? Or are they simply a method of reminding us of our own futility in this world and that our place in the universe is quite small and fleeting? Because it sort of seems like the latter option. 


*It’s this exact creative spirit that has me rolling in the beaucoup bucks** these days as a writer.

**You should probably know that I’m being sarcastic here. We still are too cheap to buy cable.

I listened to “Part of Your World” as an adult

ugly old creepI had heard rumblings that you could finally know you had turned into a full-fledged-no-turning-back-now-too-old-to-function grownup was when you actually could side with (or at least understand some points of) the parents/authority figures in Disney movies instead of the protagonists.

Let me give some back story. The Little Mermaid was, bar none, my favorite Disney movie growing up. I spent literal hours, if not cumulative days, in my pool after school (oh, yeah, this might be a Florida kid motif here), pretending I was a mermaid. You know how there are those articles about how classic Disney VHS tapes are now worth tens of thousands of dollars? Well, clearly they have not seen my so-worn-out-they-were-disintegrating-15-years-ago-from-too-much-use tapes. (Does anyone else remember rewinding machines? I do.) And if you’re ready to get really jealous now? I had a (feel free to sit down because, again, you are going to be that jealousLittle Mermaid charm bracelet. I wore it with my overall shorts because it was the late ’80s/’90s and the ’90s were an incredibly strange time to be a child and overall shorts were a major thing.

Connor watching Little Mermaid

Parenting disclaimer: screen time rules have been loosened. Sometimes mom has to cook dinner. STOP JUDGING ME.

The moment I realized I could watch The Little Mermaid with my son with absolute impunity of enjoyment was a pretty great moment for me. And, don’t get me wrong, I still get that spine-tingling sensation the moment the opening music starts playing. I know all the words. I love this movie with all my heart.

However, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t turned into one of those full-fledged-no-turning-back-now-too-old-to-functioning grownups. This is why, when I listened to “Part of Your World” with new parent ears some things sort of hit me in a new way. So, if you will, allow me to break down this magical Alan Menken masterpiece through the ears of a parent.

Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

Neat? Um, well … “neat” isn’t exactly the word I would use, but I suppose one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so, yeah, we can go with “neat.”

Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?

Complete? Yes, definitely. For the love of all that is holy, “complete” is definitely the word I would use. “Hoarding” might be another one to consider.

Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl
The girl who has everything?

Considering you are a literal princess who has the apparent run of the entire ocean complete with a singing entourage and yet still has a cave ‘o of crap, yup. “Everything” just about covers it.

Look at this trove, treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?

Again, way too many. I’d really like to recommend this book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It might really make you re-think this little hoarder’s nest you’ve got going on. Do you have Amazon Prime under the sea? 

Looking around here you’d think
Sure, she’s got everything

Okay, Ariel. Sure, you’ve got “everything.”

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty

That you do.

I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore

No arguments here.

You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty!

…right, so…that’s the whole point, right? Do you need twenty? Or would one suffice? It’s a difficult question but some self-evaluation might help here.

But who cares? No big deal,
I want more

I wonder if TLC’s hoarding show has SCUBA gear.

I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancing

I’m going to assume you mean more in the “Tchaikovsky ballet” genre than “errrbody in the club” way, so, yes, that’s a fair request.

Walking around on those
What do you call ’em? Oh, feet

I guess I won’t break it to you yet that feet are actually pretty disgusting. One order of suspension of disbelief, hot and ready!

Flipping your fins you don’t get too far

We’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I feel I’ve watched you span miles of ocean whereas you barely made it out of the castle in your three days on land. Objectively, you definitely get further in the ocean than on land.

Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a
What’s that word again?
Street

I also appreciate a walkable urban environment, Ariel! We totally have that in common.

Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun

Hm, okay, so, here’s the thing. You have red hair and most likely will get a sunburn simply thinking too hard about the sun. Here, let me see if I can find that pamphlet I have lying around…yup, here it is: “Melanoma and you: wear your damn sunscreen.” Sorry, Ariel, but them’s the breaks.

Wandering free
Wish I could be, part of that world

Wait, today you went into a shipwreck, you have an entire unnoticed hoarding cave of “treasures,” and, not to harp on this, you’re the favorite princess of the king of the ocean. I feel like you and I have different definitions of the word “free.”

What would I give if I could live
Out of these waters?

This is a more telling line in the song than I realized, now that I think about it. What would you give? A kingdom, your family, a singing entourage of sea life to cheer you up at your whimsy. 

What would I pay to spend a day
Warm on the sand?

In fairness, Ariel, you have never had the pleasure of wiping down every molecule of sand out of every crevice of your car and body after a day at the beach.

Betcha’ on land, they’d understand
Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters

Oh, honey. Oh, dear, dear, dear honey. The seaweed is always greener, indeed.

Bright young women, sick of swimming
Ready to stand

I’m a wee bit curious. Do you think yours is a common ailment up on land? That so many women on land have also been mermaids and are sick of swimming? Because this seems like a really, really localized request here.

And I’m ready to know what the people know
Ask ’em my questions
And get some answers
What’s a fire and why does it – what’s the word?
Burn?

Yay educational pursuits! You go, Honey, er, Ariel.

When’s it my turn?

Girlfriend, you are six.teen. years. old. You need to simmer down now and take that teenage angst and put it to good use, like cleaning out your hoarder cave.

Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above?

Well, sure, but lest we forget the man you are so in love with has the exact same desire to explore, but to explore your little realm of the sea. Exploring is pretty engrained much the human (mermaid?) spirit.

Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world

And now this song will be stuck in my head for approximately 32 years. There are worse fates. Alan Menken, you are a genius and my hero. 

 

That time my dog got cancer again

This is the first picture I ever took of Brinkley, on the day he came home with me.

This is the first picture I ever took of Brinkley, on the day he came home with me.

Almost 2 years ago, my beloved (then) 6-year-old dog Brinkley got cancer. They found a mast cell tumor on his toe which then moved to his lymph node. After a toe amputation, an incredibly invasive surgery that removed the cancerous lymph node, and about 6 months of chemotherapy treatments his cancer was deemed “in remission.” Wee Connor was about 2 months old when we finally finished trucking our dog 30 minutes out to a suburb of Charlotte every other week, and I couldn’t believe he had beaten the year odds the vets had given him.

Life eventually returned back to normal, or as normal as life with a new baby in the house ever got, which of course isn’t really normal at all. The day-to-day became more and more of what we thought about, and in that we forgot to appreciate Brinks as much as we should. I got angry when he barked and woke Wee Connor up from his naps every time the buzzer in our apartment buzzed. I got angry when he growled at Connor when Connor stepped on his tail or did something inconspicuous. I got angry when he got into the trash. We didn’t take him for as many walks as we should have because, you guys, nap schedules are hard and so is taking care of children in general.

This past Sunday Brinkley got a bout of diarrhea that had some blood mixed into it. I called the emergency vet, and took him in, grumbling something inane about how “this would be a total waste of time and money,” and, “I’m sure he’s fine, but might as well be sure.” As the vet checked him out, I went into my spiel about his past history with cancer and the vet froze in her tracks. “What kind of cancer did he have?” she asked. “When was this again? And everything was fine again, you said? When you came in here a few months ago, he ended up being fine again, right?”

Time started slowing. My mind was racing. Had he been acting normally? He chased us around while I pushed Connor in his wagon this weekend, right? Definitely. He had given away my secret position to Connor while playing hide and seek this morning, the traitor that he is.

IMG_20160511_174130“…so the thing is that every single lymph node is swollen,” the vet said, as I popped back into awareness in this suddenly freezing cold room with the hard tile floors. I understood but wanted nothing more than to not understand what was coming next. “With his history,” she kept going, getting more uncomfortable, “this just…it’s just…my primary concern here is cancer.” They ran a full panel of blood work while I sat in the waiting room. The vet came back explaining the results of off-the-chart lymphocytes in his blood. “You need to get an appointment with oncology, and it has to be this week,” she told me. “Here’s the number for their direct line. Call at 8am tomorrow morning when they open to get an appointment.” She sighed and asked if I understood everything and finished with, “When I heard his symptoms, I never expected to be giving you this news. I am so sorry.”

We made the appointment and Friday was the earliest we could come in. I took Brinkley in Wednesday to the internal medicine specialist so he could order yet another panel of tests, aspirations, and give another opinion. Thursday the news came back with the results we had been dreading: lymphoma. It’s everywhere, and eating away at his bone marrow and seeping into his blood. The internal medicine vet urged me to keep the appointment with the oncologist so she could really point me in the direction of “options.”

Our options can only be described as grim.

With treatment, Brinkley’s prognosis is about a year. Treatment involves weekly visits to get chemotherapy for 8 weeks, then 16 weeks of going every other week, or about 6 months of treatment. To say this process isn’t cheap is kind of like saying Chicago has a wee bit of a history of crooked politicians. Luckily, dogs (typically) don’t experience the same side effects of chemotherapy as humans, so the year we have would actually be a good year together. Without treatment, he has one – maybe two – months left. This type of cancer has about a 100% relapse rate, so about a year is the best we can hope for before the cancer finally comes back and treatment is no longer effective.

IMG_20160214_101059For anyone who has been with us on this journey for a while, Brinkley is only 8 years old and now has had two separate and (they assured me) distinctly unrelated types of cancer. I was told statistically this is almost an impossibility. The fact that Brinkley has essentially won the cancer Powerball doesn’t make it better.

Chris and I talked it over the weekend and decided to go for the treatments. We simply aren’t ready to face Brinkley’s mortality, and knowing we can have a year with him that’s pain-free and happy, well, it’s worth the price we can pay for that.

Brinkley is a sweet, semi-neurotic soul, which makes it all the more difficult to stare down the year ahead because I, too, think of myself as a sweet, semi-neurotic soul. He embodies so many of my own qualities it’s sometimes hard to remember that he is actually a dog. After I started down the path of getting The News (capital ‘T’, capital ‘N’) I cried for about a week straight. After that was over I made up my mind to not only appreciate Brinks more, but to give him what I now call, “Brinkley’s Big Year” (which of course comes with the requisite hashtag #BrinkleysBigYear).

Brinkley’s Big Year is a celebration of all that is dog, all that is family, and all that is life.

IMG_20160519_110807We will be doing all the things I want him to experience during this final year we have together. We will be grateful for his gentle soul and forgiving of his faults, even if one of those faults is digging through the trash can, which is, admittedly, still infuriating. We will take him to the dog beach. We will give him steak dinners. We will do everything we can think of to fill Brinkley’s bucket list because, frankly, he deserves it. Finally, we will document this year to show Connor that while he won’t remember Brinkley as he gets older, Connor’s name means “lover of hounds,” and Brinkley is, without a doubt, a hound worth loving.

I don’t know what kind of state I’ll find myself in at the end of this year, but I do hope that when I do have to say goodbye I’ll know Brinkley’s last memories are plentiful he’ll be happy enough to hold onto until we meet again. Until that moment, though, we have a Big Year (capital ‘B’, capital ‘Y’) to plan, a Chicago summer in which to have it, and have it we shall.