Getting in the way

The sun has returned.

The sun has returned.

It does get in the way a bit, sometimes more than others. On average it’s less obtrusive than the neighbor who continues remodeling his house after ten years. But diabetes does get in the way. Normally it is just little things: every morning checking blood sugar and giving shots; scarfing down sugar during soccer games.

This morning we all slept in because of dentists appointments. Luxuriating in the extra time, Declan went to Lego warfare which was spread on the table. I threw him the kit to check blood sugar, which is when Bear started signaling. It seems Bear is now conditioned to check for low blood sugar the same time the kids are checking. Need to somehow get him to check when they are not checking. That is the whole point of it all.

Dec is 114. Bear continues to signal, barking a high-pitched sound. So it could be that Bear expects a nice juicy hot dog chunk whenever the blood sugar kit comes out, or it could be that Maggie is low downstairs, or it could be that Declan is dropping. In fact just the other night Bear signaled Dec, so he tested. he was in the 90s. We went downstairs and Bear continued signaling. Dec tested again and he was 64. It gets messy with the meter’s accuracy. They claim to be within 10% of actual blood sugar, which studies back up, but when you are around the boundary of being low, possibly dropping or rising, 10% makes a difference, which only leads to how confusing it must get for Bear trying to conform his signals to receive the juicy hot dog treat.

Not wanting to be left for the soccer game.

Not wanting to be left for the soccer game.

So it could be the meter, it could be he is dropping, or it could be that Maggie is low. Maggie and a different meter are downstairs, down I go. Minimizing up and down trips, I check Maggie first, and she is indeed low at 70. Being a teenager, she proclaims that she is fine. On my return upstairs I praise Bear and give him a nice juicy hot dog treat.

You might think having multiple people with diabetes in the home would make training Bear easier. More and more I think it really is getting in the way.

Tough love softened

We get to the dentist’s office and fill the waiting room, the three kids and myself. Each year the waiting area seems to shrink as our physical space increases, mine less so I hope, and the amount of energy expelled (mostly sound) increases as well. By the time we’ve cycled through appointments, Declan succeeded in disabling Fiona’s phone for an hour, which achieves his ultimate goal of pushing Fiona into a slightly controlled rage.

Normally we stop and get breakfast or lunch on our way back from the dentist, and I’m trying to figure out if Bunk, a local sandwich shop, is open. Meanwhile mental jabs and full-on screams ensue between shotgun and back seat occupants, which is when the flip switched for me, and I announce we will not be getting any lunch, but simply being dropped off at school. I am fed up with the mental, and occasional physical, sparring.

Staying away from shoes, but went on a bender, destroying a computer mouse and gorilla grip camera clamp.

Staying away from shoes, but went on a bender, destroying a computer mouse and gorilla grip camera clamp.

For three blocks I enjoy the quiet in the car, Fiona and Declan still fuming while Maggie strategizes a new angle. And then Declan says he feels low, checks, and is indeed quite low at 56. He is without sugar tabs or juice (which he drank while disabling Fiona’s phone). His time delayed insulin, NPH, is kicking in. So instead of being able to punctuate my canceling of lunch by dropping them off at school to fend for themselves, we now have to stop somewhere quick to get soda or juice for Declan.

Any other day I’d appreciate having New Season’s Market three blocks away, but in this case I’d rather have a Plaid Pantry to run into and get a soda, leaving the kids in the car waiting to be dropped at school. Instead we pull into the parking lot, unloading and going into New Seasons. Before getting to New Seasons, Maggie was brainstorming different solutions that all involved her getting a sandwich. “There’s a nice cafe next to the Plaid Pantry, or that place looks good…”

I don’t respond to any of her suggestions, including the one to get a sandwich at New Seasons. She takes the non-response as an affirmative response when we park, and everyone gets a sandwich while Declan horks down a Mountain Dew.

It is a relief to get Declan back into range, but I was looking forward to dropping them off at school, denying them a nice lunch, but diabetes got in the way.

Camps

Camp 6 & 5

Fiona and Maggie catch some Z's on our way to breakfast

Fiona and Maggie catch some Z’s on our way to breakfast

We got up at 430 in the morning and were on the road by 445. Declan riding shotgun, Maggie and Fiona in the backseat, we made it to Roseburg’s Denny’s for breakfast with Grandma Estelle. She was driving north while we continued south.

Grandma Estelle would free Bear from his “I’m home alone” small room, and take him to Kristin’s for ten days of Bear camp. He was initially going to stay a week at Kristin’s, but he’d be home alone for two or three days with Heather working and the girls and I driving home, so we extended his camp for a few more days. Knowing how much Bear loves puppies and dogs and playing, I’m sure he will be sad to leave.

Bear posing with a Nerf bullet cigarette.

Bear posing with a Nerf bullet cigarette.

While Bear enjoyed himself at Dog-scent-training camp (yes, Kristin will be training him as well), we were all at Family Camp, in Newport Beach, celebrating my mom’s 70th birthday. All the descendants were there. With maximal sunscreen we had minimal burns. Hours in the sun and in the water were had.

About halfway through, anticipating his week at camp, Declan asked if he could visit Bear before going to camp. This coincided with Dec hoarding my phone. I thought he was downloading some game, but he was looking at pictures of Bear.

Camp 3 and 4

Declan and Heather drive to visit Bear and then on to Gales Creek Camp today. Maggie spent a week at Gales Creek in the middle of July. Declan will be there this week. Both Declan and Maggie spent three days there about five years ago. It is a camp for kids with diabetes. It has been around for 60 years. I believe that it was one of the first summer camps for kids with diabetes.

The stash going to Locks of Love

The stash going to Locks of Love

While Maggie was at camp we bribed Declan to cut his hair off. This was one of the two things on my “must do” summer list. The other “must do” item was getting Maggie to camp. So in one week I was able to check both off the list.

It took some gentle prodding and a bribe to get Declan to give up his locks. Declan stealthily maneuvered between Heather and I, maximizing revenues. In the end it is worth it. Heather already reminisces his long hair. I scoff at this. That rat’s nest was unbearable to manage (and didn’t look so good), though the older ladies loved it.

Breakfast at Denny's

Breakfast at Denny’s

It is really nice to see his face unfettered by frizzy hair.

Camp 2 and 1

I spent the better part of a week running Summer Academy to Inspire Learning (SAIL@PSU). During my time at camp, Declan cared for Bear, taking him on walks and doing quick training sessions and putting him through some photo shoots (see the above cigarette pic and the “smiling” pic from last post). And camp 1 was a small neighborhood camp, traveling around Portland, PDXplore.

Games at PDXplore (Dec slowed down with air friction)

Games at PDXplore (Dec slowed down with air friction)

Hoping

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Teddy bear. Check. Bike helmet. Check. Ready to run to school.

I have to be honest here.  I am now beginning to think that we have a great dog on our hands.  Bear is settling down and is becoming more and more attentive to who he is with.  He actually looks to whomever is with him before looking around for something more interesting, like a leaf on the sidewalk or a clump of mud in the street.  Though not perfect in stores, he is at least malleable, able to redirect his attention from the enticing stroller passing by to the dried chunk of liver in my hand.  However, I am unsure that he is catching on to the whole low-scent signaling.

There is this Facebook group consisting of people training diabetes assist dogs.  It is great to banter with the challenges of such an endeavor, but it is also a bit frustrating.  You see a lot of the posts are people posting about the first “live” signal.  This is a very exciting thing to happen.  In fact, I still get goosebumps when I think about the time Declan was trying to get Bear to “clean” the wound on his knee by licking it, and Bear sat down and pawed him instead.  It is a fantastic thing.  But with each post of a “live” signal, I am reminded of Bear’s lack of signaling.

In the backseat of the Subaru.

In the backseat of the Subaru.

I believe Bear is very capable, and is at times bored with his couch life.  I started teaching a few new “tricks” this week, and Bear is quite responsive.  But back to scent-training, I’ve said this before, but I think that Bear is picking up on visual cues as much or more than the scent cues.  For instance, if I hide the scent in a pocket or in a cuff and stand next to him, I believe that he picks up on how I am leaning toward him, my stature, and then sits seriously, does some sniffing, and then signals.

There have been several instances this week when either Declan or Maggie has been low and Bear walks by without a care in the world, eyeing that couch to climb upon.  When they are willing we call Bear over, encouraging him to sniff and signal, and then have a big celebration for the signal, pouring treats down his mouth.  Just yesterday Declan got home from school and was 96.  Knowing that he often drops in the afternoon, I kept an eye on both Bear and Dec.  Not long after, Dec was 67 without a peep from Bear.  With some encouragement and presenting of Dec’s arm, Bear signaled, and we gave ample treats.  I’m pretty sure if I present my arm to Bear and quietly wait that he will signal me for a low.

Using Dec's glove as a pillow.

Using Dec’s glove as a pillow.

On the upside, Declan and Bear are really becoming good friends.  Declan seeks Bear out when he gets home from school, and Bear runs to Declan whenever he hears his voice.  Bear sleeps in Dec’s room every night, normally sharing the bed with Dec.  We open the window a bit for both the body heat and body smell.

So I am anxious for that first unsolicited signal, for Bear to approach Maggie or Declan and signal.  I am a bit concerned that that time will never occur.  If not, we have acquired a great dog that Dec will be able to take with him to college, which Dec asked about not long ago.

UPDATE: Dec just walked over to Bear with a scent sample in his pocket and Bear signaled.  Maybe my concerns are unwarranted.  Or maybe Bear is just really good at sniffing out the plastic container and cotton swab.

Time to ride?

Time to ride?

Bear was featured in an article in the local paper, The Oregonian.  I got my first and probably last photo credit in the article. There was also a great article on diabetes assist dogs in the Wall Street Journal.  Bear was not featured in that article.

Chewing

  • What Can You Do with a Tail Like This?
  • Nerf bullets (who knows how many?).
  • Hairbrush

Lack of exercise…lack of sleep!!!

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Bear is alert, ready for action.

I suppose if I were to sit around the house for two days straight, sleeping away the light hours, I wouldn’t do to well when it was time for lights out.  Yesterday marked the second day in a row that Bear had minimal to no exercise.  I took him on three short walks, following the doctor’s orders of walks to relieve bodily functions, no running, no jumping.  I can take care of the first request of limited walks.  But no jumping and running is more difficult to limit.  Bear takes things into his own paws, racing around the house, jumping up on a couch or bed, completing a couple of 180 degree turns, jumping back off, and repeating the circuit five or six more times.  However, Bear’s self instituted exercise regiment does not come close to the energy expenditures needed for a seven-month old puppy.  Enter night-time, the time most mammals get some shut-eye.

Bear began the night in Dec’s room.  He seemed to be settled on his bed when I left the room, but thirty minutes later Dec had let him out, and Bear was sauntering up the stairs (another no-no according to the doctor’s orders).  And this is where the internal debate begins.  First, I think Bear simply needs to settle down, and that a couch might be a good place for him to settle down.  Of course I come to this conclusion after he whines to get out of our room.  So I let him out of our room.  Two minutes later he is peeking into the room, whining to get back inside, for some reason unable to push the door open another three inches.  Out of bed again, this time leaving the door open for Bear to come and go, hoping he will find a place to settle down for the night.

Two minutes later he is whining again, this time out by the door.  The internal debate changes sides, siding with the “Bear needs to lay down for the night in one spot.”  I lament the fact that his crate is down in Declan’s room, wanting to lock him in there as I begin to countdown the time to the alarm sounding in the morning.  Bear continues whining by the backdoor.  I get up again and let him outside.  He relieves himself, which takes longer than usual as he completes a traveling-poop that covers each corner of the yard.

Back into our room, I put him on his bed, thinking that this will settle him down, though I can hear Bear wondering why we don’t let him up on our bed the way Declan does.  Directing him to his bed does little to nothing in settling Bear down.  He is up and around the room, banging into things with his cone and attempting to scratch his ears.  One of the negative effects of the cone is the inability to relieve an itch.  Another negative effect is what it does to noise.  It acts as a gramophone, amplifying sounds.  I can actually distinguish each nail hitting the cone as Bear attempts to scratch an itch.  What futility.

And then he lays down with a “Harumph,” the signal of settling down.  I hear the deep breathing.  I take a breath of relief.  At that same moment I hear Ashleigh’s meow and scratch at the door.  Though not an old cat, or a grumpy cat, Ashleigh (he came with the name) can be extremely belligerent, bringing out the worst in people.  From past experience, I know that Ashleigh will continue his request to enter the room until action is taken.  I quickly take action in hopes that Bear will stay settled, but that boat has sailed.  Bear is now quite intrigued by the banging on the door.  I open the door enough to grab Ashleigh, take him to the backdoor, restrain myself from throwing him into the bushes, and simply let him outside (somewhat gently).

Bear is back up and scratching his ears.  This time I hear the Velcro rip and the cone fall to the floor.  I am relieved for the cease of noise, and the internal debate begins afresh in my head.  Without the cone, Bear can relieve the itch, getting comfortable and settling down.  He probably doesn’t need the cone anymore.  Can he even reach those staples with his teeth?  I’ve seen him lick it, but that just cleans the wound, right?  As long as he doesn’t snag a staple with a tooth, yanking it out, it’ll be fine.  Sure, it’ll be fine.

But maybe not.  The other side of the argument listens closely to the scratching, and licking, and gnawing.  What is he gnawing on?  Is that the staples?  I jolt up to see Bear gnawing on his back leg.

Damn fleas!  Why did we spend all that money on the Trifexis?  I don’t think it is doing anything.  It’s like a dollar a day for that medicine.  If you don’t count weekends.   We pay a dollar each business day for that medicine, which does nothing.  He is gnawing at the fleas.  Now he is licking.  What is he licking?  Is it one of the incision sites?  I bolt up and Bear is licking at the stitches, but stops when he sees me.

That’ll do it.  He just needed some redirection.  Now he will settle down.  Wait a minute, what is he gnawing at?  What is he licking?  Time to quiet the internal debate by putting the cone back on.  And maybe it is time to surrender, get a book light, and start reading while Bear strolls around the room.

Bear settles down…for a few hours.  At two he is at it again.  Whining to go out.  Up again, I take him to the backyard, making sure that Ashleigh doesn’t sneak back in.  Another traveling poop, I begin to wonder about parvo.  Can’t be, too much energy.  Back inside, Bear takes a good forty minutes to settle down, letting us know that his ears itch.

Bear takes a "selfie" while laying under the chair at the orthodontist.

Bear takes a “selfie” while laying under the chair at the orthodontist.

And then it was morning.  Though running at half capacity, I am determined to take Bear everywhere today.  There will not be any jumping or running, just a lot of visiting and traveling.  We’ll go to the orthodontist’s office; we’ll go out to lunch with Maggie after the orthodontist; and we’ll go into school to pickup and drop-off Maggie.  And we will be tired this evening.

 

Cone: It is showing its age.  It has two large cracks in it.  And it is too small for Bear.

Bear improving at laying under chair, becoming small.

Bear improving at laying under chair, becoming small.

Concerns with scent training: They continue.  I believe that he recognizes the scent, but signals on visual cues instead of scent.  Last night I began placing scent samples on the kids as they did homework, throwing a party when Bear signaled (many treats and vigorous petting).  I continue to do the scent training we did right at the beginning with just holding the scent and clicking when he signals.

Turf Wars

It has begun.  I woke Saturday morning to see the note.  Scrawled on an envelope it was clear Fiona had been wronged.  It said, ” Bear is no longer allowed in the basement.”

Since the end of summer Bear has had an all-access pass to the house.  He ventures down to the basement to escape the heat.  He also finds a lot of treasures in the kids’ rooms.  He’ll often come up to his favorite couch in the living room and tear apart the remains of a bag of corn nuts, or lick the inside of a Kit Kat wrapper.  It makes me wonder what other living creatures are feasting on the remains of summer in the basement.

Bear also runs to the bathroom as he hears cat food being poured into their bowls in the safety of the bathtub.  He’ll lay impatiently outside the tub, waiting to devour the food.  He hasn’t gone over the tub threshold.  The cat food remains safe in the tub.

The First

I don’t think it was planned out.  It was more of a third degree offense.  Bear needed to relieve himself and the tarp smelled like the outdoors, so he went ahead and made a steamer in Maggie’s room partially on the tarp.

Maggie had been vocal about not wanting Bear in her room.  He had chewed up a book of hers, eaten quite a bit of stashed goodies, and spread her garbage across her floor searching and finding more treasures.  So it is not shocking Maggie attempted to revoke Bear’s visa to her room.

It is worth noting Bear had been mining treasures in Fiona’s room as well.  However, the state of Fiona’s room prohibits any sort of detection of foraging for treasures and spreading garbage around the room.  Maggie’s room, however, resembles a military cadet’s room who happens to have a lot of colorful clothes, makeup, and a lot of purses.

Though I was upset Bear had an accident indoors, I was partially tempered by the fact that it was done on the tarp, and that it was mostly a healthy poop.  I chalked it up to not letting him out on time and the tarp resembling the outdoors; in a dog’s odorous world, smell dominates.

The Second

Not sure when it happened, but the result I saw was the note scrawled on the envelope.  Bear had an accident in Fiona’s room.  Again, I don’t believe this to be a premeditated crime, more of an accident of coincidence.  Say Bear had a big meal, had a nap, woke up to find some dessert in Fiona’s room, and suddenly the meal is done processing.  To the victim, however, it is an assault on the sanctity of her room.

A line has been crossed.  Suddenly the presence of Bear in her room is very obvious.  Though he’d been foraging in her room for days, and some chips and crackers and cookies may have gone missing, this is the first time Fiona has really felt Bear’s presence in her room.

At this point I am a bit worried.  Though the basement often looks like a dumping ground with Legos, clothes, towels, and papers scattered around, I do not want Bear to think it is his dumping area.

Fiona is not happy, and she lets Bear know.  She glares at him and tells him to get away.  As a puppy, I am not sure that Bear picks up on any of the subtleties of a teenager’s verbal and nonverbal cues.  Maybe an “angry” scent is released, keeping Bear a safe distance from his new nemesis.

The unfortunate thing is we are to drive to Seattle for a family celebration.  We have a room reserved and Bear is coming with us.

It’s a three hour drive.  There is a fair amount of positioning in terms of who sits where.  The preferred seat changes depending on the age of the kids.  A few years back, Fiona and Declan preferred the backseat so they could annoy and beat each other up as we crossed the Rockies.  Last year Fiona and Maggie preferred the second row as they were able to help choose the playlist, and at the same time staying away from Declan.  With Fiona’s recent musical tastes straying from Maggie’s tastes, and with Fiona’s anger still bubbling over, she chose to sit solo in the backseat.  Sitting in the middle of the backseat allows her to stretch her legs as she blasts Watsky on the iPod.

The First Counter Action

Bear is getting bigger.  In fact, at his last visit to the Vet he weighed 45 pounds.  As he grows he prefers human furniture more and more.  Early on during car trips I tried to get him up on the seat, thinking that it would be more comfortable and less apt to car-sickness (being able to see the horizon).  He would whine on the seat and find his way to the space between the seat and the sliding door.

Soon after departing on the three-hour trip to Seattle, Bear was eyeing the right-side of the backseat as a nice napping spot.  All would have been smooth had he not recently pooped in Fiona’s room.  Fiona eyed him with contempt, wanting nothing less than to have him share her seat.  Though there was room on the floor, Bear now preferred a seat.  He pushed his way up onto the seat.

Bear sipping water at the pumps

Fiona continued to glare at Bear, complaining about how much space he was taking up.  Now is the time that Bear began reacting to all this negative energy coming from his seatmate.  Instead of settling down and sleeping, Bear sat up, staring out the window.  And he began drooling.  A lot of drool.

“Ohhhh GROSSSSS!  He is drooooooling!” Fiona screamed.  This normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but being an experienced road-tripper, Fiona has a setup in the backseat with all her stuff, which appears to be most of the contents of her room.  She has both ends of the seat laid out with books, sketchpad, shoes, makeup, and other sundry items.  Not seeing a solution, Heather suggests that Fiona put her stuff all to the left side of the seat.  This keeps the drool from her stuff, but it doesn’t take away the already drooled on stuff, nor does it take away the poop from yesterday.  The glares continue.

It takes a while, but Bear finally settles down and goes to sleep.  We arrive at the hotel, change for the party, and find out we are in someone else’s room, which would explain the grapes on the table that Maggie ate to treat her low blood-sugar, the suitcase on the couch that wasn’t ours, and the toiletry bag that resembled a lunch box that also wasn’t ours.  They will find us another room, but in the meantime we have to pack our stuff.  I am amazed how quickly we can fill a room with our junk.  One bed is completely covered with Fiona and Maggie’s clothes.  There are five pairs of shoes by the closet, and Bear’s pen is set up in the corner.  We pack everything back into the car and head to the party.

Counter Strike Two

Again, I don’t think it is premeditated, but Bear strikes again.  Because of all the people in the party, with food and drink everywhere, Bear stays in the car while we go inside.  This may seem cruel, but in actuality is much kinder to Bear, where he can enjoy the entire backseat to himself.  Granted he is alone, not his preferred state, but he is not bombarded with strangers and noise and smells.  Overall, a healthier place for him to be.

And he did not stay there in solitude the entire time.  Like parents in a previous era who would go to the bar and drink while their kids played in the car, we came out occasionally to take Bear on short walks and make sure he was alright.  Also, some people at the party wanted to meet him.

At 1130 we piled into the car with Leer, a friend of Fiona’s from camp.  She lives in Seattle and came to the party to see Fiona and was coming back to the hotel with us.

Fiona, Leer, Maggie, Dec, and Bear in the van. Bear sits on the side that he puked on.

As they climbed to the back of the van, Leer noticed the vomit.  Bear had thrown up on the seat and on the toiletry bag.  Had it only been on the seat and the floor of the van, it would not have been so bad.  But all our stuff, including the toiletry bag, was back in the car.

Not sure what to say at this point.  I don’t even want to consider some stomach ailment.  In fact, I only think that he was nervous.  A car ride, being glared at, a hotel room, back in the car, and then all alone.

We cover it up with a blanket and get on to the hotel.

Clogged

Bear is back on the bland, low-fiber food until things firm up some more.  I think he actually prefers that food.  After getting to the hotel room, I take him outside to do his business.  Since he pooped on one of the walks during the party, I am not concerned that he doesn’t poop.  But it is strange.  He normally poops several times a day, and he has pooped once.

And the next day he only poops once.  And then the next day he doesn’t poop at all.  That low-fiber food is doing its job.

Then Bear puts one pile on a some Legos and two more piles close by.  And the basement officially becomes the dumping grounds.  So maybe he actually only weights 140 pounds now.

This brings us back to the opening note scrawled on the back of an envelope. I need to put the gate back up so he doesn’t wonder back down there and leave a deposit.

Bear is no longer allowed in the basement.

Bear helps out with a Craigslist meetup

It started because both Maggie and Declan had played the XBox over at friend’s house.  Maggie played GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and Declan played some WWI game.  Further, our Wii became a Netflix player after my niece thought it was a candy machine, putting two nickels and a quarter into the disc slot in hopes of getting a piece of candy or gum.  No candy appeared and now more games.  But the Wii continued to stream video.

Maggie raised the issue of buying an XBox daily.  I agreed to pitch in a third of the cost.  It was up to Declan and Maggie to raise the additional funds.  With a high potential for earnings from babysitting, Maggie was worried about Declan raising his funds for the joint venture.  She pestered him about how much he had raised and how he planned on raising the additional monies.  I had told them that a new XBox was around $360, so they each needed about $120 to purchase a new console.  I actually don’t know how much they cost new, but it sounded right.

Then I had the stroke of genius to look on eBay and Craigslist.  Maggie was skeptical of this proposition.  “I don’t like those websites,” she proclaimed, having never seen anything on them.  That wall came tumbling down by simply showing her a few of the postings on eBay, which were selling for around $150.  Her mantra became, “Set your alarm so you can bid on it with 30 seconds left.”  After three failed attempts, we were sniped with one second to go, I went on Craigslist and found a few.

I was in communication with two sellers.  One east and one west from us.  Puppy training is about 30 miles west.  The west seller had a bundle of games, controllers, and Kinnect.  The bundle and the proximity to puppy training tilted the deal in his/her favor.

In my experience with buying and selling on Craigslist, most communication, including negotiation occurs via email or text.  By the time the meetup had been scheduled I had a pretty good idea of what price would be agreed upon, which was a bit less than his “very firm” price.

The meetup was at an Albertson’s next to a middle school, which, after meeting the seller, I believe he was still attending.  It was a hot day and I circled the parking lot trying to find a shady spot to keep Bear as a functioning animal.  Bear got to walk around a bit.  I did not feel he was old enough to help out on a Craigslist meetup.  After being stuffed back into the semi shaded car, I went to the entrance and got the message that the seller was heading over with his friend, who was riding a skateboard.  Middle schoolers.

After he unpacked everything from his backpack, I examined the console with furrowed brow, pointed out every smudge on the game discs, and frowned at the kinnect unit.  Then I called Maggie.  I told her I was checking out the XBox.  Hoping he couldn’t hear her excitement, I responded in a disappointing tone that it wasn’t in the box and there were some scratches on the disc.  I’m not sure why I actually called her.  I should have just called my voicemail or the home phone, which is technically Dec’s phone now, or any “dead” number to get a machine on the other end.  Off the phone I offered him ten percent under his list price, which he quickly agreed upon (damn, I should have offered twenty percent below his list), and I went to the ATM in the store and got two bags from a checker to load the unboxed XBox and accessories into.

I hurried back to the partially shaded minivan loaded with product and was thankful to find Bear still breathing.  To complete ownership to Maggie and Dec, and to keep with electronic shopping, $60 was transferred from their accounts to mine.

Preview: Declan has a lot of Legos!

The miles and the sunflower seeds

A few summers ago we drove to Colorado for a family vacation.  Heather had to fly back for work.  Her flight was at the rude hour of six in the morning, so she needed to leave at 430 AM.  To jump-start our drive, we decided to leave when she was being taken to the airport by my loving mom.

The route was about 1,200 miles.  We got a call somewhere in western Wyoming from Heather.  Apparently her flight was the next day.  We were too far into our drive to return, and we were about to stop for gas and a breakfast of Slim Jim’s and Bugles (not much in western Wyoming); this was not my crowning moment as a parent.

When driving for long periods of time I need sunflower seeds to stay awake.  (This habit started in high school when Mike and I were driving to Lake Powell in a beat up Bronco.)  As we drove through Utah and into Idaho on our return trip from Colorado, we decided that we could make it all the way back to Portland without stopping.  The trip took a total of 22 hours.  I did pullover for a cat-nap somewhere in the Gorge.  At the beginning of the drive I bought a huge bag of seeds.  At the end of the trip there was a handful left.

I took the remaining seeds, in the bag, into school.  Teaching middle school math, I intended to use the remaining seeds as a proportional problem when we got to that unit.  Though I never busted out the seeds that year, asking students, “So what is my SPM?  Seeds per mile?”, the seeds remained on the board beside my desk for the entire year.

I think of that problem nearly daily.  This summer has had a lot of driving, all of it with Bear.  The first trip was a mere 90 miles from his original home.  Twice daily trips to Forest Grove began (65 miles round trip).  We’ve made that trip thirteen times.

We took Declan and his buddies to Evergreen’s Wings and Waves Water Park in McMinnville (80 miles).

We drove to Canada to visit Fiona, which included three ferry rides (700 miles).

We took a day trip with some neighbors to Astoria and Fort Stevens (225 miles).

And a trip to Port Angeles to pick Fiona up from camp (470 miles).  {I thought we might be driving to San Diego, but we luckily are flying}

In all of these travels I have been cracking seeds.  I prefer the cracked pepper flavor, but they are rare.  Ranch flavor is alright.  The Canadian “Seasoned” flavor is a close second to cracked pepper.  Thus far I have had two bags of cracked pepper, three bags of ranch, one bag of seasoned, and three bags of regular.  The question I would ask students is how many seeds a mile do I consume.  And how many more miles until my mouth is completely torn apart.