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I remember so vividly bringing Audrey home from the hospital.

She had arrived six weeks before her due date (June 26, 1978… 30 years ago today!), on May 23. She spent a couple of days in the intensive care nursery, then graduated to the convalescent nursery, and then on to the regular nursery.

Audrey’s journey home took 12 days, but I was sent home on day 8. As you can imagine, going home without my baby was just so difficult. My husband and I drove to the hospital for each feeding during those 4 long days… so her homecoming was such a celebration of health and happiness.

As I walked into my kitchen with my bundle of joy, I sat down to feed her in her home for the first time. But all I could focus on were the dust bunnies dancing (no, mocking me) under the kitchen sink. We had one of those big basin sinks with the exposed plumbing underneath… and the dust bunnies were multiplying as I stared.

I remember bursting into tears. Not joyful tears of having my Audrey home. Not postpartum tears. But tears of doesn’t-my-husband-know-that-I-have-been-so-overwhelmed-with-missing-my-baby-and-recovering-from-my-c-section-that-he-should-have-known-enough-to-annihilate-the-dust-bunnies?

I knew I could care for my beautiful baby. I knew I could recover my health.

But those dust bunnies? Thinking of swiping them clean just pushed me over the edge.

So… ahem. I have been spending a lot of time at Audrey’s home helping with her boys. The older two are just about perfect with the baby, but a baby is a baby and he needs to be watched at all times. Benjamin is only 14 months old, so he needs supervision with kissing and caring. And Audrey is recovering from a c-section… besides having a husband, a home, and 4 boys under 4!

This is a message to Daddy… and all daddies out there. Here are 4 things to remember about new babies:

1. load the dishwasher, often
2. clear the counters, often
3. toss a load of clothing into the washing machine and dryer… and FOLD it
4. attack the dust bunnies

These “new baby” necessities will be remembered for years. I am going out on a limb here… but these 4 things are probably more appreciated than rest, food and changing diaper duties.

Clean goes a long, long way, Daddies!

(a note to Mommies… have I left anything out!?)

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Happy Father’s Day to all those DADS out there! Today is the first day it hasn’t been 95 degrees out… so we’re already off to a glorious day!

And to my own DAD… my own special FATHER…

Happy Father’s Day! To the very first man I loved and adored…

Thank you for being YOU.

On this day, I honor you… for all that you have brought into my life. And all that you continue to bring.

To the only man on earth that calls me Audro.

The man who knows why I cried my eyes out when I got my haircut when I was 16 years old (and still tried to convince me that it looked good!).

The man who introduced me to clam dip, fried bologna sandwiches, coffee cabinets, grilled cheese with tomato, pancakes made with bacon grease, coffee with cream and sugar, lemon-filled donuts, double cheese everything, strawberry shortcake and mashed potatoes with lots of butter.

The man who coached my softball team for 5 years. The man who NEVER missed ONE swim meet in 18 years… even if it meant flying to Michigan, North Carolina or Tennessee.

The man who encouraged me to go wherever I felt I belonged when it came to deciding on a college. And even though he knew that me moving to NYC after college would break his heart, he never told me so (even though I knew).

The man who loves my children. Sees in them the gifts that I see. And sees the pieces of “him” and “me” in them… which I know touches his heart.

To this man. My father. My father for 30 years. I love you more than anything. You are still the man who inspires me to reach for the sky. Dream the bigger dream. And believe that there are no impossibilities in life.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I love you so much, DAD. You and Mom will always be my heart and soul together. I feel so blessed to have you as my DAD!

– Audrey

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I search high and low every Father’s Day for the perfect gift.

It’s not that easy to find things for my husband and for my own father. Especially when they both tell me over and over again that “I have everything I need.”

But I have come up with my Top 10 Gifts for Father’s Day.

So Matt and Dad… STOP READING NOW because soon you’re going to be seeing one or more of these things nicely wrapped in packages with your names on them!

1) DadGear
DadGear offers an extensive line of dad diaper bags and men’s diaper vests – all stylish dad gear that’s designed by dads, for dads.
Read our DadGear reviews here and here (and we will be reviewing another DadGear product on June 6th).

2) ITZBEEN
Finally a tool to help new oh-so-helpful dads (and moms) remember the basic details of baby care. Designed with the needs of a new parent in mind.
Read our ITZBEEN review.

3) Grill Charms
Grill Charms are the must-have grilling accessory for every man. Grill Charm your food prior to cooking to distinguish spices and flavors, meat temperatures, or to avoid health and allergy issues.
Read our Grill Charms review.

4) The Daddle
A “Saddle” for Dads. Horseback rides with your kiddies around the living room, back yard, or anywhere… will never be the same.
Read our The Daddle review.

5) My Cuppa Coffee Mug
Make the perfect cup of joe with this graduated color-chip style scale of coffee-colors mug.
Read our My Cuppa Coffee Mug review.

6) World Wide Fred’s Beer Bands
Never lose your beer again, or have to guess, “Is this one mine?”
Read our World Wide Fred’s Beer Bands review.

7) Quick Count Football
A fast-paced strategic family card game that you can take anywhere. The fun and competition is endless.
Read our Quick Count Football review.

8 ) Buff Wear
A uniquely versatile and totally cool head garment that you can wear up to 12 different ways for protection, comfort and fun!
Read our Buff Wear review.

9) Joe’s Coffee Collar
Re-useable, insulated beverage sleeves that keep your hands from burning while at the same time keeping your beverage warmer, longer.
Read our Joe’s Coffee Collar review.

10) Desktop Charger
Organizing your desk means more than getting your pens and pencils in order. We’re in the technological age, so let the Desktop Charger be a home base for all your electronic devices.
Read our Desktop Charger review.

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Also check out the Last Minute Father’s Day Gift Guide at Mommy Daddy Blog!

Thanks to Dawn at Coming to a Nursery Near You for creating our fabulous button!

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Priceless…

Less than 5 weeks to go.

Matthew is working crazy hours right now.

Knowing full well that 3 boys, all 4 and under, are non-stop…

Having Mom and Dad come over this morning, cook breakfast and occupy the kids from 6 am to 8:30 am… while I took a (gasp!) glorious shower.

Yes, PRICELESS.

(Thanks Mom and Dad. Is this an early birthday present? Yes… I turn the big 3-0 on FRIDAY!)

– Audrey

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The awful place

Yesterday I had to go back to that awful place.

Well, I guess it’s unfair to call the place itself awful… it’s just the things that have happened in my life around that place have been.

Let me take a step back.

In January 2001 I was at the movie theater with my then-boyfriend (not my now-husband, thank goodness) when I received a frantic call from my mom. Our 12-year-old dog, Cracker, had not been himself all day, and she and my dad had brought him to the vet. That vet had advised them to go immediately to the emergency veterinary hospital. And that’s when my mom called me.

I remember having to leave the movie theater in a hurry, and first having to drop my boyfriend’s sister and cousins off before we could rush to the hospital.

I don’t recall all the details of that day. I was distraught over my sick “brother” and I think in a bit of a state of shock. Cracker and his littermate Carmel were my first dogs ever, and the thought of losing one of them was almost too much to take. But we did lose Cracker that day. The vet told us that we could take him home and let him live uncomfortably for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or we could put him to sleep there, to go in peace with all of us surrounding him. We chose the latter.

The next day we went back to the hospital to take Cracker’s body home with us. My dad had nearly broken his back digging a hole in our backyard, and we buried Cracker lovingly there, placing a rock and a squirrel statue above his resting place so we would always know where to find him.

(When my parents moved from that house 4 years later, they nervously told the new owners that our two dogs were buried in the yard – Carmel had passed away one year after Cracker, and my father had again dug a hole in order to place Carmel next to his brother. Luckily, the new owners were dog lovers and promised to honor our dogs’ resting places.)

After we lost Cracker so suddenly (even though he was almost 13, he had been very active up to that point), I had hoped to never have to go to that emergency vet hospital any time soon, if not never again. We luckily didn’t have to return there with Carmel. When it was his time to go (he was almost 14 and had basically lost his ability to use his hind legs), we had a vet come to our home to put him to sleep peacefully. Although it was incredibly heartbreaking for us, we knew he had gone at his time, and in a peaceful manner.

And then last June one of my worst nightmares came true – and it was back to that awful place.

I remember it as clear as day. I had been worried for a few of weeks that Bismarck didn’t seem like himself. I had brought him to the vet a couple of weeks before, but the tests came back normal. But that Friday morning, June 1st, I just knew something was wrong. I. just. knew.

I called the vet and was able to get Bismarck in that morning. Since my mom knew how nervous I was, she came with me. As the vet examined him, commented on how anemic he was, and asked if he had recently eaten any rat poison, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I knew there wasn’t a chance he had eaten rat poison. And I knew that whatever was wrong was serious.

After we waited about a half hour for Bismarck’s bloodwork results to come back, they showed that his white blood cell count was extremely low. The vet told us to go immediately to the emergency vet hospital. And from my experience with Cracker, I knew that wasn’t a good sign.

On the drive over, I called Steve at work and told him to meet us there right away. He quickly arranged to have his colleagues cover the rest of his classes, and he rushed to be with us. When he walked into that cold, sterile room my mom and I were sitting in with Bismarck, we locked eyes and tried to comfort each other. We tried to be strong for Bismarck, but what we had heard already just was not encouraging.

We had to leave Bismarck at the hospital that night, and having to leave there without our Big Boy, and thinking of him alone in his cage trying to be brave, was just too difficult. Steve and I stayed over my parents’ house that night since they live about 10 minutes from the hospital, just to be as close to Bismarck as possible. We took turns comforting each other that night.

If you followed our blog last summer, you already know that Bismarck fought and fought so bravely, but lost his battle with gastrointestinal lymphoma in 8 short weeks. I knew we did everything we could to help him. Chemo treatments, holistic vet visits, a new diet… I would have cut off my right arm if someone told me it would help him.

In those 8 weeks, Steve and I had to make many trips back to the emergency vet hospital, for Bismarck’s chemo treatments, to have them check out his swollen leg… and ultimately, on the night that we were told his cancer had spread and keeping him alive much longer wouldn’t be fair to him.

We wanted Bismarck to pass peacefully in our home, in our arms. So the vet gave us the phone numbers of a few people who we could call. I can’t even begin to describe how awful it was to walk out of that hospital with Bismarck, knowing it would be his last night on earth. How awful it was to have to call up the man who will come to your home the next day to put your dog to sleep. How awful it was to have to watch my dad (with Steve’s help this time) have to dig another hole, this time in my backyard, in which to lay my Big Boy to rest.

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I get so bothered by people who insist on making light of those of us who consider our dogs our children. So if you’re one of those people, please ask yourself next time you want to say, “It’s not the same. You just don’t know”… What do I hope to gain from comments like these? Why do I feel the need to prove what constitutes being a mom? OK, stepping off soapbox now.)

I still don’t fully understand how, but we have made it through these past nine months since losing Bismarck. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and talk to him. I he watches over all of us, and I know he sent Seth to us. He knew that Ryder needed a brother to play with and that mama and daddy needed a snuggle boy.

But back to that awful place known as the emergency vet hospital, which we had to return to yesterday.

For over a month now, Ryder has been limping on her right front leg a little. It’s an inconsistent and intermittent limp, one that will appear out of nowhere and then disappear. But she sometimes after she wakes up from a nap or after she runs after the ball a lot, we will notice the limp more.

Since our whole ordeal with Bismarck, I have become perhaps a bit overly cautious about everything. So I have brought her to three different vets, plus our holistic vet. No one could really give a clear answer, so we made an appointment with a surgeon for Ryder to get some X-rays done on her leg.

Of course, the place we had to go for this appointment yesterday was the emergency vet hospital.

I had not been back there with Steve since the night we took Bismarck home for the last time. We had to go back into one of those cold, sterile rooms to meet with the surgeon.

We explained to the tech who met with us before the surgeon came in that we try to cover all the bases because of what we went through with Bismarck. And that is when my strong, don’t-let-your-guard-down husband broke down, probably overcome with emotions that came to the surface just being back at that awful place.

When it was time for the surgeon to take Ryder back for her X-rays, Steve and I smiled in remembering how brave Bismarck always tried to be for us. He would get taken back to get his treatments, and we just knew he was trying to comfort us by putting on a brave face. He was just, simply, him.

Meanwhile, poor Ryder, our little baby girl, looked back at us like, “I can’t believe you two are behind this!”

After the X-rays were finished, we met with the surgeon, who told us he couldn’t find anything wrong. There is no more arthritis in her arm than is normal for a Labrador her age (she’s 6). Maybe it’s just a kind of “ache and pain” she has, like everyone gets as they get older.

When he brought Ryder back out to us, she was still a bit groggy from being put under anesthesia for the X-rays. And she was not happy with me or Steve.

We made sure Ryder got her rest yesterday, and even Seth left her alone and didn’t take any of her toys.

We are hoping that her leg just needs a little rest once in a while from all the running she does, chasing after tennis balls.

I really do not want to have to go back to that awful place any time soon.

– Jane

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Didn’t you just love those photo booths that used to be in, like, every mall and movie theater!? We sure did. Here are the outcomes of three of those photo booth trips. I think these were all taken in either 1991 or 1992.

The first one is me (Jane), Audrey and Dad; the second is me, Audrey and Mom and the third one is of me, Audrey and our brother Keith. (Note to Adam: it looks like the you, Audrey and I are going to have to find a photo booth!)

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“Hey, sweetheart”

Ah, manners.

It is said that manners sweeten truth and add beauty to old age.

This is true. And in my experience, I have found this true of older gentlemen.

Now of course this statement does not discount the fine manners or matters of etiquette of younger men… but again, I speak from my own experience.

The “sweetheart” tag is a good way, I think, to explain this.

As a young girl, I found it funny when men addressed me as “sweetheart.” I can remember my Dad’s Navy friends calling me “sweetheart.”

Never “Sharon.”

Always “sweetheart.”

Like, “Hey, sweetheart, how’s school?”

Or, “Sweetheart, can you give your Dad a message for me?”

I did not realize back then that “sweetheart” is the translation for, “I really have no idea what your name is.”

As I grew older and more liberated (it was the late 60’s/early 70’s after all), I found the tag “sweetheart” a bit less endearing. I recall one incident at a school where I worked as a summer school teacher. It was a vocational school, and one older man, an automotive instructor, called me the “sweetheart” word in front of a group of high school students.

Like… “We don’t teach poetry here, sweetheart.”

Maybe it was the part about not teaching poetry to these kids that bothered me, but I reacted to the “sweetheart.”

“My name is Sharon,” I replied.

“OK, sweetheart,” he answered.

I guess it was then that I realized that “sweetheart” meant, “I will never remember your name.”

Ah, manners.

He could have ignored me from then on. He could have called me some other name. But he didn’t. He called me “sweetheart” all summer (even as I pursued the teaching of poetry to those young automotive students who until then thought they hated poetry). And I began to love him for it.

There have been lots of men in my life who have called me “sweetheart.” Neighbors. Mailmen. Cashiers. Ticket booth guys.

These guys are typically older than me. They are typically pretty confident that “sweetheart” is far better than, “I really don’t know what your name is, and if I do I can’t remember.”

Then came last Saturday.

I was at a basketball game with my husband. A rather important younger man (I will say young enough to be my son) came around to make sure that all was well with the tickets, the seats, the service…

Then he turned to me and said, “Hey, sweetheart. Hope you enjoy the game.”

I smiled. I actually almost laughed.

Yes, I know it sounds better than, “Hey, I-don’t-know-what-your-name-is-and-I-probably-should…”

And I have to say that I kinda like being called “sweetheart.”

Ah, manners. They sweeten truth and add beauty to old age.

But now they sweeten my old age!

– Sharon

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