Monday, February 15, 2010

Our house is a zoo

We have too many animals. Three chihuahuas, one parrot, five tortoises. Okay, the tortoises barely count because they hibernate for half the year and are no trouble at all just eating grass in the back yard the other half of the year, but it still feels like I'm living in a zoo sometimes. If my husband had his way, we would have 100 dogs and 100 birds (and 100 cats etc.) Whenever he likes something he wants more more more. When we got married, we made a deal that we would have exactly zero pets. If fact, he had three large high-maintenance beast dogs when we met. Two pit bulls and a black lab. They destroyed everything they got near and I used the flimsy excuse of having family members with allergies and carted them all off to new homes. At the time it seemed totally reasonable to ask of John in exchange for my hand in marriage, but that was before I became a dog person. Now I realize that I made him give up babies I am much more grateful for the sacrifice (although I do not miss those bastard dogs).

John always liked big dogs. He likes to site statistics about deterring burglars and what not. We have had many arguments about this and he has even brought home large-breed puppies on occasion that I have sent packing within 2 hours of receiving. At the police station there is a kennel in the garage where they put found dogs before sending them on to the pound. John can not physically pass the occupied kennel without offering a home to the dog and then cooking up some gift-giving scheme to get it past me. When it comes to animals, he is the gas and I am the brake. Obviously I have wavered, seeing as how I am at this very moment typing this while covered head to toe in living creatures.

Cracker was the first born. We were newly married and baby hungry and had just moved to a place where we didn't know a soul. We went to the pet store with the intent of getting something to nurture, but not a long term commitment. (maybe a hamster or a bunny) We saw little Crack-a-lack and the dog knew how to work it. He instantly shut out the entire world besides me. He worshipped me at my feet. He kissed my face and loved me with such a tunnel-visioned intensity that I was sold. John wouldn't even consider Crack because "it wasn't a dog, it was a rat." We left him there but I kept thinking about him. John realized his opportunity. If Staci Kramer were ever going to let a dog into her home, it was gonna be that dog. He suggested we go back for him. We got there five minutes before another couple came back for him too. To this day I shudder to think of getting there after Cracker was sold. He was meant to be our baby.

That same week we found out that we were pregnant with Jack. We had a practice baby. I took the dog to the grocery store in my purse, John got up five times a night to take him potty. We gave him special canned dog food and dressed him in sweaters and let him sleep in our bed. Overnight we became exactly the kind of dog people I had always loathed. I didn't care. The dog was my child. Having a real child nine months later brought Cracker to dog status but he will always have a special little place in my heart. If you have ever met Cracker then you know that this is important to his survival because in reality he has very few other redeeming qualities beyond worshipping me. He is cantankerous and selfish. Un-trained, overweight and useless. Sheds on everything and bites visitors if given the chance. He still maintains his all out adoration of me, which earns him his keep. After seven years he still sees John as nothing more than evil competition for my affection and challenges him to a phisical fight every single day. He snarls and growls and snaps and believes he has won every time. Then he prances around with his chest out and then stares at me lovingly. Hes a smart dog. If he had chosen John to love, he'd have been out of here long ago.

When Jack was born Cracker was jilted. I walked in the house with the baby from the hospital. Crack sniffed him up and down and then looked at me with what I swear was a look of absolute betrayal. So thats how it's gonna be, huh? You have gone and replaced me with a litter of one. It was true. He had been replaced. He was kicked out of our bed, lost his spot on my lap to a nursing baby, and his sweaters got lost in the laundry. He never got to ride in my purse and within a few months was getting his tail pulled and his fur yanked out by his replacement. It was harsh. That's when we decided to get Cracker a dog. We would feel much less guilt if he had a little playmate. I was tentative but then I had an idea. What if we could find a little black chihuahua and name it Token. Hilarious. A white dog named Cracker and a Token Black Dog. I know, racist, right? But funny. We called local Chihuahua breeders and there was one dog available in the area. He happened to be black and dirt cheap. Sold. John went and picked him up specifically on a weekend I was out of town so that the new dog could worship John. It was only fair for each of us to have a devotee. This is before we learned that every dog in the world is bound to devote themselves to the Alpha in the house and that was me no matter who picked him up. To make matters worse, John couldn't bear to tell people his name. He was terrified that it was too racist sounding to have a black dog named Token. We called him Dozer and it stuck.

We found out that little Doze was the last dog left for a reason. He had a deep fear of everything (except me). To this day he spends all his time shivering in fright and running away from his own shadow. Its horribly sad to see him suffer every day but nothing can be done for him. He's just neurotic. The biggest scaredy cat I have ever seen. Incidentally he is physically perfect other than this. Probably the most perfectly formed chihuahua aesthetically speaking I have ever seen. Sweet to the core, but riddled with anxiety. He is expecting to be beaten at any moment. He has never been beaten by anyone but he is convinced that its gonna happen any minute now. Like an abused rescue dog but not.

Lala came next. John shamelessly brought her and a litter mate home for Christmas one year as a gift for me. We thought she was submissive but turned out she was deathly ill. Within a day of her purchase we had to drop a few hundred bucks on emergency vet bills. I sold her litter mate to a friend within a day but she wormed her way into our household. She is obnoxious to no end. Her attention span for licking faces has never been rivaled. She is always happy and unflappable. Driven to please, high energy all the time. Like the others, she likes me best, but its not nearly as flattering as Cracker's love because she doesn't detest everyone else like he does. She's a good dog. Technically the best of the three, but my least favorite. I guess I'm drawn to dogs with issues.

Dude is our parrot. He needs to take a tip from Cracker. He has chosen John and hates me. Because of this his future is uncertain. We got him because I had a parrot as a teenager (died on my mission, a tragic tale for another time). He was cool at first but he has never really learned to talk and he freaking bites me every time I come near him. Don't let me forget to mention the maniacal squawking that fills the house for hours a day or the feathery poopy mess he creates all over the place. Also with my mystery illness, I have had more than one doctor suspect it could be something I caught from the bird. So add communicable diseases onto Dude's list of charms. He is the big loving dog John never gets. John would take the bird on patrol with him and wear his crap dripping down his shoulder like a pirate if it wasn't against department policy.

So what is the point of inventorying out menagerie? I have given in one more time. I got another Chihuahua puppy. When my mom found out she said "Staci there is medication for this kind of thing!"

The new puppy has yet to be named and I am still considering the possibility of giving him away, but in the mean time he might be the cutest thing I have ever laid eyes on. A guy was selling them on the side of the road for dirt cheap and Jack's birthday is this week and I had just been feeling sorry for myself that I don't have a baby and it was a moment of weakness blah blah blah.... We now have FOUR dogs. I still can't believe I did this but then I feel his warm pink puppy tummy and smell his sweet puppy breath and I am sold all over again. The boys are so adorable with him. Jack is very responsible with the potty training duties and gets very excited when he witnesses a poop. Abe is obsessed with carrying him around everywhere and the puppy has been very patient with the two-year old man handling. In fact he follows Ham around when he's not being mauled. There was one dramatic head dropping incident on the first night but I think everyone is up to speed on their puppy toting etiquette. This dog will be spoiled. I have barely seen him walk on his own legs because between the gartners and the boys its always someone's "turn" to hold him. I have always said that Chihuahuas are at the top of the evolutionary food chain and this proves my theory. He inspires people to take care of him without doing a thing.

heres a picture to illustrate my point.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Year Down

Today is my 33rd birthday. I thought I'd take this moment to come out of my reclusive hermit shell and re-enter the world of blogging. This year was a rough one for me but I made it through alive. You may think that that last sentence sounds cliche (and it is) but if you have been around me in the past few months you can attest that survival is my biggest accomplishment. Its a long story but I'll give you the highlights....

Last year I started having this long crazy list of mysterious health symptoms. I basically became crippled by what the doctors guessed was an autoimmune disorder, although they couldn't find any specific diagnosis from labwork. I lost over 60 pounds in just a few months and went from a healthy size 12 to less than a 2. I developed large open sores and my joints would swell up, I felt like crap all the time, my hair fell out, I puked or had diarreah 24/7. I was depressed and overwhelmed. I went to every kind of specialist you can think of. Gastrointerologist, Immunologist, Rheumatologist, Allergist, Dermatologist, Psychiatrist, Pathologist, Neurologist, Osteopath, Hemotologist, Infectious Disease Specialist, Colo-rectal surgeon, Gynocologist, Radiologist, Podiatrist, Chiropractor, Naturopath....I could go on. I took every supplement, swallowed every pill, tried every therapy, read every health book or article I could get my hands on. They put me on Chemotherapy and steroids and painkillers but nothing made a difference. I got dozens of priesthood blessings, went to dozens of appointments, followed every lead I could think of and just got sicker and sicker.

I am 5'10" tall and I now weigh less than 120 pounds. I look like a bag of bones. Its such an odd experience to have become too thin, especially in light of the fact that I have battled obesity my entire life. The first time I enrolled in Weight Watchers I was 9 years old. I got up to almost 300 pounds after my first baby was born. Experiencing the entire spectrum of the weight issue in our culture is something I could write 5 books about. It is surreal. Everyone thinks I'm so "lucky" to have an illness that made me skinny. Believe me, there is nothing lucky about this illness.

I started to wonder if I would live. I wasn't suicidal, but just started to wonder how long I could waste away before my body just quit altogether. I was consumed with the horror of leaving my boys without a mother. I played out every possible scenario in my head. Would I just collapse in the grocery store one day? would I die in my sleep and John would just find me cold in the morning? Would I be hospitalized and eventually my organs shut down despite heroic medical efforts? Would I go unconscious while driving and die in a fiery crash? Its all so morbid. I am ashamed to even recount this stuff but its the only way I can tell you how sick I felt.

A few Sundays ago I hit rock bottom. Kristen came over and found me in the fetal position, white as a sheet, writhing in bed from abdominal pain. She called all of my family and had them all come over because she was so worried and didn't know what else to do. We were going to go to the ER but the doctor said on the phone that there was not much they could do at the ER and I didn't want to go. My brother Christopher gave me a priesthood blessing with my dad. I don't remember every word but he told me that I would be comforted, guided, and healed. I knew it was true.

The next morning I went to the Naturopath. Dr. Jason Porter NMD. I had seen him a few weeks previous and he had put me on some meds and supplements and a special diet. I went in on Monday to get an IV treatment. Basically it is a high dose of vitamins and minerals and everything you need to be healthy but straight into your veins. Its EXACTLY what I needed. My gut was a mess so we needed to nourish my body without relying on digestion at all. At this point I could go into detail about a condition called leaky gut that is the likely culprit in all of this. I'll spare you the details and just say that i have figured out what has been ravaging my body and I have a game plan to get better that has been working well beyond the expectations of even the most optimistic doctors.

I can not overstate what a difference it made. The treatment took like two hours and by the second hour I felt like I haven't felt in a year. The fog lifted, my pain began to subside. It was nothing short of miraculous. Since then I have continued to get better and better every day. I can't even describe how big a relief it is to have found this.

Its been a few weeks now and I have been getting these IV treatments about three times a week and I can now positively state that God has answered my prayer, and I am healed. Now its a matter of replenishing what my body has lost and letting my gut heal and rebuilding my nutritional life from the ground up.

My family has been amazing through all of this. I can't even begin to tell you all of the support I have received. They have cleaned my house and watched my kids and listened to me complain and paid doctor bills and researched and prayed and fasted and shown me the kind of love that very few people will ever be privileged to experience. I don't know what I did to get such amazing people in my life.

I have always preferred to make resolutions on my Birthday rather than at New Years. I'm probably the only person you know who has resolved to gain lots of weight this year. But more importantly I resolve to show my loved ones how much i love them. I resolve to count my blessings Even the little sneaky blessings like muddy foot prints on a freshly mopped floor or spaghetti stuck to the ceiling, because it all means that we are alive and thriving and getting where we need to go. I resolve to choose to love the process. the messes, the fights, the late bills, the snotty noses, the poopy diapers. I will make an effort to celebrate every day that God gives me as a mother.

Tonight I had to explain to Jack why two of our sea monkeys are stuck together. This is delecate territory so I played dumb "I dont know why in the world those crazy monkeys want to get stuck together. Maybe they are dancing. What do you think? he thought for a minute and then offered up that possibly the larger sea monkey is a cop and has needed to arrest and restrain the other one for the good of all the other sea monkeys. Hes on to something there. I cherish these conversations. I write down the kids brilliant thoughts. They are so much work but so much fun and the resolution that I hesitate to even mention is that I want to get healthy enough to have another baby. I want my baby girl. I know she is there.

So if you are wondering why I have turned into the biggest flake in the world, or annoyed with; me because I haven't checked Facebook for months or even listened to voice mails, I admit... I am flaky and lame and there are a list of people who deserve a great big personal apology, for now this will have to do. I'm ready to be a busybody back in the swing of things. Thanks for sticking with me.

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys