Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 9: Rome...

The weather today was not as great as it had been the day before on Christmas day. I think the kids were disappointed that had not ventured out into the city with us the day before! But, we still had a great time. We split up; Rick took Andrew & Harrison to the Coliseum to tour the inside and the Roman Forum. I took Janessa & Nathan to the Borghese Park and the Zoo located in the park.

These monkeys were so cute, we could have stayed and watched them all day long. The babies would run and climb on their parents' backs and tease them. They would chase each other around and around. Parents would get territorial of their babies. It was so much fun to watch their little world.

After the zoo we walked through the Borghese park. It is so beautiful there. We had fun playing hide and seek in the trees and running around everywhere.

We took the subway over to the coliseum to meet up with the Rick, the boys, and Mark & Aersta.

Mark & Aersta are the cutest couple! I caught them kissing along a little tourist stand.

We walked all through Rome in the pouring rain. By the time we made it to the Trevi Fountain, the kids were done. We snapped a quick picture (not a good one) and ran into a restaurant to get some pizza. Despite the rain, it was a very productive day in the city of Rome.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Max the miracle dog...

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you already know part of the story of Max, our newly found German Shepherd that we had fallen in love with over the weekend. Here is the rest of the story...

Rick had taken me to Salt Lake Saturday night as a surprise for Valentine's Day. It was the first time we had ever left the kids home alone for the night. We had a great time and we were heading back home around 11:00 Sunday morning to get everyone ready for church. As we were turning off of Highland Highway to Cedar Hills (right at the mouth of the American Fork Canyon), there was a dog in the middle of the road. Not just any dog, but a gorgeous German Shepherd. I told Rick to hurry and stop and I ran and grabbed it so it wouldn't get hit by a car. I brought it over to the side of the road and saw that it didn't have a collar on. The dog didn't wait a second before he jumped right into Rick's car, in the front seat! He started panting and licking Rick. Like he was saying, "OK, I'm ready to go whenever you are."

Rick looked at me and I gave him that look. You know the look that Sandra Bullock gave her husband in the Blindside? I give Rick that look a lot. He didn't even have a prayer at that point. Stray dog in the middle of the road, AND the fact that it was a German Shepherd? I grew up with German Shepherds, sometimes up to four at a time. We bred them. I love them more than anything. So, we took him home of course!

We told the kids to hurry upstairs that we had a surprise. They were beside their selves with joy, screaming and yelling. They love dogs but we have never known if we would be able to have one. We have a small yard and the boys are allergic to some dogs. But, they adore them. We got some cat food and water and put the bowls on our wood entry floor. He went wild. He seriously ate half of a Costco bag of cat food and drank about 2 gallons of water. (Well, really about a gallon's worth dripped on the floor out of his mouth, so he probably only drank one.) Nathan immediately wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. Once it was determined that he was a boy, Nathan declared his name to be "Max!"

I let the kids have some fun with him while I tried to call animal control. They were closed until Tuesday morning, due to the President's Day weekend. Their recording said to contact the local police if you have found a dog, so I did. The cute girl who answered the phone said that they could have someone come and pick it up. I told her no, that we wanted to keep him and we would take him in ourselves Tuesday morning. I was not about to let a pure-bred German Shepherd spend a weekend in the pound! I left my name and phone number in case anyone called missing him.

It was like pulling teeth to get the kids ready for church. They wanted to just play with the dog the entire day! I really don't think Nathan ever got his hair combed or teeth brushed. I already was stressed that morning working on my first sharing time and trying to get the cupcakes I made the day before ready for a teacher in service. (I had no idea I wasn't going to be home Sunday morning... aren't husbands so sweet & thoughtful?) While working on all of that, I made a few phone calls around the ward. I got a large dog carrier from Heidi Goodrich and we put the dog in that while we went to church. Nathan was so sad the whole time, he kept saying, "But he is crying, he will miss us so much. Maybe I should just stay home with him!"

He did well in the carrier and was so excited to see the kids when we got home. They waisted no time getting him out and started rolling around (in their church clothes) with him!

We had the most fun all weekend. The boys were supposed to go to Sundance on Monday to ski/snowboard, but nobody wanted to leave the dog! Nathan spent a lot of the morning showing him any movie with dogs in it. He had put him in the theater room and he was sprawled out on the Love Sac!

Rick took the kids on a trip to Wal-Mart to buy some things for him. I told him to get a collar and chain so we could put him outside a little (he had already chewed up a drumstick, a cup and a DVD case). The kids bought every snack and toy they could find and we got a big bag of dog food, thinking maybe the cat food wasn't filling enough. They came home and put some thing in the middle of the grass and got some of the rope left over from trek to tie to his collar. Rick called me while I was out and said that by the time he got the rope tied to the thing in the lawn, he had chewed his way through the rope... it was in five pieces! I thought that was so funny, Rick had no idea the power of a German Shepherd! So, I stopped by Petco and bought a 30 ft. cable and of course more snacks and toys for him! By the time I was home with it, Rick had fallen in love with him and said that we could keep him if we couldn't find his owners!

We tried putting him outside last night, but he barked and whimpered, so we put him in his carrier for the night. When I got up this morning, Nathan had put a cardboard sign on the top that said, "Max. My dog." We adored him and he was really fitting into our family. We read scriptures with him this morning as he sat in the corner and chewed on his bone that my sister's family brought him last night for Family Home Evening (they love German Shepherds too). In our family prayer this morning, like all the others that weekend, we asked Heavenly Father that if Max's family was looking for him we would find them. But if not, that he could be our dog. The kids all said "goodbye" and hugged him before heading off to school, just in case he wasn't home when they got home. (Andrew and Janessa were texting all morning, "Did you find his home, do we get to keep him, etc." What happened to no texting at school?)

Right around 9:00 this morning I took him to the animal shelter, not sure how it would go. I told the lady that I had found a dog over the weekend and I wanted to see if he had a chip or if someone was looking for him. She told me to fill out these papers and take him around to the back. I said, "No, you don't understand. I am NOT leaving him here. If he has owners that are looking for him, I will find them. But if not, we are keeping him." She explained that it was against the law to harbor a stray (seriously?) and that they would have to take him and keep him for five days and if he wasn't claimed by then, we could have him. I was not at all going to have that. I asked how they knew for sure that the right owners came? What if some Cruella DeVille came by looking for a gorgeous German Shepherd and said he was hers? She said that they ask a lot of questions to make sure it was the right owner. I still wasn't satisfied. I said, "Well, do you want to at least check to see if he has a chip before I take him then?" She could tell I wasn't going to budge, so she called a lady to come and check. In the meantime, she was looking in the book of lost dogs for a German Shepherd. "Nope, no chip in that dog," the lady came back in saying. I was so excited, we were getting closer. She had looked in the book all the way back for at least two weeks. No missing German Shepherds.

I thought I was almost in the clear to take Max home with me, where he belonged. And then the phone rang. "Hello. OK. What kind of dog? What city do you live in? What color is it? Boy or girl?" And then she looked up at me. Until then I thought it was just a normal everyday call. She said, "Is your dog a boy?" That was it. We had found the owner. The animal shelter lady knew me well enough at that point to hand the phone over. The lady on the other line seemed as sweet as could be, but I still had to know for sure Max was her dog. She told me all about him, including his slightly bent tail. As I looked out the window at Max, wagging his slightly crooked tail, I couldn't help myself but start to cry. I told her that we had her dog and I would bring him home. I took her number down so that I could call her from my cell phone (I had no more use of animal shelter lady).

I talked to her most of the drive, choking back my tears as I was thinking of telling my kids. She was so sweet and told me how her kids were just devastated. The dog had escaped on Friday and they had been searching all weekend for him. They had put posters up all over Highland/Alpine and had posted it on Facebook (obviously we don't have any friends in common). Her husband had even looked all day Saturday for him. He and his kids took horses all over the neighborhood and up the mountains calling for him. He even took his 3 year old German Shepherd up the mountain, hoping she would
would track him (he said he watched too many Lassie episodes). She led him up to the top of the mountain in his snowshoes. When the snow was so deep it was to the dog's neck, he decided she was not on the right track. Their teenagers were so sad all weekend and had been praying for him. They were so worried that he still had his collar and part of the cable on and that he was caught somewhere, suffering. They even had a special family fast on Sunday, the day we found him, that somebody would find him. The best part of the story is this. At one point when she was talking about her dog, she said, "Max!" I said, "What is his name? Is it really Max?" Yes. His name is Max. That little 7 year old Nathan is more inspired than we can even understand.

On my way I stopped home and grabbed his food and a few of his toys (most of the bones were buried various places). The Murdoch family lives in Alpine in a beautiful home that backs up to the hills. The perfect dwelling for a dog. We will miss Max, but we are so thankful that he found us and we could love and take care of him until his family was able to find him. We will never forget him. I am taking the kids to see him at his home today after school, and they have promised to call us if they ever go on vacation. They also said they are talking about breeding their dogs. There isn't anything more adorable in the world than a German Shepherd puppy. I hope they hurry, we can't wait. We even have most of the supplies we would need already!


Here is a quick shot of the kids visiting Max today (and his friend Mia) at his house. The kids took him the rest of his treats (we seriously had enough to last a year), his bones and his ball. They had fun playing with him and Mia. They are feeling much better now that they know he went to a good home and a very sweet family. Max did try to get in our van when we were leaving. He lives outside at the Murdoch's house. I think he liked the Love Sac and all the salami he got from the kids! We told him he could visit anytime he wanted.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 8: Christmas in Rome

The kids actually slept in! First Christmas that has happened in a LONG time. Boy, life with older kids is great! We had to wake them up and bring them downstairs. Of course, we did make them pose on the stairs before they could open presents.

We all sat in the living room, with cameras ready, waiting for them to enter. I love that part, making them wait outside the door until the paparazzi are in place.

The kids were so late that even Aersta had time to get a bite to eat!

Andrew loved his new Italian watch.

Harrison & Andrew got season passes to Sundance from Santa, Nathan got Legos and Janessa got a new purse & wallet with euro in it!

Karen got a beautiful Christmas plate, perfect to serve her tea ring on. Eating tea rings for breakfast is a long tradition in our family.

Karen made a fabulous Christmas dinner! I really love her cooking. I've missed her for lots of reasons, but her cooking is one of the top things on the list!

Rick and I decided that since it was about 65 degrees outside, we would run into the city for a walk. The kids protested and wanted to stay in their pajamas all day long playing games. So, we went without them. We walked through the Villa Borghese and saw these two nuns walking along with this gorgeous sunset. My white balance was still set to indoors, so the picture is blue. But, I still love the memory of them. It was so peaceful in Rome that afternoon.

We were considering taking public transportation, but decided to drive just in case they were off for the holiday. Sure enough, here was an abandoned bus we saw that wished everyone a "Merry Christmas" in Italian.

We hurried through the Borghese, as I tried to remember how to get to the spot that had a gorgeous view of Piazza del Popolo and the Vatican. The sunset was beautiful and I was so worried we weren't going to find it in time!

But we did, and oh, what a view. It was one of the prettiest things I have ever seen!

We really don't look that great (ok, Rick looks fine, it's me that doesn't look great), but I wanted to post at least one picture of us in front of this gorgeous view. This is the only one we asked someone to take for us. The rest were horrible attempts at self-portraits where we would hold the camera as far out as we could. Really, as bad as this one is, be so glad you don't have to see the others!

After enjoying every last second of the sunset, we walked down to the Piazza del Popolo and saw a few things there. They had all of these cool lights being projected onto the buildings, in preparation for their big New Year's Eve party (which we went to later on). There was a cool countdown and everything!

We went on a gorgeous walk through the streets of Rome in the moonlight. This statue was just something we happened upon, but I thought it was gorgeous.

We went to the Spanish Steps.

We also got to see the Trevi Fountain. This was Rick's first venture into the heart of Rome (we only saw the Vatican before we headed north for a week). He really loved it and it was so fun on Christmas day to wander around the city with him. We had a magical evening. And, since the trip to Italy was our Christmas present (and maybe the next 10 years worth of Christmas presents) to each other, this was the perfect way to say "Merry Christmas" to each other. (Thanks to Karen for entertaining our children while we were on our "date night" in Rome!)