A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota Idaho, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Newsletter

For those who may not have been on the mailing list, and for everyone else on the World Wide Interwebs, Welcome to the Cummings/Chappell Environmentally Friendly Family Newsletter – 2011 Edition!!! 
You’ve been good all year, and I’ve been watching.  You’ve been kind to small children and animals, haven’t played your music too loud, and eaten all your vegetebles.  As such you are hereby bestowed with the greatest Holiday blessing I can give you – the fourth edition of the Cummings/Chappell Family Newsletter.  We’ve listened to our customer feedback from previous years and included more pictures of Alycia and the dogs, fewer pictures of John, and less of John’s tedious writing.  

2011 was a wonderful year in North Dakota filled with gluten free cookies, furry canine companions and their antics, fresh garden tomatoes, and strolls along the Red River of the North.  Here are some highlights!!!  
Our garden continues to expand and we added another raised bed, a compost bin, and some additional fruit trees.  And in a spirit of addition by subtraction, we removed the unruly stand of lilac bushes and gained significant acreage in the front and back yard.  Since lawn mowing is a much maligned chore in the household, John has begun discretely (yes John can occasionally do things discretely) converting small areas of the yard to annual and perennial beds, slowly so as not to alarm the local neighborhood watch who already has the household on the “suspicious” list due to their California lineage, distinct lack of FOX News Rocks!! or I ♥ Karl Rove bumper stickers, non-truck ownership, and otherwise admittedly odd habits.  

John spent the year fine tuning his Tater Tot Casserole recipe, writing on the world famous Deaf Dogs and Benevolent Gnomes blog, planting more apple trees and currant shrubs, wearing plaid shorts and sandals about town (see above paragraph on public perception of “odd habits”), and quietly enjoying bird watching as much as Alycia.  John was thrilled in March when the basketball team he plays on won their division in the 2011 Grand Forks Grand Am Basketball Tournament. Though he didn’t win any individual accolades or a coveted purple ribbon, he contributed greatly to the team effort (in his own special way) and was voted by his teammates as “Most Likely to Foul Out of a Game” which was deemed by all to be a great honor.  And despite the fact that summer is by far the most pleasant season in North Dakota, John spent much of the summer travelling back and forth from San Diego to continue his consulting practice.  

Tito turned 11 years old this year and celebrated a decade as Alycia’s dog and half a decade as John’s step-dog.  In his old age he has decided he no longer wishes to be burdened with the arduous task of walking up stairs.  He plays the “I’m an old man” card, makes a sad sack Tito face and Alycia carries him up stairs every night before bed.  Even though he claims to be an old and infirm dog, he still manages to occasionally play with Shaak Ti and Shadowfax and is strangely remarkably spry when there are treats or leftover bits of Thanksgiving turkey to be handed out (picture below on the right).  And since he never wanders more than a foot away from the Tasty Treat Triangle (aka Alycia’s Dad, the outside barbecue, and the kitchen), he has gained free roaming and off leash status anytime he visits the Cavalier estate.
Shaak Ti turned 5 this year and continues to take daily informal singing lessons, preferably prior to her early morning walk. She has happily embraced the role of big sister to Shadowfax by teaching her invaluable life skills like thrashing on her back and making bizarre groaning sounds (though since they’re both deaf, we’re not sure how these skills are passed along).  Even though she’s now the middle child, Shaak Ti enjoys the company of her big little sister and the two play and wrestle daily.  Shaak Ti also continues to operate as the household’s fuzzy alarm clock, making sure to awaken the entire household at 5:30 am.  

The photos below are after an epic Spring muddy-buddy marathon race through the back yard with Shadowfax, and posing with Alycia’s Dad for family picture day.   
It was our first full year with our new puppy Shadowfax.  Alycia and Shadowfax spent much time at obedience classes and now (with proper motivation) they can both sit, lay down, stay, play dead, roll over, come, walk nicely on a leash, crawl, down stay, leave it, and fetch.  Alycia continues to hone her “fetch” playing skills with Shadowfax, the most recent fiasco involving the puppy’s lacrosse ball hitting the gutter downspout, flying out of the fence, and ending up two houses down across the street in the alley. Shadowfax is a frequent visitor to doggy day care, and the legions of eviscerated toys will attest to the need to have her expend energy outside the household.  She is by far the best trained and most well behaved of the three pooches, and once she outgrows the puppy spazz phase, she’ll easily be a model citizen. 
Our basement visitor suite was completed in early 2011 and we celebrated by hosting visitors including: Alycia’s sister and fiancĂ© from England, Alycia’s parents from Cavalier, North Dakota, most of John’s family from San Diego, and Alycia’s college chum from Los Angeles.  The pictures below are John’s family (dad, sister, brother-in-law, and in the carriage, our nephew, Jacob) out for a stroll at Turtle River State Park just west of Grand Forks and John and Alycia at their friends’ wedding in Portland, Oregon in September.  
We wish you the happiest of Holiday seasons and a productive and fruitful New Year.  May your pantry and deep freeze (we know you all have one) overflow with the bounty of the past summers’ harvest, and may the happiness of the season leave big stains of Holiday spirit all over your reindeer sweaters.  Thank you to all of our family and friends, near and far, four legged and two legged who make our lives brighter.  We love and cherish you all.  Our last picture is of Alycia, Tito, Shaak Ti, and Shadowfax.  John was again out of town when they had the picture sitting so don’t freak out that the whole family isn’t in the picture.  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone!!!


Karen said...

Merry Christmas to you and Alycia, John! I had the best time reading your holiday card/newsletter; now I feel like part of the family. (Well, ok, you don't need any silly people from Cheesehead Land intruding.)

Give each of those adorable dogs a pat from me....well, maybe not Tito, since he doesn't enjoy that sort of thing.

Best wishes on the upcoming New Year, too!

Anonymous said...

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Alycia. Like Karen, it was an honor to be able to read your newsletter and see the extended family, dogs too! Each time I see a happy dog family, I think about adding them to my family. Dogs were always a part until the last two passed, which really mad me extra sad. And, like you, I have no children either. Dogs always played that part for me.