Friday, January 2, 2015

ICE at the Gaylord Texan-2014

This year (and of course by "year" I mean 2014 because I'm as slow as a turtle stampeding though peanut butter when it comes to blogging) for Thanksgiving we all traveled to Texas to have Thanksgiving with Grandpa E and Josh's brother Ian and his family. Josh had to work Monday and part of Tuesday so we left late Tuesday afternoon. We were about an hour into our trip when we ran into a huge line of traffic that was backed up for about a mile because of a really bad wreck. We ended up waiting in the traffic for about an hour before deciding to take a detour (about an hour out of the way) to go around it. Needless to say, we got to Grandpa E's house VERY late Tuesday night, but I was thankful we were there and all in one piece. We slept in late the next morning and then made plans with Ian to meet them at the Gaylord Texan to go do the ICE exhibit. If you're ever in Grapevine, Texas around Thanksgiving-New Years, you need to go do ICE. It's such a fun experience for everyone! If you don't know what ICE is, here is a brief synopsis: Artisans from China come to the Gaylord Texan every year and spend hours upon hours carving 2 million pounds of ice into beautiful and amazing ice sculptures! They've done it now for about 7 years and this was our third year to attend. While the crowds were much worse during Thanksgiving than they are at New Years, it was still lots of fun. I hope we can go every year they offer it. 

Us with Grandpa E

Eli and Sophie

This year's theme was Frosty the Snowman.

Wearing the required parkas they give you because they keep the ICE exhibit at a chilly 7 degrees :)

Having so much fun!

The most crowded area inside the exhibit is always where the ice slides are. 
Kids, parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, and random strangers are all gathered around watching the kids and adults sliding down the ice slides.

Grandpa E and Ian

Eli sliding down the ice slide.

Last year when Sarah and I took the kids to ICE during New Years we basically had the place to ourselves. This year we went during opening weekend. CRAZY, CRAZY, CRAZY! You can see in the picture below the line of people on the right waiting to slide. It's worth the wait, but because we started getting really cold Eli was only able to slide 3 times instead of as many as he wanted to like last year. 

The last exhibit is always the nativity where the gospel is proclaimed every single minute to thousands of believers and non-believers alike. They have a recording that reads the account of Christ's birth from the Bible and they use spotlights to show each sculpture during the reading of the story. I love how the people at the Gaylord Texans are committed to sharing the true meaning of Christmas with everyone. 

Another year of ICE is complete. I can't wait to see what next year's (or actually this year's) theme is going to be! I hope we'll be able to attend :) 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Our Sweet Maggie

On November 19th, we lost a precious member of our family. Our beautiful golden retriever, Maggie, went to doggy heaven. She would have been 13 years old in the spring. A lot of you that follow the blog have seen pictures of Maggie on here since Eli was born. Those of you that know me in real life know that Maggie was a huge part of our lives and we loved her so much. 

Josh and I got married on January 3, 2002. He had just started working for the college and I was still taking education courses at college. We were poor newlyweds living in married student housing. Then early in the spring a house on campus became available and Josh's boss offered it to us. We were so excited! We spent all our free time fixing up the house and getting it ready. We moved in during spring break and not long after that we started looking at ads in the newspaper for puppies. We decided on a golden retriever because we knew they had a sweet temperament and were great around kids. Josh found a breeder down in south Louisiana, contacted her, and placed a deposit for a female golden retriever. We spent several hundred dollars on Maggie and for us back then that was a HUGE amount of money. We waited six long weeks for our sweet puppy to be weaned and the whole time we read as much as we could about the breed. I can remember having many cups of coffee at the local Books-a-Million and reading books about golden retrievers. We wanted to be prepared. The spring semester ended and I started working full time at my summer job in town. One day at the end of May we got the call that it was time to go get our puppy. Josh took off work and met the breeder halfway. There were several females in the litter, but he said he chose Maggie because she wasn't scared to come up and sniff his hand when he reached down into the kennel. For Maggie, it was love at first sight. She definitely adored Josh from the beginning. 

She would often fall asleep in Josh's shoes.

Before Eli, Maggie was the one who made the Christmas card :)

Maggie was a house dog for the first two years of her life. I loved it and hated it at the same time. I loved having her inside but we quickly learned that she had a huge fear of loud noises. Whenever it rained, thundered, or someone shot off fireworks she immediately started trying to get out of whatever room she was in. Sometimes this meant doors were shredded and walls were destroyed-not good. She also shed A LOT. I was vacuuming sometimes twice a day. All this led us to the decision to make her an outside dog. She didn't like it at first but she adjusted :) 

We bought our first house, moved to the country, and had about 2 acres of land. Maggie had her own pen, but she managed to escape several times because we found out she was an excellent digger. We bought an underground electric fence for her and this deterred her from escaping a little. In 2005, we moved back to where Josh grew up. We rented a house from some friends of ours and kept the underground fence. Maggie oddly enough never escaped. I spent lots of time with Maggie every day taking pictures, walking around the yard, and swinging on the back porch with her. Josh said when I started doing doggy photo sessions, he knew I needed a baby :) She was such a beautiful and loving (though slightly neurotic) dog. 

We bought our second house and a couple years later welcomed Eli into our lives. Maggie and Eli liked each other from the beginning. It was about this time that we started noticing that Maggie was starting to age. She started getting a little white in the face and she also perfected the art of escaping. She was quite the doggy Houdini when it came to escaping from loud noises.

In 2010, we moved into our dream house and this was Maggie's final home. She still acted like her younger self most days and she and Eli had lots of fun together playing in the mud and the dirt in our yard. She also kept escaping anytime she heard loud noises. If you follow me on Facebook, I'm sure you all have seen your share of posts from me about Maggie missing and me having to find her. Eli would usually join me on these trips and he loved getting to ride with me and yell her name out the window. Ha!

Eli and Maggie-Christmas 2013
Notice the black around her eye? She got that from being under my car.
We put her in the garage (to keep her from escaping) because neighbors 
had already started shooting fireworks at this time. 

Probably some of my favorite memories of Maggie were made back in February of this year. We had several snow days and it was so fun to see my sweet doggy act like a puppy in the snow. She LOVED it! It was such a fun time for all of us. 

Maggie's last big adventure was our family camping trip we took in the spring. She went with us and Josh and I kind of had the foresight to realize that this would probably be her last adventure. She had definitely slowed down a lot and spent most of her time sleeping. 

She still had lots of fun exploring with us though :)

Maggie was normally with us anytime we did anything outside. She loved being around us. She didn't even have to interact, she just liked being able to see us all the time. 

Early in November, Josh and I noticed that Maggie just wasn't acting like herself. She wasn't eating like normal and instead of shedding her winter coat she had kept it all summer. We thought it was just  a hormone issue because of her age, but it never got better. She continued to refuse food and then she started refusing to drink water. She became really weak and it started to break my heart. I did everything I knew to do. I flavored her water with chicken broth, I bought her a different kind of dog food, I fed her people food. I did anything I could to get her to eat and drink. The weather turned really cold for a couple of weeks, so Maggie started staying in the garage and eventually the mudroom. It was just sad to watch her rapid decline and nothing I did could stop it. After about a week of her refusing to eat or drink (I was force feeding chicken broth down her throat with a medicine dropper) we took her to the vet. They did a blood test and discovered that she had a moderate case of heart worms and because of her age there really wasn't much we could do. He gave her a steroid shot that day with the hopes it would increase her appetite. Once we she started eating again hopefully, we could start treating the heart worms. The steroid shot did nothing. Maggie got worse over the next two days and we finally made the decision to put her down. That was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made because every fiber of my being wanted her to get better. It just wasn't happening and her quality of life just wasn't good. 

On Wednesday, November 19th, I called the vet during my planning period at school and set up the appointment. I cried during the call and cried for a solid fifteen minutes afterwards. I composed myself before my students came back, but it took everything I had to not break down again. After school, I let Eli know what was going to happen. Josh and I have never tried to hide anything from Eli and have always been very up front about things. We had warned him when we first started noticing signs that Maggie wasn't doing well that she might die very soon. He knew it was going to happen eventually and had been okay talking about it. The whole car ride home from school was just awful. He kept repeating "But I don't want her to die...I want her to live!"

We got home and I called Tammy and Clare to come over and stay with Eli while I took Maggie to the vet. Eli and I were a hot mess when Tammy and Clare arrived. He was crying and I was crying. We both had said our good-byes to Maggie and we both knew that this was what needed to happen. It still was very hard to say good-bye to a dog that had been a huge part of our lives. Clare helped me load Maggie in the car. Maggie was pretty much unresponsive, so I knew we were doing the right thing. But even knowing that I still cried the entire way to the vet's office and completely lost it during the actual procedure. I stayed with her until her final breath. It was so important to me to let her know that I was there. Our vet was simply incredible. He was so kind and comforting to me and let me cry and sob as much as I needed to. After it was all over, he hugged me and gave me a sweet picture of Maggie's paw print. They put Maggie in a nice cardboard box so we could bury her. We chose to bury her at Clare and Tammy's house. She always loved it there and I knew that even if we moved one day, we would always be able to go visit her. Josh met me at the vet and then we drove to Clare and Tammy's house. Josh, Clare, and Eli dug Maggie's grave and helped bury her. Eli, Tammy, and I wrote sweet messages and memories about Maggie on her cardboard casket before we put her in the ground. Eli was so sweet throughout the entire process and I think him helping bury her helped him with his grieving. It was just an awful day, but being with Josh and Eli certainly helped. Our sweet doggy is gone, but her memories will always be with us. She was such a wonderful dog and I'll miss her so much. I'm so thankful she's no longer hurting or in pain. I'm so thankful for all the years we had with her and for all the wonderful memories we made with her. Our family felt complete having her and no dog will ever be like her...We love you sweet girl!

Maggie Michelle Wilson


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