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On November 1, 2010 Chris turned 40. Thanks to Rob's wife, Geanina he celebrated in style. Geanina made sure a party was organized to celebrate Chris' special milestone!

Chris decided he wanted a Halloween party.

On October 30th at Chris' office, all kinds of costumed people showed up, most of them very much looking like they all came out of the same comic book series; there were superheroes aplenty! Geanina and Rob didn't arrive costumed though. They were too busy what with their new baby girl who just arrived four days before the party!

Thus Robert and I were the ones to decorate the office and set up for the party. Robert helped me with the carving of pumpkins from our garden, I made spider webs out of white crepe paper, Robert blew up a couple dozen black and orange balloons and strung them all around, I hung up puffy pumpkins and cut out tiny pumpkins to scatter on the serving table, Robert hung up a string of lighted spiders. When we were all done the office looked very festive.

I had already volunteered to make the cake and with a little research on Google for ideas, I found an easy Frankenstein cake to make for the occasion! Rylan enjoyed putting the candles into it. He decided on 20 thinking that would be enough of a challenge for Chris to blow out. No problem for Chris, he blew them all out with one big puff. Could he have mastered this feat with forty candles?

When Chris arrived and donned his costume I was in awe. When he donned Seven in a corresponding costume I laughed so hard I almost fell on the floor. Chris found Seven's costume at the same costume store where he found his and told us it was actually a child's costume. He converted it to fit Seven by taking out the back seam, stuffing the arms and stitching up hands on his sewing machine.

Party guests enjoyed playing air hockey, video games, flying the helicopter Chris received as a gift and being superheroes as they flew around in the huge warehouse beyond the doors of Chris' office. Guests also enjoyed pizza, soda, pretzels, chips and of course Halloween candy! All in all it turned out to be quite a celebration!



Dakota, our three-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, was diagnosed with Addison's Disease on October 15.
I took her into our vet on October 14th after she became very lethargic the day before on Wednesday. She was dehydrated, had a subnormal temperature, and was wobbly.

Our vet determined she should be given an ACTH test being all her symptoms indicated a hormone imbalance. Because she had not eaten (no interest) that morning he was able to administer the test right away (a fast is required for an ACTH test). This test indicates whether or not a dog has Addison's. This was a very good call on the vet's part! Addison's disease is often very hard to diagnose because of the onset of symptoms that often occur in an indeterminate pattern. She was diagnosed quickly and was able to be treated immediately to correct her potassium and sodium levels. It took until Saturday to accomplish this. When I picked Dakota up three days later on Saturday night she was much, much better. I was very pleased.

The next day, early Sunday morning, she crashed. Being Sunday it was off to the emergency clinic. She was nearly in shock by the time I arrived at the clinic. She went back on fluids and spent Sunday night there. She then was released back to our veterinarian early Monday morning. She was only a little better and she had become quite bloated. The vet on duty back in Napa was puzzled by the fluid that had collected in her abdomen. An ultrasound was indicated as well as sending some of the fluid out for analysis.

By early Monday afternoon our veterinarian's office, after several attempts, could not get hold of their ultrasound specialist. Robert and I became concerned and frustrated and felt it could be a day or more before an ultrasound would be performed and we felt that time was of the essence having seen so little improvement in Dakota when we picked her up at the emergency clinic earlier. We made the decision to take her up to the UC Davis Small Animal Hospital where we knew we would get immediate attention plus expertise.

Sure enough UC Davis was able to do an ultrasound and analyze fluid from her abdomen by the end of the day (fluid analysis through our vet would have taken a day). Dakota was put back on an IV and spent the night at UC Davis (no ferrying her back and forth between our Napa vet and the emergency clinic which is what would have happened if we had left her at our veterinarian Monday). At UC Davis she received the attention of several internal medicine specialists. Nothing alarming was found on the ultrasound, The internal specialist assigned to Dakota told us the fluid build up is something that can happen as a result of Addison's. There was some indication an organ could be causing the fluid build up but given the results of the ultrasound and the fluid analysis and other factors showing up on her blood tests, it was more likely it was a result of the initial hormone imbalance and would correct itself once her hormone balance was in place. Given all this, Dakota was released to go home Tuesday afternoon, October 19! When we saw her we immediately noticed her bloating had already gone down and how much more peppy she was!

Her case is unusual in that she did not bounce back as quickly as most cases do once sodium and potassium levels are corrected. Saturday night it looked like she had. Dogs that have had the disease developing for a period of time (and in retrospect she did because there were signs—we didn't recognize them when they were happening) can take longer to bounce back in about 5% of cases. We were told it will take a few weeks for her to be back to being herself. If she does not get there, further testing will be done to see if there is something else going on outside of Addison's.

Regardless, she is now an Addison's dog which means we will be traveling a different road with her. We know it will take extra time, attention and management on our part. For the rest of her life we will be giving her prednisone pills and monthly percorten injections both of which are very crucial to her well being. We are thankful that there IS a treatment for this disease and that she is again happy and energetic!

What is Addison's Disease?

Addison's disease is a rare condition involving the adrenal glands and hormone production. It is the common name for hypoadrenocorticism, or adrenal insufficiency.

The symptoms of Addison's disease can be vague. They are similar to the symptoms of many different problems making diagnosis difficult and sometimes a process of elimination. Initially, a dog may be listless, or seem depressed. Many dogs are described as just seeming off, or losing the normal sparkle in their eye. Lack of appetite is a good indicator.

Other symptoms include gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea. Pain in the hind quarters, or generalized muscle weakness such as a dog that can't jump onto a bed or couch as he has done in the past is not uncommon. Shivering or muscle tremors may also be present. These symptoms may wax and wane over months or years making diagnosis difficult.

If the adrenal glands continue deteriorating, ultimately the dog will have an acute episode called an Addisonian crisis. Potassium levels elevate and disrupt normal functions of the heart. Arrhythmia can result and blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels. BUN and creatinine levels, generally indicators of kidney function, are often elevated. At this point many animals are diagnosed with renal failure, as the kidneys are unable to function properly. Typically animals are given IV solutions for rehydration, which may produce an almost miraculous recovery. This too, is a great indication that failure of the adrenals rather than of the kidneys is creating the symptoms.

While a dog with Addison's disease will need medications and monitoring for the rest of his or her life, most dogs with Addison's can return to their favorite activities.




A play structure for the grandkids started out as a project we figured would take about two months to build. So we thought. It ended up being a project starting in the winter and going forward for all of spring and summer and even in the fall we were working on finishing touches.

Our first plans touched the ground at the end of February using old gutter sections, pieces of black plastic and strings to determine what would go where. The design was a process of evolution, building parts of it before even fully designing what came next. It was actually based a lot on impulse planning. If this worked then this should work. It all came together in the end creating a maze of fun and challenge for the kids.

All in all the completed play structure (minus finishing touches) consists of a winding maze staircase climbing to the second story of a two-story playhouse (or fort depending on your mode of play), two slides, cargo net, fire pole, captain's steering wheel, swinging bridge (encouragement to create this came from Chris), phone line, climbing rock wall, monkey bars, climbing rope, secret tunnel, and noise makers.

Finishing touches still to be added: flowers, stars and moon decor for the inside of the playhouse, a door in bright orange, indoor-outdoor carpet for downstairs and whatever else our imagination (or the kids') comes up with!

Go to for a chronicle of the entire project (ongoing; will continue to be updated after the writing of this article).



After years of having a short, squat chicken house, Robert decided to lift the roof to make the house taller. Cleaning the house has never been very easy and just keeps getting harder the more aged our backs become.

The biggest challenge was lifting the roof off to build the higher walls and turning it 180 degrees to fit the new reversed roof line. If it wasn't for the Oak tree growing near the house I am not sure it would have been possible with jus the two of us. Robert tied a rope between the tree and the roof and slowly inched and maneuvered it into its new position.

Not only did the chickens get a taller, more open house they also were given a bigger area to roam in. We decided, having so many chickens going through so much chicken food, it was time to introduce them to bug eating. We fenced off an area along the west fence between us and the neighbors to gain a very nice free range area. We also expected letting the chickens spread out more would keep Dakota from chasing them as much. Wrong. She now doesn't just run around the small yard where they were cooped before but runs all the way down to the very end of the new range area and back to the small yard getting more chasing time than ever.




Right before Thanksgiving Tim, Kathy, and Sierra flew to Hawaii. Rylan, Aubrey and Sadie stayed at our house. We had them here for almost a week.

The first day, after being dropped off the night before, we took Rylan and Aubrey to Scientopia, a local indoor activity bonanza for kids. After a couple of hours with the two of them running from one activity to another we headed to Black Bear Diner for lunch. Yum!

The next day we shopped at Target to let Rylan and Aubrey each buy a toy then we hung out at home making turkey place holders for Thanksgiving, and mummy hot dogs for lunch. The kids also spent a lot of time doing one of their most favorite activities: putting stickers into books I gave them.

On day three we all visited Chris. Going to Chris' house means playing arcades, Skee-Ball, and Hot Wheels! The kids enjoyed Chris. Chris enjoyed entertaining them.

Day four we toured Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory. The kids went into a frenzy when they saw all the stickers and wanted them all! After the tour we all made postcards from a pack of free stickers we each received. Next of course was shopping at the gift store. We went home with a bunches of stickers! If you haven't visited Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory you must! What a fun place and SO many different kinds of stickers and at very good prices!

Day five was another day at home. It was a good opportunity to make sugar cookies. I told the kids we needed to make them for Thanksgiving with the idea we would use our Thanksgiving cookie cutters. Well of course they could care less about making theme cookies. Before long they were making hearts, jack-o'-lanterns, witches, Snoopy, Pink Panther...

Day six Tim, Kathy and Sierra were home from Hawaii and came to pick up the kids and Sadie. What a happy reunion there was between them all!

Kathy, Tim and Sierra (the Hawaii Three-O group) enjoyed their time in Hawaii. Sierra enjoyed all the attention she received and Tim and Kathy enjoyed doting on her. For more details about their Hawaii trip, visit Kathy and Tim's home page.



We enjoyed hosting Thanksgiving this year and had quite a group: Jean, Dorothy, Stacey, Dave, Ashley, Arya, Kim, Gary, Fely, Nick, Briana, Kim, Chris, Tim, Kathy, Rylan, Aubrey and Sierra—18 guests total!

So much was provided by our guests all Robert and I had to take care of was the turkey, gravy, a quick vegetable dish of peas, and the easy stuff like cranberry sauce, pickles and olives. Oh wait, Robert did make a pie too. He went all out with a praline cream cheese pumpkin pie!

The turkey placards Rylan helped me make created a colorful accent on the two tables we set up, a big one for the grown-ups and a little one for the six and under crowd.

After dinner we played a game I found wherein gifts were passed around left and right while I read a story. No one knew which gift they would end up with in the end. Gary also brought a game for everyone to play, a trivia game he invented to play on the computer.

With so many family members here this year and with everything everyone contributed to celebrate this special tradition, Thanksgiving 2010 turned out to be one of the best ever.