Loss of a furry family member

It’s hard to know where to begin.

Our sweet, loyal, lovable black Labrador, Harley, died of cancer a couple weeks ago. We’re not sure exactly how old he was, but we’re guessing around 13.

Harley arrived at our family already named and all grown up, having spent his puppy years with a great family who trained him with military precision. When that family got re-stationed, they gave us Harley with the understanding that we would give him a great life doing the things he loved – being outside, playing with other dogs and, most of all, being smothered by children.

I’m proud to report that we gave him all those things.

Harley pile

And in return, Harley gave me another watchful eye over the kids. He gave the kids his protective presence at night, when he would lie at the foot of their beds and keep the bad dreams away. He gave my husband a buddy who was always up for a hike through the woods or a weekend camping trip. And he gave us all what all the best dogs do: constant love and affection.

It’s hard not to feel the absence of that.

I still expect to see his smiling face and wildly wagging tail whenever I come home. I haven’t been able to bring myself to put his food bowl away. But hardest of all is watching my kids grieve his absence.

My oldest is a fierce animal lover who has had Harley by her side for most of her life. She has cried and cried, and told stories about her memories of Harley, and been open with her feelings of loss and sadness. Her friends have been supportive at school and amazingly kind and considerate at home.

My son, however, is a couple years younger and still learning how to express his emotions in healthy ways. He also happens to be very good at suppressing any bad feelings, so while I know he is also grieving, it comes out in bursts of poor choices. We’re working on that.

If I was forced to say one good thing about cancer, it’s that it at least gives you a little time to say goodbye. The kids got a chance to do that – to take Harley for one more camping trip, one more walk to the park, to give him one more spoonful of peanut butter. They got to give him one last hug.

But we’re all still learning how to let go.



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Check out the Children’s Museum’s new exhibits for free!

You can tell a new school year is underway by the (in)frequency of my posts here. Busy busy busy!

On nice days when we don’t have anything else scheduled, we bike to school. It helps us work some wiggles out before the school day starts and settle down after school.

But now that I have a kiddo getting out of school and another at 3:30, then activities twice or three times a week that start at 4, we’ve having to drive the van to get where we’re going on time. Or relatively close to on time.

In the scramble I’ve missed posting a lot of stuff, but I wanted to make not to not miss free admission day at the Missoula Children’s Museum. It’s this Friday, Sept. 12, and it’s a chance to come check out the new September exhibits.

The two new exhibits were installed just yesterday, and they were kept secret so as to be a surprise.

So come downtown with the kids on Friday and be surprised!

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Pablo’s Les Caye appointed to Montana Children’s Trust Fund

Yesterday the Montana Governor’s Office announced that Gov. Steve Bullock had made another round of appointments.

Of note to Missoula Mom readers is the latest appointment to the Montana Children’s Trust Fund. Which is what? Well, according to the official website:

The Legislature created the Children’s Trust Fund in 1985 to serve as the lead agency in reducing and ultimately eliminating maltreatment of Montana children. The trust fund provides financial support to local programs across the state to prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen families.

The trust fund is administratively attached to the Department of Public Health and Human Services and is administered by a seven-member volunteer board appointed by the Governor. Board members represent the geographic and cultural diversity of the state. Each member serves a three-year term and represents a profession involved in preventing child abuse and neglect.

Very important. And Leslie (Les) Caye of Pablo was just named to help carry out this important work. He’s a father, a public representative and the program coordinator for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s Best Beginnings Coalition Program.

Congratulations, Les Caye!

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Tennis Play Day for 10 and younger this Saturday

World Tennis Day was supposed to be celebrated in Missoula last Saturday, but due to the blizzard and all, it’s been pushed back to this Saturday.

That’s March 8. Here are the details:

March 3, 2013 – The USTA-Montana will host a Tennis Play Day on Saturday, March 8 at University of Montana’s Schreiber Gym (32 Campus Drive) from 9-11am in celebration of World Tennis Day, a nationwide effort to get kids excited and active in tennis. Play Days are a great way for Kids 10 and Under to play tennis in a fun, non-threatening, non-elimination and competitive environment.

Register at www.MontanaTennis.org (Youth Tennis Page) or on the day of the event. Cost: $5 per player.

Studies have shown that an early, positive experience in sports is vital to combatting physical inactivity and creating a lifelong commitment to an active lifestyle. More than a thousand facilities will host USTA Tennis Play Events this March, each showcasing how fun and easy it now is for families to get into the sport. These events will allow parents to sign up their children for spring and summer tennis programs.

“USTA Tennis Play Events provide an opportunity to engage children in a fun environment, as well as inspiring them to love physical activity and sports for life,” said Kurt Kamperman, USTA Chief Executive, Community Tennis. “These efforts are part of USTA’s strong commitment to making it easier for kids to get into the game—and stay in the game.”

World Tennis Day on March 3 serves as a kick-off to the Play Events. It is a celebration of tennis around the world that includes professional tennis matches in New York City, Hong Kong and London. The World Tennis Day celebration in New York’s Madison Square Garden will feature Novak Djokovic squaring off against Andy Murray, and Bob and Mike Bryan taking on John and Patrick McEnroe.

To learn more about USTA-Montana Tennis Play Events, please visit www.MontanaTennis.org.

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Plan ahead, sign up to help feed hungry children this summer

Thanks to Missoula’s breakfast and lunch programs, school-age children in low-income families don’t have to worry about going hungry during the school year.

It’s a different story in the summer months – unless people step up to help out with programs like the Summer Food Service Program. The program is actively looking for sponsors to help it get its ducks all lined up before the end of the school year.

Check it out, below:

Sponsors Needed for Summer Food Service Program

Help End Childhood Summer Hunger

Helena, MT— Now is the time for communities to start making plans to sponsor a Summer Food Service Program. The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is accepting applications for the 2014 Summer Food Service Program from public and private nonprofit schools as well as local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations that are interested in sponsoring a Summer Food Service Program.

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Fire Monster Garbage Can

That’s what Landon says he wants to name his first child. Boy or girl? Doesn’t matter.

Good thing that’s a loooooooooong ways away.

Willow says she doesn’t intend to have any HUMAN children, ever. But she is undoubtedly going to have lots of kitten babies, in which case, she will wait to see what the kittens look like before she names them.

Isn’t she a sensible soul?

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More free admission days at Children’s Museum Missoula

Believe it or not, this Friday, Jan. 3, is the First Friday of a brand-new year.

As usual, the Children’s Museum Missoula will be opening its doors from 5-7 p.m. Stop by with the kiddos and check out artwork provided by Missoula International School students.

Admission during those hours will be free, as well as free all day long the next day, Saturday, Jan. 4, during open hours from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday’s free admission is thanks to the support of ZillaState.

Not a bad way to kick off the first week of 2014.

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How to give all of Missoula’s children a merrier Christmas

This editorial ran on the Missoulian’s Opinion page yesterday. It talks about the recent toiletries drive for needy students in Missoula County Public Schools. And it describes the ongoing need for other items – diapers, cleaning supplies and extra athletic clothes in particular – as well as how to provide those items if you’re moved to help.

School buildings will be closed through the break but the Administration Building at 215 S. Sixth St. W. will be open during its regular hours after Christmas Day. That’s Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. After the holidays, give Kennedy a call at 728-2400, ext. 1080 or send her an email at sskennedy@mcps.k12.mt.us to find out which supplies are most needed right now, and where to deliver them.

Something to think about as we enjoy all the riches of the season on this Christmas Day. Merry Christmas,  everyone!

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Enjoy the Children’s Museum for free on first Saturday of 2014

The Children’s Museum in Missoula offers a ton of free admission days throughout the year. They have a whole “free admission series” they’re doing. And good thing, too. I’ve noticed that whenever they offer free admission, the place is packed.

My kids prefer to have the place to themselves, and I’m happy to pay the $4.25-per-person price of admission during off hours, especially during inclement weather. For less than the price of a matinee, we get hours and hours of indoor fun.

Here’s the scoop on the next free day:

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Whizpops fundraising for third album of educational children’s music

The CD player in my car is broken.

That’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it means I’m saved from listening to the same mind-numbing kids’ music my children have insisted on since they were old enough to insist.

And it’s a curse because I can’t just buy a great album from a great local band like the Whizpops and pop it in for long car rides. Or even short ones.

Missoula’s Whizpops are known for making kid-friendly – and educational – tunes, and are currently hoping to raise $15,000 to record their next album. The kickstarter campaign would also cover music videos and books based on their songs.

And books don’t require a working CD player to enjoy. Hmm…

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