Saturday, December 31, 2005

De-decorate Day

I have declared today De-decorate Day, but so far, Kev is the only one that knows. Both the kids are still sleeping. I've been drinking coffee and typing, and Kev just went outside. He is now shoveling snow. We got about 3 inches last night. Yay!

Last night, I was thinking that I still like the Christmas decorations and maybe we would leave them all up until next weekend. But this morning, I got up and suddenly wished for my house back. That's how it happens every year. I'm sure the kids will be thrilled to carry all the boxes upstairs then back downstairs again today. I'm just thrilled they're old enough to help out so much.

We usually have a New Year's Eve dinner with my sister, JoAnne, and my other sister, Kathy, and her family. But my niece and her friends have planned a special party, since they're all home from college for the holidays, and my nephew has a party with his girlfriend or something. I actually don't mind. The dinners were always a lot of work because we would plan a special, fancy menu. And they were a lot of money buying all the ingredients. They were super fun, too. We would have a contest of some kind, like ping-pong or Chutes & Ladders, or something. I would get a trophy declaring the winner, like the World Ping-Pong Champion (Kev won that year). We always would play Gestures. Fun times. This evening, the 4 of us are going out to dinner and then going to see a movie together. I'm looking forward to it.

But first I have to get the kids up and around. On Christmas, we had a family discussion wherein I told them how we always find time together during the week to watch TV shows that we really like all together as a family. We love Thursday nights! I told them that I would like to find a half-hour or even 45 minutes two or three times a week where, as a family, we go out to the pole barn and work out together. We moved all of our equipment out there this past summer. We have accumulated a lot of it. Bike, treadmill, NordicTrak, NordicRow, weight machine, etc. I just want us to do something together that doesn't involve the TV or spending money, something that's good for us that isn't reliant upon the weather outside. Board game nights are fun, but I wouldn't want to do that real often, and certainly not twice a week. I want a routine of our working out together. Plus I love being out in the pole barn. And we can all use the extra exercise. So far, we have done it once. And it was very enjoyable, and we all felt good about ourselves and each other afterwards. This morning will be twice. Just gotta get the kids up...


Because we live at the end of a "no outlet" dirt road in the country, we seem to get more than our fair share of pet drop-offs. People, for whatever cruel, insensitive & stupid reasons, drop their unwanted dogs and cats off. The cats usually turn feral quite quickly, but not the dogs. The poor dogs. We have had to put down a few that have come up to the house because they were too far gone and suffering so badly. One had gotten so cut up in the woods somehow that her coat was coming off in patches and she was covered in maggots; she smelled so awful because she was rotting. Barely able to walk, she made it to our back yard area. Kev took one look and went & got a rifle. It was so sad, and here it is, about 15 years later and still makes me want to cry. And I can still remember the stench. She was a cocker spaniel. Poor dog.

One drop off became one of our favorite dogs ever, Einstein. He was the smartest dog I've ever met. Reilly is super smart, and so is my folks' dog, Toby. But Einstein... he was a genius. He was old when he arrived at our house, but he lived with us for years. He died 5 years ago. We miss him.

Because of all the state-owned land North of us, we get a lot of lost hunting dogs up to the house, too. I found a beagle recently, and she had a nice collar with an engraved name plate. The owner was so happy to get her back. With her had been 2 other beagles, and they were lost, too. I heard one baying off to the West of our place and called the guy. He found that one, and then he found the other one. She was where they had left their coats in the woods, which they did hoping for exactly what happened... the dog found their coats and stayed there. The guy stopped by our house after he found the 2nd dog and thanked me. When he got home after finding the 3rd dog, he called to thank me again. Then the following Saturday, one of the other dads at the basketball game came up to Kevin to tell him his buddy said "thanks"... turned out he knows the owner of the beagles, who had told him the whole story & he realized he knew us from the basketball team. Happy endings are nice.

Once a large, gray hound came up to the house. She had a real expensive collar, also with an engraved plate. I called the owner, and he came right over. He lives in a small town about 30 minutes away, but he was at our house in about 15 minutes. It was a hunting dog that he had just purchased from a breeder in Kentucky, something like a "blue tic hound" or whatever... I'm not up on my hunting dog breeds. Anyway, the dog cost him a small fortune, something like $3,000 and this was about 10 years ago. It was his first time out with her, she took off on him & he lost her. He was thrilled to get her back so quickly. He did offer to give me a reward, but I told him it wasn't even a long-distance phone call. That time was memorable to me because I couldn't believe anyone would spend that kind of money on a dog. She was a beautiful dog, but...

This past Thursday night, something on the deck caught my eye. It was a short-legged black and tan beagle. He's an old guy, with gray on his chin. And yech! does he stink. I think he got into something dead in his travels. Thus, we have dubbed him Stinky. He has a thick collar on, but it's filthy. He has at least 2 injured paws, and he has trouble decided which one to limp with. I think he was an inside dog, because he doesn't have a winter coat, and he shivers if he's outside too long. We made a bed up for him in the garage, and he seems happy. He seems to have such a sweet nature, and he also seems pretty smart. Joycie is already in love with him. She has been wanting to give him a bath, but the "found" ad starts in the paper today, and I want to see if anyone calls. If not, we'll give him a bath this afternoon. I told Kev this morning that if no one calls, then we'll probably end up keeping Stinky. Of course, his reaction was negative. But he is outnumbered, and truthfully, I think he knows it. Though he will try to send the dog to the Animal Control. Stinky is so old, no one would take him. Plus he's got a full set of balls, and for anyone to adopt him from Animal Control, they'd have to agree to get him neutered. No one will do that for an old dog. Going to Animal Control would be a death sentence for Stinky.

Anyway, he seems to be a dog that's been well taken care of, and an inside dog. My hope is that he is someone's beloved hunting dog, and that they'll see the ad in the paper and rush to call us. I'm praying for a happy ending for Stinky, and though I would keep him, I really don't want a 4th dog. The happy ending I want for Stinky would involve a reunion with his loving owner.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

iLove iPod

Joycie has been loading up her iPod, and I know she already has more than 500 songs on it. That girl has such a wide variety of songs that she likes. Every once in a while she'll say, "Mom, you have to listen to this one." So right now I have her iPod in my ears, and I gotta say... I'm lovin' it. The song she wanted me to hear is beautiful, and I've listened to it over and over...

It truly is amazing to me that this tiny little unit can make such a big, beautiful sound in my head. A far cry from the days of my youth when I would record songs from the radio onto my far-out cassette player. I still have all those cassettes. I kept them in a navy blue cardboard box that my Dad brought home from work one day. They're still in that box. Somewhere around here.

And also today I learned that a chanticleer is a rooster. Joycie knew that. My girl is beautiful AND smart!

Joycie has been letting Sammy listen to songs on her iPod nano, too. He LOVES it, way more than I do. He saved his birthday money and most of his Christmas money to buy one... he was $70 short, but I floated him a loan and against my better judgment, we ordered one for him today. I sure hope he can take good care of this tiny expensive object. I have warned him that the first time I find it on the floor, it becomes my property. And I'd love to have one. Not enough to fork out the $250 at this juncture, however. Still waiting for all the bills to come in after Christmas and we've got property taxes looming on the not too distant horizon. Maybe with my March bonus from work... Or maybe off the floor here real soon...


Christmas was wonderful. Joycie and Sam are old enough to be a big help and to understand that coffee comes before unwrapping presents. Dinner at my sister & brother-in-law's was perfect, and we had a lot of fun. My oldest sister and her family were out of town, so we missed them, but we had Christmas with them the week before, so it wasn't so bad.

We all had dinner together (and beverages... Bob had picked up a very nice pinot grigio!), the kids opened gifts, adults had our Chinese auction, then we all played board games and later watched a movie together. The Chinese auction was great... too funny. Everything was at an easy pace, and the day was fun.

Wonderful, happy, enjoyable & relaxing Christmas. Ahhh...

Tonight we're celebrating Christmas with my in-laws, Kev's dad & step-mother & family. It'll be short and sweet. Which is nice.

So now I'm back at work, and while most of the other departments in our building are skeleton crew, our department is almost full staff. This is a really busy week for us, trying to get everything done and all the W-2s perfect. For me, it's hurry up and wait today... trying to balance files and having to wait for jobs to finish running. (Thus the blog post.) Yesterday at work was a zoo. Ugh.

Joycie & Sam have decided to brave the shopping today, anxious to spend some of that birthday & Christmas money they have. I'm meeting them for lunch and going to do a little shopping of my own. My sister, Kathy's birthday is Friday, and for once, I know just what I want to get for her.

There was only one hitch at Christmas... we were supposed to get a lot of nice snow on Christmas eve, but we woke up to a foggy, misty/rainy morning and no new snow. We still have some old snow, but it is sure looking gray & crappy. It's still warmer and rainy today. C'mon sky, gimme snow!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I had to get up early to get the Swedish meatballs in the oven, and now I'm wide awake while Kev and the kiddos are sound asleep. The house is so dark and quiet, it makes my typing on the keyboard sound too loud.

I making the meatballs for our family Christmas dinner. It's kind of a tradition in our family to have them at Christmas. I don't know what it is about this recipe that makes the meatballs "Swedish," but they're very good. It's ground ham and pork together with ground corn flakes cereal, then bake them in a sauce of dark brown sugar, dry mustard, water and vinegar. You have to baste the meatballs with the sauce every half hour or so. It's yummy. The house is beginning to smell like sweet vinegar and baking ham.

My sister, Kathy, is having everyone over to her house for dinner. We'll open gifts there, too. The nieces and nephews all get gifts, and the adults do a Chinese auction. It's gonna be a fun day!

And now, I hear Sammy has gotten up. (My loud typing probably woke him!)

Here's comes Christmas! Yay!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I'm Done! (almost...)

I'm done with Christmas shopping, paying, lugging home and wrapping for Kev, Joycie & Sam! Yay! And as of this past Monday morning, I wasn't even half-way done yet. I was sick with the 'flu last week for almost 4 days, and then spent the weekend trying to get caught up on my job, so this week has been a flurry of catching up. I just finished more than 2 hours of wrapping.

I have pretty much all my shopping done, just a couple more little things. I finally got a box mailed out to my best friend in Texas, just this morning though, so there's only a slim chance of it arriving by Christmas... very slim. She is well used to me being late all the time. I think this is the 3rd Christmas in a row that my package has arrived at her home late. My best friend is very patient with me.

I still have to wrap all the gifts for my family and my in-laws. I've done all of the shopping and will do all the wrapping, with no help from Kevin. But since he's been working midnight 12's this week and also quite a bit of overtime a week ago, I cannot complain. He provides plenty of moral and monetary support.

So now I'm pretty much back on track. I am usually finishing up about this time, always a few more little things to buy or make. Christmas day itself is what stops me. Which is why I don't ever try to start shopping early. I'd just keep going...

I actually got our Christmas cards mailed out today, too. I took my own advice and made them on my computer with preprinted everything. No handwriting at all. Period. Return address labels and recipient address labels. No handwriting. I enjoyed it! Simultaneously with experiencing twinges of guilt for not penning a personal little missive. But I squashed that by reasoning that this was the only way they were getting a card, so deal with it. I even included a wallet-sized photo of the kiddos, which I printed last night. It was not a great picture, but I could not find one great photo of my 2 kids together. I searched through the hundreds of pictures I've taken this year. And then the color was off on the ones I printed anyway. Oh well, better luck next year.

I really liked the card I came up with... mostly because I kinda sorta copied one that was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift catalog. I used a photo of our front yard with snow laden branches and Reilly running through the snow, printed in black & white with a red border and "Warm Wishes" below it. Joycie and Sam thought it was very cool.

Kev and the kids just got home from their shopping trip in town (for their gifts to me), and now they're downstairs in a wrapping frenzy. The pingpong table is pretty handy. Sam has resigned himself to no pingpong until after Christmas.

And now I need a beer.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

We got about 3 inches of snow last night. Beautiful sparkly diamond filled snow. It was a gorgeous morning. Coming onto dawn this morning, taking Sammy over to my folks, I turned onto their long, straight driveway, which is bordered on both sides by fields. It was all a beautiful virgin blanket of snow. I got to make new tracks! A long straight shot up the drive, forging my own path. I love doing that.

I hope we get more of this kind of wonderful blankety snow and that it stays for Christmas.

Kev is at work (until midnight), and Joycie & Sammy left to go pick up Derrick, go have pizza and then go to the basketball game at the high school. I have the house to myself. Ahhh.....

- Why am I trying to teach my dog to lay on the sofa? I like to have him lay up on it with me, which Kevin hates, and it annoys Joycie (because she has to vacuum, as that's her chore). Reilly has been limping around lately like he's an old dog. I think he's hurt himself running too long with Barney outside. I guess I want him to be comfortable. We've been leaving him out to roam the house free while we're gone, trusting he won't begin chewing on books again. I just finished watching last night's 'Without a Trace' episode, and I had Reilly up on the sofa with me. When I got up, he went to jump down, but I had him stay on it. He just looked so comfortable, and now he's sound asleep, stretched out. Kev would be so pissed.

- Why am I goofing off on the computer when I have about a zillion things on my 'Christmas To Do' list? More than just Christmas. I have yet to buy a birthday gift for my best friend's son, whose birthday was October 1st. I want to be able to mail the package to Texas next week.

- We finally got our Christmas tree this week. We had planned to get it last weekend, but Kev got called into work, day 12's both Saturday and Sunday. (Pay check was pretty nice today.) And since he's on afternoons, this week, the kids and I had to go Wednesday evening & get the tree without Kevin. That's the first time ever. Not so fun. I wanted to get about an 8-foot tree, but ended up with a large 9-footer. Big, full tree. It's beautiful. We always get a Fraser Fir because they hold their needles very well. $63 for the tree this year. We used to get 12-footers, but decorating a 12-foot tree takes twice as many lights and garland as a 9-footer. And it takes up a lot of room, since the circumference at the bottom is so large. And twice as much time. Actually more like 3-fold. Anyway, Joyce and I got the tree in the house and standing up, though it leaned. Kev de-leaned it, & put the lights and garland on it yesterday. Now we're trying to figure out when to put the ornaments on it. Kev is suggesting tomorrow morning before Sam's game, but they have to leave the house at about 8:30 am for Sam's game, so.... uh, no. Getting up, and getting the kids up, early at 7 am on a Saturday morning to cheerfully put ornaments on the Christmas tree??? Nope. We still have about half of the decorations to put up around the house, too, and here it is only about 2 weeks from Christmas. I'm going to blink and have to de-decorate already.

- Will I even get around to Christmas cards this year? I mean, hell, I never got to them last year. Well, that's not exactly true. I got them made, but never got them mailed. I make my own cards, and have done now for years. I enjoy it. So why don't I get it done... Hmmm.... Some of my friends send the most awesome photos and poems and 'family letters'. Truly creative and entertaining. I've done that a couple of times. But that shit's hard to keep up. Some years, I just don't feel that creative. And then it's like, gee, last year we got this great letter and this year just a card, what's her problem. I imagine everyone thinking that. I have a friend who takes a photo of her 2 daughters and always sends those photo cards out with the preprinted greetings and valediction & their names. The envelope is addressed with a label. The return address is also a label. And the photo card always arrives early in December. And her 2 daughters are beautiful. They live far away, South Carolina now, and so I just love getting their Christmas card. And how easy is that. My friend has always been known, not only for her beauty (which she's passed along to her daughters), but also for her brains; she's a smart one. I should take a page out of her book. I wonder if I can let myself do that. Last year I didn't send cards because I just plain ran out of time. All that handwriting everyone's names at the tops of the card (inside), with a little message and signing our four names, hand addressing the envelopes... it's a lot of time. If I made cards with preprinted everything and could just stick them in an envelope, I could probably enjoy getting the cards done. Hey, I think I have a plan.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A hybrid personal philosophy...

I heard an interview recently on N P R's F.resh, with H.arold R.amis. He said something that caught my attention. At first, I thought it was insightful. I was interested enough to go online and listen to the interview again, to write down the part that caught my attention. And insightful it may be, but now (and I'm not completely sure why), I find what he said pretty amusing. I sorta feel like I should be smoking dope, or maybe opium, as I read it. Stretched out on a chaise with a brightly colored, fringed scarf nearby. Bare feet. Plump pillows. Highly intelligent companions, though all slightly stoned.

Anyway, here's a man who is older, and I'm sure he feels he is growing intellectually, spiritually or whatever, but after reading what he said about 5 times, I feel like he's stuck in the 1960's.

So now that I've set the (my) stage for you, here's what he said:

"... well, I've been creating a hybrid personal philosophy that's kind of a blend of existential psychology, Buddhism and progressive Judaism. And I kind of describe myself as an existentialist in the sense that I believe that the essential task to leading a good life is to discover meaning at all times; meaning is not given to us. There is no universal meaning to life that applies now and for always for each and every person. That our job - and it's a tough job - is to figure out what it all means, and to fulfill a personal destiny that we each figure out for ourselves."

And then he related all that to the movie, "Ghost B.usters"! Um, maybe that's the part that cracks me up.

Just to refresh my memory, because sometimes I have an idea of what something means, but through time, I can create my own possibly slanted definitions, I looked up a few words.

existentialism: A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

Buddhism: The teaching of Buddha that life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases, and that enlightenment obtained through right conduct, wisdom and meditation releases one from desire, suffering and rebirth.

Judaism: The monotheistic religion of the Jews.

Monotheistic: The doctrine or belief that there is only one God.

And thus ends my lunch break at work.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Five minutes of perfect

I work in an office building that's quite old, a "modern" old; built sometime in the 1960's I think. I suppose the old heating/cooling system in this old building is the reason for the great fluctuations we experience in room temperature. Sometimes the temperature inside this building seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the season of the year or the temperature outside. It's downright crazy.

This morning, in our pod, it was cold, changed gradually to chilly, had about 5 minutes of just right, then zoomed past warm all the way to too hot. Now, it's at too damn hot. Sauna level. Perfect. Just perfect. Right at lunch time. So now it must be nap time because I'm sleepy as hell. I'm in hell. If hell is, indeed, hot.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Winesap in Winter

The Pond in Winter

The case of the barking seal

My 11-year-old son has just gotten into "IM'ing" the last couple of days. He and his good friend, Jacob, have spent hours IM'ing. That's fine, it's new, I'll let him go whole hog on it. But I warned him that at any time I would demand to see the conversation thread. He would never know when. I also explained to him to never, ever, ever write anything that you wouldn't want the classmate you're talking about to see or anything you wouldn't want me to see.

I told him the story about how once when Joycie was in middle school, someone had printed off a whole IM conversation, took it into school and caused Big Time trouble with it. Thankfully, Joycie wasn't involved in that (because she wasn't IM'ing at the time), but some of her friends were and the animosity it caused was pretty long-term. What a mess.

So Sam and Jacob are busily IM'ing each other, but they are also calling each other. I'm in the kitchen and I hear Sam talking to Jake about a girl. Sam has hooked up his friend, Sammiejo, his classmate, with Jake (who goes to another elementary school in our district). Jacob and Sammiejo met at Sam's Halloween party. Sammiejo thinks Jake is cute.

I hit the roof. I believe I said something along the lines of, "I told you no "going out" crap, you're just asking for a lot of trouble. Sammiejo is your friend and Jacob is your friend. Leave it at that. Do not get involved in any of that boyfriend/girlfriend shit. If I have to say it again, you're IM'ing days will be a distant memory." I didn't so much as say it, as shouted it. I used a loud voice, because, yes, indeed, I meant that all for Jacob's ears as well. It worked, too.

Earlier this year Sam was "going out" with Sammiejo, and she dumped him on the playground in front of a group of her girlfriends. Sam, of course, acted at school like it was no big deal, but he was quite hurt and offended. I told him then the rule was No More Going Out for the remainder of his 5th grade year, just stay out of that whole drama. We've talked about it a couple of times; I reminded him No Going Out. (Why in the hell they call it "going out" is beyond me... they don't go out, it's just a public declaration of a couple, really, and the couple will, occasionally, say a few words to each other. That's it. Whatever happened to "going steady"? They don't even use that phrase at the high school nowadays.)

This past Monday evening, after basketball practice, Sam came up to me and confessed that he had asked Jacy to "go out" with him that day, and that she said yes.

I asked Sam if, while he was asking Jacy out, he recalled the unbending rule of No Going Out. Yes, he had. When I asked him why, then, he went ahead and asked Jacy to go out, he replied, with infinite 11-year-old boy wisdom, but also with a very guilty look on his face, "because I wanted to." Tears were close at hand. I could tell he was remorseful, and the guilt was really eating at him. I chewed him out anyway, then made him draft a conversation and call Jacy on the phone, and, in front of me, explain that he wasn't to have asked her to go out and that he had to break up with her. He also had to apologize.

He and Jacy have been friends since 2nd grade. Close friends. Too close, from my viewpoint, as I don't really care all that much for her or her family. Her dad has been really rude a couple of times, and her mom waffles between snubbing me and being nice to me. Thank goodness for the rule.

The very next day at school, a few girls were trying to get Sam to go out with Jenny, another girl I don't like. Jacy wasn't mad at Sam at all. Sometimes those kids will go out in the morning, break up at lunch and be going out with someone else by afternoon recess.

So midafternoon yesterday, I conducted my first surprise IM'ing inspection. The boys had some conversation about why Sam can't Go Out. Jacob definitely can, but probably because his parents both work in the same office together and never get home before 7pm... I think they have no idea of Jake's going out activities. The boys also were talking about staying overnight. First, Jacob asked Sam over, and then he suggested that he stay overnight at Sam's.

I was actually very proud of my son's IM'ing actions. Jacob seemed to start to dis another boy, and Sam just changed the subject. I asked him about it, and he did it on purpose. Good decision.

So, I said, sure, Jacob could stay the night if he could get a ride over to our house. We live so far away from most of Sam's friends, that often, I have to not only go get the kid, but also take them home.

Jake got here about 6pm last night. The boys wanted to sleep in the basement, which is right under our bedroom. I had earlier agreed, but through the evening, while they were down there playing, I kept hearing this loud, sharp, hacking and barking sound. Turns out Jacob is coughing up a storm. He said he was sick about a week ago and that the cough just won't go away. Yeah, right, that cough means the kid is still sick. Shit. Sam's been fighting the sniffles for about 3 days, so I'm sure he'll get the barking cough thing that Jake is sharing all over our house. They didn't get to sleep in the basement. I told them there's no way I'm going to try & sleep overhead of that barking seal routine all night.

I'm sure the boys planned to hang out here all day, but I've already told them Jacob is heading for home at 10:30am. In 4 minutes. Yes.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Our idea of a romantic evening

A few nights ago, Kev had a successful hunt and shot another big doe. We had a feast last night with venison tenderloin. After dinner, while I cleaned up the kitchen, Kevin went out and built fires in the woodstoves, the outside one & the one in the pole barn (the only source of heat for our pole barn).

Then I met him out in the pole barn, and we butchered the doe. The plan was to finish a few more beers during the process, but butchering kinda puts me off drinking. I don't really like the butchering process, so I've managed to get out of it the past few years. The last several deer, Kev has butchered all by himself. It's an ugly job, so having company makes it nicer. And 2 makes it go twice as fast.

I finished grinding the burger while Kev went to take care of the woodstove and get some other stuff done outside that he had to do, like taking care of ashes. I got the meat all wrapped and labeled & in the freezer and was just finishing up the dishes when he got into the house. He was very pleased.

It was a lot of work, and now that I think of it, I'm really quite ashamed of myself for letting him do it all by himself for so long. He never complained, either. I think he thought that it was his choice to hunt, and that butchering is gross, so he shouldn't expect me to help him with his chore. He even did all the dishes by himself. But we all love the venison. I can't imagine not having venison in the freezer every winter.

Then we relaxed in front of the TV, watched a basketball game. I think Kev thanked me 5 times for helping with the butchering. Made me feel even more guilty. So then I started thanking him every little while. It became a thanking fest! What fun!

So this morning, Kev got called into work, and he's already scheduled to work tomorrow to cover for the same person who didn't show up today. He only gets 2 weekends off a month, so now he's down to 1, and this kinda sucks. (Though the overtime pay will be nice this time of year.) I had to get around and take Sammy to his basketball game. When we got home, I noticed a neck roast in the bottom of the fridge. Kev had put it in there the other night. I'm not really sure why. I got the grinder out and now I've got a pot of spicy goulash sauce and a pot of chili going on the stove. We will feast again on venison dishes when my hard workin' hubby gets home from work tonight.

Guys won't like this post...

but the wimmenfolk will.

My sister, Kathy, and her husband, Bob, celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary the other day. On their anniversary, they both always take the day off and spend it together. They start with breakfast out, then do some shopping. They get some Christmas shopping done, and they shop for their annual Santa.

When they married, 20 years ago, one of their good friends gave them for a wedding present a beautiful Santa figurine. Since then, buying themselves a Santa each anniversary has become tradition. They have all kinds of Santas, and each year, they look for that one special Santa for the year. I think it's a neat tradition.

When they bought their Santa this year, the young woman at the checkout asked them if it was for something special. And so, she was treated to the story of their annual Santa purchase. She said, "Awwww, how romantical!" So everything from that moment for their day would elicit a "how romantical!" Too funny.

This year, my sister thought that her hubby was making plans for dinner & show at a comedy club. Instead, Bob reserved a private dining room at the fancy restaurant where their wedding reception dinner was held. They had 2 wait staff all to themselves and were treated like royalty. The room was lit with only candles, several of them all over the room.

Since they are now paying for a daughter in college, they had both earlier agreed that the day and the Santa would be their anniversary present to each other. However, in that very romantic setting over dinner, my brother-in-law gave my sister a gorgeous diamond ring. While my sister was overcome with emotion and tears starting in her eyes, Bob said, "Awww, how romantical!"

Later, after the waitresses had ooooed and ahhhhed over the ring, my sister said to her hubby, "Julie can keep her freakin' pie birds." hee hee

Recently, Bob's mom had back surgery and while on his way back home from the hospital, Bob stopped at a few places. Antique shops and the like. He does that on occasion; he's a philatelist. Bob knows that I have a collection of pie birds, and he found 2 & bought them for me. One is solid black and the other is a spongeware green and ivory, both very old. I don't have another like either one of them, and I just love them. It was a super nice surprise. Since Bob didn't find anything for Kathy, she didn't get any little giftie that day. I told her it was because Bob loves me more than he loves her. So now you know why I can keep my freakin' pie birds.

I think Kathy is pretty happy with her ring, and with her very romantical hubby!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Overheard in the women's bathroom

I heard 2 women talking in the bathroom this morning. One woman was telling the other how she's going to be a gramma again. Her daughter-in-law has a young daughter (under 2 years old, I think), and she's pregnant again. She explained that her daughter-in-law has been feeling really sick lately, but how since her son has no job now, and no medical insurance, they couldn't afford to go to the doctor. So, finally, after a couple of weeks, her daughter-in-law's mother told her to just go to urgent care and she would pay for it. Turns out she's pregnant. Yay! The other woman asked if that was what she wanted, to be pregnant, and the gramma said yes, she's very excited.

Uh... yay??? Let's see, you already have a toddler, neither parent has any viable means of income, and you decide to try and get pregnant again, or at least you decide not to prohibit a pregnancy. Hmmm. Reminds me of a movie title... let's see, what was it... oh, yes. White Trash.

Oh, yes, I did too just say that. And, I could tell the other woman in the bathroom was thinking "what the hell" just like me.

I never saw that movie, White Trash... the title was enough to put me off... I see plenty of trashy folk in my rural community, which is a predominantly white community... and the trashy folk are all white folks. With kids that go to my son's elementary school. And it's not at all entertaining.

Update on the iPod

I was able to order what Joycie wanted from the Apple web site, and it was finally delivered by UPS on Wednesday evening. Good ol' UPS. They required a signature, and since no one was home, left us a note on Tuesday. So I called, and after a phone call lasting almost a half-hour, was able to request an alternate delivery address (my folks') for the next day, Wednesday.

Got home Wednesday and there was another note from the UPS driver. He tried to deliver to our home again, and he'd make one more try. So... another even longer phone call to UPS and some bitching, and they got ahold of the driver and had him make another trip to our house that evening for the delivery. Don't think he was too happy, but I suppose he won't be until the holidays (and long hours of deliveries) are over. Yeah, yeah, he should have my job.

Anyway, Joycie was totally thrilled and had already downloaded iTunes and had a bunch of music ready to put on her new iPod nano. It's such a cute little thing. It's really, really little. Of course, Sam wants one now, but no way. He'd lose that little thing within a week. I told him not even with your own money, and that 17-year-olds are totally allowed different gift items than 11-year-olds. Get used to it.

I also told Joycie to take good care of the iPod ear phones. Replacements cost forty bucks. Her forty bucks, not mine.

All she wants for Christmas from aunts and uncles are iTune music cards. That's easy.

OK, I guess I can talk about it now...

I am the mother of a 17-year-old daughter. It's still blowing my mind. My beautiful Pumpkin-Pie-O turned 17 on Nov. 26th. 17. My baby girl is 17. 17.

So... Joycie's nickname, that is, my nickname for her, is Pumpkin-Pie-O because she was born the day after Thanksgiving, and up until then, my most favorite thing about Thanksgiving was pumpkin pie. Now, it's her, my Pumpkin-Pie-O. When she was little, she loved me calling her Pumpkin-Pie-O, sometimes shortened to Pumpkin-Pie, then later, Pumpkin. Sammy has even called her Pumpkin (it's so dang cute). When she was little, she also loved to hear the story of how she got her nickname.

Joycie had her birthday party sleepover with 5 girlfriends on Saturday, and they all seemed to have a blast. Joycie was happy (except for the part when I called her Pumpkin-Pie-O and her girlfriends laughed, so I cheerfully told them the story... Joycie groaned, although, I think she was secretly tickled). We had Chinese takeout, birthday cake, made memory wire bracelets, then the girls played board games downstairs, watched DVD's, got the beads and made more bracelets downstairs, slept late, had breakfast together (scrambled eggs and Pillsbury crescent rolls, Joycie's favorite... she ate 5 or 6 of 'em!), and then they did even more beading! It was like a party for 13-year-olds... I think all the girls are realizing they're getting older and before long, sleepovers will be a thing of the past, of their childhood. **sigh**

Friday, November 25, 2005

So Much to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving at my sister & brother-in-law's (Kathy & Bob's) home yesterday was such a great time. This is the first time in a while where everyone in our family was together for Thanksgiving dinner.

We are far from the perfect family, and we've had our spits and spats. But here we all are, after years and years, still together and still enjoying each other's company. We bug each other, and we forgive each other. We do special things for each other, and when you need help, oh man, you can count on this family to stick together and help each other. Holidays can be pretty stressful, everyone knows that, but my family has grown up together and we truly enjoy being together at holidays. I mean, we truly enjoy it, we look forward to it. In a way, it is kind of amazing. How many families with at least 5 kids all get along so well? Mom and Dad have been married more than 50 years, all of us kids are doing well and have great kids of our own & good marriages, with the exception of my sister, JoAnne... but only because her husband, Scott, died from cancer shortly after their first wedding anniversary, more than twenty years ago. He was a great guy, and we all still miss him. We've been missing him longer than we ever knew him. He would have always fit right into this family. Joie never remarried. Sometimes, once you find your soulmate and lose him, that's that. But Joie's doing well and has a good job and a super nice house, with lots of pets.

Like I said, as a family, we're not perfect, but we're damn good. And now for pictures...

After Thanksgiving dinner, and after a bit of a breather, everyone came over to our house to celebrate Joycie's 17th birthday. We had the family birthday party on Thanksgiving because we were all together, though Joycie's birthday is actually on Saturday.

Doesn't Joycie's hair look great?!!! She got it cut and colored on Wednesday evening, and it turned out gorgeous. She wanted her hair to be as dark as her eyebrows. It so fits her. My beautiful, beautiful girl.

Another thing for which I'm thankful is the beautiful snow we got this week. It's now wintertime, and it's beautiful. Kev got up early this morning to go hunting. He should be coming out of the woods soon, and I know he'll be in a good mood. This is hunting weather! My man loves to be in the woods. And I love that about him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It's Cabbage Patch Dolls All Over Again

Of course, my daughter wants an iPod nano for her birthday on Saturday. And of course she only just decided this (until just recently, she wanted a guitarlin, and we were going to make a nice day of it and buy it together so she could pick it out, have a nice lunch together... *sigh*).

The iPod nano, expected to be one of the most popular Christmas gift items going this year. Where I live, that means nearly impossible to get your hands on one of 'em. Best Buy all out today, but each store is supposed to get, hold on to your hat, FORTY-FIVE OF THEM. Each store. 45. Whoo-hoo! And they should have them in time for when the store opens the day after Thanksgiving at FIVE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING*. The salesperson (a very nice young man that Joycie would call a hottie) suggested I get there early if I really wanted one by Saturday.

And it was funny, he was talking about how popular the iPod nanos are for Christmas and how getting one will not be easy, yada, yada, yada, and then he seemed so very surprised when I said it was for a birthday gift, not Christmas. What a strange reaction. Um... yes, babies really are born during normal Christmas shopping season. Then when I told him I wanted one by Saturday, I thought he would surely keel over from shock... Surprise! it's a birthday gift, not a Christmas present... Double Surprise!! I need it by Saturday! But he didn't... at that, he just laughed. One of those, ha-ha-yeah-right-that'll-happen laughs. Sorry 'bout yer luck.

*I went shopping the day after Thanksgiving once about 5 years ago and vowed, Never Again. a) I don't really like to shop all that much, b) I hate crowds, & c) I hate standing in line for a half-hour or more just to give someone money for crap that costs too much anyway.

I ended up buying Joyce a $15 iTunes card as a tangible representation of a birthday present should I fail to have an iPod nano in hand to actually wrap by Saturday.

I'm Thankful for My Quick Reflexes

While driving in the city near where I live, one must be constantly on the lookout for minivan-moms. It's not that big of a city, probably around 40,000 to 45,000 population, but I think more than our fair share of the population drives a minivan. Soccer moms and the like, I'm sure. If they're driving behind you, they will likely tailgate. Yesterday during lunch break, I went out to run some errands and immediately as I got on the road, I had a white minivan right on my ass. I get so sick and tired of that. Turns out, that white minivan was a woman I work with... which is pretty common in our town, too. The person driving like a jerk could be someone you know or work with. I learned that lesson back when I was 19 years old and flipped off an old fart that turned out to be one of the managers in the department where I worked. Not good. I don't do that anymore.

Today, I had a dark red minivan cut me off, zipping in between me and this big truck in front of me. I jumped on my brakes and swerved left, avoiding a collision. What the hell. If I had been looking in any other direction, we would have hit. And I discovered that apparently I have an established minivan line, and that chick crossed it. I followed her. It took her a while to realize what I was doing, but then she stopped in the street in a residential neighborhood. I think she realized if she didn't stop, I was going to follow her home and find out where she lives. I'll give 'em one thing, those minivan moms ain't entirely stupid.

So I pulled up next to her and put down the passenger window. An attractive blonde (they're always blonde) woman anywhere from 30 to 50 years old immediately started apologizing. I said, "you know what I'm thankful for?" She looked at me like I was nuts. "I'm thankful for my quick reflexes, otherwise, I would have hit you. This is my daughter's car, so you should be thankful it wasn't her driving. She would have hit you." She apologized again and explained that she suddenly realized she was turning on the wrong street, so she had to get over a lane and she just did it without thinking. I just acknowledged that seems to be a common trait among women who drive minivans, then told her to have a nice Thanksgiving holiday and drive safe, now, y'hear.

Anyway, it made me feel better. I might just have to do that more often.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Things I Do Instead of Laundry

I have a lot of beads. And when I get those 40%-off-one-item coupons from Michaels, I often buy more beads. Last week I bought a package of memory wire. Making bracelets with that stuff is Fun with a capital F! Fantastic, Frivolous Fun!!!

I've been buying glass beads and memory wire so that when Joycie has her upcoming birthday party sleepover, the girls can make memory wire bracelets. Sam and I have made a few bracelets the past couple of days to have examples. And because they're FUN to make.

I made Sam model them for me this morning, which he did so very, very willingly. (Right.) He told me not to put on my blog that those were his arms, so of course, I am. Mama doesn't like to be told what to write on her blog.

Sam has a good eye and he is so creative. When he was a little boy, he used to say that when he grew up he wanted to be a truck-driving-artist. He made the red & pearl, the blue & green with gold, and the hippie (polymer clay beads) bracelets. Beading is relaxing, we sit together and bead and talk. It's FUN! (did I mention that it's FUN??)

What is it About Belize?

Back in 2001, while in the 6th grade, Joycie had to make a mobile for a social studies class. They had to pick a country, find out facts about it and make a visual representation of those facts, incorporating the facts in written format. Joycie chose Belize.

When the kids do projects like that, I decorate my house with them. After a while, we either file them away in their grade box (we keep a storage box for each grade), or I'll put them up in the basement. The Belize mobile stayed out and on the wall in our basement. It's really pretty, and I thought Joycie was super creative with it. Also, at the time, I couldn't remember ever hearing about a country called Belize. Which I thought was pretty amazing, considering I spent 12 years on a job involving a great deal of international work. I could tell you the 2-letter country code for nearly every country in the world. NA Namibia (formerly South-West Africa), LK Sri Lanka, HR Croatia, CH Switzerland... But Belize? Maybe I had heard of Belize, but I didn't remember it. I learned about it, though.

I learned there are a lot of poor people there.

And lately, I keep hearing about Belize. A blog I read has entries about her recent trip there. Joycie found a t-shirt at "Salvo" from Belize (Salvation Army, her & her friends like to go there and buy t-shirts from other people's vacation destinations). It's a really cool t-shirt, like brand new. (It makes me wonder how it ended up at Salvo. Why did the person want to get rid of that beautiful, colorful and nearly new t-shirt? Did the person have an awful time on their trip there? Did the person go there with an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband? Probably more likely the trip-taker bought it for someone and got it a size too small. But that's not very interesting, is it.)

Also, I heard something about Belize on the radio the other day, and it was mentioned on a quiz show on TV. Belize, Belize, Belize, everywhere I go lately, Belize.

I'm Hungry! Hey, Dad!

Yesterday morning I took Sam to his basketball clinic, which was from 10:00-11:20am. Kev is working midnight-12s, so he got home at 8am. Normally I would be up and already through most of a pot of coffee by the time he arrived home, but for some reason I was sound asleep. I had gotten up earlier, around 6am, and let the dog out to pee (and I joined him, well, figuratively speaking), turned the furnace fan off because our house was way the hell too hot (again), fed the dog, fed the cats, and went back to bed. Sam woke me at 9am to remind me that I have to drive him to basketball. 9am! We have to leave at about 9:20am. No shower for me, and coffee to go. Grrr....

No breakfast, either. On the way home, around 11:30am, I was so hungry that I had a headache. It may also have been due to insufficient coffee intake. Sam was talking to me, and I wasn't answering soon enough... so he got a little frustrated with me. I told him to have pity because I was hungry. (He knows from experience that when I'm hungry, I'm not very nice, usually.) So then while he's trying to talk to me, I keep saying, "I'm Hungry! Hey, Dad!". Drove him bananas. I couldn't remember what the boss says, and Sam wouldn't tell me. I have done this off and on for a couple of years, ever since we downloaded this particular game. I drive my kids nuts with it for a while, then I quit, then I'll start up again. They especially love it when I start chanting, "I'm hungry! Hey, Dad! Hot off the grill!" in public.

It's from a game I downloaded a long time ago called Chef T oss (from O maha S teaks). The Dad is grilling and people and animals pop up at picnic tables. You click on people only, and Dad tosses them various meat items from the grill. They talk. Dad says, "Hot off the grill!" and "Cooome and get it!". Mom says, "I'm hungry!". Son, "Hey, Dad!". The baby giggles and coos, and the teenage daughter just laughs. The boss says, "Yakkaty Schmakkaty". (I had to play it, couldn't remember.) I like to pop the mustard and ketchup and watch 'em squirt out with a fart sound. Real entertainment, that.

So this morning, we're having a relaxing time. Kev finally went to bed for the day, Sam was playing with his DS and I was playing with my camera & computer. Sam got up from the lazy boy and said, "I'm hungry." While making himself a bowl of oatmeal, I could hear him saying, "I'm hungry. Hey, Dad. I'm hungry. Hey, Dad." When I followed up with, "Yakkaty, schmakkaty" he groaned... "oh, noooo...."

See what kind of influence I have on my kiddos?!!! heh heh heh

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pink is the New White

My Joycie was never much of a girlie-girl when she was little, nor was she a devoted tom-boy. She would occasionally put a dress on, but nothing frilly or, God forbid, pink. Her previous aversion to pink became nothing but a memory last year. That was when Joycie was influenced by Mary Anne, her former boyfriend's mom. Mary Anne is one of those very pretty women, who would be beautiful in an old t-shirt and sweat pants, but who always looks great. Mary Anne has that dress sense and the hair, makeup, nail polish, etc. sense that somehow eludes me. You will mostly see me in a bluejeans and tennies, likely wearing a cotton shirt, more often than not, bought in the men's section, because I hate the shiny fabrics and bright colors and odd motifs of shirts in the women's section. Give me a simple blue shirt with a handy pocket for my notes, and made of nice, soft washable cotton. Oh, yeah, and give it to me cheap & make it easy to find, because most of the time, I hate shopping. Once in a blue moon, I like to shop. Mary Anne is a shopper, and now Joycie is, too. My girl loves to shop for clothes. Joycie picked up on Mary Anne's sense of style, and she developed her own, which is wonderful. (*Sigh* I miss Nathan. Can't tell Joycie that, though, she gets ticked at me. I guess I said that too much. I miss Mary Anne, too, and Nathan's dad, Jesse. But I really, really miss Nathan.)

So anyway, I loved Mary Anne's influence on Joycie, and pink is a great color on my girl.

Except, of course, when it's in the eye. Pink eye. Conjunctivitis. Ugh. This past Thursday evening, Joyce's left eye was bothering her, and we thought it was just the problems she had recently with her contacts coming back again. But it is not. It is pink eye. This morning, she woke with a gunked up, swollen eye and in a lot of pain. I had to take Sam to his basketball clinic, so Joycie & I didn't get into the urgent care office until about 12:30pm. After about 3 hours of waiting, seeing the doctor and waiting some more, we were referred to an eye doctor. The eye doctor on call for this weekend is located in another town, about a 40-minute drive. He was great, and spent a lot of time examining Joyce. Constantly using some of that hand sanitizer gel. Conjunctivitis is very contagious, in case you're living in a cave somewhere and don't know that. He told Joycie what behaviors could help her avoid spreading it. Several things she could do, like not share pencils, use a kleenex once and throw it away herself, if she uses a glass or something, to put it in the dishwasher herself, don't share drinks, basically don't touch anything and then let someone else touch it, and don't sneeze or breathe moistly in someone else's face. Too late. She and I already crossed those lines all afternoon...

Wonder how I'll look in pink.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Slip Slidin' Away

OK, I love winter. Good thing I live in Michigan. Although plenty of people I know look at me like I'm some kind of freak when I say that out loud or when I'm happy about a snowfall. There is one thing I do hate about wintertime, though... icy roads. I don't mind driving in snowy, slushy roads, but I hate those icy roads. Especially now that my daughter drives on 'em. Ugh.

So what do I get for my excitement about the snow yesterday? How do I get rewarded by the universe for being the only one at work happy about the snow yesterday? Huh? What do I get? This:

That's me driving 15 mph this morning on a very, very icy road. (Safely taking a picture with my cell phone. Yeah, right.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Skies at Noon

Therz snow in them thar skies...

Come on, baby, give it to me!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Too Much of a Good Thing

Last month, we purchased a wood stove.

It's one of those big units that sits outside and is part of a new heating system for our home. We have a forced air furnace and have paid big bucks to the natural gas company. This new unit converts hot water to heat and works in conjunction with the furnace we have now. It also heats all the water for our hot water heater. It was expensive to purchase and not easy to install. Our brother-in-law, Bob, is a plumber and did all the plumbing/heating when we built our house 11 years ago. Bob, with Kev's help, got this system running for us. Just got it going a couple of days ago, and it's working great. Too great! The house was way too hot yesterday, and it still is this morning. It's about 50 degrees F. outside and super windy, so it's not terribly cold out. Balmy for this time of year. But still... mid-November and I've got a bunch of windows open because the house is too hot.

Kev has to get the thermostat for the wood stove installed yet, and then we'll be able to control the heat better. I think it's gonna be a warm winter...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My Favorite Tree

My favorite tree in all the world is the huge White Oak tree at my folks' place. The tree is right next to where they built our house, on the side of a hill. When I was a kid, we used to climb all over that tree. One of us would lay on the ends of the long limbs while one or two of the other of us kids would grab a branch and make the tree limb go up and down like some big boat riding the waves. I remember climbing up high into it, one time too far and scared myself half to death climbing back down. It is a huge tree, and some of the branches are pretty far apart. I look up at that tree now and can't believe that I ever had the nerve to climb up it. As the tree has aged, various limbs have broken off &/or died (I'm sure our rides on them didn't help), and my dad has amputated them here and there. Tree climbing and limb riding was banned. Thank goodness, since I wouldn't want to see my kids climb up as high as we used to. Older and wiser equals chicken shit nerves, especially when it could mean death or dismemberment to my kiddos.

Anyway, the tree looks different now, with some of the big limbs gone. But if you had never seen it before now, with all it's previous lower limbs entact, you would not think it looks like it's missing much of anything on it. I took this picture of it this evening with my new camera phone.

When I was 8 years old and approaching my next birthday, all I wanted and begged my mom and dad for was a porch swing. I wanted to hang it in the oak tree. I was the youngest of 5 kids and in the late 1960's, for my folks to spend about $50 on one kid's birthday gift was not common. We just didn't have that kind of money. But I begged and begged. I think a porch swing for a 9-year-old was an unusual birthday desire, and my mom and dad came through. To this day there is a porch swing hanging where we first hung my birthday present.

When you sit in the swing, you overlook the river flats. The river makes a big, wide bend, so the flats are big. That's where the garden is, and next to that is a field where mom and dad used to grow hay. It's still a nice hay field. Near that are pines and further on are spruces that my dad planted. Lots of other trees, too, next to the river. In the spring and summer are always tons of wild flowers. It's a beautiful spot. Sitting in that swing on a hot summer day, catching a breeze and looking at all that beauty... ah...

That old oak tree has so much character to it, and since Mom put a face on him, he's got even more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Long Post About More Magnets & PEI

Whenever we take a trip, we buy magnets… so there they are on the fridge reminding us daily of some great times we’ve had. For about 2 ½ weeks in the summer of 2003, we took a long road trip. We drove from our home in Michigan to Souris, PEI (Prince Edward Island) in Canada. There we rented a house on the ocean for a week. Our trip wasn’t only the week on PEI, but also the drive to and from. We loves us a road trip.

Since it was such a long drive, we went through a lot of states, as well as a few Canadian provinces. We started by crossing the bridge in Port Huron over into Canada, crossing back over through New York. Stayed in a crappy hotel late the first night.

Made Massachusetts the second night, and stayed a real nice hotel there. Great pool. Found a piece of apple (yes, apple) on the mattress of one of the beds when we turned down the covers for the night. Apples attract ants. Lots and lots of ants. The 2nd room was even nicer. And no ants.

Our 3rd day on the road, we finished up Massachusetts, did a short stint through New Hampshire, then up along Maine’s east coast.

Maine was beautiful, especially the northern part. Lots of signs warning us of moose on the highway, though we never did see one. That was disappointing. Crossed over into New Brunswick, Canada, and made it to Fredericton.

That’s where we stayed the night, at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel. How could you not want to stay at a hotel called Lord Beaverbrook? It was very nice. Old, but nice. The pool was like some kind of Grecian bath. Tile mosaics extravaganza.

From New Brunswick, we crossed the 8-mile long Confederation Bridge to PEI. I was creeped out by that bridge. I just don’t think that bridges are meant to be EIGHT MILES LONG. Whew.

We tend to buy magnets that remind us of specific things about our trips, so I can’t believe I didn’t find one that had lupines on it. Oh, the lupines! Gorgeous, gorgeous lupines. Miss Rumphius must have visited PEI.

We found the house we rented easily, and it was better than we expected… and we had high expectations. A truly beautiful home in a spectacularly beautiful setting. The red cliffs and blue-gray sea, with the sweeping fields of green patchworked with shades of pink, blue, purple, white and pale yellow lupines. We spent an amazing week there. We didn’t do much of anything amazing, just had a wonderful time. We’d go down the steps to the beach (it was a high cliff) and search for beach glass and shells. A little too cold to actually swim, but we made our little screaming dips in and out of the ocean. Made sand castles with intricate canal systems. We would make our daily trip into “town” (Souris is small), stopping at the fish market for lobster or other catch, at the Beer Store for whatever we were in the mood for (lots of Blue Sapphire gin that week, plus some great PEI wines and Canadian brewskies). We were there the last week of lobster season. I became a pro at cleaning lobster.

The house had a “gourmet kitchen” outfitted with everything. I loved cooking in it. We would also visit the grocery store daily, and then the gas station to rent videos. Buy fresh potatoes at the roadside stands. PEI is famous for their potatoes, with good reason. Great potatoes.

I made a potato chicken casserole dish one night because Joycie had picked up the recipe card at a welcome center. It was excellent. The kids have both asked me to make it since, but I haven’t… I don’t know if I want to spoil the memory of that PEI dinner.

We played board games and watched Wimbledon on TV. Cooked dinner every night together, and ate it with a fire going in the beautiful local stone fireplace. Made necklaces out of the little shells we found. Celebrated 4th of July (not such a big deal in Souris); called family that day. We took a day trip into Charlottetown for a play, “Anne of Green Gables.” We are big fans of Anne.

On our last day at PEI, on the way off the island, we went to Green Gables in Cavendish, to tour the house that inspired the author to write the Anne books. It was quite a ways from our path off the island, but well worth it.

We stayed that night in Maine, stopping late at night and ending up at another awful hotel. Lots of bugs! The next morning, 20 miles down the highway were a half dozen great hotels. So now on road trips, it’s always, don’t stop there, let’s keep going, remember Maine?!!

We mostly took the turnpike back home, making a few stops. I remember a really great seafood lunch before we got away from the East Coast. Stopped in Pennsylvania, but only briefly. Somehow acquired 2 magnets. Heinz because Heinz ketchup has a special place in the hearts of my family members (gotta be Heinz), and who knew it was from Pennsylvania?

And Hershey’s because, why not? Who doesn’t love Hershey’s.

I like the turnpike. I’ve talked with folks that hate it. We play license plate games, and we people watch. I like stopping for the 4th time and hearing Sam say, hey, they were at the last stop we made. Sam likes to sometimes try and get the semis to boop at him.

Our last night on the road was at a Radisson in Utica, New York. Beautiful. Nice pool and great pizza. The next morning, we headed out and hit McDonald’s near the hotel for breakfast. This McDonald’s had one of those 1950’s theme going. We sat in a booth and not too far away was a big corner booth. In that corner booth were 3 or 4 old men. I only remember 2 of them well. They were still arguing in their New York accents when we left. It was hilarious. They were throwing some serious shit at each other, but they just kept on and on with it. You could tell it was a normal morning routine for them. Once they got to cussing at each a little too strong, and Kev turned around in his seat and gave them a look. They apologized for the blue talk in front of the lady and the children. The incongruousness of it just made me laugh all the more… the kids and I were not offended, we were cracking up. I think Kev was the only one frowning at them. He’s so protective.

We had planned another night on the road, but booked on home. Stopped at one last Cracker Barrel for dinner. We love the road trips, and at the end of them, we love arriving back home.

A few days after we got home, Joycie and Sam, while spending the day at Grampa & Gramma’s, each drew a picture for me of the house we rented on PEI. I framed both drawings and hung them on the wall in our living room, along with three small sand dollars we found on that beach that I put in a frame.

I kept a journal of our trip, with all the receipts and other stuff. We’ve looked through that journal/scrapbook and the photo album often. We have lots of reminders of that trip. It was one of our best vacations.

You're Just Jealous

Funny bumper sticker from this morning's drive into work:


Yes... yes, I am.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Happy Birthday, Sam!

Our Sam turned 11 years old this past Friday. We had his family birthday party last night.

On Friday, he took in a great big cake for a school birthday treat, and he had a great day at school. His class had a substitute teacher that day, which kinda bummed him out, but Sam knows the sub and he's nice. The kids acted up a bit, which is pretty normal for the class when a sub is there, so they almost had their special 2nd recess cancelled. It was a gorgeous day outside, so the kids really wanted the 2nd recess... the sub made a big deal about it being Sam's birthday, so he asked Sam if it was ok to go ahead and have the recess anyway due to his birthday. Oh, yeah! Too cool.

Friday evening we went to our high school's playoff football game, which the team won. Some local businesses arranged for spectacular fireworks throughout the game and a big show at the end. Awesome. Sam had a friend come home with us after the game to stay overnight, but before we went home, we all went to Damon's and Sam got put up on one of the big screens for his birthday. He LOVED that.

Sam picked out the festive decorations. He got some great gifts, including a bunch of cash. His Aunt Janet started a tradition of taking the birthday nephew or niece out for dinner and shopping, and Sam is excited about that. I think they're going Tuesday evening. He has close to $200 to spend, which is a LOT of money for us. He's been talking about his birthday shopping with Aunt Janet and saving for it since summertime.

I usually bake birthday cakes, but a couple of years ago, Sam decided he wanted a bought cake. Hey, that's A-OK by me! This year, he went with the Lions football theme. The blue frosting border must have had a healthy dose of food coloring... even getting it on your hands stained blue. Fun with blue frosting!!! Aunt Kathy got the prize.

Dad was a close second, but the photo wasn't focused... I was laughing too much. I think we all snorted blue frosting we laughed so hard! Good times.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Aunt Shirley

My father-in-law is one of 8 children. His dad died years and years ago, and his mom (Kev's Gramma T.) is in her mid-90's and lives in a nursing home. She has health problems, and her mind is gone. Or rather, her memory. Gramma T. doesn't know anyone anymore. One of her daughters died this week, and I wonder if she knows or understands. Sad.

Aunt Shirley was a great woman. Her grandson and Sam were baseball teammates, and Aunt Shirley was at every game. Her husband died about 10 years ago, so it's been just her. She had rheumatoid arthritis, and suffered from it badly. I didn't know it affected major organs, but it does & Aunt Shirley had been dependent upon dialysis for a quite some time. After her dialysis treatments, she always felt funny. She shouldn't have been driving herself to and from them, but she was. My mother-in-law told me that Aunt Shirley had just been talking about how it's probably time she quit that. There's a senior citizen service in town that will arrange for rides for things like that, with volunteers that drive folks and deliver things for people.

This past Saturday, on her way home from dialysis, Aunt Shirley made a left-hand turn off from a busy highway to her driveway, right in the path of oncoming traffic. Her car was hit by a pickup truck, and as it happens, that driver was a young man she knew. He was uninjured, thankfully. Aunt Shirley would have hated it if he had been hurt. She was taken to the hospital, where she died Tuesday morning from her injuries and complications due to kidney failure and heart failure.

Aunt Shirley's funeral was today. No one was prepared for it; she was the first of the 8 kids to die and she died so unexpectedly. It was very difficult to say goodbye to her.

At the funeral, the pastor told some stories and tidbits he had heard from her family over the past couple of days. Aunt Shirley's fingers had gotten very crooked and bent because of the arthritis, and her left hand's fingers were all bent like she was starting to make a fist, except for her middle finger, which was ramrod straight and she couldn't bend it. Once, while driving with Aunt Carolyn, they came to a bridge in town that only one car can cross at a time. They met an oncoming car, and that car stopped and let them go. Aunt Shirley waved her thanks to the man... with her left hand. He waved back at her with his middle finger ramrod straight, too! Confused the heck out of him, I'm sure, since he let them cross first and then to see 2 old, gray-haired ladies in the car with one flipping him off. (Aunt Carolyn got a hoot out of it, I'm sure, but I bet Aunt Shirley felt kinda bad about it.) Too funny!

Aunt Shirley was a geniunely sweet person, and we will miss her so much.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Sam's Joke

Sam doesn't often tell jokes, but he heard a good one and was telling it tonight.

This guy walks into a bar.
Guy, to bartender: Got any grape juice?
Bartender: No, we don't got grape juice here.

The next night, guy goes to same bar.
Guy: Got any grape juice?
Bartender: No, I told ya we don't got any grape juice.

The next night, guy goes back to same bar again.
Guy: Got any grape juice?
Bartender, getting fed up: No, dude, I told ya already, no grape juice.

The next night...
Guy: Got any grape juice?
Bartender: No, man, no grape juice, now get outta here and don't come back.

The next night...
Guy: Got any grape juice?
Bartender, angry: No grape juice, now get outta here and if you come back again I'm gonna nail you to the street.

The next night...
Guy: Got any nails?
Bartender, puzzled: No...
Guy: Got any grape juice?

Happy Halloween!

Our scary, spooky jack-o-lanterns!

Sam wanted to go trick or treating, and even though I didn't feel much like it... I took him tonight. It was a beautiful evening. Kevin went out bow hunting, which he hasn't got to do very much lately, and I drove Sam into town. We stopped on the way and picked up his friend, Jacob.

Sam dressed up as Ben Wallace again, his favorite basketball player, and Jacob did a basketball player motif as well, wearing his favorite player jersey, Iverson. They looked so adorable.

We first went to his grandparents' and a little bit around their neighborhood. Years ago, that neighborhood did Halloween up right. Big Time. Now, it was nearly all dark houses with no lights on. Times change...

So then we went to our friends' house in another part of town, and that neighborhood had it going on! We walked around with them, and I got to visit with John & Canice, and the boys walked together. Lots of kids out, lots of lights and decorations. Very cool pumpkin carvings. And lots and lots of candy. One house was serving cider and grilling hot dogs for everyone, along with chips & dip and veggies & dip. And they gave out candy, too. Sam and Jacob were thrilled, and it was the perfect ending to an excellent evening of trick or treating.

I wanted to go to a couple more friends' houses, but it was getting too late. So we dropped Jake back off at his house and headed on home, out to the ol' countryside. It started raining on our way home. Nearly perfect timing. Stopped by my folks, then the 3 aunts' homes. Aunt JoAnne emptied all the rest of her Reeses peanut butter cups into Sam's sack, and boy, was he happy about that. Uncle Bob got his picture taken with our great big basketball player.

Sam won't want me to take him trick or treating much in the years ahead... I can't believe I didn't want to go! What the hell was I thinking?!!! It was so fun with Sam tonight. Both boys had a blast!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Have you ever bought something, but had no idea what you were going to do with it? I do that, not real often, but definitely on a regular basis. Sometimes, it's something I just really like and don't want to pass up. Other times, it's just such a great deal, how could I not buy 2, 3, or 4...? And then sometimes it's both reasons. One of my sisters doesn't do that, ever. At least I'm sure she doesn't. She is very sensible with her money. I tend to blow money. My kids know this about me, and on occasion use it to their advantage. My daughter knows that if I have a wad of cash in my wallet, she can usually end up with some of it. Sam knows if I've had a couple of beers with a real nice dinner out, that's always a good time to ask me to buy him something. Ah... oh well. I'd rather be known, by my kiddos, as a soft touch than a penny pinching cheapster. Sometimes, though, I wish I were a little more sensible with my cash, like Kathy, my sister.

Recently, I found these little blue glass bottles with cork tops at Pier 1. They had 3 different styles. The blue is a cobalt blue, real pretty. Pretty, pretty blue bottles. They're about 2 inches high, and just so adorable. And on clearance for around 50 cents each. What a deal. I bought 6. Then I stopped by again and bought more. I don't know just how many trips I made in there, but so far I have 32 of these pretty, little blue bottles.

I still have no idea what I'm going to do with them. I think I like them because they remind me of something I saw in a movie. The movie was 'Chrystal' and in the yard of their mountain house was a bush or a shrub with blue bottles stuck on the branches. Of course, these pretty little blue bottles I bought are too small for that... they wouldn't stay on the branches. I liked the movie, though it was a bit odd/disturbing. All of Bill's movies are a bit strange, I think. But what I like most was the blue bottle shrub and the tricycle at the top. (You'll have to watch the movie.)

And I know I have to go out to that end of town tomorrow, so I think I'll stop by Pier 1 and see if they still have any little blue bottles left...

Seasonal Magnets

Across the road from our driveway is another driveway. There is 1 acre of private property there, and it is surrounded by state-owned property. The only access to that bit of state property is via this private acre or other private property to the south. The northern boundary is a creek. This "creek" was man-made years ago, but overgrown now to the point where it looks natural. Beaver activity created a pond and swampy area a little ways to the west of this 1 acre. Further west of the beaver pond, the creek looks more like what it truly is... a very large, wide & deep drainage ditch.

This 1 little acre is a beautiful spot, with big oak trees on it. Around it, the state property is growing up thick because it was clear cut about 15 years ago. At the time it was clear cut, the 1 acre looked incongruously like the wooded version of an oasis in a desert. On the 1 acre is an old, abandoned brine well or booster station... basically a cement structure. This structure is hard to describe... it's like 2 sawhorses, only solid with square tops and set in with cement footings. There's no roof or top to it. It's large enough that you could park a small car in it, though you can't because it'd ruin the car going over the footings.

Carl & Arlene, a retired couple, own this 1 acre. They park their camper trailer on it and come up to go hunting. We almost always see them in the fall, but only once in a while in the summer. Sometimes they come up around 4th of July. Then they are usually here during mid-November for rifle season. They are the nicest people. Carl does more hunting, I think, than Arlene. She usually brings up craft projects. I think she does a lot of church craft bazaars and the like.

We let them use our outside faucets to get water, and Arlene has used our mailbox to send cards and letters out to her family & friends. We keep them stocked up with wood for their fire, since we have so much cut and split all the time. They have a great fire pit on their acre, surrounded by rocks they've brought up through the years. Arlene often cooks their dinners over a fire. We've also shared venison with them, because they usually don't get a deer. I don't think their primary focus is hunting, but more just getting out in the woods and enjoying the peace and quiet. They've had their acre longer than we've owned our property, and I think it was a relief to them that we aren't noisy and we get along with them. We enjoy knowing them.

Through the years, Arlene has left us little bags of craft goodies in our mail box, usually with a Halloween or Christmas theme. She's given us a few Halloween magnets, which we get out each year and put on our fridge, and then pack back away when we de-decorate. When we get the magnets out, we always talk about Arlene & Carl, wondering when they'll be up next, remembering when this or that about them, wondering how Arlene is doing after her back surgery... It's cool that she's given us so many magnets, because she probably doesn't know how much we like home-made refrigerator magnets.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Yay for Cabelas

Friday morning while the kids slept in, Kev and I got up very early and headed south to Cabelas. It's over a 2-hour drive, but I guess because we went at the right time, because it was nice, with little traffic. By the time we got close to Ann Arbor, the morning rush hour had passed. Perfect timing. Cabelas, which is HUGE, has been crowded the few times we've been there, but Friday morning we had plenty of elbow room.

Kev got a replacement muzzle loader, scope, etc. The first rifle he looked at was perfect. We took the list of everything that the thief stole from Kev's hunting room, and got a replacement item for each thing. Some of the things we couldn't get an identical item, so we got as close as we could. We've never had to deal with this before, and so we don't know what to expect with our insurance claim. Some of the things we got were more expensive, such as the binoculars. Cabelas doesn't sell Bruntons, so we got a comparable Leupold. The Leupold was about $100 more than what I paid for the Bruntons, but then I bought the Bruntons about 5 years ago... maybe more. But then other replacements were less expensive. Hopefully it'll all be acceptable. We were able to get everything on the list. Cabelas rocks!

The sheriff deputy hasn't called us back yet, so we haven't been able to add the other items to the police report yet. Which is a good thing, because when Kev was getting his new muzzle loader, I asked him about a case for it. And sure enough, his original rifle was in a soft case when the thief took it, and Kev hadn't even thought about that.

It was a long shopping trip. In a way, it was enjoyable, but it was definitely tinged with sadness. Kev kept looking at me and shaking his head... he just hates this. Three times he said, "I want my own stuff back." At one point, I thought he was just going to leave or something. He just needed a minute, I guess. It's very stressful. The binoculars were the high point, I think. The Bruntons were nice, but they were big and heavy. Now, there are about a zillion to choose from, and the ones he got are super nice, and not as big or heavy. The smaller pair are pretty much identical to the ones stolen. Kev said he really didn't need the smaller pair now with the new Leupold pair, but I insisted he get a smaller pair, too. We paid for them originally, and that's why we have replacement coverage insurance. If he doesn't use them, Joyce can, or I will.

We did have a nice day together, in spite of the reason we were there. And Cabelas is a beautiful place, like a natural history museum.

Our drive home was nice, too. It was sunny and the highway was mostly clear. Which we appreciated even more since the south-bound lane, due to 3 accidents as far as we could tell, was backed up for about 20 miles. Hundreds of cars parked and folks out and about, walking their dogs, talking with each other. I bet they were still sorting that mess out while we were driving up to our house.

The kids couldn't wait to see all of Dad's new stuff. To them, new stuff is great & a reason to get excited. I think their excitement made Kev feel a little better, at least I hope it did.

A Good Time Was Had By All

Whew! It was a great lot of work (and money), but Sam's Halloween party was a smash hit.

I got the haunted house bit completely finished only about 2 hours before the party started Thursday evening... I was getting nervous about getting it done in time. There were about 30 kids here; we had a couple of last minute cancellations due to illness. I think they got a major kick out of the haunted house, and there was plenty of food and music. Joyce and her friend, Allison, helped keep the kids in semi-order in the basement while Kev and I and several parents partied upstairs.

It was a totally enjoyable evening. It's a great group of folks. I have to say that everyone was truly super, and since we all seemed to be in a good, partying mood, the evening was great. Not all of the adults knew each other, but everyone was just one big group and there was a lot of laughter going on.

Sam had a blast. I think he enjoyed the party even more than he expected to; he loved every minute. After all the kids had went through the haunted house (and some of the parents, too), we gathered all the kids in the living room upstairs, and I explained the one and only organized event... the costume contest. I made up voting cards, and each kid wrote in the name of who they thought had the: 1) scariest costume, 2) funniest costume, 3) most original costume, 4) best boy costume & 5) best girl costume. I went to a local trophy shop and had small trophies made up and got Halloween toppers for them at the dollar store. They turned out pretty cool.

So all the kids went downstairs and ate, checking each other out and finding out names... because not all the kids knew each other, either. We decorated the basement with a lot of Halloween lights and other stuff, and the food table was really cool. Joycie collected all the voting cards, and we brought all the kids back upstairs for announcing the 5 winners. When the kids saw the trophies, they were pretty excited. Each winner got a trophy and a $10 WalMart gift card (those went over very well!). We had made goodie bags for each kid filled with candy; nice sized bags with lots of candy. So even the kids who didn't win in the costume contest were happy & got to take something home.

I was happy that Sam won "most original" category with nearly all the votes. He was Ben Wallace from the Pistons, awesome No. 3:

With the Mt. Dew flowing, the kids were in high spirits. They were loud, very loud. Dancing, running, jumping, football, a diving contest onto the bean bag chair.

I think the haunted house was the big hit of the evening, though. My nephew, Michael, being the pièce de résistance... at the very end, he stood there in all black with a skeleton mask on that he could pump "blood" down the skull. He looked creepy as he was, but then he'd roar and grab at them, scaring the piss out of them!

Sam's Halloween party was all the talk at the football game the next night, and Sam was happy. Very happy.