Sunday, December 28, 2008

Computer Withdrawal!!!

I've missed you all (and being online in general). To make a long story - well, less long (can't promise 'short'. You know me.) - my computer was infected with a couple of nasty trojans on December 4.

Virtumonde and FakeAlert made themselves at home on my p.c., infecting all sorts of files, including my start up registry, which meant *everything* slowed to a crawl. I'm not kidding. I was typing a Word document last week. I'm typing away all along looking at a blank white Word document. I get up from my desk, go to the fridge, pour myself something to drink, load a few dishes in the dishwasher and sit back at my desk, just in time to see my words appearing one by one as if a ghost was typing them.

Side Note #1: I'm rather angry at McAfee right now. First, I renewed my annual Security Suite subscription on Oct. 21 - three weeks before expiration - and I have auto updates. Nevertheless, Virtumonde (which has been around since 2005) managed to slip past. How does that happen? Second, the viruses occurred during a visit to a "McAfee Approved" (green) site. To make matters worse, when I did a full system scan, it didn't even detect Virtumonde.

I contact McAfee Live Chat. They used to be great - they'd email you instructions on how to remove viruses. Not anymore. Now they charge $89.95 per incident to remotely remove your virus(es) for you. Excuse me, five weeks prior I paid them $69.95 to protect me in the first place. No way are they getting more of my money.

Side Note #2: I read about PC Tool's Spyware Doctor. It got excellent reviews and at $29.95, I thought it might be worth a try. It's a faster scan than McAfee, it found Virtumonde but couldn't remove it. I must say, I was impressed with their tech support. Twice I received an email reply within 24 hours. As of Dec. 18, my issue had been 'escalated' which I believe means that someone 'higher up' would take a look. However, as their 30-day satisfaction guarantee came to an end - with no resolution - I decided to cancel and get a refund. I wouldn't, however, rule out using them in the future.

So on Saturday, we go to Best Buy. Trying to decide whether to buy a new desktop p.c. to replace the possessed one, or whether to splurge on a laptop for me. We found a nice deal on a Dell. It's so new, they don't have it in stock yet, but hopefully it'll arrive Tuesday and I'll pick it up. (By the way, Brad at Best Buy is earning his commission or hourly rate - whichever.)

Since we committed to buying a laptop, I thought I'd make one last attempt at salvaging my 4-year old desktop. As in, scrubbing the hard drive and reinstalling the recovery disks I made when I first purchased the computer. What possessed me to create recovery disks is beyond me. I'm sure I was prompted to do so, but I don't recall neither hide nor hair. But sure enough, I have seven CD's labeled in my handwriting HP Recovery Disk #___ of 7.

Yesterday, I backed up all my digital photos and loaded all our playlists on iTunes so I can sync our Apple Christmas gifts (Touch for me, Nano for Dear Hubby, Shuffle for Son #2) one last time. Today, I "recovered" the p.c. and reset it to the way it was in August 2004. It took a few hours to reinstall the important stuff: Microsoft Office, Windows Updates, iTunes8, McAfee Security Suite (my subscription is valid through Nov., so I thought I might as well use them until then).

McAfee detected and quarantined a less malicious trojan (no Virtumonde!) and this computer - despite its age - is blazing! We're using it for a general family p.c. (as always). Dear Hubby is starting classes soon (more on that later), the kids need it for homework, etc. The laptop is mine and for emergencies.

I have so much to catch up on and hopefully, if all goes well with this computer, I'll be able to update you all soon. Thanks for hanging in there.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Interrupt My Vacation Posts for....SNOW!

Snow ... in southeast Louisiana. A rare, welcome treat. We had 3 to 4 inches yesterday. It didn't last long, though. Today's high was in the mid 50s so all that's left is a bunch of deformed snowmen on brown lawns.


Max was initially afraid of the snow, but soon loved romping and frolicking.

Son #1 started a snowman, and Son #2 completed it for him today. As you can see from the background, very little snow remains.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vacation Day 3

Sorry I didn't blog sooner. I'm having computer issues, but I'll save that for another post...

Day 3 of our vacation was fun. We woke early and took the hotel shuttle to the Metro station (that's D.C.'s subway system) and rode the Metro into the city. We disembarked at the "Mall" which isn't a shopping center, but rather the area in Washington, DC near the monuments, museum and Capitol Building. Here are the boys at the Metro station awaiting our ride.

Our first stop was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We spent a lot of time in the dinosaur exhibit and the marine life exhibit.

This was all very nice, but my favorite part was the Gems & Minerals, home of the Hope Diamond, among other famous, fabulous jewels. Here are Son #1 and Son#2 next to my birthstone, amethyst.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Vacation Days 1 & 2

We recently drove from Louisiana to Washington, DC to visit my mother for Thanksgiving. I'm lumping Day 1 & 2 together since we were on the road both days (Louisiana to Knoxville, TN on Day 1, Knoxville to Alexandria, VA - just outside D.C. - on Day 2).

Zack and I were sick for a bit of the trip - strep & upper respiratory ick. If you have to feel yucky, it might as well be when you're snuggled in the car for two days. It sort of forces you to relax since there isn't anything else to do. Sons #1 and #2 passed much of the time playing video games (on long car rides, I relax the time limit they can play). Here's how Son #3 passed much of his time on Day 1:

The hotel in Knoxville was nice. The indoor pool was open 24 hours, plus there was a really neat game room - video games, pool table, racquet ball courts... We dined at Ruby Tuesdays, and turned in early.


Day 2 - woke in time to attend church, before hitting the road. A nice uneventful drive through the mountains. It apparently snowed a couple of days prior at the Tennessee/Virginia state line so we stopped at the Virginia Welcome Center so the kids could play a bit.

Later that evening, we checked into our hotel, the Hilton in Alexandria, Va. Our room was on the 25th floor - great view, fast elevator. Kids were impressed. We met my mother for dinner. Then returned to the hotel for prepare for a busy Day Three.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Playing Catch Up...

We just returned a few hours ago from a weeklong 2000 mile road trip (round trip). I'll be posting details - and pix - in the upcoming days.

Hope everyone had a safe, Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Breaking Up is Hard to Do ;-)

It seems my 30-year love affair with soft contact lenses has come to an end. I've known for a couple of months now that we were on the decline, Contacts and I, but I was in denial. I tried everything in my power to make this relationship work. But neither a trial separation (since this summer), professional counseling (okay, an opthamologis), nor prescription eye drops, could save this relationship.

You may recall that I had an inkling of trouble in August of 2007 when my annual eye exam revealed that I had "dry eyes." My optometrist recommended over-the-counter drops (Systane) and no contacts for two weeks. When I returned, everything looked good. Contact and I, we were happy. Or so I thought.

This past summer, I started having trouble with my eyes: redness, significant decrease in vision. I made an appointment with an opthamologist in August who confirmed severe "dry eye syndrome." She put me on a steroid eye drop to help with the inflammation, plus the prescription Restasis, which is supposed to help you produce more tears. She asked that I check back in three months.

Today was my follow up appointment. My eyes look better, but still very, very dry. While I held out hope that Contacts and I could work it out (is was just a dry patch, right? ha ha), it's not meant to be. Certainly Contacts and I could occasionally get together for Old Time's Sake? But no. The doctor feels that even wearing contact lenses part time would irritate my eyes. A clean break. No on again, off again (or in again, out again).

Today, she inserted little plug into the ducts in my lower eyelid to help prevent draining too much of my eyes' natural lubricant. It was a mildly uncomfortable procedure - not painful at all. I'll have to continue with the absurdly expensis Restasis drops, probably forever.

But what to do about my myopia (nearsightedness)? If not Contacts, then what? Glasses? Never been a fan. The pair I have are cute, stylish, lightweight - everything a gal could ask. But they're just not "me." I miss the peripheral vision that my old love, Contacts, provided and I have the bruises to show for it (hey, who moved that wall??).

Oh, and I'm of a 'certain age' which means: bifocals. (Quoting Charlie Brown: ARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!). And while I'm at it, I'll need prescription sunglasses.

Or laser surgery. Blades/lasers near my eyeballs - not an appealing thought. But one I'm considering. I have a lot of homework to do in that regard. The feels that I'd be a good candidate for PRK (photorefractive keratotomy). I'd still have the dry eyes to contend with, and would probably still occasionally need reading glasses (the age thing), but it might be worth considering.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Are You A Marilyn or a Jackie?

I borrowed this from Sue's blog. It's a silly little quiz to determine whether you are a Marilyn Monroe type or a Jackie Kennedy time... or perhaps another icon from the Mad Men era.

Leave it to me to be ... neither! (I can't really say that I agree with very much of this, but anywhooooo....)

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are an Ingrid!


You are an Ingrid -- "I am unique"

Ingrids have sensitive feelings and are warm and perceptive.

How to Get Along with Me
  • * Give me plenty of compliments. They mean a lot to me.
  • * Be a supportive friend or partner. Help me to learn to love and value myself.
  • * Respect me for my special gifts of intuition and vision.
  • * Though I don't always want to be cheered up when I'm feeling melancholy, I sometimes like to have someone lighten me up a little.
  • * Don't tell me I'm too sensitive or that I'm overreacting!

What I Like About Being an Ingrid
  • * my ability to find meaning in life and to experience feeling at a deep level
  • * my ability to establish warm connections with people
  • * admiring what is noble, truthful, and beautiful in life
  • * my creativity, intuition, and sense of humor
  • * being unique and being seen as unique by others
  • * having aesthetic sensibilities
  • * being able to easily pick up the feelings of people around me

What's Hard About Being an Ingrid
  • * experiencing dark moods of emptiness and despair
  • * feelings of self-hatred and shame; believing I don't deserve to be loved
  • * feeling guilty when I disappoint people
  • * feeling hurt or attacked when someone misundertands me
  • * expecting too much from myself and life
  • * fearing being abandoned
  • * obsessing over resentments
  • * longing for what I don't have

Ingrids as Children Often
  • * have active imaginations: play creatively alone or organize playmates in original games
  • * are very sensitive
  • * feel that they don't fit in
  • * believe they are missing something that other people have
  • * attach themselves to idealized teachers, heroes, artists, etc.
  • * become antiauthoritarian or rebellious when criticized or not understood
  • * feel lonely or abandoned (perhaps as a result of a death or their parents' divorce)

Ingrids as Parents
  • * help their children become who they really are
  • * support their children's creativity and originality
  • * are good at helping their children get in touch with their feelings
  • * are sometimes overly critical or overly protective
  • * are usually very good with children if not too self-absorbed

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Made History Today....How About You?

Did you vote? If not, what are you doing reading my blog?! Get out there, for pete's sake!

Vote. Be Heard.

Whichever the outcome, history will be made. We'll either have our first African American president, or our first female vice president.

I'm a firm believer that if one does not exercise his or her right to vote, then he or she forfeits any right to complain about how the government is run. If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem, as the saying goes.

(I feel I know my blog friends well enough to know that those of you who are able to vote in the U.S. Presidential Election will do so. Just thought I'd post a reminder for anyone else who might pop by.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Jumping in with Both Feet...

In late August, I completed an application to substitute teach in my local school district. I attended the mandatory training workshop in September.

The system used by our school system is largely automated. I can go online and search for substitute jobs or the automated system will call me in the morning if there's a job opening at one of the schools I specified. If I get a call in the morning, I can either accept the job, reject the job, or indicate that I'm unavailable the entire day.

I've been doing the latter for a few reasons: 1) I either have something else planned, or 2) I just don't feel 'ready.' The beauty of the automated system is that it's random. I'm not blacklisted if I turn down too many jobs.

Well today at 9:15, I received a call from Son #1's junior high school. I saw the name/number on the caller ID and assumed that perhaps Son #3 wasn't feeling well. But no.....

They needed a substitute ... for a substitute! I kid you not. They apparently had a sub lined up but for whatever reason he/she didn't show up. It's much easier to say no to an automated system than it is to say no to the secretary at my son's school.

Thirty-minutes later I was substituting for 7th grade English/Language Arts. It was nice because the teacher I was filling in for taught Son #1 last year, so I had a pretty good idea about her policies and schedule. Plus, she left very detailed instructions.

So how was it? Not bad, actually. Looking professional and acting competent & confident (even if you don't actually feel it) is probably 85% of it. I actually thought I'd prefer working with younger kids - they're still eager to please. But it was nice to teach the same class three times to three different sets of kids. If one group was particularly challenging, there's comfort in knowing that the bell will ring and they'll be leaving.

All in all, it was a good day. Now that I've gotten my feet wet, so to speak, it'll be easier to say yes next time.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Halloween!

From left to right are:

  • Commander Cody from Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Son #3, age 6)
  • Indiana Jones (Son #2, age 11)
  • Scream Ghoul (Son #3, age 13)

Friday, October 24, 2008


The Marlins baseball team got off to a rocky start. They play in the 7 - 8 yr old league at our local recreation district park. It's interesting how they determine the age bracket. It's based on the child's birthday as of April 30. The youngest must turn 7 by that date; the oldest cannot have reached their 9th birthday.

This results in a pretty wide age range (and presumably with it, a wide range of skill) in Son #3's league (that's him in the photo). For example, when the season started Son #3 was 6 yrs, 7 mos old (he turns 7 in February). Feasibly, there could be a boy on the team who would celebrate his 9th birthday on May 1 (because he just made the cut off). Most of the kids are 7 and 8.

It's been good for Son #3, I think. Although he's one of the youngest, there hasn't been any of the tears and drama among the kids when they strike out or are thrown out. His batting has improved. He's become the official cheer ringleader in the dugout. ("Let's go, Marlins, let's go!" will a little disco action - think Saturday Night Live movie poster.)

Most coaches rotate the kids throughout the various positions during the season, but this coach came up with team assignments early on. The downside: the younger boys do not gain experience in different positions. The upside: consistency.

Son #3 would usually be placed in the outfield (not a lot of action there), or he'd get to play catcher. "Play" catcher is a misnomer. Once he's suited up in what he calls his armor (oversized pads, helmet, etc.), he can barely move. Still, I think it made him feel more like he was in on the action.

His batting has improved. He's still hitting it right to first base - which means he's out - but he's been managing to bring at least one or two runners home. RBIs are a good thing.

Despite being the No. 5 seed (there are perhaps 10-12 teams in this age bracket), they made it through the championship tournaments and snagged top honors. Yay, Marlins!

Monday, October 20, 2008

My New Digital Camera

My old digi camera, a Canon A530, is dying a slow death, so I decided to splurge on a new one because: 1) I need a decent camera to photograph my jewelry to sell on my Etsy site and 2) the family and I will be embarking on a road trip to Washington DC in the not-too-distant future.

I did a little research and selected the Canon S5 IS. It has more bells and whistles than I needed, but it has really nice zoom and macro capabilities. Because Canon just released the S5 IS's successor (the SX10 IS), the price on the S5 is coming down. Good news for me.

I've been having fun playing with my new gadget. This one isn't very crisp, but it was taken from a distance of about 4.5 feet. I have a better photo of the bee on the flower, but I liked that he's mid-air:

Notice the craters along the right visible edge of the moon? This photos was taken from my kitchen window, without flash.

Can you tell I like closeups?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Have You Ever Misplaced a Child?

It finally happened to me. I can laugh about it now - in fact, I was laughing about it a few minutes after the fact, but at the time, it wasn't so funny. It's interesting how that 'heart-in-your-throat' feeling goes hand in hand with 'brain paralysis.' (Wow, that's a lot of body metaphors.)

Here's a little background info:

* missing kid was Son #2
* he's 11
* he was exactly where he said he'd be.

Son #2 asked if he could go to a neighbor's house to play (I'll call the neighbor "J"). Sure, I say, just check back in a half hour because Son #3 might want to play too after he's finished his homework.

Son #2 doesn't come back for Son #3. I didn't think too much of it. I figured Son #2 and J were having fun and lost track of time. Besides, Son #3 was occupied with something else and didn't seem interested in playing with them.

Dear Hubby and I had an important meeting to attend which required our leaving the house at 6:00 p.m. We fixed dinner early. I ask Son #1 to go fetch Son #2, but Son #3 volunteers instead.

Son #3 returns home upset because no one answered when he knocked on J's door and another neighbor kid (I'll call him "T") said to Son #3, "Oh, they're not home. I saw them drive off."

Dear Hubby and I go outside and sure enough, no car at J's house. Did we go knock ourselves? Noooooooo. That would've been too easy. Dear Hubby is annoyed because he's concerned we're going to be late for the meeting. He speculates that maybe Son #2 went to his cousin's house two blocks away. Did it occur to him to call the cousin's house? Nooooooo. Again, that would be too easy.

I'm upset because - hello??? I don't know where my kid is! I ask the neighbor across the street (hasn't seen him). I knock on another neighbor's door (no answer). I try another neighbor's house (not there).

While I'm knocking on the neighbor's door, Dear Hubby is marching to his sister's house to see is Son #2 is there playing with the cousin. Because I had my cell phone in hand - and because it DID occur to me to call - I already had the answer before Dear Hubby knocked on their door. (They haven't seen him.)

Meanwhile, Son #1 is standing in the front yard on the verge of tears screaming his brother's name.

I'm thisclose to becoming frantic, when cooler heads prevailed - in this case, the neighbor from across the street. He and his wife are veterans at misplacing kids (kidding ... sort of). He goes to J's house and knocks on the door. He knocks harder than my six year old, apparently. J opens the door and sure enough, there's Son #2. Right where he said he'd be.

My husband and I have three college degrees between the two of us. Why didn't we think of knocking on the door ourselves?

I can't fault Son #3 - he did knock on the door. I certainly can't ground Son #2 - he was exactly where he was supposed to be. He has, however, been warned that he *will* be grounded for a month if he continues laughing at his mom and dad.

Child: found
Credibility: lost


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ah, Relief!

I've been using the prednisone drops for two weeks to reduce inflammation due to Dry Eye Syndrome and this week I started the prescription med, Restasis. Aaaahhhh, relief. My eyes rarely felt dry, but occasionally they would burn a bit (I attributed this to allergies, though).

I'm optimistic that I might be able to get back into my contact lenses yet. The diminished vision in my left eye has resolved itself - thank goodness. (The realization that your very strong glasses are not helping one eye at all was kind of scary.) But enough about that....

Interesting things I've heard recently:

* From a video recorded at Boy Scout camp in June, and shown at last week's Boy Scout Court of Honor - family and friends present:

Scouts singing American Idol style. One scout is a songwriter, too, as he warbles, "W is for Wine that gets you drunk - no offense, Mom!" Roars of laughter from the audience, which the possible exception of one mother who may not have been amused. (I'd like to point out that the scout was not one of *my* son's.)

* Following Son #3's baseball game (ages range from 6 to 8). After the game, the team has a brief recap. Afterwards, all the players put in their hand and on the count of three yell a cheer - Coach lets one player select the cheer.

Coach: Okay, (name), you pick out cheer.
Player: (inaudible)
Coach: Really?
Player: (inaudible)
Coach: Okay, then..... on the count of three.... ONE....TWO....THREE!

Do you think they were excited about their first win in a long time?

I hope everyone is having a great week. The kids are off of school tomorrow because of Records Day. This weekend is also our church festival. It will be a busy weekend but fun.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Not Much Goin' On

I said I would try to post more often. I didn't promise it would be interested (ha ha).

I'm struggling with dry eye syndrome, much like I did last year at this time. The only difference is that after two weeks of using Systane drops, the condition cleared up and what fine until this summer.

Now I can't wear my contact lenses for longer than a couple of hours before my eyes (my left in particular) turns blood red. I tried the Systane again for over a month, but it didn't help. In fact, I'm experiencing an alarming decrease in vision in my left eye. Even with glasses, my vision in the left eye is still blurry.

I finally went to an ophthamologist, expected to hear the worst, but no, she says other than being very dry, my eyes look perfectly healthy. Right now I'm using prednisone (steroid) drops four times a day. Starting tomorrow, I taper down to three times a day. I don't like prednisone drops. Not long after taking them, I can taste them in the back of my throat. Ick.

Next Tuesday, I decrease to twice a day and start using Restasys drops (a prescription). No contact lenses until my follow up visit in November! Hopefully this will do the trick. If not, there's a procedure where they put little plugs into your lower eyelids to prevent moisture lost.

Apparently when you get to be a certain age, you start to shrivel up. :-(

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just a little update....

Things have been a little busy here. Sons #2 and #3 are fulling entrenched in their fall baseball season. Boy Scouts (Sons #1 and #2) and Cub Scouts (Son#3) have been keeping us busy, too. I teach religious education on Sunday nights to 8th graders - our first class was last night, after being delayed two weeks first by Hurricane Gustav, then by Hurricane Ike. It was nice to finally get started, but there was a lot of prep work involved. Finally, today I attended a training workshop for substitute teachers.

I'll try to be a better blogger in the future....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Graduation Day

Congratulations, Max! He graduated from PetSmart's Puppy Training class on Saturday. Max is our 6 month old lab/mastiff puppy that we adopted in July. You can read more about him by clicking here.

He still has come fear-submissive tendencies and will sometimes bark at another dog (not all dogs, just certain ones). He almost got into a tussle with Emma, his great dane classmate, at graduation. That was unusual because they've gotten along great for the past several weeks.

Mostly though, he's a very sweet, well-behaved pup. He picks up on tricks very easily. We just need to work to socialize him more. I hope to sign him up for intermediate classes, but the Sept. and Oct. classes aren't fitting in with my schedule at this time. In the meantime, I'll keep working with him on my own. He really has it in him to be a great dog.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What is it about Louisiana?

I read this quote the other day in the Times Picayune newspaper:

"I didn't truly get New Orleans until I heard this quote after Katrina," features editor James O'Byrne commented this week. "It's this: Once you stop thinking of New Orleans as one of the worst run cities in America, and start thinking of it as the best run city in the Caribbean, it all makes sense."

New Orleans has its own vibe - different from any other. Sure, it's basically built in a "bowl" between the Mississippi River and the Lake Ponchartrain. We have four seasons: Crawfish Season, Shrimp Season, Oyster Season and Hurricane Season, with a lot of overlapping there.

After Hurricane Katrina, some folks in other parts of the country would shake their heads wondering why we'd want to rebuild a sitting that's a hurricane magnet. But one might say the same for much of the state of Florida, the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts. There's also California with its earthquakes and wildfires, the midwest with its tornadoes, the northeast with its ice storms. Truth is, no matter where you live, it's always something, isn't it?

Make no mistake. New Orleans has not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina. I wonder whether it ever will, frankly. Parts are doing very well, other parts are getting by, and yet other areas are mere ghosts of their former selves.

Fortunately, Gustav didn't pack the punch originally predicted, although plenty of people are struggling now. Thankfully, Ike blew past us today toppling some trees, pushing our lakes past their boundaries but so far I haven't heard reports of major damage in Louisiana. Our neighbors in Texas are poised to bear the brunt of Ike's force. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Returning Home

By Wednesday, many businesses in our area had power restored and although our neighborhood did not, Dear Hubby thought we should head home on Thursday morning. He was confident that we'd have electricity by the time we arrived home Thursday evening. I went under protest.

Personally, I would've preferred to wait until I was sure electricity was back on. "I'm not goin' until the A/C is blowin'" was my mantra. Let's face it. If the electricity wasn't back on, he could go to his air conditioned office with a working refrigerator, while I would be stuck at home with three smelling boys and two sweaty dogs. I won't even go into the hormonal changes often experienced by the plus 40 yr old woman. Oh, and did I mention 90+ degree temperatures.

Nevertheless, I put on my best "supportive" face and attempted to make the best of it. Just for the record, next time a hurricane passes by, I think I'll move here:

They seem to have the right idea. A house on a mountain. Sure they might be stuck during the winter, but hey, I'm 43 and am my own self-contained portable space heater. Global warming? Yeah, that's me.

This is a huge cross outside a church in Tennessee. It somehow seemed comforting to see it looming over the mountainside.

Alabama was experiencing unpleasant weather due to Hurricane Gustav. Tell me again why we left Tennessee.

Mississippi is looking better. Check out the sunset. We stopped at a Walmart in Hattiesburg, MS to load up on essentials because we weren't sure how the groceries in Louisiana would be. Electricity was still hit-or-miss there.

While in the Walmart parking lot in Hattiesburg, my neighbor called at 6:45 p.m. to let us know that power was restored to our street, saving my marriage (kidding). We were two hours from home so the air conditioning would have time to cool things down a bit for our arrival.

Other than missing a single shingle, below is our only real damage. This is the same fence that was blown over in the other direction following Hurricane Katrina. The entire length should be replaced - primarily because my neighbor's yard retains water and the posts are rotting. Our yard is properly graded so we have no standing water. Nevertheless, I cannot afford to have the fence replaced, but I was able to get someone out to re-set a few posts and nail up the existing panels. It'll have to do for now. The dogs (on both sides of the fence) are happier now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Evacu-cation* - Day 4

* Evacu-cation (ee-vak-yoo-kay-shun) - noun - a trip that starts off by evacuating from a natural disaster, but upon learning that family, home, neighbors are safe, morphs into a mini-vacation. (according to Son #1)

Son #3 especially enjoyed himself. He kept saying he was "living the dream!" No wonder. Here he's getting a poolside massage (courtesy of Dear Hubby).

Isn't this retro McDonald's cute?

Inside McDonald's:

The hotel has a tree-shaded courtyard area with tables so we ate lunch outside one afternoon. Below is our puppy, Max, who dined with us.

Here's Son #3 with our beagle, Scout.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Evacu-cation*" - Days 2-3

* Evacu-cation (ee-vak-yoo-kay-shun) - noun - a trip that starts off by evacuating from a natural disaster, but upon learning that family, home, neighbors are safe, morphs into a mini-vacation.

This word was coined by my 13-yr old son this past week. Hmmm....I wonder how long it will take before Webster's Dictionary recognizes it.

Once we received word that our house was okay, the neighbors were safe, etc., we were able to relax and enjoy out time in Knoxville, Tennessee. I wish we would've done more touristy stuff, but Dear Hubby was plugged into his laptop catching up on missed work, and the kids wanted to spend most of their time at the pool.

We did manage a little shopping and dining out. We learned that Ruby Tuesday's has something on the menu that makes everyone happy - that's rare. Knoxville on Kingston Pike has some really neat shopping. A lot of familiar stores, a nice mall, Dick's Sporting Goods (Dear Hubby loved it), and Lilly's Bead Box (where I picked up a few jewelry making supplies).

The following are a bunch of photos....
They sure are easily amused, aren't they?

Didn't see this coming, did you? (Sometimes a mother can only shake her head.)

Oh look, somebody is giving me bunny ears:

Blowing water through a "noodle" (subtitle: eeeewwwwww!)

They look pretty pleased with themselves, don't they? Kind of hard to tell which one is the 6-year old in this photo (hint: the one without chest hair!).

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Evacu-cation*" - Day 1 (cont'd)

My previous post detailed the start of our journey from Louisiana to Knoxville, TN (to avoid Hurricane Gustav) on Sunday, Aug. 31. The kids and pets were very well behaved for the 9-hour car ride. Below are shots of some of the scenery. My part of Louisiana is flat, so I've always been fascinated by anything higher than an anthill.

I could get used to this view. We arrived at our hotel just in time to check in at 3:00 p.m. We booked a room at the Holiday Inn at Papermill (Kirby Rd.) in Knoxville. Kids eat free and pets are welcome. According to the Holiday Inn website, this was the nearest hotel that met both criteria that had vacancies when I called several days prior.

I called hotel's front desk to get specific directions from the interstate and spoke with Tiffany on the phone - very nice. Her directions were spot-on. The hotel is tucked among a couple of office buildings and a residential area, so it was off the beaten bath - but only a couple of miles from the main highway.

We checked in at the front desk, where we met Tiffany and Jason (I think Jason may have been a manager). Both were very nice, very welcoming, very cool about the dogs and guinea pig. I've heard that some 'pet-friendly' places are only friendly if your dog is as silent as a goldfish. Fortunately, this wasn't one of those places.

Our first room was on the bottom floor (room #189) - a "pet room" at the end of the hallway. It came equipped with a large dog crate (we had packed both dogs' crates, but this way we only had to reassemble Scout's). It also had a sliding glass door leading to a small fenced patio. The dogs weren't as impressed as I was. No neighbors at our end of the hall.

After unloading the car, we went back to the fr0nt desk to ask for directions to the restaurant/shopping area. I met another evacuee, Monica, who was just checking in. Jason explained to Monica and me that Holiday Inn just authorized a lower emergency rate because of the storm. (Cutting our nightly rate nearly in half.) I thought this was very generous of them, and a very pleasant surprise.

We splurged a bit on dinner that evening at Olive Garden. It turns out our waitress is originally from my sister's hometown in Michigan. After dinner, we stopped at a store to buy a small carrier for Kramer, our guinea pig. His cage is simply too big to bring with us so he was transported in a soft-sided pet carrier (pictured in yesterday's post). We wanted something sturdier that he couldn't eat his way out of while we slept.

We spent quite a bit of time watching the Weather Channel before turning in for the night.

* NOTE: "Evacu-cation" is a term coined by my 13-yr old Son #1. He explains that it's an evacution, but when you find out your house and neighbors are okay, it sort of turns into a little vacation.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Safe & Sound

Thankfully, Hurricane Gustav decreased in intensity and reached landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, rather than the Category 4 as originally forecast. As of late Saturday night, August 30, Gustav had not yet made the westwardly shift that was predicted, which put the southeast Louisiana area in a precarious position. For that reason, we decided to evacuate to Knoxville, TN. I had booked a room at the Holiday Inn at Papermill (Kirby Rd) a few days earlier, just in case. Pets welcome, Kids Eat Free.

We loaded up the minivan and hit the road at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31st. We wanted to avoid the interstate "contraflow" that would start at 4:00 a.m. We took the back way through some small towns in southeast La. and Mississippi before connecting with the interstate in Hattiesburg, MS. It was a good strategy. We avoided most of the traffic snarls, except one hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic in Meridian, MS (we think it was an accident that tied things up.)

We stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center for breakfast (Pop Tarts brought from home). Here's a photo of Sons #1 and #2 with Kramer, our guinea pig.

Here's Dear Hubby with Scout (beagle) and Max (our almost 6 month old lab/mastiff puppy). They're stretching their legs.

On the road again. Say what you want about video games. I love/hate them. But they sure made for a peaceful 9 hour car ride. Below are Son #2, Son #3 and Son #1.

I'll post more about our adventures soon.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Here We Go Again

We in Louisiana have been tracking Hurricane Gustav for days now. It seemed for quite a while that the storm would reach landfall at the southcentral part of the state. The most recent hurricane models indicate that it's not as far west of New Orleans as we in the N.O. area would like.

It's so disheartening because there are so many areas in New Orleans - and probably on the Gulf Coast in general - that have not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina 3 years and 1 day ago. Locally we see it in the papers and on the news "so and so is finally moving back in to their newly renovated home following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina." Let's hope that welcome mat isn't temporary.

My area is ordering a mandatory evacutation tomorrow morning and "contraflow" will start at 4:00 a.m. Do you know what contraflow is? It's the opening both sides of the interstate but with traffic flowing in only one direction. Have you ever driven on the "wrong" side of the interstate? Okay, have you ever tried it sober? (Just kidding. I haven't either, but it has to be a strange sensation which is why we're hoping to avoid it by leaving at 2:30 a.m....driving on the "right" side of the road.)

We took the middle seat out of the minivan (hubby says it would only cost "a couple hundred dollars" to replace said seat if it's destroy at our home - yeah, right.) This will allow us more room for our treasures and our pets. I don't really think of myself as a materialistic person. Sure, I like my stuff, but there aren't many things that I consider truly important. Still, it's hard to condense the personal treasures of a family of five into a minivan.

Still, I remind my kids that we're so blessed that this is a hurricane. We have forecast models and tracking. We have advance notice. Something that victims of tornadoes or fires don't have. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad about the things I'm leaving behind. Somewhere in this house is a locked wooden box (key long misplaced) with love letters written by Dear Hubby when were first dating. I left the collage my mother sent me a few years back of my family - photos of my grandparents on both sides, me, my sister and my folks, a photo of my side of the family at my wedding, baby photos of the kids. If the worst case scenario happens, I hope she'll be able to create another.

So what did I take? Hmmm. My treasures? My fine jewelry (it doesn't take up much space), the jewelry I sell in my Etsy shop (in the off chance I sell something, I can ship it from Tennessee), the calendar, which includes important phones numbers. My bill paying stuff, including check book, and account numbers for nearly everything. A few irreplaceable photos. Several CD-roms of my digital photos and other files that are stored on my computer. Medications for Dear Hubby and Son #1 (fortunately, we're up to date on the prescription refills).

Oh, and heart worm/flea preventative for the dogs - because it cost more than most of Dear Hubby's meds combined. I brought 3 precious toys (a teddy bear that I ordered from Avon a few years back with a clear pocket for a photo - the boys when Son #3 was a baby, "Sheila" a stuffed dog I got for my very first Christmas, and "Spot" another stuffed dog that my sister and I bickered about for 20 years - he was my wedding gift from my sister. He's butt-ugly, but I treasure him. Because I WON!!! hee hee!).

The kids packed a few stuffed animals each, Son #1 packed several thick books (um, they sell books in Tennessee, y'know). We did let them take their video game systems. I don't know whether we'll let them plug it in at the hotel, but it's important to them and comforting to know they have it (even thought those things can be easily replaced)

We removed all moveable , potentially projectile objects from the yard and put them in the garage. Earlier today, Dear Hubby saw a couple that used to live down the street from us. They were nightmare neighbors (I don't have the energy to find the original blog posts now, but if you want to learn more about them check my posts from 2005).

Long story short: mom bought the house, listed daughter and son-in-law as 1% owners. Deal was daughter, son-in-law and kids would live in house and pay rent to the mom. They reneged. Daughter ran off with another man, briefly brought the boyfriend home (one big happy family - not!). Eventually daughter moved out and mother sued to buy out their share of the house and have them removed from the title and evicted (mom ended up with the two youngest grandkids). Mom has been renting the house to a nice family for the past 8 mos.

Well, today, daughter and son-in-law were seen walking up and down the street. They stopped in front of their old house, then the cop's house next door, then our house. Dear Hubby was in the back yard, but made it a point of waving to them over the gate so they'd know they were seen. I don't want to falsely point the finger at anyone, but Dear Hubby (former cop) got the sense that they may have been 'casing the neighborhood' to see who was still here and who evacuated. The cop next door will obviously be deployed for emergency service and therefore away from his house for several days (his house was mysteriously broken in to a few years ago, too). The son-in-law has two arrests for breaking and entering.

Maybe they were just being nostalgic for the good old days when they lived in our neighborhood, but it's annoying enough to leave your home because of a dangerous hurricane. Now we have to worry about our house being looted while we're gone. Sheesh. Fortunately I believe in karma.

So what have I learned since last time I evacuated (for Katrina)? Here are some tips:

  • Take all of the stuff in your freezer and place it in a trash bag. Twist it closed, then place it in another trash bag and seal. Place this back into the freezer.
  • Do the same thing for the contents of the refrigerator.
  • Fill a pitcher with ice cubes and put it in the freezer.
  • Leave and don't look back.

When you return home, check the freezer first. If the pitcher contains ice cubes, congratulations! Your electricity wasn't out very long, if at all. The contents of your fridge/freezer are safe.

If the pitcher contains a since pitcher-shaped chunk of ice (or worse, water), then simply take the pre-bagged contents of the fridge/freezer, place them in the trash can, put it out by the curb. And hope the streets are clear enough that the garbage guy can pick it up within the next month.

At least you'll have likely saved your appliances from the stench of rotting frozen pizza, frozen broccoli and the 29 lb turkey.

Sorry this post is so long and disjointed. Trying to get a lot of thoughts down before we hit the road in two hours or so. I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to post again. Keep us in your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Go Away, Gustav!

For those of you wondering, I live in southeast Louisiana. Funny thing about wishing that a hurricane will head in some other direction: it's almost like wishing a disaster on someone else. Nevertheless, I'd be lying if I said southeast Louisiana is prepared for another hurricane.

August 29 is the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My immediate family was very fortunate. Negligible damage to our house. My father-in-law and his adult sons who lived with him lost their house and most of their possessions. I have to say this about my f-i-l, he has moxie for having to start over from scratch at age 73. He lives just a few blocks away now.

Katrina was different, though. We knew the storm was in the Gulf of Mexico, for days leading up to it, forecasters were predicting that it would hit landfall at the Alabama/Florida state line. Image our surprise when we woke Saturday, Aug. 27 to radio reports that the storm did not make the easterly turn as anticipated and instead will reach land between, New Orleans, LA and Gulfport, MS.

We grabbed our essentials and high tailed it pretty quickly to Uncle Harold's house in Lafayette, LA. We stayed thirteen days until power was restored in our area. The other difference about Katrina is that I remember incessantly watching the Weather Channel coverage on Monday, Aug. 29th and thinking, "oh, New Orleans didn't fare too badly." Then the levees broke.

As for Gustav, I'm obsessively watching the Weather Underground website for updates. It's too soon to tell whether we'll evacuate or to where. I'm also making a short list of essentials: a few family photos, my bill paying organizer/checkbook, back up CD-roms of some things on my computer (why, oh why didn't I just invest in a laptop), insurance info, my firebox containing important documents, and so forth.

I'm not sure how to end this post, so ...

Links to Katrina posts (if you're interested):

We Evacuated, Aug. 30, 2005
Hurricane Katrina Update, Aug. 31, 2005
I Can't Watch the News Anymore, Sept. 1, 2005

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

He's Probably Not Smiling Now...

Subtitled: Missing Max
Son #2 took this photo of Max. Looks like he's smiling, doesn't it? He's probably not too happy today. I took him to the animal hospital this morning for his canine vasectomy. I called a while ago, and the little patient is doing well. He'll stay overnight for observation.
I pick him after 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. Boy, is he going to be mad at me!

Friday, August 15, 2008

School - Week 1

The boys returned to school on August 8 - last Friday. I can't say I'm a fan of the Friday-as-a-first-day concept, but whatever. Today marks their first full week of school.

Son #1 is in 8th grade at Junior High. His school only has 7th and 8th grades so we went from being low guy on the totem pole last year to being top of the totem pole this year. It's a very short totem pole. He has seven classes with six different teachers. English and Language Arts are combined into one two-hour class with the same teacher.

He's taking Spanish again this year - same teacher as last year. She's his homeroom teacher, too, so that's nice. He was a bit dismayed to have Social Studies homework on the first day of school. On a Friday. The horror! It was a short, fun assignment, but still...

My only complaint: lockers were assigned yesterday. I personally think that they should have held off sending books home (unless needed for homework) until after the lockers were assigned. My 64 pound son was schlepping around an 32 pound bookbag.

Son #2 is in his last year at Middle School (which covers grades 4-6). He has two teachers this year. One for homeroom, science, math and social studies. Another for language arts, English. We've struggled in the past at this school. Son #2 has always gotten As and Bs, but he is forgetful at times.

He's always completed his assignments - I look over his homework when he's finished. However, he would sometimes forget to turn in the homework. The teacher seemed perfectly happy to give him a big fat zero. I do admit to pressing the issue and eventually the late policy would be modified. Don't get me wrong. I believe there should be consequences for not turning assignments in on time - but a zero? Why not accept it a day late and knock off a letter grade (or two)? I do admit to pressing the issue and eventually the late policy would be relaxed.

I've discussed the subject with Son #2's teacher, showed him the different methods we're trying so he can become better organized. She seems much more reasonable than teachers in the past couple of years. Son #2 is feeling good about it, so I think it's going to be a very good year.

Son #3 is in a program called Multi-Age at his elementary school. It's a great program - Son #2 went through it several years ago. Essentially, Son #3 is 1st grade level. They call them "novices." Half the class are novices. The other half are 2nd grade level, called "experts." They work at their own pace, collaborate with one another (no better way for a 2nd grader to improve reading skills than by reading a book to a 1st grader), and can advance through the curricula as quickly as their development allows.

Next year, he'll have the same teacher, same class room, although he'll be an "expert" (2nd grade) and there'll be new novices coming in. It's especially nice that he'll know what to expect, know the teacher, the layout of the room, and half the kids. For a kid who professes not to like school, he seems to be having a pretty good time.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Last Day of Summer Vacation

It's official: summer vacation is over. It seemed too short - to the kids, and to me. They returned to school today (Fri.). This past week, we've been cramming in all the little things we hoped to do but had not. Chuck E. Cheese on Tuesday, a trip to the trailhead park yesterday. There's a big concrete area near the bike trail that has water jets in the ground. The jets go on an off, some high, some low. It's a fun way to cool off from our 95+ degree days (but I'm still questioning the wisdom on concrete + water + kids).
In the photo above are (from left to right): Son #1 - age 13, Son #2, standing (age 11), and Son #3 (age 6).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Queen Kong

Queen Kong. That's how I felt when I was sitting at my computer, when I was suddenly ambushed by this!

Dozens of little styrofoam airplanes. The boys' aim - Son #2's especially - was remarkable accurate.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keeping Busy and Trying to Keep Cool

July in Southeast Louisiana. Temps in the mid 90s, humidity darn close. Yuck.

I've been keeping busy creating some more jewelry items (even though I find it too hot to go outside and photograph them in natural lighting), playing with our puppy (Max), and finishing up our back-to-school shopping.

On an unrelated note, I'm bummed that Ebert and Roeper will no longer be doing their "At The Movies" reviews on TV. Roger Ebert hasn't been on the show since his cancer surgery - a year or two ago? He apparently owns the trade mark "thumbs up" (or "thumbs down") so the current version features Richard Roeper and a guest critic voting to "see it," "skip it" or "rent it." It lacks the panache of "thumbs up," don't you think? Roeper has hinted that he might have his own movie review show on another network in the future.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Son #1's Growth - an Update

A couple of weeks ago, my mood was low and my frustration level high. Son #1 has been seeing a pediatric endocrinologist since April 2007. (Follow up visits in June 07, Nov 07, May 08.) At our last visit, the doctor recommended the growth hormone stimulation test, a three hour in-hospital test at which they give Son #1 a simulating agent (glucagon) so his blood sugar will peak and drop. Blood samples are taken from an IV port every 30 minutes. A score below 10 is considered “growth hormone deficient” and therefore treatment is often covered – at least partially – by insurance.

Son #1's result: 10.4. Technically he “passed” the growth hormone stimulation test. We should be happy, right? Perhaps I would be, had the doctor not said that Son #1 is producing “about 60-70%” of the growth hormone that he needs. That’s like graduating high school with a D minus.

The doctor wants to see Son #1 again in August for more ‘data points’ (plotting on the growth chart). I’ve been unofficially plotting his growth chart (downloaded from Centers for Disease Control – these are the same ones the doctors offices use). In height and weight, he’s been below the bottom 10th percentile since age 8 and since age 10 has been below the bottom 3rd percentile. (In weight, he’s significantly below the bottom 3rd percentile line.)

Our last visit was the first time the doctor mentioned the words "growth hormone injections." (Just a possibility at this point, though.) Sigh. Never a dull moment with this child.

More to come later...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Meet Max

Subtitle: Call me 'stupid.'

I've been a bit stressed lately with all that's going on (or not going on) with Son #1's growth issues. The testing, the "maybes," the research (ad nauseum), etc. I could use a bit of a distraction, right?

Summer break with three boys...not exactly the picture of serenity anyway, so why not add a PUPPY to the mix? Truth is, I'd been thinking about it for a while. Our greyhound, Echo, died suddenly last September, and I've been getting the feeling that it's about time to consider another dog. Our beagle, Scout, misses having a canine friend. I miss having a "my" dog. Scout it great, but he's a family pet. Echo loved all of us, but he was "my" dog, know what I mean?

I thought about adopting a chocolate labrador retriever, but wondered whether I really wanted to spend hundreds of dollars for a puppy, when I could adopt a dog who really needs a home for a nominal fee. An ad in Sunday paper a week ago caught my eye. No photo, mind you. Just a two line listing amidst many pets for adoption. I called the all-volunteer rescue group the following day but didn't hear back so I figured it just wasn't meant to be.

I finally received a call on Friday, July 4th. We were told that the dog, and several others would be at the PetSmart Adoption Day on Saturday July 5th. For those of you unfamiliar with PetSmart stores, they do not sell puppies. Instead they work with local rescue groups by hosting adoption events at their stores, and providing discounted shots, spay/neutering through their in-house veterinary clinic called Banfield.

Dear Hubby, Sons #1 and #3, and Scout the beagle went to meet "Mr. White" as he was called by his foster family (because of a teensy white spot on his neck that's usually obscured by his collar).

We liked what we saw, filled out the adoption paperwork. They did the vet reference, and home visit on Monday and by Monday afternoon, Max was coming home with us.

More about Max: He's 4 months old. His mother is a yellow labrador retriever. His father, also up for adoption, is an English Mastiff. Probably not pure bred since the dad is small - "only" 100 lbs. His foster family was caring for the father (a rescue dog), when the woman's son adopted the yellow lab. The two became fast friends before they had the opportunity to have the lab spayed and the rest is history.

Max definitely looks more "labrador" than "mastiff." He has the softest coat (probably from the yellow lab side. Mastiffs and black labs tend to have courser coats). He's going through his awkward stage - long and lanky. He's very calm and very mellow. We're training him to stay off the furniture (he was allowed on it in his foster home). We're working on housebreaking him (he's most of the way there, but not quite) and crate-training him (he'll bark for 5-20 minutes but will settle down and sleep through the night). I'll enroll him in puppy obedience training since he's going to grow to be rather large - probably larger than a typical lab.

This is the second full day he's been with us and so far, so good. He's very well-behaved, but a little timid. He really seems to like the kids and me, but he's still getting used to Dear Hubby. There wasn't an adult male in the family so that may be why. He loves lying by our guinea pig cage quietly watching Kramer.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Happy Fourth of July (belated)!

I hope everyone had a safe, wonderful 4th of July weekend. My father-in-law barbecued at his house (just 4 blocks away) and later in the evening we set off a few fireworks on our street at a casual block party. Our street in only one block, so it was easy to coordinate.

With all the talk about the economy, the war, the election, I hope everyone took a moment to remember what is really wonderful about our nation.

Happy Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What a Week!

Sorry I've been remiss in blogging. This past week was spent cleaning, cleaning, cleaning the house in preparation for Son #1's and Son #2's party on Saturday. It went well - mostly family, but they did invite three friends from school/scouts. Pizza, cake, ice cream...the usual. They received a lot of cool gifts.

We heard back about the results from Son #1's growth hormone stimulation test. His numbers are low, but not low enough for most insurance companies to cover treatment if his endrocrinologist feels it's warranted. We meet with him again in August or September to determine the next steps.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Son #1!

He's a teenager today! Thirteen years old. Here's a photo of him earning his Horsemanship Merit Badge at Boy Scout camp last week.
If you'd like to read his birth story, click here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Son #2!

He's 11 today. He'll be celebrating with Dad, Son #1 and a couple of hundred other Boy Scouts in the mountains of Georgia. (missing my baby) That's him with a butterfly perched on his thumb.

Here's a link to his Birth Story, for those interested.
He's a really cool kid, if I do say so myself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

3 Pitches = 3 Outs

Son #2 plays baseball in the 10-year old league at our local recreation district park. His team this year, the Astros, have had a tough time. They're ranked last in a league of approx. 12 teams: 2 wins, 1 tie and 13 losses going into last night's game against the No. 2 ranked team, the Giants (14 wins, 2 losses). It was the last game of the regular season. The single elimination tournament starts tomorrow but Son #2 will have to miss the tournament because he's heading to Boy Scout camp in Georgia.

Son #2 enjoys playing baseball and he's pretty good. He might not be great, but he's a quite good fielder, a decent pitcher (although at times a little inconsistent), and not a power hitter at bat but usually makes it on base. He's a smart player though. He knows where the plays are and knows what to do when. That's a big challenge for 10 year olds.

Anyway, last night's game looked like this: The Astros are the 'away' team, the Giants are the 'home' team so they bat last. Games rarely go past three innings because there's a lot of strikes, walking and stealing of bases at this age group.

Top of the 1st inning: Son #2 unfortunately struck out at bat.
Bottom of the 1st inning: Son #2 pitches for this inning. He caught a pop fly and got someone out. He struck out another player. Score at the end of the first inning: Giants 6, Astros 0.

Top of the 2nd inning: Here's where it gets fun. Son #2 is pitching again. His first pitch is hit by the batter. Son #2 jumps high and nabs it (Out #1). Son #2's second pitch is hit way over his head. The batter makes it to first base. Son #3's third pitch is hit low. He dives for it, catches it (Out #2: the batter). The guy on first had started advancing to second. When the runner realized the batter was out, he had to go back to first base. Too late! Son #1 had already thrown the ball and the first baseman caught it (Out #3). That's a very fast 1/2 inning. The umpire said he rarely sees plays like that at this age level. WOO HOO!

Bottom of the 2nd inning: Son #2 hits, gets a runner in, and makes it to first base himself. He eventually steals his way home. Score at the end of the second inning: Giants 6, Astros 5.

Top of the 3rd inning: League rules state that a single player can only pitch two innings and they must be consecutive so Son #2 actually sits this inning out. A well earned rest.

Bottom of the 3rd inning: Son #2 hits, makes it to first base and eventually steals home. Score at the end of the game: Giants 8, Astros 11

Even though his team didn't do well this season, it's been a lot of fun. We love the coaches. Son #2 played for the same coaches last spring - they got off to a rocky start but eventually made it to the final game of the tournament (which they ultimately lost, but still.....).

I hope they have similar success this tournament.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Prayers for Our Scouts in Iowa

As you've probably surmised, our family is big into scouting. Sons #1 & 2 are heading to Boy Scout camp in Georgia on Saturday, along with Daddy Scout (that would be Dear Hubby). Son #3 will be start Cub Scouts in the fall. Heck, even our beagle is named Scout, although I think that's a coincidence.

Below is a newspaper article about a twister that hit a Boy Scout Camp in Iowa in which four young scouts were killed. Please keep the scouts, their families, scout leaders, and Iowans are your thoughts and prayers.

Here's the article:

Boys Scouts praised as heroes after twister kills 4
Published: 6/12/08, 5:28 PM EDT By JOSH FUNK

BLENCOE, Iowa (AP) - When the howling winds finally died down, the Boy Scouts - true to their motto, "Be Prepared" - sprang into action.

Putting their first-aid training to use, they applied tourniquets and gauze to the injured. Some began digging victims from the rubble of a collapsed chimney. And others broke into an equipment shed, seized chainsaws and other tools, and started clearing fallen trees from a road.
Dozens of the Scouts, ages 13 to 18, were hailed for their bravery and resourcefulness Thursday, the morning after a twister flattened their camp in Iowa and killed four boys.

"There were some real heroes at this Scout camp," Gov. Chet Culver said, adding that he believes the Scouts saved lives while they waited for paramedics to cut through the trees and reach the camp a mile into the woods.

The 93 boys, all elite Scouts attending a weeklong leadership training session, had taken part in a mock emergency drill with 25 staff members just a day before the twister hit.

"They knew what to do, they knew where to go, and they prepared well," said Lloyd Roitstein, an executive with the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Killed were Aaron Eilerts, 14, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, and Josh Fennen, 13, Sam Thomsen, 13, and Ben Petrzilka, 14, all of Omaha, Neb. Roitstein said all four had taken shelter in a building that was leveled, and all of them were found near its collapsed stone chimney. The governor said the cause of death had not been determined.

At least a dozen people remained hospitalized Thursday with everything from bruises to spine and head injuries.

At the campsite, a pickup truck had been tossed on its side. Tree limbs rested on top of the Scouts' tents. Trees were flattened. And the one-room multipurpose building where the scouts died was a pile of cinderblocks and chimney stones.

Boy Scout officials said the campers had heard the severe weather alerts but decided not to leave because a storm was on the way.

"They were watching the weather and monitoring with a weather radio, listening for updates," said Deron Smith, a national spokesman for the organization. "The spot they were at was the lowest spot of camp. It was deemed to be the safest place."

A group of Scouts who had set out on a hike had returned to the camp before the storm hit, Smith said.

On the other side of the state, 3,900 homes were evacuated from flood-stricken Cedar Rapids, where rescuers removed people with boats, officials estimated 100 blocks were under water, and a railroad bridge over the flooded Cedar River collapsed.

In Albert Lea, Minn., 90 miles south of Minneapolis, a man died Thursday after his vehicle plunged from a washed-out road and was submerged in floodwaters.

Also Thursday, several Kansas communities began cleaning up from tornadoes a day earlier that killed at least two people, destroyed much of the small town of Chapman, and caused extensive damage on the Kansas State University campus.

Meanwhile, tales of heroism emerged from the Iowa camp.

Roitstein said a group of scouts pulled the camp ranger and his family from their destroyed home. Doug Rothgeb of Omaha said his 15-year-old son emerged from a ditch where he had taken cover, then joined other scouts to break into the equipment shed.

Fourteen-year-old Zach Jessen of Fremont, Neb., said that before the storm struck, someone spotted the rotation in the clouds and a siren sounded in the multipurpose building, which had tables and a TV in addition to a fireplace. Jessen said he and others managed to get Scouts out of their tents and indoors just before the tornado hit. According to Roitstein, the Scouts took shelter in three buildings.

Jessen said shortly afterward, the door on the multipurpose building flew open and he heard someone yelling to get under the tables.

"All of a sudden, the tornado came and took the building," Jessen said. "It sounded like a giant freight train going right over the top of you."

Ethan Hession, 13, said he crawled under a table with his friend.
"I just remember looking over at my friend, and all of a sudden he just says to me, `Dear God, save us,'" he said on NBC's "Today" show. Ethan said the scouts' first-aid training immediately compelled them to act.

"We were prepared," he said. "We knew that we need to place tourniquets on wounds that were bleeding too much. We knew we need to apply pressure and gauze. We had first-aid kits, we had everything. We knew about this, we knew how to do it."

He added: "All of a sudden people started taking action. Like it just clicked. One of the staff members took off his shirt and put it right on the guy who was bleeding and told me to get on top of him so he would stop moving so he could apply pressure and gauze. We started digging people out of the rubble."

The 1,800-acre Little Sioux Scout Ranch is in the Loess Hills in westernmost Iowa, close to the Nebraska line, about 40 miles north of Omaha. The hills rise 200 feet above the plains in what is otherwise an exceedingly flat state. While tornadoes are often associated with flat, open land, Iowa is in Tornado Alley, and forecasters said twisters are not unusual in the Loess Hills.
The camp includes hiking trails through narrow valleys and over steep hills, a 15-acre lake and a rifle range.

Lisa Petry, the mother of 13-year-old Boy Scout Jose Olivo, said she had a bad feeling Wednesday morning when she heard reports of possible severe weather. "I thought, `Should I call the scout camp and ask if there's severe weather, where will they go?'" she said.

The governor would not address questions about whether the Scouts should have remained at the campground after severe weather alerts were issued.

"There's always lessons learned from any natural disaster, from any tragedy," Culver said. "We need to focus on the victims, the families affected."

The National Weather Service said it was an EF3 on the 1-to-5 Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity, with an estimated wind speed of 145 mph. The twister cut a path estimated at 14 miles long.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff toured the camp and said it appeared that the Boy Scouts "didn't have a chance" and that the tornado came through the camp "like a bowling ball."
Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson in Des Moines, Iowa; Nate Jenkins and Anna Jo Bratton in Onawa, Iowa; Sophia Tareen and Timberly Ross in Omaha, Neb., and John Hanna in Chapman, Kan., contributed to this report.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rollercoaster - Part 2

Originally this was part of yesterday's post, but it was just too darn long so I separated it out.

I've posted about Son #1's growth issues in the past. Here are some posts you can visit if you want to get up to speed:
Son #1 gained almost 5 pounds since starting the "battery acid" medicine, as he called it, back in November. It is designed to stimulate appetite, but it tastes awful. I thought Son #1 was exaggerating until one day, on a lark, I dipped the tip of my finger in the medicine and took a taste....just to see what the fuss was about. OH. MY. GOSH. It was terrible. Granted, I've never attempted to siphon gasoline and failed, but I can only imagine that this is what it would taste like. ICK!. The foul taste stayed with me for hours! Son #1 is a bigger man than I give him credit for. (and this stuff is supposed to *stimulate* appetite???)

He had a follow up appt. with the endocrinologist at the end of May. Although Son #1 gained weight (yay!), when you factor in the height increase (1/2 in. in 6 mos), it ends up equating to a net loss. Sigh.

Doc recommended a Growth Hormone Stimulation Test, which we took on June 3rd. Son #1 had to start fasting at 9pm the night prior. We drove to the hospital about 35 miles away, checked in and Son #1 was led to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Sounds much scarier that it is. It turns out that - fortunately - the PICU is not a busy department and therefore can conduct the 3+ hour hormone stimulation test properly, usually without interruption. (Doc said the hospital closest to our house is "too busy" and if the bloodwork isn't drawn exactly in the right increments, it negates the entire test).

They insert a Hep-Lock in Son #1's arm (an IV port). They draw baseline bloodwork. They give Son #1 Clonadine (tablets) and Glucagon (shot in the tookus) to 'stimulate' an insulin/growth hormone response.

Thirty minutes after the meds, they draw blood. Sixty minutes after meds, they draw blood, Ninety minutes after meds, they draw blood. One hundred twenty minutes after meds, Son #1 had to pee, gets nauseous and weak, they draw more blood. He finally dozes. One hundred eighty minutes after meds, they draw the last round of bloodwork.

Now I understand what I mean when they say that blood must be drawn at exactly the precise intervals or else the entire test is a bust!

They feed us - an unexpected treat (I fully expected to have to stop for food on the way home). Son #1 ate cheese pizza and drank Gatorade ... a must before Nurse Nancy would remove the IV port from Son #1's arm.

The test results will be forwarded to Son #1's endocrinologist in 3 to 4 weeks. I'm not sure what to make of all this. I've been doing research, off and on, for a while now. Information overload. On one hand, I'm 5' 1" and I don't feel 'shortness' is a condition that necessarily needs to be cured. Hello, Michael J. Fox (5'4") and Al Pacino (barely 5'6" if I had to guess).

I remember watching a special on 20/20 on TV a few years ago about teens/young adults who had growth hormone injections. How much it hurt, how much it cost. I remember Son #1 who must've been about 8 at the time saying he didn't want any of that. He's happy the way he is. The way God made him. That's a pretty compelling argument.

But there's a flip side. Many studies have shown that children (and adults) who do not produce enough growth hormone (you don't stop needing the growth hormone once you've reached adulthood), are at increased risk for: 1) obesity - altho' this is unlikely to be an issue for Son #1, 2) osteoporosis - which runs in my family, and 3) early onset coronary artery disease - Dear Hubby had stents at 34 and triple bypass at 36.

So it's not really a matter of curing 'shortness'. Unfortunately, many insurance companies consider growth hormone therapy a 'vanity' treatment. Test results should be in by the end of the month. Stay tuned....

Monday, June 09, 2008

Quite the Rollercoaster..(Part 1)

I'm just going to toss this out deep introspection. I've been mulling this over for a bit and haven't quite figured out what to say/think about it, so I'm going to put toss it out there. Maybe I'll analyze it later. Maybe not.

Sons #1, #2 and Dear Hubby are heading off to Boy Scout camp three states away. They leave the Sat. before Father's Day (June 14), will be gone for Son #2's birthday (June 17) and will return on Sat. June 21 (two days before Son #1's birthday). They'll have a blast, but cell phone coverage in the mountains of Georgia is spotty at best, so it will be very strange going days without knowing what they're up to, how they're doing...

Dear Hubby's upcoming job interview. The good: slightly more money (he's close to maxing out in his current position), better opportunity to broaden his skills. The bad: giving up the company car (gas, maintenance, insurance paid by the company), more overnight travel, although they say he'll be able to set his own travel schedule. He really wants this so if it fits in with God's plan, I hope he'll get it. If not, then it wasn't meant to be.

My eyesight has been another source of anxiety. You might remember that last year at annual eye exam I had problems with dry eyes, which was news to me. (Click here and here for background.) At that time, my optometrist said recommended several weeks of wearing glasses (UGH!) and using eye drops. My vision improved enough for the doctor to prescribe a type of contact lenses made specifically for dry eyes - Accuvue Oasys. All's been well until a couple of weeks ago.

I've experienced a rather dramatic decrease in my vision. With contacts lenses, it's not as noticeable although I do seem to benefit from reading glasses. However, with my new (less than 1 year old) prescription eyeglasses, my vision STINKS! I can no longer see the alarm clock from across the room when I'm wearing glasses. I cannot read email without removing my glasses and having my face THISCLOSE to the monitor (blogger font fortunately is larger than my default email font).

I'm inclined to think it might be the dry eyes again. Truthfully, I wear contacts 90% of my waking moments and they feel fine so I tend not to remember to use the drops. In addition, since my mini-vacation in May, I've had trouble with first allergies and then a cold so it's possible that the decongestants and anti-histamines are having an impact.

I'm trying to give my eyes a rest (no contacts, using eye drops regularly) for another couple of weeks. If things don't improve, I'll forgo my usual optometrist and visit an opthamologist instead. Keeping my fingers crossed that there isn't anything seriously wrong.

So there it is....tossed out there. Just the facts. For now.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Thrill of the Chase

Dear Hubby works for a Fortune 500 Company headquartered in Cleveland, OH, but one that does business all over the country (including our home state of Louisiana). He's been with them for 8 years in about 6 different job capacities. Some were moves he initiated, others were the result of someone asking him to take on a new startup initiative.

He enjoys his current position, but there's not much room for advancement. His department is highly specialized, although thanks to the 6 jobs within the company, Dear Hubby's breadth of skill is impressive.

A corporate level job was posted a few weeks ago, so he took the leap and applied. He's had two phone interviews with the hiring manager, one phone interview with corporate human resources, and had to submit a writing sample.

The top two candidates - yes, Dear Hubby is one of them - are being flown to Cleveland for in-person interviews. Fortunately the perimeters of the job are such that he can work out of any company office, so relocation isn't necessary. (On the other hand, if we ever decide to move almost anywhere, he can just transfer his home office location.)

Here's where Dear Hubby and I differ. I would be on 'pins and needles' as the expression goes. This has been going on for weeks. Any idea how much sleep I'd lose? And interview? Yikes. Can I choose a root canal instead?

But no. Dear Hubby recognizes it for the game that it is. He's good at analyzing what info the interviewer is really trying to get at. He thinks very quickly on his feet and is never caught off guard (well, except for the one time on January 10, 1987 when he met me - ha ha).

I'm sure he'll be disappointed if he isn't offered the job, but he's pretty philosophical about whether or not "it's meant to be." He's so laid back and, well, cool about the whole thing.

I hope my kids inherit this trait from him.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Aliases - Part V

Those of you following my blog for a while now, know that Son #3 (age 14) has a long penchant for wanting to change his name.

Over the years, he's requested that we call him:

1) Obi Wan Kenobi (kinda catchy, but doesn't go with our last name)
2) Chester (um, no)
3) Michael (okay, not bad once he dropped the "Jackson")
4) Ovento Burrito (what the heck????)
5) Christopher (not bad)
6) Nicholas (still not bad)
7) Logan. Nickname: Lo. He actually said that.
8) Pettiman (again, what the heck?)

And now (2016)
9) Howie Landerman 


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

I hope everyone takes a moment to remember those brave men and women who given their lives defending our country over the past 2 1/2 centuries. Have a great, safe weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Introducing Kramer....

I've been a little distracted lately. Here's why:

It's a baby guinea pig (also called a cavy). Isn't he adorable? Oh, c'mon, even it you don't like rodents, he's awfully cute. His name is Kramer (after the character on "Seinfeld") because he has crazy hair. His hair doesn't lay smooth like his parents and one sibling. Instead, he has swirls and cowlicks, like two other siblings.

Son #2's friend has a pair of guinea pigs and they had babies. Son #2 first met Kramer when he was only 3 days old. He's grown fast, though, and is old enough to be separated from his mother so the friend's mom offered one to us. We picked him up last Friday (my criteria: I wanted the friendliest, mellowest one).

It's funny how expensive a 'free' guinea pig can be once you factor in all the accoutrement. He's loads of fun, though. Really sweet.

Here's another photo:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Home Sweet Home

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent several days in Virginia visiting my mother - a long Girl's Weekend, if you will. Shopping, dining out, catching up with friends. I had a great time.

I guess there's no way to ease back into 'the real world,' though. When I stepped off the airplane on Sunday afternoon, I was greeted by two bickering kids, one sick kid, and of course Dear Hubby who had Single Dad duty since Wednesday. But yes, it's good to be home.

Son #2 (the sick one) stayed home from school yesterday, but was feeling fine today. Son #1 is receiving an award at his school this evening (honor roll is my guess) and Son #3 is usual high maintenance, but lovable self.

I hope my fellow mom bloggers had a great Mother's Day!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Busy Time of the Year / Happy Mom's Day

Teacher Appreciation Month is winding down. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but it seems that way. I have 3 kids at 3 different schools - each celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week at different times. Two weeks ago, it was the middle school. Last week, the junior high. This week, the elementary school.

As room mom of Son #3's kindergarten class, this Teacher Appreciation Week has me especially busy. I collected letters of appreciation written by the parents of Son #3's classmates, assembled them into a scrapbook to be presented on Wednesday. I also arranged for a class sitter on Thursday for the teachers' luncheon. The class sitter will begin working with the kids on the teacher's year-end gift.

Did I mention that I chose this week to go out of town? Well, I didn't pick it specifically because it was Teacher Appreciation Week, but I'm long overdue to visit my mother and weekends are tough since I teach religion on Sunday evenings. Last night was our last religion class for the school year so - with the exception of two sons playing baseball - I have my weekends back. YAY!

That's a round about way of saying that I'll be away from my computer (hence my blog) from May 7 through 11th.

On Sunday, I'll be having Mother's Day breakfast with my mom in Virginia and dinner with my hubby and kids in Louisiana - I feel like a jetsetter. :-)

To my fellow mom-bloggers, I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing Mother's Day.