Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ethel's graduation

There's our little graduate.  Graduated?  Wait, how old is she?  

Yes, these days kids are getting caps and gowns and pseudo diplomas as young as four years old (perhaps some earlier?).  Ethel graduated from Pre-K last year, and from Accelerated Pre-K (for the misfit kids who miss the first grade cut-off) at the beginning of this month.  She will enter kindergarten this fall, and will probably have a graduation again next spring  She's going to have a collection of square hats and polyester gowns before she hits first grade!

All that aside, this year's pomp and circumstance was really quite cute.  The kids did some song and dance stuff, demonstrating some of what they learned during the school year, and received little diplomas at the end.  Very sweet, to say the least.  Some of them were excited, some nervous, and a couple just enjoyed singing the fun songs and dancing around the room.

Ethel did much better this year than last year, by actually moving, smiling, and I think she even sang this year!  Yes, ours was that kid who stood with a stone face last year, not doing any of the choreographed moves to the songs being sung.  I even had a woman (someone's "dear" grandmother) turn to me last year and say something to the effect of, "Wow, she's going to be a star".  Let me just say that the written word does not convey properly the level of sarcasm and criticism that resonated in this statement from this "dear" woman.  Had we not been surrounded by a room full of families and young children, I would have most certainly let her know exactly what I was thinking.  Instead, I let her continue on in her little world of ignorance and smiled and said, "Oh, for sure".  Again, you can't hear the "kill 'em with kindness" tone that resonated from my response.  But I digress.

I leave you now with one of the last shots of the evening.  Fred was so excited to see his sister at the end of the 'ceremony', and he couldn't wait to just give Ethel a big hug.  And that's just what he did.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wild Kindgom, bunny talk

So I was telling my neighbor tonight about the bunnies in our back yard.  Trying to explain and describe the little tuft of fur in the grass is easier said than visualized.  So she asked to see where they were, and we all headed in back to look.

No sooner had we come upon their den, they were not only moving, but poking out of the hole!!  Seriously!!  My neighbor said she could see that one of them had its eyes open, if only briefly.  I believe these little creatures are no more than a couple of weeks old. 


Wild Kingdom, Part 3

See that?  See that fur in there?  Know what's in there?  BUNNIES!

Silly me, I assumed that baby bunny season was over.  I was wrong.  Last weekend we came across this quaint little patch of bunny fur nestled in the grass (and weeds) in the back yard.  I know there are babies in there, very fresh babies, because they spent much of the weekend moving around.  You can see the fur stir as they move in their little hole in the ground.  I check on them each morning before I leave for work, and after the kids go to bed.  The babies are hard to see through the fur, but, they are definitely tiny and new.  Daddy has seen Mama Bunny hopping around the yard, and he said he's sure it's her because she's got loose fur all about her body. 

We're quite hopeful for these little ones.  Should they actually survive and grow into rabbits, we will be that much closer to our petition to rezone and become a nature preserve.

Wish them (and us) luck. 


Fred's Trigger Thumb

Monday was the consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon for Fred's crooked "fumb".  I need to remind myself that appointments during what is usually nap time are really not the best idea, but, that's beside the point.

I got to day care to find Fred on his cot, coughing and looking like death warmed over. Slight fever, hadn't fallen asleep (it was about 2:30), and was generally miserable. His teacher explained that he was wearing borrowed pants b/c he'd peed out his diaper and soaked his shorts, shoes, and socks. So, he was also barefoot. Guess I hadn't stocked his cubbie with extra clothes, gotta get on that.

Anyway, by the time we got to the orthopaedic office, he had a full-blown fever and was fairly hot to the touch. After waiting for a month to get this appointment, I wasn't canceling 15 minutes before the appointment, so we went in. Barefoot, and in borrowed pants. In 90 degree weather. If I'd seen us coming, I'd have thought to myself, "white trash coming through!", but, luckily there were very few people in the waiting room (which is also very large), and he charmed the one lady that was even remotely near us with his million questions (which doesn't charm me at all).

The doctor was awesome, her name is Dr. K. Great bedside manner with Fred. She explained the thumb thing, and the fix is just about as simple as the tubes were for his ears. Out patient, takes about 10 minutes for the actual procedure, and he goes home with a bandage around the hand. They use dissolvable stitches, we'll get some exercises to do after the bandage is off, and that's it. He'll only miss one week of swimming lessons.

Surgery is scheduled for the 6th of July. The "best" part is that the surgery is in the afternoon, and he can't eat after midnight! Craptastic!! I can't wait.

So, we got home from the appointment and he was truly miserable and passed out on the recliner. He slept all of a few hours total that night (thus, so did I), because he was coughing.all.night. If you didn't know better, you'd have thought this was a TB clinic the way he sounded. Ugh.

So, he and I were both "Happy Campers" on Tuesday.  Mommy had lots of coffee. What a fun morning.  Then, Pissy Patty woke up (a.k.a. Ethel). I had no idea Linda Blair entered our home and inhabited my tiny daughter, but, she was in rare form, with all but a spinning head. Wow.

I felt badly for Fred on Tuesday because he really wasn't feeling well and was coughing up a storm. Lack of sleep robs me of my empathy, though.  I couldn't wait for bedtime on Tuesday night.  Fred, luckily, was back to day care on Wednesday and has been doing much better.

Monday, June 14, 2010

104,000 and then some

That's how many miles my car has on it right now. My trusty Saturn, Sally Saturn, has just over 104,000 miles on her, and she's just now starting to show her age.

Sally is my fifth car, but the first which I've ever owned. And I bought her new. Right out of the showroom. My first car wasn't a Saturn, though. My first car was a 1982 Buick Century. I inherited her in 1992 or so, while I was in school. While her purchase and how I ended up with her are of questionable origins (that's for another therapy session), she was mine. I was pretty proud to have my own car, to be honest. I never expected a car, let alone one which I didn't have to sign away my first born to get. Still, I was excited to have my own set of wheels. Being away at school, and in a college town that didn't exactly accommodate the student without a car, it was a sweet deal. Unfortunately, she was in about as much disrepair as the roach infested house I was living in at the time.

See, Betty Buick turned out to be a bitch. Seriously. She was definitely not my father's Oldsmobile. If she had been, she might have run a little better. Let's start with the radio. No, I did not say sound system. There was no system to be found. It was a radio. AM/FM, no cassette, just a radio. That's cool, I wasn't looking for anything Singles style, just something to crank some tunes. Problem was that you couldn't hear the radio over the engine. So, with the car on, you had to turn the volume button up all the way, and even then, you could barely hear the radio. Hm. Off to Radio Shack I went to get an amp for the car, along with a cassette player. Got those puppies installed, and I was rockin'. Sort of. It was on my first trip with her to school in Bowling Green, KY, that I realized she had a rather tough time with hills. Uphill, to be exact, was her biggest challenge. Hm. Poor Betty. This was a bit of an issue, since the area of Kentucky I was in was rather hilly (mountainous, to me, coming from the flatlands). What got us through was the fact that most of the time, I was able to take her downhill and get some speed before heading uphill, and I learned quickly how to draft on the interstate (thank you, long haulers!). I wasn't breaking speed records, but she got me back and forth a few times.

Slowly, throughout that school year, she began to deteriorate. Before I knew it, her electrical was all but hosed, I was best friends with my check engine light, an auto shop bent the hinges on the hood so it popped when I went over curbs, and I had lower deck air conditioning (holes in the floor boards and bottom of the doors). The latter was cool until it rained or got cold outside. But, I could still hear the radio. And the radio doubled as a great disguise for all the fun noises that Betty could make when she was angry. Which was pretty often.

Eventually, the turn signal stalk would honk the horn, the headlights dimmed when the radio was turned on, and the air conditioning dragged the thing down so much it wasn't worth using at all. Finally, one morning, I'd gotten so tired of the problems with Betty that I left her in the road and walked home. I called my father and let him know where Betty was, and also called the police to let them know, and started to save my money to get my own set of wheels. Before you judge me for being spoiled by having been provided with transportation, I remind of my earlier statement, "her purchase and how I ended up with her are of questionable origins". But I took her. And I loved her. For a while. Until I left her in the road.

We got her running enough that I could manage to get to work and back for a few weeks, and then one day the light shone brightly upon me. Before I knew it, Betty had gone to that wholesale heaven of parts, and my next set of wheels was bequeathed to me.

A titanium coloured 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis LS was now mine. V8 power, cruise control, air conditioning, velour seats and "wood grain" interior, AM/FM *with cassette* and factory booster/amp, power windows and seats, baby I was ridin' in style. For an AARP member. But, dude, she ran. My parents had traded Betty in exchange for a newer vehicle for my mom, and I inherited her old ride. Wow.

Now, Grandma Marquis was pretty cool. Despite rear wheel drive, she rode like a dream. She had a squeaky window, bad EGR valves (thank you, Ford), and was the size of an M1 Abrams, but she'd already given us miles and miles of good service. She was the best choice for my senior year in college.

Grandma Marquis and I made multiple trips to and from school. At and above the speed limit, nonetheless. Who'd have thunk I could shave two hours off my commute time? And the radio. Oh, the radio. I would even have called it a sound system. With front and rear (and on the doors!) speakers, the factory booster, and a power antenna, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! I could listen to my tapes in the car, and even listen to music at night and still use my headlights. Awesomeness. You have no idea.

I did the best I could with Grandma. Her bad valves made for some interesting times on the interstate, at stop signs, while stopped, and lots of other times, but, it just made me a more interesting driver. Poor girl gave it her all. I even saw her 100K milestone. She served me well.

That spring I was looking forward to graduating and heading home. We all know that spring brings rain, and the spring of 1994 was pretty rainy. That's when I started having dizzy spells, headaches, and other anomalies. I got her home, and eventually realized that something in the car was giving me these symptoms. My uncle's keen snout identified freon as the offender. We then found the puddle on the passenger side floor. It made sense, because I'd just started driving with the windows down or cracked, and it eased the symptoms. Still, it wasn't wise to drive this thing much longer. So, the search began.

My mom and I scoured the ads in the paper, watched for local dealership ads on TV, and finally went out to shop. I really wasn't looking forward to used car dealers and the dollar signs they thought they'd see when my mom and I walked in the door. Armed with attitudes, decent knowledge of cars, and solid knowledge of what I could afford, my mom and I entered the first dealership. Let's just say that I wanted to go home after the first test drive. A red, used, two-door used Taurus, with an overweight, very sales-minded sales guy who wanted to "throw in" the trunk-mounted CD player, {insert shudder here}....need I say more?

No way.

We left. We headed down the road. Despite my initial resistance, we decided to go to the local Saturn dealer. They were being marketed as a different kind of dealer, and had the (then) new concept of no-haggle pricing. What a difference. It was like a breath of fresh air, for sure. We walked in and weren't swarmed by over-scented losers. We weren't picked at by vultures. We were greeted by the girl behind the front desk, and allowed to actually look at the cars. That's when we met Tony. Oh Tony.

Tony used to sell Oldsmobiles, you see, and had come to Saturn to wear casual attire and sell cars that basically sold themselves. I learned a lot more than that about Tony that day, but, I won't bore you with stories about his cats. Suffice it to say that Tony made me feel at ease, and he honestly helped me find the car that was right for me. After combing the lot, running numbers, and reviewing the status of Grandma, Tony helped me find my car. My first, very own, all mine, car.

Susie Saturn became mine in July of 2004. I made the promise to keep her for three years, less than 45,000 miles, and to take really good care of her. She was a beautiful medium red, 5-speed, fully loaded four-door. She had zip. She had pep. She had a sun roof. She had less than ten miles on her. Wow. It doesn't happen only in fairy tales or TV ads, I really got my picture taken with her in the delivery bay after the sales staff all sang to me. Yes, they did that. For me. And I got flowers. Wow!!

We had some really good times together. Really good times. About two and a half years into our time together, after a night out with friends, I dragged myself out of bed for my scheduled oil change. I was pretty foggy, at best, but, it was a beautiful, sunny day and I knew the fresh air would do me some good.

The new car showroom is a cruel, unjust place, though. That smell. The new paint. The options. The donuts and coffee. Wait, I digress.

While Susie was in getting her work up, I was in the showroom cheating on her. I sat in several cars, dreamed, and wiped the drool from my chin. Tony was busy with a customer, so he asked his fellow Saturn-seller, Steve (the name has been changed because I just drew a blank), to assist me. Steve let me test drive a few models, including their updated two-door coupe. I returned to the showroom and Steve knew that I was in. He knew I wasn't going home with Susie. Poor Susie.

At the end of the day, I drove off the lot in my new, red, two-door, five-speed coupe, Sarah. Thanks, Steve.

I had wanted a red car for years, and I finally had one. And she had a sun roof. She was awesome. She, too, had zip and pep, she had a cassette player, and I promised to keep her for three years, less than 45,000 miles, and keep her in good shape. And I did.

She survived a blizzard, a few Derbys, a trip to Florida, and red lined like a champ. Oh, she was cool. Sure, I'd been spoiled by Grandma's V8, but, honestly, the pep in these little cars was rather impressive, and I think I'd have ended up wrapped around a tree, the way I drive, in anything with much more power. She was awesome.

Another two and a half years later, in February of 2000, Sarah was scheduled for another oil change. Again, I dragged myself out of bed after a night out with friends, and the cold February air tried to snap me back into shape. It mildly succeeded. After a cup of hot coffee in the showroom, that new car smell got me up off my seat and into the front seat of one of the floor models. Tony asked how much longer I had with Sarah, and said it wouldn't be a bad idea to see what I might want when our three years was up. Tony handed me the keys to a brand new, medium red, four door sedan, and told me to take her out for a drive. Holy cow. Cruise, V6, air, power windows, sunroof, air bags, cassette, and a CD player. CD player? Holy crap, you mean I could have a CD player in my car?!?

I hemmed and hawed. For about three minutes. I took the bait. I told Tony I was ready for a longer commitment this time. I told him I was going to drive my next vehicle into the ground, so I needed something that I, and eventually a family, could grown into. I had just driven her.

Sally Saturn became mine in February of 2000. She was all mine (and the bank's). My very first ever all-mine car. I was a homeowner by this point, so it seemed a natural step to commit like this. Heck, I was in for 30 years on my condo, why not a few years for a car, right?

Sally and I have been through a lot. Multiple Derbys, a husband, several cats, two kids, trips to Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin. She's been wonderful.

I just rolled her over 104,000 miles. Tonight she gave me flashbacks to Betty. I dropped a few dollars on her in the fall, and she was worth it. She turned 100K on Christmas night. She is no Betty, but, there are beginning to be similiarities.

I remember riding in the car with my grandfather, practically swallowed by the bench seat in his Lincoln, listening to that clicky turn signal sound. You know what I'm talking about, don't pretend. There's something about the sound of the turn signal in your grandparent's car that is unlike the sound of the signal in cars the younger set drives. Sally decided to mimic that sound tonight. And she decided to exemplify the sound when the turn signal wasn't actually on. That's right, after coming back to zero with the wheel, Sally continued to click, click, click, click, click, click........

Turning up the radio only did so much to mask the fact that something is starting to go awry. From deep beneath the dash, there's something amiss, and it will most certainly drive me more insane than I already am in no.time.flat.

Still, despite the loud brakes, constantly-on coolant light, blown speakers, and just-started-flickering seat belt light, she's got plenty of life in her. At least I hope she does. No, I know she does. She's all mine, and I don't know what I'd do without her.

Just another reason to turn the music up and enjoy the ride.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wild Kindgom, Part 1

I don't know how we're going to top our May.  May was a great month for us, between warmer temps, getting the yard in order, Daddy's birthday, and Mother's Day, one might think things couldn't get any better.  Ah, Ethel and Fred will tell you - it could.

I spent a good bit of time this spring focusing on spring cleaning inside, while really wanting to get at the outside.  Each time I peered out the windows, or spent time outside with the kids, I cringed at the growing weeds, the rotted wood pile, and the myriad of other things I could tell needed attention.  As it happened, we ended up with an entire free weekend the weekend of the 15th and 16th of May.  Literally no plans outside the house.  Glorious.  Seriously.

I started about 8AM Saturday morning.  Got up with the kids, ate some breakfast, and herded the three of us outside to begin the day's projects.  First on the list, the back yard.  When most people set out to do yard work, they aim to rid garden areas of weeds, plant fresh flowers, cut the grass, etc.  When I set out to do yard work, it generally involves digging out yards of weeds, cutting down sprouting trees, and trying to expose some bit of space that could someday act as a home to vegetables, fruits, and/or flowers.  A girl can dream, right?

So, this lovely (yet slightly chilly) Saturday morning I set out in the back yard and started digging.  While I dug, the kids played in the back yard, playing with the toys and little house which I'd just brought out from their long winter slumber against the fence.  They were so excited to see the house, bikes, and other outside toys for the first time in months.

As I dug, the kids wandered the patio, and suddenly I heard, "Mommy, there's bunnies in that hole!".  Uh huh, sure, kids.  Then they repeated (in unison), "Mommy, in this hole, there's bunnies!".  So, I stopped and turned to see what hole they were referring to, assuming it was out in the grass.  Nope.  They were solidly staring into the window well.  Heads down, smiles on their faces, and fingers stiffly pointed in the window well, I strolled over to see what they were looking at.

Bunnies.  They were right.  Two, tiny bunnies, curled up together in the leaves piled at the bottom of the well.  Swell.  The kids were jumping up and down, Ethel asking a gazillion questions, and Fred gently saying, "Aw, they're so cute!". 

The kids agreed that we'd let the bunnies be for a while, and later in the morning we'd get them out.  I set out to thin out some ground cover when suddenly I heard a rustle, rustle, THUD!  Craptastic.  A quick glance into the other window well revealed that yes, that was a third bunny I'd scared out of the ground cover, and he'd jumped into the other well.  Swell.

With the third bunny scared out of his mind, jumping and doing all that he could to try to escape, I knew it was time to get the bunnies out of the wells.  It happened that we had a dog crate, left by a friend after we'd watched her dogs.  I carefully retrieved the three bunnies with my work gloves on, and placed them gently in the crate, so we could watch and make sure none were hurt.  Not knowing where their den was, we weren't sure where to release them.  So, we let them rest in the crate until we could be sure they were OK.  We went in and had lunch, and when we returned outside, two had escaped.  One left. 
As it turned out, that last bunny didn't really seem to want to take off.  He never went far, and I finally collected him from the lawn so the neighbor could cut the grass without risking getting the little guy.  He was so cute.  He let me hold him, pet him, and didn't so much as squirm.  My inner child was screaming, "Can we keep him??", but the Mommy in me was saying, "What the heck are we going to do with this thing??".

Long story short, we kept him overnight.  I told the kids that we'd keep him overnight, and if he was OK in the morning, we'd talk about what to do with him.  Well, he survived quite well in the shoe box that I suited up for him.  In a bed of grass with mixed greens, he spent the night in Ethel's room.  She surrounded the shoe box with all her stuffed rabbits and bunnies, then read it some books.  About rabbits and bunnies.  Excited doesn't begin to cover how she was feeling about having this bunny in her room.

The next morning, we opened the box to find lots of little bunny poops, the greens having been eaten, and a little bunny quite contented in his little bed of grass in the shoe box.  We tossed a few more greens in there for him, and Ethel prepared a dish of water, too.  She was very mothering, and continued to worry that he might be missing his Mommy and Daddy.  It was really sweet.  Fred, he just kept repeating, "Aw, he's so cute", in that cute little voice with that still-a-toddler-lisp. 

When I set out Sunday morning, Ethel first had to put all her stuffed rabbits and bunnies on the chair in the dining room, facing the front of the house.  She moved the chair, placed the animals, and told me she put them there so they could watch us outside, and so they could see when the bunny left the box and found his parents. 

I opened the shoe box and laid it on the lawn beside where I was working.  Little bunny just sat, chewing on the greens I'd just laid in the box.  He just sat there.  It was a good hour before he left the box.  And even then, he only stayed in the area between the houses, near where I was working.  Oh, he was so cute.  I was really wrestling with snatching him up to keep him, I really was. 
In the end, bunny hopped away.  I saw him the next morning before I left for work, resting in the small rose bush along the neighbor's house.  As the rain began to gently fall that morning, he quickly hopped away to find better shelter.  Ethel was really pleased with the outcome, surprisingly, as I'd figured she'd be a basket case once we told her we were letting him go.  She was more concerned that he missed his parents, and was happy to know that he'd hopped off to find them.  When we didn't find him that Monday evening, she was quite satisfied to know that he was out in the wild, where he belonged.

Wild Kindgom, Part 2

Well, we started out finding bunnies and that was pretty exciting.

Our next encounter with the local wildlife wasn't really so warm and fuzzy.

The bunnies were our weekend fun, but one week night that followed brought an encounter with wildlife of a different kind. The flying rodent kind. Yes, I'm referring to a bat. Yes, you read that right. A bat. As I sat on the front porch talking with a neighbor, while our kids played in the back yard, I heard what I thought was a bird. I turned my head, not expecting to not see a bird, and certainly not to see what I did see!
I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. Where the hell did this thing come from?

OK, so May continued to be quite an exciting month as far as local wildlife finding our home. Fast forward to the morning of May 27th. Fred and I came downstairs to eat breakfast and noticed a Mommy Duck laying in the front lawn. Cool, we have ducks around here, this didn't surprise me at all. By the time we were done with our breakfast, Mommy Duck had gotten up and walked toward the house. Before I knew it, she was laying in the corner right under the dining room window (oddly, right beneath where the bat had perched just a week before - insert shudder here....). I figured she was casing the joint trying to figure where to lay her eggs. OK, that's cool. Wait, she's standing up. Must be getting settled. Wait, what's that? Holy crap, that an EGG!!
Daddy had just laid mulch in this area under the window like three days before, so this is a very fresh egg!! Perhaps she just laid it, perhaps she'd laid it the night before, who knows. Doesn't matter now, the egg is laid. COOL!

Before heading out to day care, the kids and I wanted to go out and and see Mommy Duck, and I snapped a picture.

She's very well blended in there with the mulch, an ingenious disguise. She kind of had that "Back off, humans, don't mess with this!" look on her face, so the kids agreed that it's best to leave Mommy Duck and not get too close.

We saw her and Daddy Duck the following morning, and have seen them one or two times since. I understand that ducks generally wander around, rather than sit on the nest the whole time. I think she's been back each morning very early, before making her rounds doing whatever she and Daddy Duck do all day.

So, maybe it's time for us to petition the Village and rezone our property. Think we should become a wildlife preserve? You make the call.

We'll update the duck situation in another two to three weeks, when the egg(s) should be hatching. I'm really hoping Mommy and Daddy welcome a baby or more, that would be really cool to see!