Thursday, December 29, 2005

Keeping An Eye On Aya

We've had Aya the Cat for three days now, and there's good news and bad news. The good news is, Aya's adjusted well. He's not left any kitty bombs in the wrong places, and he tolerates the girls reasonably well. The bad news is, he's not declawed, and already he's taken a stab at my couch and the dresser in my bedroom. When he went for the couch, Carl and I were watching Return of the King on Carl's new TV, and when I lunged for Aya to make him stop scratching I spilled my beer. Not much, but enough to be irritating. And now I leave the door to my bedroom shut so Aya can't go in there. Aya, being black, can be awfully hard to find when he sneaks into a corner or under the furniture, but we've discovered that his favorite place to hide is under the futon in the fourth bedroom (guest room, Carl's "office", whatever) so that's one of the first places we search when we're looking for him.

Judah and Aya have only met through glass. Judah's seen the cat through the French doors in our kitchen, and because the dog lunged up the steps toward the door, it scared Aya and he ran back into the basement. But those times that we've shut Aya in the basement and let the dog into the kitchen, the dog could care less that there's the scent of a cat in the house. All he cares about is the scent of Munchy Bones in the bag on the shoe rack. So I doubt that, in the off chance that Aya and Judah meet, Judah will do any harm to the cat. It's more likely to be the other way around.

When Aya came home with us, I noticed that he didn't have any toys, so today (whilst out shopping) I bought him a Jouet pour Chat (that's French for "cat toy") and a small plush mouse. The mouse has catnip in his stuffing, and he came with extra catnip, and Aya just loves that. I shook the mouse in the catnip tonight and the cat about clawed my hand to shreds trying to get that mouse. The "Jouet" is an elastic cord on a plastic stick (looks like a short fishing rod, no reel) and on the other end of the cord is a bell and some strips of brightly colored mylar. If you swing this thing through the air Aya will lunge and jump at it - a kind of Kitty Ballet. If you lay the mylar on the floor and drag it around a corner, Aya will "hunt" it. He'll usually play with you for about five minutes before he gets bored. He's also not much of a lap cat, and he seems to prefer my husband in that regard, anyway.

So over all having the cat in the house hasn't been too bad. I'm going to try to trim the cat's claws tomorrow with a nail clipper. If the clipper for humans doesn't work, I'll use Judah's Industrial Strength Claw Clipper. Hopefully this will discourage Aya from clawing at my furniture. If it doesn't, well, then the cat will learn to like living in the basement.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

After Christmas Blatherskite

Well, we're home after a nice stay at my Mom's. We drove down Sunday after church, and along the way we picked up my Dad at the Good Samaritan home so he could join us. All of my siblings managed to make it in, and we had an extremely wonderful dinner prepared mostly by my Mom. (Us girls provided salads and cookies and stuff.) Mom makes the best German potato salad on the planet. The only person who made better German potato salad was my late maternal grandmother, and I'm pretty sure Mom learned it from her.

Monday my nephew and his wife (they're from New York) joined us, and we spent the day visiting, eating, playing music, eating, watching movies, eating, exchanging gifts and, of course, eating. My brothers and Carl went and brought Daddy over again so he was able to join us for most of the day. Mom brought out videotapes from the late 1980's, and we watched those. Believe me, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I really lost it during the segment where Daddy was singing. Fortunately, Carl was there to hand me the Kleenex box.

So today we came home, and now there's a new (albeit temporary) member of the family: Aya the cat. (It's pronounced Eye-ah.) Aya belonged to my niece Beth, but my poor sister (Beth's mom) developed an allergic sensitivity to the cat so they had to get rid of it. Mom said she'd take the cat, but she's leaving tomorrow to go to Cincinnati for three weeks to help my niece Shannon, who is having a baby in early January. So Carl and I agreed to keep Aya temporarily until Mom comes back. (Got that, Mom? Temporarily.) He's not a bad cat: he's fixed, and he's sweet-tempered with the girls, and he'll have the run of the basement, so it should all work out OK. However, the dog's not particularly happy with the arrangements. He's already barked at the cat, and now he's sitting on the porch, whining: "Mommy, oh Mommy let me in I wanna get the cat I wanna get the cat Iwannagetthecat I WANNA GET THE CAAAAAT!!!" Fat chance, mutt.

At least, temporarily.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Since we're traveling to Mom's tomorrow (after going to church in the morning, of course) we opened our Christmas gifts this morning. Naturally, the girls went first. Hannah was quiet, with an occasional "Whoa!" or "Oh my gosh!" but Mary was joyfully squealing at everything. They were both thrilled at what they got. Whew! I won't go into detail about all the toys and clothes they got, but they were very, very happy. Carl got me a really nice George Foreman grill. It has removeable plates and digital temperature sets and all the neat little bells and whistles, and I'm looking forward to grilling pork steaks indoors without having all the fat you'd get if you baked or fried them. Carl got a new set of outdoor grilling tools (with a case) Clint Eastwood's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on DVD, and a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade. He also went and got his new TV today: a Sony 40" flat-panel LCD TV. He's been waiting for a couple years for this TV, and it's his Christmas/graduation/birthday gift to himself. He deserves it. After two and a half years of Masters Degree schoolwork on top of all his other work, he needs to kick back and relax a little. And since he received some money as a graduation gift, he plans to augment his TV purchase with a surround-sound stereo speaker purchase. Electronics and alcohol for Christmas. Carl's in Guy Gift Heaven.

And I'm content. The girls are happy, Carl's happy - even the dog is happy. Judah got a Jumbone and some toys for Christmas, and Carl built him two sunning platforms out in the back yard, so he has a dry place to go and chew on his toys. Carl and I managed to get the girls' toys removed from the packaging without much trouble, and no one (so far) has lost their temper or gotten frustrated. Of course, Carl hasn't unpacked the TV yet, but I think that should go well considering Carl's a genius. So I'm content. It's been a good morning. And like Mary just said, "You know, I'm feeling a little happy this morning."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Late Night Blatherskite

When Hannah got dressed for her Christmas concert Monday night, I noticed the skirt she was wearing was a size 12. It still fit her skinny little behind, but I wondered what the sizes of her other dresses were. So Tuesday I checked: they were all size 8 or 10/12. They still would have fit her waist, but they would've been too short on her arms and legs, so I took them out of her closet and put them in Boo's. Boo's old dresses got bagged up and will get donated somewhere, except for a couple dresses that my Mom made that I'll give to my grandniece Rory.

Taking the dresses out of Hannah's closet left a bit of a gap, a gap which I figured I'd better fill immediately. And since I had errands to do in town anyway, I did a little clothes shopping while at Wal-Mart. I looked around their girls department, but they didn't have anything I liked. Hannah wears a 14/16 (the largest girls' size) so I asked the dressing room clerk if size 14/16 translated into any adult sizes. Both the clerk and another shopper told me that a girls 14/16 is a junior size 3, so off to the juniors department I went.

The Juniors Department. I hadn't been in the Juniors Department since oh, maybe 1980 and I really wasn't ready for my baby to make that jump. I mean, I've already bought Hannah a few things that were Adult size small, but with the understanding that she would grow into them. This time I was shopping for an exact fit in the Juniors Department. I ended up buying her two peasant skirts (one tan and one dark red) and a black knit turtleneck, so now she has something to wear to church on Christmas Sunday. But as I was walking past the baby clothes I got caught in a wave of nostalgia. Here were the cute little baby dresses, all velvet, lace and fur, and I felt myself getting teary-eyed. I wanted to buy one of those sweet little dresses and take it home for my baby to wear. Instead, I bought her stuff from the Juniors Department. Wow. I'm holding my breath, just waiting for the other shoe to drop - Hannah's entrance into the "Mom! We're out of Midol!" stage.

I was really rather worried yesterday that Hannah was growing up too fast, but not to fear. Today she was still my baby. She forgot her lunch and started crying on the phone when her father told her she'd either have to get the hot lunch or wait until she got home to eat. (They had early dismissal at 1 PM.) I couldn't stand it. I just had to get my little girl her lunch. Fortunately I needed to go back to town to get some craft supplies, so I got in my truck and went fourteen miles round trip out of my way (school is west, craft store is east) to give Hannah her food. Hannah also cried when she got home from school and discovered that Mom and Dad were going to Deep Clean Her Room. At first she hovered and whimpered, but after a while she got into the cleaning groove and actually cheered up. Now her room is neat and tidy, and it will stay that way until Christmas Eve when she opens her Christmas presents. Then chaos will reign supreme for both of my little girls.

And that's the way it should be.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Week In Review

Wow, where to start? Let's start with a football update. Carl won his last game and is now in the championship game, which means he could win the league. (With the quarterback I GAVE HIM!!) I'm in the "championship" game of the consolation bracket, which means the best I can hope for is to wind up fifth, which is where I ended the season last year. Oh, well.

We had another snow storm on Wednesday. It was a heavy, wet snow and the chute on the snowthrower got plugged so I ended up shoveling alot of snow. But I was able to remove the ice from the driveway as well, so in the end it wasn't all bad. Thursday I had a followup visit with my gastroenterologist, who seemed pleased with my progress and didn't change my prescription. Friday Mom came up and we went to Ames for Carl's ISU graduation. It was OK - the dinner before the graduation was nice (they had a chocolate fountain that the girls loved) but the graduation ceremony at Iowa was nicer. At the U of I it was just the graduates and their spouses, and the setting was (for lack of a better word) intimate, where the ISU graduation included all of the Masters and PhD grads. The PhD's went first, and that took forever because each graduate was presented by their professor and had to have their hood draped on. The Masters Degree students, however, were herded across the stage like cattle. The grads handed a card with their info to an emcee who read their name and major, and the grad walked across the stage, shook hands with the ISU president, and got a leather diploma holder with a fake diploma in it. I guess, because they ran everyone through in no particular order, they couldn't give out the real diplomas because they couldn't make sure everyone got the right one. Carl said they'll probably mail out the diplomas to everyone. I hope so. At the grad dinner they gave the students really nice frames for their diplomas and I'd hate to have to put a fake diploma in that nice frame.

But on to Saturday. We stayed overnight in Ames, and Saturday morning Mom and I went to the bookstore and did some shopping. Then we went straight to Cedar Rapids, because my cousin Curt, his wife Cynthia and their son Michael were in town (they live in Texas) and the whole family was meeting at Ryan's buffet for lunch. We were late, but we got to see everyone. That evening (Mom had left around mid-afternoon) my family went up to church to participate in the Living Nativity. We dressed up as shepherds and stood in the cold for half an hour with a half dozen sheep as people drove by in their cars and listened to the Christmas story on CD. How the Living Nativity works is a long story, but it's really cool. I guess you'll just have to come up next year and visit me to see just how it works.

We did the Living Nativity Sunday night, too. However, I must have eaten something nasty, because by the time the evening was over I wasn't feeling well. I had diarrhea and chills, and I woke up at 2 am and barfed. (Yeah, pleasant reading, I know.) I spent most of Monday in bed. Carl got the girls off to school, and he brought home pizza for supper, but because I was sick I had to miss the Norway 5th and 6th grade Christmas program. Hannah had won a trombone solo, and I didn't get to see it, and both she and I were very disappointed. Fortunately Carl taped it, so I'll get to see it that way.

Which brings us up to today. I'm feeling much better, and am very grateful that it wasn't a virus (that could be passed around thus making Christmas miserable) and I'm also grateful that if someone in the house had to get food poisoning it was me and not Carl or the girls. Funny, isn't it, the things you're grateful for sometimes.

Well, if I don't get the chance to say this before Sunday, Merry Christmas! Have a happy and enjoyable weekend, everyone!

Christmas Yard Art

I've been reading quite a bit lately (online) about the inflatable holiday yard art fad. You know, giant pumpkins and Frankensteins at Halloween, Macy's-style turkeys on Thanksgiving, and the plethora of items people put out in their yards at Christmas. I guess the most-wanted item this year is the inflatable snow globe. People must really like these things, because they sell out as fast as stores can bring them in. Personally, I don't see the attraction, but then, I'm not like most people. Take that as you like.

For example, here are photos of the "yard art" that Carl and I made several years ago:

It took two years of neighbors asking questions before the entire town knew what this sign said. A typical conversation went like this:
Neighbor: Hey, what's with that sign in your yard?
Me: It's a Christmas decoration.
Neighbor: Yeah, but what is it? What does it mean?
Me: Well, I'll help you figure it out. Now, in your mind, replace the letter "L" with a cigarette. Then what would the sign say?
Neighbor: Uh, "no smoking?"
Me: Correct! Now, put the "L" back where the cigarette was. What does the sign say?
Neighbor: Uh, "no L?"
Me: Right! No "L"!
Neighbor: Uh, I still don't get it.
Me: (singing) No L, No L, No L, No L, born is the king of Israel.
Neighbor: Oh! I get it! Noel!!
Me: (trying not to sound condescending) Yep, that's it.

We've had this sign now for maybe four or five years, and no one's ever duplicated it. Which is fine with me - I like having something unique and original in my yard. I don't think I'll ever have an inflatable thing. I don't know where I'd store it and besides, the dog would probably pee on it. I mean, I don't have anything against inflatables and the people who own them. It's just that inflatables aren't my style. So if you want to, go ahead, put up your inflatable yard art, and show it off with pride.

Just don't tell my dog where you live.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Well, Carl took Candy in to the Ford bodyshop, and the technician said he couldn't see any damage to Candy's undercarriage or towing system. Whew! So that's a relief, one less thing to worry about.

Meanwhile, in football news - Friday night our own University of Northern Iowa Panthers beat Texas State in overtime to advance to the 1-AA Division Championship game. They play Appalachian State in Chattanooga, TN.


One Down, One To Go

Another town and one more show.

YES! That's right, folks! Carl has officially graduated from the University of Iowa with his MBA. Now it's on to Ames this Friday, where Carl will get his Masters in Systems Engineering degree. He's turned in his last paper, and the speaker they were supposed to have Friday morning already came and spoke, so he's done with classes. He's started into his "honey-do" list: he changed the oil in my tractor. So we're back to where we were August 1st of 2003, only with more sheepskins on the wall.

Graduation at Iowa was a blast. It wasn't the big "walk-across-the-stage-get-your-diploma" thing: that's Friday night in Ames. The U of Iowa graduation was a business-formal dinner held for the graduates and their spouses. It started with a social hour, where I got to meet and talk with several of the other wives (Greg Barnett's wife is a hoot!) then they served the meal. It was pretty good: salad, beef, some kind of fish, vegetables, roasted potatoes, and dark chocolate cake. The cake was (obviously) the best part, I think. Anyway. After the dinner there were speeches, followed by a slide presentation of "guess who this is" - childhood photos of the graduates, and you were supposed to guess who they were. Of course I submitted a picture of Carl, and he groaned at it so loud that everyone knew immediately that it was him.

After the dinner we all changed into casual clothes and went out to party. We went to a place called The Summit where apparently the graduates had gone during orientation week when they first started the program. I wasn't impressed with the place. I'd forgotten how bad bars smell (and how bad they make your clothes smell) and they played nothing but rap music. Ick. But the socializing was fun, and Carl and I had a good, relaxing time together. As far as how hard we partied, well, I think I'll plead the fifth. Amendment, that is.

I only wish the rest of the weekend had been as fun. Saturday morning I was taking the girls to church for various youth-related functions, and when I slowed down in an accident zone (lights flashing, cops everywhere, fire trucks, ambulance, etc) some moron in a Geo Metro rear-ended my precious SUV. He hit me right in the hitch receiver, and he put a big hole in the black plastic bumper of his car. Candy didn't appear to be damaged at all (SUV = 1, Compact POS = 0) but Carl's taking it to a body shop for a checkover just in case. The guy who hit me was a real jackass: his last name is Howard (as in Moe and Curly Howard) and he was apparently driving his brother's car, and his "poor brother is dying of cancer". Yeah, neither me nor the officer who helped me bought that story. The guy's information on his envelope was suspicious, so the cop got the correct information from his dispatcher. I wish I knew the name of the officer who helped me: he was great. At the end of our business, Howard was all flustered and trying to apologize and I said, "Don't worry about me. I'm going to let my husband handle this. You worry about him." If he only knew Carl, and what Carl's gonna do to him if there's even five bucks worth of damage to Candy....heh heh heh.

But anyway. It was a nice weekend for the most part, capped off by wins for both Carl and me in fantasy football. We've won our games even before the Monday night game plays. And I have to mention that this weekend's graduation festivities wouldn't have included us if it hadn't been for my Mom, who braved the weather and Geo Metro driving idiots to come up and stay with the girls Saturday night and Sunday morning. I really appreciate her helping us out.

Thanks, Mom!!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Oh, Deere!

Yes! Here it is! My tractor, with snow thrower attachment. And the idiot posed behind it is me. I'm attempting to flex my muscles (all three of them) but you can't really see anything under all the snow clothes. The sun may have been shining, but it was dang cold out there!

So what was I doing out in the cold? I was taking my daughters on a "redneck sleigh ride". We used a tow rope, looped around the rear hitch, to pull the girls' saucer sleds. The sleds have spring-loaded hooks attached so hooking the sleds to the tractor is easy. After that, put the tractor in third gear, let up on the clutch, ease out the accelerator, and off you go! I'm still working on trying to get sleigh bells put on. For those of you not familiar with Iowa, that's a corn field in the background.

By the way, the girl in purple (closest to the camera) is Hannah, and the other girl is (obviously) Mary.

And now, for your weekly fantasy football update. I lost, and am in sixth place. Carl, to whom I gave Jake Plummer and to whom I taught the "in's and out's" of fantasy football, is in third place and has clinched a spot in the PLAYOFFS!!! Jealous? Yeah, a little. But the nice thing is, Carl knows how to show his gratitude. No, I'm not going to give you details. I'll only say that it doesn't involve chocolate.

Well, actually, maybe it does. (hint, hint)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hitchcock, Anyone?

In the center of my garden is a six-foot tall double shepherd's hook. Hanging from the shepherd's hook is a regular seed-holding birdfeeder, a thistle seed-holding birdfeeder, and two suet cages. I just looked outside, and there's a HUGE flock of birds in my garden, flittering around the feeders and hopping about on the ground. They've eaten almost all of the regular seed. I think I may have to convert my thistle feeder into a regular feeder until Spring, when the finches come back. But Wow! that's a lot of birds! I'm just glad I filled the feeder yesterday, before it snowed.

Good evening.......

Snow News Is Good News

We got three inches of snow last night. Whoopee!! Carl slept in ( I'll get to that later) and the girls had a two-hour school delay, so the stage was set for some fun.

No, really! The first thing Carl and I did after getting up and getting dressed was to go out to the garage and put the tire chains on the tractor. Then I togged up in my snow gear, climbed aboard the tractor, started it up, and pointed its nose toward the snow covered driveway. I hit the electric PTO switch and...

...a plume of fine white snow burst from the chute of the snowthrower. The wind promptly blew it back in my face, but hey! the snow thrower on the tractor works, and I got the driveway plowed in no time flat. Carl and I both agreed that three inches was a good first test for the tractor-thrower combo. The thrower really works great. It'll pitch a rock 10 yards, so you have to watch which direction the chute is turned. (However, I definitely need to invest in some snowmobiling goggles.) After I cleaned the driveway I took the shovel and cleared the sidewalk. I did it because Carl has a cold and I didn't want him to be outside too much. That's why he slept in. He's been gone late every night this week working with his study group on their final presentation (given tomorrow afternoon) and with his cold he figured he could go to work late once. I'm glad he did that. He needed the rest, poor baby.

Of course, it didn't help matters any that, as soon as I started plowing, Judah ran off to heaven knows where and Carl was out tromping around in the snow in his tennis shoes. But Carl went back inside to warm up, and Judah showed up a few minutes later. He knows where his food is!

So after plowing, Mary wanted to go outside and play. Hannah was working on a paint-by-numbers, but Carl made her go outside and "enjoy the nice weather" with her sister. Shortly after that, Carl and I decided that it would be a good idea to try towing the girls on their sleds, pulling them with the tractor, so Carl togged up in his snow gear (and burst a zipper) and they all went on a "redneck sleigh ride". (Carl towed the girls because I was a little nervous about accidents. But I made sure he was dressed warmly.) Anyway. I got it on videotape. They had a blast. When they came back in, they all had hot chocolate, then it was time for Hannah to go to her bus stop and off to school. Half an hour later it was Mary's turn, and now I'm here, happy and content, blogging the morning's events. I wish every snowfall would turn out this nice.

Maybe I should put sleighbells on the tractor.