Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ocean's Two

Hannah was complaining that her room was getting too crowded, and she wanted to move some stuff out. So Carl asked her "Do you want your room painted for your birthday?" Of course she said "Yes!" Repainting the girls' rooms is something we've been planning for a while now (like a couple of years) and to that end I've been buying stuff to redecorate their rooms with. They wanted "beach" rooms, so I bought tiki lamps (the kind on the bamboo poles) foam parrots, flower garlands, tropical bedspreads and a bunch of other stuff. I also went through my paint swatch cards matching Delta Ceramcoat and Deco Art paint colors to the colors on the bedspreads so I knew what colors I could decorate with.

So last week I got the paint swatches out and asked the girls which colors they wanted their rooms painted. Both girls wanted the same colors: Delta Ceramcoat Salem Blue and Latte. I took the cards to our lumberyard (I love our local lumberyard) and matched my colors with theirs: Valspar paint, Blue Dream and Adobe Tan. Very nice colors. Hannah wanted three sides of her room painted Adobe Tan and one accent wall painted Blue Dream, and Mary wanted her room painted Adobe Tan on the bottom 3 feet of the wall with Blue Dream the rest of the way up, and she wanted "waves" where the two colors meet. No problem.

We started a week ago Friday. Hannah went through her room boxing stuff up, and we got her mostly moved out that night (everything except the bed). Saturday I got the paint while Carl moved the bed out and started masking off the woodwork. By Monday morning her room was painted, and we started decorating. She and I had taken a bamboo mat and covered her headboard with it, and tied two tiki lamps to the end as bedposts. I tacked garlands up all the way around the top of her walls (like border) and we put the bedspread on her bed. (She had, of course, rearranged her furniture.) I brought out the little knick-knacks I'd bought for her, and by noon she had a very neat, tropical room. That afternoon Carl got started on Mary's room, and he worked on it every evening this week. I helped him make the "waves" and I sponge-painted along the line where the two colors met (to make it look like sand) and this morning we finally finished it. This afternoon Carl shampooed the rug, so tomorrow we'll move her stuff back in and start adding her decorations. Hopefully we can get that done quickly enough to go out to Hannen Lake for a picnic, and also to do some fishing. It's Free Fishing Weekend in Iowa, and we want to take advantage of it. Yes, that means relax. You can't work all the time, can you?

OK! Who's the wise guy who answered "yes"!?!

Friday, May 25, 2007


I'll start with the good news. I managed to get all "A's" again last semester, so I should be getting another Dean's List notification soon. Also, I've started on an Honors project - I'm writing a textbook (a small textbook) for the Building Construction Systems II class. I volunteered to write the book, and Jim Off, the instructor suggested I make it an Honors project. If it passes faculty muster I'll get a little sticker on my diploma that says I successfully completed said project. I like Jim. He reminds me alot of my Uncle Andy: super laid back, never gets flustered, easy going and good humored, but smarter (a LOT smarter) than his demeanor would suggest. This guy knows more about the inner workings of commercial construction than I could ever put into any book. He's the kind of guy you wish you could mind-meld with so that you can learn from all of his experiences.

And now, the bad news. After months of waiting, the Department Head who interviewed Carl for the Project Manager position finally made a decision, and unfortunately he chose the other candidate. He still wants to keep Carl's name on his "A-list" of PM candidates, but after all the waiting and suspense this was a major let-down. It wouldn't have been so bad if the guy had made his decision within 2 weeks of the interview, but I think he waited something like 6 - 8 weeks. I'd hate to have to wait behind this guy at a Whitey's Ice Cream Parlor. By the time he decided on an ice cream flavor I'll have died of starvation.

Another bit of discouraging news, at least for me: with the increased demand for corn (due to the increased demand for ethanol) almost all of the land coming out of the CRP program will most likely go into row crops. This means that my dream of buying some land to put a house on is all but dead. Of course, all this crop demand is good for the farmers as they are now getting good prices for their corn. So it's good news for my Uncle Andy, and also for Carl's brothers Loren and Lyle.

But now I must go back to good news, and I must also get going, because I have to be at the Esco Group offices at 9:00 to fill out paperwork to start my part-time CAD technician job. This is mainly to fulfill my Intership requirement, but it also means money, and I need to save up some to pay for my fall semester. I'm looking forward to this job as I will be working for a man who goes to our church, but of course I'm nervous starting a new job. I have no idea how this will work out with the girls out of school, but we'll work it out sometime.

Then I'll have material for another blog!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Romance Blog

It just wouldn't be fair to have my 20th wedding anniversary go by without blogging about it. I'd have gotten to this before, but Carl and I were busy. I mean, besides that. (Sheesh!) Let me break it down for you by days:

Saturday 12 May: My Mom came up to spend the week with our girls while Carl and I went down to her house for a week's vacation. I know that sounds weird, but the idea was to take little day trips from her place in the Quad Cities. This was partly her idea: she'd offered in the past to "swap houses" with us, and we finally took her up on her offer. We got down to the Q.C.'s in time for supper. We went to Harris Pizza, which is the best pizza in the world (in my Midwestern opinion).

Sunday 13 May: We went to church with my brother Keith and his wife Cindy, and after church we grabbed a quick lunch then headed to downtown Davenport for the Beaux Arts Festival. Lots of vendors with lots of neat stuff: Carl got me a brushed nickel beaded necklace and a silver and blue bracelet. After walking around the festival we went up into the Skywalk, which crosses over River Drive. It's a really neat skywalk, with a wonderful view up and down the Mississippi River.

Monday 14 May: We day-tripped up to Galena, IL, a small town on the Mississippi which was named for the lead ore found and mined in the area. Galena has a bunch of eclectic little shops (some more bizarre than others) and some nice restaurants. We ate at a place called Paradise Bar and Grille; the food was excellent. We walked around all the shops and we bought a few things, mostly food: cheeseball/dessert mixes, flavored popcorn, caramel apples, and crackers and cheese. Non-food wise, I bought some brushes that were on clearance; Carl, mushy sweetheart that he is, bought me a Black Hills Gold ring with a blue stone set in it. It's beautiful, and is a lovely remembrance of 20 years of wedded bliss.

Everyone, all together now...aaaaaawwwww!!!!

Tuesday 15 May: It was cold and rainy, so we stayed in the Quad Cities and went museum hopping. We went to the museum on Arsenal Island first. They had displays of all kinds of ordnance, from Civil War cannons to modern rocket launchers, plus they had histories of what the local people did during the World Wars and how the Arsenal helped America win those wars. It's a neat place, if you're in to that kind of history. And the Arsenal has a gun collection (both long guns and hand guns) that spans two long walls, covered with firearms from top to bottom. NOTE: if you're an anti-Second Amendment liberal, never go there. The place is guaranteed to give you both the hives and the heebie-jeebies. (Personally, I found it fascinating.) The other museum we went to was the John Deere Pavilion in Moline. This was kind of a let down, because they didn't really discuss the history of the Deere company much. It was mostly just displays of equipment both old and new, and kiosks that explained how Deere is helping to feed and clothe the world. I was hoping for a chronological history presentation, one that incorporated information about the Plow/Planter division that my Dad worked for. But oh well. They had a nice gift shop, but it was really expensive so we didn't get anything there. Later that afternoon my brother Keith took Carl to Guitar Central, and Carl bought himself a new Breedlove acoustic guitar. I sat and watched while Keith and Carl discussed the instruments at length: at one point, one of the sales clerks asked me if the guys were still talking, and I said "Yeah, but I'd rather have him solving his mid-life crisis with a guitar than a Mustang." The clerk laughed. NOTE: today was the 1st year anniversary of Boo-Boo's diabetes diagnosis. She's doing well so far, but I really wish someone would find a cure. SOON.

Wednesday 16 May: Our actual anniversary date. We went up to Bellevue, Iowa, and walked along the riverfront there. It's quite pretty. The levee is paved with cobblestones and it's nicely landscaped. I checked to see if that area had suffered flood damage: it did (in 1993 and 2001) but most of that was below the levee we were walking on. Unfortunately, the antique stores in town were closed. I guess you take your chances before Memorial Day. At lunchtime we bought Subway sandwiches and went up into Bellvue State Park, located on top of the river bluffs. We ate up there, then hiked a couple of trails. We saw some old Indian mounds, and also got a great view of the river from above. After Bellevue we drove down the river to LeClaire, Iowa. We walked around their downtown and checked out the antique shops that were open. I didn't find anything I really wanted, but I had a neat conversation with the owner of The Captains Wives Antique Shop. We discussed art and antiques while Carl patiently listened. (He is such a saint!) Anyway, after LeClaire we went back to the house, rested a little, then got dressed up and went out to dinner at the Iowa Machine Shed Restaurant. This is a very nice place with great food, however I made the mistake of mentioning that it was our anniversary, so once we'd finished our entrees the wait staff came out with a complementary dessert and sang us a "Happy Anniversary" song to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies. We were not the only ones subjected to this torture: anyone with a birthday got serenaded with birthday song to the tune of The Farmer In The Dell. But the food was so good, it was worth it.

Thursday 17 May: We drove around Grant County, Wisconsin, and checked out some of the little towns up there. First we passed through Dickeyville. There's an antique mall there, but it opened at 10 AM, and we got there at 9:30 AM (Arg.) Anyway. Next was Potosi/Tennyson, then Platteville. At Potosi we toured the St. John Mine, and at Platteville we toured another mine that was connected to the Rollo Jamison museum. We checked out some shops in Platteville, but they really didn't have much for antiques. After Platteville we went to Montfort, where we got some cheese (and a "tour through the window" of the cheese factory) some more flavored popcorn, a book and a little toothpick holder shaped like an antique Mason jar. We also got ice cream. After Montfort we went to Muscoda; we thought there were some shops there (the Wisconsin Tourism website said so) but they had nothing, so we wound our way along some country roads to the Spurgeon Vineyards and Winery. Naturally we bought wine there. After that we went through Fennimore (nothing there) then on to Lancaster. By then all the shops were closed, but Lancaster is the county seat and the Grant County Courthouse is a wonderful piece of architecture. Carl got some great photos of that and also of some of the other buildings with cool details. After that, we'd had enough, and we headed home. NOTE: Grant County has some super-beautiful scenery. It was never covered by glaciers, so the county has these huge domed hills all over the place. You'll find a wide, flat valley with a tiny stream running through it, then suddenly a hill rises off the edge of the valley. There's no gradual incline to take you to the hill: the hill just suddenly starts from the valley and goes up. Grant County has a bizillion little roads that cut through this countryside, and thanks to the GPS system we got to travel lots of these little roads and thus saw alot of countryside without getting lost. I think the landscape was the best part of the whole trip.

Friday 18 May: Last day of vacation. I was kind of bummed because I hadn't found any neat antiques, so Carl let me buzz around Davenport by myself while he went over to Keith's to help him build a retaining wall in his backyard. It was a good trip: at Riverbend Antiques I found a green glass Hoosier-style mixer-thingy, and at Antiques on Brady I found two Hoosier jars with green lids, and a green handled dough cutter. A very successful antiquing trip, finally. After shopping I went back to the house and packed our stuff up, then I drove home. Carl drove home separately from me: we'd brought down our F-150 to loan to Keith for his landscaping work, and while he has Carl's pickup Carl has Keith's Jeep. (Whhhheeeeeeeee!!!!)

The last thing I want to mention is how nice my Mom made this week for us. Not only did she watch over our girls, she made us some embroidered heart-shaped ornaments and put them in a basket with some chocolates and put it on our bed. She had a book of our wedding pictures laid out, and she'd bought some champagne and other goodies and left them in the fridge. Carl and I had a fantastic week - relaxing, unstressing and totally romantic. How romantic? I'm not going to tell you.

I have to leave some things to your imagination.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Hannah came home today and told me she'd misunderstood her vocal instructor. She thought she'd won a solo - she didn't. She's not mad about losing, she's just mad that she misunderstood.

I personally think that the teacher should have held auditions earlier, and announced the results earlier, so that the soloists had a least a week to prepare. It kind of stinks that the winners find out that they're soloing at the last minute.

Arg anyway.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Slowly Does The Blossom Open

When Hannah was around 3 - 4 years old, we were told that she had autism. This was, of course, a shock, but with early intervention and lots of encouragement she progressed nicely, at least educationally. She spent some time in the Resource Classroom, but by the time she reached the 5th and 6th grades this was minimal, and this year they took her out of the IEP program completely - she didn't need it.

Where Hannah's autism has had the most impact is on her social life. She has none. Not that this is a bad thing: she prefers to be by herself, and she's very defensive about her personal space, so we've never pushed her to become involved in anything that she didn't like. We've never tried to force her to make friends, but we've encouraged her to be friendly with her peers so that they would be friendly back to her. This has worked, for the most part. It was especially helpful when, back in elementary school, the school had an autism specialist come in and talk to Hannah's classmates, explaining why Hannah was the way she was. Her classmates were wonderful and kinda-sorta adopted her as the class mascot. They all watched out for her and helped her, which made things easier for everyone.

Now, though, Hannah is beginning to show signs of opening up and becoming more social. First off, she wants to actually engage in conversations by beginning them. She's always participated in conversations when someone else started them, but she's never been the instigator. But she tells me that there are people she wants to talk to and I'm trying to encourage her the best I can. Second, Hannah auditioned for a vocal solo for an upcoming concert, and she won! Hannah has never shown an interest in volunteering to be the center of attention, but now that she has we're behind her all the way. I wish, however, she'd have planned it a little better. The situation went down like this: (Wednesday May 2nd, about 40 minutes before I needed to leave for my art class)
Hannah: Mom, I want to audition for a solo in the vocal concert.
Me: Which concert?
Hannah: The one next Monday (the 7th)
Me: When's auditions?
Hannah: Tomorrow from noon to 12:30
Me: What do you want to sing?
Hannah: I don't know - do you know a song I can learn?
Me: (after a momentary panic) Do you really want to do this? Isn't this kind of last minute?
Hannah: Pleeeeeeeeeze?
Me: (deep breath) OK.
I go fetch my autoharp, then go to the bookcase and pull out a songbook that was written and arranged for dulcimer and autoharp players. We start thumbing through it, looking for something I know that I can teach Hannah in a hurry...
Me: How about this one? (It's Red River Valley)
Hannah: How does it go?
I pick up my autoharp and start strumming and singing. Soon, Hannah starts singing along. I look at the clock. I need to leave in 10 minutes to be on time, and I still haven't eaten.
Hannah: Are you going to help me learn this?
Me: Hannah, I need to leave for my class! And I still haven't eaten! I'm going to be late as it is...Wait! I know! Go to the DVD shelves and get the little crate with the Riders In The Sky CD's in it.
Hannah returns with the crate. I pull out the Cowboy Songs CD, and Hannah puts it in the player. I show her how to play track 8 over and over and over and so forth, so she can practice singing Red River Valley with Ranger Doug. She sits down by the CD player and starts practicing. I go to class, leaving Carl to coach Hannah on her song.....

When I got home, Carl told me that Hannah was doing very well with the song by the time she went to bed. The next morning, we can hear Hannah singing the song in the shower (she always sings in the shower) and she actually sounded pretty good. I sent the book to school with her, and viola! she wins a solo spot in the concert. Quite an achievement for a child who we thought might never even speak. Slowly, gently, cautiously, Hannah is beginning to blossom. I suppose talking to boys will be next.

Oooooooh...good grief.