Saturday, December 29, 2007

Auto Mechanics with Alyssa and the Chipmunks

The brakes on our car began to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. They needed some work. Since this kind of thing can take some time, I decided to take the car to Sears so I could hang out at the mall during the procedure.

I selected Alyssa to be my mall buddy today. We had a great time, and I let her call the shots. We ate a pretzel, looked at the Disney store, and rode on the merry-go-round.

The time estimate on our car was long enough that we decided to take in a movie. The only one I really thought she would like was Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I have to agree with one of the reviews I read - it wasn't as bad as you would think. Because I expected to hate it, I was pleasantly surprised and actually kinda liked it.

Mr. Coffee and Me

Santa brought me a Mr. Coffee Cafe Motion for Christmas.

Since we don't drink coffee at our house (although I could probably use it some days) I was a little confused at this gift. Then I realized it could be used for making hot cocoa. We don't often drink cocoa either, but that's mostly due to the fact that it's a pain in the neck to make, especially on the cold but rushed school mornings when a cup of warmth would do the most good.

This little appliance takes the hassle out of cocoa making and provides the perfect cup every time. Just add water (or milk) and the correct amount of cocoa, turn the timer, and the little motor spins and stirs while the heating element adds just enough thermal energy.

Getting the right temperature for tender little mouths has taken a few tries, but now that the correct warming time has been worked out, we will never again have to deal with too hot, watery cocoa with large clumps of unmixed powder floating around on top.

We have also run through a batch of hot cider. As I see it, the possibilities are endless.

Thanks, Santa. And thanks for the Stephen's Mint Truffle, Michael and Sally. It was the perfect mix to work out the bugs with.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Happened to Boxing Day?

Christmas Day was great. Boxing Day - not so much. It turned out to be "Doctor Day" instead. Kara had two doctor's appointments, and I took the girls. We were in the two offices for a combined total of five hours. Not a good way to spend the day after Christmas. The girls were not pleased. I'll have to admit, I wasn't either.

But as soon as we escaped, Kara took Anna home to play and I went to Ikea to celebrate Boxing Day by buying some more metal boxes for storage. While there, Alyssa and I got dinner. She got the shrimp and egg open faced sandwich - two of her favorite things.

At home, Anna was using her Bratz Stop Motion Video Camera. She has never watched a single episode of Bratz, but she has been interested in stop motion video for years, and she's been having a great time.

The camera holds 40 frames. With the new 1Gb SD card, it will now hold 26,500+. At 4 frames per second, that's around 110 minutes of video - longer than many features films. That should keep her busy for a while.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Despite some last minute scrambling and tossing nearly every tradition out the window this year, we have managed to pull together a pretty good Christmas anyway.

We decided not to have Kara come home for Christmas, so the girls and I made plans to spend Christmas at the condos in Dallas with her. We were unsure just how to fit the tree and presents into her room, especially with all of the accompanying smells - take a good wiff of that wrapping paper; it's got some punch to it.

The solution was getting permission to use a room that is temporarily empty. I drove home in the truck yesterday to finish my wrapping duties and pick up the tree. It's not a tall tree, and with the top removed it fit into the back of the truck intact.

Anna had made a bunch of origami ornaments for the tree, and the girls and Kara redecorated it. They then helped me put all of the presents under the tree (except for the ones Santa brought later that night).

This arrangement worked out very well, because with the girls in a completely different unit Santa was able to do his visit well before midnight. And with the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon in full swing, it was nearly 10:00 before we finally started ripping paper.

Santa was kind to us this year, as were the grandparents. Here's a brief smattering of the loot:

Alyssa got a minivan for her doll house. Always a back seat driver, Anna helped out.

Anna got Deal or No Deal, which she taught Kara how to play.

I got a polished ammonite and an airplane ornament (we have the whole set).

There were quite a few other good things under the tree, but I won't bore you with the details. I will simply say that we had a good Christmas day, and hope you and yours enjoyed the same.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We've Been Elfed

And just in time for Christmas.

You used to be able to watch the dance here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Tag

To prove that I'm not just trying to kill off the tags, I've picked up an "I tag everyone" Christmas Tag from Nicole.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper for all but the most odd-sized presents.

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial.

3. When do you put up the tree? Traditionally the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year halfway through December.

4. When do you take the tree down? What? I have to take it down? Grumble, grumble.

5. Do you like eggnog? Absolutely. The really rich stuff we dump straight into the ice cream freezer. Eggnog ice cream is amazing with a good pumpkin pie.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I got a kitten from Santa at the Ward Christmas party. My parents worked it all out, and it was really, really cool.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? A plastic one for the porch, a ceramic one for the mantel, and a little acrylic one the kids can play with.

8. Hardest person to buy for? Me. Yes, lately I have had to buy for myself, and man am I tough.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Alyssa - a couple of trains, a Spiderman shirt - Piece of cake.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Maybe not the worst, but possibly the most unfortunate was the snowsuit I got for my 11th Christmas. The winter in Omaha was quite mild that year, and I think it only snowed twice. By the next winter we were living in Hawaii. 'Nuff said.

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? We get some of each. We used to mail cards religiously. Maybe I'll try and send an e-card tomorrow.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Muppet Christmas Carol. Irreverent and funny, yet true to the spirit of Dicken's original in all the important places. "Light the lamp, not the rat!"

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Sometime in July. I try to pick things up on closeout throughout the year. Before July, it's a birthday present. After July (September for Anna) it's a Christmas present.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I regifted a present to myself one year. I got a little ornament from my boss at work. Christmas eve I discovered that Santa had failed to give me an ornament in my stocking like everyone else. The kids hadn't seen this ornament, so I put it in the stocking and gave him the credit.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Gingerbread.

16 Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear for the main, "formal" tree. Colored on the kid's tree. This year, there are no lights on the tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We're homebodies, although I would love to travel and experience Christmas around the world. I'd especially like to attend a Christmas barbie on the beach in Australia.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes, but when I try I get in trouble with Anna. She says they already have names.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One present on Christmas Eve. The rest Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Gosh-awful arrangements of otherwise beautiful Christmas music.

23. Favorite Christmas tradition? Watching a classic Christmas movie on Christmas Eve. There's something about sitting still and watching a holiday video late at night to calm down even the most excited child.

24. Up early or sleeping in? We negotiate a time with the girls before bed Christmas eve. I don't push too hard, though. As a kid, there was no such thing as too early.

25. Who hands out the gifts? Anna has kind of taken over that task. She's got the energy, and does it well, so what the heck.

26. Does Santa wrap your gifts? Yes. He uses special, exclusive Santa paper, and writes the recipient's name on the package in block letters with a black marker.

27. Do you tell the Christmas story? Yes, on Christmas Eve, we read it from the Bible.

28. Do you leave cookies for Santa? If we have any pumpkin pie, we leave that along with eggnog. Otherwise, it's cookies and milk.

Seven (More) Things About Me

I was tagged for Seven Things About me by Stephanie Humphries.

Rules of the Meme:
1) Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. In my youth I had a freckle on my right earlobe, and it looked like I was wearing an earring.

2. Before I will wear anything, it needs to be washed. My wife and kids are the same way.

3. I still read the Honolulu Star-Bulletin online almost daily.

4. I've recently grown a beard again. It is much more gray than it has ever been in the past.

5. My beard really itches, but I can't shave it yet. It's there to camouflage the extra roundness in my cheeks. I'll shave in about 12 pounds.

6. For several years, I taught one computer programming class per semester at Utah Valley State College.

7. My LDS mission was in the Missouri St. Louis mission. I almost went the entire two years without serving in St. Louis itself, but my very last month I got transferred into the city.

I just never know who to tag - and so many of the blogs I read have been tagged lately. So I'm going to just cop out on tagging anyone. Again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm a Winner!

Actually, there were five winners over at LDSPublisher's Christmas Story Contest. One of them was me! I'm very excited!

You can read my story here.

Congratulations to the other winners, and everyone who entered the contest. I enjoyed reading the stories.

The Equalizer and 60 Hours of Jammies

This morning when the girls went to school, I spread all of the holiday loot out on the bed and did a quick inventory. I've been picking away at the shopping for months now, but I wanted to make sure that everyone is covered, both as givers and receivers. Because although there really isn't anything I want for Christmas that will fit in a box, it simply wouldn't do to have Santa forget Dad.

I found a few inequities, which I fixed with a quick trip to the toy store - closing out the last of the gift cards in the process.

I am now just 1 (one) gift away from being finished. And maybe a few treats for the stockings.

On a completely unrelated topic, by the time Alyssa gets dressed tomorrow, she will have been in pajamas for around 60 hours. Not the same pajamas, but pajamas nonetheless.

This is due to the fact that today was pajama day at school, but she at first told me that yesterday was pajama day at school, so she wore pajamas two days in a row, plus three nights.

Good thing she has extra jammies.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Good Freezer Delema

I have some freezer dinners. I bought them before my trip, so the sitter could use them if she wanted to.

There are some left, and I'm using them on special occasions. Like today, where the occasion is that there are still dinners left in the freezer. That and we're taking a Christmas shopping trip to Wal-Mart.

The problem is that I put them in our good, big upright freezer, which freezes much colder than the one over the top of the fridge.

How is this a problem? I'll tell you.

I cook the food as long as the instructions say, but the instructions are designed for 20 degree F food. My food is at 0 degrees F. When the time is done, the food is not.

Just thought you'd like to know.

A Minor Christmas Miracle

Each year we buy Christmas dresses for the girls. Since they are both very particular about what they will wear (as in fit, not fashion), it is usually a bit of a challenge to find anything. And given their vastly different body shapes, I gave up long ago trying to find them matching dresses.

Well, yesterday I worked early and through lunch so we could have the whole evening to maybe finish this task. And here's where the miracle comes in - we found matching dresses at the very first store we went to (Macy's). Both girls like them, both girls look good wearing them, they were half off, and they are MACHINE WASHABLE! Double Bonus!

I will take better pictures later, but this gives you an idea, anyway. We then had time to shop for two pair of Sunday shoes, plus new tennis shoes for Alyssa (Spiderman, of course). Anna's shoes are a women's size 6. Yikes! Her dress is a size 16, which is as big as the girl's clothes go. That means next year she's into the Juniors sizes, and she's only 10!

Anna also got a few Christmas presents bought. One is for someone in Utah. As we were discussing this morning why the gift would probably not arrive until after the holiday, I realized just how much influence our Harry Potter bedtime stories are having. She said "That's five days. Is there no post on Christmas?"

Monday, December 17, 2007

10 Things About Me

I was tagged for 10 things by Marcia Mickelson. Here we go:

1. About ten years ago, three of my sisters all had their babies on the same day. I sent a little note to the Associated Press and, as a result, the story took on a life of its own. It hit the local news, national news, lifestyle feature pseudo news, and the talk show circuit. They were in papers around the world, had a full page in People magazine, were drawn into a Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon, written into a textbook, and were interviewed by Oprah, among others.

The sad irony to this tale? The three births took place the day after my 30th birthday. Had the cousins been born a day earlier, I could have been part of the story. But as it was, fate robbed me of an appearance on Oprah by a mere 24 hours.

2. Speaking of cousins, Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt is my second cousin. Our great-grandfather Thomas Dudley Leavitt had 24 children, so there are a lot of cousins out there.

3. Former Miss America Sharlene Wells Hawkes is also my cousin. Sort of. My mother's sister was married to Sharlene's father before she was killed in an airplane accident. Sharlene was born after her father remarried. However, we still claim her as our cousin. No word on whether or not she claims us.

4. Casey Elliott, who plays Daniel in the Liken the Scriptures movie Daniel and the Lions, is my first cousin once removed (meaning he's my first cousin's son - here's a table of consanguinity if you're confused).

OK. That's enough of the relatives. Back to me.

5. My Kahuku High School band was featured in the 1983 Citrus Bowl parade, and we marched the bowl pre-game show. Some friends and I made a sign on a king sized bed sheet that read "Aloha! We made this sign just to get on National TV!" We put all of the proper logos on the bottom, and I smuggled it into the game in my xylophone case.

We whipped it out during a lull in the action, and our goal was achieved!

6. My freshman year at BYU-Hawaii, I taught myself to play the tuba so I could get a job with the now-defunct Polynesian Cultural Center Brass Band. This action was in large part motivated by an unrequited attraction to a girl who danced in the PCC night show. Playing in the band didn't help this affair, however, and I'm not entirely sure how I thought it would. But the job turned out to be a lot of fun, anyway.

If you visited the PCC in 1987, or 1989-91, pull out those old video tapes. I might be on them!

7. When we sold our first house, we learned it had originally belonged to "Auntie Anne" of Auntie Anne's Pretzels fame. It seems that Anne Beiler's two daughters were moving back to Round Rock, TX, to open a store in the new Lakeline mall, and just for fun they drove past their childhood home, which we happened to be trying to sell. They ended up buying it back from us. The story made the local paper.

8. Our giant land yacht Gran Torino wagon, with automatic transmission, died just before I was to take my driver's test. It was replaced by a little Datsun 210 sedan. With a stick. Thanks to a steep hill in Kaneohe with a stop sign right at the top, I was allowed to take the driving test three times.

9. I was once a dues-paying member of the Teamsters Union. Pineapple pickers were automatically made part of the ILWU after 100 days on the job. As I only picked pineapples during the summer, I was well into my 4th year before becoming unionized. The pay raise I got was pretty nice - and it was even bigger than the union dues deduction that showed up at the same time.

10. I once had a job selling computers at a large computer store chain that went out of business and was bought up by another large computer store chain that will be going out of business at the end of this year. Those were six weeks of my life that I will never get back.

I now tag - you! Yes, you. You know who you are.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Some Christmas Stories for You

There's a Christmas Story contest over at LDSPublisher's blog. There are some pretty good stories there.

One of them was authored by yours truly. But I won't tell you which one - that wouldn't really be fair, would it.

I will tell you that mine is one of the baker's dozen in the unpublished author's category. Check 'em out. I'm curious to see if anyone can spot my voice among the entrants.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Business Trippin'

This has been a somewhat stressful trip for me. The work part of it has gone well, but Kara has had a hard time, and it was tough being away while she started back up on TPN.

Also, I have had a coworker along on this trip. This is good in that I have had someone to talk to and do things with. However, mostly what we have done is go to nice restaurants and eat good food.

Good food and stress go together really well. Except I now have guilt because I've been eating so well while my wife is getting food through a tube in her chest.

In addition, I'm going to lock the bathroom scale in a closet until around St. Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On December 12, 1989...

I took my girlfriend for a walk to the little gazebo behind the Hawaii LDS Temple. We had gone there often during our courtship, but on this day I had a plan.

I sat her on the bench, knelt on one knee, and proceeded to spend the three longest minutes of my life trying not to pass out.

Finally summoning sufficient courage, I asked her to marry me. She said yes.

Get well soon, sweetheart. I love you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cleanupalooza a Major Success

Cleanupalooza ended a few hours later than hoped on Saturday, but by and large it was a great success. This type of event usually draws protests on par with those directed at the WTO and G8 summit, but Cleanupalooza was relatively complaint free.

Unfortunately, Guest Bedroom Gutting went into overtime, so Child Bedroom Floor Finding and the Halloween Decoration Roundup were canceled. We'll get 'em next time!

The girls and I drove to Dallas Saturday afternoon, and spent the evening and Sunday morning getting Kara situated and settled before my big trip. We also helped her try out a tanning salon, on the advice of her nutritionist. UV = Vitamin D. She was 2 whole minutes in a stand-up booth. We'll see how this works.

The girls and I raced to church Sunday, where I got them set up with the babysitter, and then I was off to the airport for a few days in Atlanta.

Our plane was delayed because the flight crew hadn't arrived. I offered to help fly the plane so we could leave on time, but with only 1 hour in my flight log book, they weren't terribly interested.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Great Cleanupalooza Festival

It's time once again for the Great Cleanupalooza Festival, that always exciting event aimed at preventing potentially fatal Embarrassmentitis.

The fun began last night with the Three Basket Laundry event, and continued this morning with Shave-And-A-Haircut. On tap for the rest of the day are:

  • Three Basket Laundry - Bonus Refill
  • Washing Of Alyssa's Thicker-than-should-be-legal Hair
  • Child Bedroom Floor Finding Expedition
  • Family Room Frenzy
  • Halloween Decoration Roundup
  • Guest Bedroom Gutting
  • ChiCaInWriMi (Child Care Instruction Writing Minute)
  • Business Trip Packing Sprint
The festivities are to run through early afternoon, followed by a mini-vacation trip to Dallas.

This fun and exciting event will undoubtedly be filled with the cheer and glee from all eager participants.

It's the not-so-eager participants I'm worried about.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Hate Mr. Murphey

Things can go wrong. I know that. This is the reason why I scheduled an extra three hours for this surgery today.

Those extra three hours ended five minutes ago. Kara is still not in the OR. It could be yet another hour before she is.

The problem is that there is nobody to watch the girls tonight. They are at our home teacher's house this evening, but I'm supposed to get them between 7:00 and 8:00. It should not have been a problem, but to get them by 7:00 I would need to leave now.

I can't leave Kara until she's done. I really, really don't want to leave her until she's stabilized. I don't know how long that will be. But I need to go home to my girls.

Let me just say, I am stressed.

Update 1: Kara was finally wheeled into the "Holding" area, and I'm in the family waiting room. The lady Kara is staying with here in Dallas is on her way to relieve me, so I can get home and take care of my other girls. Surgery started nearly six hours after it was scheduled. I have formed an opinion about this medical facility, and it is not particularly positive.

Update 2: I'm home. The girls are in bed. I'm not, but that's about to change. Kara called and sounded like she was doing OK. I have to go back to Dallas tomorrow. The car was having problems, and I didn't feel comfortable driving it home. I had a vision of the car stalled on the side of the road, and me kicking it. I left it in Dallas and brought the truck home instead. It just never ends.

Update 3: I spent the day with Kara yesterday, helping her get around. This line, though shorter, was actually more invasive to place, and for most of the day she had little use of her right arm. But on the whole she was doing much better than I thought.

TPN starts again on Monday.

Dear Santa; I want...

1 pack of elfa® Drawer In & Out Stops, #10030417. Please.

What do you mean, "Not for use with elfa® Mesh Drawers?"

Aw, nuts!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Surgery on Thursday

Kara is getting a central IV line put in tomorrow. It's similar to the PICC line she had before, but this one goes in under her collarbone rather than up her arm. It should work better than the PICC - we'll see.

We really want to get this line in before I leave for my trip next week, but it hasn't been all that easy. I drove to Dallas last Friday afternooon to go and meet with the surgeon, but when we got to the office we found that our appointment had been canceled because the doctor's surgery that morning went long. We were both very upset at the time, what with having to take time off work and find someone to watch the girls after school, not to mention Kara rearranging her appointment schedule to fit in this meeting.

But I'm over it now. Almost.

We finally got to meet with the doctor this morning, and it was really good. They set us up an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. Kara's understandably nervous about the surgery, as she reacts to pretty much every pain killer available. They'll be inserting the line under local anesthesia, but once that wears off there will probably be some pain involved, and no real way to ease it.

I've got someone to watch the girls after school tomorrow, but not over night, which we were hoping for. It would be nice if I could spend the night in Dallas in case Kara needs anything. She's working on seeing if someone else who's already there can help.

I pray everything goes smoothly. It's about time something did.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Nothing Like a Little Motivation

Next week I will be traveling. Rather than ship the girls off to someone's house this time, we have found a college student in the ward who will be able to come and stay at the house with them. This will work out very well, as we won't have to pack a weeks worth of gear for the girls to take, and their morning routine will be a little easier to keep.

However, due to recent circumstances, our home is - how shall we say - not quite house guest ready. Although it should be, and now I have a little extra incentive to get it that way. And I intend to give my daughters some extra incentives, too. After all, "this mess didn't make itself."

This will come in addition to at least one trip to Dallas this week, and probably more like two or three.

We had an appointment last Friday to meet with the doctor that will be doing Kara's line. I called an hour or so before I left to make sure the appointment was still going as scheduled. I got the machine, and left a message.

They didn't call back, even though the appointment had been canceled due to a surgery gone long. Having taken off an entire afternoon of work and finding someone to watch the girls after school, I was not pleased, to say the least.

Then it took me nearly three hours to get back through DFW Metroplex rush hour traffic.

I sure hope the appointment this week goes a little more smoothly.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Grout: Messy and Fun. And Messy.

I got the wall grouted today. As the title suggests, it was, um, messy.

Standard procedure when grouting a floor is to dump a whole bunch of the stuff out of the bucket and use a large, rubber float to push it into the space between the tiles. Gravity is your accomplice.

Grouting a vertical surface is much different. In this case, gravity is your nemesis, and the trick is to try and dump as little as possible. I found that the best way make this work is to grab a handful and smear it around the wall like, um..., like..., well, let's skip the analogy.

Once the grout has been shoved into all of the cracks, the fun ends and the work begins. And the mess continues. Excess grout is wiped off by using a bucket of water and a large sponge. The sponges get covered in grout very quickly and need to be rinsed often. The buckets fill up with grout quickly and need to be changed often. Smart tile people use several buckets of water and many large sponges, but I only had one of each.

Years ago, when I did grout for the first time, my contractor brother-in-law was helping. I filled the bucket the quickest way I knew how - in the bathtub, with both faucets turned on. He stuck his hand in the water and looked up at me in shock. "Warm water? I've never done this with warm water before. Usually at a construction site we use a bucket full of melted snow."

Once the tiles have been wiped and wiped and wiped and wiped, the rest of the grout is left to dry, and buffed off with a dry towel.

Now it should only be another month or so before the little gritty grout grains are finally cleaned up from where they got tracked all over the house.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Time For a New Holiday

Thanks to a little inspiration from Tristi, I have moved the painted Halloween pumpkins from the front porch and replaced them with the indoor/outdoor Nativity.

Anna set up the pieces while I used super glue to give the angel her wings. (Did you hear the bell?)

Alyssa used the back-up camera to take a bunch of really fuzzy pictures, and these two good ones.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Repenting With Tile

So I had a little trouble the other night, resulting in a damaged wall and a tough predicament.

The holes in the wall needed to be repaired, because if left open the chemicals in the attic insulation would come down into the house even more readily than they are now. Plus a wall with holes in it just looks bad.

Patching the holes was easy - just cut out the damaged drywall and replace it with a new piece. However, finishing the patch to match the rest of the wall was out of the question. It took nearly a month for the "safe" VOC-free paint we used last year to off-gas enough that Kara could be in the house, even for a little bit. And things are in enough disarray here that I can't stand having yet another half-way finished project around.

I pondered and prayed, and was inspired to hang ceramic tile on the wall. Most walls in the Dallas condos where Kara stays are floor to ceiling tile, and it works well. Installing tile is messy, but the materials are all chemically inert, so there is no off-gas time needed.

When we laid tile in our house in Lehi, we were blessed with nice, straight walls. In this house, not so much. The wall in question here bowed so badly that the patch stuck up over 1/4 inch above the rest of the wall. Not so good for tile.

This problem was fixed with thin metal mending brackets. The tile doesn't lay completely flat over them, but they are nowhere near 1/4 inch thick.

The tile all went up Monday and yesterday. I started cleaning it off today, but only got about a third of the way done. I'll finish up tomorrow, and maybe - just maybe - I'll grout on Friday and be finished.

I've never tried to do grout while standing on a ladder before. Should be fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Couple of Happy Pictures

We haven't found the camera yet, and hope fades that we ever will. But Anna used my phone to take some very cute pictures of Alyssa at the play area in the Galleria mall. Here are a couple of the best.

And yes, we went there two different days.

Mr. Murphey Runs Amok

We survived our stay in Dallas. Kara is still there - we're not sure for how long. It was difficult for me to let the whole weekend go by without doing any of the many tasks that need to be done here at home, but I think it was good for our family to be together for that time.

Sunday night Anna and I were here at the house, trying to get everything Kara was going to need for the foreseeable future packed into the car. I was carrying out three glass pans (including a large glass stock pot) when they slipped from my hands and fell onto the tile. As usual, the tile won.

The pots broke into thousands of little pieces, and my nerves shattered right along with the glass. I said a bad word with enough volume and frequency to make myself hoarse. In addition, a nearby wall was visited by the Flying Fists of Frustration, and like the pots, the wall did not win.

So now, in addition to all of the chores that I didn't get done last week, I have a wall to replace.

And the great irony? I'm fixing the wall by applying 40 square feet of vertical tile. Photos to follow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How To Find A Parking Space In 20 Minutes

So in honor of Black Friday, I took the girls to the mall to give them a little education. I think they're still to young to be taught about pre-dawn Doorbuster Mayhem, but they're old enough to learn about Hustle and Bustle, which is more of an afternoon activity. Our mall of choice was Northpark in Dallas. This was chosen for the model train display, which I mentioned yesterday.

Our day started between 7:00 and 8:00 - I didn't exactly pay attention to how many times I snoozed the alarm. We worked and rushed getting onion broth and acorn squash and two pounds of Brussels sprouts cooked up for Kara's breakfast and lunch, then got her out the door. We followed along behind.

We made it to the mall after Kara's 1:00 appointment with the doctor, where we "convinced" him to have her central line put in next week. (On Wednesday he said he wanted to hold off since Kara's weight loss had slowed, but today he claimed that he was waiting on her.) She's currently getting several different IVs each week, and getting poked for each of them is not helping her.

The train display was a lot of fun. It was very crowded, but we were able to take our time and see all of the trains. They had quite a few running, and it was pretty neat. Anna took a lot of pictures, and I'll post some if anyone turns our camera in to lost and found at the mall.

But despite losing our camera and having to fight dirty to get a parking space, it was a pretty good day. The mall was jam-packed with people, and since we were soaking up the atmosphere rather than actually shopping, we got just what we were looking for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dallas Thanksgiving Trip

Happy Thanksgiving. We decided at almost the last minute to all spend the Thanksgiving weekend at the condos in Dallas. Kara is not doing very well, and I wanted to try and help her get around to her appointments. Also, this gives us a chance to be away from home, almost like a little mini vacation. Almost.

I managed to lock my keys in the car at one clinic - the same one where Kara has locked her keys in the truck twice. There must be some kind of curse on that parking lot.

After sitting through the longest visit we've had in months with Kara's doctor, I rewarded the girls by taking them to the new American Girl store here. There were girls and dolls and accessories and really big numbers on the price tags. We were content to browse, fortunately. We also went through the Galleria mall, and found a toy store, a puppet store, and a play space.

After dinner, Anna and I went next door to Blockbuster and got Hairspray and The Santa Clause 3. We also got a couple of Wii games - Cooking Mama's Kitchen and Super Paper Mario. Alyssa fell asleep early, and she's the big Santa fan at our house. So the three of us watched Hairspray until around midnight. It was pretty good - we all enjoyed it.

Today we are going to do a little traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We have a small turkey, but I just left it in our freezer at home. Maybe we'll pull it out for Christmas. Instead, I just got a small turkey tenderloin to cook here. I wanted to do something non-traditional like lasagna or pizza (food I would really be thankful to eat) but Anna wasn't willing to give up her mashed potatoes. So we'll have turkey, potatoes, cranberries, pomegranate, and the rest of the pumpkin pie I made on Tuesday.

It's been nice to just take it a little bit easy and not worry about all of the things that I really should worry about but don't want to any more. And the girls have been having fun. Tomorrow we're going to see the trains at Northpark mall. I'm actually deluded enough to think I can go to a mall the day after Thanksgiving - pretty crazy, huh.

I'm just glad there are no doorbusters that appeal to me tomorrow. I will get to sleep in, provided Miss Alyssa Earlybird makes it past 6:30 tomorrow morning.

5 Things (times 5)

Tagged by Autumn. Here we go.

Five things found in my room:
  1. Stacks of magazines I will never have time to read.
  2. Three laser printers; one that prints onto rolls instead of sheets
  3. Two dead cell phones, one mostly dead phone that I'm trying to return, and one that works quite well
  4. Four computers and five monitors
  5. A box of tissue that is being emptied at an alarming rate
Five things I've always wanted to do:
  1. Become a pilot
  2. Write a book
  3. Make a movie
  4. Start and run a successful business
  5. Become a philanthropist
Five things found in my (computer) bag:
  1. My passport
  2. My Pilot's Flight Log Book (one hour and holding)
  3. A bag of foam earplugs
  4. Batteries - AA, AAA, and Dell Rechargeable Lithium Ion (the non-exploding kind)
  5. Business cards of people I will probably never see or speak to again
Five things found in my wallet:
  1. Texas driver's license, but without the M endorsement this time
  2. Good Earth supplement card only needing 4 more stamps (too bad the nearest Good Earth is 1,000 miles away)
  3. A family pass to the Ft Worth Museum of Science and History (expired)
  4. Three credit and two debit cards
  5. Absolutely no cash or coins of any kind
Five things I'm currently into:
  1. Blogs - both writing and reading
  2. Reading bedtime stories to my girls
  3. Writing my novel
  4. Playing my ukulele
  5. Searching for some semblance of normalcy in a crazy life

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another Toy Recall From China

I wish I could take credit for coming up with this, but all I did was steal it from somebody else.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Working at the Chinese Laundry

I'm reminded of the old Westerns that show Chinatown with the big cauldrons of boiling clothes.

That may not be the most politically correct portrayal , but it's the mental image I got as I boiled my own pots of clothes today. Boiling gets smells out lickety-split, and as it's turned cold here (ie no longer in the 80s) I've been trying to get some of Kara's heavy clothes so she can wear them.

It's amazing how much laundry soap came out of clothes that have been in boxes for over two years. I had three pots going for probably 8 hours today. Hopefully I've done what is needed for her to wear some of these things without reacting to them.

Also, as of today I am married to quadragenarian. I get my turn at it soon enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christmastime Is Here, By Golly...

...Disapproval would be folly.

So the radio stations here in the DFW Metroplex have begun playing continuous Christmas music. My guess is that your radio dial has been similarly afflicted.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Christmas music. A quick look into my iTunes library shows over 600 songs - that's nearly a day and a half of holiday tunes.

And it's not that I really fault them for starting mid-November. I would prefer they wait until after Thanksgiving, but I understand the need for Yule. As a child I would smuggle my parent's Reader's Digest Christmas collections into my bedroom as early as September.

No, the problem I have with playing Christmas music on the radio when the Halloween decorations are still out is that this leaves a lot of air time to fill, and they will play just about ANYTHING that mentions "Christmas" or "Holiday" or even "snow."

And quite frankly, a lot of it sucks fruitcakes.

Now, I'm not going to mention specific songs or artists for fear of offending my loyal readers. Plus, I'm not in the habit of thinking "That was lousy. What was it called again?" so I really don't have a list handy.

I will, however, mention that since we left the Wasatch Front, hearing anything by Kurt Bestor come over the airwaves is a very rare treat. If only all Christmas music were as enjoyable as his.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cough Induced Upinthenightis

I got a little bit of sleep last night. I think. I have no idea how much.

Alyssa has a cough. I hate it when Alyssa has a cough. She coughs pretty much non-stop, until she throws up.

I prayed before bed last night that Alyssa would please not throw up. That was a mistake, as she started coughing at midnight and she has coughed off and on (mostly on) ever since, despite all of the syrups and tinctures and drops and pellets I could throw at her. She has not thrown up, and she has not stopped coughing.

She's currently in the tub with cool water and Epsom salts. She should be done right about the time my morning alarm goes off.

I think I might be justified calling in sick today.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Cat's Out of the Bag

A few months ago, a cat began hanging around our house. He appeared to be a stray, although he seemed too healthy to have been homeless for long. The girls, especially Alyssa, began spending quite a bit of time giving him all kinds of love and attention, which he eagerly returned.

Then one day, Anna showed up with some cat food "borrowed" from one of her friends. She asked if we could keep him, and was told no. Having a cat in the house is out of the question. However, having a cat live outside is something I didn't really see much harm in.

So on a trip to Wal-Mart, I looked the other way as Anna bought some cat food and began a clandestine feeding operation. It lasted for all of about 6 hours before being discovered. There was some consternation and discussion, and finally an agreement that an outside only cat might just be OK.

Anna decided on the name Tucker, then changed it to Tuckee after learning that cats respond better to names ending in ee (she read it on the internet, so it must be true).

The girls made him a house from a box and padded it with the towel I never returned to my sister after our trip to Hawaii (sorry, Karra). I suspect this house will only last until the first real cold snap, and then I'll need to come up with something just a little more secure.

But for now, the girls are having the time of their life with their new pet.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Liar Answers

OK. Well, I didn't get the dozens and dozens of guesses that others did with this game, but it was fun anyway.

The answer is #2.

Something similar to this did actually happen to my buddies J and D, but I was not along for the ride. Instead, if I remember my ancient history correctly, I was helping another friend with his Eagle Scout service project when the whole affair went down. Being anxiously engaged in a good cause has kept me out of trouble more than once.

FYI, this is a PBY Catalina

As for #1, the haunted house story was pretty much just as I described it. I personally never saw or experienced anything, and often spent hours alone in the house by myself after dark (reading like a true geek). But whether or not the house was truly haunted, most people believed it was.

#3 - what can I say? Looking back, I still can't believe I thought concocting a pretend girlfriend would make for a funny joke. I guess everyone does at least something embarrassing when they're 16.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Lie Will Be Revealed...

Tomorrow. Evening. After dinner. So hurry up and guess. Please.

Greetings From Sunny Sarasota

I made it to Sarasota safe and sound last night, and today was a very productive day at work. The folks I am working with are singing my praises tonight, which is a little unnerving, actually. I've been working hard on this driver for quite a while now, and fortunately everything converged today, and we went from a barely-working-at-all driver to a nearly finished one in a few short hours.

I'm enjoying Sarasota, what little I've been able to see of it. I'm staying at the Hotel Ranola, which is an old hotel from the '20s recently renovated into a little boutique. I love the stark contrast of modernist decor against the historic architecture. And having one of only nine rooms is quite nice. One of the other guys working on the printer from out of town is staying here, too.

The hotel is not far from the ocean, and we walked down to eat at Marina Jacks. This is what the view from the restaurant looks like. At least, that's what it would have looked like had we gotten there before dark. (sigh)

I'm looking forward to a productive day tomorrow, a good nights sleep tonight, and just a little bit of writing before bed.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Liar Meme

Tristi is pressuring me to tell a lie. So much for positive peer pressure.

I've never been able to lie very well. See, whenever I try, my ears turn red.

However, you can't see my ears from where you are, so maybe I have a fighting chance at this Liars game.

Here's how it works: I list four experiences from my past. One is a lie. It's your job to guess which one.

Ready? Here we go.

1. I spent nine weeks in a haunted house one summer.
2. That same summer I spent several hours in jail.
3. I had a make-believe girlfriend turn real on me.
4. I used FedEx to ship a dead rabbit.

Oh, you want details? Oh, OK.

1. I was fifteen that first summer on Lanai. The fifteen year old gangs could only work the day shift, and were given housing away from the main camp. My group lived in Hale Manele, an old wooden frame building at the edge of town set up barracks style. Some people said the building used to be a hospital. Most people called it Hale Spooky.

The first few weeks of the summer were relatively uneventful, but about four weeks in strange things began to happen. Showers would turn on by themselves; strange noises came from the empty back rooms; lights would turn off and on mysteriously; and there was the cat that sounded like a crying baby - some said it had a baby's face.

Then one night, after everyone was asleep, one of the bigger, tougher kids let out a terrified scream. He had seen an apparition of the Lady In White. So unnerved was our group of young men that nearly everyone pushed their beds together in the middle of one room the next day. That night, many of them claimed to have been physically moved by an unseen force.

The next evening, a Hawaiian Kahuna came and gave the house a blessing. He chanted in Hawaiian for over an hour, while some thirty people sat in rapt attention. After this blessing, the rest of the summer passed without incident.

2. I spent most of the three weeks between my return from Lanai and the first week of school hanging out with my buddies J and D. We were all into building model airplanes, and that was how we spent most of our time together. I don't remember what D was working on, but J was building a PBY Catalina - a flying boat from WWII.

Our trouble began when J learned there was a PBY located in the aircraft boneyard near Honolulu International. J and D were both a year older than I, and J managed to borrow his older brother's car so we could take a field trip. This seemed like a good idea when we set out, but as we got to the airport I began to have second thoughts.

The planes were behind a fence with large "No Trespassing" signs posted on it. However, in one place the fence had fallen down, and it was here that parked the car. I was really feeling nervous about the idea of crossing the fence line, but was determined not to be seen as a chicken. I had felt the need to prove myself constantly on Lanai, and I guess that carried over after I got home.

J had his camera, and climbed all around the old hulk taking pictures with D right behind him. Uncomfortable with the thought of climbing into the aircraft, I was content to wander around, looking at the other planes - mostly old airliners. It was during this time I had the thought of renovating an old plane to be a house or store or something - it seemed such a waste for those airframes to just rot away like that.

A little while later, I heard J call out, and started walking back towards the PBY. It was then I saw there were two police cars parked by J's car, their lights flashing. My heart jumped to my throat, and it took all of my strength not to start crying right then and there. The cops were rather hard on us at first, accusing us of vandalism. But we explained what we were doing, were as polite as three scared teens could be, and they lightened up a little. They still took us down to the police station and put us in a cell, although I think they were just trying to scare us because we were never charged with anything, and they didn't even impound the car, which I was sure they would.

After a couple of hours, J's very unhappy mom showed up and the police let all three of us go.

3. At the start of my Junior year, I was disappointed to learn that my buddy J had decided to stay in Phoenix with his dad instead of returning to Hawaii with the rest of his family. This upset me, and I set about planning a joke to play on him. I decided to pretend I had met a near-perfect girl, and she had become my girlfriend.

I developed a full bio for this girl - played flute in the band, member of National Honor Society, etc. - and named her Rhonda. Everyone in his family was in on the gag, telling him things like "Don and Rhonda were here tonight." It was all hilariously funny, unless you consider the sad fact that I had actually made up a pretend girlfriend.

The joke went on for quite some time, but had pretty much died out by the following year, when one day my mom announced "I met Rhonda's mom at work today, and she gave me a picture." It turns out she met a woman who's daughter was my age and fit nearly all of the criteria I had made up for Rhonda, including the flute and National Honor Society.

The girl in the picture my mom had been given was actually pretty cute, but by that point I had found a real girlfriend, so I didn't pursue the matter any further. I did, however, put the picture in my wallet, as it made for quite a funny story.

Some six months later, I was at an island-wide NHS Quizfest, when I saw a girl who looked vaguely familiar. When I found out what school she went to, I suddenly realized that this might be the girl who's picture was in my wallet. I compared her with the picture, and although the hair was drastically different, the face seemed right.

I finally worked up enough courage to approach this girl (picture in hand), tap her on the shoulder and ask "Excuse me, is this you?"

It was. She seemed quite surprised at first, but when I explained how I had come to be in possession of her photo she knew who I was. We eventually ended up dating rather seriously for a few months a little while later, but things didn't really work out in the end.

4. A couple of years ago, my wife had begun allergy testing at the clinic here in Dallas. In order to test a food, she needed to eat some of it the day before doing the testing.

One food she really wanted to test was rabbit, because it hadn't given her any problems when she had eaten it before. The problem was she couldn't find a store in Dallas that carried rabbit.

I was still living in Utah with the girls at the time, and I bought her a frozen rabbit at Wild Oats and prepared to ship it to her. Being smart, I figured I would keep the rabbit frozen by packing it with dry ice and shipping it FedEx overnight.

What I didn't know was that dry ice is considered a hazardous material, so I was unable to ship it through our company shipping department and had to drive all the way to the main FedEx office up by the Salt Lake airport.

The rabbit was still frozen when it arrived, and after testing she was able to get an antigen for rabbit from the clinic. She still eats rabbit nearly every week (we've since found a place that carries them here), although seeing the easily recognizable rabbit carcass in the pot really upsets Anna the animal lover. Alyssa is more fascinated than offended, and she always begs for a taste.

Tag - Class Schedule

I was tagged by Autumn over at Autumn Ables to come up with 5-10 classes to either take or teach, depending on which version of this game's instructions you read. In keeping with the new status of 'Rebel,' (which was given to me by Connie in response to comments I left at LDS Writers Blogk) I've chosen to make my own rules and split the difference, coming up with 5 classes to teach, and 5 to take in hopes of improving my life.

These are classes to help make my life better, and they constitute the curriculum of Deluded State University.

First, the classes that I will teach. There will be weekly quizzes, and the final is comprehensive.

Home Improvement 280: Project Initiation This course describes how to make detailed plans and solid preparations. It will involve a weekly field trip to Home Depot.

Civics 125: Becoming the Neighborhood Oddity Subjects covered include aluminum foiling and taping, carpet ripping, window climbing, and vodka spraying

Theater 305: Advanced Voices for Bedtime Stories Make story time interesting with a variety of pitches, timbres and accents. Also includes a discussion on keeping story time from being TOO exciting, thus causing chronic Upinthenightis.

Psychology 110: Introductory Delusion Learn to let delusion oil the bearings of your troubled life.

Music 177: Beginning Ukulele This is an elective, just for fun.

Now, the classes that I will be taking.

Religion 99: Remedial Scripture Study Why oh why is this simple thing so hard to do?

Organization 101: Group Lab This is the class that I am taking with Autumn, and Tristi, and Stephanie, and probably a lot of others. Maybe Tristi needs to do an Organizational Challenge one of these months.

Home Improvement 285: Project Completion I'm really good at planning projects and buying supplies. I need this class to help me finish them up!

Psychology 345: Advanced Assertiveness I've recently passed Beginning and Intermediate Assertiveness, but there is still a lot more work to be done. This is a life skill I need a lot of help with.

Family Studies 210: Motivating Children to Work If I can somehow finish this class, a lot more will get done around here. I might even be able to take Organization 201: Staying Organized.

Sunday - the Day Of the Rest

Oy! This has turned into a wild weekend. I have been asked to take a trip for work the second half of the week, and the preparations have put me into overdrive mode. I worked hard all day yesterday, trying to get caught up and ready to go. There is still much to do today. And tomorrow, and Tuesday when I leave.

It's the typical dilemma - there is a lot going on that I want to blog about, but but the events themselves are taking up all of my blogging time. Even with an extra hour today, I'm going to be struggling to catch up.

But it will happen. Y'all are worth it.

Autumn and Tristi - I'm working on your tags. I'm having fun with them, but they are not progressing quite as fast as I would like.

But then what is?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Stupid Rules

I went to the store today. A sign on the door said "Only service animals permitted in the building," but I went in anyway. Nobody tried to stop me, and there were other people in the store as well.

I guess some rules are just made to be broken.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Een

We've survived. Hooray! Happy Halloween, everyone. Or as Alyssa would say, "How Een."

This is the first year in a long, long time that I haven't carved a pumpkin. I got a couple for the kids, but both girls wanted to paint them. This fit my schedule nicely, as painting is much faster than carving, and requires much less supervision.

We were supposed to paint our pumpkins last night, but due to circumstances beyond our control, that project got postponed until today. I blocked out 40 minutes between school and Anna's acting class, and the girls got the job done.

After Anna's class, we came home and had pizza. I was going to do the rest of the Shepherd's Brain Pie for dinner, but it all got eaten at lunch time.

My plan for tonight was to not go Trick-or-Treating, but I caved in just a little and let the girls go to two houses. This was more out of pity for our poor neighbors as anything else. You see, we sat around watching old Halloween videos for two whole hours and only saw one group of about five kids.

It's a quiet neighborhood anyway, much more rural than urban. Most of the kids that are in the neighborhood all get together and go on a hay ride around the town. For some reason, they didn't stop at our house this year.

So we have a bowl full of pretzels and Play-Doh and pencils. Anna asked "What are we going to do with all of this stuff?"

"Well," I said, "you will most likely be getting little bags of pretzels in your lunch boxes for the next little while." I then added "Who knows - maybe I'll send some Play-Doh in your lunches, too."

"Ewwww," said Alyssa.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spooky Dinner

There are those who claim to hate Halloween, and to be honest I can understand why they might feel that way. There are parts of the holiday I'm not terribly fond of myself.

But we've worked to make Halloween fun at our house. Perhaps it helps that we have two little girls who dress up as puppies and kitties instead of some kind of undead creature. About the only thing that really causes problems around here is the candy - the girls don't hold their sugar well, and artificial colors have a Jekyll and Hyde effect on them.

One thing we have done through the years is to have a Spooky Dinner for Halloween. This year Kara will be in Dallas on the 31st, so we had our Spooky Dinner tonight.

We had Vampire Apples and Shepherd's Brain Pie. By pumpkinlight, of course.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Playing Hookie at BroncoFest VI

I did something for myself today. I didn't tell anyone, I just did it. This kind of personal time is important, because it not only recharges the batteries, but being selfish for a few hours fills me with motivational guilt, and I'm extra productive afterwards.

Today's trip was to Ft. Worth Meacham Airport, home of the OV-10 Bronco Association, for the Bi-Annual BroncoFest. I've been a fan of the OV-10 for more than twenty years now, and this was something I simply couldn't pass up.

So, what's so special about the Bronco? Well, just look at it. My feelings for the bird were summed up very eloquently by a Vietnam Vet who was there with his wife. "I fell in love with this plane the first time I saw it. It's just the strangest looking thing." Then he added an opinion I hope to one day share through first-hand knowledge - "It flies like a dream." (sigh)

The Bronco was used between Vietnam and Desert Storm as an observation platform for Forward Air Controllers who sought out enemy targets and worked to ensure the fighters didn't accidentally hit the good guys. But this all started just a few months after my birth, so I didn't learn about the OV-10 until much later.

In the mid-80's, a bunch of Broncos were stationed at Wheeler Air Force Base on Oahu, and they regularly flew missions up around our side of the island. I spent many an hour of marching band practice distracted by the unique, graceful airplanes flying overhead. They became an instant favorite.

I now live just thirty minutes from the world headquarters of an organization dedicated to preserving the history of this plane. They threw a party, and I felt I had to attend. I'm always looking for an excuse to go to the airport, anyway.