Monday, October 31, 2005

Princess

Once upon a time there was the world's most perfect dog. She was intelligent, loyal, playful, sweet, sensitive and loving. She was the best dog I've ever known.

Princess was a mutt and a stray. She just wandered into our yard, lives, and hearts one sunny day and with the shake of a paw and a gleam in those big, expressive brown eyes, she made herself at home and became a member of my family for the rest of her life.

My heart broke the day I packed up my things to move away from home for the last time. I missed my dog horribly. My heart broke again when, several years into my happy marriage, my mother called to chat one day. She broke the news that my Princess was gone. Her health had failed to the point where my parents made the decision to put her to sleep. I cried bitter, angry tears. My mother should have told me ahead of time. I would have driven the 5.5 hours home to be with my puppy in her final moments.

Time passed and I got over most of my hurt and anger.

One weekend, while home for a visit, my parents went out to run some errands and I was left alone in the house for a while. I decided to sit in the family room by the fireplace and read a book.

I was enjoying the quiet and the warmth of the fire. I felt a familiar nudge at my knee and then the pressure of something laying on top of my foot. I smiled and murmured, "Hi Princess...come for a snuggle?" She would always poke you in the knee with her nose and then lay her head on your foot until you would bend down to scratch her ears and pet her. It took a couple minutes for the realization to hit me. How could that be Princess? She was long gone!

My heart skipped a beat and I looked down at my feet. At that moment, I saw what could only be described as a vaguely dog shaped shadow moving away from me. I held my breath while the shadow seemed to pause and look over its shoulder at me and then moved again before fading from view.

I was frozen. I wasn't exactly afraid. It was Princess! I have no doubt of that. The moment I felt that reassuring pressure on my foot, I was filled with a sense of peace and contentment.

I've never really spent much time in self-analysis over what my beliefs are with regards to ghosts. But after that weekend, I no longer had any doubts that sometimes...something is left behind that lingers beyond death.

I didn't say anything to my parents when they got home. I didn't want them to think I was nuts!

Some time later, my mother and I were once again chatting on the phone and we happened to be talking about a TV program that had a supernatural theme. I asked my Mom if she had ever experienced anything...odd...in her house. Without hesitation, she said, "Oh, just Princess. I see her or feel her here sometimes. Do you think I'm crazy?"

Well, yes I do, actually. But not because you've seen a ghost or two, Mom. But that is another story.

This story is the absolute truth, I swear it.

Happy Halloween, everyone. May all your hauntings be as friendly, safe and warm as mine was.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Smokies

We're back! Of course, leaving on vacation and having my journal go entryless during the Vivi Awards was NOT the best of timing...but it couldn't be helped. Our first log cabin awaited!


We had a fantastic time, but all the things I THOUGHT we were going to do, never got done. I'll just have to visit Dollywood another time. Ha! What did we do?? We took the kids to play miniature golf the first day and Tyler was totally HOOKED. We ended up taking the kids to play golf every day! Did we play every course in Pigeon Forge? Nope! That place seems to be mini-golf heaven! Every where you turn, there's another course to play.


Some highlights from our trip:


- The cabin was amazing! All that wood! All those windows! Waking up at dawn every day! Oh wait. I am NOT a morning person. Ooops!


- Tyler cheats at mini-golf. Blatantly! He will pick up his ball, walk to the hole and drop it in. Meanwhile, his pal Maddie was playing strictly by the rules. No one touch her ball! She wants to do it herself!


- Tired and hungry children do NOT play nice. We discovered our son has quite a mean streak. I think some more lectures about the evils of bullies are in order.


- After dinner one night, I was approached by a time share hawker (there are a LOT of them trying to sell vacation property in the area). He asked the ages of all my children, including my oldest (my friend Kim). Poor Kim! I guess there are worse things than being mistaken for my teenaged daughter.


- That worse thing came a couple days later when a worker at one of the mini-golf places was attempting to take a souvenir photo of all of us. He said "OK everyone, move over and make room for Grandma!" Grandma?! Who was he talking about? "Squeeze on in here, Grandma!" Oh...my...Lord... He was talking to ME!!!! Grandma?!?!?!?!?!?! Someone get me some hair dye, QUICK!


- John volunteered to baby-sit all the kids while Kim and I had a rare kid-free afternoon. We hit the outlet mall and shopped 'til we were ready to drop. I called John once to check on him. He was doing great! Then Kim and I went out for leisurely dinner. I got to try chicken 'n dumplings for the first time. Yum! John finally called and asked us to come help with bed time. Poor guy was worn out! But he did fine and said he would do it again. That's my guy!


I think that's a good place to stop. Time for some sushi! Want to see more photos from our trip? Visit my Shutterfly album here.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pumpkins

I think it's funny that every year, without fail, Tyler assumes this same pose and looks melancholy over a squashed pumpkin. Poor pumpkin! This year's pumpkin picking expedition was with Tyler's school. Another nice day for a field trip!


Click the photo (or here) to see more photos of our visit to Ort Farms. What a great place.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reading

Weekend Assignment #82: What was your favorite bedtime story as a child?


Extra Credit: As an adult , have you shared that favorite bedtime story with a child?


There it is...The Velveteen Rabbit. I loved/love this story! I'd say this one was my favorite as a child. But I also adored this furry fellow - Curious George.


Have I shared them with a child? You betcha! The Velveteen Rabbit is still a little advanced for Tyler (a tad too long too), but he adores his massive collection of Curious George books. We have this hard cover treasury version (all the original stories) and we have a bunch of soft cover "new" adventures. The newer ones...I can't quite put my finger on it, but they seem to be missing something. Tyler doesn't seem to notice. He loves them all.


I hope Ty continues to love reading stories with me for many years to come. I have so many good ones yet to share!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Candy

Has anyone else gone out and bought their Halloween candy yet? We got ours yesterday. Tyler and I had fun last night ripping open all the bags and filling up my huge witch's cauldron.


Then I noticed something...


Not only was there fewer candy bars in each bag, the candy bars themselves were SMALLER. The more I thought about it, the more ticked off at the candy manufacturers I got.


Do they think we are stupid? We won't notice half the amount of candy/half the size and same price as last year per bag? But what can we do about it.


Am I forced to purchase those weird cheap candies imported from China just so I have something to pass out to the costumed hoards we get each year? I remember my reaction to weird off-brand candies in my sack back in the days when I was a Trick-or-Treater. I gave them to my Dad or tossed them.


I don't want to be "the lady with the gross candy" who gets egged every year. I want to be the lady with the cool glowing stuff AND cool candy.


*sigh*


Who knew Halloween would become such a popularity contest and I would have to sell my soul to M&M/Mars?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

SciFi

Weekend Assignment #81: Favorite Sci-Fi Movies

Weekend Assignment #81: Share one of your favorite science fiction movies. Note that this doesn't have to be the "best" science fiction film ever, or the most popular, or the most significant; it doesn't even have to be a good science fiction film. It just should be a science fiction film you enjoy watching over and over again -- the kind that always sucks you into the couch whenever it's on TV.


Extra Credit: Who is the coolest science fiction character ever? Note that this character doesn't have to be in the film you've selected as your favorite -- consider the entire genre.


OK John, now you're talkin' my language! I haven't done the weekend assignment in a while because, frankly, they haven't really applied to me or inspired me to write anything. This one is another story!


We just adore Sci-Fi in this house. To pick just one movie to share...that's tough. I love so so very many of them. Hang on a moment while I scan down my DVD racks...


...


Titan AE, 12 Monkeys, The Net, CrossWorlds, Dark City, Pitch Black, The Running Man, Blade, V The Original Miniseries, Matrix, Matrix Reloaded, Dune, The Cell, Hackers, Mars Attacks, Austin Powers (hey, it has time travel), Heavy Metal, Terminator, Demolition Man, Galaxy Quest, Judge Dread, Blade Runner, Wicked City, The Cat from Outer Space, Independence Day...AH!


Total Recall! We have a winner. Man, I love this movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes, I looked at the jewel case for the spelling of his last name) is an average joe trying to earn a living at manual labor. He has always dreamed about taking a trip to Mars, but he can't afford it.


He sees a commercial for a travel company called "ReKall" during his daily commute. They offer to implant the memoryof a vacation right into your brain. It's like you were really there! And much cheaper than actually going.


He decides to go for it. The twist? He has already BEEN to Mars and his memory was erased...replaced with a new identity. Everything goes to hell in a hand-basket after this. I won't spoil it for you if you've never seen it before. The special effects...the scenery...the story...the action...it's all fantastic!


Oh yeah...Sharon Stone is in this film too (she plays his wife...her first major film role? Nah...King Solomon's Mines was...also a fun flick) for you male readers who dig pretty blonds who kick ass on screen. ;-)


As an aside...I've always wondered who the guy was on the escalator who ends up being used as a human shield. And the woman who plays the exploding head. I'll have to check IMDB to see if there is any info.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Gasp!

Well, we got the estimate from the landscaping company in the mail yesterday. I was so excited! Then I opened the envelope. HOLY CRAP! I thought I would faint... I think John noticed how big my eyes got. I said, "Guess how much the estimate is for?"

"$50,000."

"No! Lower..."

"$45,000?"

"Lower."

"$40,000."

"Lower!"

He finally said he was tired of guessing so I told him. Anyone care to guess how much it's going to cost?

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Well, maybe I should give some details so you know what is being done. A 30 ft. long, 3 ft. high retaining wall that curves along the side of the driveway (there is a killer slope there that has been slowly eroding into the driveway). A 5 ft long and 5 ft high retaining wall at the side of the house curving around to some steps leading into our new front walk (like the picture I posted a couple entries ago). A new planting bed around the mailbox. New planting bed along the front of the house. Large paver patio with retaining wall to make it level under the deck at the rear of the house. A "wall" of juniper bushes to form a barrier hedge along the 5 ft drop off that is between our house level and the lower part of our back yard.

A set of steps and bench height walls on either side of those steps leading down into the newly cleared lower yard. 50 cubic yards of top soil (to level things out down there), a large mulch bed where Tyler's future climber/swing set/fort thingy will go, grass seed and hay barrier for the remainder. A new planting bed along the back of the house leading to the new patio. Um. I think that's everything.

Ok. Any guesses now?

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Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking. Somewhere in my head I imagined the cost of the yard work would be around the same as the estimate for my new hardwood floors. $8,000. Boy was I way off. But after hearing my husband's initial guess...he had a better grip on what the cost might be. And the fact that it's a lot less than his first guess, maybe that means he'll actually consider going for it!

The house really does need it.

Ok...does anyone know anything about landscaping?

Is $31,000 a reasonable estimate for all that work?

Honestly?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Firemen

Had a nice surprise today. Found out the local fire department was paying a visit to Tyler's school...so I ran home for my camera and hung out for the action. Did you honestly think I would pass up an opportunity to photograph cute firemen? I didn't think so!


Pictures from today can be seen here.


I also paid a visit to Lowes to buy some pots of mums (purple, of course) for my front steps. I can't wait to get some real landscaping done. We've been in this house for 11 years and have basically done NOTHING. I figure we owe this house 10 years worth of upgrades.


Ten years. It staggers the mind! While I was at Lowes looking at the various offerings for Fall planting, I contemplated what ten years really means. I thought about the passage of time from age 10 to 20...20 to 30...and now, 30ish to 40 has been spent in this home. It seems like just yesterday the house looked like this:



And now it looks like this. Posts and front door are badly in need of painting, the whole house needs a good power washing, the over-grown shrubs need clipping (or removing), the roof looks worn and faded... my pretty "new" house has warts.


And so we reach a cross roads in the life of our home. Do we stay and invest some serious money in much needed upgrades? Or do we just do the minimum to improve curb appeal and sell/move? Just a couple months ago I was ready to pack my bags and relocate in a heartbeat. Now I'm not so sure. I find myself thinking of all the things we could do in order to stay put.


Decisions...decisions...


Could I actually be forming a *gasp* attachment to this house?! That's never happened to me before.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Spider

Check out the gi-normous orb weaver spider living on our mailbox!! Tyler was fascinated as I tried to get some good photos of him today. A light mist of water brought out the web quite nicely. And yes...I do think this spider could easily eat my face off...so I was VERY careful not to get TOO close. *whew*


More Photos Here

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

...continued

Item 3 on the list below...CHECK! Got some nice baskets at Pier 1 today. Woo hoo! Took Spartacus to the vet too. He's doing great! He's doubled his weight and was so sweet and cooperative with the vet. Didn't complain a bit about his shots. *sigh* I think we're keeping him.

The furnace guy is downstairs right this very minute cleaning our furnace.

Wow it was a busy day today.

P.S. As far as I know, nothing ever happened to Mr. Timmons. My parents probably should have filed a complaint...or a lawsuit...but they just weren't that way when I was a kid. They didn't make waves. In many cases, I think they SHOULD have. But, ah well...water under the bridge.

Priorities

This week has actually been rather productive! If you can't tell from my past journal entries, I tend to be rather non-productive. Why? My priorities are out of whack.


What I should be doing:


1. Picking up the clutter so that -


- the rugs can be shampoo'd
- I'll be able to call Merry Maids and get some help around here.
- get my hardwood floors installed
- I can mop the entire kitchen floor instead of just parts of it.


2. Shopping for some clothes for my vacation.


3. Purchasing some more baskets to contain above mentioned clutter.


4. Getting Tyler some wintry shoes (rather than sneakers).


5. Finally ordering the new furniture covers for the living room so I can get rid of the ratty stained off-white ones.


6. Washing my winter bedding so that the summer blankets can be put away.


7. Doing laundry, period, so I have something to wear on Friday (tomorrow is covered.)


I could go on and on, but you get the idea. But hark! Guess what I DID do this week?!


I stopped at Harold's Landscaping on Monday, bought 2 huge inflatable lawn decorations (one for Halloween and one for Christmas) AND scheduled a consultation and estimate to have our yard redone!!!


Guess who showed up today?! A young and gorgeous Mr. Clean. Wowszers...was he hot. And hairless. I really enjoyed showing him around my...yard. Whee! I can't believe we are finally getting an estimate on making this yard, front and back, pretty and livable. I hope by next spring, Tyler will have all new backyard space with a BIG fort/climber/swingset thingy to play on. And I will have the pretty front walkway I've always wanted. With steps! And lights! Like this:



Except...the walkway and steps will go along the front of the house and not straight toward you like in this pic. But same pavers and lights. And a retaining wall on the right side of the house just like the one pictured (the steps will run up in front of it).


And a patio in my backyard outside our slider! And steps going down into the new lower yard (which is currently all woods).


Dare I say it? Mr. Clean told me we DO have room for a pool down there.


I gotta calm down before I hyperventilate.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Trees

I had an intense "Mommy Moment" this evening. I was reading The Giving Tree to Tyler, but I gave him something to think about before I started the book. I said to him, "As I read this story, trying thinking about Mommy and The Tree being the same thing. Think of me as the tree." Then as I read, Tyler's eyes grew wide and I could see new realizations forming in his mind. Ah, the power of metaphor.


We talked about how eating the tree's apples was like how Mommy and Daddy gave him food, and sleeping under the tree was like sharing the bed with us, and so on...and we do it out of love. We want nothing in return.


I didn't expect the reaction that followed. He asked why the boy was leaving the tree that loved him so much. I told Ty that boys grow up to be fine young men who want their independence. They want to go off and see the world, make homes for themselves and start families of their own.


His eyes welled up with tears and he said, "But Mommy...I never want to leave you. I want to stay with you and Daddy for always!" I started to cry as well and squeezed him tightly to me. He asked why I was crying. I told him that I would love for him to stay with us for always and the fact that he loved us so much made me very, very happy. These were happy tears.


He gave me a kiss and said, "Don't worry Mommy. I'll never leave you."


If only it were true, my sweet boy. Little boys grow up too soon.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Swing!

It was a dark and stormy day...the kind of dark and stormy that makes a school teacher ruin your week by announcing "No outdoor recess today. Quiet play inside only." The groan of despair still echoes in the darkest recesses of my mind. If that alone weren't enough to scar me for life...read on.


My fourth grade teacher probably never won any awards for his craft. He would frequently leave us alone in the classroom while he ran off for a smoke break. Does any teacher really expect 9 year olds to sit quietly in their seats while being left totally unsupervised for 10 minutes at a time? Certainly not any sane or responsible teacher.


As the rain pelted against the windows, we were once again left to our own devices. Most of the kids did remain in their seats, reading or drawing. I was happily coloring with markers. Paul Reiner decided to raid the playground equipment closet. He helped himself to a shiny metallic baseball bat and began to swing vigorously at the pretend pitches Doug Smith was lobbing his way.


Being a rather cautious sort, I gave Paul a wide berth as I ducked low around behind him to reach the sink area in our classroom. I washed the marker off my hands, had a drink from the handy water fountain built into the sink, and then tried to duck back behind Paul again to return to my seat.


At the last moment, Paul decided to turn away from the windows and swing toward the classroom door. It happened so fast, neither of us had time to react. You could hear the crack of the bat connecting with my head ring through the room like a gun shot.


I don't remember falling to the floor, but I do remember the look of horror on Paul's face a split second before the bat hit me in the face.


Next thing I knew a hand was on my shoulder and someone was shouting in my ear, "Are you OK?!" It was Doug. I was sitting up cross-legged on the floor. I don't remember how I got that way. Paul was standing in front of me babbling "I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry..." obviously in a state ofshock. I didn't respond right away. I was trying to figure out...WAS I OK? What happened?


I heard a girl scream, "She's bleeding! She's bleeding!!" and I remember thinking, "I am?" Sure enough, something warm was flowing around either side of my eye, down to my chin, and dripping into my hands that were laying rather lifelessly in my lap. I stared at the blood. I guess it was a good thing I had such thick eyebrows. It's also a good thing that I look down when I'm walking.


Doug yelled at Paul, "Go get her something!! Hurry Up!" Paul looked around helplessly and finally ran to the sink and grabbed a handful of paper towels. He held them in front of my face. I looked at them and him, but I couldn't quite figure out what he wanted me to do with them. My hands and arms wouldn't work. Finally he just let them go and they fluttered down into my lap.


I heard another girl scream, "Go find Mr. Timmons!" A third one interjected, "No! Go get the nurse! The NURSE!" Doug yanked open the classroom door and sprinted down the hallway. (I don't know what I ever saw in Alex D. Doug turned out to be WAY cuter a few years later.)


Moments later, Mr. Timmons strolled back into the classroom, saw me sitting on the floor surrounded by all my classmates and yelled at me to get up. The din of everyone talking at once about what happened drowned out any further reaction from him. The nurse arrived and asked if I could walk. I had no idea. My arms didn't seem to be working and I hadn't made a sound or movement since I was hit.


She helped me up, and I was relieved to find that my legs DID work. She walked me back to her office asking questions and pressing those paper towels over my left eye. I couldn't speak until I was sitting down on the exam table. She cleaned off as much of the blood as she could while trying to keep pressure on my head. Finally, she must have pinched the wound closed and tacked it in place with 2 or 3 bandaids. I only saw the bandaids. I still hadn't seen my head.


The nurse called the emergency contact numbers in my file. There was no answer. She kept looking over at me with a worried and rather freaked out expression on her face. I wasn't in any pain. I was...numb. It was like I was watching this event unfold but I wasn't really THERE. I was merely an observer.


After several failed attempts to reach someone, the nurse asked me if I knew any place else my Mother would be. I tried to think of all the places my Mom might go during the day while we were at school. The Burlington Mall? The nurse had her paged at the Mall. Nope. Mr. Gene's Hair Salon? Nope. Her appointment there wasn't until Wednesday next. The supermarket? Nope.


I was slowly kicking my feet and letting them swing while I stared out the door of the nurse's office. I could hear high heeled footsteps in the hallway echoing off the ugly checkered linoleum. Next thing I knew, my mother was walking past the doorway with my little brother in tow. She didn't look in my direction until I heard this unearthly scream of "Moooommmmmmyyyyyyyyyy!" (I assume the scream came from me.)


She spun around and it took a second for her to recognize me. She turned white as a sheet and rushed into the room yelling, "What happened to you?!" That is when the tears finally came.


"Ppp...aul Ra...Ra...Ra...einer hit meeeeee!" I hiccupped between sobs of relief. I clung on to her and tried to pull her close, but she was holding me away from her with a frown. Now I realize she was trying to keep the blood off her clothes. Turns out she was at the school for a parent-teacher conference with my brother's kindergarten teacher. I was so freakin' lucky that day.


I was bundled into the car and rushed to the tiny clinic at Hanscom AFB. After a long wait, the doctor on-call there took one look at me and said there was nothing he could do. The wound was too deep for them to handle. She would have to bring me to the big hospital at the Army base that was more than an hour away.


(That's one of the problems with being a military family. Sure, they paid for your health care coverage, but you HAD to go to a military hospital for treatment. If they had taken me to a regular ER, they would have had to pay for some or all of it. If it had been MY child? I would be headed straight for the nearest ER, regardless of cost.)


Mom was finally able to reach Dad. He came to meet us and make the drive to Fort Devens. My mother is one of those people who can't drive anywhere she hasn't been to before or is further than, say, 20 minutes from home. It's a phobia that drove me mental over the years. Especially after I got my own driver's license.


The ER at Fort Devens was the second time I'd been in a huge hospital (that I could remember). The first time was when my brother was an infant and he nearly died from spinal meningitis. The nurse who took me back to be examined was so nice. She told me if I were brave, then I could have any color lollypop I wanted from the glass jar at the nurses' station. I wanted a green one.


In the exam room, I was strapped down to a table and my parents were told they had to wait outside. After having watched every episode of the TV show ER since the beginning of the series, I now know why they do this. When kids get hysterical, parents tend to do the same...and oh BOY was I hysterical. You should have seen the size of the needle they stuck me with! Over and over they stuck that needle into my head and INTO my wound. Ouch. Then I finally SAW it for myself as this large round mirror was lowered to reflect more light onto my face.


The sensation of being sewn shut is one you never forget. Once the pain was gone, all I felt was this odd pulling and tugging. I listened avidly to the doctors and nurses as they talked. Apparently I was very lucky. The bat had split open my skin just above my eyebrow clear down to my skull (bone was visible) but I had no skull fracture. My "eye orbit" was intact. A half inch lower and I might have lost my eye.


The doctor also wasn't happy about the long delay prior to my being sewn up. I would have a scar, but he said it should fade with time. And it has. It's hardly noticeable now.


I have an exceptionally vivid memory of that day and I became quite the classroom celebrity after that. Everyone was interested in my head wound and how many stitches I had. That incident was the frequent topic of conversation for the rest of the year. Paul sort of avoided me after and became rather subdued. He was such a rowdy kid prior. The change in him was rather alarming, but I was back to my old self.


No real harm done.


Except that I hate baseball.


And the name Paul.


And green lollypops.


*wink*