Nov 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Once again, we decided to stay home this year and have dinner here.  We had invited a few friends but they were unable to come, so it's just the five of us now.  Ronnie is planning to come over in a little while, just in time for a late lunch / early dinner, along with fresh homemade apple pie and Sams' pumpkin pie.

Instead of doing all of the cooking ourselves, we bought a smoked turkey dinner from Hickory River.  Man that turkey is good!!  Came with mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing and rolls ... so we made sweet potatoes and cranberry relish and corn salsa and pie.  We'll likely do this again next year, but perhaps add in some green bean casserole.  I think I like it better.

After our first round of food (I am under no illusions that we won't be grazing all day), we are now doing a Lord of the Rings marathon ... currently in the middle of the Fellowship of the Ring.  Ember is on the back for the couch staring at the screen as if she understands it, and Nitro is curled up on his bed under the cat tree, where Smoke is curled in a hammock that she barely fits into.  The ratties all got a taste of apple from the cores and have piled into their hammocks to sleep it off, and Guen and DK got some turkey bits and are curled up in their pen where it's warm.

At the risk of sounding trite ... I am so thankful for everything that we have.  God has blessed us greatly and while the path hasn't been smooth, I think that really has helped us to be grateful for where we are.  We have good jobs, a great house, plenty of food and the ability to help others.  Life is good.

Jun 10, 2013

June ... really ??

This year is so totally different as far as weather goes ... it almost doesn't seem like it's summer.  Of course that is throwing me off of realizing how LATE in the year it already is ... how did June come and fly by so fast!??!  The kids are home from school and getting back into "summer mode", trying to balance sleeping in with doing chores, playing video games with going outside.  As long as the weather is nice, I try to kick them outside at least part of the day - it's good for them, and it's quieter for me!

Last Monday, I realized that my dates were wrong on St. Louis RenFaire - I had thought it was on through July, but June 9 was the last day.  So we planned to go, rain or shine, on the 8th.  Fortunately, we had lovely sunny weather, not too hot and with a decent breeze.  I'm really hoping to spend some time there next year - and even asked Josh if he'd consider possibly doing the one in Kansas City.  Although with a six hour drive, that would be an all weekend event ... more expensive etc.

Got word on June 1st that we have baby ratties coming!  I am eagerly watching the pictures at Sweet Genes - Miss Raspberry had 14 babies on May 31st.  Debbie is still deciding which little girl she will be keeping and that will help determine who we get.  I'll just be happy with healthy girls ... tho a dumbo rex would be awesome :)

Two more weeks and Daniel and I will be heading out to Dallas for YFN.  We've got meetings the next couple of weeks with leaders and parents - to give everyone an idea of what to expect.  We have a few veterans going, but mostly new people who have never been!  I'm pretty excited - I know Josh thinks I'm crazy for being excited about traveling and spending time with 30 non-family members ...

May 28, 2013

And one less makes seven ...

Today has been rough.  We lost another rattie - BooBoo had surgery a little while back to remove two tumors.  One was "clean" and the vet was upbeat about it, but the other was "nasty" and she thought it might be cancer.  My heart kinda fell when she told me that, but I couldn't just not try.  BooBoo never really got better after her surgery though ... she had started breathing hard just before it and while she didn't get worse, she didn't improve.

I took her in this afternoon to have her sutures removed.  I don't know if it was the stress of that trip (she's always kinda been spazzy about being handled) or if she had cancer in her lungs, or maybe both ... but she passed out shortly after they took her back.  They tried giving her oxygen but she was too tired and let go.  She is so much better off now and I know I did everything I could have.  Still hurts tho.

Josh said that he thinks the perfect pet for me is a giant tortoise.  He said we could name it Fred, and since they live for like 100 years or more, we wouldn't have to deal with this pain.  Can't cuddle a tortoise tho.  I'm going to go cuddle the ratties I still have left.  Hoping for a couple of babies soon from my friend in Chicago!!

May 14, 2013

Tough Character Lesson

When you spend all year kind of skating through school and not really paying attention to deadlines or homework, it can really bite you in the butt.  Ash found this out the hard way this week.  To her great credit, she has really tried to buckle down and pay attention and get things done and turn homework and assignments in.  But a big research paper was due last week and has disappeared.

Since she has never tried to tell me something was turned in when it wasn't, I do believe that it was done and got turned in.  However, the hard fact is that the teacher does not have it.  Where did it go?  No one knows, of course.  But with Ash's track record of procrastination (handed down from me - I will take full credit there) and turning things in late, her teacher is simply not inclined to give her any grace on it.  This could easily bomb her grade, and depending on how she does on her final exam, may even mean she has to repeat the class.

It's the classic "boy who cried wolf" scenario.  So many things done late or not at all ... and this one time that she really did do it, it gets lost.  It really sucks, honestly - and I went with her today to talk to the teacher, all prepared for a fight and ready to make the teacher straighten up and do her job, etc. (Mama Bear was raring to go!).  But after talking to the teacher, while I don't really like her style of communication with the kids, I cannot argue with her logic or methods - I can't think of anything else she could have done to ensure things from her end.

The optimist in me is still hoping that the folder with the research paper and all related assignments will miraculously appear in an overlooked/misplaced stack of other folders and that Ash will be vindicated and her grade salvaged.  But the realist in me realizes this is unlikely ... and simply hopes for the lesson to be learned this time, on a (relatively) unimportant life event, so it won't happen again on something major.

This is what character comes down to.  Is your character such that people *know* you will do what you say you will?  Or is it kind of up in the air and they'll believe it when they see it?

Apr 21, 2013

What a month !!!

Well it's been a bit, but here I am again.  We've had quite an eventful month overall. The kids and I spent a bunch of time outside over Spring Break - I took the week off work rather than try to deal with the racket that three teenagers can make.  We spent Monday out in the yard clearing out weeds and old mulch, then spreading new mulch.  Tuesday we spent recuperating.  Thursday we spread some more mulch and then that Saturday Josh and I planted some new flowers that I got from a FreeCycle member.  I'm still looking for them to take hold and bloom - might need to wait til next year but we'll see how they go :)

I'm in the middle of training at work - nothing spectacular - just a refresher on a line of business that I haven't worked for nearly 3 years.  They're wanting us to all be cross-trained eventually, so this is my turn.  It's mostly reminders and "oh yeah I remember that" type of stuff, so honestly I'm a little bored.  There have been changes since I worked this stuff last, so I do have to pay attention.  Fortunately I have a great trainer and she gives us plenty of examples to work through and get practice.

This weekend we've been dealing with a wet basement.  We've had so much rain in the past week that the ground simply couldn't hold it all ... and so it tried to invade our house.  The last couple of years have been much drier, so we never realized that our sump pump wasn't really doing anything ... well we found out this past Thursday!!  It was quite the saga, really ...

Long story short - after assuming the sump pump we had was working (it was, but only temporarily), finding out it had stopped and allowed a half inch of water into our finished basement, buying a new pump (and running out of gas in the process), the pipe breaking during the install, fixing the pipe and finally getting the new pump installed, and sucking out 12+ loads of water with the 10 gallon shop vac, the basement is now being dried by 4 box fans and a dehumidifier.  We are leaving the basement door open in an attempt to allow moisture to escape upstairs and out the windows (when we're able to open them - temps dropped into the 40s!!).  I have borrowed a carpet cleaner from a friend and will use it today to try to get rid of the wet-dog smell that the basement currently has going on.

And the good news is that Ashleigh's birthday is in a few days and we are gearing up for that.  She's decided she wants to have a few friends get together at Skateland - not for a full-on party with the cake and all that, but just a few of them to go skate for a while.  Then we'll have the family party back at our house with all the adults who have no interest in skating :P  She and Hallie decided they want to have a joint party again because "It's just not as fun when we do them separately".  And the icing on the cake (for me anyway) is that our new couch is being delivered just in time for the party, so there will be plenty of seating for everyone!

More events in May and June - we'll be going to the RenFaire in Wentzville, then Daniel and I will be headed to Dallas for YFN.  It's going to be a great summer !!

Mar 24, 2013

Lazy Sundays

Thoughts from yesterday:
Ashleigh had her highway driving class Saturday morning.  They had enough time that she was able to take her driving test that day instead of having to wait for Tuesday morning.  She passed with flying colors - only 2 points (points are bad).  I guess you can still pass with 36 points - I'm really not sure what that says about the quality of some drivers currently on the roads ?  And then I learn today that the Drivers' Ed car had been rear-ended Friday morning in a hit-and-run by someone from Missouri ... I feel sorry for whoever was driving - talk about a teachable moment!

As we were replacing the ceiling fan in the boys' room, Josh made a comment about how we need to get a magnetized screwdriver.  Daniel chimed in about how the IT guy at his school has one and quickly moved on to "and he let me tighten my screws!!".  There was a slight pause, and I just couldn't help it ... "Daniel, I always knew you had a couple screws loose."

Tim and Ashley got married on a gorgeous stereotypical spring day - bright and sunny and ever so slightly warm.  I really enjoyed how beautiful and unique the ceremony was - from Ashely's Cinderella dress to the bubble wrap aisle runner, planting an acorn in place of the traditional unity candle/sand.  I love it when a couple takes the time to personalize their wedding in such a unique way that so totally fits "them" without sacrificing any of the tradition and ceremony.

And then the snow came ...
Having been warned of a massive early spring snowstorm headed our way, Josh and I decided to stay home and watch church online today.  We had a nice big brunch - bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, waffles - and then Josh took the kids downstairs to play Ratchet & Clank while I killed some time on Facebook and the REGAP site. I'm wondering if school will be cancelled tomorrow.  The theory is that there will be 6-9 inches of snow.  I'm horrible at judging this kind of thing, so I will let images speak for themselves ... what've we got so far ??

Either way you slice it, it's not nearly as bad (yet?) as the "blizzard" of Feb 2011 - 13 inches and all that jazz. I think this one just has a bigger emotional impact cuz the flowers are all trying to come out and it's the end of March!!  I guess I'm just a sucker for how peaceful it looks out my living room window ... all white and clean and fresh.  I do wish we'd had this at Christmas, but ... it is what it is.  Maybe next time!

Update:  The final total for all this snow was 18.5 inches - officially breaking the previous "Snowpocalypse" record.  Of course it was all gone within a few days!!

Mar 19, 2013

The AT&T Debacle

You would think that I would remember not to do this kind of thing, but apparently I can't remember  from year to year how badly it gets messed up, so I've decided to post it all up here in an attempt to remind myself.  Maybe this will help me avoid the trap next time.

AT&T runs these special offers now and then, where if you add a service, you get a lower cost for a certain time as well as a cash gift card.  This round was TV for $30/month and a $100 gift card, so I figured "Sure, why not - spend $30 or so, have TV for a month or two, get $100 back?  Sounds good to me!"

So I set it all up, we got the TV installed (we did get an upgraded modem/gateway out of the deal), got the gift card and off we go.  About 6 weeks later I called to have it cancelled and a few days later got an empty box from AT&T with a pre-paid shipping label to return the TV box.  Off to UPS, dropped off on 1/15/13 at 2:36pm.  No problem.

About 2 weeks later, I got an email talking about "Time Sensitive Information" and saying they hadn't gotten the box returned.  So I check the tracking number, and sure enough, shows as delivered on 1/18/13.   ???

Called AT&T, got a girl whose primary language is obviously not English but who was nonetheless pleasant and sounded willing to help.  She informed me that after reviewing the tracking number I provided, she determined that the box was, in fact, received at their Laredo TX dock and that it just hadn't been applied to my account.  She told me she would escalate the issue to make sure we did not get billed.  I thanked her and hung up, satisfied I had done my due diligence.

Lo and behold, next bill comes out on 2/25, and there's the charge - $150 plus taxes - for a non-returned receiver.  Well, now it's the weekend and their Customer Service line is closed, so I got onto the website and used their live chat.  I was connected to a man who assured me that a credit for $150 was "already being in process for removal" and that he would also apply a $10 credit as well to take care of the additional taxes, telling me "So, you can relax on that completely and you are our Elite customer and we don't want you to feel any kind of inconvenience."


Next time around, now on 3/10, I still see a past due amount (since I only paid $85 on the previous bill) and no credits of any kind.  This time I wasn't quite so nice with the chat but received the same assurances and (this was new) told that I would get an email confirmation of the credit which would be applied within 24 hours.  While I'm doing this, I also posted on the AT&T U-Verse Facebook page.


3/11 ... sure enough - no email, no credits.  Now I'm mad and getting tired of it.  I now have a response to my Facebook post, asking me to email with account info etc.  I got a return call, however since it was during the day, of course I was working so she left a VM.  I never did connect with Miss Nancy - I'm not sure if it was a simple time conflict where our work hours overlap too much or what, but I did leave 2 more voicemails which never got any return calls. 

This afternoon, I came "home" from work and discovered a rather large box sitting on my couch ... from AT&T.  I opened it and realized it was empty - yep, they sent me another box with which to return the "non-returned" equipment which tracks as having been delivered on 1/18/13.  Now I'm really mad ... so I call their CS line (800-288-2020800-288-2020).  I get the same pleasant girl who I talked to the first time ... only this time I'm not very pleasant back.  I told her flat out that I've dealt with this for 2 months, made 5 phone calls, and I wanted the charge off my account now.

Maybe I should have checked online first to be sure - the charge actually was (supposedly on 3/13/13) removed from the account and I am now only showing that I owe my normal monthly charge.  I posted a followup on the original Facebook post and asked "them" to let their Laredo dock workers know that they narrowly missed receiving a box containing a few of the choicer contents of my backyard.

At least now it's over - and I am hoping that this post will remind me next time that it's just not worth it to mess around with trying to get a "better deal".  It's just not.

Mar 10, 2013

March Madness

Random thoughts of the morning ...

  1. In about two months I will no longer have "kids".  I will have all teens.  I'm not sure I'm old enough for that ???

  2. The last couple of weeks have been pretty stressful ... mostly just life with short-lived critters, a little bit of work blah thrown in, plus tax time and court filings.  On top of it, I have been having dreams lately where I try to talk to my sister and she either ignores me outright or tells me "no" - very painful and I seem to have lost my ability to control my dreams while having them.

  3. We'll have Cheryl's girls, Belle and Hildy, over here this week while she recovers from knee surgery.  They're good girls - they love Nitro and he loves them.  Hildy is Josh's girl and would sleep on him if he'd let her ... as it is she has to be content on the dog bed on the floor since I don't share well.  Belle will sleep on Daniel's bed and allow him to have a corner.  Only thing I will have to watch is the kittens and Belle ... last time she was here, she decided Smoke was a plaything :(

  4. I'm looking forward to seeing the flowers come up in the yard ... already have a few little green shoots coming up.  I think when I take my "Spring Break" vacation time, I'm going to spend some time in the back yard mulching and trimming and cleaning things up so that (hopefully) there will be less work to do over the summer.  I really do love spring - just hoping the weather over that week agrees with me !!

Feb 27, 2013

And then there were eight ...

This afternoon, Josh and I took Fink to the vet and let her go.  She seemed to understand and was very quiet and looked us both in the eyes before we left, as if to show gratitude.  Our vet seemed almost as broken as I felt - she was choked up and hugged me before we left - this is one reason why I trust her completely.

Fink will be very much missed, but is no longer in pain, no longer frustrated over limbs that won't move right and a body that doesn't do what she tells it to.  She is whole again, fat and sassy and playing with Cap, Cocoa, Chance, Yogi and Sparta. I trust her to watch over everyone as they join her to wait for us.

Feb 23, 2013


I'm sitting here today, after having worked 5 hours of overtime, cleaned the rat cage, and cuddled Fink for as long as she would let me ... wishing that my little ratties lived longer.  Fink isn't doing so well - I'm fairly sure at this point that she has a pituitary tumor, which means there is nothing I can do except to make her as comfortable as possible.  She's almost 2 and was the first experience we had with rattie intelligence - and there's a story behind that one.
One evening, not long after getting Fink, she was out and running around on top of our desks, which face each other.  Josh was still at work, and she was over on his desktop, when I heard a gnawing sound.  Sure enough - she was nibbling on the foam padding of his headphones.  OOPS ... she knew she had screwed up and came slinking back over to my side of the desk, where I scooped her up and put her back in her cage.  Josh came home about 40 minutes later and before I had a chance to tell him, he stopped by her cage to say hi.  Well, she had initially climbed up the bars to greet him, but when she realized who it was, she dropped back down and "hid" in the back corner instead.  Of course he picked her up for cuddles to see if she was hurt or anything, and she started licking all over him - she'd always been kissy with me but not so much with him, so that was a little surprising.  That was when I told him about the headphones and we realized she was ashamed and was doing the only she knew how to apologize.
Think about it ... not only did she remember what she had done - 40 minutes later - but she also connected Josh with his headphones and the fact that she wasn't supposed to chew on them, and felt shame for having done so ... and then tried to apologize!

It's just not fair - I think of how smart and affectionate she is, and how awesome it would be to have her around for years and years.  Think of all she could learn if she just had that kind of time!  Maybe that's why God takes them so early - they're just too smart for us humans to be able to handle.

Is it weird or strange that I can get so attached?  A lot of people say yes, especially where a rodent is concerned.  But I don't see Fink (or any of my girls) that way.  They are family - they have fur instead of smooth skin, but they are my babies just the same.  My ratties know their names, come when called (usually, especially when there are yogies involved), and all of them give "kisses" - licking all over my fingers.  They follow me and beg for attention and love - some will even leap out of the cage onto my shoulder if I'm not paying *enough* attention to them!

So while I have the time, this is my tribute to Fink - the first of many, who introduced me to everything a rat can be.  The other girls will have some very large paw prints to fill.

Feb 21, 2013

Snow thoughts and backwards logic

Actually had someone tell us tonight that we should stop making our house payment for a few months and pay them $4000 ... so that we could qualify for a loan modification to drop our payment by $300 a month.

Anyone else noticing the jacked up backwards logic there?

On a brighter note, we had some very nice snow this afternoon.  The kids are hoping for school to be closed tomorrow, but so far, no such luck.  I keep checking like a good mom, just in case SPS 186 decides to play it safe and not have buses running and kids standing on street corners in 6 inches of snow ...

Of course, given that this IS Illinois we're talking about, the chances that all this snow will still be here by tomorrow late morning are pretty slim.  Especially with the weather calling for rain in the morning.  The roads are going to be a big fat sloppy mess!!

My random thought for the night ... Nitro is almost 12.  In dog years, that's almost 80, according to a graph on Wikipedia anyway.  He still acts like a puppy - bouncing around today when he saw the snow, begging to go outside over and over just to run around in it.  Mind you - he doesn't like *cold* ... just *snow*.  Hard to get the latter without the former, but that's where it is.  I think he tolerates the cold for the sake of the snow.