Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And The Thunder Rolls

We didn't have thunder or lightning in Hawaii.  Despite the fact that it rains every day, it does so gently, with no fuss or noise.  We have only once in the past three and a half years seen lightning.  It was such an unusual phenomenon that we had local friends who drove out closer to the storm to sit in the back of their truck and watch the lightning like it was a fireworks show.

Now we are back in the land of thunder, lightning, hail and tornadoes.


There was a thunderstorm last night that started around dinner time and kept booming until 2:00 this morning.  Ringo spent all evening huddled in the laundry room.  Rigger, who is usually mellow to the point of being a liquid, was lying on the rug when the thunder boomed the first time.  He jumped up and tried to run through the house, but it was like watching a cartoon character run in place.  He just couldn't get his legs up under him and frankly, there was nowhere to go.

The thunder kept booming all night.  Oh my gosh, the number of times I woke up thinking the roof was falling in on us.  And the number of times I checked my phone to see if a tornado was on its way.  And the number of times the power flickered and my phone beeped and lit up.

Today will be a nap day.

I had to go meet Kerry at the commissary yesterday and got caught in a hail storm.  I was circling the commissary parking lot when something whacked the windshield and the roof really hard.  I thought someone had thrown something at me when I saw ice bouncing off the parking lot and people fleeing for the building.  It's a bad feeling to have ice pelting down on your car and there is no place to take it to keep it from getting damaged.  Luckily it only lasted a few minutes and the van appears to be unscathed.

Illinois weather.  Feh.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Football Season

It's football season and Kerry is happy.  That man does love football.  He knows every little factoid and piece of useless trivia about football.  I used to like to look up odd football facts and try to stump him but I don't think I ever once came up with something he didn't already know.

Kerry played football in high school and always hoped that Ben would follow in his footsteps.  Ben however, never had any interest in football.  He played soccer as a child.  I, as a concerned mother, was fine with that.  I am after all, married to a man who had major knee surgery as a teen thanks to football.

I remember one day when Ben was about ten, we were going somewhere and discussing football.  Kerry was mentioning how he hoped Ben would someday learn to love football as much as he does.

"Well, he likes soccer and that's fine.  I don't really mind if he never wants to play football," I replied.

Kerry whipped the car into a parking lot, looked over at me and said, "Get out."

Yes, he was kidding, and yes, I laughed.

But finally, Kerry has gotten his wish.  Ben is finally interested in football.  He is attending college games and watching them from start to finish.

 That's my boy!

Ben says anyone who thinks cheerleading isn't a sport should try it out.  He has to exercise regularly in order to be strong enough to throw girls up in the air but he also has to be very flexible.

He's learning to do back handsprings.

I took my camera to the game so that I could get some good shots but forgot my memory card so once again I had to resort to cell phone photos and videos.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Double Talk

Sometimes as Kerry is heading out the door for work, we are remembering last minute info to impart to one another and our sentences cross each other and our thoughts move on to the next topic before the other person is on board.

As Kerry was heading out the door this morning, he said out of the blue and connected to nothing we had been saying, "Go ahead and buy tickets today."

"For what?"

Having already moved on from the subject and trying to get to work on time, Kerry said, "Kiss me."

I grinned.  "I don't need tickets to kiss you."

He looked at me loftily and retorted, "Well you'll just have to wait in line then!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

Miracles Still Happen

I love my kids. I really, really do. They are a blessing, they are a blessing, they are a blessing.  But sometimes they do things that really aggravate me.  Like putting ink pens in their pockets.  I never put a pen in my clothing.  It goes in my purse and my purse only.  I've tried to teach my children this simple rule:  the pen can go in your purse or backpack, you can clip it onto the front of a notebook, you can tuck it behind your ear, but you never, never, never insert it into your clothing.  Invariably, it gets forgotten and goes through the washer and dryer, where it explodes.

And when your mother opens the dryer, she explodes.

This is the inside door of the dryer.

This is the inside drum of the dryer.

Amazingly, there was not a ton of ink on the clothing.  It was largely a load of blue jeans so it wasn't showing up on the material.  There were a few spots on some tee shirts, but again nothing major.

But the inside of the dryer.  Oh.  It was bad.  

I tried various cleaners to no avail.  The most I got was a slight, very slight, purplish color on the rag.  Apparently ink doesn't come out of metal.  

I made everyone in the house come look at the damage.  I growled at them all.
They all denied any involvement.  I'm no fool, I narrowed it down to two culprits but since I couldn't prove which one it was I had to settle for trying to burn them to ashes with a steely gaze.
Then I stomped upstairs and flung myself on the bed in a snit for about twenty minutes until I could think calmly and no longer wanted to pack a bag and head for parts unknown.

Then, though I knew it was a lost cause, I googled it.

Low and behold, there is a solution.  Fingernail polish remover takes ink off a dryer.

I got my fingernail polish remover, still not believing it would really work, grabbed some cotton balls and did a test spot.  

It all came off.  Didn't even use elbow grease.

It did take quite a while to do the entire inside of the dryer.  And I think the fumes killed off a number of brain cells.  By the end, I would stand outside the laundry room, take a deep breath and hold it and dash back in and rub as much as I could until I needed to run out and take another breath.  

It was a laundry miracle on a Sunday!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


When you are moving, you imagine where everything will go in your new house.  Kerry and I walked around our new house while it was empty and decided, "The sofa will go there, let's put the TV here.  Let's put the headboard on this wall, and the dresser over there.  No.....over there.  No....over here." You think everything through and you imagine you will unpack each box and not open a new box until the first box is finished.  Everything will go in its place, the place it was assigned, the place where it will live forever.

How unpacking an entire house really works:

"Let's go ahead and put all these books on the shelves in the bedroom."

"Well, all the sheets and curtains are on those shelves right now."


"Well, I need to iron the curtains before I hang them, but we haven't unpacked the iron yet."

"Well, why didn't you just leave the curtains in a box?"

"I was looking for sheets to put on the bed so we could go to sleep."

"Let's move the sheets to the linen closet so we can put the books there."

"The linen closet is smaller than our old linen closet, they won't fit.  We've got to find a new place for them."

"Well, what about this box of stuff from the pantry?  Let's get all that put away."

"This pantry is smaller than our old pantry, I can't fit it all in there.  Where are we going to put all this?"

"Let's get some new shelves, put them in the garage, and we'll use them for extra pantry items."

Go to store, buy new shelves.

"What about this box of books?  Where do they go?"

"We had those on the built-in shelves.  Now we've lost all that shelf space.  We're going to need more shelves."

"Where would we put them?"

"Um...basement?  I guess?"

Go to store, buy new shelves.

"What about this box of tools?  Where do you want those to go?"

"Well, we have all that peg board in the garage, I'm going to hang them up out there so we can see where everything is, but we don't have any pegs yet."

Go to store, buy pegs for peg boards.

I would gladly pay someone to come pack everything for me, I don't care any more where everything goes, I don't care if I can't find something because someone else picked its forever spot.

But I can't afford to pay someone to help because we're having to buy new shelves every day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yellow Doll

Ten years ago we were living in Virginia. Each year at Christmas we would fill shoeboxes with small toys for Operation Christmas Child. Shopping to fill the boxes was one of our favorite activities throughout the year. One day, Kerry found this soft, squashy doll that really tickled him. I can remember him saying, "I can just see some little girl's face lighting up when she sees this doll." Unfortunately, when we set out to fill our shoeboxes, the yellow doll took up almost her entire shoe box. There just wasn't room for anything else and we thought we'd rather send lots of little items in a box rather than just one toy. We set the yellow doll aside and decided that we would hang on to her until the next year, and then we would try to suction her into a plastic bag so she would take up less room. I tucked her into my closet to wait. Then one day in the middle of summer, Emily, aged four or five, descended the stairs with the yellow doll clutched in her hands. "Who is this for?" she asked, with wide eyes and a hopeful expression on her face. 


 Kerry tried to hedge, "That's for a very special little girl." 

 "And I know just the special little girl it's for!" Emily replied with a delighted grin. 

 The yellow doll, whom Emily named "Yellow Doll" has been her constant companion through the years. Even now yellow doll lives on Emily's bed and goes on sleepovers. Yellow doll has dried many a tear and many a bloody nose. Even regular washing hasn't been able to keep her very clean but she has been very, very loved. Tonight, we walked into Walmart looking for shelves and as we passed a clearance bin in the front of the store Emily shrieked, "Look! It's Yellow Doll!" And there she was, clean and new and amazingly still for sale (albeit on clearance). We couldn't resist purchasing her and bringing her home for comparison.

What a difference ten years of love makes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Best Museum Ever

We have now been to the City Museum in St Louis two times.  We will go again.  I think pretty much everyone who ever comes to visit us will now be taken there to visit.  It is the most amazing museum I have ever entered.  Part museum, part playland, part circus, part haunted house, part maze, it's the most entertaining space I've ever found which would truly appeal to a wide age group.  (Except for mothers of young children.  When I was looking for info on the City Museum I found numerous complaints that this place is a "nightmare" because little children can get away from you in a blink and you may never find them again.)  Mothers of older children however (including me) just make a plan and go forward into the maze.
City Museum is housed in what used to be a shoe factory. It was taken over sometime way back when and gradually morphed into what it is now and hopefully is expanding in even more outrageous ways.
On the first floor is a very large whale and lots of fish, both real and sculpted.  See that very large slinky thing on the right?  You can crawl up that into a maze of tunnels in the ceiling.  The kids headed up that coil, but Kerry and I opted to get there through the stairs in a four story tree house and we almost never saw the kids again.
There is also an aquarium in the building but you have to pay extra to go into it so we opted out of that. But there is a small aquatic area near the whale where you can look at fish and turtles while you wait for your legs to quit twitching from all the climbing around.

This is a real live turtle, balanced on top of two real, live turtles.  I don't know how he got up there.
Also in this area is the biggest freaking catfish I've ever seen in my life!
And I'm from Georgia. I have seen big catfish.

If, instead of going up, you choose to go through the whale, you wind up in a maze of caverns.  Every surface has a dinosaur or dragon carved into it.  It is incredibly cool.  There are areas where water is dripping down a stalactite and you really feel like spelunking.  If you have children who would be unnerved by the dark, take a small flashlight.  While we're on the subject, be aware that you will have to keep up with that flashlight while climbing, sliding, and crawling through this building.  I did not take a purse, backpack or camera (used my phone because it fits in my pocket) because it is just impractical.  On the other hand, if you don't take a flashlight with you, duck a lot in the caves to save your head some bonks.

I'm not sure, but I think these are the stairs going up to the ten-story slide.  Yep.  Ten stories.  Spiral slide.  There is also an elevator up to this area, but I swear we could never find it.
Speaking of which, there are no maps of the museum.  They even sell tee shirts that say "no maps".  They really want you do explore and discover things on your own.  If you see a bathroom, use it while you are near it because you may not be able to find one again for quite a while and there will not be a sign pointing to one.  Also, I'm not sure if the employees are told to not give you clear directions but the two times that I asked how to get to an area, I was given oddball directions, "Go halfway down the stairs and turn left", or the employee acted like he had no idea what I was talking about. 
Now this is the part that even your grandparents would want to see.  They wouldn't like the slides and crawling around, but there is an amazing museum of things like this Big Boy statue - my kids were like "What is that?"  Kerry and I realized we have left a huge gap in their education. 
In this area there are collections of antique doorknobs, bugs, architectural elements from buildings,
freaky odd things, items excavated from around St Louis, I can't even remember everything that was there.  There's a shoelace factory somewhere in the building, it may be in this area.   Oh, and a  small circus.  And a train that younger kids can ride.  And the area of oddities which is something like going through a spooky old house which may or may not be haunted.  There was one area where you walk down a dark hallway and make a sharp right.  Ben and Emily were looking doubtfully down the hallway and declared they weren't going first.  Katie and I headed down, there was nothing around the corner, but I shrieked bloody murder just to make them think there was something there.  Unfortunately, I scared Katie  senseless.  I laughed a lot though.  I'm still laughing about it actually.
Up on the roof is a ferris wheel.  I like ferris wheels, but when you are on the roof of a tweleve story building it feels rather unnerving.  Also there is a school bus which is unsettling, as is the very steep slide up there.  There is also a fountain with stepping stones that you can cross over.  We watched one adorable little girl try to cross , but she slipped and faceplanted right into the water.  She screamed and wailed over being wet for quite a while.
Downstairs again here is a ball pit with large rubber balls in it.  If you've ever seen the ball pits like they have in fast food restaurants, this isn't that.  Those pits have small hard balls that are easy to move out of your way.  These balls form a barrier between you and the floor the likes of which you've likely never encountered.  I just laid down across the top of the pile and it gently sifted me under a layer of balls, but not all the way to the floor.  I giggled for a bit and then tried to sit up.  It was impossible.  With no way to get my feet to the floor, I couldn't get the leverage to rise.  I struggled around for a bit, then had to rest for a bit, then had another go at it.  It's quite amusing to watch people flop around in there.  Once you can finally wedge a foot down to the floor, you can get up, but it takes quite a bit of doing.  Castle moats should have been filled with these things instead of water.  An invading army in chain mail could never have gotten through.

Outdoors is a jungle gym like no other.  See that wire tube coming up out of that plane?  I declined to go up that.

Shorter people can scootch through those wire tubes on their bottoms.  Adults have to crawl though on their knees.  Bring knee pads.
In some areas, like this one, you can actually walk upright. 
But see that little area underneath this walkway?  Small, daring children can crawl underneath the walkway all the way across, several stories up. 
I would have done it, but I was too big.  (Thank goodness)

Some of the areas are very high up.  And if you meet someone coming from the other direction, one of you will be going backwards back to where you started.
See that schoolbus at the top of the building, hanging out over the edge?  That, my friends, is up on the 12th floor and you can walk into it and sit in the driver's seat and open the door and freak yourself totally out!
At the top of a slide.
And let me just tell you, there is also a vintage clothing shop, a coffee bar, a real bar, several eateries, a shoelace factory, a gift shop, a pipe organ, and probably a million other things I can't even remember.
This is definitely going to be one of our favorite places.  The first time we went was the first time I actually saw Ben smile in a month.  I told the kids, "See?  Illinois isn't so bad!"  Emily gave me a withering look and replied, "Mama, this is Missouri!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th

I wrote this two years ago.  I've updated it slightly:

When you are growing up you study all the wars in school. Even the more recent ones - the Korean War, the Vietnam War - I learned all about them, but I know now, I never really understood what it was like for the people living through those times.

Things are different now.

On September 11th, 2001, I was at a homeschool co-op with the kids. We were living in Virginia at the time, about an hour away from the Pentagon. We had just celebrated Katie's first birthday a few days before.

During the first session of co-op classes, one of the moms came hurrying through the building and said, "All the military families need to get back to post! There's been some sort of emergency and they are closing the post! You won't be able to get back on if you don't hurry!"

I gathered up the kids and headed out for the base, having no idea what was happening. I instructed the kids to be quiet and turned on the radio. The radio announcers were saying that they were tapping in to a live news feed from one of the television stations. Then came Dan Rather's voice saying the first videos and images were about to come through. Of course, I couldn't see the images they were showing, I only remember hearing Dan Rather say, "Oh my God" when he saw the images.

I was absolutely terrified. I had only the slightest idea what was happening because the information on the radio was sketchy, but I knew it was bad. Kerry had the morning off but I had forgotten my cell phone and couldn't call him to find out if he was being called off to war.

When I reached the post, the line of cars to get through the gates was a mile long. The soldiers at the gate were searching every car top to bottom. The even had long mirrors to look underneath every car.

When we finally made it home, I ran in the house yelling for Kerry. He was already glued to the television.

We spent most of that day watching the news and fielding phone calls from people who wanted to know what was going to happen to Kerry. The news on television was horrific. Even after the plane crash there were reports of bomb scares. I can vividly remember seeing people running away from various government buildings, afraid that bombs were about to go off. At one point a military van with a loud speaker came through our neighbor hood announcing that everyone should be ready to evacuate. There were numerous reports that there were still planes in the sky that were not responding to ground control.

We needed to know what was happening. But the images of death and destruction so close to us was unthinkable. We would be so overwhelmed by the images on our television that we would turn it off, only to wander back in before very long and turn it back on. We had to know.

After that came the anthrax scares. For weeks, people were receiving envelopes containing a white powder which might or might not be a deadly poison.

I remember the fear that we all lived in for months. We didn't know if there would be more attacks, we didn't know if there would be poison in the mail. We didn't know if we would have to gather the children and flee (where?) or if Kerry was going to be called up to leave any minute to go to war.

Now, eleven years later, Kerry has been called to war twice. We have relaxed and don't feel that we might be in imminent danger of some sort of terrorist attack at any moment. We go on with our lives in this new and different world. Our kids don't remember a time when we didn't have to show our IDs to get on post and didn't have to submit to random vehicle searches.

But those of us who remember what it was like...........we know more now about what the people in the other wars went through.  Having lived in Hawaii, and visited Pearl Harbor, it's much more real to me than it ever was before in my life. I have a much better idea of what the people in that time were thinking and feeling.

It's not just a story in a book now.

Darn it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Worst Birthday Ever

Katie was really unhappy about her birthday this year. Having just moved from Hawaii, she hasn't yet had time to make new friends here. The end result being that she doesn't know anyone to invite to a birthday party. The enormity of this started hitting her about a week ago. She often looked as though she was trying not to cry and she mentioned a number of times that she wished she could see her Hawaii friends. Luckily, one of her BFF's was able to come up and surprise her on Wednesday.

I also posted a status on Facebook asking anyone and everyone to send her a birthday card.  I thought that might make the mail more interesting for the week.

 The final count is still not in, but she was thrilled to go check the mail every day.  Of course, her favorite cards were the ones that had some money or a little gift in them which was another unexpected surprise!
We also went to the City Museum in St Louis with our visiting friends and they plucked Katie out of the crowd to assist in a magic trick.  I didn't plan that, but it certainly added to the birthday joy!
Sorry she looks demonic in the photo.  She's not really that evil.

We went to Joe's Crab Shack for lunch where we had the best waitress in the world - her name was Sulynn, ask for her if you go.  In honor of her birthday and having just moved from Hawaii, they dressed Katie up in a stereotypical Hawaiian costume and made her do the hula while the entire restaurant sang "Happy Birthday" to her.
She was not at all unhappy about the attention.

BFF and family had to leave after lunch so to keep the day from becoming sad, we headed off to lazer tag with some homeschooling friends.  What a blast!  We have found a new sport for our family.  The last time we played lazer tag, we lived in Alaska and Katie was so young, we used her as a shield to keep from being shot.

It wound up being a really good day after all!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Katie has really been sad because her birthday is this weekend and she doesn't really know anyone to have a party with. One of her best friends moved off the island last year, and lives six hours from us now. Her BFF's mom very nicely (wonderfully) agreed to make the six hour drive to surprise her and cheer her up. Best. Surprise. Ever.

We had been planning it for about a week, and there were many emails and texts back and forth as to the best plan to pull this off without spoiling the surprise.  I warned my friend not to text me because Katie is often playing on my phone and if a text came through she might see it.  So she came up with these texts in order to let me know where they were at various points through the trip:

"We're going to stop in Topeka so I'll text you: "It's hot in Topeka".

 When we get to Kansas City I''ll text you something about the KC Chiefs.

Columbia, MO: "The Shuttle Columbia has landed".

STL: "Watching Meet Me in Saint Louis "

I thought this was really cool and so I showed it to my darling husband, who often skims rather than fully reading and comprehending information.  He started reading the codes and the first thing he said was, "They're going to see the Kansas City Chiefs play?"  "NO," I told him, "Read it!"  His next comment was, "They're taking the shuttle?"  I just looked at him in complete bewilderment.  "You're in the military!  Didn't they teach you anything about covert operations!?" 

Emily was under instructions that when I told her to, she was to take Katie upstairs keep her occupied until I called for them to come downstairs.  As luck would have it, as soon as BFF and family arrived, Katie had to go to the bathroom and Emily was practically trying to tackle her to keep her in the bedroom so she wouldn't hear the hullaballoo downstairs as we arranged all the primary characters.

The end result was totally worth it as we caught Katie completely off guard.  I knew she would wonder why I was pointing the camera at her and I didn't want to set off warning bells, so I pretended I was looking at a picture already in the camera and I was asking her who took it as she walked toward me.

Side View!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take Care of Your Teeth!

This is a totally random video by Ben and friends while we were still in Hawaii. I had never seen it, but at our farewell party someone handed me a DVD that said "Dentist Video" on it. I had no idea what it was, and only just got around to watching it!