Monday, September 22, 2008

Updates on a busy weekend!

Lots and lots to write about, and even some pics too! From a bookkeeping side I want to let everyone know that I will now be using first names in here as it is too hard to try and give aliases to the kids (who have never had aliases before in common use) but I will probably interchange that with the aliases at times I have already been using... Just makes it easier to identify them!


Last week I was horribly homesick, and some of it hasn't gone completely away. It started with seeing video on Startribune.com of the opening of the 35W bridge. I have so many memories of crossing the old bridge almost daily as I went back and forth to the U of M, and then memories of a year ago when it fell... I took Spike there to see the aftermath of its collapse our first weekend together, and to see it now whole and open, well my heart was very full and my tears overflowed. Then, my beloved eldest child posted videos on facebook of my sweet grandbabies talking to me, and that too pulled at my heartstrings and I puddled up again. To see "Lil Miss" toddling around like a pro, and to hear them saying "hi" to me, and "I miss you Gramrei"... I just need to hug 'em close to me and be there sometimes!

Another thing feeding into it was hearing that we had had a tragedy in the extended family. My ex-husband's cousin was murdered in a murder-suicide a week ago Saturday (9/13) just north of Aiken, MN. I remember her being this little lost waif of a teen, last seen by me at her Mom's funeral many years before. She was 32 when she died; her and another man were shot and killed by a second man who was jealous of their "relationship;" he then turned the gun on himself. She was laid to rest this week, and had I been in MN I would have attended the funeral to support the family. Sometimes it's hard being so far away!


Adding into my being homesick was the fact that I was hormonal, getting over being sick, housebound because of the stupid plates/tab situation, and, I was lonely being home alone all day. I had the cold from hell and worried it was becoming bronchitis, but just as I was about to give up on feeling better, it turned the corner and I did. I was very grateful to Brie because she took me on a much needed outing last Thursday: we went to Edwardsville to their local knitting shop, then wandered down the road to their quilt shop, grabbed ice tea on the way back to the car, and she gave me a tour of SIUE's campus. I needed knitting needles in a particular size that I couldn't find in what stash I could locate, as I was starting a sweater for the baby, and I just needed to get out of the house some and restore my spirit. We had a wonderful and productive afternoon, and I really enjoyed her company. On our way home we were treated to the sight of some fighter jets running through some skilled maneuvers, and it turns out the Air Force's elite Thunderbirds did a flyby salute to Mascoutah High's JR. Airforce ROTC program by showing off for an assembly at the high school. Bingo came home thrilled beyond belief over it, although many of our neighbors laugh at us for being "tourists" because they are far more blase over it... I'm not sure I will ever get over the thrill of watching the power and majesty of those planes in motion!


Friday Brie, Cliff, Rei, and Aurora went to the mall to look at dresses for homecoming (the dance is Saturday night). Aurora needs a dress, Brie was just trying them on for fun. Patrick was at a friend's for the evening, so Eric and I went out on a "date," our first since we went out for breakfast the first day of school. We went to "El Sombrero," a Mexican restaurant in town. The food was fantastic, but the strawberry margarita, which I had been craving, really sucked. It was plum colored, and the strawberry mix tasted like the strawberries had gone bad, with a horrid chemical aftertaste. I switched over to Corona, and I think I will avoid margaritas there (Spike's "regular" margarita was the color of lime kool-aid and it too wasn't very good). We had a wonderful evening just "being" and we celebrated his first pay check (I am both happy AND sad to say it was significantly higher than my paycheck used to be after 16 years of employment in one place!). We also talked about the joys and struggles of trying to blend our families, and we concluded that it is well worth the effort!

Saturday we woke up to rain and drizzle. Aurora had a cross country meet, Brie had to work, and Eric had school, so Patrick, Rei, and I decided to go to the airshow at the airforce base. The weather had dissuaded many folks from attending, which we didn't mind at all: it allowed us the opportunity to really enjoy getting on and off of the planes we could explore at our leisure, and it was neither too hot nor too cold. Yes, it was a bit damp, but as the day warmed up, the rain abated making a very pleasant afternoon. Here are some pics from the airshow:







Here also are a couple of videos that Rei took of the Thunderbirds in action:

videoThis is the Thunderbird's salute to military families.

videoThis is the Thunderbirds in their traditional formation.

The boys were enamoured with the stunt plane from Lucas Oil, a pilot based in Minneapolis who was just crazy, and they also really enjoyed the semi that was there from Sony with the PS3 games to try out. I "lost" both boys there for extended periods of time while I sat in the lost and found area so they could "find" me when they were done. I should note that I got to enjoy some of the fliers more than just at the airshow: from our front and back yards I had the good fortune of watching them in the air above the house as they practiced maneuvers in the days leading up to the show, as well as their performances on Sunday too... It was quite entertaining!

Unbeknownst to me, Eric had signed us up for a bowling tournament at the base lanes for Saturday night, and we took Rei and Aurora with us to that. Patrick spent the night at a friend's house, and Brie and Cliff went to a concert with friends after she got off work that was an all day/evening event. I had not bowled since last October, so my initial score reflected that: I broke 61! Then I started finding my stride and subsequently bowled 161, 112, and 232. My scores don't reflect my true ablility however, because we were bowling 8 pin-no tap, meaning 8 pins down on the first ball counts as a strike. I'm actually a fairly lousy bowler. Eric did much better than I did (although I actually beat him by 2 pins the last game), and we had a lot of fun. I even won a shirt as a door prize! The kids ate, read books, and hung out with us, and it was a fun evening.

Sunday we kept things lowkey. Brie, Cliff, Rei, and some other friends went to 6-flags for the day, Aurora recouperated from cross country, and Patrick rested up from being the last of us to get the cold from hell (he had the scratchy throat and cough). Eric napped some because he started orienting to overnights last night, and I sat in the front yard, knitted, and enjoyed the planes. We made it a fairly early night for all of us, and today was back to normal: work, school, and chores...

Hmmm. Rei is home from school, and Eric needs to get up soon, so I guess I need to get going on stuff--we still have lots to do today!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adventures in driving....

I am finally feeling half-way human after being sick since Saturday, so I decided today would be a good day to run and get the plates and tabs for the Aerostar (my van). I got the title in the mail late last week and today seemed like a perfect day to go do it. I mapquested my way to the nearest US Bank, so I could get cash to pay for it (I figured $100 would cover it), and followed the directions to get there.... Hmmmmm, no bank visible where I thought it might be! I did, however, see a Schnuck's grocery store, and I remembered being told some of them have branch offices in them, so I turned around and drove back to the store. Sure enough, that was where the bank was--an itty bitty sign on the front of the entrance told me I was in the right place. Got money: check. Next I checked my handy dandy map to find the Department of Motor Vehicles. I missed the street I was looking for, but knew E. Main was coming up, and Spike and I had used that to get there before, so I followed E. Main. Only to discover I could have stayed on the road I had been on and it would have been more direct to get there. Once at the DMV I pulled out all my paperwork, was pleased to see that the line was exceedingly short compared to the past 2 times I have been there, and I presented my paperwork to the woman at the desk. She told me I was still missing a vital piece of paper, without which they couldn't process the title transfer to IL or give me valid plates and tabs... My duplicate title stated I still had a lien on the vehicle from when I bought it and I needed proof the lien had been released! Oh, and it would cost $143 for the priviledge of having my van in IL. GRRRrrrrr! I didn't know the lien was still listed on the title, nor do I know off the top of my head where the lien release/paid statement is from when I paid the van off--it's in one of my files "somewhere"... So I called UAC when I got home and they will mail me a copy of the lien release. Maybe next week I can get the plates and tabs. I can only wonder what else they are gonna need from me: A note from my Mother maybe???

After being frustrated over this, I decided to go a yarn shop I found listed in the yellow pages that was near by. I again consulted my handy map, drove carefully around, and found that the yarn shop is in a private home. There was a sign for 2 businesses in the yard, but I elected not to go in without calling first (I believe this is the shop that has knitting machines in it) because there were no business hours listed. Really, I was looking for 2 things. Some yarn to make a baby sweater out of for my 1 year old granddaughter, and a pattern to make a sweater for her big brother. Plan B became my next option, and I headed to Barnes and Nobles bookstore. I needed to buy a Bible for Bingo as he starts confirmation classes tonight, and I thought I could look for a pattern there amongst the magazines or books. Found the Bible easily, but no luck with patterns... On to plan C: going to Michael's... Got on and off the freeway (I was now in familiar territory!) and browsed at Micheals for about a 20 mins. I got some pretty yarn for the baby's sweater ($6.00 worth to make a handmade sweater), but no luck finding a pattern I liked for my little man. I guess that will have to wait until I can either get to a real yarn shop, OR I find where my knitting pattern books are packed and I pick something out of there.

Frustrated again, I made my way home. I am pleased to say that I didn't get too terribly lost, although I overshot my stops/turns twice and had to double back, and, I feel like I have a little better a handle on where exactly I am in relation to other parts of the community. I guess it has been a productive day after all.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just wanted to share my progress on a counted cross stitch piece:

I have been working on this cross stitch piece since the beginning of February, 2008. Not daily, but in continuous blocks of time. It is done on hand dyed cotton fabric (jubilee cloth, 28 count), using all silk threads (some of which are hand dyed as well, with subtle varigations in color), and tiny glass seed beads from Japan (delicas). There will eventually be some crystals added to it at the end (Svarovski). I won't even think about telling you the money I have invested into this project so far, from buying the materials a little at a time, to purchasing a specific stand to hold it up on so that it is easier to work on. I even had Spike make me the scroll rods so I had enough length to hold it taut with a good working area! So yeah, lots of time and money invested into this work of art. It's called "Misty Morning Vineyard" designed by Martina Weber, of Chatelaine designs. It is a part of her "Garden Mandalas" series. The final size of this project will be 19.5 " square. Just to give you an idea of how much time I have invested into this so far, each cluster of grapes took about 20 minutes to do each; with 9 clusters to a side and 4 sides, I have approximately 12 hours invested just in beading the grapes!



Anyhow, here are the pics:




These are a few different views of how far I am now. The very center is heavily beaded and is supposed to represent both a peacock's tail, as well as looking like a bridge from overhead over a pool of water. Pictures don't adequately reflect how lovely this piece really is, and while I personally wish the center was a bit brighter, the outer tiers will be lacy and flowery bowers, with Peacocks and wrought iron looking gates centering each side, and the blue squares will be filled in with flower baskets.

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This morning I took some of the kids to bowling--our senior had a 220 average for 4 games (I think--it might be slightly lower than that but was over 200 for sure), and Bingo had a 73, 115, and 91 score for his three games. Our youngest girl was at Cross Country running a race, and she seemed pleased with how she did, but I didn't ask her how her time was (bad mom-type person!)... I am fussing with the cold/virus that the family had last week--sore throat, sneeezing, body aches, upset stomache--so I am medicated and laying down right now, which is my justification for being kinda out of it. Spike just called to say his homework load is gonna be major this term (what a great example for the kids!) and he is feeling a bit overwhelmed. He should be home in a bit, and we are supposed to be going over to our friend's house for an end of the season cookout. As a side note, we went out with them last night to a bar called "Cutters" and saw a band called "The Well Hungarians" who were very good/highly entertaining. This is high praise from me because they play mostly country with a little rock thrown in for good measure. What I liked about them is they were first and foremost fantastic musicians, with tight harmonies, they did great on their cover songs (did a lot of Eagles, and a wonderful job on Garth Brook's "The Dance"), and their original music was easy to listen to and very professionally presented. I think my favorite song by them was about the "new girlfriend," with the line "what I like best about her is that she's NOT you!." It made me laugh!

Ok, I am gonna try to rest 'til Spike gets home. The kids are downstairs playing video games, and I am enjoying the quiet of my room!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sigh...

I was so excited earlier this week; I had registered to take a class at the Arts and Crafts center on post to learn how to weave using a loom. I submitted my fees, I noted the classes in my planner (as a joke I always say "if it isn't listed in the planner it DOESN'T happen...") And then today I got an email saying the class has been cancelled because not enough people signed up. I was the only student and they needed at least 3. I have a terrible case right now of "restless finger syndrome"--I need a new project to do that will help focus my energy and attention while everyone is gone. Most of my "stash" for making things is packed in boxes in the garage, including pattern books, magazines, needles/yarn/fabrics, and resources, and those boxes have other things piled on top of them. so finding anything is like the proverbial "needle in a haystack". I was looking to this class to satisfy a number of things at once: a way to learn something new, a way to meet some people that share my interests, and, a way to get out of the house that is more productive than spending money (shopping). I guess this time around it isn't meant to be.

Yesterday I got onto AOL yellow pages and looked up yarn and quilt shops in the area, and then mapquested their locations from where I live. IF I were to take a day to go check all of them out I would essentially be making an 80 mile round trip, going to 7 different shops, in 6 different towns (this includes the quilt shop here in Mascoutah that my husband so happily introduced me to on a prior visit here), with a driving time of 2 hours 40 minutes... That does NOT include time browsing at each location, and if I figure in about 20-30 minutes at each stop, that rounds out to around an additional 2 and a half hours, a total of around 5-5.5 hours for a day trip. And it would help me to familiarize myself with the surrounding communities! I think that is perfectly justifiable; Don't you? Spike laughed at me when I shared this logic with him, but said he had no problems with it (isn't he wonderful?!). I could do it while the kids were at school, and still be home when they got home! Maybe someday... (I am still waiting on a duplicate title from the state of MN for my van so I can get it licensed here in IL. Until that happens, my wings are essentially cut and I am left to things within walking distance until Spike gets home from work.)

The kids seem to be doing fine these days. We had had some battles/growing pains over the cats (whose was "stupider", whose was the "interloper" in various rooms) which I think translated at times into "where do I fit now into the pecking order", but currently peace reigns and things seem to be ok. Bingo is struggling with homework--as in "why do I have to do it? It's stupid!"--and we have had a few battles over that, including last night. I've learned that if I just disengage from the power struggle, but stay nearby, he eventually complies, but man, sometimes that is hard to do and I want to wring his neck... I just need to stand firm and show I mean business in the choices he's allowed, and leave the struggle with him. It generally works, and last night was no exception. But it is energy draining and I get tired of it. The oldest of our clan here has decided NOT to attend college classes this term and is just working part time (for the most part). That makes me a bit sad as she has so much potential to be successful, and I know from personal experience how much harder it is to finish school as more and more "grownup responsibilites" take precedence... We are praying hard over this one. Her significant other is also only working the occasional weekend; they together are not walking an easy road towards becoming responsible, self-supporting adults. Spike and I offer what guidance we can, but as I have learned from raising two adults so far, sometimes ya just have to let them learn via experience, and you can't protect them (or rescue them) from their decisions...

The middle two of our clan are doing fairly well at school--keeping up on homework for the most part, participating in cross country, enjoying friends. It's been fun helping proofread some of their writing assignments, and they have been great with helping Bingo when he gets stuck at times. I admit one of the advantages I have seen to being home with the kids is that I am better able to keep up on Bingo's assignments and homework situation--something he is generally NOT appreciating. He threw at me last night that I "never used to care" if he had things done or not--I reminded him I have ALWAYS cared; I just wasn't around to enforce it as I would have liked and I needed to take his word he had done what he was told... GRRRrrrrr! It's so nice to see the kids getting along at the moment, even though I'm not holding my breath on whether it'll last; I know that it's only been a little over a month we've been here and things are still in flux.

Spike started classes this week: a wednesday evening class, a saturday class, and an online class. He was pleased to find out that a number of his military classes translated into course credit for his degree program, which knocks at least a term, if not two, off what he needs to take. And he officially got straight A's for last term. He is also finishing up his second week of orientation at his job; these last few days have been a nice change of pace for him from reading their orientation materials: baton practice, shooting at the gun range, CPR/first aid training. The poor guy is tired when he gets home from work (remember he also has a 45-60 minute commute each way too), so I have tried to be "susie homemaker" and have meals ready etc. for him. He is working so hard, deserves a little spoiling!

I haven't heard a thing on anything I have applied for, but I figure that's pretty standard and I'm not too worried. I'll find something eventually, and I will keep looking too. But that brings me full circle to the disappointment over my class being cancelled: I really need something fun to do to help me pass the time and stimulate my brain. Dishes, laundry, and housework just aren't cutting it right now, and the few projects I do have going aren't fitting the bill either... Sigh.....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple Picking!


On Sunday we decided to go apple picking, after passing by Eckert's General Store, Farm, and Gardening Center and watching the tractors drive by with their loads of folks headed back and forth from the orchards. It was a grey afternoon to start with, but the sun eventually came out while we were there, and it was a beautiful day to be in the orchard.











Despite the numerous amount of people there, we didn't have much of a wait to get onto the trailer, and we were directed to the trees bearing Honeycrisp and Jonathan apples. The honeycrips were what we decided we wanted, after sampling one of each--they were juicy, firm, crisp, and slightly tart. They also were huge! Apparently last year you couldn't find a large apple if you wanted one; this year you couldn't find a small one for anything! The Jonathan apples were a beautiful red color, but were not much in flavor--actually they were rather bland and watery tasting.








They were charging $1.49/lb and each bag was said to hold about 20 lbs each, so we elected to just take three bags and not fill them full. We were also picky about the quality of the fruit we picked because it was the end of the growing season for the 2 types of apples we could pick, and there were many that were split, bruised, or on the ground. It was like a treasure hunt to find the "good ones" and we had fun looking.











These are a sample of the honeycrisps we got--a grand total of about 35lbs worth (and we only ate a few while walking around).






















After we got our apples paid for and run back out to the car, we wandered around their grounds for a bit, looking at ideas for plants for our yard/gardens, sampling their wares in the general store, and of course Bingo couldn't resist showing off his best "monster in the well" impersonation...






It was late afternoon when we got home, and I was too tired to think about doing much with the apples at that point; in fact, Spike was getting over some sort of cold/flu' bug he had on Saturday, and Bingo started coming down with it on Sunday evening, as was our Sophomore and GI Jane, so we kept it a low key night... Monday GI Jane and our sophomore were feeling a bit better, but Bingo was feeling worse, so he was home from school Monday and today (he ran a fever on top of the rest of the symptoms, and it sorta aggravated his asthma). I decided to use today to bake.
I used only 12 apples and ended up with 2 - 9" pies, a 9" apple crisp, and a 9x13" apple crisp. We had part of a pie and the smaller apple crisp for dessert tonight (warmed with vanilla ice cream) and did that hit the spot! I do, however, still have 2 big bags of huge apples left, so I guess there is more baking in the offing. Good thing we have a pot-luck lunch coming up at church on Sunday we will need a dessert for, as well as a cookout on Saturday afternoon we are going to--guess what I will be bringing for our contributions to those meals!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Definitely not in MN anymore...

This morning I had to run to base to get registered with Tricare (medical insurance carrier through the Military), get registered at the base hospital, and, get assigned Bingo and my medical providers. As I ran out to the car I watched 2 eagles fly overhead, circling the fields that surround us. What an impressive sight that is! I wish I had a telephoto lens on my camera to share how majestic it really is! Sure, we had eagles near where we lived in Minneapolis (not far from the Mississippi River), but seeing them here is an almost daily occurance. Then, as I was driving to the base I saw a hawk (falcon?) sitting on the powerline, as cool and collected as can be. They must really be enjoying the after-effects of all the rain we had yesterday--water levels are again high and I am sure their prey got flooded out in places, along with the start of fall migration south of birds that they dine on... Easy pickings! The fields are full of birds these days, although I have no idea what kinds they all are. Then, as I drove home from the post office after finishing my errands on base I watched a squadron of fighter jets scream past overhead, looking like they were headed for the base. That is an impressive site to see as well, and while not as common as eagle sitings, still takes my breath away. That is NOT something I saw back home at all!

I think I am now finally finished with changing over my life to here in IL, except for getting new plates on the van. That will happen once I have the title (either the duplicate or the original--which ever one I come across first!). It is a relief to be on top of things and to be settled in one place, with all id's matching and all records transferred. I have applied for 3 jobs, in three different settings (a hospital, a clinic, and a community outreach program), so hopefully one of them will like me and offer me a position. I will continue to keep looking too--a little every day and I am sure something wonderful will turn up! A friend suggested I check with the local colleges too, which I have on my list to do next. That too could be fun!

I do know I am ready to be doing something more than just housework and sitting... I haven't done as much on my handwork projects as I'd like either, just because I feel guilty doing them when there are still so many boxes to go through! Dang Yankee work ethic anyway! I feel like I need to be contributing to the family income and upkeep in a more tangible way than just being "mom". I AM gonna sign up for couple of classes on base though at the arts and crafts center. I am looking at beginning loom weaving (intro class you make coasters, heeheehee) and intro to spinning, using the spinning wheel, something I have always wanted to know how to do, ever since I saw Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I talked briefly with the director of the building about using their kilns to fire porcelain, but they are having trouble with that right now--I have a few dolls I made that need repairing and firing and would love to use their studio space to do so if I am able to. He referred me to their pottery specialist and I will talk to him next chance I get. Maybe he is aware of a local doll making studio I could sign on at to be able to do that (I need a head on one doll, arms and legs on another, and maybe an arm on the doll still intact--and also still in MN>she somehow hid in Ceesee's room when we were packing up!). I am also gonna enter at least one item in their craft show come October--there are some lovely prizes available and if nothing else, it'll be fun to show off some of my handwork!

Bingo just got home from school so I guess it's time to move on to the next thing. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Job hunting blues

Day three of scanning help wanteds on the internet... On the one hand I really appreciate being able to look at what is available and where on line, and even potentially email my resume off to them, but on the other it takes a bit away from the personal touch, in that there are some jobs I have questions on, and don't want to waste either my time or potential employers' time by just mailing in the resume and hoping for the best... Most are "no phone calls will be taken", or worse, there are no phone numbers even listed; most don't list a salary or salary range, and, many don't indicate clearly what shifts they are looking to hire for. There are some I would be highly qualified for, but they don't indicate what areas (locales) one would be working in (e.g. community outreach workers, family foster care case managers, etc.) where there will obviously be travelling/driving involved, and I don't know this area I live in well at all, let alone St. Louis and it's surrounding suburbs. Now if it were Minneapolis or St. Paul, that would be another story! And with gas prices being what they are, I am not sure if it is a good idea to apply for them or not! (I was telling a girlfriend yesterday that if I did take one of those types of job I would probably need to upgrade my cell phone to a blackberry or something so I have access to mapquest at my fingertips, or some sort of GPS system... another expense I don't need right now, although it would be fun to have...)

I was telling another friend and former co-worker who is also job hunting that this job search feels a lot like being in a beauty pagent or a blind date: you know what you have to offer, but it is a crapshoot if they see it too and want to even give you a chance! There are jobs out there I can do--there is a residential counselor job open at a treatment center that I am fully qualified to do, but it starts at $9 an hour, doesn't require a college degree, let alone my being an internship and final thesis away from a master's degree, but that would be almost insulting to start at after where I have been and what my experience is. And I really don't want to work primarily evenings anymore (or worse, straight overnights, which is what is available for most hospitals too)! I know I got spoiled working on salary as an admin staff: I liked being able to choose what holidays I worked (and I generally worked many of them, taking off the Sunday before them or other days to get a long weekend out of it), and I enjoyed having a quantity of vacation time I could use for travel or being home with the kids. I accept that I need to start at the bottom again, but man, there has to be some compromise in there that utilizes my skills and talents without my having to give up having a life! I don't mind shift work, nor do I mind working every other weekend; I don't even mind working some holidays! I just want to be able to participate in my new life as well as work without sacrificing everything to a job. Bingo had to spend 6 years of my not being home evenings to do things will him, oversee homework on a daily basis, or attend early/midweek functions with him and I don't want to continue that pattern now. I especially want to be here to be a part of my new family's life and not an adjunct to it. And then there are the jobs I *could* do, if I already had my master's degree finished... That would be ideal, but it isn't done yet, so no use crying about it... It will all come in time. I am tenacious that way. And I have only been seriously looking for work since Monday--not worth getting worked up over it yet. There is something out there for me I can do and do well, that will meet the needs of my family. I just have to have faith, and maybe a really good map of the St Louis/IL border area....

Monday, September 1, 2008

Not much for pictures today

just a few short anecdotes...

Spike started bowling with his league on Tuesday night, and I went along with for the ride. While in the alley I got a phone call from a dear friend in CO whom I hadn't spoken to in months, and I went outside to sit on the steps to chat where it was quiet. It was around 9 p.m. and I was engrossed in my conversation when I watched a red fox run past my feet, about 2 feet away from me, across the parking lot. I was dumbfounded! I have never seen a fox outside of a zoo before, and to have one just about run over me blew my mind! They are definitely NOT dog-like, nor cat-like, and when I told Spike he laughed and said there is a family of fox that live on post... Wow! Not something I would have experienced in Minneapolis!

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Today Spike's two youngest had their first cross country meet (I was really surprised it was being held on Labor Day, for it being a school sponsored event) and we had been told it started at 10 a.m. After driving over to the next town, and getting turned around a little, we arrived at the high school in time to see cars leaving the field area and buses pulling away. We got a call from the kids telling us the race was already over (apparently it started at 9 a.m.) and they were on the bus headed back to our high school... We met them just after they got off the bus, and good news: our Senior knocked 3 minutes off of his 3 mile time from last year (and he barely ran at all this summer), and our sophomore knocked almost 6 minutes off of her 3 mile time from last year! Go team!!!!! They were very happy, even though they didn't place this race--it was a personal best for each of them!

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Yesterday at church I had my first opportunity to greet, usher, and pass the collection plate, all brand new roles to me. The Assistant Pastor, a lovely woman, started the service by saying what a wonderful congregation we have: the scheduled reader had moved away so someone else filled in on short notice, and we were called late in the week asking if we would "Greet and Usher" to fill in as well! (I agreed that would be no problem as two of the kids were already scheduled to be servers, and it was a "family day" of service for us there.) I was a little nervous, but Spike coached me through it, and the pastor commented how wonderful it is that so many pitch in and get things done there despite our small size.

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Spike got the mini blinds put up and they look wonderful--but now we need to find some bitter apple or something as MY cats (Batman in particular) like to chew the vinyl and we already have a chewed through slat on our window.... I am NOT happy with him at the moment! They/he has already damaged some slats in the boy's room too... Stoooopid cats!

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For those who follow Everquest, Spike got his 1.5 Epic weapon last night for his Paladin--that was exciting! I am very happy for him cuz now we both have our epics to this point on our main characters....

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Seeing as this is our last day of freedom as a family before Spike starts work tomorrow, I think it is gonna be partially a play day. The kids want to go bowling (and so does Spike) so I am toying with sending them all to the bowling alley while I stay home and make a potato salad--that way we can kinda picinic tonight, and I can maybe play on some of my needlework projects that are calling loudly to me while they are gone! (As much as I love going to the bowling alley, the thought of being home alone for a few hours to do as I please is wonderfully enticing!). The kids were bribed to get all their homework done before we play, so that is out of the way today, and it's just a nice way to end the summer!

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Both Spike and I are making a concerted effort to try and get away from the "my kids/your kids" labelling, although it is hard, because they are "mine/yours" if we are honest... But we are working on calling them all "OURS" and it is fun, if at times a bit confusing, and we are enjoying seeing eyebrows raise as we try to blend it all... I am still trying to figure out pseudonyms for Spike's kids, cuz they apparently don't have any they have used over the years, (pet names or otherwise), but I will keep you posted on it as we figure it out (for use in identifying them here in my blog while maintaining their personal privacy)!

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That's it from where I sit for today! Hope everyone has a safe holiday! And for all of you in Minneapolis, good luck with traffic et al during the Republican National Convention! Should be craziness incarnate up there!