Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas break 2009

Christmas this year took on special significance for our family. Gerrit will soon be graduating from college, marrying Erin, and moving to Houston in the new year, so there's no telling when we'll see them for Christmas again! Tuck is happily adapting to college life at the University of Alabama. And Philip is rapidly approaching driving age. Our little family is steadily sprouting wings and leaving the nest!

So, we wanted to make the most of the time we had together. For Dave that implied more than just family dinners and board games, though. Not being sure when he'd have all of his home-grown man-power together again, he decided it was time to purge the garage, the attic, and just about everything else that wasn't tied down. We hired a construction-sized dumpster and started throwing away the accumulated junk from 14 years living in the same house. After three days we had just about filled a 30 cubic yard container. The fact that we had that much junk was more than a little embarrassing, but the sense of relief we felt when the truck came to haul it away was wonderful!

Having completed our "big chore" for the week, we set our minds to more entertaining pursuits, like making graham cracker houses! As anyone who knows us will suspect, it turned into quite the competition. We split into four teams of two: Karen with our visiting friend Carolyn, Dave with Philip, Gerrit and Erin, and Tuck and Morgan. The results were quite impressive, and each team claimed victory for one reason or another, though Dave is sure that his "architecturally correct" recreation of Notre Dame cathedral (complete with flying buttresses!) stole the show :-)

On Christmas day we packed up our rented Expedition and took to the road to go see Dave's parents in Charleston. We normally get a chance to see them with the extended family in Lexington at Thanksgiving, but since it hadn't worked out this year, heading to Charleston seemed the logical thing to do.

Since Erin hadn't been to Charleston before, we had the perfect excuse to tour the city again. After driving around the city and seeing the sites, Erin and Gerrit took the historic carriage tour while the rest of us strolled through the market.

Dave's folks rolled out the red carpet for us, continually offering their hospitality in the form of more food than an army could possibly eat. The conversation was great, fueled by collections of letters Dave's mom had saved through the years, and by Grandad's reminiscences from his thirty years in the Navy.

One particularly special evening, the guys all bundled up and sat out on the back deck, puffing on cigars that Gerrit had given Tucker for his 19th birthday, and listening to Grandad tell some pretty amazing stories. No one seemed to notice the cold until we'd been out there for hours.

Eventually though, we had to pack up and make the long drive back to Huntsville, then turn our minds back toward school, work, and our regular lives. But the holiday gave us one last thrill by dumping snow on Huntsville just as school was resuming, giving us an unexpected additional holiday as schools and roads were closed for the next couple of days.


Saturday, July 11, 2009


It all started with the oven door.

After fourteen years in the same house we had gotten used to a lot of the little quirks that made this 35 year-old house our home, and one of them was the fact that the oven door had begun to stick on occaision. It wasn't all the time, but when it did you had to know how to hold it to get it closed again. Then Dave's mom came to visit, and since her heart wasn't warmed by our house's little heart-warming quirks, she left us money for a new oven.

After a while we started checking out the local home improvement stores to see what might be available. The news wasn't good. You see, our oven was a 28 inch wide slide-in model, and it seems that sometime after the seventies the appliance industry had decided that 32 inch widths were the new standard. Trouble was, the space in our cabinets where the oven fit was only 28 inches wide.

So, in order to change ovens, we'd have to have someone work on the cabinets. If they were going to put a bigger hole in the cabinets, we'd probably have to have the counter tops redone. As long as we were redoing the cabinets, we might as well redo the hardware. And since we were getting a new oven, we should probably go ahead and replace the fridge and dishwasher so they matched. Oh yes, and a new stove hood. And since we were changing counter tops and updating the cabinets, we should probably pull down the old wall paper and repaint. Except for the back splash area - maybe something in stone would look good there...

Once we settled on a contractor and he got started on the kitchen, we began to think about the upstairs bathroom. I mean, the contractor was here anyway, so maybe we should just go ahead and do it all at the same time, right?

We saved a few pennies by doing some of the demolition work ourselves. Tearing out the old tile using a pick ax was a TREAT! Philip also scraped off all the old "cottage cheese" ceiling. That wasn't nearly so much fun.

By the time the last domino fell, we had redone the kitchen, living room, dining room, hallways, stairwell, and our master bedroom.

All because the oven door stuck.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Annabelle joins the family

Sometime early this year it became evident to all of us that our faithful dog Maggie was starting to show some signs of wear. She was greying around the edges, and her persistent skin tumors seemed to be multiplying at a faster and faster rate. Sensing an opportunity, the boys began making the argument that we should get a NEW dog now, while Maggie was still able to help train it, rather than wait until after she's gone. Their pleas were met mostly with skepticism that such an idea was even valid, and coupled with memories of what it's like to raise a new puppy, the whole thing didn't really gain much traction.

Until Karen started "harmlessly" looking to see if there were any pups available in the area...

And what do you know, she found a litter not far from our house! What could it hurt to just go take a look?

As everyone knows, it is humanly impossible to see brand new Labrador puppies without taking one home. It's written into the fabric of the universe, or our genetic code, or something. So, we made our pick, determined that she should be named Annabelle, and brought her home.

The next few days were spent acquiring a new kennel, new collar, new leash, new dog bowl, and all the other paraphernalia that go with having another dog. Miraculously, Annie did indeed follow Maggie's lead, and she was housebroken practically without incident. Being inveterate fans of "The Dog Whisperer", we complimented Maggie's training regimen with tips and tricks we'd seen on the show, to include making sure Annie got LOTS of exercise. When taking her for constant walks around the block proved to be impractical, Karen found a treadmill cheap and trained both dogs to walk on it. And so, a daily routine was born: wake up, let the dogs out, run them on the treadmill, and then feed them.

Feed them a LOT.

One other law of Physics relating to puppies is that they GROW. Startling so. Before you know it, they're gangly teenagers, eating you out of house and home. It didn't help any that our vet literally gasped at the size of Annie's paws during one visit, proclaiming that this dog was going to be HUGE! Great.

And teenagers do tend to push the boundaries a bit. While Annie fell right into line with Maggie in her respect for the boundaries INSIDE the house, she tended to feel released from all inhibitions when OUTSIDE. While most of her attention seemed to be focused on sticks of various sizes, she also found time to extract and completely dismantle the drain pipe from the sump pump under the house. The subsequent cycle of repair and re-dismantling went several iterations before Dave constructed a fortress of chicken wire and concrete blocks to protect the pipe. So far so good.

Annie also managed at some point to "get acquainted" with a nest of wasps, which led to some rather comical swelling and a trip to the vet, though it produced no discernible lack of enthusiasm on Annie's part. The swelling took a couple of days to go down and she was none the worse for the wear.

Since then, Annie has continued to grow up and grow more accustomed to being a part of our family. She and Maggie get along well, though Maggie clearly feels her hold on the "top dog" slot slipping as time goes by. And you can tell by the picture below that Annabelle feels that she is now the queen of all she surveys...