Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Today was a busy day. I had a bunch of errands to run this morning and a dozen pumpkins to deal with before nightfall.

After the boys got on the bus Max, Rebecca and I headed back to the house. As the dynamic duo entertained them selves I paid bills and gathered the recyclables together to drop off at the curb. Once I was done we first went to supermarket where Max and Rebecca scored some lollipops. Then we went to the bank, where we got more lollipops. Our last stop was the Post Office, where there were no lollipops (a good thing in my eyes a very sad thing for the under 5 set). Then we headed home for some sort of lunch that did not involve candy.

After lunch I finally sat down and cleaned out our 12 pumpkins. Yes, that’s right, 12 pumpkins. I love Halloween and I love carving pumpkins. This is the only holiday that I do any decorating and I go whole hog. I am however not a complete nut and the kids are encouraged to design the pumpkins. Before the boys headed to school I had all four pick out three pumpkins apiece. I would clean out the pumpkins during the day; help Max and Rebecca with their pumpkins and then aid Nate and Jake when they get home from school.

Once the pumpkins were all clean and ready to be carved we headed out on a dump run. I really need to get rid of our garbage and our pile of cardboard was getting out of control. I could do curbside recycling of the cardboard, but then I would have to cut it all up. It is much easier to flatten it and take it to the dump. Max and Rebecca were more than happy to go along since the dump always results in lollipops. On the way home Rebecca fell asleep in the car.

Back home I placed Rebecca on the sofa. I then headed outside to string the pumpkin lights along our front walkway. When they were all plugged in I went back inside. Max and I then settled at the table and he directed me on how to carve the pumpkins. One of his pumpkins was unable to stand upright so we improvised and carved it with the pumpkin lying on its side. It was a nice quiet moment with the two of us working on a project together. Then it was Rebecca’s turn. I tried rousing her from her nap, but I wasn’t very successful. She was only half awake and she was not interested in pumpkin carving. So I decided that I would carve two without her input, I would save the third one for when she was a bit more alert. Just as I had finished the second pumpkin it was time to meet the boys at the bus stop.

Jake and Nate were very excited. As an added bonus they had no homework, a sensible decision from their respective teachers. I first corralled Jake and gave him a sharpie to draw his designs on his pumpkins. I then headed up to the attic to fetch out pumpkin cutters set. Pumpkin cutters are essentially like cookie cutters, but using traditional pumpkin carving shapes. They are much safer than knives and Nate loves whacking on them with the world’s smelliest rubber mallet (it came with the kit and it reeks). I then alternated with Jake and Nate, either carving or steadying the pumpkins. We were done in short order and took all of the carved pumpkins outside to the front of the house.

At this point I tried to awaken Rebecca again and I was much more successful. She was much more alert and was willing to help with the carving of the final pumpkin. After a small discussion we settled on a kitty cat. If you click on the picture of Jake below it will take you to a whole set of photos of the kids and each of their pumpkins.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Next is a picture of the front of the house with the pumpkin lights on and the pumpkins all lit. If you look carefully (click the picture then “all sizes”) at the second floor window with a light in it, you can just make out a white blob that is Eek the fish.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Then it was time to make dinner. It was a quick affair of hot dogs for the kids and steak kabobs for the adults. Finally it was trick or treat time. This year I ended up taking the kids and Larry manned the candy bowl at home. It was perfect weather, the velvet black sky was filled with brilliant stars and not a single cloud to obscure them from sight. With glow sticks and buckets in hand we headed out with our wagon. We went to a fair number of houses and Max, Rebecca and Nate alternated between walking and riding in the wagon. It was a very happy crowd when we headed back home.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Funeral for a Fish

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Last weekend I had to do something about one of our goldfish. For the past five years we have had two goldfish that we inherited when our friends down the street moved. One fish is a Red-Capped Orada (bottom picture) that was renamed Eek and the other was a Calico, renamed Cart, that later turned pure white. They were normal sized goldfish when we first got them. Since then they have grown enormously. Their bodies alone are the size of a little league baseball. I had positioned their tank in front of one of the windows in Jake and Nate’s room and you can actually see them when standing outside and looking up at the their second floor window.

Cart had always been the more sensitive of the two fish. When we were without power for several days post hurricane Isabel, Cart was the first one to feel the affects of low oxygen levels (the tanks pump wasn’t working, so the tank was no longer getting re-oxygenated). Cart would listlessly float about the tank until I manually agitated the water. After the first day I tracked down a battery operated pump and Cart slowly recovered.

For about a week Cart had been floating oddly in the tank sometimes sideways and occasionally upside-down. In the end Cart settled on the bottom of the tank, lying on his side jammed in the corner. At first I keep freeing Cart, but I knew my handling of him was just furthering his stress. He was still eating, but his quality of life was close to nil. It did not look like Cart was going to get any better.

I ended up having some very serious conversions with Jake and Nate over what would be best for Cart. I broached the subject with Jake first, when I was alone with him in the car. I knew he would need more time than Nate to come to terms with the whole idea of euthanizing Cart. He was very upset at first, but he did agree with me that now life was not much fun for Cart. With Nate I waited for a moment when everybody else was outside. He too was upset, but he quickly understood what needed to be done. I had to talk to the boys about what I was going to do, because I will not lie to them and say Cart just died. It would not be right. That Sunday I brought an end to Cart’s suffering.

So for the past week I have had a fish in the freezer. Between soccer, rain and homework we have been too busy for Cart’s final arrangements. The first time I opened the freezer door I was unnerved by the site of the frozen fish staring at me. Subsequent times I was less and less startled by it. Finally on Saturday it was clear and dry and I decided it was time. I wrapped Cart (still in his baggy) in tissue and placed him in an old check box. We went to the edge of our property and chose a spot for him. Max and Rebecca came along with Jake, Nate and I. Up until this point Max and Rebecca had been unaware of what was going on. I carefully explained to them that Cart was dead and we were going to bury him. They were fine until I placed the box in the hole. Rebecca promptly burst into tears and pleaded with me not to bury him. Max meanwhile kept asking me if there was more water down there and would it make him better. In the end Rebecca got over it, but I really don’t think Max grasped the whole concept of death. I really dread the day when we lose one of our dogs.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fairy Tale Parade

Today Nate’s class had its Fairy Tale Parade. All of the first graders were ask to select their favorite fairy tale character and bring a simple costume to wear this afternoon at school.

After a great deal of thought Nate settled on the Baby Bear from Dusty Locks and the Three Bears. On the sheet provided he drew a nice picture of a bear and finished the statement “The character I choose is baby bear. I want to be this character because he is funny and he has the best lines in Dusty Locks and the three Bears.” All that was left was the costume. We ended up getting a new oatmeal color sweater last night and a brown hat. My idea was that I could attach little ears to the hat and we could use some Halloween make up on his face to make him look a bit more ursine. When we got home I remembered that Max and Rebecca had some very cute teddy bear hats from when they were younger. After some digging I found one and wonder of wonders I could jam it on his head. The costume was complete.

The parade was scheduled for 2:00 pm and I showed up with Max and Rebecca in tow. Here is Nate as his class wound its way through the school.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

From left to right we have:
The Gingerbread man, the Fairy Godmother, Nate, Cinderella (before), Rapunzel and the sleeve of Cinderella (after).

After the parade each child sat in the story chair and described who they were and why. There were numerous Cinderellas, two Fairy Godmothers, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Puss in Boots and a slew of others. The Puss in Boots was very interesting. When the boy was asked from what fairytale did the character come from he replied Shrek. It was not completely unexpected answer, but not quite keeping with the book idea. Well, at least it’s a good movie.

When it was Nate’s turn he gave me a little surprise. He told the class that he was the Wolf and he picked the Wolf because he likes wolves. So much for his original choice of being Baby Bear, it turns out his teacher thought he was a wolf when she first saw him. Nate liked that idea so much he switched over to being a wolf instead.

Then we all had cupcakes and cookies for snack.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday Three: Weather!

Oh, sure--laugh at the weather guy get blowed away real good…
But don’t tell me YOU’VE never done stuff just as dumb!
Boy, I sure hope you have.
BECAUSE, today just happens to be Thursday, and after a long e-mail exchange with the always engaging, self-proclaimed weather junkie Sarah G., she just happened to hit upon an idea for a certain every-Thursday game we play around here. After witnessing Mr. Al Roker’s foolhardiness and subsequent fall-down-go-boomage during the late passing of Hurricane Wilma, Sarah said: “The Thursday Three should be about the most idiotic things you have done in bad weather.”NOT BEING ONE TO TURN DOWN A REQUEST FROM A BRUNETTE WITH FOUR CHILDREN--we herewith offer you
The Axis of Weevil “Great Big Moron Against the Elements” Edition of the Thursday Three!
[polite applause]
Now then, we want you to name the THREE most idiotic things you’ve ever done to prove yourself against the forces of Mother Nature. This doesn’t have to be just weather, though, even though Sarah would probably like it that way, but can be any of the forces of Nature--gravity, weather, earthquakes, electromagnetism…

Why thank you Terry. Now on to my own personal moments of weather related brilliance. For some reason they are all car related. I guess getting behind the wheel of a car somehow grants me greater self confidence in my abilities than they really merit. I will note however two occurred during college and shortly afterwards, so age may have been a factor.

  1. Driving home for Thanksgiving in a snowstorm. Sounds relatively innocent, but you have to realize that I was driving from Connecticut to Vermont right along with the storm. The truly brilliant part was that I was driving my Super Beetle, a car notorious for no heat and essentially no defrost for the front windshield (all it could do was generate two half dollar sized clear spots). I remember the car effortlessly plowing through the few small drifts of snow in the underclassmen parking lot and chuckling at the more expensive cars trapped within those same drifts. Connecticut and the first half of Massachusetts were not too bad. The snow was getting heavier, but it was doable, then I hit the leading edge of the storm. It was a wet slushy mix falling from the sky and sticking to the windshield. My wiper blades could just barely keep up until a truck would pass me. A great spray of muck would be slapped against my windshield; freeze and I would be almost blinded. I would then pull over and scrape the window and then drive on. I don’t know why I didn’t pull over and call home. My mom would have happily come down to rescue me. I had a phone card and there were plenty of exits. In the end I did make it home in one piece.

  2. My next incident happened when I was living in Wisconsin, but before Larry and I got married. It was wintertime, almost spring and a Friday night. The roads were slippery with isolated patches of ice. I had gone out to meet some friends in a bar. The drive was fine until I reached the restaurant where the bar was located. To get to the bar you had to turn into a largish parking lot travel down a small dip and up a short but steep hill to the bar’s section of the lot. The hill was a sheet of ice. The first time I got a third of the way up it until my car slid back down. I kept gunning the car up the hill until I made it. The lot was nearly empty so I was never in actual danger of hitting another car, but it was still stupid. I should have parked in the lower section and walked up. I guess it was a little bit fun and a challenge to my driving abilities.

  3. My third weather related stupidity also occurred in Wisconsin, but after Larry and I had married and I was pregnant with our first child. The Midwest was experiencing an extreme cold snap. For a week the highs never climbed above -20 (that’s right 20 degrees BELOW zero) and the lows hovered around 40 below. As a result AAA was slammed and it was almost impossible to get a tow or a jumpstart. We were fortunate in that one of our cars would still start in the extreme cold. One night had gone out to dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We found a parking spot just outside of the restaurant, but we had to park ontop of some large lumps of ice/snow. When we were done with dinner went outside to discover our car’s left front tire was flat as a pancake. We tried calling AAA and we could get was a busy signal. So we decided to change the tire ourselves (remember it was extremely cold and dark, not the best situation to change a tire and I was quite pregnant and somewhat useless). We got the car jacked up and the lug nuts off, but the tire was frozen onto the car. We could not get it off. I called the police for assistance, but no luck. For some strange reason I was convinced that the restaurant had a sledge hammer and I went inside to ask if they had one and if we could borrow it. I went in and the owner was right there so I asked him. He then stared at me for a few seconds and then said yes we could. Talk about luck! It was amazing he had one and even more so that he loaned it to us. I think that I was a harmless looking and obviously pregnant aided my case. With a couple of mighty whacks to the tire Larry got it off and put on the spare. I then returned the sledge hammer with profuse thanks. We should have paid for a nice level space in a parking garage or gotten a friend to take us home. We were lucky that it all worked out and that we did not get frost bitten.

Can I Fix It?

Yes I can!

Last week the flush lever to the upstairs’ toilet broke off. Since then we have resorted to a piece of string.

See the sad busted lever and the pathetic piece of string?

As I stood surveying my options at Lowe’s I decided to go whole hog and replace everything in the tank. It had been making a god awful racket when it was refilling and I was pretty sure that in its 17 years nothing had been replaced in the tank. I figured it was only a matter of time before other parts failed and it would be nice to only have to empty the tank once. Ironically that night while surfing the web I discovered that October is National Toilet Repair Month. Obviously I was fated to do this home repair project. Once home I realized I forgot to get a new lever, thus delaying the project for a few more days.

Last night, after the kids were put to bed I gathered my supplies and started in on my project. Having replaced a fill valve before, I understood the importance of a bucket and a sponge. Off went the water and I did a final flush with the piece of string. The fill valve was a snap and was easy to unscrew. The tank bolts were a bit more problematic. After five minutes spinning a nut and its screw I finally realized that I needed to use my screwdriver and the vise grips at the same time (Duh). Then it was just a few minutes later that I got to lift off the tank. I was then confronted with the flush valve in all its plastic glory. I attempted to unscrew it and it snapped right off. The monstrous fastener on the underside was too big for my pliers and I couldn’t get a decent grip on it. While messing about with my screwdriver I discovered that the plastic was very brittle and chipped easily. Ah-ha! I’ll just break it out. It was busted and I was going to chuck so it was a good solution. With careful use of my pliers I got it out without harming the tank. I quickly wiped out the tank and here it is in all its empty glory.

Now for the fun part, I get to put it all back together. It actually went pretty well. It was much better (and faster) than if I had any of my assistants with me. I ended up putting the tank back on three times. The first time as I was halfway done with the screws when I realized I forgot to put a gasket on. The second time I decided that I needed to reposition the flush valve. The third time was the charm. Fortunately I realized beforehand it would be easier to put the new fittings on the supply line before all of my tank shenanigans. The rest went very smoothly and I had it all together in short order. Then it was time to put it to the test. I opened up the supply valve and... No leaks! Hooray! Then I did the inaugural flush and it worked! As an added bonus the horrible sound is gone.

Here it is with its shiny, shiny handle.

Now all it needs is a new seat. But that can wait for another day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It Pays To Be Cute

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Years ago when we had just Jake we would occasionally go out to eat as a family. Jake was always very cute and a big hit with the waitstaff. Inevitably he would end up with a cookie or a piece of candy by the end of the meal. When we had Nate the cuteness quotient doubled. There was a diner we would go to when we were living in PA and they would give the boys little stuffed animals (pretty neat considering Nate was only a few months old). Now with four children in tow we don’t get as many treats as when we had just two. However, when I’m out with just Max and Rebecca they do score some tasty items.

Today I went to Costco with the dynamic duo. Whenever we go to Costco we stop at the bakery to watch the Cake Decorating Lady. It is fascinating watching her manipulate the huge tubs of frosting and effortlessly frost the sheet cakes. Today she was making roses for two cakes as the person who ordered them also watched. I chatted with the other customer and we agreed that we were very impressed with the Lady’s rose making skills. I confessed that every time we come to Costco we have to stop and watch. Max and Rebecca are huge fans of the bakery staff in general and the CDL in particular. When the cakes were done they were sent through the plastic wrap machine, a very cool thing to watch by the way, and the other customer went away with her two cakes.

As we were preparing to leave the CDL asked us to wait one moment, she wanted to give us something. She then proceeded to make Max and Rebecca their very own roses. The finished roses were placed into to muffin papers and leaves were then added. When she was all done she presented her creations to us and said these were for her biggest fans. Max and Rebecca’s faces lit up. I was amazed at her kindness and generosity. The CDL got big smiles, profuse thank yous and a cheery wave as we moved on.

So for lunch today Max and Rebecca had a banana, some frosting, a little soup and a sandwich. Cuteness has its advantages.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Man vs Hurricane

Found this rather amusing series of photos of Al Roker vs Wilma.

If you are running Windows Media Player 9 and Internet Explorer you can see the accompanying video.

How Do I Love My Pediatricians...

Let me Count The Ways.

I have two more reasons to love the pediatric practice we use.

Last Monday I hauled Nate in to be checked out. He had been dragging around for over a week and had developed a nasty cough. The Doctor quickly determined it was strep based on his cough and the rawness of Nate’s throat. I was surprised, but not shocked. This time he did not have the classic lethargy or high fever, but it did fit in with the rest of the symptoms. The Doctor then told me that he decided to forgo the throat swab since Nate had a double ear infection (I would like to note here that Nate almost never complains of a sore throat or his ears hurting, he is a tough little guy. However, this makes my job much harder to tell if he is ailing or not.) The Doctor saw no sense in torturing the child any further since the antibiotics for his ear infection would knock out strep as well. I liked his sensible approach.

Today I had to bring Jake in for a recheck and to get him cleared for school. On Saturday the walk-in clinic performed a blood count and his white blood cell count was a bit more elevated that the Doctor expected. He wanted us to check base with Jake’s regular physician on Monday to make sure that he was getting better. Jake after two days of antibiotics was much improved and was, in my opinion, ready for school. Today’s Doctor agreed and sent us on our way. The nice thing was since this was a recheck we were not charged for the visit. I thought this was outstanding since the original examination was at another practice.

I really love our pediatricians. It is a group practice and I haven’t met a dud yet. They are sensible people that practice good medicine. Another plus is that they treat me as a rational and intelligent person, a nice break from some Doctors that I have dealt with in the past.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Apparently I Took The Wrong Child To The Doctor

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

On Friday Max was grumpy and difficult; it was a relief when he settled down for a nap at 3:45 pm. He slept until 5:00 when we briefly awoke, ate a few crackers, wrapped himself in his blankie and then curled up on the sofa to sleep some more. At dinner time (about 6:40) we let him sleep. Larry and I decided that when Max did awake I would feed him and then take him to the walk in clinic not far from our house. At 7:00 Max came to the dinner table to join us. He was pleasant and very chatty.

After dinner I stuck with our original plan and took Max to the doctor. He hasn’t taken a three hour nap in over a year and he was a little grumpus earlier in the day, a good indication of a cold. That and big brother Nate was diagnosed with strep throat last Monday.

Amazingly we were back home in under an hour. They did a strep test and it was negative, but with Nate being sick and the fact that Max has CF we felt it was prudent for Max to go on antibiotics. Max talked a blue streak the entire time and I was exhausted when we got home.

That night I was up every two hours. Max was fine, but Jake was a wreck. He came to our room in tears at 2:00 am. He felt wretched and he could not sleep. I was not keen on giving him anything because he has a history of vomiting whenever he gets in such a state and almost anything could set him off. I told him to go sleep on the chaise and went back to bed. Sleep, however, was not possible. Jake kept moaning and groaning on the bed. I finally told him he had to go back to his room because I couldn’t sleep for all his noise. He promptly burst in to tears and with great wracking sobs he promised to be quieter. I held firm and escorted him back to his room. I explained to him that it was better for everybody if I got some sleep. All the while I felt horrible for what I was doing, but I had to do it. I tucked him into bed and staggered back to my now peaceful bedroom.

Fifteen minutes later I was startled by thudding footsteps and the light in my bathroom snapping on. Larry was still by my side so I called out “What are you doing?”

Nate, sensibly enough, replied “Going to the bathroom.”

“Why are you using this bathroom?”

“I don’t know, something woke me up.”

At that point I realized that Jake had woken Nate up. Poor Nate, sleepy and confused, had come to us and remembered that he was not allowed on our bed unless he goes to the bathroom first.

A few minutes later he was Larry’s side ready to crawl into our bed. Normally Larry is so sleepy he lets Nate in, however this night Larry was wide awake. Together we told Nate to go back to his own bed.

At 4:30 am we got a repeat appearance from Jake. Again he was in tears. This time we both told him to go back to bed. He was even louder than before in his protestations. In fact he even woke up one of the dogs. After I led him back to bed I could hear Rally softly moaning in her crate. As I lay in bed I desperately prayed that Rally would go back to sleep. I really did not want to go downstairs and let the dogs outside. After about ten minutes Rally gave up and went back to sleep.

At 7:00 am we then had to drag ourselves out of bed. Nate had a 9:00 am soccer game. Jake had a game too, but he was feverish and in no shape to play soccer. I would take Jake to see the Doctor after Nate and Larry returned from soccer.

All throughout this Max slept like a little brick.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Geese and Cake

Yesterday I went to lunch with Meryl. The forecast called for a chance of rain with the incoming cold front so we planned to dine in the cafeteria. Max and Rebecca have been there once before and were well behaved.

The day itself turned out to be one of these brilliantly sunny days of fall. There was a nice crispness to the air and a few tiny wisps of clouds way up high in the sky. I packed lunches for the three of us and I even brought some cake to share with Meryl. It would have been a nice day to have a picnic outside, but Meryl had planned to buy her lunch and the little park has a goose problem. In other words the grass is littered with lovely little goose turds. Speakers have been set up to scare away the Canada Geese with a horrible honking cry at lets loose throughout the day, but they had them off for a while and the geese came back.

Meryl met me at the desk and was there when I signed in and collected my visitor’s badge. Then we moved on to the cafeteria. We had just sat down when I remembered that I had left Max’s applesauce in the car. One of the most common side effects of CF is the inability to digest most foods. He has no problem with fruit and lollipops, but with everything else he needs his enzymes. He needs applesauce in order to take his enzymes when he eats (small children are not able to swallow pills; we break open the capsules and sprinkle the contents on a spoonful of applesauce). I went back into the cafeteria, but no dice. I could go back to the car and fetch it, but it would be difficult to get back in without Meryl. I turned to Max and asked him if it would be ok to use ketchup instead of applesauce. I think he understood our dilemma and agreed. The funny part was his little speech to me of how he was going to tell me to bring the applesauce from the car when we were going in. He is such a trooper. When we were all done with lunch I pulled out the cake. Max and Rebecca politely declined. If it wasn’t their birthday cake, they were not interested. That and I think they were full. Meryl and I, however, enjoyed our slices.

I swear this is the last cake we will have until November, and then I have Nate’s and Meryl’s birthdays to celebrate. This cake was made from left over batter from Rebecca’s birthday cake. I used 7 inch pans for the twin’s cakes and only used 2/3 of the batter for each cake. Then I had a choice either toss the batter (horrors!) or bake little 6 inch cakes. I immediately froze the mini orange cake (a cake, when tightly wrapped, can be frozen for 1-3 months). This left me the miniature yellow cake. I still had some leftover Italian buttercream from my brother’s anniversary cake in the fridge so I decided to use it up.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.
All I can say is yum, yum, yum!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thursday Three: Karnak The Magnificent

This week Terry turns the tables and gives us the answers.

SO, donning my satiny, befeathered turban, I will now take this envelope which has been kept in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall's doorstep and which contains a question (or three, or whatever), hold it to my head, and tell you the three answers that come to me...

--Madeleine Albright
--A 16 ounce framing hammer

There you have it! Now then, go off and either make up a question that ties all three of those together in a HI-larious way, or just make up three questions that each thing is the answer to. An example might be “Name two things ill-suited to conducting American foreign policy and something you would find in a carpenter’s tool belt.” Just remember, though, unlike the example, hilarity is required! Or suggested. Or not.

I, as I commented earlier on Possumblog, am very bad at this sort of thing. So I copped out and offer this:

What were the last things on Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II’s mind before his unfortunate accident at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Artist of the Week: Painting

Artist of the Week: Painting

This week’s artist is my husband’s maternal grandmother, Sylvia. She passed away about a year and a half ago. Fortunately we did make the effort to visit her in Florida once a year starting when Jake was two. As a result she did get to meet all of her great grandchildren that live stateside (Larry has a cousin in Germany with three boys the same ages as our crew). Jake and Nate have clear memories of their great grandmother, but Max and Rebecca were far too young to have a lasting memory.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

This is a picture of her with me and the boys. I think Nate is half-asleep and Jake is actually happy to be there, he just has an add expression. Max and his Great Grandmother look like they have made a great connection. Sadly we were unable to get Rebecca to pose in a picture with GG Sylvia, but we do have some very cute pictures of Rebecca toddling about in Sylvia’s apartment.

After that visit she sent us one of her paintings that we had admired. We got a few more after she passed away. They are all up on our walls, two of them hanging in the guestroom. This is one of the guestroom paintings.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It is a nice impressionistic seascape. I like the colors and how you can get a sense of it being a blustery day at the beach. Sylvia got a lot of pleasure from her paintings and she would be pleased that we appreciate them and have them up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bicycle Bicycle

On Monday Max and Rebecca got their very own big kid bikes.

I already wrote about Rebecca’s bike last April. It has been sitting in our attic waiting for the right time to be brought out.

At the ripe old age of four they are now old enough and big enough for their own two wheelers. The key thing here is that they are big enough.

We went to our friendly local bike shop with Grandma and Grandpa so they could be part of the excitement. Max immediately headed over to the one bike that was his size. It is the male equivalent of Rebecca’s Lil Darling, royal blue with flames painted on the frame and seat. It is a very cool bike. As the bike’s seat was lowered to fit Max, Rebecca glommed onto a bike identical to the one we had at home.

Once the bike was all squared away we picked out helmets. Rebecca, of course, selected the pink one with strawberries and Max went for a blue helmet with cartoon like racecars careening around on the lower half. At this point Grandma and Grandpa had to leave for the airport. The bikes proved to be a good distraction and no tears were shed when they left. It wasn’t until much later in the day that Max realized that they were truly gone.

Then I paid our bill and packed up the van with our new gear.

Once home I brought Rebecca’s bike down and the two of them happily sat on their bikes in the garage, slowly pedaling about. After a bit Max rode onto the driveway and out onto the lawn, Rebecca soon followed him. They didn’t go very far and soon called it quits. Today we went out on the road to the very end of our cul-de-sac.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It was a little unnerving for them because of the slight hill, but it was a good start. By next spring they should be careening about on their own.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Soccer and Pinese Food

This past weekend was quite busy for us. On Saturday, in addition to Max and Rebecca’s birthday we also had two soccer games. Of course the games were at the same time and about a 45 minute drive apart. So we did the sensible thing and divided to conquer. I had the added bonus of dropping the dogs off at the kennel. Grandma and grandpa would be flying in that afternoon and it is much easier to kennel the dogs than make grandpa suffer, he is very allergic to dogs and is an asthmatic to boot. We love grandpa and we want him to stay healthy.

Unfortunately it meant that I had to leave the house at 7:40 am with three dogs, Max and Jake in tow. We arrived at the kennel right when it should be opening. The office was still locked and the woman who works the desk was outside with us. It turned out her husband dropped her off and left before she checked the door. Luckily I had my cell phone and she summoned him back. She then sent me down to the kennel to drop off the dogs. They know me well and she would do the paperwork later. Then it was off to soccer. The night before I decided that drive thru McD’s pancakes were the way to go for breakfast. Quick, easy and everybody would be happy. However the rest of the area thought a little past 8:00 am was a good time to go through the drive thru as well. I ended up parking the car and going inside. Pancakes in hand we then headed north to the soccer fields. With all of our delays including a train crossing we were 8 minutes late for the pre-game warm-up. The game itself was exciting and Jake’s team completely dominated. When Jake was finished we headed home. I still had to decorate the cakes and Larry and I had to finish cleaning the house.

I just finished vacuuming when my in-laws arrived. They were literally mobbed by the kids. As they swirled about I was able to put the finishing touches on the cakes. Rebecca was fascinated and I let her help me with her cake. She was very excited about the end result. Max was uninterested the decorating, all he wanted to do was eat the cake.

The party itself was just cake and presents. Max was a real pro at blowing out the candles.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Rebecca was unsure and actual told Max to stop. It took her awhile, but in the end she did blow out her candles. Then we all had pieces of cake as a nice mid-afternoon snack followed by the presents.

For dinner we asked the birthday duo what they wanted to eat. They settled on pizza and Chinese food or as Rebecca put it Pinese food. We have a decent Chinese restaurant nearby that has a pizza joint a few doors down. The pizza is ok at best, but it makes for a good fall back for the pickier members of the family when we get Chinese food. I like Rebecca’s new word and I think I’ll use it the next time we have pizza and Chinese.

Then it was up early again Sunday for Hebrew school for Jake and Nate followed by another soccer game for Jake. Happily this game was at our local field so we did not have to drive vast distances. As an added bonus the small airfield across the street from the park was having an air show. We got to see all sorts of vintage and stunt planes circle overhead during the game. It was a bit distracting to say the least. The game itself was fun to watch. Jake’s team tried very hard, but in the end the other team won. Then we all headed home.

All in all it was a good weekend.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Birthday Cakes

Four years ago our family went from four to six when we brought these two little babies home.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I remember it all clearly when I waddled into the hospital on that fateful day. I was at 36 weeks gestation and I was scheduled for an induction on that October 15th. All throughout my pregnancy I had been starving, but that morning I was only mildly interested in food. I took this as a hopeful sign that the end was near. I was miserable, I couldn’t sleep and my body ached from the strain of carrying two. I was ready to have those babies.

Fast forward to yesterday. Here are their cakes, decorated to their specifications.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Rebecca informed me after Jake’s birthday that she wanted a chocolate (as in a basic yellow cake frosted with chocolate) cake with a pink pony on it. Three and half months later she still wanted it with the only addition of purple to the pony’s color scheme. Friday I baked the cake and then frosted it with homemade chocolate frosting. On Saturday I drew a pony on the cake with my cake tester and then filled it in with pink frosting.(I do have one small confession about the decorating frosting. I cheat and use canned frosting. I just get plain old vanilla and used my fancy liquid paste coloring. It is much cheaper and a whole lot easier than making it from scratch. But the rest of the cake is all homemade.)

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Rebecca then helped me outline the pony in purple. She was pleased to be photographed with her cake.

Meanwhile all Max wanted was an orange cake with green frosting and truck candles. He was less interested in the cake decorating process and did not assist me like his sister. As you can see from the picture below he also did not want to be photographed with the cake.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I do not know what it is about this picture, but it cracks me up every time I look at it. It is almost like he is saying “Enough with the pictures, just let me eat my cake.”

Sadly, I made him wait until we were all ready.

The party itself was held mid-afternoon with Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Meryl in attendance. I’ll write more about their party tomorrow. I think I’ll go have a piece of cake.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Busy, busy, busy.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I’ve got two birthday cakes to bake for a certain pair of twin’s birthday tomorrow and I’ve got a house to clean.

I’ll post details later. For now this will have to do:

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thursday Three: Entertainment Edition!

Papa Possum poses the following questions for today’s edition of The Axis of Weevil Thursday Three--Entertainment Edition!

Our questions this week were closely guarded as they made their way from the university research facility in Greenville, East Carolina, and the results were tabulated for us by the esteemed accounting firm of PriceyOuthouseScoopers.

We remind viewers and participants that being asked to participate is an honor in itself, and that the acclaim of your peers should be sufficient for you without you getting all huffy if you don’t get some crappy statue or whatever.


And the questions are…

1) In the field of television, what job would you most want and why? This includes entertainment, news and sports.

2) If you had to make a living performing live--that’s right, live on stage--what would you want to do?

3) If you worked in the movies, what job would you most want and why?

As you all recall from previous shows, you are asked to either answer the questions in the comments section, or, in a move guaranteed to add useless fodder to your online journal, post your answers on your blog and leave a link in the comments.

So lights, camera, in 5, 4, 3, 2....

1) Camera, definitely the camera. I would like to operate one of those big honking cool ones with wheels (of course a real one, not a prop), but not one that goes up and down. I don’t like heights and that would be too unnerving. If I ever ended up in Tennessee I could go here and learn how to use a camera. Editing would be another option.

2) Weather forecaster. I am a total Weather Channel junky. I remember when I was in England and I would watch the weather report on the news. I was much more accurate interpreting the satellite photos than the forecaster. After college, back home stateside, I would turn on the Weather Cannel every morning before going to work. As a result I have a pretty good feel for what is going to happen.

3) Cinematographer. I think it is the neatest job figuring out how to shoot the scene so that it looks like what you and the director have in mind. For example most of the different castles scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed at Doune Castle.

Cut! That’s a wrap.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Artist of the Week: Maps

This week’s artist is Jake.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Last spring his class was studying maps. Jake loves maps and he was truly inspired by this unit. He was drawing maps whenever he had a free moment and some paper.

I found this one while I was rummaging about in some piles of papers.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The spelling is far from perfect, but the meanings are clear. I like the care he used in making the compass rose in the lower left corner.

Larry also loves maps and he has told me how as a child he used to draw maps. To this day he enjoys looking at maps and has a few framed ones in his office. I too like maps and I can never understand people who can not read maps. I know when I’m driving about I visualize a map in my head when I’m trying a new route and I have a few local and national atlases stashed in the van.

So I guess you could say maps are in Jake’s DNA.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Momma Smash!

We have a minivan, a Ford Freestar to be exact and we treat it as our hauling vehicle. I’m very fond of this van and I really like the improvements that have been done since our old Windstar. The biggest improvement is the safety canopy, car manufactures have finally figured out that airbags are good for the rear passengers too. Then there is the DVD player which acts as a child neutralization device for long trips. But the best improvement is the rear hatch’s handle. Instead of the traditional lever release it has a pull handle which is a much more ergonomic design and I love it.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Yesterday when I was at the dump I somehow ripped the van’s handle off of the rear hatch. I had just chucked all of our garbage and I was closing the rear lift gate when I noticed that it had not closed properly. As I tugged on the handle to lift the hatch the handle came away in my hand.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.


Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I was stunned for a moment and tried to stick it back on. Then the absurdity of the situation gripped me. I had just broken the handle off of a less than two year old car. When I told Meryl later that night she noted that it was a definite Hulk moment. The boys were very impressed and wanted to know if this means I have big muscles.

Anyhow back at the dump my initial concern was that I may not be able to reopen the rear hatch, trapping my stinky garbage can inside. When I got home I looked closely at the hatch and I noticed it wasn’t securely closed. It turns out I can open it, but it will not latch shut. After I hauled the garbage can out, I messed around with the van for 15 minutes and determined that: 1) the handle didn’t break off, but instead became disengaged. 2) The latching mechanism is off kilter and that is why I can’t close it. 3) I don’t have the right tools for the job and I should take it in to the dealership. Well at least it should be under warranty. Of course this means I have to clean out the van. I can’t have a stranger see all the filth and heck my in-laws are coming on Saturday so I was going to clean it anyway.

Last night I hauled all of the toys lurking about in the van, broke out the shop vac and really gave the van a good going over. I even tipped up the middle seats to fish out all the stuff trapped beneath them. So this morning I dropped off my relatively neat van at the dealership and I’m stuck home until it all gets sorted out.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Early Morning Follies

An amazing thing happened this weekend, or rather not much happened.

Due to the heavy rains we received all day Friday and that extended through the weekend Jake’s soccer tournament was cancelled.  Jake, understandably, was disappointed and I was a little bit too. I felt bad for my son and I knew that our next tournament wouldn’t be as a nearly convenient. All of his games were scheduled at the fields closest to our house, a mere 12 minutes away. On the plus side we didn’t have to go anywhere Saturday morning and we could sleep in!

Of course the kids did not understand the idea of sleeping in. At 6:30 am I awoke to my darling daughter’s voice. She was in bed and shouting out to us “I want to get dressed!” It was so absurd my husband and I had to laugh. I at first tried to ignore her and then I staggered out of bed and went down the hall. I poked my head into her room and told her that it was still night (thankfully it was so overcast that it was still dark out) and that she should go back to sleep. She acquiesced and settled back into bed. I then went back to my own bed.

Fifteen minutes later Nate popped into our room. He made a beeline for our bed, but I waved him off to the chaise. He happily bounced over there until I asked him if he had gone potty yet. “Oh yeah! I hadn’t done that.” So off he went to the kids’ bathroom. I snuggled back into bed.

At 7:30 Nate decided to practice piano, loudly. I vainly tried to go back to sleep when he finished, but it was impossible with the overall din. I lay in bed until a bit before 8 when I finally threw in the towel.

The day did improve and we all went to see the Wallace and Gromit movie. If you are a fan of the earlier shorts you will not be disappointed. The kids were riveted and only the youngest two had a bathroom run during the film, pretty good for our crowd. I won’t say much about the movie itself other than I liked the bit about the organ music and the homages to King Kong and the Red Baron.

Oh and on Sunday, when at the very least Jake and Nate have to get up early for Hebrew school, they all slept in. Argh!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Taa Daa!

A year and one week ago I made this cake for my brother’s wedding.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

I took a great deal of pleasure that all of the children present clustered around the cake and oohed and aahed over it. After the cake was cut it was all but devoured. The topper was whisked away and three slices were saved, one each for my cousin, her partner and their daughter. (They had tickets to see the Lion King that they had bought months ago and they had to leave before the cake was cut. Annie, their daughter, was crushed that she would miss out on the cake so we promised to save her some.) When the cake was gone a few guest hopefully circled the table hoping for more. Later one guest complained about the saved pieces being taken away and demanded to have another slice. She was somewhat mollified when we explained who they were for.

I had obsessed over the cake for a month and a half. I bought a marvelous book, The Wedding Cake Book. In it there are some very good recipes and guides about cake sizes, how many servings per cake, and how much batter you will need for each sized pan. The Italian Meringue Buttercream frosting was alone worth the price of the book. I will not reproduce the recipe here; you should buy or borrow the book. It is too complicated for me to explain and the author deserves full credit for it. I will tell you that one 7 cup batch uses 1 ½ pounds of unsalted butter, 8 egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar. Oh and it is critical that you have a stand type mixer and a candy thermometer. For the wedding cake I made three batches. This includes the chocolate and raspberry buttercream fillings (I alternated chocolate and raspberry fillings between each layer within the three cakes).

The chocolates decorating the outside of the cake come from Harbor Sweets. I used their periwinkles, Sand Dollars and Sweet Shells from the Classics. My maternal extended family are addicted to this chocolatier. The family favorite is the Sweet Sloop. On the orginal wedding cake I did not use any Sweet Sloops. I felt that their taste would be a distraction and that the cake had enough going on with three different chocolates. But, for the anniversary cake, I snuck some on. I thought it would be a nice way to note that a year had passed. The cake is the same, but different.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

The cake itself was my old tried and true Four Egg Yellow Layer Cake, aka the old fashioned 1-2-3 cake. During my obsessive planning stage I did try out a new reciepe, but it was not nearly as good. So here it is from my 1946 edition of The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer.

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (room temp)
4 eggs, separated
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla*
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ and ¼ teaspoons of salt
1 cup of milk

Sift the sugar and blend with the butter until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in one at a time the egg yolks. Then add the vanilla * and set aside. Sift the cake flour before measuring and resift with the baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture in about three parts alternating the thirds of the milk. Beat the batter until it is smooth after each addition. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Fold the whites lightly into the batter. Bake the cake in an 8 x 12 inch pan lined with waxed paper at 350 for about 45 minutes or in three** greased 9 inch layer pans from 30 to 35 minutes.

*Or use 1 teaspoon of vanilla and ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Normally I like to use 1 teaspoon of almond and ½ teaspoon, but for the wedding I only used vanilla.

** I use two or just one pan and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

The cake is dense, flavorful and moist. It has a lovely texture and is not crumbly.

I shipped the cake out to them yesterday. They should get it by 3:00 pm today. I froze the cake and packed it with dry ice, so it should be fine when it arrives. It won’t be as pretty, but it should taste great.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday Three:Time Management!

This week’s installment of Axis of Weevil Thursday Three is up over at Terry’s place.

GOOD MORNING, FOLKS! I bet you’re all here wondering what this week’s marvelous collection of Axis of Weevil Thursday Three questions are going to be, huh!

Well, you’ve got good reason to wonder, seeing as how once again all the crush of stupid ol’ work has made it nearly impossible to get anything fun accomplished.

IT IS, THEN, with a great heaving sigh of relief that our intrepid research staff foresaw this eventuality, and submitted a set of emergency backup questions suitable just for such an occasion! ::polite applause::

So, then, from the wilds of East Carolina, we give you the Time Management Thursday Three!

1. Do you usually need a clock to know what time it is or do you have that “time sense”?
2. Can you estimate the time tasks will take or are you always off?
3. Will you do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

There now--and with not a moment to spare! As is always the case, please feel free to leave your answers in the comments section below (if you click on the permalink rather than on the tag that says how many comments there are, it will remember your login data and you won’t have to keep putting it in) OR if you have your very own pretty blog, you can leave a link and answer the questions there. You know, if you have time.
So, go off and think for a minute or two and post your answers. Hurry along now. Go on.

Well I guess I need to get cracking.
  1. I have a fairly good time sense, I can usually estimate within 15-20 minutes of the actual time as long as I’m not reading a good book. I have a tendency to get lost within the story if it is a particularly good read. Anyhow, I developed my time sense after college. When I was at work I did not wear my watch. Most of my work day was spent mucking about in the sterile hoods doing tissue culture and lets face it, you can never get a wristwatch *really* clean. I found that if I didn’t wear a watch my cultures would remain pristine. Then after I left my paying gig for motherhood I stopped wearing a watch when my oldest child was 4 months old. He kept pulling the watch stem and stopping my watch. Now if I really need to know the time I just check my cell phone.

  2. I usually underestimate, but not by too much unless it is packing, then I can be off by an hour or more. I do however give very accurate driving time estimates. This skill was acquired from driving to obscure spots for dog shows. I can look at a map and have a fairly good idea how long it will take to get there.

  3. No! I’m just awful about that. Case in point is the cake I just sent to my brother for his anniversary. I kept procrastinating on ordering the chocolates that they did not get here on time. I just got them yesterday. So I ended up decorating the cake last night and shipping it off today. Although in my defense if I had ordered the chocolates early they probably would have been devoured before I made the cake. However if it is critical that it must be done by such and such a time I will get it done.
Whew! That’s all for now. I’ve had a busy morning and I need to recoup.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Artist Of The Week: Food!

This week’s artist is Max.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Most nights he likes to carefully arrange his food on his plate and every time it is different. Technically he is not playing with his food. At the diner table we serve ourselves from the various bowls on the table. We may stop them if they get a little over enthusiastic, but generally they do a good job in gauging their portions.

Max will grab a fistful of carrots and then requests some ketchup (we get the mondo family sized bottle that is too big for him to manipulate). Once the ketchup is down he then arranges the rest of his meal. The resulting plate is usually very pleasing to the eye.

I’m not sure where this came from, but he looks like a little chef in the making with his artful plates.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shana Tova Umetukah!

May your New Year be sweet!

Today Rosh Hashanah continues. This morning we went to services and enjoyed the oneg afterwards. All four kids agreed that brownies, cake and bagels make a fine lunch. I got to enjoy some baklava, a nice sweet treat for the start of the New Year.

Since last night we had a very haphazard dinner, tonight’s will be special. We will have round challah, steak, salad and apples dipped in honey. I might even make dessert.

L’shanah tovah tikateivu vetehateimu. May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Usually I have a pretty good idea about my kids are doing. I may not agree, but I can figure out why they did it. But once in awhile...I just have no idea.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Just the other day I walked in on this scene at the kitchen table. There they are doing their homework with sofa pillows on their heads.

When I asked them why, they gave the classic “I don’t know.”

There is never a dull moment in this house.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Happy Anniversary

A year ago today my brother got married.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

My mom and I both like his wife immensely and we gave my brother numerous subtle and not so subtle hints that he should marry her. Mind you we tried very hard not to hound him, but we wanted to make our feelings clear. The last thing we wanted to do was to spook him. The boldest thing I did was to call him up and offer him an engagement ring for him to use if he ever felt he needed one.

The ring was a pretty little diamond in a platinum setting that I had inherited from my Grandma Dot. She wasn’t my real Grandmother, but all of my grandparents had long since passed away by the time I showed up. Grandma Dot was my Great Aunt and my father was very close to her after his own parents passed away. She didn’t have any children of her own so she viewed my brother and I as her grandchildren. Her marriage to my Great Uncle had been a good one so the ring had a happy history. I don’t have a picture of the ring, but I have this photo of my father (in his Navy uniform) with Grandma Dot and Great Uncle Robert

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

Anyway back to my brother.

I decided my brother was fair game after he brought his then girlfriend to a massive family reunion in August 2002. She had to endure the full brunt of our extended family and she handled it all beautifully. She endeared herself with me by helping out with Max and Rebecca. Rebecca took a real shine to her and was happy to be carried about by her new friend.

So when he did propose we were very happy.

However they wanted to get married ASAP. My mother ended up planning their wedding in less than two months. They wanted a clam bake and we were in luck, the caterer we liked was available. All we needed was a site, an officiant and a cake. My cousin offered his fields and home (his house is about 20 minutes from my Mom’s), a friend found an officiant and I made the cake.

cake slice
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar.

It was a beautiful wedding and I wish the two of them many years of happiness together. I’ll be sending them a replica of the top layer of their cake. I should have sent it last week, but I forgot to order the chocolates in time. They could have frozen the top layer from their wedding cake, but we convinced them it was better to eat the cake now, not after being frozen for a year.