Friday, April 25, 2008

Turtle, Turtle

I would never have imagined that turtles would be a significant part of my adult life. As a child growing up, turtles were something that I read about in books, I can't say that I ever saw one in person except maybe at a nature center or zoo. To me turtles were a real good kind of chocolate candy that has caramel and pecans.

But now, ever since we've lived in this house, turtles have been a recurring subject. The first time we saw the giant snappers that lurk underneath the dock, it was very dramatic. They would slowly peek their prehistoric looking heads out, and then lunge to snap up whatever piece of food or weakened fish we threw into the water. No more dipping our toes into the water after that. Sometimes in the spring, the snappers will wander around in the streets of the subdivision. I have been known to get off of my bike and direct traffic so that a big old guy can make it across safely. Here is picture of a snapper that was on our lawn, it has interesting feet:

We get different kinds of turtles here. The painted kind are nicer looking, and we like to spot their heads popping up out of the surface of the lake as they swim around. One of the funniest things that ever happened was one time when we were pulling away from our house in the car, and saw a turtle in the street, and Jeffrey got out to pick it up. It started to pee an he just ran down the street with a peeing turtle for several houses. We put some in our backyard pond and thought they were just darling in there until they started eating the frogs right before our eyes. When I told Kendrea some of these stories she told me to keep my eye out for a box turtle, they would like to have one for a pet. A request! Sure enough I eventually found a box turtle walking across my driveway, and I brought it over to her house. Too big, she said, and we set it in the bushes by her door. Her boys looked sad. The next day it was back in my yard.

Not long after that I was on a bike ride and kept coming across tiny little snapping turtles on the paths. I had the good idea that I would like to bring these to Kendrea's boys, but needed a way to carry them. I took off one of my socks and put the turtles in there like a bag. I rode straight to Kendrea's door and presented the prized creatures to her children, and then went home. It turned out that the turtles instigated an unfortunate incident involving the garden hose and lots of fighting and crying, and Kendrea asking me to please not bring any more turtles over.

Then one day we were heading out and noticed a painted turtle digging a hole in our front landscaping. We watched as it dug and dug, dropped a pile of eggs in there, covered it up, and waddled away. Here is a picture of it digging:

That was last spring and whenever Kendrea's boys were around we would look at that spot and talk about how someday little turtles would come crawling out. Nothing happened all summer but then last week we started finding little baby painted turtles in the landscaping and even one in the garage. They were very cute but this time I did not bring any over to Kendrea's house:

So now turtles are just everywhere in my life, especially in the spring. There is even a turtle I find in all different places on the inside of the house:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kids at Work Day

Today was national "Bring your sons and daughters to work day." A few weeks ago a memo came out in my department that they would be conducting activities in the morning for children ages 12 and up. Right away I signed up Tim. Three years ago I brought Tim to work with me when I was in a different department and building, but there were no planned activities, he just kind of followed me around for the day.

Well if you do the math three years ago Tim was Jeffrey's age. You better believe my Jeffrey solved that equation straight away. I felt bad about telling him no, but then they sent another memo that children 8 and up would be included, and so they both got to come.

Since this department is all about these kinds of things, and the building I happen to be in contains some interesting areas, it was a great day. First we went to my cubicle where they reorganized all of my cabinets, dug through the drawers, and met my co-workers. They watched a safety video and were issued glasses and earplugs. We toured the pre-production build shop where the vehicles of the future are put together in a simulated assembly plant atmosphere. There is a benchmarking room where competitor vehicles are torn down and all the parts are laid out on tables to look at. There was a demonstration of white light scanning technology using children's faces, and they fired off some airbags which was very loud and dramatic. Since this is a training facility there was a lesson on computer aided design where they got to work on a part in unigraphics on a UNIX tube, and the group from my department that does training of alternative propulsion put together a session just for the kids on hydrogen fuel cell technology. It included demonstrations and a video presentation of the "Project Driveway" where a set of very special hydrogen-powered vehicles were distributed to dignitaries, politicians, and celebrities to raise awareness of this emerging technology. The video included a segment at Disney World where the Jonas Brothers Band were shown driving one. Then they had that very same vehicle outside the room! There tables with juice boxes, cookies, and apples around the building, and they were issued goody bags which included all sorts of wonderful GM, hydro, and energy-themed objects.

It was all very fun and interesting and nothing at all like a real day at work.

To top it off (before Larry picked them up for an early trip home), we went to National Koney Island restaurant for lunch. As we settled into our booth I passed around menus but noticed that the boys were acting mesmerized by something across the room. The waitresses had brought their daughters to work and there were these cute little kids walking around dressed in the uniforms, delivering water and helping to take orders. My sons watched them with looks of jealous longing. I rolled my eyes and asked them what they were thinking: "We sure wish you worked here, mom!" Sorry, boys.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Global Warming? Yes, please.

Yesterday was Earth Day. I missed it. But I am in total support celebrating The Earth, after all, without it we would all be floating around in outer space, which looks like fun at first but then when you think about things like plumbing, which requires gravity to work, well then some less pleasant thoughts than weightless somersaults start to come to mind...

Since it was Earth Day there was a more-than-usual amount of focus on the subject of Global Warming. There was an article in the paper about a "green" family that powers their 4,000 square foot house with windmills. It has a solar-heated indoor swimming pool. And there were lots and lots of "tips for saving energy" which all look to me like exactly the kinds of things I always try to do, but not because I'm trying to "reduce my carbon footprint" but because I detest anything wasteful because I have always been what I like to call "frugal." Another, less flattering word that could be used is "cheap." So when you put the whole "saving the planet" spin on it suddenly the concept of cheap takes on an altruistic tone, perhaps with a little smugness thrown in. I just go on using only as much as I need of anything, recycling, reusing, and stretching whatever I can, and living in a way-less-than-4,000 square foot home with no indoor swimming pool.

But the issue of Global Warming has me conflicted. I know that there are people out there (possibly ones driving full-size SUV's) who would like to argue whether it exists at all. I think that science has proven that there is definitely a warming trend, and from that they make predictions about ice caps melting and polar bears falling into the ocean, and the types of crops that can be grown will change, and the temperatures in Michigan will begin to creep above their current averages.

It's that last part that gets me. After an entire winter of way below average temperatures and record snowfall, we have been enjoying temperatures above the average for the last several days, and it has been glorious. Sunny and 72 degrees. The kind of days that are depressingly rare in this state. The kind of days I just finished driving 900 miles to experience. Just think, if Global Warming comes true as they predict, there would be more sunny days like these. A longer bike riding season. Less snow days. More types of flowers. A longer growing season. Last night at our subdivision homeowners meeting, they talked about whether rising expenses might cause our dues to go up. If there are less times they have to pay to have the streets snowplowed, that would cover it.

So then I feel like global warming is getting a bad rap, and maybe someone needs to be on the PRO side of it, and I could be the one to lead that movement. Of course, that would be me being selfish, and I do get that there could be truly serious results of the climate changing too quickly. It's just that it would be easier for me to rally behind a cause that had a different name, and didn't make me think of sunny days. Like if there was a trend toward "Global Meanness" or "World Stink Increase" or "National Lawnmower Noise Reduction Initiative" maybe I'd find those causes easier to embrace than one that would make the daffodils bloom a whole month earlier.

But don't worry, it's not like I'm going to go outside and spray my Ultra Aerosol Aqua-Net into the sky to try to create my own personal hole in the ozone layer. It's just that I'm in a quandry of being confronted with something that is a possible problem for much of the world, but a possible treat for me.

Happy (Belated) Earth Day, go hug a toilet.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I made a tornado

I was going through the pile of mail in the kitchen while Timmy sat at the counter and ate a snack. "We need more lemonade." he said and looked at me. I looked back at him, and then at the empty pitcher, and at the cupboard where the container of Country Time mix sat waiting. He got the message and went to the cupboard and got it out and started making a new pitcher-full.

"I made a tornado!" He said to himself as he stirred it around.

"Try not to make a mess" was the sentance that came out of my mouth, but at the same time I smiled at the simple act of a kid doing something that everyone does, totally in the moment of it.

The things we all do that are simple and pointless and fun, such as being the weather. I wrote a poem about it:

I stir the lemonade, I make a tornado.

I blow into milk, I make a volcano.

I point the hose up to the sky, I make a rainbow.

I slide around in the bathtub, I make waves.

I shake the poster board, I make thunder.

I pull apart the staticky sheets, I make lightning.

I steam up the shower, I make fog.

I tilt the watering can, I make rain.

OK so I am really bad at poetry. Help me out. Add some lines of your own.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Loud Frog Noises

We know spring is here when the frogs get loud. We have spring peepers and some kind of trilling toad. It's a pleasant sound, but it's so loud that it's practically comical. I have to shut the windows to hear the TV.

Here is a video that I took just now of the deer standing in my backyard eating from our bird feeder. Unfortunately it didn't come out and they can't be seen, but if you turn up your volume you can hear all the frog noises. Check it out:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I need more than 24

Vacation is great for taking you out of the routine of daily life. But then you have to get back into it. It's like going from the hot-tub back into the pool. Yow!

This week has seemed particularly full. I've been trying to snatch little moments of time to get my book club book read, and those moments have been hard to find. Waiting rooms are about it. In addition to going to work and school, commuting and carpooling, there has been track practice every day for Tim, and his first meet, swimming lessons for Jeff plus his first baseball practice, both dentist and orthodontist appointments, piano lessons going on, and then book club. Every night I go to sleep thinking about all the other things I just didn't have time to do. If only there were more hours in each day.

Scott Adams (Dilbert) just wrote an excellent post about just this subject. Since I can't find enough time to write anything meaningful, check it out, and let me know what you think.
Time Management

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not so sure about

We've had a great vacation. There are just a few things that I just don't get:

Hush Puppies. Little balls of dough, deep fried and served instead of bread at seafood restaurants. Yummy, I ate a whole basket of them, but it's like having donuts before a meal. I think I prefer the bread.

Hot Tub Etiquette. I'm just not sure what the proper thing to do is when you're sitting there in the steamy bubbly water and another adult walks in and sits there with you. I kind of nod or smile and acknowledge their presence, but then what? It's too loud to talk. So we sit there, boiling like soup, but it's weird, to me at least.

Other Michiganders Since the members of my traveling party are usually dressed in clothing that bears the symbols of the Tigers, Red Wings, or Spartans, it isn't difficult for people to guess where we're from. But I have trouble engaging in the conversation about what a Big Coincidence it is when we come across people also from our home state. Really, when you think about it, we are in a tourist area, in the middle of the week, during spring break, in a typical destination. I have taken to smiling and saying "What are the odds of that?"

Maid Timing It was wonderful to have Maribel the maid come in to clean our room, but since it was a condo-type with a kitchen we were in there a lot, and I was never quite sure when she was going to show up. We'd go to the pools or the beach expecting her to have been in and cleaned, and then if she hadn't been there yet we felt like we had to evacuate again. And there is a timing element to the getting of fresh towels, you want to get your showers in between cleanings otherwise you have to pick them up off of the floor, and it seems like a waste to me if those nicely folded clean towels don't get used each time.

NASCAR On the way down we drove on "Richard Petty Highway" and I asked Larry who that was, thinking maybe it was a famous explorer or historical figure. He hesitated to tell me it was a race car driver because he knew it would be followed by the incredulous look. There is NASCAR stuff all over the place, such as on the water towers.

Time Share Sales They lurk around every corner, offering discount tickets to restaurants and shows, and they make it seem like they are something else. Eventually we learned to ask right away: "Is this about a time share?" I just want to know why if these are so great do they need to trick people into hearing about it.

Y'all Every time someone says it, I just have to smile. There was one waitress that kept on calling us "you guys" but I could tell that she was faking, just for us.


When an astronaut goes into outer space, and looks back on the planet they came from, they are stricken with how small it seems and yet contains everything they know. I think I saw that on TV or something.

Going on vacation kind of gives me that astronaut feeling, getting away from our lives and going somewhere else, and knowing that it's all still back there, without us in it.

Larry must have been having that astronaut feeling too, or else he was considering whether our insurance deductible is low enough given that his wife is blogging to the public about us being out of town thus giving notice to any thieves who might be interested in robbing us. (If YOU are a robber, let me tell you that these posts are time delayed, and we're already back and guarding our house, along with our large, vicious dog.)

We were sitting in our booth at the all-you-can-eat Seafood Buffet, and Larry started talking about what were our most expensive purchases. He pointed out that along with my car, our other most valuable possession was right here with us. And he looked across the booth at Timmy, who grinned big and wide, revealing his shiny new braces. I did a quick mental inventory of everything we owned, and couldn't come up with anything other than our house that cost us more than those little strips of barbed wire in our son's mouth. Maybe you are now thinking: "You guys have some cheap stuff" OR "Those are some expensive orthodontics." Correct on both counts.

Oh, and we have our family, priceless of course.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sunshine and flowers

Move over, old lady

Jeffrey got some cotton candy and Timmy had a slushie that he could put his own syrup on (banana) and I wanted something sweet as we walked around the tourist trappy place called "Broadway at the Beach." We found an ice cream shop and I went in to stand in line while the others sat outside and consumed their sugar.
There were three teenaged girls ahead of me in line, and as I stood there waiting I observed them, curious. They were all dressed very similar: crop jeans, strappy tops (which it was a bit too cold for) makeup carefully applied, hair intentionally just sloppy enough, ankle bracelets and flip-flops with french-manicures on their toenails. They must have been on spring break, maybe from college but they almost looked too young for that. They were each holding a wallet-type purse, the same but with different patterns on them. One girl looked in hers and told another: "I only have eighty dollars left!." None of them were especially attractive, but the best-looking one of the three went up to order first. She asked the pierced and bearded ice-cream guy if she could have a taste of one of the flavors. "No!" he said sarcastically and they giggled. Then he handed her the little spoon and she stood there tasting and thinking about it.

My feet were hurting and I wanted to get back to my family enjoying the sunshine outside, instead of in here where the combined noise of the refrigerators and the hard rock music were starting to get on my nerves. The other two girls each made their selections and paid for them out of those wallets, and then the tasting girl asked the guy what other flavors they had. He said they were on the sign over there. She started swiveling her head around looking for the sign, and he said: "Behind that lady" and pointed my way. I looked over my shoulder, saw the sign, and moved a step over. She kept thinking about this huge decision a bit more and then finally ordered a soft-serve twist and I got my turn.

The next day we did an activity that I enjoyed much more, it was a tour of an old plantation and gardens. They were beautiful. We took a ride around on a little tram. Along with all the other senior citizens.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Our view

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Little Blue Time Machine

We drove past a sign for a town called "Future" and Larry couldn't help making the joke about how we were time traveling. I thought about that, and it really was like our car was a time machine. We were driving from the present Michigan state of thawing-out winter, straight into full-bloom spring, and I was watching it progress right through the windshield.

We drove away from our half-frozen lake, past dirt-edged snow piles, and bare stick-trees and slowly began to see things change. It started with a rest-stop where there were crocuses popping up out of the dirt, to some daffodils blooming on a median, then some woods where the trees had that about-to-bud out look, and the grass was a shade of pale green. Driving through the mountains was a spectacular experience, and the foggy mist gave it an ethereal feeling. Next thing you know the grass had that kelly green color of spring bursting through, and here and there was a wild redbud tree in full flower. Then we started seeing Magnolias and the trees were truly leafy. Azeleas were screaming with color and there were wisteria vines climbing up evergreens with their purple flowers just dripping down. Beautiful.

Throughout all of this we watched the digital thermometer on my rear view mirror climb up from the 34 degrees when we left, cheering every time it went up a degree. By the time we were on the last leg of the drive to Myrtle Beach, it read 77 glorious degrees, the windows were down, the sunroof was open and we were singing into the sun!

The beach is gorgeous, the sky is blue, and there are PALM TREES here. I am happy. And when we get back to michigan, it will be a week closer to spring. Time travel. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reasons for Vacation

There comes a point, when you are getting ready to go on vacation, when you wonder whether the actual fun of the trip is enough to offset the effort and expense of getting there. I like to think it’s all in the planning, if I could just anticipate every situation and need, and have a plan for it, all will be well. I have learned, however, that there are so many elements that cannot be controlled, such as the weather, and airplane schedules, and sickness, and crowds, and then I’m back to why are we doing this? all over again.

So it’s been a while since we’ve attempted a major family vacation. Specifically it’s been since 2005 when we did the obligatory trip to Florida and Disney World. I would like to say that we look back on that and recall the beauty of the state, the hospitality of our hosts in Ft. Lauderdale, and the thrills of the rides at the amusement parks, but not really. Although we do remember those nice parts, whenever the trip is mentioned by the boys it is with references to “that time Mommy got really mad at the people in the airport.” Let’s just say there were a lot of problems with flying. I did do a lovely scrapbook highlighting our wonderful activities, but it’s not as much of a constant reminder as the varicose vein on my leg that popped out when I tried lifting a too-big-to-lift kid up so he could see the light-up parade.

So here we go again, but we’re driving because I’m not quite ready to deal with airports just yet, and we’ll be at a beach which hopefully doesn’t involve standing in line as the main activity. Still, I wonder, so to help myself along I have made a list:

Ten Reasons to go on Vacation:

To get away from the bad weather
It has been a difficult winter, and even if it rains where we are going, at least it will be green, and warmer, and maybe all of that snow with the dirt around the edges will have melted by the time we get back.

To have fun
Beaches are fun, right? And we can go to shows, too. Maybe some golf for Larry.

Change of scenery
Sometimes just looking at the same old view, no matter how good it is, just gets boring. Looking at a different view, that includes something grand like the ocean, kind of re-sets everything. At least I think it does.

Family time together
Sometimes it seems like we are running in different directions all day long, and there’s nothing like thirty-two hours confined in a car, and 24-hours a day togetherness to….well, I hope it results in something good. Isn’t there some saying about “the family that plays together…” I’m sure the parenting books say we should do vacations.

Experience the culture of a new location
I’ve never been to South Carolina! I’m not sure what their culture is but I’ve had a fascination with the “old south” ever since I first read “Gone With the Wind.” Even if we’re just going from chain hotels to chain restaurants, the people working there will be speaking with a different accent, and that’s culture!

It’s Educational
Jeffrey just got assigned a project that is due in late April where each kid got to pick out a state to do a report on. He got to pick last but he managed to get Virginia, and we’ll be driving right through that little skinny part of it that sticks out to the west. Maybe we’ll get a picture of him next to the “Welcome to Virginia” sign and he can stick it on the poster board. That’s A plus stuff.

Get a tan
OK I know all about the risks of ultra-violet sunbeams and have stocked up on enough SPF to shield our skin and probably stop global warming too. I still plan to be outdoors with the sun shining on me for at least a moment while we’re there, which is a sure cure for the Seasonal Affective Disorder that I have been so obviously suffering from this winter.

Everyone else is doing it
I know, and if everyone was jumping off a cliff, well, eventually after looking at all of their cliff-jumping pictures, and everything getting quiet during school breaks, and all the advertising for places to go, I start to feel like I should be going somewhere too. Can’t help it. So going somewhere every so often tends to cure that feeling, at least temporarily.

Spend money
Last year when we didn’t go on a trip I said that it was because I wasn’t working and we were saving the money it would cost, and implied that it was better that I was home more often and therefore worth it. So now that I’m working again and not home so much but making money, I have to go on a trip so if there are any complaints I can say that if I wasn’t working we couldn’t afford to do great things like this.

Maybe something interesting will happen
This is probably the best reason to get get up and go somewhere, anywhere, which is to shake us out of our daily stupor and do something different and new. To take pictures to fill up my scrapbooks, and get stories to tell, memories to recall (good or bad) and…you know, blog about it!

If I can get it to work, I'll send some pictures from my phone to the blog.

Interior Car Wash

Since we'll be going on a trip soon, and I'm kind of stressing out about all of the things that need to get done between now and the moment when my car pulls out of the driveway and heads south, I decided to get a car wash during my lunch hour. There's a place around here where it's not too expensive and for a few extra dollars you can get the interior cleaned out too.

So as I was waiting in the line up I scooped up the trash laying around that I could reach from the driver's seat, and tossed out my window into the garbage cans they have conveniently positioned for just that purpose. I wondered if the person in the car behind me noticed my skillfulness at getting half-full water bottles in on a rebound shot. Fun. When it came to be my turn the man came up and I told him I wanted the interior done. He told me to step out and he wrote a number two on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I walked into the little hallway they have where you can watch your car go by through the windows, I used to love doing that as a kid.

Moments later the front of my car appeared and the jets starting squirting their soapy water onto it. When more of the vehicle emerged through the plastic flap things, I noticed that my driver's side window was still down. I waited a second for the man to show up but then dashed back outside. He was sitting in the next car doing something. "My window is down!" I shouted to him, and pointed. He popped up and then went leaping into the car wash, and wiggled into my car just in time to get the jets of soapy water streaming right into his face as he held down the button and waited for the window glass to proceed slowly up.

Then he was stuck in there, because the big rotating brushes were now doing their thing. I kept walking alongside the car in the little hallway, trying not to make eye contact with him through the windows. When he got his chance he jumped out and had to go running back through the soaping part to where the next car was still waiting. They had to shut the whole car wash down for a minute and re-set everything.

Luckily, there wasn't too much wetness on the inside of my car, I think the man must have absorbed most of it. So I put a dollar into the tip box.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Bob asked me if I had gotten my bagel yet.

My response: "Oh! Is it bagel day?" (You never know when it's going to happen) "I didn't have breakfast today so this is great! My lucky day!"

And I went skipping around to the coffee room...

where there were no bagels.

He got me.

Happy April Fools Day!