Monday, September 24, 2012

Learning to Shave

Now that Grandpa has been here a few weeks, we are settling into a routine. Said routine has less time than my overly-optimistic self would have liked, but way more time than I used to have. Every morning begins with dressing and breakfast, then I have a couple hours before time to begin lunch prep, and again, a couple hours before supper. My grandpa has always been a very, well, thorough eater and mealtimes do tend to take the better part of each day.

For such a sedentary individual, my grandpa burns a surprising amount of calories, and making sure he stays nice and chunky can be a bit of a challenge. Especially when there are sometimes whole days when he's too tired to eat much of anything.

However, he has never, in his whole life, been too tired for cookies or ice cream!

That is where a wonderfully horrible product that we've discovered comes in. "WhoNu" cookies.

When I first saw them I couldn't suppress an eye roll. Now a bunch of gullible parents would let their kids tank up on these "health" cookies, as if adding in nutrition means there's no fat or sugars to worry about. But then I actually took a look at the box. Three cookies has, as it proclaims on the cover, "as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, as much Calcium and Vitamin D as a 8 oz. glass of milk, and as much Vitamin C as a cup of blueberries".  That's pretty impressive for cookies, and they taste pretty good, too (Hey, I can't give Grandpa things that taste bad, can I? Regular quality control checks are necessary).

None of this means they're health food, or that you can eat as many as you want because "they're good for you", but for getting added nutrition into an occasionally-stubborn elderly gentleman, they are GREAT!

(Suncore Products, you may contact me via this blog to send the check for my celebrity endorsement.)

Yes, having Grandpa here is educational in many aspects. Not only have I been transformed into a pseudo-dietician, I have also become an old-school valet. You know, the kind that does everything for the lord of the manor. Now, this may surprise you, but my life heretofore has not exactly been of the type to prepare me for being a gentleman's personal care aid. Shocking, I know, but true. One of the things I've had to learn to do is shave.

Actually, learning to shave might not be a bad idea anyway, what with my family's Portuguese heritage. Portuguese are lovely people, but can be a bit hairy---and that's just the women! I might find myself needing to know how to shave one of these days, if you get my drift. But so far, I have been blissfully free of facial hair. At least I think so. I'm either free of facial hair or my eyesight has already started to go.

Grandpa always insisted on being clean-shaven. He came from a generation where men with beards were weird Bohemian types, not to be trusted. He was a scholar and a gentleman, so every morning, the beard had to go. But he liked to tease us before he shaved by grabbing us and rubbing his whiskers up and down our cheeks. We would wriggle and squirm to get away, then run shrieking down the hall, refusing to get close to him again until he emerged from the bathroom sans whiskers. Shaving was always somewhat of a ritual with him.

Since I've started shaving him, let's just say the ritual has gotten a little less frequent!

Like the landscape of the Old West, my grandpa's face is weathered and crossed by deep canyons, wrinkled arroyos where outlaw whiskers have their hideouts. And as the sheriff in a dime store novel, the razor does its best to restore law and order to the scene, but somehow there are always a few wily whiskers that manage to elude capture. This leaves my grandpa with odd soul patches on random parts of his face. Good thing he doesn't have a mirror!

While I doubt I'll ever get hired on as a gentleman's gentleman, I think I am improving with practice. Less and less of the dastardly villains escape capture each time. It's a work in progress, but hey, I can at least be grateful that I don't have to use a straight razor.

I think Grandpa looks grateful, too.

I Miss My Puppies!

"What? I'm royalty, OK!"
Well, I hope Esther, Queen of Purrsia feels guilty after that mean-spirited attack post yesterday. But I doubt it! That same afternoon, the puppies' family got back into town 5 days earlier than we expected them. So we had to say good-bye to our little buddies and send them back.

But that means I really, really need to find a puppy for us. There's nothing worse than puppy withdrawal. Besides, having the puppies here showed that we can handle it. Finley, Mr. I-Am-The-Only-Dog-Allowed-In-The-World actually got so he would play with them---sort of. He would galloop around them asking to join in all their reindeer games and they would roll over on their backs saying, "Please don't kill me!" Now Finley is sad because he has no buddies except for all those stinkin' cats.

So I was looking on Petfinder for a nice little puppy friend for Finley. There are lots of different kinds available now.... terriers, labs, pit bulls, mastiffs, but one in particular really caught my eye.

It's a St. Bernard/Chihuahua cross. The mother is a 180 lb. St Bernard and the dad is a 3 lb. chihuahua. The owner did not expect them to be able to breed. But they did! And this is the result. Looks like it's going to be a small dog, doesn't it? So if you ever wondered what a 180 lb. chihuahua looks like, this is it!

Trixie: Saint Bernard St. Bernard, Dog; Solway, MN

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oh, the Beauty of Fall.....

The summer wanes steadily, but leaves in its stead in the glorious spectacle of autumn. The leaves crackle under foot, and the crisp, clean air is an intoxicating brew that inspires one to breathe deep and savor its delightful essence. The birds call to one another as they pass by, hurrying south to warmer surroundings. Oh, there can be no more splendid season than


Help me.

SHE left the computer open and I don't have much time, so listen carefully. I don't think I can last much longer.

It's been 10 days since they got here. Life was good before then, but now it's...I can't describe it. There are no words. We were happy, my little family of fellow cats. Oh, sure, there was one dog, ol' what's-his-name, but he never bothered us.

Why did SHE have to do it?


Weren't we enough?

Got to stay focused. It's so hard. My pulse is pounding. My paws are shaking so bad I can barely type this. PUPPIES! There, I said it. SHE brought in PUPPIES! Two of them; two furry terrors that have made our lives unbearable. I mean, seriously, we're royalty here. Do we need our tails pulled? Do we need our litter boxes raided? Sometimes they even follow us when we do our business outside and eat it when we're done. Like we're some sort of Dairy Queen soft-serve machine! They're not dogs, they're animals!

Do we need to be chased like common...criminals? Do we need.....shudder....our....fur....our beautiful fur.....LICKED? With PUPPY spit?

Have you seen what they put in their mouths?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They don't even know how to use the litter box. They, I can't say it. But I must. They go ON THE FLOOR! We WALK on that floor! SHE gets to wear shoes, but nobody thinks about our feet. That we have to wash with our tongues!

You've got to send help. Call the ASPCA, do something, but don't turn your backs on us. Please don't leave us here to die.You've got to help us! Ple.....

Oh, no, SHE's coming.

Gotta go. Don't forget......

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Duct Tape: It's Not Just for Houses Anymore

This may seem like a funny title for a blog on book authorship, but---sadly---it will all make sense by the end. See, a few years back (I always say a few years because I am too lazy to stop and figure out exactly how many) my sister Noni was writing a book. Took her forever, too. To tease her, I went home one evening and wrote a book just so I could tell her, "Oh, I wrote a book last night".

Of course, hers was a full-length book and mine was a short children's story, so it wasn't quite the same thing! Anyway, after we collaborated on improving the story a bit, "Rahab's Promise" was published.

(Which is available on Amazon and as an ebook and in fine book stores everywhere. In case you were wondering.)

And that is how I found myself heading down to Glendive on Monday. The Adventist bookmobile was coming through and I was going down to sign a few copies of the book so the bookmobile lady could have them on hand. Oh, and Noni was sending signed copies of her two books also ("Peter: Fisher of Men" and "Malchus: Touched by Jesus" which are available on Amazon and as an ebook and in fine book stores everywhere. In case you were wondering.)

It was only two days after my birthday, so it was kind of my Happy Birthday Date with myself. I would get to dress up in something nicer than shorts and a grubby T-shirt and go do something professional. What fun! Tiggy was coming along to keep me company, so I picked her up at the school, then headed back by my house to do one more check on everyone before I headed down.

We turned onto my road and started over the bumpy gravel towards home.

And then my door fell off.

The van's sliding door had fallen off the other day while my mom had it. She got someone to come and put it back on, but it wasn't fixed yet and couldn't be opened. Well, it opened itself, and now I had a helicopter van---you know, the kind where you can sit in the doorway for quick and heroic exits. Only that wasn't the best kind of van for a 6 hour round trip.

Tiggy and I wrestled the door back into place there by the side of the road, then she sat in the back and held it on so we could make it back to the house. And then----yes, then---the world-famous- author-on-her-way-to-a-book-signing duct taped her door shut. Sigh.

I actually did a very nice job (I think, anyway) and the door held perfectly all the way to Glendive and back. But it did take a little of the professional glow off my day!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Go Green!

Devon gets in the spirit of things.

Sabbath was my Sweet 16 birthday. Allow me to explain. When I was 17, I started caring for the 3 kids I would adopt at age 25. While most of my peers were dating, moving out, and heading off to college, I was changing diapers and chasing toddlers around. Now, in two more years, 18 years after my 18th birthday, Caleb, my youngest, will turn 18 (of course, he turns 18 6 months after me, but it's still in the same year).

So for the first time in 19 years, I will have an empty nest and lots of options. In a way, it's like I'll be turning 18 all over again. Which must mean that this birthday was my 16th. Hah! Unassailable logic at work here.

To help build the anticipation I am having special birthdays for the next 2 years---color-coordinated birthdays. A few years ago I randomly decided to have a yellow know, corn-on-the-cob, pineapple, mac 'n' cheese. It was a lot of fun, but why stop with yellow? There are lots of other colors, too. So next year will be red and orange tones, and for the big One-Eight, blue and purple tones. But this year was green.

Oh yum.

Actually, there are a lot of green foods that I enjoy. Pesto is a no-brainer. Green jello with pineapple. Got plenty of cucumbers for a salad. Limeade for a drink, and stuffed chilies from my garden. I also tried something I've wanted to make for years. I keep seeing rave reviews for the refreshing culinary treat of chilled cucumber/avocado soup. I looked up a simple recipe on the internet (if it's on the internet, it must be true) and blended away. It was....interesting, but serving it in my white tureen presented an image, well, not usually associated with life's more appetizing moments....

MY rules are that I make foods that are naturally the theme color. No crazy food coloring in unnatural hues to ruin perfectly good food.

 My family makes their own rules.

So while we had pesto, cucumber salad, and jello, we also had green-dyed pineapple and macaroni and cheese with green french dressing,

No, it's not a nuclear experiment gone wrong.

And just when we thought we were safe, Noni showed up with a pot of corn soup. Oh, yes. She went there.

My Plate:

Of course, there's one more green food item that actually tastes---and looks---good. Mint! And nothing goes better with mint than chocolate! So for desert, we had a yummy green cake with mint chocolate tofu mousse filling, chocolate frosting, and mint filled cookies on top. Too bad by then we were all a little queasy from looking at our food. It helped not to make eye contact with the plates while eating.

But no birthday is complete without presents. I have a firm Maximum Present policy; have for years. That means that, no matter the value of the presents, I want lots. They can be individually wrapped M&M's, but by jolly, I expect to do some unwrapping! My natal celebrations were off to a nice start with the lovely art supplies I was given at church, but then we hit a snag. This year, my family dared to defy my edict. I got two presents. 


As in, 1+1

But since they were a DVD player and super rockin' awesome laptop, I have decided to forgive them.

This time. 
(I wonder if I can convince them I need 18 on my 18th birthday. Hmmmm, it's worth a shot.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The More, the Hairier

You'd think that I'd learn eventually. What's that about once burned, twice shy? But no, I was still taking my sister's calls even after the work-at-home fiasco. This time she had another can't-miss opportunity. A neighbor of hers had to make an unexpected trip and needed certain, ahem, "valuables" safeguarded for two weeks. Noni would be happy to do it, really she would, but just didn't have the right facilities. Surely I would love to have the chance to take two not-yet-housebroken puppies out to my house! For two weeks! At my house!

Of course I said yes. I'm a soft touch when it comes to animals (really?), and besides, this would give me a chance to test drive some border collie mixes to see if I wanted one for the all-important position of Vice-dog. Finley is aging gracefully, but still aging, so it is important to have a dog ready to fill his paw prints as Dog-in-Chief.

My mom headed into to get them while I spent a pleasant, though busy, hour puttering around the house puppy-proofing it. Little did I know, there is no such thing as "puppy-proofing". "Puppy-proofing" is a polite fiction used to placate your alarm systems long enough to let juvenile canines into your house.

First, I took one look at my new carpet, installed with so much blood, sweat, and tears, and like the Allies at Verdun said, "They shall not pass." A dresser in the doorway took care of that nicely. The bedrooms were off-limits, too, and I ripped up all the carpet in the hallway so they would have no carpeted area available to them. I fixed the doors upstairs so they would stay closed, and moved the cat litter boxes into my room. I laid down a nice, cushy blanket and awaited the arrival of my two little angels.

The puppies arrived in a whirlwind of wiggles, tongues and tails. They hadn't had much chance to run around in the country before, and quickly realized that country living is their true destiny in life. Apparently, so are cats. And every single dog toy that we own. And everything left lying around. And of course, those things not left lying around, but still not quite out of reach.

Chunky meets Boopsie
I spent my first afternoon putting up all the things they found to chew on and cleaning up all their frequent "oopsies" around the house. The puppies obviously had some sort of basic skeletal structure because they could move around, but other than that, they were simply bags of pee and poop. Before long, my side yard was littered with a broken armada of throw rugs, blankets, and other items, all waiting to be hosed off after their liberal dowsing with poop.

In spite of their obvious lack of couth, the puppies still wondered why they weren't allowed in all of the inner sanctums. I'm trying to convince them that carpet is hot lava, but so far they aren't buying it and sit longingly at the magic portals begging for entrance.

Don't you.....LOVE me anymore?

Finley mostly stands around looking at me like, "What were you thinking?" The puppies love him, but I don't think Finley is warming to the idea of being a mother-figure. He is compromising by not eating them.

I suppose the puppies do have some good attributes. They are good at sleeping through the night and don't fuss about being in a crate. Even though I'm temporarily abandoning crate training since they got poop everywhere the first 2 nights. They may still poop if I leave them out, but they at least don't lie down in it when they're done! They're very affectionate and, well, they're very affectionate. They're getting better about jumping up on you, and aren't going in the house quite as much as before.

All in all, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. We might just survive this, but if I were you, I'd buy stock in paper towels and cleaning spray. You'll make a fortune!

What a sweet, innocent little angel boy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

I Fell for a "Work-at Home" Scam

You'd think I'd know better. I mean, everyone knows those "Earn hundreds of dollars stuffing envelopes in your home" type things are fake. But this one seemed so good I decided to go for it. "Easy assembly!" "You can do it in your spare time!" "Loads of fun!" "Promotes world peace and the re-growth of hair!" "Will add years to your life!" How could I refuse? So I signed up.

Besides, my own sister was the one promoting it, and I trust her.

At least I DID.....

The job was constructing "jumpers", lengths of cable for hooking up satellite systems to the TV. Part of what my brother-in-law, Jack, does to fill his time is installing the TV systems for the many man camps springing up in the oil fields. Evidently, the modern "toughneck", as the oil worker is called out here, cannot work without his personal, operational TV. Wiring a man camp for satellite is considered a vital part of the construction, somewhere up there with having functional toilets.

Noni is the one who usually helps out with the jumpers, but for some reason, she found herself unable to do this job. Oh, she was disappointed---you could see that---but she managed to gain control of emotions and hand over all of the supplies to my mom (yes, she even scammed her own mother!).

The first step to making jumpers is having an explosion of cable, tools, and other parts in your previously clean living room. After "seasoning" the room with the appropriate level of debris, you are ready to begin the actual construction process. Jumpers are made by cutting a specified length of cable (one short and one long one make a pair) with wire cutters. Then you take a special wire stripper that clears a length of cable to the right shape and length. After that, you  bend all the little fibrous wire back from the main copper wire; this is important, because if even one of the tiny, hair-like wires touches the copper, you will short out that room's entire electrical system. The next step is to slip a cap over the cable...supposedly. In real life, it almost never "slips" and has to be forced on using a special tool and lots of brute strength (you will soon find brute strength in very short supply). All you have left to do now is crimp the ends using the crimper. That part at least is easy.

There, you have made your first jumper.

And it only took twenty minutes.

And you only have 429 more to do. That number is not hyperbole. That is the actual amount that we need to make to finish this man camp. This number doesn't count all the miscellaneous cables connecting the dish to the sectional panels, panels to sections, etc. Unfortunately for me, these will have to be made on-site, and I will be unable to help out. Forgive me while I pause to mourn.

My mom spent all afternoon working on jumpers, and then when I came home, I helped out for a couple hours. Through our combined efforts we managed to get 60 pairs done. Our hands were killing us. Did I say hands? They were more like deformed claws.

Personally, I am beginning to doubt the sincerity of Noni's grief at not being able to do this herself. Maybe that's why she was dancing that little jig after she handed over all the stuff....

The pitiful fruits of our efforts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Grandpa Moves In

Once the carpet was so beautifully installed in the living room, it was time to complete its transformation into a LIVING room in the fullest sense of the word. See, a couple weeks ago my mom thought she might be going out to California to work for Kenny for a couple months. While we were considering the prospect, the obvious question was, "What will we do with Grandpa?" The best solution, under the circumstances, was that he would live with me for the time she was gone.

Well, the trip fell through, but an idea was planted far back in the misty depths of my mind. Having thought through how it would work to have Grandpa at my house, I discovered that in many ways things would be a whole lot better. I could stay home, but still be working, and the prospect of a little time at home was like a siren song to me. Even Grandpa would have an easier time because we'd be able to set up his living situation just right to make care simpler and less strain on him (no more long transfers from bed to chair, when he is most likely to have a seizure, try to slide out of his chair onto the floor, pass out, and sometimes quit breathing). And of course Mom would benefit from a break.

So we decided to go for it. Even if it only lasts for a couple months, I'll get to accomplish stuff at my house, and my mom will be well rested. Well, semi-rested, since she still has to come out and help me when I have to run all over managing MY crazy life.  But she is looking forward to spending all that quality time out at my house. Really.

This past week Grandpa was in respite care at the hospital, so it was a great opportunity to get his stuff moved over and set up. Sunday we did the carpets and Monday we moved his gear (Hey, guess what, kids? We put the "Labor" in Labor Day!) Our disassembly and reassembly of his hospital bed would have made the medical supply guy roll over in his grave if he'd known. And been in a grave. But we muddled through... even though we looked like  a classic episode of "The Three Stooges Put Together a Hospital Bed."

After everything was plunked down in the living room, I began the process of moving it back and forth trying to find the perfect spot for each item. There was some good-natured grumbling from my sherpas, but they kept a good attitude......mostly. And in turn, I tried to keep my shuffling to a maximum of 5 moves per item. Such fun family togetherness! Such memories! All their friends have to remember Labor Day for is swimming, picnics, or watching TV. They got to be interior design interns for the day. How cool is that!



The big question in everyone's minds was, "How is Grandpa going to do with all the cats." Now, my cats aren't spoiled, you understand; they just recognize their rightful  royal spot in the household. How would they take an interloper, and one that was never too crazy about cats in the first place? Almost immediately after moving the furniture in, we got at least a partial answer.

The cats took one look at the hospital bed and said, "Hello, Big Boy! Where have you been all my life? MeeRowr! "

They seemed to think we'd put it there just for them and wondered why it had taken me so long to figure out that a living room bed was a good idea. What was going to happen when they had to share it with someone who was never too fond of cats on his best days?

Turns out there wasn't anything to worry about. The cats stay curled up at his feet (most of the time) and don't seem to bother him (most of the time), probably because he doesn't really seem to notice them. Good thing, too, because Hobbes has always been very fond of his Pop-pops and loves to hang out with him.

Now Grandpa spends his days in a sunny room with a nice, big window in front of him, and lots of colorful things around him (Especially his bedding, which has taken on all the hues of Joseph's coat. I wanted to get a jersey sheet set and the only one I could find was fuchsia---it makes for some pretty creative mixes with my other bedding) . We got his TV installed yesterday (thank you, Noni) and now he can watch his documentaries when he's awake. It's pretty nice, and as for me, well, I've been enjoying my time home.

Isn't it pretty?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Summer's End

The end of summer is always a bitter-sweet time. For a mom, autumn is basically the end of the year because it's a downhill-all-the-way express train to Christmas once school starts. The days are getting shorter and cooler, and you naturally take stock of all you did or didn't do during your summer.

Did you get all the projects done you had wanted to do?

Did you go all the places you'd planned?

Did you have all the fun you were going to?

The end of summer is kind of like the mid-life crisis of every year. Perhaps I am more susceptible than most to its period of introspection....

"Tiggy, do you want to do something fun!?"


"Too bad! You get to go anyway."

Tiggy has been helping me work through this summer's bucket list. Deep down inside, she likes it. Really, really deep.

The first thing is something I have been wanting to try for forever and I determined at the beginning of the summer that this would be the year. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wash your whole car using the windshield washer at a gas station? You haven't? Well, now you won't have to.



And embarrassing.

Goodbye, Yosemite!
It really doesn't work very well. Don't bother trying. And to all the cars that came after me and found a bucket of sludge with which to wash their windshields, I apologize. I did it in the name of science.

The next thing on my list was another scientific question I've had since last summer. How deep is the pond where the road flooded? In spite of others' doubts, I was sure it was over my head, but I am a very cautious person around water (read paranoid). I wasn't going into an unfamiliar aquatic situation without a life jacket. I didn't have one last summer, so I didn't check it out when the water was still fresh and clear. This summer, the water is neither fresh nor clear; it's the type of water that gets featured prominently in horror movies.

"Tiggy, do you want to go swimming with me?"


"Too bad! You get to go anyway!"

Out in the middle of the swamp.
I tried entering the water from the road side, but the dirt they'd hauled in to raise the road level made the sides so soft and muddy that I couldn't even walk into the water. Not wanting to die in quickmud, I decided we would take the field approach, which meant walking in from the shallow, swampy side. Did I mention I hate pond slime? Every step I took was accompanied by a shriek or squeal, occasionally interuppted by, "Is that a car coming?"

Tiggy didn't have a lifejacket on, so she didn't "get" to wade out very far. But don't feel sorry for her; she had plenty of fun later. I only went out far enough to confirm that yes, I was indeed correct; the water is over my head.....not that that's saying much! Then I hightailed it back to shore, sure that any moment a swamp monster would grab my skinny little frog legs and drag me under.

"Tiggy, are you ready for some more fun?"


"Too bad! You get some anyway!"

Doing the hula to get in the mood.
First we headed to the flooded road looking for some place a little more private; I figured I'd done enough damage to my reputation for one day. Because we were going SNORKELING! Won't that be FUN? Just like in HAWAII! OK, maybe not quite like Hawaii, but you gotta work with what you have. Besides, Tiggy's never been to Hawaii, and I have, so who knows more about it? Hmmmmmmmm?

Turns out that there actually are quite a few differences between swimming in Hawaii and swimming in North Dakota. Instead of crystaline waters teaming with brilliantly-colored fish we weed. And mud. Tiggy's the only one who actally saw any wildlife. First she saw a frog, and then...well, we'll get to that later.

Tiggy snorkeling. What will she find?

The water over the road was really shallow and the deeper water was way too murky, so we mostly scooted along the edge of the road. It was actually pretty fun, and we'll definitely do it again next year. Only we'll probably go somewhere a little cleaner and clearer.

 All good things must come to an end, even our micro-vacation to the tropics. We waded back to shore and loaded our gear into the van. Once we were back in the car, Tiggy let out a breath-taking shriek.

"AUNTY! THERE'S A LEECH ON ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Cool as a cucumber (and believe me, after a summer of garden explosion, I know cucumbers), I looked down and said, "Really?"


I scraped at the little dot with my fingernail. Sure enough, it was attached to her leg. I then proceeded directly into Leech Removal Plan 1.0.


The leech heard round the world.
I made Tiggy leave it on until we got to the pond, because even little leeches deserve to live. On something else. As far as we could tell in our frantic roadside checks, she had the only one. I guess it chose her because she is so sweet. Lucky Tiggy got to see all the wildlife.

You'd think after all the fun and memories we had together that Tiggy would be grateful. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Tiggy actually told me, "Aunty, the day you find out you're dying of cancer will be the worst day of my life (Awwwwww, how sw....) because then you're going to drag me all over the place to finish your bucket list. I'm NOT going sky diving." (So much for sweetness.)

Hmph. How ridiculous. I'd never try to drag her along to sky diving lessons. That's silly.

I guess this means hang gliding lessons are out, too.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How to Install a Carpet in 40 Easy Steps

Step 1: Prepare the sub-floor by scrubbing with a strong vinegar solution in the hopes of knocking down a bit of the animal essence left from a zillion feral cats running wild in the house the year before you moved in. Afterward you will smell like a dill pickle.

The living room "before".
Step 2: Paint the sub-floor with Kilz primer to further confine the barn yard perfume.

Step 3: Look up a helpful internet article on installing wall-to-wall carpet.

Step 4: Fall into despair.

Step 5: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 6: Measure the room and figure out the square and linear footage. This is best done by handing one's mother the list of figures and then hanging over her shoulder to point out when she makes a mistake. Don't be alarmed at her threats and shrill cries of annoyance. This means the "Mom" app is running correctly.

Step 7: Go shopping for supplies. Find out that all the carpet stretchers are rented for the weekend.

Step 8: Fall into despair.

Step 9: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 10: Buy supplies, including an expensive $100 knee kicker you will never use again.

Step 11: Think about having someone professional come and install it for you. Call some people, find out they are too much for your (non-existent) budget, and accept the inevitable. Begin telling your children, nieces, and nephews how much fun it is to be a carpet stretcher.

Caleb installing the tack strips.
Step 12: Nail down the strips of carpet tack board. This will be by far the easiest part of the project.

Step 13: Sweep floor one last time and begin to lay the carpet padding. This should be placed perpendicular to the direction of the carpet. Realize carpet will look like a crazy quilt anyway by the time it is all pieced together to make it fit the room.. Decide it doesn't matter.

Step 14: Take new installer's knife out of package. Stare at it in perplexity and mild terror. Finally figure out how to put blades in. Congratulate self on still having 10 fingers.

Step 15: Lay down carpet padding. Find out that most of the edges look like rats have chewed on them.

Step 16: Fall into despair.

Step 17: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Stapling down the padding.
Step 18: Rip out little tiny pieces of padding and  put them in the holes. After all, this will be under the carpet. No one will ever know.

Step 19: Trim the padding with your nifty professional installer's knife. Discover that "professional installer knife" means "DO NOT, under any circumstances try to use this knife unless you are a genuine professional with a name like 'Four-fingered Larry' or 'Lefty'".

Step 20: Put band-aids on your fingers. Lots of band-aids.

Step 21: Now you are ready to staple the padding to your sub-floor. Put staples in every 6-8 inches, alternating edges. Realize why they recommend a hammer stapler rather than one that must be squeezed each time. Wonder where you can buy new hands after you are done.

Finley spent the whole time lying down in one spot after another.

Step 22: Gather group of strong helpers and bring carpet pieces into the house. Getting mixed up on your directions and having to turn the heavy carpet several times is optional here. If you decide to go with the repositioning method, some grumbling from helpers is to be expected. This is normal. Do not be alarmed.

Step 23: At this point your carpet looks like the waves of the sea rolling into infinity. Press out the larger wrinkles, but rest assured, it will be easier to work with the piece once it has been trimmed.

"Gluing" with the non-stick tape.
Step 24: Trim carpet, leaving several inches extra on each side. Wonder if you can get new wrists at the same store where you get new hands. Now join the carpet seams using heat-free tape. Find that heat-free tape doesn't stick very well.

Step 25: Fall into despair.

Step 26: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 27: You are now ready to fasten the first side to the tack strips. Place the knee kicker against the wall and strike it forcefully with your knee. Don't worry if you don't succeed at first; you will get the hang of it about 3/4ths of the way through the installment. Repeat approximately 5,000 times per wall.

Step 28: Assemble your carpet stretcher and begin pushing it across the floor. Repeat several times; if your carpet stretcher weight complains about being bored or getting her ponytail dragged underneath the boards, ignore her. This means your stretcher is working correctly.

"I need some grapes!"

Step 29: Knee-kick, trim, and tuck the carpet on this wall, too.

Step 30: Wonder if it is possible to buy new knees at the hand/wrist store.

Step 31: Fall into despair.

Step 32: Remind yourself that anything is better than what you have now. Resolve to move forward.

Step 33: You are now ready to stretch the carpet going the other direction. Just as before, you need to kick the carpet in on one of the sides, trim it, and tuck the excess behind the tack strip.

Step 34: Stretch the carpet out, moving away from the side you have just anchored.

My understudy.
Step 35: Begin knee-kicking the carpet in. Give up in agony 1/4th of the way along. Call in your understudy to do the knee-kicking for you.

Step 36: You are very close to the finish now. It is easy to let little mistakes creep in due to your eagerness to finish. But don't worry, no one will notice the inch wide gap along certain sections of the wall. You can put an end table over it.

Step 37: You are basically done now, but for extra security, it is wise to take a moment and utilize a carpet installer's secret weapon. Screws. Place screws judiciously along all weak corners or seams to hold down the carpet. Don't worry about them showing. You can put an end table over them.

Step 38: Cut  patches to go in the old vent cover holes that are now in the middle of your floor. Find the glue doesn't stick well, so screw those corners down as well. Don't worry if the corners look funny. You can put an end table over them.

Step 39: If the installation has gone according to plan, you are now exhausted and ready to die. This is when you summon your inner reserves and clean up the gigantic mess of tools, trim, and trash you've just made. This will take approximately forever +1 day.

Step 40: Your installation is complete. Vacuum the carpet and enjoy. Then go to the chiropractor.

Finished at last!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wild Saturday Nights, Prairie Style

Who says non-drinking, non-smoking, non-carnivore, non-just-about-everything-you-can-think of people can't have any excitement? Tonight was just another Saturday evening home; Caleb and I were sitting around when Felix the Bruiser walked into the room.

Felix the Bruiser is called that because for the first 6 months of his life we thought he was a "Felicity". Once we found out he was really a "Felix", we tacked on the Bruiser part for his ego. Felix loves to hunt. So does all of the other 50,000 (OK, really it's 7, but it seems like more) cats around here. I can't tell you how many carcasses I've come home to, usually in my room because they like to bring their treasures there for display.

So there we were, Caleb and I, sitting in my room when in walked Felix. With a mouth full of feathers. I did a quick "life check" because I don't like to leave an animal to die in terror if I can help it. The bird in his mouth looked back at me and twitched.

Instantly leaping into action, I seized Felix and pried his jaws open. The little sparrow fell to the floor, and to the surprise of us all, scuttled off along the floor. That was too much for Felix, and what followed was a blur of activity.

"Catch him, Caleb!"

"Get Poppy (our butterball of an orange tabby) away from him!"

Before Caleb or I could react, Felix had the sparrow back in his mouth, clutched more firmly this time, and pointing in head first. I grabbed him again (I know, so rude), pried his mouth open again, and told Caleb to grab the bird out.

Caleb, always cool in a crisis, said, "I don't want to touch it!"


I was holding a jaw in each hand, but I managed to scoope the bird out with an extra finger or two I had lying around. The bird immediately scooted off again.

"Where's Felix?"

"Where's the bird?"

"Where's Poppy?"

A few frantic moments later, we had the cats out of my room and the bird hiding in my closet. Caleb went up and got a kitty carrier and I put the dear little sparrow inside and covered the whole thing with a blanket.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Crisis over.


"Caleb, where's the bird?"

"It's right behind you."

Roadrunner, as we decided to call him, was small enough to fit through the bars of the cage. His slender physique was helped in no small part by the fact that a great many of his feathers had been lost when prying him (twice) out of Felix's mouth. Unwilling to accept the confines of his cage, he simply walked right through them, back out into freedom. Now he busied himself running and flying about my room, all the while chirping for his lost parents.

I decided that anyone who felt that lively was well enough to be returned to the wild the same night. I made all the cats come inside, then released young Roadrunner back into the wild to find his parents. Hopefully they join up, because the world is a dangerous place for a little birdie. Especially around here!

You would think after all that, we couldn't possibly handle more excitement, but you'd be wrong. We also hammered in tack strips and played a board game! Some people think unless you live in a big city and go clubbing every night, you must automatically die of boredom. I say you haven't lived until you've scraped a bird out of the throat of a cat! Try that for thrills...

Aaah! He's so CUTE!