Sunday, August 30, 2009

Old Friends and New Loves

Aaaahhh . . . I just adore rediscovering things which I had forgotten or let fall by the wayside. Recently I have rediscovered:

Mmmm . . . The chocolate-hazelnut concoction tastes so scrumptious, it is sinful. I first discovered Nutella ( when I babysat for the son of one of my art history professors in college. She always kept Nutella in her house, and a swipe of Nutella on a graham cracker was frequently my professor's son's after-dinner treat. Curly Girl and I have rediscovered Nutella recently and keep a secret stash "just for the girls" in the house. We even frequently indulge in a spoonful of it for an afternoon sugar fix.

I love to read and always have, but reading for my own personal pleasure has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Between reading to my children at bedtime and working through and discussing the novels which Curly Girl reads for school, I have mainly been just thumbing through magazines during lunch or before I crash into bed for the night. After becoming obsessed with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series ( in the spring and thoroughly enjoying Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl ( this summer, I realized how much I have missed the feeling of becoming entranced by and losing myself in a book. Here's to hopefully much more reading for pleasure in the months to come!

Long-time friends
I am so blessed to have had some of the same friends since elementary, middle, and high school. While I adore all of my friends, new and not-so-new, there is something incredibly comforting about speaking with friends who have been there forever. Honestly, after making it through puberty and the not-always-so-pleasant high school years together, I'm not a bit worried about running them off now. Some life situations have been a bit challenging recently, causing me to question something that I once held dear, and my fabulous friends have been so amazing, encouraging, and supportive with their kind words and supportive notes.

Alternative music
I admit to having eclectic musical taste. My Ipod contains an odd mix of show tunes, classic rock, newer adult alternative, Christian contemporary, and alternative music from my high school days. I have especially enjoyed hearing some long-forgotten alternative tunes on the First Wave Sirius station ( It's amazing how many of the words you can remember to songs you haven't heard in 15 years. I was a bit taken aback, though, when hearing an ad tonight for the Dark Wave show featuring The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Gene Loves Jezebel. I never before realized that my favorite bands fell into the "dark" category.

Which leads to my New Loves . . .

Sirius radio
Love it, love it, love it. Love not having to listen to commercials; love picking what genre of music to listen to; love being able to listen to something different than the same songs which are repeatedly played on traditional radio. The best moment, though, has been when Curly Girl went into shock as I sang along to The Vapors "Turning Japanese." Since her dad had played the song in his car (In Curly Girl's eyes, Dad is much cooler than Mom.), my daughter had wrongly assumed that "Turning Japanese" was a new song. Thus, she was shocked to learn that a song she liked was (horrors, of all horrors) an old song. My most frequented Sirius stations are First Wave, The Pulse (Curly's Girl usual choice), Broadway, and Coffee House for acoustic rock.

Paperback Swap
We have tons of books around our house, and a large list of books we would like to read. To even out this situation, I opened an account on ( For no fee, you can list books you would like to trade for other books. When one of the site's members requests a book from you, you mail it to him/her. In return you can, request books you would like from other members and receive them at no cost. In the past 2-3 months, I have received five books and mailed three. Now I am just trying to decide which book I would like to request next.

I have always had dogs and never, ever considered myself a cat person. That has been changing, however, as Snowball has come into our family's life. Since rescuing the feral kitten a month ago, Snowball has become a model family member. He snuggles; he plays with toys; and he tries to play with our dogs, who aren't so crazy about playing with him. Best of all, though, is the litter box. After housebreaking dogs, teaching a cat to use a litter box is a breeze.

I love Netflix (! Our family originally began our subscription to obtain documentaries which would enhance our home school experience. We frequently order History Channel documentaries which correlate with topics we are studying. This summer we enjoyed the History Channel series "Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire" and have many medieval history DVDs in our queue for the upcoming school year. I really love being able to watch entire TV series, though. After reading Catherine Marshall's Christy with Curly Girl, we obtained all two seasons of the 1994 "Christy" television series through Netflix. Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the episodes and look forward to watching the subsequent made-for-tv "Christy" movies. On a less child-friendly note, I am looking forward to working my way through "The Tudors" series via Netflix DVDs.

That's it for me! What almost-forgotten things have you rediscovered or learned about recently for the first time?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Change. . . Our lives are defined by experiences and change. Some of which are exciting and desired, others which are challenging and heartbreaking. Our family is currently undergoing a season of change, one which we do not want to experience, but a change that my husband and I believe is necessary.

For the past fourteen years, my husband and I have attended the same church- the church in which my husband grew up, the church where we both became Christians, the church where our children were baptized and raised, the only church our family has ever known. But unfortunately, for a variety of reasons which continue to exhaust and anger me to even think about, we feel that "our" church may no longer be the best fit for our family.

Believe me, we have not and are not taking our decision to visit other churches lightly. It hurts; it breaks our hearts to even contemplate leaving our church family and close friends who have shepherded us and our children so closely. I am crying now at the thought of my son not receiving his 3rd grade Bible next year or not being confirmed at the same church as his sister, not attending Love Feast on Christmas Eve, Car Guy not graduating to a shepherd from a sheep in the Children's Nativity, not going on another mission trip to Kentucky as Curly Girl and I did this past summer, no longer watching Car Guy scurry around during the Easter Egg Hunt. Knowing that Promotion Sunday and the Youth Year Kick-Off are swiftly approaching and consciously choosing not to attend these events hurts deeply.

Yes, we are visiting other churches. For how long or if we will permanently leave our church, we do not know. My husband and I do realize that we can no longer exist with the constant church-related frustration with which we have been dealing for over a year now. We know that can't be afraid of leaping into change, and we don't want to miss out on blessings which God may have in store for us because we are afraid of leaving a comfortable situation to strike out for frighteningly unfamiliar territory.

Many tears have been shed and many questions have been asked and debated in our family regarding our current in-between church situation. All four of us have experienced internal tug-of-wars as we have wrestled with the why and why nots of our decision. While attending a church mission activity on Saturday, my children and I all greatly enjoyed being surrounded by familiar faces. All three of us had missed the warmth of seeing dear friends, and Curly Girl voiced all of our family members' feelings when she asked in the car on the way home, "Do we have to leave our church? Why can't we stay?"

My 12-year-old is certainly having the hardest time with our transition, but she is also the one having to repeatedly be the visitor in a new Sunday school class, when she had previously been the kid who comfortably stepped in her home church door several times a week. Over the past few weeks, Curly Girl has jubilantly skipped out of a new church so thrilled at the warm reception she received that she went back to their Sunday night activity, but she has also sadly walked to the car and commented that the middle school girls were cliquey and no one really talked to her. It's hard, and my heart breaks at the thought of even possibly uprooting my daughter at such a crucial time in her life.

But my husband and I also don't want to settle for less. Staying in a program with which we are thoroughly dissatisfied just because we are afraid of change is not in anyway acceptable. We also want to have a church HOME, though, not a building to just obligatorily attend once a week, but a place where we can peacefully grow and learn to love our new church family. We want to feel satisfied with our decision to go or stay at our long-time church. If we choose to consistently attend another church, we want to be there because we truly feel that we should be there, not because we need a fill-in church to attend while we hope the situation at our "real" home church resolves itself.

What we do know with all certainty is that we must have a church where our entire family can grow in our relationships with Christ. Unfortunately, I have allowed my frustration and anger at the human issues in our long-time church to impact my relationship with Christ. For the last nine months, I have used about every excuse I could think of to avoid walking in the church doors. It's not fair; it's not right, but it happened and still will until my family either finds a new church or makes a very deliberate decision to return to our previous one. One Sunday in June, my husband and I knew that we had to take a break to visit other churches when we all came home from church in horrible moods. The stress of dealing with some of the issues and people at our long-time church had gotten to both of us and, unfortunately, superseded worshiping that day.

In all honesty, I haven't been much of a practicing Christian since the holidays and have frequently contemplated my long ago thoughts of "Why bother? I'd much rather sleep in on Sunday mornings. Who needs religion anyway?" I will even admit that if it wasn't for knowing that my children need to be active in a church, I would have probably just shoved my Bible to the back of the bookshelf and tried to walk away. But I can't do that- I won't do that. It took too much hard work to get to the place where I was willing to tell people that I was a Christian. I don't want to go back to the frantic life of feeling like everything is up to me to get right or screw up all on my own. I'm a better person when I have an active relationship with Christ, and I desperately need to get back there.

Our entire family needs to attend a church where we can plug into God's love and light- where we can see these qualities lived out through the church's members, young and old, and exemplified by the church's ministers, leadership, and staff. Please pray for our family as we continue along our journey. We truly don't know where it will take us, and it is not a decision that we take lightly. Please also pray for our long-time church, as well as the churches we have and will continue to visit. Lastly, please pray for all people who do not have a church home. As our family has recently learned, life is much more peaceful and enjoyable when you are plugged into God's love.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aaaahhh. . . . . Corolla

Our family absolutely adores visiting Corolla on the northern Outer Banks.

On our most recent trip to the Outer Banks, we. . . .

Climbed Jockey's Ridge

Participated in two programs at the Wright Brothers Memorial

Climbed the 214 steps of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Caught crabs during a program at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

Raced go-karts

Lounged on the Lazy River

Frolicked in the ocean

and learned about the first English settlements in the New World at Manteo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Turn Right, Now Left Here

Today's Dennis the Menace comic is so my life . . .

My son, seven-year-old Car Guy, comes by his nickname honestly. He is all-about-cars, all the time. If he isn't arranging his cars, he is polishing them. If he isn't playing with cars, he may be reading a BMW Roundel magazine. When he was five years old, my little guy's favorite video featured an hour-long tour of a BMW factory. He also once amazed a babysitter by regaling her with the names of the German cities which contained BMW factories.

Car Guy comes by his car obsession honestly, though. My father is a car nut, too, and ignited his grandson's interest in vehicles. When Car Guy was two, he and my dad picked up a pack of Matchbox cars on the way to the Outer Banks. By the conclusion of our vacation, my two-year-old could properly pronounce and tell you the name of each sports car.

With his interest in cars, it should not surprise me that Car Guy is also a whiz with directions. For several years, he has been able to tell me how to get around town. At first it was cute and endearing, but sometimes this habit is just downright annoying. I would frequently prefer to chill out and listen to the radio, not have to actively tune out the directions of my seven-year-old backseat driver. He also does not confine himself to directions, frequently including instructions of when and how I should pull out in the road or turn. These directions also accompany his tendency to loudly identify most of the cars we see on the road.

Aaaahhh. . . . Car Guy's vehicular habits are endearing, but what should I expect from a child who loves to take field trips to car dealerships????

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

One Time When I Caught a Raccoon on my Porch

About 7:30 this morning while I was still snuggled in bed with my head under the pillows and covers, my husband awakened me with, "You've got to come downstairs to see what is in the trap!"

As I blearily opened one eye, Patrick continued to slightly yell, "It's a raccoon. There's a raccoon on the porch." Upon hearing his revelation, I immediately flashed back to inadvertently catching a opossum about six weeks ago when my stray-cat-catching-odyssey began. As previously chronicled, I have been trying off-and-on for about two months to round up the stray cat family that resides in the woods around our house (For more info, check out and I tried for about a week in June to round up the mother cat and kittens, but only managed to catch a opossum on my porch at that time.

At least with my opossum catch, Animal Control came and released the little critter. Yes, he was released right back into my yard. Apparently, the state of NC protects opossums and prohibits Animal Control from doing away with them. At least the opossum fiasco only left me with a stinky animal trap and some flashbacks of watching Beverly Hillbillies as a kid.

My morning raccoon incident was much less pleasant, however. After Patrick ventured onto the porch to take a picture of our "friendly," neighborhood raccoon, my husband settled in to read the newspaper and left me to deal with our nuisance since, as Patrick remarked trying to butter me up, "You've been doing such a great job handling the cat situation." (Yea, right- he just didn't want to have to call someone about having a very unhappy raccoon on his porch.) At this point, my husband and I quickly determined that neither one of us was brave or stupid enough to deal with the animal ourselves, and we would definitely require reinforcements.

As I trotted off to call Animal Control, I mumbled to myself, "Oh great, first a opossum, now a raccoon. The Animal Control guy is going to love me." Animal Control runs through our local police department, so I actually had to speak with the police receptionist first about my little issue. So I told her, "I need Animal Control to come out . . . I have a raccoon trapped on my front porch." The conversation veered crazily downhill at this point as the woman laughed at me and said, "I've never heard of anyone trapping a raccoon before." I beg to differ. We're in NC; I'm sure that someone else before me has accidentally trapped a raccoon before. As I have learned the hard way, I can put out the trap, but I can't control what goes in it.

So my dear pal from Animal Control, the one who previously released my opossum, called to tell me that he could not release or deal with my opossum since he is only licensed to deal with dogs and cats, and since my trap is from the Humane Society, not Animal Control, the officer whom I support with my taxes can't help me anyway. At this point in the phone conversation, I'm quickly losing my confidence in "Animal" (IMHO, it should be "Dog and Cat") Control and becoming very irritated that my desire to trap, spay, and return the feral female cat to my yard as a mouser is hitting so many roadblocks. Of course, Animal Control would be happy to put down any dogs or cats that I manage to catch, but they must release any wild creatures that are caught in a trap.

My friendly Animal Control officer then provided the helpful suggestion that I find a friend who is a hunter to deal with my little raccoon friend. This, of course, does not help in the least since I am not close enough friends with any hunters to call them up and say, "Hey, would you please come over to my house to kill the raccoon on my porch?" and something tells me that sicing a hunter on the raccoon would also violate the humane animal treatment agreement I had to sign when borrowing the trap from the Humane Society.

Since hunter Plan A was a no-go, Animal Control gave me number of a guy who could probably help me out. As my family laughed at me, I then called someone else about "my" little raccoon issue. On the phone, my new buddy at All About Wildlife very clearly informed me that it is against NC law to trap and keep raccoons- like I meant to trap the raccoon. To remedy my breach of NC law, he could sell me a raccoon permit or, for a fee, he could come release the animal for me. After realizing that I am now going to have to pay someone to release the rodent right back into my own yard, I grumblingly tell my new wildlife guy, Jonathan, to come over in about an hour. It would have cost more if I wanted the raccoon removed from my property, so I settled for merely releasing him.

Here is the scene that greeted Jonathan when he arrived at my house about 9:20am:

One angry raccoon in a trap. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl that was in the trap. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl and pulled the towel that was previously on the trap into it. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl, pulled the towel into the trap, and pooped all over my porch. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl, pulled the towel into the trap, pooped all over my porch, and cut his leg and bled all over my porch, too. (I was channeling the Berenstains' Bears on Wheels there with the repetitive verse.)

Dear Jonathan (nice guy and now I know who to call if I ever have nuisance animals in or around my house) then set Mr. Raccoon free about 30 feet from my house, rid the trap of the bowl and towel pieces, collected his $40 check, and went on his way.

Fast forward about 10 minutes: I'm trying to enjoy my morning cup of hot tea and read the newspaper (I'm much happier when I start my day that way) when the doorbell rings. It was Edgar from Terminex, and I wished you could have seen his face. As I walked down the hall toward the glass front door, I saw Edgar glance at the porch floor where the trap had been, and as he did Edgar's eyes grew bigger and bigger. Between the raccoon blood and feces, it must have appeared as if I had recently performed a ritual sacrifice in my yard. To alleviate my termite guy's fear, I quickly informed Edgar about my morning adventure and, of course, he laughed at me, too. Then as my termite guy checked the crawl space, I proceeded to scrub the porch and trap with hot, soapy water- not fun, not fun at all.

After my misfires with the opossum and raccoon, I considered giving up my "hobby" as a feral cat trapper, but I decided to soldier on for fear of being over-run with stray felines if I don't succeed in my mission of having the mother cat spayed.

But, hey, if you ever need a guy to wrangle a raccoon, call me. I know someone who will handle it for a small fee.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Animal Farm

Recently, we have added a new pet to our family. We're now up to four animals:

Fozzy, one of our 14-year-old bichon frises,

Gonzo, our other 14-year-old bichon frise, whose health is rapidly declining unfortunately,

Nibbles, Car Guy's rabbit, who is now hopping around and playing again after battling a near-fatal bout with pasteurella and head tilt (more details at and,

and Snowball, a 12-week-old kitten who is our newest addition.

Let me preface Snowball's story by stating that I have never previously owned a cat and have never considered myself to be a "cat person." My family and I started watching Snowball about six weeks ago, though, when we discovered that she belonged to a stray mother cat we had been feeding. For the back story on Snowball's family, check out and

Since I had not been successful in previously catching and aiding the stray cat family, I had just continued to feed them and let them be until I learned this week how quickly cats can reproduce. My guess was that we would be covered up in stray cats unless I quickly took some action. Meanwhile, Curly Girl and Car Guy enjoyed watching the five kittens hang out on our porch and especially took a shine to the white kitten which they dubbed "Snowball."

This past Wednesday night, our family inadvertently left our garage door open during a thunderstorm. By the time we discovered our error, the mother cat and her kittens had taken up residence in our garage. When Patrick and I went in the garage about 10pm that night, we saw five cats run out, but did not spy Snowball running away. After searching for him for a bit, Patrick and I closed the garage door and went to bed.

The next morning, however, I heard a kitten loudly meowing in our garage and found Snowball tiptoeing across the top of our garage door. Realizing that this was our chance to intercept one of the kittens, Patrick gently picked up the feline and placed it in a pet carrier.

I still wasn't sure about the cat thing, but told my children that we would check into what we needed to do to acclimate a feral cat into being a pet. First, we took Snowball to our local Humane Society so someone else could handle him before I stuck my hand in the carrier. After getting the all-clear and making a future appointment to have the cat neutered and receive his vaccinations, the children and I brought Snowball home. The kitten did have a bit of a respiratory illness and needed some antibiotics for ten days which meant that we had to keep Snowball inside for the duration of his meds.

For now, Snowball is ensconced in one of our bathrooms where he will stay for the next two weeks. Since I have no previous cat experience, I wasn't sure what to expect from a kitten, and a stray one at that. Snowball has been fabulous, though. He has used his litter box consistently and has not displayed any aggressive behavior. After voluntarily hanging out in his pet carrier or in a corner for about the first 24 hours, he now plays with toys, purrs when held, rubs your hand asking for more petting, and rolls over for tummy rubs. The kitten has even been cooperative when taking his twice-daily oral antibiotics.

When allowing Snowball in the house, I told Curly Girl and Car Guy that we would re-evaluate Snowball's status in 10 days. For some reason, I think the kitten will be staying, though.