Friday, March 23, 2012

Things like this can only happen to me

original run date March 13, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

As the ongoing house project eats away at our free time of an evening and weekend, I have been trying desperately to keep my sense of humor.  With every continuing square inch of damage we find, the harder that has become.  But an incident the other night actually helped me find the humor in all of this again.
Things were going pretty smoothly for once.  Larry had found all the ceiling joists and had cut the old sheetrock so we could take it out in pieces.  I had gone into the other room to grab something when I heard my name shrieked out in what sounded like desperation.
 As I made my way back into the utility room, I saw fat cat (Zoey) leap in the air.  Well, leap may be stretching it but she sure was trying to get off the floor.  In the process of taking down the old ceiling, Larry had disturbed a bird that had made her home in the attic.  Birdy was streaking across the utility room in an attempt to make it back into her nest and stay away from the cat.
Birdy quickly found the door going into our bedroom and made a break for it.  It didn’t take her long to figure out the only way out was the same hole that she came through to begin with.  She managed to cross several thresholds and found herself trapped in my craft room.  Larry and I discussed the situation and figured it should be easy to get her to fly straight out the front door and to freedom.  Wrong!  She flew straight at me with the intention of taking hair off my head for her replacement nest. 
I quickly grabbed the two, small throw pillows off the couch and used my make shift guidance devices to guide her towards the door.  She found the door and sat on top of it, panting as she reassessed her predicament.  She made another break for it with Zoey in hot pursuit, Larry following close behind, and me bringing up the rear with my pillows still in hand in case she made for my head again. 
Birdy once again found her way into our bedroom.  Larry slammed the door shut and the cat jumped on the bed in hopes of getting closer to her prey.  The bird perched on the ceiling fan blade to try and catch her breath. 
I figured the only way to get rid of her was through the window, so I threw the window open and pulled the screen.  Larry, being the brilliant mind that he is, turned the ceiling fan on to expedite Birdy’s departure.  It didn’t work well.  She hit the opposite wall and slid to the floor.  I was able to grab her without her beak drilling holes in my hand and granted her freedom through the open window. 
Finally, calm was restored and we could get back to work.  Zoey stayed on the bed and took a nap.  She had worn herself slick trying to catch that bird.  Much to my dismay, Birdy was only the beginning of the excitement that evening.
Since I have been losing weight, I have quite a few baggy clothes in the closet.  It really worked out well for me during this home improvement project because I have plenty of “old, work” clothes to wear.  Since we were taking the ceiling out, we had a bit of a draft going through the house.  I had grabbed a baggy sweatshirt and some loose fitting pants to work in.  That was a decision which came back to haunt me.
I was diligently tearing out sheetrock while trying to keep the “pink panther” insulation in place in the attic.  I don’t know if any of you have ever looked in your attic but some interesting things find a resting spot on the topside of the insulation.  Our attic is no exception.  As one particularly large junk of sheetrock came crashing down on my head, I ducked.  I was trying to avoid all that offensive matter raining into my eyes and mouth. 
As I bent down, my sweatshirt took a ride up my back and my baggy pants made the trip south.  That left little but a body crevice with a tunneling effect to catch all the debris.  As I straightened up, I realized the construction work was going to come to a screaming halt until this situation could be fixed.
As I started to dig through the newly created treasure chest of crud, my husband tried desperately to stifle the laughter.  I finally looked at him and gave him permission to let it go.  He was going to explode if he held it in much longer.
The first treasure that I found was the remains of a mud dauber’s nest.  Thankfully, no mud daubers were injured in their fall.  The shingle the size of a deck of cards was an interesting find.  It left most of its grit behind though.  The remains of Birdy’s nest had found a new home as well.  But by far the most offensive “treasure” that I produced was the piece of fiberglass insulation that floated peacefully into its new resting place like a cloud on a summer day. 
It was the last thing I found and most surprising.  I shook all the little pieces out of my sweats and made my way back to the stepstool to finish my job.  It didn’t take but a few minutes to realize the insulation had left some residue behind.  My skin was burning.  I was hoping a quick change of sweatpants would fix the problem but I was sorely disappointed. 
After about an hour, Larry lost his assistant for the night.  I couldn’t take it anymore and hurried for the shower.  After several gallons of warm water and about half a bottle of body wash, the burning residue was washed away.  I was once again in clean clothes. 
I won’t lie about the fact that all the damage and unplanned repairs we have had to make have had me pretty stressed the last few weeks.  This was supposed to be a simple fix of a few minor problems and a repaint type project. 
But after that night I decided I might as well find the silver lining in this storm and I came to some conclusions. First, we found the damage before the kitchen cabinets fell off the walls.  We would have then had to not only fix the original damage but the kitchen and cabinet contents as well.  Second, when all this is finished, my spring-cleaning should be fairly easy.  Most everything will be freshly scrubbed and painted.
All these “this can only happen to me” moments certainly give me something to write about each week.  I hope I can keep my sense of humor about it so Larry doesn’t explode from trying not to laugh at me during my “duh” moments.  If not, maybe he can start writing a column.  I’m sure his point of view would make for an interesting perspective.

The nightmare on Shelby Avenue continues

Original run date March 6, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

Ever look around your home and think to yourself, “Imagine that?” I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I mentioned in an earlier column that we are making some changes at our house. I didn’t want to call it remodeling because most of the changes we are personally doing are not major – well they weren’t anyway. We had reluctantly relabeled our project from some redecorating to a minor remodel. After this weekend, we have moved into full-blown repair mode.
We bought our home in 1990. We were excited. We knew it needed some work but it was a big house with lots of room to raise kids in. In the first few days after we purchased the house I spent lots of timing planning to repaint; deciding which rooms to redo the flooring in, which could wait, picking which rooms to work on before we moved in and which I could close the door on for now. Two weeks later one of those doors had to suddenly be opened and worked into the plans as we found out I was pregnant with Joni.
We knew when we bought the house that the previous owner had treated it for termites. They pointed out any visible damage and we put that at the top of the list of repairs to be made before moving in. Twenty years later we have found all the hidden damage those nasty little buggers caused.
This past Sunday morning, I was up bright and early, eager to start preparing the walls to repaint. I have lived with walnut trim and dark paneling highlighted by black and red linoleum for almost 22 years. I was so happy to see the dark, drab colors moving out. As I was getting all the painting supplies ready and get my paint mojo in high gear, I heard a sound that sent my mojo flying out the door and hiding in the barn. A resounding, “Oh crap” from Larry dashed my hopes of a quick first layer of paint. He pulled the paneling off the wall and the damage was staring at me like a beagle at a nest of rabbits.
As the day wore on, Larry’s vocabulary took a nosedive. One wall we planned on leaving came crashing down. The cabinets that had served as a catch all over the last 22 years had to be emptied and removed. By the time the evening rolled around, we ordered Casey’s pizza and sat staring at the mess of what was left of walls and floor.
I’m pretty sure we have a very tired guardian angel at our house. I mean, all these years it has been holding the floor up so the washing machine didn’t sink into the basement. The kitchen cabinets on the other side of the wall have been hanging by a thread – the thread of the screw in the rotten stud.
After repeatedly hearing me utter the words, “We’re in over our heads here, dear,” my dear sweet husband and son have continued on with the repairs. Hopefully by the upcoming weekend, I will have walls to paint. My alternative idea of getting rid of the wall completely and expanding the kitchen met with a glare that managed to keep me quiet for about 30 minutes. Note to self – Larry does not want to expand the kitchen.
The sound of hammers and saws continues every evening. I don’t mind helping with these projects for the most part but this one has hit the overwhelming stage for me. Larry and Jake have been diligently working every night to make the needed repairs. The site of Jake in his shorts, work boots, and tool belt is Facebook material but I want the repairs done correctly so I keep my phone in my pocket.
As I was working on taxes the other night in hopes of getting enough of a refund to pay for the truckload of two by fours, subflooring, and sheetrock I brought home, I peeked over my monitor to another frightening sight. They had moved from the utility room into the kitchen and hammers were flying. My laminated flooring was being removed. It was like passing a wreck on the highway. I didn’t want to go look but I had to.
The men had found damage going all the way into the subflooring in the kitchen. They just kept pulling up flooring until they found the end of it. The sawzall (that Larry borrowed so he didn’t have to break out the chainsaw again) fired up and the damaged area was removed.
I watched as the guys went to the garage to cut a piece of flooring to fit. Jake told me to keep an eye on the cat. My thought was, “She isn’t stupid enough to try and jump in the basement,” so I headed back to my computer to finish taxes. When the guys came back in the colorful vocabulary once again caught my attention. Apparently, Jake wasn’t worried about her falling through the floor.
Both cats have spent many hours inspecting all the holes in the floor and this time, Chloe decided to see what was down there. She had walked across the floor joist and was now comfortably watching the action from a perch above the ceiling in Jake’s room in the basement, just out of reach. The guys took a 20-minute break from repair work as we tried to coax her out with some leftover chicken from supper. As much as Larry would have been perfectly happy just laying the subfloor down and letting her figure out how to get out of that predicament herself, Jake and I decided listening to her cry all night was not a good plan.
Eventually, at about one in the morning, the floor was fixed and there were no holes left big enough for any sleep walkers to injure themselves in. The guys gave up for the night and vowed to finish up the walls before the weekend so I can finally get to the redecorating end of the project.
Once I finally have strong, sturdy walls with a fresh, bright coat of white paint and light color tiles installed I’ll be even more thankful for all the time and sweat the men have put into making the repairs. The house will be safer and I’ll love the updates to my utility room. The mudroom with the door that I can close the mess on will be much appreciated. No more scrambling to hide dirty clothes in the washer and dryer when unexpected company pulls in the driveway. I can just slam the door shut and get the dirty dishes from the sink thrown in the oven that much faster.
With spring on its way, the inside projects will soon turn to outside projects. There are two barns that need to be cleaned out, fences that need repair, all the tack needs to be cleaned, checked, and some replaced before riding season hits. Larry will give the truck and trailer both a good tune up. When the sunshine warms up the days, we’ll forget all about the damage that had to be repaired in the house and saddle up the horses and go.
We’ll be living the dream that all started when we signed on the dotted line and became homeowners – and with any luck, the nightmare of ever having to do home repair like this will be over forever.

Now let's get to work on that utility room

original run date February 21, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

After 23 years of marriage this month, a person wouldn’t think anything could scare Larry anymore. I have found one phrase that strikes terror in his heart though. I simply have to say “let the destruction begin”.
I’ve never been a wife that waits on her husband to do things around the house. I know how to run power tools and I’m not afraid to tackle a project. I guess it can be said that I’m a pretty independent woman. (After giving anyone who knows me very well a chance to catch his/her breath from laughing at that statement, I’ll finish my story.)
Larry and I have a system that has worked for many years. We discuss changes we want to make around the house or farm. These discussions aren’t short or brief – they are in-depth. Larry tells me he would love to help me with it. Then the subject is not mentioned again for weeks. I roll the ideas around in my head during those weeks while developing a plan. After deciding I need to get the ball rolling on the project, I either call or, in recent years, text the simple phrase “let the destruction begin”.
The first time this happened, Larry didn’t take me serious. I wanted to take some walls out and “open up” the family living area. After deciding it was time to get the project rolling, I made the call to him at work. When Larry got home, he opened the garage door to find the two walls that needed to come out lying in his side of the garage. He quietly closed the garage door and went to the barn.
Taking the walls out didn’t seem to be much of a problem. I had three young children, two crowbars and a couple of hammers. Just telling the kids they were allowed to tear something up made me the world’s greatest mom for the day.
Larry decided the shock factor of seeing those walls in the garage deserved a response. When it came time to cut the hole in the wall between the kitchen and the living room, he laid out where the window needed to be. He didn’t have a sawzall to cut the window so in true Larry fashion – he broke out the chain saw.
It really did not faze me too much. I just wanted a window in the wall so the area we frequented the most was more open. I have witnessed Larry do some pretty amazing things with that chainsaw. I must say though, that was the first, although not the last time, I had seen him complete a home improvement project inside the house with it.
A few years passed before he got the dreaded message again. He knew what it meant this time and wasn’t near as shocked when he got home.
We’ve recently undertaken a few more home improvement projects. With the snowfall and the cancellation of basketball games, he got the message once again the other night. By the time he got home, I had already removed the paneling and most of the sheet rock off the walls. It wasn’t a support wall so the destruction phase was quick.
Larry grabbed a crowbar and joined in on the destruction this time. He got a little more into it than previously. I have to say, the Chuck Norris karate kick that broke the two by four was comical. I was kind of impressed that it actually broke. Jake, on the other hand, was stunned that his “old man” could kick that high.
With the destruction phase complete, construction can now begin. The largest workload will probably consume our wedding anniversary. In a way, we will be spending the day much like we did 23 years ago – mixing together our ideas of how something should be and turning it into something useful and pleasing.
Just like when we got married, some things will turn out just as we expected. Other times, we’ll have to change our plans and make do the best we can. With any luck, there won’t be any disasters. I figure our marriage is pretty much like our house. There will always be something that needs work but all in all, we are happy with the way things have worked out.
Over the past years, our wedding has transformed into a marriage and our house evolved into a home. I’m pretty blessed in that the marriage has never gone through the destruction phase. I’ll make sure and refrain from sending any more texts that might send it that direction. I’ll just load up any walls I remove and haul them off myself next time instead of using his parking spot in the garage.
Happy Anniversary Larry - now let’s get to work on that utility room.

Walker and Trivette they are not

original run date February 14, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

A few years ago we upgraded our satellite TV to include a DVR. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of sitting around watching TV since we aren’t home much but the DVR has turned out to be an upgrade I have grown to appreciate.
With kids in high school, our schedules are chaotic but with the DVR we can record our favorite shows. On those rare nights when we are home, we can actually watch something we like instead of settling for whatever is on. I can even records shows that the men in the house hate and watch them when the guys aren’t there. Of course, that means they can do the same.
I have never minded that so much until the night I was comfortably tucked in at my craft counter and was working happily. I looked up to see the list of recorded series. My dear loving husband had recorded Walker Texas Ranger.
Let me clarify right away that I like Chuck Norris, the man. He is an admirable person but that show is quite possibly the most ridiculous example of television production I have ever been exposed to.
The acting is terrible and the special affects are worse. Have you seen all the parts flying off that truck 20 times an episode – yet it just keeps trucking. For years Larry claimed it was because it was a Dodge. Seriously? Even a Dodge has to have all it’s parts intact to keep on running at 90 miles per hour.
Grown men are getting the tar beat out of them and never shed an ounce of fake blood. Amazingly they always manage to run out of an exploding building just in the nick of time. And even though the bad guys have automatic machine guns, they couldn’t hit a mountain surrounding them much less all the rangers shooting bb guns back at them. Walker, however, never misses a shot. I’m guessing he barely went through a box of shells a season.
Trivette always cracked me up. He was the only mildly believable character on the show. He threw punches that missed, missed shots all the time, and got his backside kicked on more than one occasion. He even wrecked a car or two – all for dramatic affect of course.
Then there is Alex. What woman in her right mind would marry a man that caused her to be kidnapped, shot at, and put in protective custody as many times as Walker did for her? This woman has dodged more bullets than John Wayne. If I remember right – since I was forced to watch every episode from beginning to end in syndication – there was a chance of her being shot on her wedding day. Really? This guy is causing her to dodge bullets in a wedding dress and she still says, “I do”.
That stupid show has repercussions in my home other than the obvious fact that I can never regain the time lost being forced to watch it. No, the pain doesn’t stop there. My husband and son will actually try and recreate their favorite scenes in the confines of our living room.
Let me first say that Jake is obviously no Clarence Gilyard and Larry is absolutely not Chuck Norris. Watching a 40-plus year old man that is not Chuck Norris try to do karate moves has certain comedic factors but it also makes me check my phone to ensure 911 is on speed dial.
It always makes me run to hide anything breakable that hasn’t already been demolished by the football games they play in the living room. I then say a prayer that no permanent injuries are sustained by either goofus I claim as family. When all that is done, I just cower under the kitchen table and pray they don’t ask me to be Alex. I don’t think “Larry Walker” would be near as happy with his woman at the end of the show.
It doesn’t matter how many times I sneak into the DVR record list and delete that program – it always comes back. Usually during those days when I can’t escape like during the blizzard of 2011. Larry will continue to record it and I will continue to make fun of every predictable scene. As long as it is in syndication, I will be forced to endure each and every episode over and over again.
Larry claims Chuck Norris is going to make me pay for my disdain of his show but I disagree. I tend to believe even Chuck cringes to see “Walker Texas Ranger” on his tv guide because even he knows just how bad that show was, is and always will be.

Grandma always loved me anyway

original run date February 7, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

It is so frustrating - walking into a room and forgetting what the reason was for being there. Worse yet is making a phone call and completely forgetting who I called when they say hello. My kids love to tell me I’m just getting old. The problem is, I have had trouble in the memory department for years.
My husband will occasionally break out in uncontrollable laughter for no reason what-so-ever. When I ask him what could have possibly caused the outburst, he looks at me with such innocence. I always regret asking him after that because the answer is always, “remember those two times you forgot Grandma Bixenman in town and rode the bus home?”  He knows it will make me sigh and then threaten him with consequences I won’t put in print. He just can’t help himself - he has to laugh.
When I was in high school, I was not allowed to drive to school everyday. We had one vehicle that was not a farm truck and that was Mom’s car. The school bus drove right by the house and Dad always claimed he paid taxes so I could have the honor of riding the big yellow box of screaming little kids to school and back home. The only exception was on Wednesday.
Grandma Bixenman went to the Senior Center on Wednesday to eat lunch with her friends and play pitch all afternoon. Once I turned 16, I was allowed to drive her big green Impala, aka the boat, to pick her up and drop her off at the Senior Center.   She was always finished playing cards before I got out of school She would walk to Red Cross and visit with whoever was at the fountain until I picked her up after school. My problem was I was always involved in a lot at school or had my nose in books when the final bell rang. I was not used to walking out the south door and getting in a car. I was accustomed to going out the north doors and crawling on the big yellow bus.
The first time I left Grandma in town, everyone got quite a laugh out of it-everyone that is but Mom. She was standing on the front porch when I stepped off the bus. With her hands on her hips, she yelled over the sound of the big diesel motor – “where exactly is Grandma and her car?”  UH OH!
 I was studying and had completely forgotten it was Wednesday. Let’s just say it was a long five miles back to town when Mom had to stop what she was doing to take me back to the car and Grandma. Thank goodness Grandma Bixenman had a sense of humor about it.
The second time it happened, about a year later, nobody laughed. Mom was actually standing by the car when I got off the bus. She had seen it turn off the highway and knew I screwed up again. Once again I had my nose in a book, and again, I wasn’t used to driving a vehicle to town.
It almost happened a third time my senior year of high school. Thank goodness Joyce Perry, a family friend, was my bus driver. I didn’t even get my foot on the first step and she started laughing. Between the fits of laughter, she reminded me it was Wednesday and Grandma was waiting for me. I’m sure Joyce told Mom about it but I kept quiet.
I wish I could say I have never forgotten people since then but sadly, I can’t. In the first few weeks after Jake was born, life was a bit chaotic. I had a four year old, a two year old, and a newborn. Larry and I were managing the feed store on our own, so I bravely packed up the troops every morning and headed into the office.
I had gotten into the habit when both girls became mobile of taking a head count whenever I left a store to make sure I had not lost one of my active toddlers in the store somewhere. I had been doing that for quite a while and was used to always coming up with two kids before it was safe to leave anywhere.
Adjusting to three turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Let’s just say the day I realized, when checking out at IGA, I was short one child was when the reality of having three kids in 4 years hit home. The very fast, two-block trip back to the office to wake the sleeping red head seemed like it took a year.
She never knew that I had slipped back into pre-Jake days and was comfortable leaving the office with just two kids. The trauma to my mom psyche was long withstanding though. I never left anywhere for years after that without counting heads at least three times before deciding I had everybody. I cried for about a week after that incident.
The instances of forgetting my loved ones have decreased over the years. There have been a few occasions when Jake had to call us to pick him up after  practice but those weren’t entirely my fault. I will forever contend that I told Larry or Joni to get him those nights. Larry swears I forgot him – he uses the excuse that since I forgot Grandma twice, it makes more sense that I’m the one that messed up.  I say Larry has selective hearing and chose to not pay attention to me that day.
As I’m rolling through my 40’s and other signs of aging are creeping up on me, I chuckle to myself once in a while. While many of my friends are discussing getting old and forgetful, I’m going to claim youth for just a while longer. There is no way you can say memory loss is a sign of old age for me – I’ve been forgetting things since the 80’s!  The best part about that is my Grandma loved me anyway because she knew exactly how I felt.

I will give them older, but wiser is debatable

original run date January 24, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

There are a lot of advantages to being the baby of the family. One of my favorites is that as an adult, no matter how old I get – I can always smile at my brothers and sister with confidence and contentment. They will always be older than me.
As a kid, it wasn’t always a great thing. I was picked on a LOT. I am five and a half years younger than my next oldest sibling so I had many sets of “parents” around keeping me in line. As I have been walking down memory lane each week to find topics to write about, I have recalled some of the incidents that shaped me growing up. Several come to mind but by far the most traumatic and emotionally scarring for me was the day the door handle in the old farrowing house broke.
A typical non-school day for me growing up meant I was outside as much as possible. Sleeping late was never an option and staying in the house meant doing laundry or dusting. I always made for the back door while still trying to pull my pants on to keep from having to do anything domestic. It usually didn’t matter what I found to do through out the morning as long as I was in the kitchen by 11:00 helping fix dinner – that’s lunch to most people but at our house it was dinner. Come 12:30, ready or not, here came the men. When the sand started through the hourglass, dinner was on the table. We didn’t have DVR back then so you didn’t want to miss Days of Our Lives or you would be totally lost!
I always tried to sneak out before the show was over but never made it. There were dishes to be done. This also meant Janiece and I had to get along for the hour it took to clean up the kitchen – that … never … happened.
I will never forget the day the fight escalated to a fever pitch. I had had enough! The perfect helicopter whirl that towel made over my head would make die-hard Steelers fans proud. The release was flawless. I don’t know if I hit my intended target because the instant I released that towel I was out the back door. I knew before I ever let it go that it was in my best interest to make sure Mom knew my side of the story first. I made record time to the old farrowing house.
It was tricky getting to the door. There was a maze of farm equipment, bin fans and a constant mud hole – aka manure pit - to weave through. I managed the obstacle course and burst through the door with great pride. Janiece was normally a lot faster than me but I had won. Probably because she knew Mom had finished vaccinating baby pigs that morning and wasn’t working in there that afternoon.
I slammed the door shut and with the most innocent voice I could muster, I called out for Mom. Motherly voices responded – every sow in the farrowing house had been awaken from her afternoon siesta and thought it was feeding time.
When they all finally quit rattling their feed troughs - reality set in. Mom wasn’t in there. I dropped my head in defeat. Janiece was going to get to her first. I was doomed. I grabbed the latch to go find some place to hide until I absolutely had to go back in the house. The latch easily moved but the door didn’t open.
After slamming the handle up about 20 more times, it sank in. I was trapped!  I then realized I might not be found until the next morning when Mom came out to feed again. I didn’t think anybody knew where my lightening fast exit had taken me. I was far enough from the house, they couldn’t hear me beat on the door, scream in panic or sob uncontrollably at the thought of being locked in there with all those pigs overnight.
 I finally gathered myself together and started planning an escape. There had to be a way out of that building. As I evaluated my surroundings, I noticed the door that would save me. A feed bin took up a space at the west end of the building. Dad had just filled it with feed so there was a mountain I could climb and open the small door where the auger of the grinder emptied the feed. Eureka! If I could get that door open, it was facing the house and old garage. Surely I could get someone’s attention to come save me.
I was confident as I started my march down the aisle to freedom. I made it to the first crate before I was stopped dead in my tracks. My first thought was one of the baby pigs had escaped and was running loose. That was the only logical reason an animal of that size would be crossing the aisle in front of me. But as the animal was swallowed by the hole in the wall, the long, spindly tail went on for another 30 minutes. I knew it wasn’t a pig – it was a rat. A humongous rat that was sure to eat me limb for limb and leave nothing but pearly white bones for my family to find.
The sea of tears began flowing. I ran back to the door and I believe the first curse words I ever uttered flowed out of my mouth. Somewhere between sobs I heard a tractor. I’m pretty sure I bruised every body part possible beating on that door. I screamed until my voice abandoned me from fatigue. It was all for naught. The silence – after all the sows calmed back down – was deafening.
I almost mustered the courage to try the feed bin door again but the image of that rat played back in my mind like a movie at the drive-in. I promptly sat on a feed sack and drew my legs up so the rat couldn’t reach my toes.
It was there, on that sack, my sister found me that evening. Apparently, I was in big trouble when it came time to fix supper and I was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until the whole family sat down for supper that they realized I wasn’t playing. When I didn’t show up to eat, it was serious. After recounting the day and figuring out the last time anyone had seen me, Janiece quickly made her way to the farrowing house to look for me.
It didn’t take me long to forget why I was mad at her when she opened that door. She was my hero! The rat had missed his meal and I skipped all the way back to the house and took my place at the supper table.
I can remember tears of laughter flowing like the Nile River that night around the table as I relived the encounter with the rat. They found great humor in my terror. I was pretty upset with my siblings for not caring about me. As I grew older I realized that with age comes knowledge and they were all old enough to know I wasn’t in danger. There lies the beauty in being the baby – no matter how old I get, they will always be older than me – no need to mentally insert wiser there, I’ll argue with you every time about that.

Reasons to celebrate - and sigh

original run date January 10, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

Sibling rivalry - every set of parents hopes they can avoid it. How Larry and I ever thought it wouldn’t happen when we had three kids in 48 months is beyond me.
It started early for us. I have video of the kids just before Christmas the first year Joni was in preschool. Jake wasn’t even a year old yet. Joni was trying to give me a preview of the preschool Christmas program by singing “Go Tell It On The Mountain” as I videotaped her performance. Because she had been continuously rehearsing the song for weeks, Jeana knew it too.
As Joni was belting out the words with precision and drama, Jeana decided she was not to be outdone. The vision of Jeana screaming with every ounce of breath in her lungs, her eyes closed and forehead scrunched in deep concentration is an image forever connected to that song. Every year at some point during the Christmas season that song is sang during church services. Every year, the pew my family occupies shakes as we all try to contain the laughter as that image pops into our head.
The rivalry never got any better. It just turned from songs to food. Jake is a typical boy and has always loved to eat. When the kids were little, Little Debbie cakes were never on sale enough. They all three LOVED those carefully baked and wrapped geometric marvels of pure sugar – especially Zebra cakes!  I’m not sure why they were so esteemed at my house but a box would barely make it two days if it was not well hidden and out of reach.
One Sunday afternoon Jake came waltzing out of his bedroom as happy as a young boy could be. He had a Zebra cake in each hand and a huge smile on his face - the fight was on. The girls demanded he share. He smiled that Chester the Cheetah grin and shoved cakes into his mouth with gusto. I knew it had been a couple of weeks since I had purchased any Little Debbie’s of any kind so the hunt was on. He had to have a stash somewhere.
It didn’t take long to figure it out. Jake had an entire fleet of semis with grain trailers and stock trailers in his room. If Orscheln’s carried it, he had managed to talk someone into buying it for him as a gift. Larry and I had added to the growing parking lot in his room by purchasing the collectors trucks from Kent Feeds every year when we owned the feed store.
Jake had quite a supply of assorted food items stashed away in all the trailers. Anything he didn’t care if the girls found was in the livestock trailers. Those trailers had holes in the sides and you could see what was in them.  The smaller treats, like Halloween candy, were tucked away safely in the grain trailers. The precious Zebra cakes were scrunched into the bulk truck he had recently added to his fleet. It was completely enclosed with no windows so the chances of anyone accidentally seeing his hidden gold mine were slim.
Needless to say, we cleaned his room that day. He was not a happy camper but I could foresee him having all kinds of unwanted roommates with the endless food supply he had managed to accumulate. He could have gone into hibernation in his room and came out having gained 10 pounds. Jake’s rainy day supply was cleaned out and he was going to have to learn to share.
Fast forward to present day – the sibling rivalry hasn’t subsided much. One Sunday afternoon as I was walking through the kitchen with a large stack of clean towels, an unusual glare caught my eye. I put the towels down to find my refrigerator had a cable ran through the handles and a padlock securely holding the doors shut. A bellowing roar rang throughout the house, as I demanded answers.
Apparently, Larry had bought ice cream for the family dinner that night. Not just any ice cream, drumsticks - both Jake and Joni’s favorites. Jake was afraid Joni would raid the box as soon as she got to the house and he wouldn’t get his fair share of the delicacies. He had dug out a cable and padlock that came as a trigger lock on the most recently purchased firearm and put the freezer on lock down.
Jake figured out how to lock the freezer down so no one could sneak ice cream out but him. Of course, it also meant we couldn’t get anything out of the refrigerator to fix supper with either but he didn’t care. As long as he had full control over the ice cream, life was good.
I do see some hope on the horizon between the two kids though – in between the wrestling matches over ice cream bars. On a recent shopping trip for groceries with Joni, I noticed a few things in her cart that I didn’t recognize as day care friendly foods. I casually asked which kid those unusual snacks were for and she grinned as she said – Jake. He makes pretty regular appearances at her house before school, after school, after practice, and on the weekends. Apparently, he has managed to claim his own shelf in the pantry and drink shelf in the fridge that she keeps stocked for his unannounced yet expected visits.
As I watch my kids mature into adults, I tell myself, “don’t cry because it is over; celebrate because it happened.”  Sibling rivalry has given me many reasons to celebrate over the years and continues to make me laugh when I hear that one song at Christmas or see Little Debbie cakes on sale.
I’m sure just because they are getting older, it doesn’t mean they won’t find something to compete at. They can barely eat Oreos at the same time without seeing who can eat all the frosting out of the middle fastest. But as long as I can still get in the refrigerator to get the ingredients to make supper, I’ll continue to celebrate with them every step of the way and only sigh occasionally.

I hate to say this but when he's right, he's right

original print date 1-3-12
Chariton Valley News Press

I hate to say this but … Larry was right! My cats are worthless. I have always said the only reason I have cats in the house is for mouse control but this weekend I had to admit it. The two cats I currently have will never catch a mouse.
I knew I had a varmint in the house. I had seen the signs. I don’t like putting poison out because of my cats and the retched creatures always die somewhere that I can’t reach them to dispose of the carcass. Then the house smells for days. I have had it on my list to get some traps but I was seriously hoping since I hadn’t seen anything for a few days that the cats had taken care of the problem.
Then, Sunday evening as I was walking through the dining room, I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought age was catching up to me and I had one of those floaters in my line of eyesight but deep down I knew what was scurrying across the dining room. It was time for tweedle dee and tweedle dum to earn their keep. Both cats were summoned with great fanfare to their intended call of duty. It was time to rid my house of unwanted creatures.
Both cats seemed only remotely interested in what I was doing so I tried to encourage them to help me out in this little adventure. Zoey joined right in on the hunt. Chloe could have cared less what we were doing. I pulled the refrigerator away from the wall so we could all get a better look at the intended target.
I’m not scared of mice - I just don’t like them because they are just nasty little creatures. But this “little” creature was the size of a football. It just sat there and looked at me like “what’s your problem? I’m here and I’m staying.” I spun around like a ballerina with great poise and confidence. I tried to share my enthusiasm with fat cat by proclaiming, “look Zoey – GET ‘EM”!
She looked at me with much the same stare I get when I tell Jake to clean his room. She blinked a couple of times and looked down at the mouse. I’m pretty sure that blasted critter smiled with a look of satisfaction. I’m guessing they had met before and he knew where this was going.
The stare down game continued for what seemed like days. It pained me to watch that stupid mouse win – Zoey blinked first. Actually, I think Zoey forfeited because she was overdue for her evening siesta and she just couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer.
I gave up on Zoey and put my faith in Chloe to take care of matters. She had stretched out across a dining room chair and was fast asleep. I picked her up and sat her on the floor looking directly behind the fridge. The mouse hadn’t moved yet. Her reaction was, “oh look, a mouse! You woke me up for that?”
At this point, Larry had meandered into the room. I was so hoping when he entered the scene, I would be able to proudly tell him that yes, there is good reason to have cats in the house. They caught the mouse. Instead, I was smack dab in the middle of a sleeping cat, a cat staring at a mouse, and a real life version of Speedy Gonzalez. The mouse jumped in the air, smacked his feet together and laughed rambunctiously as he sped away.
Larry looked at me with that smug look of “I told you so” and blatantly asked, “Why didn’t YOU kill it?” Last time I checked my duty list, mouse exterminator was not on it. That is why I keep cats in the house! It isn’t because I enjoy cleaning litter boxes or middle of the night clashes between the cats and my husband. I wanted the cats to kill the mice for me so I never have to think about the pests, EVER.
So now I have to commit the cardinal sin of wifehood. I have to openly admit that I was wrong and Larry was right. My cats are not mouse killers and they could care less if football sized invaders overtake the house, as long as their morning, afternoon, and early evening siestas are not disturbed. The mice could tear the house down around them and they would watch. When and if they occasionally opened their eyes it would be to make sure their resting spot was not going to be disturbed.
I’m sure Larry will use this on many occasions in the future. My argument has always been “when is the last time I was wrong and you were right dear”. He has hung on to the last time this happened, back in the early 90s sometime, for dear life for years. Now his arsenal has another dagger in it for future use. It won’t be tucked away in the far recesses of his mind and brought out occasionally. It will be hung on a billboard at my driveway so I am reminded on a daily basis when and how it occurred. Looks to me like 2012 is going to be a very long year in the Latamondeer household.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In Construction Mode

I'll post some of my columns about the crazy things that have happened since we have started working on the house.  Until then, here are the pics of the new pantry and tool closet that we built in the old utility room.

I really want to do the river rock flooring in this room but haven't convinced hubby yet!