Tuesday, June 30, 2009


She's back...

We dogsit - a lot. Sooki is my favorite. She is massive - I can't remember what type of dog but she is huge. And she is blonde and furry. She looks like a XXXL version of our chow, Butterball. And she is just the sweetest thing in the world. One bad thing - she tends to think of herself as a lapdog - which is like having AJ sitting on me! Very nice and loving - but not something I would want to experience on a regular basis!

My favorite Sooki story happened about a year ago. She likes to sleep in our room on the floor. One night - the bed is shaking. I am scolding her for wagging her tail. Then I notice - she is no where near the bed! It was one of those little earthquakes tremors. Now, in California - they happen all of the time - NEVER happen in Illinois! Poor Sooki - she had no idea what was wrong with me!

I will have to take a pic and add...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Weekend Update

Since Friday evening was a bit cooler, we decided to actually go on an official camping trip. Just a one-nighter - but, it counts.

So we packed up everything in the van, and Chris and the girls all headed out. Kiel and AJ both had to work - not that they would have gone anyway! I always manage to pick the campsite that is the absolute furthest from the vehicle but always an awesome campsite. We haul it all in and start setting up. We aren't there an hour when 5 Jr. high aged kids come traipsing thru the site. Mellisa asks - "Can we help you?" No response - they just keep walking to the lake. Now, our site is about 10 yards from the lake. Mellisa's tent is literally 4 feet from the edge of the lake. We weren't real sure what in the world they were doing but let it go. 15 minutes later - 20 kids or so go thru our site. I said loudly - "Seriously???" No response. This time they walked closer to where Chris was fishing with the girls - and they giggled and left. Bizarre. Another 20 minutes go by - a mom comes over. "Do you have a problem with my kids?" What??? I am sitting at my table getting dinner ready and I am being harassed by a mom now? She accused me of saying mean things to her kids and if I had a problem with her kids then I needed to tell the 16 adults at the campsite - not say anything to them. Now, I have no idea what the little liars said - and I do not handle confrontation well. I just sat there and said that she might just want to keep her kids at her campsite. She stormed off with the 20 kids or so in tow and told them that there are some people that think they are better than others and I was just uppity. Whatever... I am cooking hot dogs over a campfire and peeing in the woods - where is the 'uppity' part in that???

Time passes - it gets cooler - the wind picks up - and we notice lightning in the distance. We did decide to put the fly's on our tents just in case we get a bit of rain. I tried 2 times to make my campfire apple pie - the first one burned since I was trying to add stakes to the tent while cooking. The second one - I dropped on the ground. It was a sign that I didn't need an apple pie. I don't think much of the thunder & lightning - until Chris gets on his cell and finds out that there are severe thunderstorm warnings in our area. Fantastic. I still wasn't too worried until a park ranger came by and told us to head to the bath house if it got much worse. Now, we have hiked quite a ways to get to this site. It is now pouring rain - the van is far. And by the time we could get to the bath house - which is on the other side of the lake, we would have been toast anyway. So - we stuck it out. It was very windy. Thunder is very loud in a tent! But - the girls were fine. Mellisa was fine. Our tent leaked. At some point, Chris and I decided we were already wet - might as well sit by the lake and watch the storm. It was absolutely beautiful.

So - interesting camping experience for the first one of the season. Every time we go, we bring home the strangest memories. But, I guess that's what it's all about.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sad day...

So both Michael and Farrah in one day...

I, of course, had the requisite Farrah do and was very proud that mine was even the same color - except when the pool turned it green! Every teen boy I knew had the poster hanging - I think they bought them all at Spencer's when that was the place to shop at the mall. I remember watching The Burning Bed, crying and being shocked at the same time that she was the same actress that played the flighty blonde in Charlie's Angels!

I loved Michael Jackson - not the freaky part of his personal life - just the artist part. My roommate in college - Donna Voges - LOVED him. She had posters all over her room and knew all of his dance moves by heart. We used to practice before going out to parties... I even remember learning the entire dance sequence from Thriller. That was a fun time...

On a happier note - Alyx loved her birthday - loves of fun gifts. And we are taking Aunt Janet's wonderful advice and camping in the tent in the living room and having a fire in the fireplace. She will love it!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Miss Alyx

The Princess turns 7 today. Wow - even my baby is getting old now... Alyx is a unique little girl. She is petite and prissy - likes clothes, jewelry, purses, dolls and is neat as a pin. Exact opposite of Riley - or anyone else in the family!

Usually, we take a little weekend trip for her birthday. Summer birthdays make it so difficult to have a party with friends - and we figure we spend less on a trip than we would on a party anyhow! We were kind of wiped from the Reunion this year so we postponed the trip this year. She wants to go to Indy - stay in a train car at Union Station and visit the Zoo and the Children's Museum (Indy's is VERY nice). So we will do this in July. We thought we would take her camping this weekend so she would still have something special to do. It is too stinkin hot. So now we are at a loss. Maybe dad can think of something today...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The heat...

It's hot.
Very hot.

The air in the house is fixed - just in time. Just needed coolant... The air is not working in either vehicle but we drive with the windows down and I don't care about the hair anymore so it's fine...

Riley's softball game last night ended after 2 innings. It was too hot for the girls.

Alyx's cheer camp is indoors.

AJ's work is not air conditioned but he is off until Thursday so maybe it will be cooler by then.

Chris got half the jungle mowed yesterday - maybe the rest tonight.

We picked the dogs up from doggie daycare yesterday. They are happy to be home - but don't want to go outside. We did get Butterball shaved a bit so maybe he will be a bit cooler with his thick fur coat.

It's the kind of weather that I just want to lay around and not do a dang thing...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lots to share

Big travel weekend for the fam...

First of all - we managed to get the two rental cars wheeled and dealed into one 15 passenger van - same price even. So we traveled in style to KY in a church van.

Second - our air in our house is out. It is hell. Repairman comes today. It was nice to get away in an air conditioned van to an air conditioned hotel room!

Next - Mellisa, Riley, Chris and myself traveled to Cumberland Falls. I love it there. The trees, the sound of the water - it is lovely. KY has had a lot of water. Riley said it looked like a chocolate fountain. I really would love to rent one of their little cottages one year and stay awhile. I remember doing that when I was younger. I remember hiking and being crowded and hot. And if you walked off the back porch - you would fall off a cliff!

Reunion was wonderful. Great turn out - only people missing that I tend to hang out with were Robert Bruce, Cindy and Josh. I really missed them. They have to be one of the sweetest families I know - proud to call them cousins. I guess the economy in Michigan is just killing their business. It must be horrible for Robert Bruce - I just feel so badly for them. No drama this year which was a nice change. Just a nice weekend.

Onto the big news - AJ won the cup! Cindy, last year's winner, wrote the nicest note but didn't reveal who the winner was until the very end - Aunt Sally read the note. I had no idea who the winner was - she mentioned that it was going to someone that was very quiet. I should have known it was AJ right then since 95% of the Hollins are loud!!! His little face just turned to absolute shock - then his little tears started. Which of course, prompted my tears. He gave the sweetest, most genuine little acceptance speech. He is the most kind kid with the biggest heart... So thank you Cindy - AJ is just on Cloud 9 and is so very proud and humbled...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Severe storms in the area...

I asked the hubby at 4 when our alarm went off if the sun roof was closed in our van since I could hear this little rumbling sound in the distance. He thought it was closed. I looked out the window but couldn't tell if it was closed or not so I asked him to go check as he got out of the shower since I was getting into the shower. He came back up a few minutes later and said it was fine. I mentioned how quick that was and he said he looked out the window and it was fine.

yea - it was open

I didn't know a van could hold so much water - I swear I saw fish pour out when I opened the door....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lame Mom

Reunion approaches...

The theme this year is "Birthdays" - not sure what that means but I like to get into the spirit of the event. I know - I am a little over the top sometimes but I do enjoy myself!

I thought it would be so cute if our family all wore shirts in the color of their birthstone - you know - to match the theme. You would have thought I had asked the world...

Mellisa hates yellow (Nov./Topaz) - I didn't know that - but she is wearing it anyway and I don't care. Kiel's birth stone is an Opal (Oct.) - well, how do you get that color on a shirt? He is wearing white. Alyx's is the Pearl (June) - so she is wearing white. Chris and I are wearing different shades of blue (Sept./Sapphire & Dec./Turquoise). Riley is in a shade of blue (March/Aquamarine). AJ - who is the good child - is going on a desperate search today for a pale green shirt (August/Peridot). He is such a pleaser - and kudos to him for at least trying!

So - it was a good idea but we are probably going to look as goofy as hell. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Strawberry patch

Chris and I completed a little project last night. Well, it started on Sunday and I finished it last night.

We have several raised garden beds. One is dedicated for strawberries. We used to have a horrible problem with rabbits. Tanner (our dog) figured out how to catch and eat them and we also put a chicken wire cover over the top - so the rabbit problem diminished considerably. We now have birds.

At one time, we didn't have birds. Our subdivision was built in the middle of an old soybean field. No trees, no grass, just dirt. All landscaping has been done by the builder or in our case, me. Since we have lived here almost 10 years now, plants and trees are getting much larger and can actually support wildlife now. I remember one morning waking to the sound of birds chirping and thinking how lovely and how much I missed that sound. Now, I want the birds to go away - especially the thrush - at least that is what Chris thinks it is. This bird family has a soft brown color with super long beaks. They are able to sit on the chicken wire and poke into my lovely garden bed of strawberries and suck out the middles. Very frustrating.

I had this wonderful idea to build a large structure out of 2x4's. Until - I started carrying the 2x4's out to the back yard and realized how heavy the dang thing would be!!! So, I went online and found a fantastic idea for a screen. The Internet is wonderful. Chris bought all of my supplies (he is the super shopper of the family - I HATE shopping unless it is on-line). Anyway - he bought 10 3-foot stakes of the covered rebar, mosquito netting and 3 30-foot lengths of clear plastic tubing. We put the stakes on each side of the bed - slid the tubing over the stakes - and laid the netting over it and pinned the sides down with huge binder clips. It looks like a little tent now. Perfect! I am very proud!!!

The best part - the birds sit on top of the tubes - about 2 feet from the tallest strawberry plant and make these angry clicking sounds!!!

This is the page I found...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lincoln College

Kiel and I took a day on Friday to attend orientation at Lincoln. It is a lovely, old, small campus - perfect for a transition to college. It was an all day ordeal - lots of breakout sessions about every topic imaginable - plus tours - and lunch. I didn't see Kiel all day but about the same format was planned for him as well.

Couple of things that I learned - Lincoln will take anyone. There are mandatory programs that kids with a 15 or less on their ACT had to enroll in. I was shocked. I didn't think that kids that got less than a 15 would go to college. Heck, Mel couldn't read and he managed to get a 17! Must be the athletes is all I can figure.

Kiel and I both had an eye-opening culture experience. Some people just don't know how to act. I don't care if you are dirt poor and were raised in a Chicago ghetto or filthy rich and live in a Chicago high rise - you DON'T talk while a speaker is talking. And for the love - you DO NOT talk on your damn cell phone while you are in the middle of learning about financial aid!! I could not believe it. There were 2 large black women in the back of one session - just chit chatting away while I am trying to learn about the housing arrangements (and everyone else). Another black woman in the front turns around and shushes them - which causes the ladies in the back to be combative and verbal. It was not a good session.

I am glad I don't live in Chicago.

Anyway, Kiel is registered for his classes and seems absolutely thrilled. I had ordered XL Twin Sheets and then the housing person mentioned that Kiel will probably be assigned an XXL bed. I didn't even know they made those - I imagine those sheets are going to be ridiculous expensive. I think we will use the XL sheets and those strap things and hope they hang on!!! We still have a huge list of things to buy - which is fun. Kiel isn't nearly as excited as I am though...

BTW - Kiel thought I should mention that is a 'black, mainly innercity Chicago' school. Not sure why - but in the middle of Central Illinois - in the middle of a small cornfield town, sits this college. I think this will be a great experience for him. Bloomington Normal may be culturally diverse - but certainly not economically diverse. I think he may actually realize that he has a lot of advantages that a lot of kids don't...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Car rentals

Chris and I made the decision to rent a van to go to the Reunion. I love my old ghetto van but I don't think I trust it enough to drive all the way to London - plus, the air stopped working a year ago. And if you read Aunt Janet's blog lately, you would know that Kentucky is beautiful but muggy and humid so air is a requirement.

So - priced a ton of places. Enterprise had the best deals and unlimited mileage. The funny thing - we can rent 2 cars cheaper than one van. This is including the gas consumption and everything. We went to the office rather than online since we assumed the office could make us a deal. No such luck.

We will be journeying in 2 midsize vehicles to KY next weekend. Mellisa has already assigned the seating arrangements - girl car and a boy car. Great - my car will be sleeping the whole way...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The bedroom

Well - I hate my bedroom. It is too big. I know - most people complain that their bedroom is too small - but trust me - too much of a good thing is horrible too.

Currently, we have our queen bed, 3 dressers, 2 bookcases, 2 desks, my sewing table, 2 stacked cabinets and Chris' gigantic fish tank. It is the only room that has not been papered or painted. I did watch a show on HGTV a few years back and we decided to do as they suggested and 'create' a wall down one side to give the appearance of two rooms. Yea, that doesn't work. And without fail, when someone is coming over - everything gets thrown into our bedroom. Shoes, coats, laundry baskets - whatever is laying around.

We decided to move the fish tank into the hall. This is not a small undertaking. The stupid thing is the same length as our headboard. Originally, we put the tank in our room since I love the sound of water - it's comforting. Unfortunately, if you don't keep the tank full, it sounds more like Niagara Falls in the springtime! So, it wasn't just a small decision - it was more like an ultimatum. It was me or the tank.

The bookcases that the girls used that were in the hall are now in their rooms (one each). The tank will go in the hall. I did the prep work. Chris is spending the entire day moving the tank. Catching the fish took him about an hour. Little fish are quick. Now he is saving as much water as he can so the fish don't have major shock.

Hopefully, we can work on rearranging this week. I am not a typical female - once furniture is in place - I leave it there. Chris and Kiel love to rearrange. So I may just stay out of the way and let them have at it...

Regardless - I will be much happier!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Prepping for my LOMA 280

I rec'd my testing date for my first insurance exam. I am already nervous but it is on September 17th. I have my book and my workbook so I need to get busy reading!

I haven't had to study in about 10 years - so this will be interesting. If I fail, I have to pay for half the test so that should be some incentive alone!

If I pass - 3 more tests and I have my 'Associate' (ALMI) - 9 more tests and I get a lovely trip to Florida - and satisfaction - and my 'Fellow' (FLMI)...

My first test is on "The Principles of Insurance: Life, Health, and Annuities". Great fun...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

End of the school year...

The girls have their last day of school today. It's that goofy one hour attendance day. I don't understand this tradition at all. The school sent home the report cards last week. Riley is taking her yearbook and a swanky do pen for autographs. The buses must cost a small fortune to run for what? An hour? I don't understand...

I have the little girls signed up for a couple of camps and activities.
Alyx is doing her gymnastics classes as usual. She hates the floor - so she is going to be awhile before she gets moved up to the next level. We are debating the purchase of a trampoline for her birthday. The floor mat was a huge success at Christmas. We should probably get a nice beam for her at some point - the 2x4 is a little ghetto - but works! She is also going to Cheer camp this summer. Alyx doesn't like to get 'sweaty' (her word) so she tends to steer clear of team sports...
Riley is playing softball - and it is growing on her. She loves basketball (and is going to that camp - she is really very good) but I told her that she should try lots of different sports and see which ones she really enjoys. I am not a fan of non-climate-controlled sports but we will cope...

We are saving our pennies to send both girls to Girl Scout camp. They offer one that is 5 days and 2 nights. It lets the girls get used to the camp by going days only for a bit - then they spend the night in the cabins for 2 nights. Alyx is pumped - Riley is not. Not sure if that will pan out or not...

Busy summer as usual!

Monday, June 1, 2009

2 down - 3 to go

Graduation is over. The party was a success. As usual, I had way too much food.

I handled Kiel's graduation just fine - no tears. I think it was the six valedictorians and the fear that each one of them was going to talk! One of Kiel's classmates was killed in a car accident and his mom accepted his diploma for him - that was my one weepy moment.

Anyhow - it's over - on to the next chapter!