Monday, December 31, 2007

Day 313 - 12/30/2007

After going to 1045a Mass, the kids and I ate lunch and headed over to Springfield. They were going to go to a movie with Grandma while I hung out at the house visiting with Rudy (and watching football). D met Maria for lunch, so we all had plans over the course of the afternoon.

Mom and the kids got back from the movies just after the 'Skins game started (vs. Dallas). They were playing like I haven't seen them play in years. Not only did they end up winning the game, but they dominated it the whole way through. (Don't let folks tell you Dallas wasn't trying to win the game, they had their starters out there for the better part of the game, even though it was meaningless to them. Had they not cared about it, they wouldn't have had their starters out there.)

After the game and getting the kids put to bed, I headed over to Falls Church to see the New Potato Caboose put on a reunion show at the State Theater. It's been years since I've seen them and was looking forward to seeing them again. Not only seeing them, but also seeing some friends from high school I hadn't seen in a year or so. As it turned out, Leah didn't make it home, so I didn't get to see her. Brian was there, however, so we chatted and hung out for a while. Larry and Joan were there as well (he was the one who told me about the show, so I knew I'd be seeing him). I also ran into a fraternity brother of mine from Mason, a guy I used to play lacrosse with at Mason and Dude-Man, one of the bartenders I used to work with at Fat's. It was like old home week all over again.

Larry and Joan left shortly after the first set was over and I left shortly after the second set started. During intermission I went up to the balcony and observed the scene below. I was having a harder and harder time convincing myself to stay. I really don't know why, but I just didn't feel like staying. I decided to wait a little longer, to see if I would change my mind and climbed on the fence, teetering between leaving and staying, while the crowd did their thing below waiting for the band to begin playing. After opening the second set with "Me and Julio," they immediately went into "Uncle John's Band" and followed that up with "Brokedown Palace." That was all I needed to make my decision; I left.

I surprised D by arriving home so early, but when I explained to her why I left, she told me that Maria, when asked whether she was going to the show or not, told D that "that was a time in my life in my past and that's where I'm going to leave it." I wish I had done the same. Not that I didn't enjoy myself, but it's not where I belong anymore.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Day 312 - 12/29/2007

We headed down to Fred for the day to get in some shopping before Nancy's employee discount expired. We ended up doing a bit of damage, but also saving a bit of money. Traffic on the way down was terrible. We left our house about 1115a, expecting to get there around 1215-1230p, but ended up getting there around 1p. Every time traffic started moving, it stopped just as suddenly. Then, when I was about to jump off, it started moving again. Oh well, at least we made it down in one piece.

While we were there, M made a cake and decorated it for dessert. She'd been wanting to decorate a cake using the fondant she got months ago and decided today was the day. I helped her roll it out, but the design was all hers!

As you can see, she did a pretty good job at decorating it, but even as good as it looked, the fondant wasn't all that good. (For the record, the pic was taken with my phone.) A couple of bites was more than enough to get the sense that fondant is not to be eaten in bulk. I'm not sure whether the cakes made on "Ace of Cakes" are made to be eaten or looked at, but if they're to be eaten, I hope their fondant tastes better than what M had!

We had to bug out early to get home in time to watch the Patriots-Giants game. Fortunately, traffic wasn't too bad and we ended up making it home just in time for kick-off.

Under normal circumstances, I really couldn't care less about the game, but with the Pats at 15-0, I wanted to see if they could go undefeated. They did and now I'll be rooting for them to make it all the way. Of course, should the Redskins find a way to make it to the playoffs and then make it to the Super Bowl Big Game, I think I'd still have to root for the Patriots. The opportunity to end the season with a perfect record doesn't come along very often! The Patriots ended up winning, so they're in the playoffs and are looking to continue their quest for the perfect season. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Day 311 - 12/28/2007

Another day off, another day of getting stuff done. Well, almost. Read on, for a run-on description of my day in a nutshell:

After a trip to the gym, I scheduled the van for service and then took the kids to Lowe's for shelf supplies before stopping by the bank to make some deposits in their accounts after which we came home and had lunch and then left to drop the van off. On the way home I was dropped off at a friend's house to help move some furniture and then when I got home from that, D went to the mall and I watched the kids and prepared a dinner of leftovers that wasn't all that great but it did free up some space in the fridge. We picked up the van after dropping M off for a pajama party down the street and N and I drove around looking at lights on the way home. After M came home I headed downstairs to watch some football and play guitar, but I was only successful in watching football as I wasn't in the mood to play guitar.

I called it quits about 1130p.

I guess the shelves will have to wait until sometime before the end of the year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Day 310 - 12/27/2006

Did I really wake up at 10a? Yes, I did (although I got up at 530a to take a puking cat into the bathroom, and then at 7a to tell N to go down and watch TV and then at 8a to tell M the same). Still, sleeping in until 10a is unheard of for me. I guess I was pretty worn out.

Dad came over to meet for lunch and we tried a new Indian place over in Fairfax. It was alright, although the incense they had burning in the entryway was overpowering and left a smell that stuck with you until you got something stronger in front of your nose (in this case, it was the food).

D had PT this afternoon, so the kids and I hung around the house. The Craig girls were down and N was down at the Agan's playing, so I piddled around the basement, trying to design a shelving system for the workbench area. In addition to that, I got the hoses rolled up and put away for the winter and raked the leaves from the side yard. There's still a few left out there, but they'll be ignored for the rest of the winter. I have no desire to rake anymore leaves, especially when the tree from which they fell isn't even in our yard. After these chores were done, I fixed the kids' bikes. N's back brakes were rubbing, making it close to impossible to ride and M's front tire needed a new tube.

After the kids finished playing with friends and I finished their bikes, we attempted to go to Toys R Us to make an exchange. After about 20 minutes of searching for the receipt (as they won't perform any kind of exchange or return transaction if there's no receipt), I finally found it...right where I put it. (I had originally taped it to the cabinet door and forgot that I had moved it to the mantle.) By the time we made it to the store and back again, it was too dark to go running (which I had hoped to do), so I attempted a run on the treadmill. Ten minutes later I was off it as I just wasn't feeling the love. I'm not sure whether it's this nagging sore throat or whether it's the lunch sitting in my stomach, but, as I said, I wasn't feeling the love and tossed in the towel.

After finalizing the plans for the shelves (and giving a lesson in perspective to M when it comes to drawing plans), we headed out to pick up a pie for dinner. After dinner, the kids got ready for bed and we all snuggled on the couch and finished watching the Purdue game (I had Tivo'd it for this purpose). Much to my disappointment, the game ran late and I missed the last three minutes (when CMU tied it up and Purdue ended up winning with a field goal with :02 on the clock). M filled me in, though, as D had told her how it finished.

After the kids were tucked in, I settled in for some more TV watching. I was still sluggish from last night's marathon sleep session and didn't feel like doing much of anything. That being said, I stayed up late as I kept thinking D would be getting home soon. She went to dinner and a movie with some friends (at 4p) and didn't get home until 1130p.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Day 309 - 12/26/2007

I decided to take advantage of the day off and relaxed. Well, that and did some work in the back basement. I've put off doing things for the past few weeks as a result of lost motivation and other activities on the calendar.

I don't want this time off to be a wasted week, although even doing nothing is good for the soul sometimes. I recall the trip we made to California in 2006. I was burned out from work and just not happy with how things were going and, after doing nothing work-related for 10 days, I came back refreshed and ready to tackle anything. While I don't feel the same way about work now (I actually feel good about going into the office and have come to realize that I've got a pretty good gig), having the time off is still good for the soul.

That being said, the activities over the past week have caught up with me. I'm pretty beat and can't even make it through the Purdue game (playing against Central Michigan in the all-important Motor City Bowl). Why do I care, you ask? Well, D's cousin's son is a defensive tackle for Purdue and, although he doesn't start, gets some healthy playing time. We've become Purdue fans because of it and hope they improve in the coming years.

I ended up calling it quits around 10p and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Day 308 - 12/25/2007

Merry Christmas!

The kids had us up bright and early and we whipped through the presents in no time at all. Afterwards, D and I went to Mass at 10a, before returning for a quick lunch, Lego building and a flurry of phone calls.

Mom and Rudy ended up coming over for dinner. It was nothing fancy, leftovers from last night and a ham that Doug and Nancy brought up, but we were together and we all enjoyed ourselves. Rudy looked pretty good, although he may have stayed out too late as he fell asleep at the table.

Doug, Nancy and Michael left shortly after Mom and Rudy did and, after putting the kids to bed, D and I did the same. It's been a long few days (long week?) and I'm looking forward to doing nothing over the next few days.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Day 307 - 12/24/2007

It's Christmas Eve and D's family came up for dinner and Mass (D and I stayed home to prep for dessert and get things ready for the rest of the evening).

I tried to keep it simple for dinner and think I was successful. We served a roasted pork loin stuffed with apples and prunes with roasted butternut squash, carrots and onions; red cabbage (as mentioned in yesterday's post); and a green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette from Cheryl's salad recipe file. Unlike year's past, everything was ready at the appointed hour and we sat down to eat just a bit after the scheduled 2p dinner time. (Everyone was planning on going to Mass at 430p, so we wanted to be done with dinner in plenty of time.) Everything was delicious and, although the cabbage wasn't the same as Grandpa Pete's recipe, it was good none-the-less.

I'll definitely make it again, but the next time I do, I'll use ½ c. port and 1 c. red wine vs. the 1½ c. that the recipe calls for to make it more acidic. This recipe was a bit on the sweet side and, while everyone liked it, I didn't think it had the bite that Grandpa Pete's had.

We were able to eat dessert before everyone left for Mass and this too turned out better than I had expected. I made a rice pudding with a cranberry/raspberry sauce. I had cooked it yesterday and after it was chilled, it congealed more than I had hoped, so I poured in a cup or so of cream and reheated it. After 30 minutes or so, it was nice and creamy.

After everyone got back from Mass, we sang Silent Night (yes, I played my guitar) and proceeded to open presents. Afterwards, the kids were sent to bed and the adults stayed downstairs doing the Christmas Eve thing (some of which involved watching football). We finally called it a night when M came out to the railing and told us we needed to go to bed so Santa could get on with delivering his presents. We complied.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Day 306 - 12/23/2007

We decided to do split shift at Mass today as M's not feeling too well. Since I was showered and ready to go, I went to 1045a (D went to 530p). Caroline came by on her way to the airport and we had a brief visit. She's the last out-of-towner to leave (well last of three, so it's not like there were scores of visitors from out of town this week). After she left, I started prepping for dinner tomorrow.

I decided I'd make a different cabbage recipe and it was pretty simple. Much simpler than Grandpa Pete's recipe and it tasted pretty good to boot. I got it from Scandinavian Feasts, which is also where I got the recipe for the stuffed pork loin I'll be cooking for dinner tomorrow.

The rest of the day was spent watching football, especially enjoying the Redskins beating the Vikings to continue on their way to a playoff berth (should they beat the Cowboys next week, that is). As much as I'd love to see them in the playoffs, I don't think they'll go very far even if they do make it in. They're playing on emotion right now and it looks as if the tanks getting low. That being said, if they continue to play the way they played against Minnesota, it won't be a question of if they make the playoffs, but a question of how far they'll go once they get there. I guess only time will tell, but for now, let's just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Day 305 - 12/22/2007

Finally, a day of rest. Well, I mean a day without social commitments. What I had intended to be a day of last minute Christmas shopping turned into spending time with the kids while running errands (the post office to mail our Christmas cards, Target for a couple of returns and purchases, the Guitar Center for strings and Lowe's for a gift card for Doug). We even made it to confession as I had it up to there with the kids sniping back and forth at each other. M wasn't too happy when I pulled into the parking lot and told her what we were there for. N, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less since as soon as we got in the church, he lay down on the pew and fell asleep.

I wasn't able to leave the house until about 8p or so, but I was able to finish off my Christmas shopping as well as hit Giant, finally getting home about 11p. Not ready to call it a day yet, I grabbed a beer and hit the basement for some late night jamming on the guitar. I'm hoping to be able to play Silent Night on Christmas Eve as we process through the house, but I need to get some additional practice in first.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Day 304 - 12/21/2007

I'm really looking forward to an early night in. After being out late the past three nights and having more than my share to drink, I'm reaching the end of my candle.

That being said, I left work early to go to "happy afternoon" with a few colleagues from work (because an hour is just not enough). (Of course, I also went in late and hit the gym during lunch, so it wasn't that productive of a day.) We made plans a while ago to get together someplace other than The Bungalow and just enjoy each other's company one last time before we all went our separate ways before Christmas. About 10 of us made it and 3 hours later I finally left.

I surprised the kids with the cartoon version of Robin Hood and nearly fell asleep to it. The kids seemed to enjoy it a little more than the live version, although N kept hiding under the blanket during what he termed were the "scary" parts. (There were no scary parts, but I'm guessing he thought they were scary from what he remembered from the live version.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Day 303 - 12/20/2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

To celebrate, we had a family portrait taken since it may be a while before we're all in the same place. I think it turned out pretty good.

I also snapped a few pics of other family portraits the photographer had in his studio. I must say, I hope ours doesn't look that bad 30 years down the road! (What?!? You thought that was us?!?)

Afterwards, we went to dinner to celebrate her 70th. Whoops, did I just type that?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Day 302 - 12/19/2007

With everyone in town for Nina and Vince's wedding and for Mom's birthday (and since they're leaving before Christmas), D and I decided to host a Christmas get-together at our house so that the out-of-towners can have a "family" Christmas (you know, vs. having to give everyone their gifts and then let them open them on Christmas by themselves).

As is often the case, I served brats, sauerkraut and potato salad. With everything going on this week I didn't want to do anything fancy.

I ended up working from home today (well, for a couple of hours anyway) as D had PT and N was home sick again. I called it quits late in the morning when I started prepping for dinner. Even though I was home, I still hit the gym to get in a workout towards the holiday meltdown program. I'll be happy when January 4th comes around so that I won't have to hit the gym three days a week anymore. Sure, I'd love it if I could, but two days is plenty for me.

Anyway, while I was prepping the potatoes, I tried to cut out an eye and the knife slipped and I ended up slicing up my thumb. About 15 minutes later it had finally stopped bleeding.

Dinner turned out pretty good and Rudy thoroughly enjoyed his brats. I'm glad dialysis is working out for him and that he's able to make it to the events this week. I guess if he can get through this week, he's got it made!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Day 301 - 12/18/2007

"Will you, Nina, take Vince to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, so long as you both may live?" asked the pastor.

"I do," she replied.

And with that, they were again married.

Congratulations, Nina and Vince, and best wishes for a long future together.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day 300 - 12/17/2007

Another milestone reached. Only 66 more days of posts before the year is out. As I sit and write this, I wonder what the last 300 days have taught me. Well, for one, it seems that I'm now more aware of what I've done and what's happened in my life (as you, the reader are as well).

I'm more in tune with the mistakes I've made and lessons learned.

I have the makings of a book, should someone actually be interested in reading my collection of thoughts over the past year.

I have the discipline to actually write down the events that occurred the previous day (or, as in some cases a couple of days prior) and stick with it, even if I don't feel like it.

I have come to view this not as a chore, but as an outlet.

Will it continue? I think I asked that recently in a post and answered that I didn't know. I still don't know what will happen. Maybe I'll change it to capture a picture per day or something else that can be chronicled. Or maybe I'll just give it up and let it go. I mean, who am I to think that what I have to say and write about is important enough and interesting enough to be broadcast to the world? As it says above, I'm just an average Joe. I'm not special. Well, not special outside my circle anyway.

On a different note (an off-key note, shall we say), M had her band concert tonight. Caroline and Nina surprised her by showing up and when she (M) saw them, her face lit up. They played a few songs and then, after the advanced band did their numbers, we retired to the cafeteria for some refreshments.

After last night's stomach issues, having Colon Blow for breakfast (not this) probably wasn't the best idea. (Alright, it really wasn't Colon Blow, but that's my term for when I mix Kashi Mountain Medley and Kashi Crunch.) On top of that, having Progresso Split Pea Soup wasn't the best idea either. Not to worry, but the time M's concert was over, I was feeling back to my normal self.

Normal enough to celebrate my fantasy football championship winning performance while playing guitar! (Note: The championship was for the Toilet Bowl purse of $35 and a trophy, not the $480 payout to the overall winner.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 299 - 12/16/2007

N is still sick. He was up again at the wee hours of the morning and fell asleep on our floor again. For the most part, he and I hung out on the couch watching football. D took M to a Girl Scout event the better part of the afternoon, so I was left alone to take care of N. If that meant sitting on the couch watching football with him all afternoon, so be it.

Before all that, though, I started dinner...about 830a. The last time we made a pot roast, it wasn't fork tender (even after 2.5 hours in the oven) and I made a mental note that the next time we made it, it would be in the crock pot. The only problem was that I didn't have a recipe so I had to go blind with this one. It turned out alright, but there was something tangy missing, something to cut the initial flavor provided by the wine (I used a cup of Merlot vs. 1/2 cup of sherry). While searching for recipes, I came across one for sauerbraten. It's a German pot roast dish that is delicious. The next time I make a pot roast, it'll be sauerbraten.

It all went South after dinner. N still wasn't feeling all that well and the next thing you know, neither were D or I. Since it hit both of us right after dinner, I thought it was my pot roast (which was good, just not as good as I'd hoped), but D told me she wasn't feeling that well before dinner either. We both grazed the buffet line at bowling last night (it was the Christmas party where everyone brings a dish) and probably picked something up there. Hopefully it will turn out to be nothing, we have a lot of family events this week and I'd hate it if we missed out.

By the time the 'Skins game was on, I was feeling well enough to sit on the couch and watch it (although I was on the tired side of things). N joined me for a little bit before I sent him off to bed. After watching the game for a bit more, D yelled out from upstairs. She tweaked her knee again. Hopefully it won't be a major setback, but I guess only time will tell. With all that was going on (none of us feeling all that good), I decided it was best if I just went to bed in case I had to get up in the middle of the night. (As it turned out, it wasn't necessary.)

On a fantasy football related note, I won the Tournament of Losers (although I have a player going tomorrow night) when I pulled ahead going into the 'Skins game. I ended the night up 88-80 and have the title all but locked up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Day 298 - 12/15/2007

N woke up sicker this morning. He's been fighting something for the past few days and this morning he started complaining about his throat. D was up around 530a and gave him some Motrin, but he was running a fever again. With that in mind (and considering we've got a bunch of family activities next week), I took him to the doctor's for a strep test. I didn't think it was necessary, but did so to get a jump start on it if it was. As it turns out, he doesn't have strep, so it looks like we'll just have to wait it out.

Before taking him to the doctor's office, I started on the outdoor lights. I've been putting it off this year for whatever reason (the snow, the cold, the cost added to the electric bill) and finally had a window of opportunity. I got the garland and lights around the door before heading back inside to change and take N to the doctor's office. While we were gone, D and M headed down to Fred to do some shopping for Christmas. (Why Fred, you ask? D's mom has a deep discount where she works. Even after gas is figured in, it's still cheaper to make the drive!) As I said, the test was negative. Rest and fluids, fluids and rest. And Popsicles wouldn't hurt either. On the way home, we stopped by Giant for some orange juice, Popsicles and ice cream. N was all over that. We also hit a couple of stores in the strip mall in search of a certain item for D. We found it and headed home.

I fixed N a bowl of ice cream and afterwards he laid on the couch and fell asleep. While he was sleeping, I went back outside and continued working on the lights. While I was out there, I went ahead and cleaned the gutters as well (they were pretty full) in anticipation of the coming winter weather. I finished up about 10 minutes before D and M got back and headed upstairs to get ready for bowling.

We bowled against Rynoxious (made up of the Rynex and Knox spouses) and went 3-1. D did pretty well and it appears her knee didn't bother her at all. I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to see whether it's going to be sore or not. Hopefully it won't be.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Day 297 - 12/14/2007

D subbed again today, so the kids wanted to ride with her to school. This time they were ready when she had to leave and they left on time. If I had known, I would've stayed in bed; I could get used to sleeping in if I had to; I wouldn't mind. I ended up making it to work in plenty of time for my 9a meeting.

I left early this afternoon to do yard work. There's supposed to be an ice storm this weekend and I'd rather have the lawn clean vs. chock full of leaves. Fortunately most of the trees are bare, with the exception of a few stragglers on the Bradford pear trees in our back yard and weeping willow in our neighbor's yard. I finished up right on time (e.g., as it was getting dark) and went inside for dinner. Actually, dinner wasn't much of anything as neither D nor I felt like doing anything. I made the kids some chow and surprised them with Robin Hood, which came by way of the big brown truck this afternoon. (If I had been thinking, I would've gone ahead and ordered James and the Giant Peach as well since it's a pretty quick read and I would imagine I'll be done before the end of the year.)

I ordered both the Disney version and the 1938 version (which is the one we watched). There were a couple of scenes I would've cut out, but for the most part, it was pretty tame (especially compared with what would be seen today). After the movie was over, the kids were sent to bed and D and I did the same.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Day 296 - 12/13/2007

D subbed today. Once the kids found out, they wanted to ride with her, but were barely ready in time for them to get a ride. They weren't about to have me drive them, though, so they scurried to get ready and were out the door a little before 8a. (D wanted to leave by 745a in order to get in the classroom in time to settle in and get ready for the day.)

During lunch I went out shopping for Christmas, but wasn't too successful. I got a few things, but not everything I needed to get. I'm still waiting for Vince's list, so I couldn't get anything for him.

After getting back from shopping, I hit a gold mine in the kitchen when a slew of pizzas were delivered from a meeting. I'm not sure whether too many are ordered on purpose so that the rest of the group can benefit or they're just really bad at guestimating the number of pies to order. No matter, I did what I could to help finish them off (and paid for it by feeling like crap). I really need to learn how to say no when faced with what seems like an endless amount of food.

With that in mind, I skipped dinner.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 295 - 12/12/2007

I hit the gym again today in my attempt to reach my goal of losing 3-4 lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. So far, I've been pretty good about watching what I've been eating and have lost a pound or two so far (according to the scale at home). I only did cardio (45 minutes on the bike) as the Smith machine was being used. There was a short break where I could've gotten on it, but I decided to take it easy and just get in a ride instead.

I continued my slacker ways by reading while M had her swimming class. I finally finished Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and began reading Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America. So far it seems good, although I only got through the first 30 or so pages. I'll have to hand this off to my dad as it seems like something he'd enjoy (as well as Collapse...).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day 294 - 12/11/2007

I visited Rudy again in the hospital and once again, he changed rooms. This time it was right next door, so it wasn't much of a problem. The room he was originally in has negative pressure and is used to house patients who are infectious.

After switching rooms, I was able to get in a good conversation with mom about all that was going on. I'm sure it's been rough on her and will continue to be so. One thing that will really impact her is the empty house. Sure, the cats will be there, but they don't provide the company that a person does.

After the hospital, I went over to Brion's Grille in University Mall for a couple of beers with Larry. I hadn't seen him in couple of months and it was good to catch each either up on our respective lives. I don't recall Brion's that much from back in the day, but maybe it's because I never really went there. Between work and school obligations, there wasn't much time go bar-hopping, nor was there the desire.

I got home late and was surprised to see D still up working on our Christmas cards. We played around with them for a while before calling it quits for the night. Maybe tomorrow night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 293 - 12/10/2007

Another Monday and another day at the office, followed up by the gym (weights) and then a spin on the bike while M was at swim class.

After getting home, I hit the basement to watch the thriller between the Saints and Falcons. Had my opponent not had a player playing in this game, I would've gone to bed earlier. As it was, though, I had to (wanted to) keep an eye on Norwood. Had he scored 16 points, my season would've been over. As it turned out, he only got eight points and I ended up winning 112-103. I got lucky as he almost broke it for a long touchdown in the third quarter.

While watching the game I played around on the guitar. I tried practicing barre chords, but didn't get very far before I reverted to songs that I know thus far. I don't know how much longer I'll take lessons. I'd like to start getting together with other folks and play. I would imagine I would get much better if I had someone to play with and ask questions on a more regular basis...much cheaper as well!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 292 - 12/09/2007

We rallied and made 1045a Mass. I say we rallied as D and I didn't get up until about 930a. I was quite surprised, but then remembered that M and N had a "sleepover" last night and they probably woke each other up to go watch TV in the basement. It turns out I was right.

After church we headed over to the hospital to visit with Rudy. He had some more pain after everyone left Friday night and was moved back into the original heart care unit. Actually, he's back in the same room as he was last month. When we arrived he was in a chair finishing up his lunch, which I guess was a good thing (e.g., being out of bed), but he soon got back in bed and went to sleep. The morphine leaves him feeling groggy, which causes him to sleep the day away, only to be left awake at night. The kids gave him their cards and M gave mom a plate of cookies she baked in her E-Z-Bake oven (it finally came and M lost no time in putting it to work), as well as some of her leftover Halloween candy.

We headed over to the dollar store in Springfield after our visit with Rudy. After getting something for pretty much everyone on each of their lists, I was pleasantly surprised to see the total. I thought for sure it would equal or exceed the tally at the other store, but it was more than ⅓ less!

After getting home, I went out for a run while the kids watched some TV and D made dinner. I hadn't been out for a while and it felt good to be out in the cold air. (Actually, it didn't feel that cold due to the humidity levels.) It wasn't only the cold air that felt good, my knees felt good as well. I wouldn't say they're completely healed, but they feel better than they did six months ago (or even three months ago). I don't know how long it will be before I'm running 3-4x/week, but I'm not going to worry about it: I'll get there when I get there.

I did the 5k route through the neighborhood since it was dark and I didn't feel like traversing the trail. I was thinking about extending it to run by some of the houses that are lit up, but bagged it. I'm glad I did, as right when I got home D and the kids were sitting down for dinner. I joined them right away, quickly replenishing whatever was lost on the run.

During dinner N had agreed to eat a tomato in exchange for a piece of chocolate. When the time came for him to eat it, he wouldn't budge. After some hemming and hawing, he finally agreed to a spoonful of tomato soup, which, much to our amazement and his surprise, he enjoyed. I guess we can now add that to his food repertoire. If only he would try new things more often, he'd find out that there's lots of stuff that he'd like.

After putting the kids to bed, D and I lounged on the couch, reading the guts and watching the Colts dismantle the Ravens. I was glad to see the score when I turned on the game towards the end of the first quarter with the Colts leading 21-0. Surely Peyton had one of those TDs. As it turned out, he had two, meaning I might stand a chance of winning the game. I mismanaged three of my starters and ended up leaving valuable points on the bench. Going into tonight's game, I was 21 down. With only Peyton to play, I stood a chance and after he put up 36 points, I still stand a chance of winning. My opponent has one player in Monday's game. Hopefully the Saints will stop him and I'll continue on in the quest for Toilet Bowl champion and the Golden Toilet Brush!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Day 291 - 12/08/2007

Today's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and is a Holy Day of Obligation. I had meant to go to vigil Mass last night, but didn't get back from the hospital in time. Instead, I went to 10a and D went to noon Mass. I had always thought that this was when Jesus was conceived, but it's when Mary was conceived. (I guess I wasn't listening or it wasn't reviewed in depth during my RCIA classes, otherwise I should have known this.) Listening to Father Beres during his homily, however, allowed me to better understand why we, as Catholics, pray to Mary. As Father said, she's a conduit to Christ himself and will intercede on our behalf.

After dropping D off at Mass, the kids and I went over to pay for the work done on the Altima. The shop closed at 1p today (vs. 4p, which they told me yesterday), so we had to do some creative thinking in coming up with an alternative to leaving the car in the shop until Monday. After paying for the car, I took the kids over to the Dollar Village for them to do their Christmas shopping thinking it was a dollar store.

It was not.

I don't think there was anything in there that was a dollar. Since we were there, I went ahead and let them shop for their presents. The kids have been doing this for a few years now and it's become a tradition that they go out and pick out the presents for everyone they're buying for (vs. me or D picking them out). After perusing the store and picking out the various items, we headed up front to check out. Much to my surprise, the total came to almost $70! Egads! There's no way I was going to pay that much, so I apologized and told the woman we wouldn't be getting anything. She seemed unfazed by that decision; maybe she gets it enough that it's become part of her everyday routine.

The kids weren't happy, though, so I told them we'd hit the Dollar Tree in Springfield this weekend. (We went there last year and were quite impressed...well, as impressed as you can be with a dollar store.)

Doug, Nancy and Michael came up to drop off some Christmas clothes for the kids. M's dress fit just fine, but N's outfits (save a sweater vest) were too small. After visiting for a while (including taking Michael and the kids on the neighborhood hayride), they left to go visit Rudy at the hospital. We were going to go with them, but it got too late, so we decided to go tomorrow.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 290 - 12/07/2007

I took off early this afternoon to hit the gym before heading over to Fairfax Hospital to visit Rudy. He had another heart attack last night and is back in the hospital.

On my way there, I stopped to get the Altima inspected. It didn't pass. This is the first time it's ever failed and it's going to cost upwards to $370 - $390 to get it passed. Last year the inspector told me that the brakes were close and I guess over the last year, they exceeded the threshold. I made an appointment to drop the car off tomorrow (or maybe later tonight) and, ignoring the rejection sticker on the windshield, drove over to the hospital. (Fortunately it was getting dark so the sticker wasn't easily seen -- driving with a rejection sticker is illegal in Virginia.)

I arrived right before he moved rooms, so I was able to help carry his things to the new room. His new room is in the step-down area, where he won't be hooked up to the monitors 24/7. We visited for a while before a Rabbi came in to celebrate the fourth day of Hanukkah, as well as Shabat. It's been a while since I've experienced any Jewish services (the last one was at a funeral), so it was interesting to see. (Well, I wouldn't really call it a service, more of a couple of prayers followed by a few songs.) Regardless of what it was, seeing Rudy singing and reciting prayers in Yiddish brought some happiness to the room. The gleam in his eyes and the smile on his face convinced me that he had forgotten about his heath issues for the time being.

Reality soon came back in the room, however, when his nephrologist came in to check on him. When the Rabbi left, I was going to take off myself, but decided to stay to hear what the doctor had to say. I was glad I did as it was an eye-opener. They discussed his treatment options and he asked her straight up what the bottom line was with regard to his prognosis. The answer she gave him was hard to hear: His kidneys have pretty much failed him and without dialysis, he won't be with us much longer.

There wasn't a look of resignation or despair on his face, but one of acceptance. In that one moment, the mood in the room went from jovial to somber. The doctor gave him a few options on what kind of treatment he could get, but the bottom line was that he's not looking at very much time.

One thing I noticed sitting in that hospital room was that the man in the bed in front of me, the man wearing a hospital gown for pajamas, the man who hadn't shaved in a few days and whose hair was uncombed, the man who had bruises from his recent dialysis, was that he wasn't ashamed of where he was or what he looked like. At that moment, he was proud. He was strong. He was dignified. There wasn't a moment when he felt sorry for himself and, if there was, he didn't project it. I hope to be able to act like that should I ever find myself in that situation. Rudy's never been one to complain about anything. Well, not much of anything that counted at least. Sure, he gets frustrated from time to time about trivial things, but in the grand scheme of things, he's an optimist. He enjoys life and enjoys making those around him happy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 289 - 12/06/2007

There's a piece in the Washington Post that talked about the snowstorm that came through the other day. I added my 2¢ to the comments section as follows:

"Since we don't get many winter storms in this area, let's just all accept that there will be difficulties and move on with our lives.

I could understand the frustration if this was a weekly occurrence, but, for the most part, it's a once every few months occurrence in the winter.

Furthermore, I would add that it doesn't take a couple inches of snow to make the roads chock full of congestion. Look at the roads when it rains. I don't see any complaints about the various DOTs not doing a good enough job to alleviate traffic during those conditions (and we have a LOT more rainy days than we do snowy days in these here parts)."

I don't get it. It's not like the roads are going to magically expand to accept everyone on the roads at once (and going slower than usual). Even if the various DOTs had gotten their shit together and cleared the roads, they'd still be wet and has been proven every time it rains around here, people drive slower in the rain.

Of course, no one wants to accept responsibility (or reality). Instead, they would rather blame someone else. It took me about 45 minutes to get to work, but guess what? It was my fault. Yes, that's right: it was my fault. Had I not gone down 28 and instead cut through Greenbriar over to 50, I would have gotten to work in less than 20 minutes. Lesson learned.

In other news, I skipped reading to the kids as M was sent to her room for continually disobeying our request to finish the dishes. Her hemming and hawing on doing chores is getting old. If we don't tell her exactly what to do, she'll only do what she thought she heard. Tonight it was doing the dishes. She didn't realize that wiping the table was part of doing the dishes even though we told her about 20 times! Oh well, she paid the price by being sent to her room early and didn't get to participate in book-time. I read N "The Cat in the Hat" instead.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 288 - 12/05/2007

An Alberta Clipper came through and dumped (dumped?) a couple inches of the white stuff on us. The kids were happy, but it really didn't start snowing until they were in for the day.

When I got home from work, someone had left the van's interior light on and the battery had gone south. It wasn't so far south that the clock was off or the radio stations were erased from memory, but it wouldn't turn the engine over. I wasn't too happy about this as I typically have to move all the stuff out from the garage, finagle the Altima into the second bay (which is usually chock full of crap such as bikes, toys, a trash can and yard implements) so I can jump the van. This usually takes about an hour from start to finish and is just a pain in my ass. I really hate it that I can't put the van in neutral unless the engine is on; it would be so much easier to roll the van out of the garage and jump it in the driveway. (Or, better yet, have the lights go off after 15 minutes or so!)

Having a splitting headache, I didn't feel like dealing with the hassle described above so I decided I'd break down and get a remote jumper. I changed my clothes and headed back out into the snow to hit Target. I ended up getting a Duracell Instant Jump Start System. (Yes, that's what it's called.)

On the way home I stopped by Tony's to pick up dinner. I still hadn't used the gift card I got for coaching N's team so I figured why not use it tonight. I ended up getting a veggie calzone for D, a cheese pie for the kids and a large pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage on it for me.

After M was ready for bed, I continued reading "James and the Giant Peach." I bought it when we were in Cape Charles at an "antique" store for a dollar. (I put that in quotes as it really wasn't an antique store, but it wasn't a thrift shop either. Maybe second hand store would be a better description.) I started it the other night and the kids seem to like it, as does D (who never read it as a kid), and it's been a quick read so far. Hopefully the movie won't be over the top. I really can't stand it when the movie is nothing like the book, especially the ones I've been reading to the kids.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 287 - 12/04/2007

Here's a list of mundane things I did today:
  • Got new tires on the Altima.
  • Went shopping at Costco. I ended up getting the advent calendar I had my eye on for $20 vs. the original price of $39. I guess hemming and hawing pays off (in this case, I made $20!).
  • Added the Win98 workstation to the network so I can access whatever is on it and cannibalize any parts off it (if possible).
  • Had minestrone soup for lunch.
  • Brought the large bin up from the basement and then, after it had been emptied, brought it back down.
  • Started getting caught up with the Sopranos on A&E.
  • Practiced guitar a little (I canceled my lesson as I wasn't able to practice anything since last time).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 286 - 12/03/2007

Back to the grind that is work. After a few days out of the office, I certainly wasn't rarin' to get back. With that in mind, I eased into it slowly. (Well, not really as I had to be in early for a meeting.)

After work, I hit the gym for a workout. Although M had swimming tonight, I didn't want to do the bike there as well, so I got in both weights and cardio before heading home.

There was a school boundary meeting at Westfield so there was lots of spillover into the Cub Run parking lot. Fortunately, we found a spot and M made it to class on time. I spent most of the time reading the latest issue of PC Magazine, raising my head every now and again to watch M in the pool. She looked like she was enjoying herself and having fun. I'm glad she's come around to swimming. It's a great sport, both from a health perspective as well as from a team spirit perspective. While I wasn't the best swimmer as a kid by any means, I had a great time on the swim team. I hope M has just as much fun as I did.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 285 - 12/02/2007

I paid for staying up so late last night, but at least I got to sleep in until 845a. I told N that if he didn't sleep in, we'd go to Mass immediately. That must've done the trick. Either that or he was worn out from yesterday's trip.

Regardless of being able to sleep in, I was still tired. That being said, I went outside to take care of the leaves that had amassed over the past week and a half. Fortunately I was able to get them up before it started raining too heavily (actually, the rain held off until later on this afternoon, so I was in the clear). I was hoping the leaves on the pear trees would have dropped while we were gone, but that wasn't in the cards. It looks like I'll have one more chore to do with regards to raking leaves before winter sets in. I really need to get rid of both of them, I don't think either of them do much in the way of providing shade and/or privacy during the summertime and they only prolong the leaf raking season as they're always the last to drop their leaves.

After the leaves were raked, I washed up and plopped myself on the couch to watch what I thought would be a Redskins victory. After Sean Taylor's death, I figured the 'Skins would be fired up and not let anything get in the way of a victory. Well, they were fired up alright, but the flame went out midway through the third quarter and, yet again, they failed to put away the game.

In between being disgusted at the game, I brought the tree up and set it up so the kids could decorate it. We got a pre-lit tree last year after Christmas and the difference in the time it took to set up was incredible. With the old tree, it took about 30 minutes to put the tree up and then about 3 hours to get the lights on. With this one, it took less than 15 minutes for everything! Three hours later the tree was decorated and we were heading out the door to Mass!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 284 - 12/01/2007

The early start didn't happen. As a matter of fact, it was a late start.

We ended up hitting the road at 950a CT. By 1030a we were on 64 and heading east. We originally thought about staying the night in Charleston, WV, (a bit over halfway) but decided against it out of concern for the weather. Like on the way out, we tried not to stop (actually, we ended up stopping four times -- one more time than on the way out) and it showed in the time it took for us to get home: 12 hours and 10 minutes. That confirms it: we'll go the southern route from now on.

After getting the kids to bed and unloading the van (well, starting the unloading process, all of M's school stuff still needs to be taken care of), I said good night to D and went to the basement to (hopefully) find some football on TV as I was too hopped up on coffee to even think about sleeping. I was rewarded with the Hawaii-Washington game and watched it until about 2a, when I realized that if I didn't get to sleep then, I'd be paying for it in the morning. Even with the caffeine still coursing through my system, I fell asleep soon after hitting the pillow.
Here's the data generated by Claire during the trip home:

Total Mileage:
Average Speed:
Moving Average:
Maximum Speed:
Total Time:
Moving Time:
Stopped Time:
763.66 miles
64.3 mph
68.6 mph
80.9 mph
11h 52m
11h 07m
44m 30s

It's quite a difference! We will now be taking the Southern route from now on (unless we stop by Alpha on the way out or back). Of course, the big difference is the time spent moving vs. stopping. On the way back, we ate lunch in the car and the only time we stopped for any length of time was in Tamarack when we had dinner (about 20-25 minutes). Of course, how much of the time stopped on the way out was due to traffic getting to I-70? Going the Southern route, we're on I-66 in less than 10 minutes and going against the flow of rush hour traffic. It'll be interesting to see what happens next time.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day 283 - 11/30/2007

Gramma Elie's funeral was today at St. Joseph's Church in Stringtown. From the outside, it looks like a simple, country church. Walk inside, however, and it seems as if you're in a cathedral. I wish I had gotten a picture of it, but I didn't think of it until we were leaving for the cemetery.

After the graveside service, we all went to a restaurant in town for a family gathering. All six of her children were there, as were 25 of 26 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Add in the spouses and assorted family and friends and the place was packed.

Someone said that even after she was gone, she was still getting the family together for dinner.

I'm sure she would have laughed at that comment and added something along the lines of "well, you've got to eat!"