Monthly Archives: August 2009

Up On the Roof

Looking out my front door

Looking out my front door on day one

Thanks to last fall’s Hurricane Ike, we had more than a few shingles that found new homes in yards miles from ours. But we didn’t have any leaks, so it was an easy problem to ignore on our now 13-year-old roof.

But then DMS Roofing came around and said a new roof could be had for the mere price of our deductible, with the balance paid by our insurance company. And it just so happened that our deductible, which went up a couple weeks after Ike hit, was fairly low. So we checked into it, and now we have a new roof!

Roofing materials

Roofing materials

The roofing guys were supposed to start working their magic last Thursday. So imagine my surprise when I heard the distinctive “beep-beep-beep” of a forklift backing up . . . in my driveway . . . the day before. I looked outside the kitchen window and saw a stack of roofing materials on pallets blocking the side of the garage where the Mister parks his car.

I went out to talk to the delivery guy and told him to continue putting stuff on that side, so my car, which was in the garage, wouldn’t be blocked. I was rather surprised that the guy didn’t come to the door to at least let me know he was going to stop our access into and out of part of our garage.

Sidebar: The Mister already couldn’t park on his side of the garage, because that’s where we had put the garage sale tables and stuff that hadn’t sold. So it was no biggie.

Out with the old shingles

Out with the old shingles

The next day the work began. Old roofing materials littered the yard, as the guys worked quickly to get rid of the old and bring in the new.

Working near my front door

Working near my front door

Confession time: I’ve never lived in a house that has gotten a new roof. Which means I’ve never worked in a house that was getting a new roof.

I hear you knocking.

I hear you knocking.

A full day of pounding, pounding, pounding led to a full day of a pounding, pounding headache for me that ibuprofen couldn’t touch. I would leave the house and feel better only to come back to nonstop thumping above me and in my head. Ugh!

The old shingles are gone!

The old shingles are gone!

I guess it’s worth the suffering to get something new and useful. But that was the last thought in my pummeled noggin that day. In fact, I think every thought I had was whacked and thwacked out of me. Am I starting to sound like a thesaurus?

The work continues all over the roof.

The work continues all over the roof.

Our roof was a beehive of activity all day.

The sun starts to set on the work day.

The sun starts to set on the work day.

Even as the sun was going down behind our house. Finally, at around 8 p.m., the incessant pounding mercifully ended. Hallelujah!

The workers came back the next day to finish up a little on the house and the garage. And in the end . . .

Ain't it gorgeous?

Ain't it gorgeous?

I guess it was worth it! The roof looks great.

But next time I need a new roof, I’m going to be like my friend Deanna and be out of town when the workers come!

Photo Friday: Just a Doggone Cute Photo

Hank

Hank

While the #2 son was running his garage sale last Saturday, my neighbor Melissa walked past with her dog Hank. Isn’t he cute? Some might say “doggone” cute, but not me. I’m so above puns. Well, except in my blog post titles.

Sidebar: “Melissa” is pronounced “Me-lee-sa,” with the accent on the second syllable. Is that a Texas thing? Years ago I met a woman named Nina whose name was pronounced “Nine-a.” Made me extra-cautious when I said the name of someone new. Of course, you would think that it would be hard to screw up an easy name like “Susan,” but you’d be wrong. “Suzanne” anyone?

The minute Melissa told me the name of her dog, I immediately thought of “Hank the Cowdog.” Anyone else think of that? Got to know your children’s literature!

the literary Hank the cowdog

the literary Hank the cowdog

Of course, the literary Hank, who is the top dog at his master’s ranch in west Texas, doesn’t look anything like my neighborhood Hank, the top dog at Melissa’s house here in south Texas.

the neighborhood Hank

the neighborhood Hank

But both sure are cute! Doggone cute!

Sorry!!

High School Exhaustion

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

My two sons are very different.

Physically, #1 has dark brown hair and blue eyes. #2 has blondish-brown hair and green eyes. #1 has worn corrective lenses since fourth grade; #2 inherited the Mister’s good vision. #1 loves reading so much that he almost devours books; #2 hates to read (sad for me!). If you see #1 without his headphones and iPod Touch, you know he’s sleeping. #2 likes his iPod Nano, but he goes through life with unfettered hearing.

Zzzzzzzzz!

Zzzzzzzzz!

And one more thing . . . #2 is undeniably not a morning person! He has to be up by 6:30 a.m. for high school (when we almost have to pry him out of bed). That early rising took its toll on the little guy yesterday. He crashed on the couch at about 4 p.m., and we finally were able to rouse him to eat dinner and finish his homework at 6:30 p.m. It took a lot of work to get him up!

#2 eats his boneless buffalo wings and watches TV.

#2 eats dinner and watches TV.

Meanwhile, his big brother almost always easily gets out of bed when he hears his alarm in the morning. He’s able to get through the day just fine and is ready to eat dinner on time. No naps are necessary.

So while his brother is sound asleep, #2 can watch one of his favorite TV shows:

Criss Angel

Criss Angel

Criss Angel’s “MindFreak.” Criss is an amazing magician whose services we might need to obtain—maybe he could levitate the sound-sleeping #2 son out of bed in the morning and off the couch in the afternoon!

Need a new challenge, Criss?

Homework for Parents and Students

The #1 son

The #1 son starts to work on his day two homework.

Day one of school meant homework that all the moms I know dread: Filling out endless forms. Our school district isn’t technologically advanced enough to put these documents online; instead we fill out the same information (student name, parent name, student ID number, address, phone, and e-mail address) numerous times. Total madness! It’s almost as if the forms are sponsored by the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Association! Anyone else have an aching wrist?

I e-mailed the school district and was told that the forms, including the number of times signatures are required, have been minimized as much as possible. Yes, and I’m Mrs. America! Obviously, none of our district’s administrators are filling out these forms! Otherwise, I think they’d try to do a better job to truly minimize our work.

Hard at work

Hard at work

All of that was behind us on day two (yesterday). This time only the boys had homework. As usual, the #1 son came home and got right to work, just like he’s done since he was in first grade, and I told him he couldn’t play until he finished his homework. He’s so organized that sometimes I wonder whose child he really is!

#2 takes a Spanish 2 quiz on the iMac.

#2 takes a Spanish 2 quiz on the iMac.

Then there’s this character. When the #2 son comes home from school, he always throws his backpack on the floor and declares he’s exhausted and hungry and can’t possibly do his homework for awhile. Which is when the mean mom says, “No TV until your homework is done.”

#2 son: “But how can I eat my snack without watching TV?”

Mean mom: “You could read a book while eating the snack.”

#2 son: “A book?!? Are you serious?”

What was I thinking?!?

The #2 son’s Spanish 2 homework yesterday was on the computer. Not a problem, except that the quiz had to be printed out. That was a problem, because it couldn’t be copied and pasted into a word processing document. The #2 son, who had been doing his best to avoid having his photo taken for this blog post, needed the kind of help only a tech-savvy mom could supply.

Pose for the camera in return for homework-saving aid?

#2 will smile for tech support.

#2 will smile for tech support.

What a smart kid!

We Survive the #2 Son’s Garage Sale

The #2 son runs the show.

The #2 son runs the show.

True confession time: I absolutely, positively, without a doubt detest holding garage sales! The muss, the fuss, the early birds, our disorganization, people only wanting to pay a quarter for items with value . . . no, thank you! I’ll pass.

#2 reflects on how much money he's going to make.

#2 reflects on how much money he's going to make.

But then the #2 son came to me with those gorgeous green eyes and that smattering of freckles and said, “I need to raise money to buy an Xbox 360! Can I have a garage sale?”

Sidebar: We’ve been a Nintendo family since the boys were young and embraced video games with such a fervor it was as if they had exited the womb while playing Pokemon on a Game Boy. They’ve loved all their Game Boys, as well as the N64, Game Cube, and, of course, the Wii. So why an Xbox? #2 liked a couple games that he played on a friend’s Xbox. He knows we won’t buy another game system, so that’s why he needs the cash. Hence the garage sale.

There's no demand for VHS tapes anymore.

There's no demand for VHS tapes anymore.

Heaven knows, we had plenty of stuff to stock several garage sales. Usually, I donate clothes that have been outgrown and toys that are no longer played with. But #2 was adamant that we go against all I hold holy and have a darned garage sale. So I made signs, put them out, and we got ready.

The loudest electronic drum set in the world went to my neighbor Sylvia; we should've sold her earplugs, too!

The loudest electronic drum set in the world went to my neighbor Sylvia for her two sons; we should've sold her earplugs, too!

It was clearly stated on the signs that we would be open for business at 8 a.m. So, of course, as we were setting up at 7 a.m., hordes of cars descended upon our little cul-de-sac. By 7:15 a.m., #2’s garage sale was in full swing . . . and we still were putting out items! Yes, there was muss, fuss, and chaos in our driveway!

The #1 son was so helpful! Not!!

The #1 son was so helpful! Not!!

#2 recruited his big brother to help. However, the #1 son didn’t have many items to sell, so when he wasn’t in the house tending to his convenient “stomach ache,” he was being less than helpful outside.

Sure the sun hurts your eyes!

Sure the sun hurts your eyes!

Good thing #2 had his ever-loving parents to help shoulder the load.

The Mister seems thrilled as he puts a table into a small car.

The Mister seems thrilled as he puts a table into a small car.

We were happy to have the Mister’s expertise in cramming a too-big table into a too-small car. But he sure didn’t look pleased!

Think she's had her picture taken before?

Think she's had her picture taken before?

What I like best at garage sales are the kids, who are so excited that they can get a ton of Legos for a buck or find treasures that have them jumping up and down.

Poor, dirty Pinky!

Poor, dirty Pinky!

Like this pathetic teenie beanie baby, Pinky. The little girl pictured wanted to buy it for her mom who loves the color pink (her grandfather was her garage sale enabler that day). She was so sweet that I gave it to her. Hope she’s not reselling it for big bucks on some teenie beanie baby black market!

My favorite part of the garage sale (besides when it ended, and the #2 son figured out he’s closer to buying his Xbox) was the number of people who excitedly asked me how much I wanted for my camera, which I was using to document the event. Yes, my beloved Nikon D300!

I think I disappointed one guy when I told him that the camera was only a buck . . . but with the required Nikon 17-55mm lens, it would cost him a mere $3,000!

Hard to make change for!

Hard to make change for!

Too bad he didn’t have this handy billion dollar bill!

Back to School!

The #2 son (left) and the #1 son

The #2 son (left) and the #1 son

What’s different between the above photo and the one below?

Here we go again!

Here we go again!

The answer: Seven years! Oh, and, of course, the outfits. The top photo was taken on the first day of school in 2002 when the #1 son was in fifth grade and #2 was in second. I think that was the last time they ever wore the same clothes!

School started today, and I’m feeling sentimental. This is the first day of #1’s final year in high school, as well as the first day of #2’s first year in high school. I feel like they’re coming and going.

#2 is still sleepy.

#2 is still sleepy.

Even though we’ve been through this first-day-of-school business for years, it still gets chaotic. Especially since high school starts at 7:30 a.m., and #2 isn’t a morning person at all.

"Stop it, Mom!"

"Stop it, Mom!"

#2 had a big adjustment to make this morning. #1, meanwhile, seemed unaffected by it all. Three years of high school experience will do that to you.

#1 son reads the comics.

#1 son reads the comics.

Nothing stops #1 from his daily habit of reading the comics first thing when he wakes up. I like making their lunches while they get ready; however, it was more stressful having two to make before they leave (middle school started at 8:50 a.m.).

#7578-(napkin)

Making their lunches allows me to put cute notes in their reusable lunch bags. I’m sure this note won’t be embarrassing at all!

"Bye, Mom!"

"Bye, Mom!"

All too soon it was time for them to pop into our old minivan and drive off to the high school together. With me reminding older brother how he needs to help his younger brother find his first class. It seems like they were at the house this morning, and then they were gone down the street in a flash and a half, the chaos of the early hours still swirling in the air.

Off they go! (1.6-second shutter speed)

Off they go! (1.6-second shutter speed)

Yep, the first day of school always is a blur . . . for kids and moms!

Photo Friday: Shoot the Periphery

The #1 son bowls.

The #1 son bowls.

What if you don’t have a digital SLR to help you take fantastic photos?

#2 bowls, too.

#2 bowls, too.

Or say you do have a dSLR, but you don’t have a low-light lens like the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 (which I used for these photos) or f/1.8? Should you forget about taking difficult indoor action pix?

Of course not!

#1 reacts to missing a spare.

#1 reacts to missing a spare.

First, if you do own a dSLR but only have the 18-55mm kit lens, be sure to increase your ISO, so you have a faster shutter speed to stop the action. And try to have steady hands, too.

Gutter ball sadness for #2

Gutter ball sadness for #2

If you’re frustrated because you’re not able to stop the action or you’re using a point and shoot camera that can’t stop the action, relax! Just try to shoot the periphery, e.g., everything that surrounds the activity.

I took my sons and #2’s friend Daniel bowling yesterday, and, as usual, it bothered me that it’s a sport that features more butts than faces. I don’t know about you, but usually (well, unless it’s George Clooney, my second husband), I prefer to photograph faces when I shoot sports.

#2 should've had a V8!

#2 should've had a V8!

But then I realized that there’s always more to sports than just the action, and that’s what I needed to concentrate on documenting. It does mean that you need to anticipate when your “athletes” are going to show that emotion and be ready and steady on the shutter.

Daniel gets a high five from #2.

Daniel gets a high five from #2.

The lighting tends to be funky in the bowling alley, but I think that just adds to the photos’ uniqueness. Or it could be that my Photoshop skills just aren’t good enough . . . that’s too often the case, unfortunately.

No movement here

No movement here

Don’t forget to take photos of everything involved in the sport, especially anything that doesn’t move (easy to shoot!). For bowling, of course there are the bowling balls. You might want to turn off your flash for these kinds of close-ups.

No movement here either

No movement here either

Fingers in a bowling ball can convey the action almost as much as rolling the ball down the alley.

Stylish!

Stylish!

Bowling shoes? Gotta wear ’em and gotta take a photo of ’em.

#2 is happy after picking up a spare.

#2 is happy after picking up a spare.

Even if you have to have them pose, be sure to get some good expressions from the athletes to help tell the story.

Those eyes!

Those eyes!

I couldn’t resist getting a photo of my contact-lensed high school senior heartthrob!

Love the electronic scoreboards!

Love the electronic scoreboards!

Back in the day, we had to keep score at bowling alleys by hand. Now the electronic scoreboards are great, and they’re easy to photograph.

The Terminator (#1), Daniel, and #2 pose.

The Terminator (#1), Daniel, and #2 pose.

If all fails indoors, don’t forget to snap a photo or two of your subjects outside. It’s all part of shooting the periphery when you’re an action photographer!

This All Ends Monday

The #2 son sleeps soundly in bed.

The #2 son sleeps soundly in bed.

The other day the #2 son, my all-star sleeper, woke up from a sound snooze in bed . . . only to move over to the couch in the family room.

Sleeping beauty on the couch

Sleeping beauty on the couch

Where he promptly fell asleep again. And didn’t wake up until about 10 a.m.

As I watched him sleep so blissfully, I had one thought in mind:

Enjoy it while you can! This all ends Monday.

That’s the first day of high school for him . . . and the first day as a senior for his big brother. School starts at 7:30 a.m., which means both of them must be up at 6:15 a.m. As in way earlier than they wake up now!

I think there will be some sleepy, grumpy teens in this house Monday morning!

Is It Possible to Just Watch Disc Golf?

The Mister in action

The Mister in action

When the Mister told me that he was going to participate in a local disc golf mini tournament (only 18 holes) last Saturday, I had to think about whether or not I would photograph the action. After all, the #2 son wasn’t going to play, opting instead to have fun with his buddies at one of their family’s bay house in Galveston.

Sidebar: #2 was very glad the trip was scheduled for Saturday, because he absolutely, positively hates this disc golf course. The very pretty course is tucked between a lake (lost discs) and plenty of out-of-bounds placements (added strokes). While it was the first course he ever played, it’s the one that frustrates him the most. Better for him to be frolicking in the waters of Galveston than getting mad at his dear, sweet, devoted mom when she tries to comfort him after a poor shot.

Eric birdies a tough hole.

Eric birdies a tough hole.

Even though the weather was fine for photography, I decided to take a different spin on the way I looked at the tournament. Too often I get so wrapped up in shooting the action, I don’t really see what’s going on. A player releases the disc, I snap a photo, and then I have absolutely no earthly idea what happened after that. I could easily get clunked in the head, if I’m not careful.

Chuck rears back for a throw along the lake.

Chuck rears back for a throw along the lake.

I decided that especially with #2 not playing, I’d like to just enjoy the pretty park, the players’ banter, and watching the action through both eyes, not just my right one looking through a viewfinder. So I didn’t bring my Nikon D300 and Nikon 105mm lens. (It helped that I knew there would be no flowers to take macro pix of.)

Sudden Sam putts.

Sudden Sam putts.

However, I knew that I couldn’t just watch. I had to have a camera to document some of the goings-on, right? So I opted for my Olympus Stylus Tough 6000. I traded great image quality for convenience and hoped for the best.

Ducks are wary of flying discs.

Ducks are wary of flying discs.

Using the point and shoot camera made me snap fewer pictures (why bother taking a lot of action shots with a camera that isn’t made for that), but it allowed me to look at the tourney in a different way photographically. And without a lot of effort.

Billy sweats in the hot Houston sun.

Billy sweats in the hot Houston sun.

I felt less stress, and I got to enjoy watching the Mister play . . . even though he didn’t particularly enjoy playing due to the heat and the toughness of the course.

Water jets shoot over a swimming pool.

Water jets shoot over a swimming pool.

And, even with the Olympus, I still got to be distracted while shooting disc golf!

Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Sideways

Meryl Streep as Julia Child cooks up a storm.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child cooks up a storm.

The Mister and I went a little movie crazy last weekend . . . without the boys. We saw two movies at our local AMC Theatre and rented another that we actually watched well before its due date.

Sidebar: Anyone else have a nasty habit of returning DVDs to the video store just before midnight on the due date? There probably are 12-step programs for people like us who need to stop procrastinating when it comes to watching rented movies on time.

By far, the top movie we saw was “Julie and Julia.” I was anxious to see it, because the same-named Julie Powell book that most of it’s based on is hilarious. And what a great premise: A 30-year-old woman in a dead-end job with a supportive husband decides to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” cookbook in one year and then blog about the results. Like me, Powell wasn’t the greatest cook before starting the project; I think that’s why I could relate to her so well.

What I totally disliked about the book and was glad to see wasn’t in the movie was Powell’s incessant foul language, which almost ruined the story for me. I’ve never read so many f-bombs in my life; what a turnoff.

But this is what Powell says about cussing: “I happen to believe that curse words are vital parts of language, and I write accordingly.”

I totally disagree! And I would feel the same way even if I wasn’t an old broad of 56. All cussing means is that you have a poor vocabulary. The only time cursing truly is necessary is when you’re driving without the kids and have to deal with all the idiot drivers surrounding you (it always amazes me how everyone else is such a bad driver when I’m behind the wheel!). Otherwise, as I tell my two sons, the English language is rich with descriptive words that won’t make their mother’s jaw drop in surprise and disgust. Use them!

Amy Adams celebrates her final Julia Child meal.

Amy Adams as Julie Powell celebrates her final Julia Child meal.

But I digress . . . the movie is a must-see! Two thumbs up!! It’s so funny and so delightful. Meryl Streep, one of my favorite actresses, is amazing as Julia Child.

I’m lucky to be married to a guy who is so secure in his maleness (though he doesn’t prefer pink) that he’ll willingly see chick flicks with me. After the movie, he admitted that he had had reservations about seeing it, but he loved it, too.

I do agree with the reviewers who have said that the Julia part is much more interesting than the Julie one. Julia Child was a fascinating personality, and I’m glad that Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed the movie, also used “My Life in France,” Child’s autobiography, as a basis for the film.

If you haven’t read Powell’s book, I do recommend it. Just be ready to do a lot of cringing!

“The Time Traveler’s Wife”

The time traveler (Eric Bana) and his wife (Rachel McAdams)

The time traveler (Eric Bana) and his wife (Rachel McAdams)

The “two thumbs sideways” is for “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” I haven’t read the book, and I found the movie to be a bit confusing. In the film, Chicago librarian Henry DeTamble (played by Eric Bana) has a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel, usually when he’s stressed. Putting up with all of that is a woman he’s known via time traveling since she was a little girl, artist Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams).

It makes for an interesting story, especially to a “Lost” fan like myself. But what bothered me the most was the lack of chemistry between Bana and McAdams. I just didn’t believe the love story. The Mister agreed with me; we were disappointed. Well-acted but not a must see.

“17 Again”

Zac Efron struts his stuff.

Zac Efron struts his stuff.

Okay, no laughing! The Mister and I rented “17 Again” and really liked it. I did roll my eyes a little that Zac Efron, one of the stars of the “High School Musical” franchise, also played basketball in this movie. But I thought he did a great job as the young version of Matthew Perry, who got to be 17 once again with a chance to rewrite his life’s story. Rent it for some light humor.

Oh, and be glad that Julie Powell didn’t write the story . . . no f-bombs, thank goodness!