Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer winding down?

Baseball season is over. Or as the puke-a-riffic White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson would say, "Ova." Next year Logan will move from the Coach Pitch league to the Minors. His coach approached Gene today and told him he wants to work with Logan and a few of the other boys during the off season. I think that would be awesome. Coach wants to work with the better, more serious boys on pitching. Hooray! I hope he actually does. I'll have to remember this final season of Coach Pitch as the year Logan was the best on his team. It was pretty cool and he loved every second of it.

I'm pretty sure we finally caught the last of the baby raccoons. There ended up being 6 babies and mom. The morning we caught mom I had to be at work at 7am and have the kids at camp before that. I didn't have time to don my Carhartts and dispose of the nasty thing. That decision came with a huge price tag! Gene called Critter Control and they charged us $158 to come pick up and dispose of an already trapped raccoon! I will NEVER deal with them again unless we have a grizzly bear inside the house! What a rip-off! The final two baby raccoons took a full week to catch. They kept springing the trap and managing to get all the food inside, but continued to escape. Hilariously, they started using the cat box in the garage. Um... I guess that was pretty nice of them :) I'm just glad they're finally gone and we can leave the dog door open at night. I had an AWFUL couple of weeks having to get up every night to let Duncan out. If I wake up after about 1am, I'm usually up for the day. I was pretty sleep deprived.

I finally saw Harry Potter and loved it! I thought it was the most true to the book movie of them all. I could have happily lived without the 3D flaking off of dying Voldemort's skin, but otherwise it was pretty awesome.

Kaylin has one more week of ceramics class and then our extra summer activities are over. School starts in just over 4 weeks! I'm as tired of the extreme heat as everyone else, but the summer is going too fast. The kids are having a blast at day camp and always dread the transition from carefree days full of friends and fun to structured days of boring schoolwork. Kaylin talks about camp all year long. Next year is technically the last year of camp for Kaylin, but she (right now at least) wants to be a junior counsellor until she's old enough to get a real job. I hope she does! I don't know how my kids could have a more fun summer than they do at this camp. Every day is filled with friends, sports, swimming, fishing, games, field trips, movies and other activities. It's probably as close to an old fashioned childhood as a kid can get these days!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What a week!

My kids have seen the Harry Potter movie and I have not. That will change today! I am going to work it in somewhere around the grocery trip, laundry, haircuts, baseball game, ceramics class, etc.

This week was possibly one of the craziest of my life. It was a roller coaster of potential change and emotion that came out of nowhere and just as suddenly came to an abrupt end. In 4 days time I went from a doo dee dee, ho hum normal existence of home, work and camp to strongly considering a major move, a probable career change, new schools for the kids- an upheaval of my entire world with no warning! It was at once exhilarating and terrifying, overwhelming and exciting, stressful and fun.

At work I waffled. How could I leave these animals and this job I love??? But I could find something that wouldn't be so hard on my feet, a job that wouldn't leave me so physically exhausted at night. But, the animals!!! At home I waffled. We could get out of this house Gene hates and away from the annoying neighbors! We could move somewhere I could have a few chickens and maybe even a pig! But... how can I take the kids from their schools and friends? Hooray! A new adventure! Yikes! A new adventure! Back and forth, back and forth.

In four days' time Gene went from life as usual, to an email, to meetings with his boss, to a preliminary interview, to being denied by HR because he just accepted a promotion earlier this year and has to fulfill a time obligation in his current position. Phew! Sigh. The boss at the other facility told Gene to call him in 18 months. Definitely something to think about!

I guess overall I'm relieved, but disappointed. I've ALWAYS wanted to at least try living somewhere else. However, I love my job and am comfortable and secure here. This would have been a fast transition. It will be nice to have some time to think things through. We never said anything to the kids because we knew there was a good chance HR would deny the transfer. I think Gene feels mostly the same as me- disappointed, but mostly relieved!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Raccoon Invasion

While we were on vacation, a family of raccoons decided to move into our garage. Super! I'm guessing they came in through the doggy door and am SOOOOOO happy they did not come into the house through the other doggy door! (We have one from the house to the garage and one from the garage to the back yard.) When we got home and were unloading the van, I immediately took the laundry bag and put it in the washer (in the garage.) I thought it was extremely odd that the self-filling water bowl was full of mud and that all of the cat food was gone. Later, Gene brought in a board or piece of plastic or something covered with poop and was furious that Tiger had skipped using the litter box. I was like "That looks like raccoon poop! Some of it is filled with berry seeds." Gene proceeded to find a HUGE mess and then Duncan found at least one raccoon back behind the water heater.

We've been slowly trapping them one per night. There are at least 5 babies and the mom. So far we've caught 3 babies and I just went to check and found mom. The babies are probably 2/3 grown and weaned, so I don't feel too bad about relocating them. I can't bring myself to kill them and really don't have a clue how I would go about doing that anyway? (Seriously, I don't have a gun or a stash of euthanasia serum. I don't think I could safely "bop off" a raccoon with a quick smack and neck break. That pretty much leaves drowning or some other horrendously cruel method. No.) I just read in Sunday's paper that you shouldn't catch and release raccoons because they spread disease, but I just don't know what else to do. I don't want to pay someone to do something I can do for free!

That is, I DIDN'T want to pay someone before I caught mom! Baby raccoons are scared and cute and you open the cage and they shoot into the woods. Mama raccoons are evil and scary and smart enough to be terrified of humans and want to defend themselves. They are stupid enough to watch 3 of their babies get trapped and then get trapped themselves, but smart enough to want to shred what is threatening them. I don't want to get shredded!!! Or get rabies shots. Perhaps I'll break down and call Critter Control for mama. Or else I'll put on my winter Carhartt's and take my chances. Probably the latter...

As I write, I'm also listening carefully because I baited the dog crate with food hoping to catch the remaining two babies together and be done with this ordeal. They were climbing around the garage when I found mama raccoon trapped so I know they're out there. I'm sure it'll work, right?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back Home

The kids were tired of swimming and MagiQuest so we stuffed ourselves at the breakfast buffet and went to the arcade one last time. We then headed into town and went to the Wisconsin Deer Park. I have no idea what possessed me to want to go there, but we had a blast! It was such a dumb place, but we were just surrounded by deer begging for crackers. It was so ridiculous we laughed the whole time we were there. They also had 3 pink piglets and a bunch of those chickens that have a puff ball of feathers on their heads. They actually had a wide variety of other animals, including deer from around the world, bison, emus, rhea, lemurs, goats and rabbits. It was a fun end to what turned out to be a really fun vacation.

We headed out of town around 11:30 and drove straight home. The kids came with me to pick up Duncan and I think we may have spent an hour playing with a litter of adorable kittens before we even approached the counter to pay and retrieve the dog. Kaylin is begging and begging for an adorable orange tabby with white paws. Its name is "Socks" and she wants to change it to "Sox" so Gene will love it. I have to admit that I've always wanted an orange tabby. I might cave on this... Must. Remain. Strong. We did eventually get the dog and he was thrilled to see us. As was Tiger-cat.

Logan made it to his baseball game and made an amazing catch, aided in almost every out and hit the only homer of the game. One of the parents from the other team remarked "Whoa, they have a ringer!" Indeedy.

Today I did some laundry and spent 5 hours cleaning Logan's room. Ugh. I wanted to do both kids' rooms today, but if Logan's took 5, Kaylin's will take 10 or more. Such a depressing waste of my final vacation days :(

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

More Vacation

We went back and forth over what to do Tuesday night. Should we head home? The kids wanted to move from Great Wolf Lodge to Kalahari. I checked into that but the price difference was staggering. Especially if we wanted to add their "indoor playground" of rides and games. Our hotel checkout receipt (the one they slip under your door) had a cheap return offer. I went to the front desk and told them we were planning to leave and go to Kalahari, but if they gave me the return offer for tonight, we'd stay at Great Wolf. I wouldn't have needed to state my spiel, they gave me the deal and even offered to upgrade our room at no cost. That was nice, but the biggest bonus to staying another night was to NOT have to pack up and change hotels/rooms.

We headed into the Dells and found a shady miniature golf course right on the river. It was insanely hot so the shade and the breeze from the river were major benefits. I usually stink at mini-golf, but for some reason yesterday was "on." I won at only a few strokes above par. The kids really wanted to do go karts so we found a place we'd never been. It was only $3 per car and since the kids were too short to drive their own cars they were free! WHOOOOO!!! Six bucks for go karts! Yeah, shoulda known there'd be a catch... These were NOT big double-seaters, they were regular-sized karts with a smaller seat scrunched in. Kaylin and I were smooshed together with her body pressing my leg so tightly into the steering column I actually have a bruise! It was a rough ride and Gene felt sick afterward. Both kids were disgusted they didn't get to drive their own karts. Oh, well, at least it was only six bucks!

We returned to GWL and Gene took Kaylin and Logan to the arcade while I headed back out and went to the International Crane Foundation. They have (and I saw) all 15 kinds of cranes on display. My favorites are the (I think) sarus cranes that stand 6 feet tall. They're the tallest flying birds and are really cool. I got there just in time for a guided tour I stayed for part of, but then deserted because I had a time limit. I found Gene and the kids in the arcade and they had won enough tickets for Kaylin to get a giant crayon pillow and Logan a giant inflatable baseball bat. Ah, super... They were very excited and had a great time.

We've spent hours and hours at the waterpark. I'm thrilled that Kaylin loves ALL of the slides now. She used to be terrified of anything that went through an enclosed tunnel (pretty much ALL of them) because she thought they'd be dark. This trip she did even the scariest slide over and over and the times I went with her she complained bitterly because my weight slowed the tube down and the ride wasn't as good as when just she and Logan went. Logan has always been a slide junky and this trip was no different than usual.

Today we'll head home. I'm not sure if we'll swim or do MagiQuest or hit the arcade one last time or all of the above? I want to be home in time to pick up Duncan before 6pm and Logan wants to go to his baseball game at 5:30. We'll see...

Monday, July 4, 2011


We're in the middle of the summer vacation I had not been looking forward to at all. The House on the Rock and Wisconsin Dells. Whoop-dee-doo. A place I never wanted to go in my life and yet another waterpark resort in a tourist trap town. Yawn. Ok, well, a lot of our New Mexico vacation was all about me. I got to go to Florida with Meghan earlier this year. I will put up and shut up. Gene and the kids will have a wonderful time and I'm sure I'll have fun even though we're not going somewhere new and exciting.

I can't BELIEVE I am admitting this, but I did not regret any time I spent at the House on the Rock. I didn't just find it tolerable, I loved it. I would be more than happy to go back someday. The doll carousels were pretty creepy, but the music machines, the main carousel and the organ room were awesome! The house itself was awesome. I even enjoyed the Alex Jordan museum area and plan to read more about him. The man was insane in an unbelievably cool way. Kaylin and Gene were cuckoo for the place and even Logan really liked it. I think the guy who created the City Museum in St. Louis must have gone to the House on the Rock and decided to create a similar place, but one that people could play on all the exhibits. Wow. My name is Susy and I love the House on the Rock.

Lacking many other options in the dink town of Dodgeville, we also stayed at the House on the Rock Inn. It wasn't as quirky as I would have liked, but it did have a pretty awesome pool area with a submarine playground for the kids and an outdoor pool with a dragon fountain. The kids loved the place. Gene and I liked it fine, but I don't know if I'd bother staying there again.

On the way to Dodgeville, we stopped at the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa. I had never been there and had been told it was a really cool place. I should have read and taken in the order of "museum and aquarium" because I have to admit I was expecting way more aquarium exhibits. I was really excited when we pulled up and saw two separate buildings. Then we went inside and it was mostly museum. It was a really good museum, but I had been expecting a really good aquarium so I was a little disappointed. They had tons of interactives and some outdoor areas with walk-through boats so the kids enjoyed it. My highlight was getting attacked by a very territorial nesting red-winged blackbird. He divebombed my head over and over and scared me half to death, but since I walked away unhurt and alive it was a pretty cool experience. At least in retrospect...

We're currently at Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells. The kids have spent hours at the waterpark and Gene and Logan hit the arcade while Kaylin and I went to MagiQuest. Since Kaylin's now old enough to do everything on her own, I went ahead and got myself a wand this trip. I worked my way up to Master Magi by completing a bunch of fun interactive scavenger hunts. Kaylin is on Level 7 or something. We're planning to go back in a little while. Gene and Logan are at some place across the parking lot riding go karts and bumper cars. GWL is having a big 4th of July party this afternoon with games and contests. They're even having their own fireworks show tonight!

This morning I got up early and headed to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. It is a 40,000 acre preserve that is a release point for whooping cranes and gray wolves. It is also home to jillions of sandhill cranes, bears, otters, badgers, and tons of other animals. I had been there about 30 seconds when I saw my first sandhill cranes and deer. I drove for miles and miles around the vast preserve and saw all kinds of birds and small mammals. The sandhill cranes were all over the place! I finally made my way to a pair of lakes and saw the unmistakable whooping cranes. They were as far away as they could get, but still looked huge! I needed my binoculars to even SEE sandhill cranes that were closer. I took a picture with my point and shoot camera zoomed at maximum and I'm sure if the cranes even show up they will look like white dots. Whatever, it was really exciting! I'm glad I didn't take Gene and the kids because it was possibly the buggiest place I've ever been. I took one mile-long hike and had bugs buzzing around my head the entire time. I didn't find any ticks on me, but found one crawling on the inside of the car window. The place was so huge and confusing I got completely lost and ended up having to drive back through the nearby town from an opposite direction and all the way back to the entrance I knew. I would love to go back in the fall during their peak waterfowl migration and in the early spring when the songbirds are migrating through before the trees leaf out.

Kaylin's done resting and ready for more MagiQuest!