Monday, September 29, 2003


I wasn't going to post today, because believe it or not, this weekend was worse than last weekend's storm-damaged weekend and I'm very sad and upset and not really sure what to say. My sister's house caught on fire Saturday night, and as destroyed as it seemed from the storm damage, it is far, far worse now. I don't want to say too much because they're very worried about what the insurance company might infer, but this was definitely a very tragic accident. They were out of town when it happened and aren't even making it back until tonight. [Side note: Northwest Airlines does not consider your house burning down an "emergency," only a death in the family. They wouldn't let them change to an earlier flight to come home yesterday - it would have cost $400. I definitely won't be using them ever again as an airline carrier.]

The neighbors rescued their two dogs, but their two cats died from smoke inhalation. They found Luna in the bathtub Saturday night and unfortunately, I was the one who found Pooh Sunday afternoon as we were trying to salvage some of their belongings. In a way, I'm glad I found him because I certainly wouldn't want my sister or brother-in-law to have found him later this week. We also got rid of all the cat food, feeding dishes and litter box so they wouldn't see them when they finally get home. The dogs are at my parents' house, which can't be easy because they don't have a fenced yard.

I've never known anyone whose house has caught on fire, only what I've seen on TV, and the devastation is terrible. Smoke and water seemed to do more damage than the actual fire. They literally now own just the clothes on their backs and anything else they had packed for their trip. Thank God my sister's wedding album was still sitting in her truck where she placed it when the floods came. And by some miracle, her hope chest was only charred and warped on the outside. Everything on the inside was soot and water free. Her wedding dress and other wedding mementos are now in my family room. My mom took home a bunch of wet photographs and was going to try to dry them out - her baby portrait collage, her baby photo that was mounted with her bronzed baby shoes, pictures from trips to Hawaii and their cruise...

Needless to say, I've been a little distracted at work today. I hardly slept at all last night. Everytime I closed my eyes, all I could see was their destroyed house. I feel so helpless and don't know what to do. Mark and I haven't even been in our own house long enough to accumulate any extra furniture. The only thing I have to offer is our old kitchen set, which is currently serving as a catch-all desk in the family room. I wish my sister and I wore the same size clothes, but alas, she is in the 4-6 range and let's just say you'd probably need to put a "1" in front of those numbers for me.

I'm sorry if this is a bit incoherent and rambling. Everytime I look at my hands and see the black still stuck under my fingernails, I just want to lay my head down on my desk and cry. I can't wait for my sister to get home tonight, even though I don't know what to say to her. I just want them to be home, wherever that might end up being.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

TV Blogging

Does anyone watch Yes, Dear on Monday nights on CBS? What was up with their new daughter on the season premiere this week? She was just born toward the end of last season and now she's a toddler who appeared to be older than the little boy they already have. Do they think this is a soap opera or something, where kids who are five suddenly turn 15 overnight? Did they think we wouldn't notice?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Jinxed Again

I obviously spoke too soon. We've had buckets of rain since yesterday evening and this morning we awoke to water in the family room. Half of the carpet is drenched and the part near the door where the water came in is not only wet, but muddy, too. We dealt with this once before, when the remnants of Hurricane Floyd came through four years ago. I think we got cocky because we've been in a drought situation the last two years and thought we had solved the problem. Mark stayed home today to try and clean up the mess. I hope we can salvage the carpet.

Then, when I dropped Hayley off at the sitter's, they didn't have any power again. They lost power last week when we did, but it went off again around 5am this morning.

Major inconveniences, but I keep reminding myself things still aren't as bad as they are at my sister's. I talked to her over lunch yesterday and the house is looking more like a total loss. The right side of the house is now sinking and is noticeably lower than the left. A FEMA representative came to the house yesterday morning and gave them all the paperwork for aid, but they're still waiting for the adjuster from the homeowner's insurance to come and do their inspection.

I'm sure there will be more news to come.

Monday, September 22, 2003

One-Year Update

Hayley's one-year check-up occured as Isabel was moving in late Thursday afternoon, so here are the belated results. Her visit to the doctor went well and she is progressing normally. She weighed in at 22lbs, 7oz., gaining about a pound and a half from her 9-month check-up. Her length was 29 and 3/4 inches, about an inch growth. We made the switch from formula to regular milk over the long Labor Day weekend and she's only drinking from the bottle twice a day - first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The doctor was pleased to hear she could say "human words" like "bye-bye" and "no." She's walking by holding onto the furniture, has been drinking out of a cup since February and is always on the go.

Some more one-year birthday party photos as well:

Dressed in her birthday finery

And one with the official birthday hat

Two cakes - one for Hayley and one for everyone else

Sharing cake with Pop Pop

"Cake Face" says it all

The aftermath - I call this one "The Massacre of Raggedy Ann"

Interesting article from the Sunday New York Times Book Review about "Classroom Classics" - Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, etc. (NY Times requires free registration)
Hurricane Isabel

Well, I'm finally able to post about how we survived the hurricane. We lost power around 3:30am Friday morning. I had to go to work without showering after getting dressed in the dark. I didn't realize until Friday night that I had on two different earrings all day. We spent Friday night at my parents' house, who were virtually unaffected by the storm, other than losing a few shingles off the roof. Our power came back Saturday around noon, but we didn't have cable until 2:30pm on Sunday. Luckily, the Ravens were the 4 o'clock game on Sunday! Our only loss was a few perishables in the refrigerator. We were even able to save all of our meat from the freezer by storing it at my mother-in-law's.

We consider ourselves extremely lucky considering what is happening all around us. We made an appointment back in August to have our trees pruned before winter because there are many dead limbs hanging way up there and we didn't want to have one fall on the house. How we managed to escape any damage during those high winds is beyond me! Our neighbors across the street weren't so lucky. They had a tree go through their roof that caused some serious damage. How did we not hear that? Around the corner from us, another neighbor had a tree fall across their above-ground pool.

But by far, the worst is the damage my sister has suffered. She and my brother-in-law live on the water in Baltimore. On Friday, they had close to 2 feet of water in every room of the house. They couldn't see their backyard at all, nor the pier that usually sits two or three feet above the water. The water did recede Friday afternoon and didn't return with high tide - a small blessing. And somehow, it didn't leave behind a lot of mud, mostly sticks, leaves and other debris. But all of the carpet and furniture is ruined (and they just had new carpet installed in the entire house back in the spring). She told me on the phone that all of the floorboards and some of the walls were buckling, but I couldn't imagine it until I saw it in person Saturday afternoon.

Her hallway was like a rolling, wavy miniature golf course. In the center of the one bedroom was a giant hump like a pitcher's mound. Their back deck was no longer attached to the house. Railroad ties that had surrounded gardening areas were 20 or 30 feet from where they should have been. You could see the high water mark all the way around the house, both inside and out. They still had about two feet of water in the crawl space, which is the only thing that saved them from having 4 or 5 feet of water inside the house instead of 2 - the crawlspace filled up first. And, of course, the smell was awful - that sour, stagnant water smell (those of you from Baltimore would know it as "Back River").

They are still waiting for the insurance adjuster to come. You can imagine how backed-up they are! She's afraid they're going to have to tear down the house and start over. I was surprised at how well she was handling everything. Nothing of great sentimental value was lost (she put their wedding album in her truck) and amazingly, most of the appliances were still working after the water receded. Ironically, they never even lost power, but had to turn it off once they found the water.

So we spent the weekend counting our blessings that everyone was safe and sound and hoping for the best for my sister and her house.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Happy Birthday, Hayley!

Today is my baby's birthday. I can't believe she's one! Only one short year ago she looked like this.

She came into this world at 4:30am and she must have retained some memory of it, because she woke up very early today - at 5:15am.

Tomorrow is her one-year check-up and we'll find out how much she weighs and how tall she is.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Book Talk, Pt. 2

While reading over lunch, another error. Again, not my typo:

p. 246 "He had interests in the trade of guns, heroine, women - everything went through him."

I finished this book at lunch - thank goodness!
Book Talk

I was planning on writing an entry today about the book I'm currently reading (see links toolbar if you can find it) and how the editing is so awful and I keep finding all of these grammar mistakes - very obvious ones. Then, I read Jennifer Weiner's Sept. 14th entry and had to laugh in agreement with the remarks about "poorly edited books." I love reading mysteries and thrillers, and yes, most often, I can figure out who the murderer or the bad guy is before I reach the end. Some are good, some are bad, but I love the genre regardless. And I'm one of those people who mostly likes everything I read. A book, or even a movie for that matter, has to be pretty bad for me to give up on it before the end.

With the book I'm reading now, The Darkness Gathers by Lisa Miscione, the grammar mistakes are so glaring that it's distracting. And it's very obvious that whoever edited this book at St. Martin's Minotaur did a very crappy job. Relying too much on SpellCheck? Here are the examples, all revolving around the same word. Remember, these are not my typos, this is how they are printed in the book:

On p. 76, "His face darkened a bit. 'Like I said, I've been warned to step off. I have to follow the rules here or I'll loose my career. I'm not a free agent like the two of you. I loose my job and my kid doesn't go to college, my wife doesn't get medication for her diabetes. Do you understand that?'"

And again, on p. 202, "Now that you are with me, I couldn't bare to loose you again."

Ugh, is this crazy or what? Twice in the same paragraph, then the same exact error again 200 pages later! The word 'loose' was actually used correctly in some places, but it was distracting because I felt like I had to re-read the sentence to make sure.

This is the second book in the series featuring Lydia Strong and Jeffrey Mark. I love reading serials because of how the format allows for strong character development and the reader gets to know and love characters over the years as they age and experience different things. I thought the first book in the series, Angel Fire, was okay but not great, and decided to give the second one a shot. Aside from glaring typos, the problem I have with this series is how the main characters get involved in the cases they are working on. Lydia is a true crime writer whose boyfriend is a former FBI guy owns a high-end private detective/intelligence agency. In both books, they have approached the local law enforcement working on the case to offer to help and their assistance has been gladly accepted.

From the many other mysteries, legal thrillers, police procedurals and the like that I have read, this is wholly unbelievable. In most cases, local law enforcement hates the interference of anyone else, whether it's a state agency or the federal government coming to take over the case. I realize this is just a small detail to the overall story being told, and that there has to be some element of unbelieveability in mysteries, but again, it's very distracting to me the reader because it's always in the back of my head.

Some day soon, I'm going to add a page about all the different book series I read, along with some thoughts, but I think I'll just stop after book 2 in the Lydia Strong series and leave it at that. There are many other books on my "to read" list than to waste my time with poorly edited, unfocused mystery books.

Have you read this book? Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Big Bash!

Yesterday was the big day - the 1st Birthday Party! Of course, it rained here, so I ended up with 40 adults and 12 kids under the age of 7 all in the house, but it all worked out. We moved some furniture around and it stopped raining later in the day, so people (the smokers) were able to go in and out.

Hayley was an absolute angel throughout the whole day. She really dug into the cake, as you can see below. (Yes, beautiful photography composition with the trash can in the background!) And she was blessed with a ton of presents - we have great family and friends. I'll have more pictures and details soon, but I wanted to post one as soon as I could.

(I haven't figured out how to downsize photos from the digital camera without cropping. They keep bumping my links bar down the page, they're so big!)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

It's scenes like this that make me love where we live.

We see deer out back quite often, but they usually stay behind the stone fence and eat the corn in the field from the farm behind us. But for some reason, on this particular morning, Mama Doe and her three babies (you can only see two in the photo) wanted to explore our whole yard. Hayley and I stood at the sliding door for a good ten minutes, just watching them. I took the picture through the door and without a flash, so I wasn't even sure if it would turn out.

We may not be able to get DSL or cable Internet access, but we have this!

Monday, September 01, 2003

Baby Front

This past week has been amazing on the baby front. Hayley is at the age where she is doing something new every day. She finally starting pulling up on things that are above her head and I must say she's pretty steady on her feet. She can also climb the stairs. The first time, it was just the bottom two steps. As of Saturday, she can do a whole flight. Completely supervised, of course! Because of this, we've had to go a step further with the babyproofing and block off all exits, plus move breakable items up another level out of her reach. She's into everything!

Also, over the weekend, we made the big switch to milk only - no more formula! She won't be one for a couple of more weeks, but I wanted to do this while I had four whole days in a row at home (I'm off Tuesday, too.). It's been going pretty smoothly, except she's also teething, and I'm never quite sure if she's just being fussy or if she's hungry from the switch. A work in progress.

Last Saturday, Mark's mom bought her a cute little ride-on toy - a fire engine - that she absolutely loves! At first, she could only go backwards, but by the end of the day, she was flying all over the house on it. Here's an actual photo from our digital camera - the one built into our camcorder. I think the color on the batch of photos this time around is a little funky, but atleast you won't have to wait a month to see her newest feat.

I was hoping to do some more catching up, but there's a thunderstorm moving in and I can hear thunder now, so I better log off and shut down. More soon!
Vacation Photos
Don't ask me why I've waited so long to post these - I've had the pictures developed for weeks. I wish I could upload photos from work. It's hard to find the time to do it from home. Anyway, here are a few shots from our trip to Myrtle Beach.

Hayley on the beach, properly shaded under her umbrella.

A neighbor gave us the idea of taking a small baby pool to the beach and filling it with ocean water, to help keep baby cool without having to walk down to the water every 5 minutes. I thought this was a great idea, especially since we didn't know if Hayley would like the beach or the ocean water.

The three girls, dressed up to go out to dinner.

And since you haven't seen a picture of me yet, here I am holding Hayley. This was the night we went to the Dixie Stampede.