Vols Volvo

As I previously mentioned, we unloaded the Pacifica and purchased a Volvo. We’re both pleased. Now we just need a Smokey bumper sticker to replace the old one. This magnet will do for now.

Chuck is very excited about the Volvo. After work he came straight home and started polishing the leather seats.

“It’ll make them supple,” he explained.

Um, okay. I’ll just leave you two alone.

The weather today is absolutely delightful. Salem thought so too.

Happy Weekend! Go Vols!

Salem the Student and a Trip to the Dentist

For some reason, Salem has taken to hanging out with us at the kitchen table during school time. He’s never done this before but it’s been a fun distraction. He doesn’t participate or intrude. Instead, he’ll just stare or sleep.

As a result, I’ve taken to washing the table cloth more frequently.

If we’re Facebook friends, then you might already know that my trip to the dentist yesterday was disastrous. The verdict was that I need three crowns and two cavities filled, plus I need to consult with a periodontist about skin grafting for my receding gums. () I nearly cried all over my paper bib. Brushing and flossing twice a day has done nothing for me. NOTHING. And to top things off, I was declined the perfect cocktail of valium and nitrous oxide. ()

He said, “I’m sorry but the State of Tennessee doesn’t allow…”

I heard nothing after that except the cries of my future agony.

Per some advice from Facebook friends, we’ll probably get a second opinion. Chuck supposedly needs a couple of crowns too, which is odd for him. A trip to the orthodontist today for Jeremy confirmed that he does in fact need some baby teeth pulled to allow his adult teeth to come through. And yes, he’ll need braces.


Darn Near Perfect Weekend

Had the Vols won, it would’ve been a picture perfect weekend on the cusp of autumn in east Tennessee. But let’s not focus on the negative.

We slept in, we snacked all day, we chilled out, we sat on the deck, we played Words with Friends, we wore our comfy clothes. It was exactly what a weekend should be. The cool breeze outside and the sound of leaves rustling tell me that fall is coming. Hip, hip hurray!

Today was our second round of co-op classes, which the boys went to with great enthusiasm. While my attitude is better this week, I still stowed away in the gym, drank coffee and read for nearly two uninterrupted hours. It was wonderful.

The boys are doing very well with their studies. In fact, Jackson just completed his second Explode the Code book and Jeremy is already on his fifth math unit (there’s 30 total, so at this rate he’ll be finished in March), which all makes me wonder if we’re going too fast. Am I hurrying them? Are they just naturally brilliant? Hmm.

Meanwhile, here’s your Seek and Find assignment for the day. It’s really not that hard.

The Last Squeak

Nearly every morning, weather permitting, I escape to the back deck to read and drink coffee before the boys wake. It’s incredibly peaceful, especially when the birds are in full song.

Salem joins me for two reasons: 1) he likes to be wherever I am and 2) he has things to kill.

So I sat there reading while Salem pillaged. I’m in the last quarter of HP and the Deathly Hallows, which is quite tense despite having read it twice before, so I was easily startled when Salem came darting up the stairs. My body jumped a second time when I saw the mouse in his mouth. He walked over to the “Wipe Your Paws” doormat and sat down his kill.

Except it wasn’t dead. It was twitching and squeaking. Unable to move or make sounds while in the clutches of Salem’s jaw, it was now free to writhe in dying pain. The squeaking was unbearable to listen to so plugged my ears and closed my eyes. Upon peeking, I saw Salem still sitting there intently watching his victim.

Within a few seconds it appeared to be over and my cat took one last swipe at the mouse’s lifeless body. It didn’t move. Satisfied, Salem turned and walked my way, weaving in and out of my legs with affection. He let out a little meow when I patted his head before settling down underneath my chair.

“I love you, too, Salem,” I said. And then he took a nap.

Warning: Graphic Content. Finish your breakfast first.

This is how much my cat loves me. He brings me gifts.

Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this. He never brought me a thing while we lived in Texas but it seems this Texas cat enjoys the thrill of living in Tennessee.

Upon seeing my front porch gift I was immediately transported back to the late 80s when we lived in Germany. Our cat, Heidi (of course our German cat was named Heidi), was a master at gift-giving. Every morning and afternoon there was something new left kindly on our front porch – some with their bodies in tact, some with only a few organs left. At ages 9, 10, and 11, I was wholeheartedly in love with all animals, and though I knew Heidi was doing her cat duty, I felt badly for the mice she was killing.

Quickly into her gift-giving process I began giving the dead mice proper burials. In a brown paper lunch sack, I’d wrap the dead mouse in a napkin and pick a rose bud from one of the bushes beside the porch and place it inside. Then I’d dig a small hole either in the rose garden or among the rhubarb and lay the mouse to rest. By now, Heidi was already on the hunt again or napping inside. She had no use for formality, but I thought it was the proper and kind thing to do. I have no idea the number of mice I buried in the three years we lived in that house.

You’re probably thinking I buried Salem’s mouse, and to be quite honest, I thought about it. But then I realized that Salem could just as easily dig it up and decide NOT to leave its body in tact, and then I felt shivers down my spine as I considered what it would be like to clean up a pile of organs…

So I scooped it up in a napkin, placed it in a paper lunch sack and tossed it in the trash bin outside. Salem watched proudly from the doorstep as I did this.

He loves me and I have a dead mouse to prove it.

Happy Weekend!


It’s like a little gift each day to see what bloomed overnight. Spring arrived in my backyard and created a gorgeous rainbow of color.

I originally thought Salem would run wild through the woods as soon as I let him loose, but in actuality he’s been quite timid. He walks through the yard methodically and wide-eyed, a stark difference from when he reigned over our tiny plot of fenced-in Texas grass. His space has increased tenfold in all directions, and like the wise old man he is, he’s exploring it in small doses.

In Pictures

It snowed over the weekend, and from what I understand it’s supposed to snow tonight…

Yeah, Salem and I are ready for spring. Can I get an amen? This was Saturday.

By Sunday morning, all of that beautiful sunshine turned gray, so I threw the boys outside to play.

When they couldn’t play outside, they were doing the usual.

This color sorting is Jackson’s habit of putting like things together. This way, everyone has a buddy!

This is my favorite photo from last week (when Jackson wore his camouflage toboggan cap all day everyday). We’ve finally reached the point where Jeremy can read Jackson a simple book.

A Poop Story

Ah, where to begin?

We had a showing last night, so I kept the house spotless all day which left minimal to do as the hour approached. Following an afternoon of play, the boys were fed and put in pajamas, and the house was perfectly staged for an evening visit. Salem wandered about as usual.

I called for the boys to get in the car and they ran to the garage with sheer excitement. (How often do you get to ride in the car in your footed pajamas?) From his booster seat, Jeremy calls, “Can Salem come?”

I pause for a second and answer with a “yes.”

You see where this is going.

Now before you ask, Salem has been in a car before last night. Naturally, he rode in our car the night I picked him up and brought him home to live with us last summer. He’s ridden in the car to the vet, albeit in a carrier, and he joined us in the car for the last showing we had more than a week ago.

You can see why I didn’t think twice about him riding with us last night.

However, I should’ve known better. Though Salem is all cat in terms of his playfulness and affinity for napping, he is more like a dog when it comes to his potty etiquette. Even though he’s litter box trained, he’s more likely to wait by the back door so he can do his business outside. Weeks go by without him ever using the box, which, frankly, is fine with me.

This week has been the exception. The last few days have been in the single digits and well below zero when you account for the wind. Salem hasn’t been interested in going outside. Who can blame him? Why poop outside on a frozen tundra when you can poop inside in a warm litter box? For the record, by 6:30 p.m., he had not yet used the litter box.

But let’s get back to the story.

With the boys in the car and the house ready to be shown, I scoop Salem in my arms, grab a blanket and head for the car. His eyes widen as we back out of the garage, but that’s natural, I tell myself. Cats don’t like to not be in control. Funny little cat, I think. He needs to be more flexible.

Since it’s late, we park around the corner so we can be out of the way but not far away. It’s almost bedtime, after all. And we have a cat with us. There are no errands to run to kill time.

The boys settle in to watch a few episodes of “Olivia” on the DVD player while I catch up on Facebook and Twitter updates on my phone. Salem wanders around the car peeking out the windows. We’re each doing our own thing to pass the minutes.

Hmm. What’s that smell? Someone has gas. Boys are so foul. They just let it rip –

Wait a second. I know that smell.

I flip on the overhead light to see Salem in the passenger seat. He’s looking at me. Wide eyed. And he’s just pooped.

“SALEM POOPED IN THE CAR!” I yell, which is in an open invitation for both boys to jump from their seats to see the evidence.

They laugh hysterically while I stare blankly – this is my life? Completely frightened by our reaction, Salem jumps behind the seat to the middle of the car to hide, leaving his steaming heap of crap next to me. The ONLY reason I didn’t lose all decorum is because Salem was considerate enough to poop on the blanket I brought for him. I folded in the corners, opened the door and tossed out the mess. Thankfully I keep a small travel bottle of Febreeze in the car door. The blanket went promptly in the wash as soon as we got home.

The night ended uneventfully with the boys going to bed at a decent hour and Salem curled up by the fireplace. When I went to bed, I couldn’t help laughing at the thought: Poor Salem. Riding in a car literally scared the crap out of him.

Midday Frolic

Like Jackson, Salem is also enjoying my being home during the day. It allows for afternoon romps in the yard in which his fur becomes a magnet for dirt.

Happy Weekend!

A Quiet Night with the Coziest Bed Buddy

My New Year’s Eve was as casual as they come – a day of bowl games, a movie with the boys, registering for a half marathon, playing Lego Harry Potter and enjoying a glass of wine near the night’s end. I wished a few loved ones on the east coast a Happy New Year over the phone and on Skype, but I was in bed before midnight central time.

Then I had my annual cry. Whether it’s a symbolic rinsing of emotions from my soul, or the colliding of regrets from the past into hopes for the future, I rarely celebrate New Year’s Eve without a little bout of tears. To steal a phrase from my Mamaw, perhaps I’m just turned that way. When it was finished, I picked up a book and read until my eyes were tired.

When my bed buddy nestled in for the night, I flipped off the light, made a few promises to myself in the darkness and left 2010 behind me.

Here’s to 2011 and all of the things I hope for: the selling of two houses, the publishing of a book with my name in it, the healthy arrival of a best friend’s baby, reuniting with family and friends (often), peace in tumultuous relationships, new opportunities I’ve not yet imagined, and all of the blessings God sees fit to give. May this year present itself kindly to all of us.

What To Do with No. 2?

The addition of Salem into the family was seamless, especially when you consider the timing of losing Hank and going through a major family transition this summer. I’ve wanted a cat for years and Salem came along just in time.

But now another one has come along and he’s not interested in leaving.

“Little Buddy” is what I call him, refusing to give him a real name to eliminate the hope of him coming indoors. Trust me, I’m fighting it. I shoo him away when he tries to run in and I’ve even flipped off the patio light and walked away while he sat staring at me with those affectionate eyes.

It’s cruel, especially since he and Salem get along famously. They touch noses, chase each other around the yard and sit together on the patio every night. I frankly don’t know what to do. I just know Salem’s giving him the low-down about life inside the Big House – two helpings of food per day, sleeping under the comforter at night and hot tubbing whenever you choose.

But what the little stray doesn’t realize is there’s another side to being “owned.”

Like dressing up for holiday festivities.  This could be you, Little Buddy. This could be you.

Not Salem’s BFF

When I said my porch is the neighborhood hangout, I wasn’t kidding. Last night, I glanced outside and mistakenly thought Salem and his buddy were hanging out – but then I realized that Salem had gotten fatter and grown out his hair.

And then I realized it wasn’t Salem.

It was pretty clear that Salem isn’t a fan of his bigger, hairier twin. He hissed at him and wouldn’t even go outside, which meant his little tabby friend was left hanging. And by the way he was peering inside my house, I know the little guy was waiting for an invite.

Salem’s BFF

Not two months after bringing Salem to the neighborhood, he’s become the popular kid.

I let him out in the evenings to lounge on the front porch and mind the yard. In early August, I noticed a little tabby peeking his head from around the corner of our fence. Every couple of days he’d inch closer but always scurry away when I tried to approach him. Continue reading “Salem’s BFF”

The Pack is Equalizing

Thanks to heavy narcotics and valium, Hank has been a chipper little puppy the last few days. He greeted Amanda at the door this morning, greeted me at the door tonight, and even wagged his tail at the call of his name. No word on the Oxycontin yet, but I’ll catch up with the doctor tomorrow and see how her mission to acquire the drug is going. (To see how immobile Hank was over the last few days, go here. This was Monday night before it got .)

Anyway, this morning as Amanda and I chatted about the week, she told me that Hank and Salem laid NEXT to each other on Jack’s bottom bunk yesterday. Holy cricket, Batman, for real? She confirmed that, yes, in fact Salem endured the close proximity of Hank long enough to not claw him to death. Amanda further reported that, per Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer, this must mean that the “pack is equalizing.” Salem is either relenting in his struggle to be King, or Hank is too drugged to care anymore. After all, what’s a few cat scratches compared to neck spasms and bone spurs. Bring it on, kitty kitty.

In all seriousness, this doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet with Hank. It means that today, for now, he’s medicated, moving and not whimpering in pain. Next week may be different. Heck, tomorrow could be different. While we’re in the in-between, I’ll do whatever I can to keep him happy.

And if he chooses to nap with Salem, then that just confirms that even when dogs get older their give-a-damn breaks.

Take a Load Off

Salem joined the boys and me for our nightly book-reading time. He listened for only a few moments before settling himself on Jackson’s bottom bunk. After saying goodnight, I picked him up and tossed him over my shoulder where he proceeded to go completely limp.

I just had to carry that sack of potatoes into the bathroom for a picture.

Forgive me and my PJs.


So I got a  cat, and if you know me then you know I had a severe attachment to a cat I had for almost a decade. After she passed away in 2001, I owned two other cats for a couple of years. Then children came along and suddenly there was too much poop in the house.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve been wanting a cat for a while now, but I’ve wanted a specific kind of cat. For starters, I wanted an indoor/outdoor cat, already potty-trained, and happy to sit on laps. And again, if you know me, then you know I’ve always wanted a cat who I could name after a Harry Potter character.

Then came Salem, a nearly-all-black heavy-set shop cat who couldn’t live in the shop anymore. He belonged to a wonderful florist (and her crew) who we work with often in the magazine, but since she changed locations, Salem wound up needing a new home. It seemed almost perfect since he’s used to going in and out of a house, and since I needed a cat who could be flexible, I figured we’d be a good match.

I brought him home last night and he’s made slow, cautious progress. In fact, as I type, he’s rubbing his chin along the top of the laptop screen, his way of telling me, “This belongs to me.”

However, this is new behavior, as he spent the entire day cuddled against the toilet:

He’s scared of the children, as you can imagine, and Hank posed a huge threat. After separating them, I was quite frank with Salem – Hank is priority. If you two can’t get along, guess who gets the boot?

This may be the craziest time in my life, the most inappropriate and irresponsible time to get a cat, but I tell you this: if he’ll sit on my lap at night and make me his best friend, then it will all be worth it. And if he’s lucky, I might make his middle name Severus.