What’s Happenin’, Hotstuff?

What has been going on? Oh, a little of this, a little of that. Time for a check-in, don’t you think?

Today’s big happening is that I recaulked the shower in the master bath because it was starting to leak water onto the floor. I don’t know how the professionals make it look so seamless and perfect when they do it. Practice, obviously, because I’ve never done it and that’s why it looks terrible. However, all gaps have been filled and therefore when we take showers in the morning we will not step out from the shower into a puddle of water, so I consider it a success.

Tomorrow CootieBoy goes to camp with our church. It’s for five days just outside Asheville and is the last year he is eligible to go. Next year he’ll age out. He’s looking forward to it, and Denis and I are looking forward to a week of no kid-squabbling. That’s always awesome.

Speaking of awesome, Denis and I went to go see Beck in concert last week in Charlotte. It was a really fun show and we both enjoyed it a lot. We had fantastic seats very close to the stage although the pit in front of us meant that we were required to stand the entire show. Between Denis’s knee and my abdomen hurting (as it does when I stand longer than one hour at a time), we were a pair. But we were a pair enjoying the concert and marveling at the constant smell of weed all around us. *lol*

Third row seats just behind the pit.  GREAT show.

Third row seats just behind the pit. GREAT show.

Ice the Dog is a character. He is a big scaredy-dog and, as I told someone on Facebook, he doesn’t so much walk as he cowers and scoots. Poor thing – he has NO confidence whatsoever. He has major separation anxiety that has resulted in him chewing things, going to the bathroom in CootieGirl’s room, and a constant need for affection. However, he seems to be trainable to a certain extent and so I’ll be taking him to obedience classes in August. I bought a used crate for when we are at work so that he can’t be destructive, and he got out of it twice. I eventually recorded him and the little escape artist was able to get himself out in under three minutes. *sigh*

Denis’s knee surgery recovery took a major turn for the positive when he started physical therapy last week. He is now mobile without having to use crutches or a cane, and while he still feels tweaks of pain every now and again, it is manageable. He leaves on Thursday for a weekend with his pals in NYC and with any luck he’ll have a great time (I’m sure he will).

On Thursday my parents arrive and will stay for a couple days before taking both kids with them to Virginia for a week. I can’t believe that three weeks after their return from my parents’, the kids go back to school. That’s just crazy. This summer has sped by.

The Summer of Landscaping is still afoot. We had a tree service come out in mid-June to cut down some trees and cut back some others we were keeping. It really opened up the space, but it also exposed other things in the yard that need to be removed. Tomorrow I have a landscaper coming to create a clean slate back there. He’s going to rip out the remaining ivy, some small dying shrubs, get rid of the Virginia creeper vines and small accidental trees that were exposed when the dead trees were cut out. Then I’ll schedule the tree stump grinder to come later in the week and get rid of the stumps. At that point we’ll have a complete blank slate ready to transform. Denis and I were thinking of pouring an extended patio, but then Denis remarked that he’d probably never use it if it wasn’t a screened in patio. So I’ve been working on getting quotes from various contractors for a very simple patio. We have a limited budget and can’t spend the moon on it, so we’re hoping we can find someone that will give us a reasonable quote. Especially since the 14×17 concrete patio is already there! My hope is that if we are able to do an enclosed patio that we’re able to get HOA permission for that by mid-August, with an eye on building by mid-September. Then I can bring the landscaper back in late September to do the yardwork – that timing would be PERFECT if it works out that way.

I think that’s about it for now. Pictures below!

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Chilly? No, It’s Downright Icey, Now.

A little over six months ago we adopted Chilly the Dog into our family. As I said in another post, he is pretty much the most awesome dog ever and he has been a joy. Such a joy, in fact, that I was able to talk Denis into considering the addition of a second canine into the Cootie Clan.

We spent a few months just looking – trying to figure out the next dog we’d get. Small lap dog? I said yes, Denis said no. Crazy huge dog? Denis said yes, I said absolutely not (he wanted a St. Bernard at some point). We continued hunting online, until a little over a month ago I saw a dog online called ‘Ice.’ I thought, “That’s awesome because we already have Chilly. Chilly and Ice HAVE to go together, right?

I filled out an application with the rescue group (a different one than where we got Chilly) and once they contacted me for more details, I arranged for a home visit to take place after we got back from the beach. That took place earlier in the week. After they checked into our background (including contacting our vet), they decided we were good people and said we could meet Ice at a pet store adoption event this weekend.

Yesterday we loaded up into the van and drove up to Huntersville to meet Ice. He was bigger than anticipated – the same size as Chilly. He was also all muscle (Chilly is all fluff). But his eyes were gorgeous, and he seemed very relaxed and even a bit timid. The woman who was monitoring him kept talking to me like I’ve never been around dogs, and I had to assure her that I grew up with dogs in my parents’ house, and have owned two already. I’m no stranger to dogs.

During the time we were there the kids ran off to look at kittens and ferrets and hamsters, oh my. Denis, who is now in PT for his knee, took advantage of the store layout to walk a few laps. We took Chilly with us and he and Ice pretty much ignored each other – which was good enough for me! Better they ignore each other than fight, right? After a while I decided that Ice was a good dog, if a little timid, and worth taking a chance. And so I filled out the final applications, bought him a nametag, and made my donation to the rescue group.

Then began the ride home to our house. Despite being in the van, the dogs both decided that being near the front was the best place to be. So Chilly sat in the second row and peered over Denis’s shoulder most of the rid home, while Ice (now Icey) stood at CootieGirl’s feet almost the whole time, but also sad in the middle, with his head near Denis’s and my elbows.

Icey has been in our house for a little over 24 hours, and here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • He really IS a lapdog. They warned me that he loves being petted, and they weren’t kidding. Once I start he will NOT let me start, to the extreme of putting his entire 40 pound body across my lap and using his paw to force my hand to his vicinity.
  • He’s scared about going upstairs. Despite 2-3 attempts to get him upstairs to explore, each time he has literally run for the stairs to go back down as soon as he could. I don’t know why he’s so scared to be up there, but I’m hoping he gets over that fear once he realizes that we go up there every night. This morning I found him laying on the sofa. He came up ONCE last night and peeked in our room but when I said his name to let him know I saw him, he turned and bolted back downstairs.
  • He hates getting baths. I gave both dogs a bath this morning and he was petrified to get in the big tub. He is so strong it took all of me to keep him in there. The only way I was able to get him to stay was to constantly pet him below his ear with one hand while washing and rinsing with the other.
  • He’s probably not a Husky/Corgi mix like the rescue group said. Today when I ran to the local petstore to pick up a new color for Icey, and someone there made a comment that they thought he was a Catahoula/Corgi mix. I went online and after doing some research, I’m inclined to agree with that assessment.
  • He’s a shedder. Our housekeeper comes tomorrow for our bi-monthly cleaning and I feel like I should leave her a note to apologize. Today at the store I bought a bristle brush and will most likely get the anti-shedding shampoo and bathe him once a week. Because for a dog that doesn’t have a lot of hair, he sheds a lot of it.
  • He is scared of Mini the Cat. He will actually cower when she is nearby – head down, tail tucked. I don’t know why. She’s only six pounds and not threatening at all. But boy howdy is she the alpha to his beta.
  • But he’s pretty darn cute. See?

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    Vacation is All I Ever Wanted

    We’re home! The Cooties spent the past week at the beach and it was wonderful. Last Saturday we packed up the van and headed to Topsail Beach, NC where we stayed in a 2-bedroom condo at the St. Regis Resort. We arrived in a torrential downpour that didn’t bode well for the week. However, had an oceanview room on the third floor and it was completely renovated prior to our arrival (we think we were the first guests to stay in the condo since it was renovated).

    The view from our condo deck.

    The view from our condo deck.

    Denis, who was still on crutches and recovering from his knee surgery, parked himself on the sofa while the kids and I got everything unloaded from the van, and then we hit the resort’s restaurant for a yummy dinner. Once full of good food, the kids changed into their swimsuits and we headed to the beach since the rainstorm passed. We only spent 30-45 minutes out there but the kids had a blast.

    The first night was uneventful, but when we woke up on Sunday Denis told me that he felt uncomfortable and didn’t think it was right that he be on a beach vacation instead of recovering at home. After a brief discussion he gave in to my recommendation that I drive him home. We briefly tried to find someone in the area to watch the kids for us (several people I know live in the area or were vacationing nearby themselves), but had no luck. Fortunately, the kids totally understood about their father’s plight and willingly agreed that we needed to take him home. So we hopped in the van, packing up stuff we brought and discovered we didn’t need upon our arrival, and began the five hour drive back home. Once there we unpacked the van, got Denis settled back onto our sofa, picked up a few things we had forgotten to bring, and then the kids and I were back on the road for Topsail. We arrived back around 5:30 p.m. and took advantage of the late sunset to hit the beach again.

    A thumbs up from the Boy.

    A thumbs up from the Boy while the Girl explores the surf in the background.

    The whole week was filled with sun, surf and sand. Or, what Topsail Beach considers sand. The sand had a lot of shells versus sand. Very painful shells. But we still enjoyed our time lounging in the sun.
    Relaxing on the beach

    Relaxing on the beach

    We did really well avoiding serious sunburns. Cootiegirl, despite wearing a bikini, didn’t burn the first few days at all. Cootieboy only got burned on his neck and that was gone after a couple days of being very diligent about getting sunscreen on it. My left foot got some sunburn on it but the rest of me was fine. I consider that a major accomplishment. Especially since one day I fell asleep under the umbrella for a good 45 minutes. Our umbrella is not UV resistant so basically it could have been a huge disaster had I not had any kind of sunscreen on.
    Our non-UV resistent umbrella.

    Our non-UV resistent umbrella.

    Besides hanging on the beach we did a lot of other activities. We drove into Wilmington one night to partake in a murder mystery dinner cruise on the Henrietta III. The kids had a blast and it was a lot of fun. However, I think their favorite part was the banana pudding. *lol*
    Our window seat on the murder mystery cruise

    Our window seat on the murder mystery cruise

    Wednesday was set aside as the Relaxation Day. We were all really tired from being on the go so much, and we were all a bit red from the sun, so we decided to take a day and let it truly be a relaxation day. We stayed in from sun up to sun down and didn’t leave the condo at all. We watched movies, played on electronics, and I even snuck a nap in there for a little bit. We had brought plenty of food so we just ate in for all the meals that day. It worked out really well and we woke up on Thursday ready to face the day.
    Relaxation Day.

    Relaxation Day.

    On Thursday we hit the beach and promptly set up camp just next to the lair of a ghost crab. He was not too happy about the fact that we had set up camp within a couple feet of his hideout. But it was fascinating to watch him come in and out of his hole all day.
    The Ghost Crab

    The Ghost Crab

    What was great about the entire week is that the kids not only played well with each other (a rarity), but also met some other kids to play with during the week. It kept the pressure off me having to go into the water all the time. At a local surf shop I picked up body boards for each of them so they had a blast learning how to catch a wave, or just lounge and go out further in the surf. But it also helped them meet other kids who also had boards. I think almost every day we were there they talked to SOME kid or another and played with them.
    Making friends in the surf

    Making friends in the surf

    We did a lot of other things. We went to the movies one day (“How To Train Your Dragon 2″ – which was great). We went to a few local restaurants and had some good food. We debated going to a turtle hospital in the area, as well as a rocketry museum, but in the end it was the beach where the kids wanted to be.

    Friday was my birthday, and one thing I had promised the kids we’d do is go jet-skiing. So Friday morning we headed over to Makin’ Waves where we signed off on paperwork and headed to a nearby inlet. After a brief lesson on what not to do and what we could do, we loaded up on our jetski and headed out. For the next hour we had a BLAST on the jetski. There were six groups in all during our hour, and it was so much fun. At one point the kids demanded I do a donut in the water, and just as I headed into the spin the kids leaned the wrong way and we flipped off the jetski and into the water. I was so embarrassed because during our training the owner of the company had pretty much said it was nearly impossible to flip a jetski. And here we’d done it. The nearby lifeguard said the reason we flipped is because of the weight distribution (one adult two small kids). It was also because the kids leaned INTO the donut as opposed to distributing their weight against the tilt of the jetski. I was mortified that we had done what was supposed to be nearly impossible, until the lifeguard assured me that that just about every group had at least one turnover in it. Sure enough – a few minutes later a woman and her teenage son on another jetski in our group dumped in the water, too. I felt MUCH better after that. Sadly, I have no pictures of that adventure.

    But wow – what a fun way to start off my birthday (I’m 45). The rest of the day was great. The kids did their best to get along and that night we went out to dinner and they gave me my gifts while we cut into the cookie cake we had gotten from the local Food Lion that afternoon.

    On Saturday we packed up the van and headed home. Will we go to Topsail again? I don’t know. It’s a VERY quiet beach (which is great when all you want to do is relax), but the shells they call sand make it a little uncomfortable if you are a tenderfoot like me. At one point I was in the water and a huge wave pushed me over. I wasn’t able to get up before the next wave hit and it basically dragged me across the oceanfloor which was ALL shells at that point. It scraped up my leg and burned like the devil. I’m sure there are other beaches that are more sand than shells that I’d prefer to try next time. But will we do a beach trip again? Absolutely. It was well worth it!

    Ending the trip by sand writing during low tide.

    Ending the trip by sand writing during low tide.

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    The Summer of Landscaping

    This year I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and fix up our backyard. When we bought the house in 2006 we had BEAUTIFUL landscaping – just gorgeous. The previous owner was an avid gardener and we inherited a beautiful oasis.

    By 2007 it was in complete shambles. I’m not a gardener and as a result we basically let everything go to pot in quick order. We now have a mix of wild strawberries (which, despite the name, is a weed), rampant English ivy, random blobs of cement from having our driveway repaired in 2009 and from the house addition in 2012, two years’ worth of fallen leaves, lots of crabgrass and several overgrown shrubs and trees.

    It’s a mess. I’d show you a picture or two, but I’m too ashamed.

    But that’s all coming to an end! This is the summer that we finally do something about the backyard! This is the summer that we do something so that it’s something we can take care of more easily! This is the summer we put in things we can’t KILL if we ignore them!

    The 2012 home addition on the back of the house resulted in us having two areas of the yard where we get significant puddling during heavy rainstorms. One is right up against the foundation of the addition and the other is the pathway to the shed just off the new patio that was poured at the time of the addition. I’m going to address that this year by creating a rain garden near one downspout to lead water away from the foundation AND regrading and laying down pavers & gravel from the patio to the shed. We also have massive puddling behind the shed that needs to be addressed.

    We’re having a tree service come in and do some serious pruning of the 14 trees we have in the back yard – a mix of trimming and removing. The result will be a more open backyard rather than having it feel like an oppressive canopy over our heads. The tree service gave me a below-budge quote so they are coming to do the work sometime in the next few days.

    I’m also hiring a couple neighborhood kids to come get up all the leaves and even clear out some of the ivy. They are coming the first weekend of June once school is out of session.

    Once the ivy is gone, we’re going to have someone come in and remove the cement blobs the week after that (they are hiding under the ivy). Once everything is cleared out we’re going to throw some “kill it all” weed killer to try and get rid of the wild strawberries in advance of re-seeding in the fall.

    The piece de resistance is that we’re going to get our patio extended in the back – right now we have a modest 12×14 patio – we’re going to tag onto that and pour another 22×14 all along the back of the house addition. We’re not worried about losing lawn because NOTHING grows in that section of yard.

    I’m also hoping to plant some privacy hedges along the back fence – nothing crazy big though. I love mountain laurel (our neighbors had it in NJ) so I’m going to plant a row of small mountain laurel trees along the back fence and let them grow into a 6′ tall privacy hedge from the shed to the corner of the yard.

    Where the ivy once was I plan on putting down 3-4 layers of cardboard which I will then cover with 5-6″ of mulch to ensure the ivy does not come back. Then I’ll put 5-6 very large containers in which I will grow mostly ornamental grasses and annual plants because they are easier to maintain and I can pick and choose the annuals I want each year.

    There are a couple other sections of the backyard I’m going to address, but it’s not worth going into. Suffice to say, if I can get all of this done by November, we are going to have ONE AMAZING BACKYARD to spent our evenings come cooler weather. The mountain laurel won’t arrive until early November, so that will be the last thing I do for this project.

    Once the tree guy comes and clears out the overgrowth I’ll post before and after pics. And then again once the ivy and leaves are gone. Then again once the cement blocks and debris are removed. Because once those things are done it’ll already feel like a completely new yard back there – before I even begin to prettify it!

    Okay, okay. I’ll go ahead and show you some pictures now. Don’t judge me.

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    Time for Something a Little Different (Not Really – I Just Typed That, Don’t Know Why)

    Four months since my last post. Life has just gotten in the way.

    I won’t go on and on with where I’ve been, but a short, quick synopsis:

    Doctor Who convention: Much of the east coast, including Charlotte, experienced a freak snowstorm that resulted in closure of the airport. Charlotte alone got 5-7″ of snow, which is practically blizzard conditions in a town that gets snow once every 10-15 years. As such, CootieBoy and I were not able to fly out to attend Gallifrey One, a Doctor Who convention we had been looking forward to for MONTHs. He was devastated to miss out on his first plane ride, his first time in California and his first Doctor Who convention (we had purchased a photo op with a couple of the celebrities who were going to be there).

    Mid-February I had surgery to remove a tumor from my abdomen which was classified as pre-cancerous. Recovery took about six weeks and included infection, WAY too many antiobiotics, and an incision that is still not quite closed. I’ve seen way too many doctors and been poked/prodded entirely too much for my liking. The good news they got everything during the surgery and so I’ll just need to follow up by the end of this year with an MRI to make sure nothing comes back.

    Work is going well. My boss is doing great things for the hospital and it’s fun to be along for the ride and see the benefits of what she does behind the scenes and how it impacts patients in a positive way. She is definitely a mover and a shaker and I’m glad I work for her. Having said that, I’ve pretty much transitioned from being a secretary to being a data analyst. I spend 80% of my day in Excel, crunching numbers and creating charts to reflect the results. I’ve warned her that if this keeps up I want a job title change and the raise that comes with being an analyst. *lol*

    Denis had knee surgery last week after having it pop out at church about a month ago. He has always had bad knees, and this was the last straw. He ended up having a kneecap relocation and is in excruciating pain. The surgery was originally intended to be solely laparoscopic (sp?), but then they ended up making an incision because they had to tighten up the ligaments around the kneecap. He’ll be on crutches and weight-bearing as tolerated for at least six weeks. Poor guy.

    The kids are doing well. Glad that the school year is almost over. The neighborhood pool opens up next weekend (we’re ALL excited about that). CootieGirl turned 11 in April and used her birthday money to buy herself a laptop. My prediction came true: we hardly ever see her anymore at night. She gets home, does her homework and then promptly heads up to her room to play Sims until bedtime, with a break for dinner. CootieBoy is excited that he, too, gets to use his birthday money in August, and also has plans to buy a laptop.

    In mid-April I chopped off all my hair. It was down nearly to my lower back and I was tired of it. I’d had longish hair for almost ten years. So I went super short. CB hated it, “Mama – it’s ugly. Put it back the way it was!” and Denis wasn’t too thrilled either. But I LOVE it. I’ve missed having short hair and will probably keep it this way for a very, very long time.

    Chilly the Dog is awesome. He’s so much a part of the family now it’s as though we’ve had him a lot longer than six months. We’ve decided he’s much older than 5 years old though – we think he’s closer to 8-9 years old. Denis has said he wants to get another dog and requested a Saint Bernard. I said no way. If we get another dog it’ll be a lap dog. So obviously we have a long way to go to get to compromise. I continue to scour Petfinder waiting until I see a dog that we both like the look of. Haven’t found one yet.

    I think that’s about it. We have a lot going on this summer – a week at the beach (Denis’s knee willing – he’s due to be walking by the time we leave), a couple weeks of camp for the kids followed by a week at my parents’ in VA, and Denis is heading to NYC for a guy’s weekend at the end of July. I’ll be spending as much time as possible at the pool this summer.

    Hopefully I won’t go 4 months between posts – but don’t hold me to that. ;)

    Here’s some photos for you. in case you made it this far:

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