Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pictures of Cindy Jae at "college"

Southeastern Guide Dogs, where Cindy Jae is off at college, has a blog called the Blue Coat Journal. The trainers post stories and training tips and lots and lots of pictures of the dogs in for training. I often get a post in my Google Reader from them with pictures of dogs - lots of black labs and yellow labs and they never post any names. I mean come on, how in the world do you tell one black lab from another in a picture? Even when Cindy Jae was here and all the dogs were running around, sometimes the only way I could tell which one was her was by calling her name and seeing which one ran over to me. If they were still, Cindy Jae was shorter than the others and she had a blockier head and a thicker tail, but you still had to compare them to tell which was CJ.

But today's journal post? I am 100% certain that several of those pictures of a black lab are Cindy Jae. Go look at it here The pictures of the black lab and the white lab are Cindy Jae and her sister Angel. You can tell Cindy Jae by her Superdog pose, with her legs stretched straight out behind her as if she were flying through the air.

She looks happy and is doing well from all accounts. She just needs to keep growing up and one day she will be an awesome guide dog.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shiny new toys

Mr. at Home recently had a surprise birthday.

No, actually I didn't mean a surprise party, though that was part of it. He had a surprise birthday.

You see, back in January when the real anniversary of his birth came around, the transmission on my van, well, broke. As in spontaneous combustion. As in the service guy said it would make a nice paperweight, but it would never be repaired, rebuilt, or otherwise reincarnated. Transmissions are dreadfully expensive, so Mr. at Home decided that he would rather postpone his birthday so I could buy him a nice present without guilt. I suggested the whole idea of randomly choosing a day and declaring that his surprise birthday. He loved it and his birthday was officially postponed indefinitely.

I tried a couple of times to arrange a dinner out with friends, but between sicknesses and trips and work and activities, I couldn't pin down a date. This past Friday afternoon, I sent a text to friends and we had everything arranged in about 5 minutes. A stop a Best Buy for a gift, a run into the grocery store for a cake and candles, and a few extra minutes of decorating at my friend's house and Mr. at Home had a fun and fabulous surprise birthday. His birthday present was the Nexus S smartphone he'd been drooling over for months. Apparently, even after actually possessing it and using it, it's still just as drool-worthy, so that's a good thing.

Today, I stole his old iPhone to replace my little android with the cracked screen. The ever-patient Mr. at Home reset everything to my accounts, but we still couldn't get the data service working. I figured that there's a difference between android service and iPhone service and AT&T would have to make the change, so I raced over to the AT&T store while L was in dance and the amazingly helpful sales guy didn't bat an eyelash when I explained that I wanted to switch my SIM and my service to an unlocked, jailbroke iPhone without reupping my contract, losing my unlimited data, or paying more per month. No problem, he said, took care of it, and walked me to the door in about 5 minutes. I was *impressed*. So if you want a good AT&T salesperson in the Charlotte-area, I can point you to a great one.

Since the iPhone was going to work out and it had been done so quickly, I had time to go across the parking lot to the mall and buy a cute girly cover for my "new" phone. You know, *for protection*. So it's now sporting a light blue cover with orange and white and dark red swirls. And I *finally* got to play Angry Birds. I had tried playing it on my little android phone, but the processor was so slow that "Angry" was about all I got out of it. Now, I think I'm slightly obsessed with figuring out how to destroy those green pigs.

Yes, it's a hand-me-down phone, but it's still cooler than the one I had and did I mention the cute cover?

And I'm about to get something else that's brand-new.

Yesterday the FedEx truck stopped at our house and dropped off a small, slim package. A bright orange Smart Cover for an iPad2. Unfortunately, I don't have an iPad2. Yet. But I do have one on order. We decided to take the plunge and we ordered a black iPad2, a white iPad2, an orange cover, and a navy cover. I get the white one with the orange cover. They are shipping each part separately and the orange cover was the first to arrive. I pulled it out of the box and rolled it back a forth a few times, but it just isn't as fun as I hope it will be when there's, you know, AN IPAD under it.

Then I can play Angry Birds *bigger*!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dance team trips

Warning! This will be another picture heavy post, but they *are* cute pictures and I know you'll enjoy them.

The past two weekends have been busy with dance competitions - first in Durham, then in Smithfield (which is just past Raleigh). This whole dance team thing is a wild and crazy adventure and there's a steep learning curve for newbies like me.

Our first trip, L and I stayed with another mom and daughter from her team. We're both homeschoolers and the girls are both the same age with the same high level of energy and crazy, so it's a good fit. L and I arrived early so we watched part of the solo/duet competition Friday night, then we met A and her mother at the hotel where the girls were WOUND UP. It was a competition! They were in a hotel! Together! The next morning we honored A's request for a "fried egg" for breakfast, then we headed over to the venue.

There's nothing quite like the chaos that is a dancers' dressing room for a competition. Stuff and people crammed into too tiny spaces. We lucked out when the boys' dressing room was moved just as we arrived so we quickly took over their vacated space and had room to breathe for a few minutes. I shot these pictures of A and L stretching.

Don't they make adorable pirates?

The very next weekend was competition #2. A's mom had to go out of town for a homeschool conference, so we took charge of A for the competition. Mr. at Home and K got to go with us and we decided to break up the long drive with a stop in Raleigh to get L an American "birth certificate" and take the girls to the Museum of Natural Sciences. Unfortunately, the person who could take care of the paperwork for us wasn't there, but the museum was.

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is an awesome place to visit. The kids were fascinated by the butterfly exhibit and the large skeletons of whales and dinosaurs. There were snakes to pet and gemstones to admire. For young kids, it wouldn't be terribly fascinating as there were precious few things you were allowed to touch. It was mostly a look and read kind of thing, but even the 7-year-olds were well-entertained for a couple of hours.

The little girls were ready to go fairly early, so we headed down the road again to the hotel and their indoor pool. Where my girls proceeded to show A how mean they could be to each other. Sigh... They don't often get in fights, but having an audience brought out the worst in them. Thankfully, a time-out showed them the error of their ways, but the pool fun was over so we went back to the room for showers and hair braiding and dinner at Cici's.

A wasn't too keen on the idea of Cici's, but she stuffed herself just as much as the other girls. An early bedtime and an early alarm for everyone, then two little girls needed buns and full make-up, the room had to be packed up, and then we raced out the door for the competition venue. The dressing rooms were a little bigger this time so they didn't seem so crowded, but we still didn't have much room. Thankfully, K helped get A dressed and kept track of all her clothes and costume pieces.

It was a long morning waiting to perform then waiting for awards, but the team had improved somewhat between competitions #1 and #2 and we came home with a higher rating this time around. It was a good trip, but somewhat crazy with 2 high-energy 7-year-olds to keep track of. Next competition isn't until April 9th, so we have a nice long break AND it's at the beach where we're staying all weekend in a beach house with some of the other moms and kids. Can't wait!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finally posting about our trip to Texas

Spring is beautiful in North Carolina. The trees are budding, coloring the landscape with brilliant whites, soft greens, vibrant yellows, blushing pinks, and startling purple against gray trunks. I'm enjoying it mightily.

Through my windshield.

It's been a busy few weeks. Good weeks. Productive weeks. Just lots of time getting people where they need to be. I did actually have a little time to blog and such, but it's been tough getting to a computer around here. Mine is in Texas, gremlins attacked the back-up disk and then the Mac desktop (don't worry, both those are back up and fully restored), and my kids keep wanting their laptop. When I do steal their laptop, I end up just playing around a bit before it's off to the next thing.


I now have the pictures from the Texas trip on this computer and I have time to write about our awesome trip!

First, we arrived in Texas where we were promptly snowed in, which was followed by week's worth of visiting with various branches of the family tree. We got to spend lots of time with my younger brother and his wife. Dinner, bowling, laser tag, and late nights of hanging out and talking about everything made it a really neat trip. It took awhile, but my little brother is finally old enough to be interesting ;-) I got to help teach cursive to the class my mom was subbing, the girls got to visit a real classroom, and I found myself back in the familiar doc-in-a-box for the inevitable sinus infection, but I *finally* got over weeks of illness.

At the end of the week, we got up early and took off for Vicksburg with my parents. Our first stop was the Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg. That is a really, really cool place. I would *love* to live close enough to just explore all the monuments and the sites for the battles. It's a huge thing that you drive through while listening to a man on CD explain things. There's simply too much to see and experience that he can't cover it all.

You start at the visitors' center where we were joined by a large ROTC group to watch a movie. There are also large cannons and an example of the breastwork.

The girls got Junior Ranger books and started to work on them, but they were quickly overwhelmed trying to look out the windows, listen to the CD, and answer the questions. Those workbooks were WAY harder than normal, too, so we quickly dispensed with the Junior Ranger idea and concentrated on enjoying the memorials, like this one.

There were so many neat things to see and learn about. There's a Union ship they raised from the riverbed and so many artifacts they recovered from it.

Across from the boat is the cemetery where some of the Union soldiers who died in the battle for Vicksburg are buried. It's sobering to see the many, many graves scattered over the hillsides, so many of them for unknown soldiers.

We stopped at one particularly well-marked battlefield and I tried to get the girls to visualize the battle. We were parked at the top of the bluff on the Confederate line and blue signs showed exactly how far the Union army advanced. A sign told of one hero charging bravely across the field.

You can read about the War Between the States all you want, but there's something about standing on the ground where a battle occurred that makes it so much more personal.

Before it got too late, we left Vicksburg and headed south along the Mississippi to Natchez for another day and another history lesson. We watched Gone With the Wind as part of our Civil War study and I thought they would enjoy seeing that those amazing houses really did exist.

On Saturday morning, we went and got tickets to tour 3 antebellum homes, then we decided to add another impressive one to our day's activities.

Our first home, Monmouth, is now a beautiful bed and breakfast and restaurant with a lovely garden and gorgeous decor.

The girls were taken with this cute little "courting bench".

Our second stop was Dunleith, also a bed and breakfast.

We decided it would be the *perfect* place for a wedding. The best thing about that tour was that the guide had grown up as very good friends with the children who had then lived in the home. He had allll kinds of stories to tell. He was also not one to follow all the rules and let us into closed rooms and showed us things not normally seen on tours.

He allowed the girls to sit on this sofa, only afterward telling me that the set was worth many millions of dollars.

After Dunleith, it was onto Auburn, where L found a tree full of beautiful blooms had dropped a few onto the ground just for her enjoyment.

By that point, Grandad and L were a little bored with the whole house tour thing and they opted to wander around outside while K went with Grandma and I to see and admire.

This house was a little different in that it sat empty for 60 years before a society stepped in to rehabilitate it with the help of the city. Only a little bit is known about it's history, but it's really a very pretty place, especially with this staircase.

Our last stop was the unfinished Longwood.

It's such a neat concept for a house, but the Civil War pulled out all the workers before anything more than the "basement" was completed. The owner soon died and his wife raised the children in the basement, which was really far nicer and larger than most homes.

After a long day of house tours, we took the girls to a local park and let them run off some excess energy.

A highly successful, fun, educational trip. You know, I might procrastinate writing all my blog posts from now on as it's been kinda fun to relive the trip in the telling.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cindy Jae's Latest Report Card

Cindy Jae got her third report card this week. I'm not sure if I ever published her second as it came while I was busy with Texas stuff last month, but here's her current progress.


DOG: Cindy Jae

Tattoo: 3R09

Date: March 8, 2011

Training Phase: Phase 1

++ - exceeding expectations + - meeting expectations W=working on

Accepts harness




Straight line concept






Down curbs


Up curbs






Indoor mall


Off curb Travel


Left, Left


Right, Right








Food scavenging









Small animal






Kennel behavior


COMMENTS: Cindy Jae is an enthusiastic, happy little worker but still needs to mature a little. We are still working on the barking for attention in the kennel.


I love the comments they put on the report cards. "enthusiastic, happy little worker" describes Cindy Jae exactly and the "still needs to mature a little" doesn't surprise me at all. She always seemed a little behind her siblings in the growing-up department. She went from W to + back to W on the food scavenging, but she went from W on all the distractions to getting + on three of them. She only barked a handful of times while here, but she seems to have picked up that bad habit at school. You know those college kids. Gotta try what all the other kids are doing no matter how much they know better.

I'm so glad to see that Cindy Jae is doing well and I'm looking forward to going back to the school to see her again whenever she finishes her training, gets paired with a student, and she and her blind partner graduate.

I think I've gotten to the point where I miss having a dog around here. Hyper Cindy Jae all the time would be a bit too much for our already crazy life, but having spent time around my brother two small dogs, I would love to have one like them around. They're quiet and relaxed and like to just hang out without requiring constant supervision because they're going to eat stray socks. They're like cats except they actually *like* people.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pictures from Mr. at Home

While the girls and I were out of town, one of our stops was in Natchez, MS, where we toured several antebellum homes. Outside of one home, a beautiful bush was in bloom and several of the large bright flowers had fallen to the ground. L was immediately in possession of these flowers, so I pulled out my hair clip and fastened a flower in her hair. She was de.light.ed. and I took a picture. I then used the clip to fasten a flower in K's hair for a picture, but L wasn't to be parted with her flower+clip for long and she wore it for the rest of the day.

I uploaded the pics when we got home and did just the most basic editing, but Mr. at Home started playing around with another photo editing program called the gimp. Using layers, masks, and wizardry, he turned a couple of cute photos into really neat photos.

Here's L with her flower.

And K with her lovely flower.

Life is full of stuff

1. Church stuff - This has been my biggest focus lately. There has been/is/will be lots to do there for the next few months. Thanks to some help from my sister about how she does her church's children's program, I've started a new large group program for our church with songs and video and slides all put into a keynote (that's powerpoint for the mac) presentation. We even dressed as cowgirls this morning and gave away shiny deputy stars. Week 1 was a success, so we shall see how it continues. I also selected and purchased the first installment of our VBS program and I have about 3 months to get it all ready to go. And there's a lot to do to get it ready. Did I mention that I was elected to the deaconess committee? I'm falling way down on the job there. Then there's smaller stuff like taking dinner to people this week and doing breakfast for the church next month. I just need to breath and take it one thing at a time.

2. School stuff - We just did our standardized testing. Yes, I know it's early, but it was less expensive and we used a test that's given by a proctor, one-on-one, and would test their knowledge as far as they could go. It seemed less intense and less testing-for-the-sake-of-testing to use this particular one. The girls both did well. I wasn't sure about the youngest as she can get antsy and goofy and dramatic and she's not terribly confident in her ability to read. She's smart enough, she just doesn't like to concentrate for long on all that boring school. But she held her own through most of it and came out above average. The oldest I had no worries as she's just really, really smart. She obviously inherited her dad's math genius as she scored 4-6 grade levels above her own in the math sections while only 2-4 grade levels above in the reading sections. Now I've got to figure out how to do the rest of our year. For K, I may dial back on the math and language worksheets and let her do more reading, history, and science. L did excellently in phonics, but she needs to *know* that she really can read.

3. Kid's stuff - K has started softball back up and she has rec league practices 2-3 times a week, plus she plays on a "travel light" team which practices Sunday afternoons. That team won't actually play until summer/fall and they'll only play 4-6 weekends total, but they've already started practicing. For L, competition season is starting this weekend with her very first dance competition in Durham. She's in 2 group dances and they perform Saturday morning. Next weekend will find us in central NC, then there's 2 more in April, and the Nationals in July. It will be a first for both of us and we're both excited. With both girls so involved, it's a big commitment right now. However, they love what they do, it keeps them active, they like the kids they play/dance with, and it's good for them to learn the effort and commitment of working with a team.

4. House stuff - My house is a wreck. No, really. The last couple of weeks have been so incredibly busy that I haven't had time to do much. I *finally* got the Christmas decorations put away in the attic last Monday (only because K's new mattress was being delivered and the hall was stacked with Christmas stuff so the guys wouldn't be able to even *get* to her room). The girls have even been doing dishes and laundry without me asking because they need clothes and cups. Thankfully, my to-do list for this week seems to be a little bit shorter, so I might be able to dig out from under this mess and get things a little cleaner around her. So while I love you, please don't come to my house for the next few days. Unless you come bringing bleach and scrub brushes and willing hands.

4. Family stuff - My parent's are unexpectedly moving. Did I tell you that? They've managed to sell *3* houses in the past 1 1/2 years (her mom's, his mom's, and their own) without ever calling a realtor or putting a sign in the yard. They're busy packing up 3+ buildings worth of stuff (house, cabin, garage/storage building, shed), dispersing or storing it all, and getting their RV fixed up to move into it for awhile. I've spent lots of time over the past couple of weeks on the phone with my mom and it's amazing seeing how God has worked in this situation.

5. Fun stuff - In the midst of the craziness, there has been fun. We've spent time with great friends (at their houses, not mine). I baked pound cakes and brownies. I got to hang out with my girls and I got to spend more time with the kids at church. Mr. at Home and I have been talking and catching up after being apart for a couple of weeks and we've been dreaming about our upcoming cruise. K's room is finished and awesome. I do promise a post on that soon, it's just that the pictures are on the computer upstairs and I'm currently on a laptop downstairs. And I'm too lazy to go clean up my desk area so I can actually get to the computer.

That's my stuff. If you don't "see" me for a few days, you might want to make sure I haven't been buried under a pile of laundry or overcome with fumes from the industrial strength cleaners it's going to take to tackle this house.