Saturday, November 28, 2009

Riley issue, Darci oddness, Jeep lights

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was not a happy day. Riley started having bad breathing issues in the morning. Weird Haired Mom took him to the Redwood City Kaiser emergency room where they worked on him for a bit and then decided to send him to their Santa Clara facility where they have a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

Maybe WHM knows how many ambulance trips this makes for him (maybe only two? why does it seem like more?), but it's way more than any three-year-old should have had. I believe this is the twelfth time he has been admitted to the hospital.

In any case, this was easily the worst episode, and his first since July.

This is him arriving at the Santa Clara Kaiser. Normally, when he is in the hospital he is weirdly perky. Not this time.

However, he was doing a lot better the next day, on Thursday.

Him and I are playing telescope here. He was in pretty good spirits, but was still not nearly 100%. By Friday, he was in really good shape, and there was a chance that he was going to get released, but a stodgy old doctor decided it would be best to keep him for one more night. To help make up for this, Riley was visited by the staff horse.

Man that's a big dog.

So here's the thing about the Friday after Thanksgiving - if you work in retail, you will not get that day off. And Needs Cool Name (the dad) works in retail. So we had Darci stay the night Friday night. (Due to flu scares, kids are not allowed to visit anyone in the hospital, which meant that Darci never did get to see Riley there.)

In the above horrifying picture, Mrs Notthat is putting a bandaid on Darci's finger. To make this scarier, she allowed Darci to stand on the vanity. Was this was an attempt to get Darci to join her brother in the hospital?

After that scary episode, I let her cut my hair using one of those suck-n-cuts made by Flowbee. (This thing is an idea that sounds weird, and in practice, is a bit weird, but it seemed to work, after a fashion.)

Afterwards, Darci put together this brilliant, ummm, thing that she called a ship.

Not to be outdone, The Boy spent some time adding some bling to his Jeep.

He added a couple of halogen lamps to his rear bumper. These are lights that I had on my Landcruiser probably 35 years ago - he painted the outside shells and they look pretty good (although, for now, they are the only clean thing on the outside of the Jeep). He also installed my old CB radio. He wants to get one of those 102" whip antennas, but for now, he has to settle for our old gutter clip antenna. (CB radios seem to have lost a bit of caché now days. Maybe we need to get some new country songs extolling its virtues. And yes, it has some virtues. Probably)

And that's about it. Riley was released Saturday morning and a grateful WHM finally got to go home and take a shower.

Hopefully things will calm down now and we can settle in to a month of boredom. Somehow, I don't see that happening.

That's it - move along...

About the A, B, Cs

Today's Stay Fit walk was 15 miles of bliss. Well, "bliss" may be a bit too strong. The weather was nicely clear after yesterday's showers, although it was a bit cool in the shade and occasionally blustery. And about those hills...

Apparently there is a rating system used when describing the difficulty of a trail: C is easy and flat, sort of like walking at the mall; B is moderately hilly, sort of like a mall without escalators and with the next store always on a different floor; A is absurdly hilly, sort of a like a mall without stairs where you have to scale sheer walls.

The first half of today's walk was supposed to be a C. There was even a bit of grumbling that it would not be challenging enough for those who were only walking the short walk. The second half of the walk was to be an A- and require you to bring a towel to dry your feet after fording a raging creek.

Here we are early in the walk. For those that think we in California are deprived of fall beauty, just take a look at those colors. We saw this sort of thing a lot on today's walk.

We started by hiking to the backside of Stevens Creek Reservoir. So far, a pretty safe C trail. The problem is that we now need to head up the hill.

This meant many switchbacks as we climbed.

This also meant some time was spent looking at the map, with head coach Luap (not his real name) explaining why this really was a C trail.

OK, now this requires some explanation. As unlikely as he looks, coach Werdna (not his real name - none of these will be real names, OK? It's just my own silly thing) who is wearing the white hat and gray shirt is a pretty stunningly strong walker. Last spring he walked this thing called the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico where you do a marathon through rough conditions while wearing a backpack with at least 35 pounds of bonus weight in it. He is currently training for this coming spring, so his backpack has bonus weights in it.

When anyone shows up late for a weekend walk, they earn demerits. The demerits require you to have to wear the pack for a specified time. Luap is putting the pack on because he was four minutes late this morning. What made this sweeter was that Luap had just decided (it should be said, with some help) that we should take a small detour on a side trail instead of the planned walk along the road.

The small detour turned out to involve a very intense hill climb. Our ears popped we climbed so high. Level C my butt! And all the while Luap was wearing the pack.

About halfway up the hill we had another coach, Truc (who wisely showed up early this morning), take this picture of Mrs Notthat and I. The fact that this also gave us a bit of a breather will not be mentioned here.

Eventually the small side trail managed to find its way back to the road, where those that are wise and did the shorter walk headed back to the cars while the rest of us continued on.

This is Luap and Yak (I love that name in my super secret code, although Yak probably does not find it amusing) posing by a spring/mini-cave with mini-stalactites.

Because of the surprising difficulty level of the small side trail, Luap relented and did not make those of us walking the full 15 miles ford the stream and navigate the A- trail on the other side of it. This is Yak being perky on the way back.

This is about four miles from finishing. Luap is having foot issues, so he is switching to some odd socks with individual toes in them.

And that's about it. But just before my camera battery died, I had a chance to capture Mrs Notthat in her normal perky stride, rocking out to something on her iPod (you need to supply your own soundtrack - imagine either something by the Beatles or maybe Mama Mia).

Simply amazing. And this was well after the worst of the hills.

So we had a good day, all in all. No injuries, nobody got lost, run over, or eaten by a mountain lion, and everyone seemed happy at the end. Especially Werdna who got out of carrying his pack during the worst part of the walk.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walking pies pain and food

This is going to cover a wide variety of weekend events.

The weekend started with Mrs Notthat and I going to our first San Jose Stay Fit winter program session. We were not sure how long of a walk we would have since this was really just an orientation, but it turned out we went seven hill-infested miles. As you can see in the above picture, Mrs Notthat had no trouble keeping up with the rest of us. From left to right, that's Luap (not his real name) the coach, Eve (pretend it's not her real name), and Mrs Notthat.

For those of you with real good eyesight, right in the middle of this picture is a massive grey bird with long legs. His beak is turned nearly to me, most likely preparing to attack. We also saw a deer along the hike.

It was pretty cool and a bit drizzly, but all in all it was a pretty good walk.

When we got home, The Boy took his bandage off for the first time so that he could finally take a shower. Even the dog thought this was a good idea.

Unfortunately, The Boy is still having some pain, and to make it worse, he now has a very sore throat and a mild fever. This was not a great weekend for him.

But it was a fantastic weekend for those who like a wide variety of soups! Mrs Notthat and Adnohr (not her real name) threw a "Soup and Games" party Saturday afternoon. There was a huge variety of soups - I tried six different ones and just couldn't go any farther, even though there were still several I was dying to try.

Well, that and the dessert table.

Most embarrassing moment of the night was catching Uol not being clear on the concept of sharing the pie.

So Saturday was a full day. Today we are trying to help The Boy get better, and I have a reunion of sorts with the other walkers from the summer program (I made my famous pumpkin chili!).

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Boy gets his wrist worked over

It's fall so it must be time for the next edition of The Boy Gets Something Operated On.

And today The Boy had his left wrist operated on. It had been having problems for a while now, and since this was a short week at school, he chose to have it repaired today. Some tendons were fooled with and a bone spur was wrestled down.

Originally the operation was scheduled for 9 AM, which meant he had to be there at 7 AM - early, but doable. This got changed yesterday to a 7:30 AM surgery with a 5:30 AM appearance time. Being the caring and wonderful guy I am, I volunteered to take him to the surgery with Mrs Notthat showing up a bit later to spring him from the joint. I'm a morning person, but this was still challenging.

The Boy was SO excited to get to wear one of those stylish hospital gowns. (Actually, I have no idea why he is smiling here. I know I wouldn't have been.)
The doctor showed up and put her initials on the wrist that was to get improved. It's kind of funny, but also reassuring, how many times people (nurses, doctors, anethesiologists, janitors) would have him confirm his name, birth date, and the wrist that needed worked over.

Finally, once everyone in the hospital had their chance to verify who he was, he was given a stylish hat and wheeled off. Again, the smile has to be fake. (I yelled "Dream of large pizzas!" as he went away - a bit cruel since he was pretty hungry at that point.)

This was when I went outside and let Mrs Notthat have my parking space as she took my place in the waiting room. Sequoia Hospital (Club Sequoia to us) is busy building a new building right on top of 90% of their parking area. It turns out that at 5:30 AM, getting a choice space in the remaining 10% is pretty easy. Bequeathing it to Mrs Notthat bothered a few cars cruising for an opening, but I won't lose any sleep.

And here is the finished product. Everything went fine and he will now be healing for a bit. This means he won't be going to work for at least two weeks, although he will still be going to school - he just has to be careful. The most important thing to him was that he can still drive (after last year's knee surgery, he was unable to drive for a fairly long time, which did not please him much).

That's it - move along...

PS: One sort of odd thing was that, since he is now 18, parental involvement was not automatic in any of this. The Boy is getting old!

PPS: If you are keeping track, he has had two knee surgeries and the other wrist in a cast for a bit of time. I don't think he is fragile, but he did tend to drive his body a bit hard when he was younger. But still...

Friday, November 6, 2009


My parents showed up Wednesday afternoon. They are on their yearly fifth-wheel migration route, where they tow their fifth-wheel camper to Kingman Arizona for winter storage, where it can frolic in the snow-free parking lot with the other campers, waiting for the spring thaw.

My parents live in Pagosa Springs Colorado, where the snow can be deep, the weather can be cold, and the air can smell of rotten eggs, thanks to the the area being infested with hot sulpher springs.

It turns out that it takes a slightly bigger vehicle than our Race Car to tow a fifth-wheel camper.

Wednesday evening was spent admiring the amazing quilts and table cloths my mother made for us the past year.

This is Darci's quilt. (Note that the border is dark pink, not red.) Careful viewers will note that there are many hand-stitched images of a little girl doing a variety of things scattered throughout the quilt. Weirdly, none of them show her listening to an iPod.

This is Riley's quilt. As with Darci's, there are many stitched images of a boy doing a wide variety of things.

This is The Boy with his quilt. It has a variety of antique cars on it. (His Jeep wasn't one of them.)

Additionally, The Boy's quilt didn't come with instructions, and being the product of the California school system, well, let's let it go at that.

Weird Haired Mom and Needs Cool Name admired the embroidered table cloth they got. The only real glitch is that they currently don't have a table, but there is a good chance that will change sometime in the future. Probably before Darci heads to college.

This is the table cloth that Mrs Notthat and I got. Weirdly, we even used it the next night and risked getting it dirty. Theoretically it is tough and can be washed aggressively. Still, I was extra careful (and still got half a dozen spots on it).

Darci made this crown for her quilt-making Great Grandma.

The next day Riley was over and had a donut egg (what we call eggs in the shape of a donut, made in the microwave using a juicer - it's kind of complicated as Blogmaid can attest to). He actually ate it (with ketchup) while staring at the container filled with real donuts. Great Grandma and Grandpa tend to have food that is MUCH more to the liking of grandkids.

This is an odd picture of Riley getting his opera face on.

This is Darci helping to cook her mushrooms. She loves pasta with red sauce (what normal people call spaghetti), and REALLY loves mushrooms in it. She ate all of those by herself! Sadly, the container with the pasta with red sauce you see by the panhandle ended up on the floor - and then to Idiot Dog Teddy's bowl - a few seconds after this picture was taken.

And that's about it for now. Today will be filled with garage sales, estate sales, and any other kind of sales we come across.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

History of the Lucas minivans

Except for the last six months or so, since 1988 or so we have always had a minivan. Our first one was a burgundy Dodge Caravan.

Back then, minivans were a new thing. They were innovative, extremely practical, and really were fairly "mini." By today's standards though, they were fairly primitive, with a single sliding door and a requirement for two reasonably fit people to remove the seats.

One great thing about these is that they do very well in snow. Put chains on the front and you can go almost anywhere.

In '96 we decided to upgrade to one of the newer, more fancy minivans. Plus, the old van was giving us a variety of nagging issues (which was a constant theme with both the Caravan and the Grand Voyager we replaced it with).

We got a 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager. It was still called a minivan, but this thing was not very mini. One of its coolest features was having a sliding door on both sides. (One of its non-coolest features was that you could not easily access the third row from the drivers side though.)

Even with all the seats installed, you could haul a lot of cargo. The seats were still a pain to remove, but once you removed them, you could get a lot of stuff in this van. (When we moved to our current house, we had this minivan and my Ford Ranger pickup with a shell on to haul stuff. Mrs Notthat could get nearly twice as much stuff in the minivan as I could in my truck.)

At the time we bought the Grand Voyager, Chrysler was still way ahead in minivan-ology - they owned the segment and the others were struggling to catch up. But as innovative and clever as Chrysler was with these, they were also disappointing in quality and reliability. We had numerous issues with both of these vans, especially the Grand Voyager. If I hadn't been willing to work on this thing, we would have spent a LOT of money getting a wide variety of issues fixed. Plus there were issues that nobody seemed able to fix. Like the wipers randomly turning on (which is something it did from early on - the dealer refused to care about this unless they could see it happen to them, but this was so intermittent we finally gave up).

When The Boy got his Jeep, we had to get rid of a vehicle, so we got rid of the minivan. Over the course of the summer though, we often found ourselves missing having a way to haul a group of people (or just us with the grandkids in the child seats). So this week we traded in the Camry for a used 2008 Toyota Sienna.

The color is "Silver Pine Mica." No, I did not make that up. It is a bit smaller than the Grand Voyager, but is light years more innovative. We went for the 8 passenger seating option. It has a power sliding door on the passenger side, but what's really clever is that you can actually roll down the windows in the sliding doors. And you can fold the third row seat flat.

Which thrills Idiot Dog Teddy - this gives him a lot of room to ride in when going out for walks.

We've got high hopes that this will be a reliable vehicle for many years to come. Even if we never do find a silver pine tree this color.

That's it - move along...