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September, 2004
(Hold your mouse over a picture for its caption.)

September 1, 2004

Just as things start to get back to normal after Charley, we're gearing up for Frances.  A big concern at this point is all of the debris left over from Charley.  Despite extra crews and long hours, there is just too much debris to be removed before the next storm hits, and all of that debris can turn into missiles in hurricane force winds.  The coastal counties are talking about evacuations, and residents within five miles of the debris sites are being told to evacuate.

Our neighbor next door, Greg, rented a chipper/mulcher and he and Mark have been doing rounds throughout the neighborhood chipping as much of the debris that they can.  Mark finally got home at 10:30 tonight after working on it since 4:00.

Mark and our other neighbor have also been working furiously to finish building the fence, which seems like the obvious way to secure the fence slats that were in piles in the yard.  They left some gaps unfinished so the winds can travel through the new fence instead of blowing it down again.  (Crossing our fingers.)

It seemed strange to be at the school today helping in the classrooms, business as usual.  I suppose life goes on.  On my way home from a closing this afternoon, I noticed a line of cars at a gas station.  I was curious, and it also reminded me that I needed to get gas.  I pulled into a 7-11 down the road, and they were out of gas!  Everybody's filling up before the storm hits.  I finally found a station with relatively short lines and waited a half an hour to fill up.  I can't believe this is starting so soon!

September 2, 2004

We got word yesterday that schools will be closed tomorrow in preparation for Frances.  The coastal counties are evacuating, and the local schools serve as shelters.  Here we go again!

Alex woke up with a sore throat and nausea this morning and stayed home from school.  I started fearing that the doctors' offices would be closed due to the storm, so I decided to get him checked out, just in case it's strep (yes, I'm paranoid of strep, after letting it go untreated with him for so long last year).  On the way there, it occurred to me that he probably had a nervous stomach about the hurricanes, and his throat was, well, just a sore throat.  We'll never know for sure, and the throat culture came back negative.  When we got home, he camped out on the couch and fell asleep for three hours.  When he woke up he felt much better.  If only all of my problems would go away that easily!

Meanwhile, Mark and Greg and a bunch of other crazy neighbors were out working the chipper all day.  They've obviously gotten rid of a lot of debris, but unfortunately it's only made a dent.

I had my own doctor's appointment today, and had things put into perspective.  First of all, the office was a disaster.  Charley had torn the roof off and everything was ruined.  They were working out of rubbermaid tubs sitting on the floor, and had lost most of their equipment.  When the doctor came in to see me, he looked awful.  I asked what was wrong, and he said his daughter is supposed to be getting married on Saturday (Frances' anticipated arrival date).  They'd already had to move the ceremony to a new church when Charley tore the steeple off the first one.  What a nightmare!

To add just a little bit more excitement to our day, Mark discovered this morning that the sink in our bathroom is backing up.  The pipes under the sink have hand-release couplers around the trap so it's no big deal to clean out a clog.  I finally got around to it this evening, and as I was heading in with the bucket, Mark asked why I didn't just use some Drano.  I said the pipes were so easy to deal with this would be just as easy.  I undid the trap and it was clear.  The clog was between the sink and the trap.  Okay, easy enough.  I started poking up from the bottom with a stick - nothing.  So I started poking down from the sink into the drain.  After a couple of pokes, out leaped a tree frog!  I now know I can produce a blood-curdling scream!  Thank God we didn't use the Drano!

September 3, 2004

We've started getting some rain from the feeder bands of Frances.  Mark and the guys spent most of the day again out chipping debris, and also climbed around on some roofs securing tarps.  The kids have been back and forth at each others houses, and basically now we just wait for Frances to hit.

September 4, 2004

Frances is a very different storm than Charley.  It's progress is agonizingly slow, and the estimates of when to expect the worst of it keep getting pushed back.  Fortunately, the storm is crossing the state farther south of us than originally expected, so we shouldn't be seeing the worst of the winds.  Late this evening, we were getting periodic heavy rains and some wind gusts, but nothing serious as of yet.  The biggest concerns are tornados, heavy rains with flooding and extensive power outages.  We have never had any flooding or standing water issues, so I think we'll handle the rain fine.  We're hanging out close to our "tornado closet," and after Charley, we're prepared for life without electricity.  I guess we just wait.

Both kids had on red shirts today, so Mark turned them into walking hurricane flags

September 5, 2004

The winds and rain picked up dramatically overnight.  Mark went to bed early and I stayed up to monitor the storm, and he let me sleep in this morning.  Alex was afraid to sleep in his room because his bed is next to his window, so he went to sleep in our bed, and later I moved Patch into our bed, too so they'd be close in case of a tornado.  This storm lacked the drama of Charley, which came in fast and hard.  It just kept raining and raining and raining, with high winds.   I was watching the news all night, and the weatherman would say, "{so-and-so neighborhood}, now is the time to go to your safe room."  I was terrified of falling asleep in case they said that to us!  We turned the air conditioner down to get the house colder so it would stay cooler longer when the power goes out.  Everybody was walking around the house this morning in sweats, freezing to death!

We had lost a couple of shingles off the ridge vent of our roof during Charley, and the patch blew off last night and we now have a leak in our bathroom ceiling.  The window in the playroom is also leaking, but I'm so glad that's the only damage we have.  We lost power at about 10:30 this morning and it's still off, but that was to be expected.  When the storm had calmed down this afternoon, the hum of generators filled the air.

Grendel was sticking to me like glue this morning.  I assumed it was just the storm getting her out of whack, but then I realized she probably hadn't been outside at all.  I walked onto the back porch with her, and she seemed to want to go into the yard but was too scared.  So there I was, in the middle of a flipping hurricane, in the back yard with an umbrella coaxing my dog onto the grass.  Grendel crawled out onto the grass, darting nervously to and fro.  I'm assuming when her skittish crawling stopped for a few moments, and then she suddenly flew back into the house, that she had taken care of business.  (Her crawling and squatting are difficult to tell apart.  LOL)  Later during a lull in the storm, Dave and Sonja and I went out front and let all five of our dogs run around for awhile.  I'm not sure who was more relieved - the dogs or the humans - when they all had done what doggies do in the grass!

We took a drive through the neighborhood this afternoon after things had calmed down, and the only damage seems to be to roofs that were already damaged by Charley.

A roof torn off by the storms Playing cards by lamp light - Patch just loves to use the head lamp!

September 6, 2004

Greg has a tree that has a split in it from Charley, and it split more during Frances, but never crashed.  A bunch of guys in the neighborhood spent the day conquering the tree and taking it down.  It was quite spectacular.  They ultimately pulled half of the tree down with a chain attached to a truck, then all of the guys went into action with two chain saws and the chipper until the thing was nothing but a pile of wood chips and a bunch of logs.

You can see the sunlight through the crack Greg cutting notches with the chain saw

Slowly giving way as the truck pulls And down it goes

Everybody springs into action And down the other half comes.  :-(

While all of the men were being men, the rest of us were dealing with life without power.  Mary and Travis have power.  Travis was helping with the tree and Mary had to work (she's in the health care field), so Karon, Sonja and I took all of our kids to Mary's house to watch their kids and enjoy the A/C.  I learned from the last power outage, and brought my laundry, too.

We had our traditional hurricane cookout in the front yards for dinner.  Just like after Charley, everybody brought out all of their perishable food and we grilled it up and had a feast.  Shortly after we headed back into our dark houses, the power came on.  Hoots and hollers came from houses up and down the street, but a few minutes later, the power went off again.  Poor Alex just sat on the couch and stared at the floor.  It was just too much.  About an hour later, after the kids were in bed, the power came back on and stayed on.  Life is good!

A picnic indoors The camera flash lit up the room, but they were reading bedtime story by flashlight

September 7, 2004

Schools were closed today so I had a house full of kids again.  Our piano teacher teaches a couple of other kids in our neighborhood.  She is without power and offered to do a "house call" for today's lessons, so we invited the other students in the neighborhood over for their lessons as well.  It worked out beautifully, and Alex and Patch were thrilled to have her at their house.

When Patch woke up this morning, his eye was a little swollen, but I didn't think too much of it.  They were playing at Justin's this afternoon when Justin's dad called and asked about it.  He was afraid Patch had been hurt while there and he had missed it.  When they came home, I understood why he'd called.  His eye was three times as swollen as this morning!  It was really alarming, so off to the doctor we went.  She thinks it's just a bug bite on his eyelid, and said his actual eye looks fine.  He had a huge bug bite on his arm, so apparently he has a bigger reaction to whatever it is that bit him than just a mosquito.   Yet another hurricane consequence - strange bugs in the house!

And now we turn our attention to Ivan.  My birthday is in a couple of weeks.  My birthday wish?  A full week of school!

Alex, Kori and Patch having scooter races - and no one broke anything!

Patrick's swollen eye Another angle of the swelling

September 8, 2004

Another day with schools closed, and another day watching kids.  I love having tons of kids in the house, but I'm getting kind of worn out.  ;-)  I decided to feed everyone dinner while they were here to use up some of the food I recently bought, since now we're preparing for Ivan.  The good news - school resumes tomorrow.  Yeah!

Five boys and one Game Boy

Grendel discovered a tortoise trying to make his away through the back yard (suddenly I miss Trouble terribly) It's the Patrick Loop-de-Loop Tortoise Roller Coaster ride!

September 9, 2004

The house was eerily quiet today with all of the kids back in school.  After the bus left, I went back to bed!  :-)  We also kept a close eye on the weather reports and checked our stocks of hurricane supplies in anticipation of Ivan.  When will this end?

September 10, 2004

We had a nice, calm, normal day.  Everybody went to school and work with no surprises.  What a novelty!

The kids stayed up to watch the first half of the FSU/Miami game tonight (we do NOT need to discuss the game, thank you very much).  They barely made it to halftime.

Patch's eyes were open - barely At least Alex was still upright

September 11, 2004

While we're still watching Ivan very closely, we've managed to have another pretty normal day.  I think we've already done all of the hurricane preparations we could do before the other two storms.

We had a nice evening out front playing with the neighbors.

Patch, Justin and Alex playing at Chic-Fil-A Alex at bat and Patch catching

Grendel had a chunk of wood from the downed tree next door.  Boo patiently waited for his chance, then moved in!
Hmmmmmmm - how badly do I want that? Mine, all mine!

Patch became photographer for a while Yikes!  I should have stayed BEHIND the camera today!  LOL

September 16, 2004

The kids had a school holiday so Becca and I, and all of our kids, spent the afternoon together.  The kids made their own lunches at our house, then we headed over to the Plaster Cottage to paint ceramic pieces.

A whole bunch of chefs

We thought this was a rather interesting way to display a street sign!

Creating their own museum of artwork Nathan admiring Patch's creation

Drying the paint The final step

September 17, 2004

We took the kids to Open Gym at Patrick's gymnastics gym tonight.  Budding gymnasts can use any apparatus they choose with coaches stationed nearby.  Mark and I stayed to watch and were amazed at the talent of many of the kids.  Then there was Alex, enjoying himself to the fullest, with arms and legs flailing as he launched himself on the trampoline or spun wildly on the bars.  Patch showed off what he's learned on the bars and jumping into the marshmallow pit.  Just as things were wrapping up, we heard Patrick let out an ear-splitting scream.  He'd fallen off the bars onto his arm, and said it felt like he'd broken it again (different arm, but let's not argue semantics).  We went home with an ice pack, and when there was no swelling, he went to bed with some pain medicine.  We'll see how the night goes.

September 18, 2004

Patch is favoring his arm, and milking it for all it's worth, but he'll be fine.  So much for that red cast he's already picked out!

Mark and our neighbor, Dave, spent the day replacing our water heater.  The kids had all kinds of friends over throughout the day, and I have to say, they all did very well with no running water.  Alex proved to truly be my son, though.  It drove him crazy to not be able to wash his hands - it was the first thing he did when Mark turned the water back on.  Like mother, like son!

September 19, 2004

We spend the day at Mark's brother's house to celebrate our nephew, Ryan's, christening.  Ryan was a perfect angel and slept through most of the service!

Ya gotta love those cheeks!

Goofing around before going into the service Danielle cuddling with Uncle Mark

Mike and Mary Beth (in the middle) with Ryan's Godparents The girls helped with the actual Christening

Julia and Heather holding Ryan's foot - too sweet All tuckered out!

Julie, Danielle and Preston getting goofy Ryan with his Daddy and Godfather

A very happy Nana with a very content Ryan Preston and Uncle Mark

Ryan's immediate family and grandparents and Godparents The little kids playing with Ryan

All of the grandchildren WHAT A CUTIE-PIE!!!!!

September 20, 2004

The school has a program called Accelerated Reader.  The kids read an "AR" book, then take a comprehension test on the computer to earn points.  At the end of the year, they get to spend their points at the AR Store.  Patch has been working his tail off to learn the required word lists in order to participate, and finally made it on Friday.  He read his first AR book last night and tested on it today.  He burst through the door this afternoon and announced that he made a 100% on the test.  That's my boy!

September 21, 2004

My mom came and took the boys out to eat while Mark took me out to eat for my birthday.  While we were gone, Mom and the boys decorated a cake.  I'm so lucky!

Mom and Mark lighting the inferno

Grab the fire extinguisher! I'm gonna pass out!  LOL

September 24, 2004

I chaperoned Patrick's class on the kindergarten field trip to Green Meadows Farm.  As always, it was tons of fun, and the children are just adorable!  They went in the pens with chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, goats and sheep as well as milked a cow.  Patrick was a little stinker when it came time to feed the goats and sheep.  He let a couple of animals eat some of the food in his hands, and when he had just a little bit left, he ran his hand in front of the animals in front of him, saying, "I've got one more bite left.  Who's gonna get it?"  Little tease!

We are once again making our hurricane preparations while Jeanne makes her way towards us.  I just can't believe this is happening again.  Anybody want to buy a house in Hurricane Alley?

Milking a cow like a pro - who'd a thunk?

Teasing the sheep! These ducks will tolerate just about anything!  :O

September 25, 2004

Alex's football team finally had their first game this morning - and they barely squeezed it in before Jeanne!  The team played great, and Alex had a few shining moments.  He had a great carry at the beginning of the game, pulled several flags, and played quarterback a few times.

Alex playing quarterback making a handoff during warmup His awesome carry!

Playing quarterback during the game

The familiar hum of saws and rhythm of hammers filled the air as people boarded back up in preparation for Jeanne.  We've gotten it down to a routine by this point, and now we wait.  Ugh.

Mark and Dave at it again

September 26, 2004

I'm thrilled to say that we weathered Jeanne without incident - we even have power!  It's absolutely amazing how much less daunting a storm seems when you have all of the comforts of home.  It's been a very long day of strong winds and rain, and the kids have been bored out of their minds, but it sure beats having excitement during a storm!

I wish I could say the same for Mark's family.  His parents lost power this morning, and the storm is still over them.  Their biggest concern is storm surge, since they're very susceptible to flooding.  His brother's family also lost power today.  We hope everything gets back to normal quickly for them.  Our thanks go out to everyone who has expressed their concern for us throughout all of the storms.

September 28, 2004

Woohoo!  The schools were only closed for one day after the storm this time.  So with no power loss and the kids back to school, things are pretty much back to normal already.

Mark was on a business trip today, so Mom and Dad came over this afternoon to meet the kids at the bus while I went to an appointment.  They had a nice visit, and we went out to dinner at Chili's.  While we were walking to the car, Alex was casually saying numbers.  I asked him what he was doing.  He said, "Counting by eights."  As if it was the most natural thing to do.  Strange child!

September 29, 2004

Another Alex funny:  Over dinner tonight, Mark commented that he can't believe Alex will be eight years old in two days.  Alex said, "Actually, it's one day and six hours."  But who's counting!

I bought some new camping cots and set a couple up in the living room to try out.  The kids loved them!

All set!

Hangin' out watching TV Grendel thinks she should have one, too!