My sister in law is a genius;, a bit of an evil genius, as it turns out, though I doubt it is intentional. I, on the other hand, am an idiot. I would like to claim a ‘savant’ at the end, but as I am not consistently, brilliantly good at any one or two things, I cannot, in good conscience, do so.
Pat is gone on a much anticipated and much deserved vacation to Florida to see her daughter and grandchildren. And so, it falls to my lot to care for her pets and yard while she is away. Now, I really don’t mind doing this. Pat does so much for me that I could do this for a year and not come close to evening the balance. But graciously and stoically doing the job, without whining and complaining is just not my style, and makes for boring posts, n’est-ce pas?
The dogs, this time, are really a piece of cake. Sister-in-law Kathy took the potential problem dogs home with her; the remaining seven all stay in the yard like good dogs. Likewise, feeding the two cats and caring for the fish: nothing to it. So what has got me all wound up? The yard, that’s what!
Before she left, Pat had me come over so she could go over watering instructions with me. We walked around her acres as she showed me numerous hoses, sprinklers, soaker hoses, hydrants and trees, shrubs and flowers. In two separate areas are three separate soaker hoses. The main hose must be attached to a different soaker each day. The new bushes in the front cannot be allowed to dry out. The explanations were quite general, mostly instructing me to “water it if it’s dry.”
I stopped again the night before she was catching the plane. “I’m not sure I can remember how that soaker hose change works,” I said uncertainly. “Maybe you could write that part down.” Pat is aware of my limitations. Her headings were “junk” and “horses” to denote what was on the other side of the fence in the different locales. She then wrote days of the week, and listed what was supposed to be getting watered each day. Actually, now that I had a guide, it didn’t seem so bad.
I did fine on the ‘junk’ side. The soakers were quite near their hydrant and easy to find. But I almost gave up the first day I had to change the “horse” hoses. After pacing up and down the fence line for about 20 minutes, I finally located the convergence of the hoses and got it changed. The next day, I did the exact same thing, and have finally wised up. There is now a dog-toy stuffed monkey I found in the vicinity, in a nearby tree. When I spot the monkey, I know I’m close.
It has been unmercifully hot here, and the soil dries out quickly, so if Pat’s 1001 plants are to survive my stay, I’m going to have to set some strategic sprinklers. I don’t know how she keeps up with it; but there are hoses crisscrossed in every direction. Trying to trace one to its source, I find myself comparing this setup to Winchester’s House of Mystery. A hose will suddenly disappear into the thick tangle of clover, not to be seen again. A sprinkler is set, but I am unable to find the correct hydrant to send life-giving water coursing through its hose. I drag the surface hoses here and there, seeking out sprinklers whose nozzles turn correctly and trying to scientifically ascertain the best placement for maximum useful watering. To add to the excitement, there are numerous gopher holes hidden beneath the lush green clover. The pack of dogs, including Murphy and Rowdy who always come along, follow me about, but refuse to give me any real help, although I’m sure they know this stuff far better than I do.
The front yard with new shrubs and lots of flowers and vines, cannot be allowed to dry out. One of the hoses in this locale has an interesting, if a bit scary, appearance. It appears swollen and bloated in several places, rather like a black snake that is swallowing a mouse, or a guinea pig. It seems it got too hot in the sun or something; anyway I’ve never seen anything like it. For the first couple of days, it works great, but lately the water flow has been reduced to a trickle. I examined the length of the hose for kinks, but all seems to be clear. But when I hold the end of this hose, I can feel it gurgling and vibrating like there is something in there that badly wants to come out. There are a couple of things that come to mind: either the guinea pig is still alive, or the water flow is trying to work its way around said ‘pig’, being digested in the bowels of the monster hose-snake.
Inside the house are evidences of further mystery: the window air conditioner has no discernible means turning it on; the telephone answering machine has no obvious means of listening to messages. The quantity of oreos on the table is diminishing day by day.
For some time now, UltraDad has been desiring, coveting, and longing for a nice, comfortable, reliable 4-wheel drive pickup. Considering his hard work and ‘luck of the lemon’ with several previous pick-ups, I was inclined to agree in his deservedness of this man-toy. Vehicle prices in this neck of the woods (or desert) ran a little high, so a pickup-purchasing pilgrimage to Idaho seemed to be indicated. We timed our trip by highly scientific means: the planets alignment in the nighttime sky, and the timing of UltraDad’s 7 days off, mostly, I guess, the latter. I procured a couple of extra days off myself, and Friday morning early found us on the road, sans dogs, bound for Idaho. We would be staying with UDad’s brother & wife, Chuck and Joy, and gone much of the time. I would miss “my boys’, but knew “Granny Pat,” as Rowdy and Murphy call her, would take could care of them.
Those of you who are intimately or even casually acquainted with UltraMom will be surprised to learn that we left the house promptly at 8:30 A.M. Is UltraMom becoming, at last, better organized and self-motivated? Not really; but she had a dentist appt at 9:00 and was very motivated to have her molar, which had received a temporary crown a week before, stop throbbing. Did the continued pain and temperature sensitivity indicate that a root canal might, after all, be called for? The answer from Dr. Couch was “Yes.” She was actually ready to get started when I reminded her of my little dental procedure problem(s). I have some TMJ going on in my jaws, and when my mouth is forced to remain open for long periods of time, my jaws ache for days. “I had actually forgotten about that. We should just refer you to a specialist,” she said, obviously relieved to have an excuse for not working on such a whiner. I was relieved as well because I wanted to be on my way, and the pain was manageable with some good drugs. As a matter of fact, it is still being managed in that way, but that won’t last much longer, I’m afraid.
We got to Twin Falls in time for lunch, and UltraMom indulged in a Navajo Taco, which I think is much the same as an Indian Taco: chilli, sour cream, salsa, avocado and cheese on a fried scone. I think UltraDad had his usual burger. We then hit a few used car lots and even test-drove a few pickups, but it was just too hot and we were too loggy, so we didn’t look much.
I was looking forward to our trip for another reason besides vehicle shopping, which is actually not all that much fun for me: Jim and Jessica were going to be in Howe, so we would see them as well as Chuck and Joy & Bill and Patty. We knew we wouldn’t arrive in time to join the lot of them in going out to dinner that evening, so we decided to stop in Arco, on our way, and get a pizza. Arco Service’s Hot Stuff Pizzeria sells a vegetarian pizza topped with, among other veggies, sliced green olives, a topping I have not seen offered anywhere else. It was our favorite, and we hadn’t had one since we moved to the Silver State. It would be a half hour wait for our pizza, so I had a great idea. “Let’s go visit Sharon and Earl.” They were some of my favorite people. Sharon and I used to work together, and remained friends after our employment opportunities took different turns. Earl used to coach Jim in community basketball, and Jim thinks the world of both he and Sharon. I think the feeling is mutual. We had a pleasant hour or so catching up, and made the last leg of our trip, arriving ‘home’ before the dinner goers by 20 minutes or so.
The next morning we perused the ‘Thrifty Nickel” and “Auto Seller” ads Jim had procured for us, and prepared to make the 70 minute drive to Idaho Falls to begin our search. I was overjoyed when Jim announced that he and Jessica would accompany us. UDad, he decided could use his bargaining expertise. He was right.
Once in town, we began stopping at car lots and soon refined our technique. A quick drivethru was often all that was required to see that this particular lot had nothing to offer us. UltraDad had decided he wanted something around the year “2000” in 4 wheel drive, preferably with under 100,000 miles on the odometer and in the neighborhood of $10,000. This proved to be a rare commodity. There were several older ones with many more miles and quantities of 2003’s and 04’s for many more dollars. At Hill’s Auto (I think it was) we test-drove a bright yellow 2000 Dodge Laramie that seemed to hold promise. Jim loved the color; UDad: not so much. At Smiley’s Automotive, we found a red 2000 Ford F-150, but it had over 100,000 miles on it, and the sticker price was over $13,000. Jim got them to lower it to $10,750, so it remained on the short list. In a shopping plaza parking lot, several used car dealers had set up mini off-site sale yards, operating out of parked motor homes. We test drove a red dodge, and the guys liked many things about it, but UDad was leary of all the ‘extras’ previous owners had added to jazz it up, like lights on the hood and other accessories, even though Jim got the price talked down a fair piece. There was a privately owned truck the guys wanted to look at in Pocatello, and we hit a few lots in Blackfoot on the way over. UltraMom started getting a bit more savvy by this time, as well as hot and tired, and if we passed a lot with phone number posted, she just called and inquired. Like I said, pickups fitting UDad’s criteria were not plentiful.
As we drove, Jim asked me to call Johnny. “Have him look these pickups up on the computer and see what the Blue Book value is,” he instructed. He then proceeded to give me a list of other things to have Johnny find out. It is difficult for me, and I’ll bet for you too, to carry on a conversation while trying to relay another person’s input to said conversationer. I thought I was asking what Jim wished to know. “What is the average miles for a pickup of this age?” I asked. “No,” corrected Jim, “What I want to know is what mileage the truck should get.” “Okay, Johnny,” I patiently continued, “I guess what we need to know is the miles per hour.” As soon as I heard those words leave my mouth, I knew there was something wrong with that, and Johnny confirmed my hunch. “The miles per hour? Why did they put YOU on the phone? Is this just some kind of joke?” Good point. Why DID they have me make the call?
After going through the car lots in Pocatello, we made our way to the private residence where a silver, 2000 Dodge resided. The owner wasn’t home, but his wife readily lent the keys for a test drive, and assured us they had never had a moment’s trouble with it. It seemed nice to me, but UDad was not ready to make a decision. And it was getting late. If we left soon, we would be back in time for Bill and Patty’s BBQ. Our old car had other ideas. It refused to start. After the requisite peering under the hood, I called a tow truck, covered under my AARP motoring plan. I was told the tow would arrive in less than 40 minutes. We were happy to see them in less than 20 min. Of course, by this time on a Saturday night, all repair shops were closed, but the tow truck driver knew of a shop where the car could be parked and keys left in a drop box. I asked him if he could take us to Sizzlers where Heather works, which he was happy to do.
I ran in, excusing my way in front of lined up patrons to ascertain that indeed Heather WAS working that night. She seemed excited to see us, and quickly claimed a table in her section for our use, as well as getting us a $15 credit. I made my way back to the end of the line to wait with the others, and we all ordered the salad bar. I was excited to learn that UltraDad could, at last, use his age to advantage, and made sure he ordered the reduced price SENIOR salad bar. Heather couldn’t do enough for us, making sure our drink glasses were filled and stopping to visit for a few minutes when her busy schedule would allow. I filled out the comment card, avowing that this was the best service I had ever had, and we left a pretty good tip. As we ate, Jim made a little chart of the 4 pickups under consideration, so UDad could see at a glance what were the advantages and disadvantages of each. This ended up being a great help.
Meanwhile, we had been in phone contact with Patty, with the result that Bill drove to Pocatello to pick us up, a pretty major imposition. Sometimes its pretty nice to have family around. And I have to give a lot of credit to Jim and especially to Jessica. This cannot be the way they would have chosen to spend their day together, but they were such good sports about the whole thing.
On Sunday, most car lots are closed, so we got a break from pickup shopping and got to relax and spend time with family and friends. Jim, Jessica and I went to church, which I really enjoyed. That evening, Chuck made some killer BBQ ribs with his secret sauce, which I could only find out the ingredients for if I were willing to be killed. I wasn’t, so the secret remains.
It turned out that the timing of our trip to Idaho had been good; the papers to finalize the sale of the farm were finally ready to be signed. Chuck gave us a ride to the title company in Blackfoot, and asked astute questions as UltraDad and I signed document after document. It seemed needlessly lengthy and complicated to me, but that’s only because it was.
Then, on to town for more fun pickup shopping. By now, UDad had refined his search even more, and decided he would only buy a Ford. He knew too many Dodge owners who had had transmission problems. I wanted to expedite the process if I could; I knew Heather had the day off, so I gave her a call. “Honey, could you call some of the auto dealers in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot and Pocatello?” I asked her. “See if they have anything that fits this description:Ford F150 4 wheel drive pickup, extended cab, long bed, year around 2000 for near $10,000.” She ended calling every place listed in the yellow pages. Every once in a while she would give me an update, but likely candidates were rare.
UltraDad had been seriously thinking about the red Ford he had test-driven at Smiley’s on Saturday, but when Heather called them, they said the pickup they had was not a long bed. I concluded the one we looked at must have been sold, but when we finally drove by their lot, it was still there.
The salesperson remembered us, and remembered the reduced price. After another test drive, with Chuck’s valuable input, it seemed that UDad was going to go for it. While the guys talked, I surreptitiously called Jim at work. “I really think you guys can get the price down more,” Jim coached me. “They dropped the price for me awfully fast.” But by the time I rejoined the others, the deal had been made. UDad maintains they would not go any lower, and after all the calling and looking we had done, I think we got a pretty fair deal.
I will spare you the tedious details of the financing and numerous document signings, but in just a few short hours, UDad was, at long last, the proud owner of the newest vehicle he had ever owned. I called Johnny to let him know. “What I really want to know,” I said humorously, “are the miles per hour.” “That,” Johnny said thoughtfully, “depends on the acceletron and the brakometer and the pressure being applied to each at a given time.” He is so smart.
Jim was just off work by this time, so we all drove to Pocatello to pay a King’s ransom to get my car out of the repair shop, and to have dinner with Heather at a restaurant called “Oliver’s” as she seemed adverse to dining at Sizzlers. I had wisely brought my gear so I could head back to Nevada if time and pickup purchasing would allow, and now it seemed a good idea to crash at Heather and Heath’s in Pocatello and drive back early the next morning as I had to be at work early in the afternoon. Heather and I had a great time. After the boys left she looked me in the eye. “Want to go shopping?” she smiled. Of course I did! We slowly shopped our way through Ross’ entire store until they were ready to close, and then drove to Heather and Heath’s nice townhouse apartment. My grandcats were all glad to see me, especially Callie who was determined to sit on my lap and be petted.
Heather and Heath have a new game system called the “Wii”, an interactive system where you actually swing your arm, with controller attached, to bowl, play tennis or play baseball. While Heather went to pick Heath up from work, I decide to give baseball a try. After a few games, I finally started getting the hang of it. I was excited to, at last, hit a home run, and I was jumping in the air screaming “Yes, Yes!” when the door opened. The kids were glad (an amused, I think) to see my enjoyment of their ‘new toy.”
The next day, all went as planned, and I arrived home in time to fulfill all my duties. UltraDad stayed in Howe an extra day to relax and show his pickup off to more people.
Now, for a little off-road 4-wheeling!
Well, UltraFans, a lot has happened since my last post. The pond, for the time being, is, as they say “Yesterday’s Newspaper.” What is today’s news, you ask? Why, UltraDad’s new-to-him pickup, of course.
But before I give UltraDad and his new vehicle center stage, lets back up for a moment to July 11, 2007 and focus, for a paragraph or two on UltraMom’s birthday. She does so love her birthdays, doesn’t she?
The day started off with great promise; while checking my e-mail, who should I find on Skype, but that oldest Ultra-Son of mine. Now, once upon a time, in the Land of the Rising Sun, UltraMom, UltraBob, UltraGirl, UltraHeather and UltraUltraGirl’sBrother were doing a little Karoke together. The evening’s festivities began with UltraBob doing a rendition of The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s, “Soul to Squeeze.” UltraMom was blown away; I mean I knew that son of mine could sing a little, but this was fantastic. Several times after that night I pleaded, whined and otherwise made my wishes known: “All I want for my birthday is a recording of you singing that first song from karaoke.” It seems that for once in his young life, UBob had taken my words to heart and that morning in an audio file, he sent me the song. “It’s also on a CD,” he explained on the phone a few moments later. “You should be receiving it soon in the mail.” I did, that very day. It was every bit as good as I remembered, and I have now listened to it approximately 150 times. All of my friends, relatives and casual acquaintances agree that it is superb, including Ubob’s siblings, which is high praise indeed. I am awaiting the next release with breathless anticipation, and can only hope it will include UltraGirl’s performance of that old Carpenter’s tune “Top of the World.”
While chatting with the Ultras that morning, a rare treat indeed, I suddenly remembered that I had a haircut appt in exactly 35 minutes, and I was still in my jammies. It takes me 30 minutes to make the drive to ‘Tangles”, where Paula is becoming increasingly skillful at learning what I and my hair are like. No time for a shower; quick sponge bath, throw on some clothes and out the door, as my phone rings again. It’s my brother Dan and sister in law Mary calling to wish me… you know. “I’ll call you back in a few,” I promise, running out the door.
Once in the car, my cell phone rings. Sister in law Jane (married to the other brother, Dave) calling to wish me….well, you know. Before the day was out, I would have talked to, or had messages from all of my siblings and their spouses, all of my offspring and their wives/and or girlfriends. I’m sure I would also have talked to their boyfriends if they hadn’t had to work that evening. Brother Dave left me multiple messages hoping to earn credit for most birthday messages left, but had stiff competition from sisters Francie and Panther. I felt totally loved and connected; almost worth turning 53.
After the haircut, I moseyed on down to the college to see if my 30 year old transcripts had yet arrived. They were finally able to locate them when I finally remembered that back in those days my last name had been different.. Hmmm.. not too bad. I was smarter than I had thought: a 3.65 for three semesters. My gpa had been brought down a bit by classes such as ‘bowling’ and ‘skiing’. Of course, my calculus, french and biology might be a bit rusty after this many years.
Lunch was a real treat. Pat met me in Elko and bought me lunch at The Star, a local Basque restaurant that serves the best steak sandwiches on the planet. The fries and salad aren’t too bad either. After a quick stop at the Seahorse Aquarium so Pat could purchase a couple of new additions for her fish tank, and the obligatory stop at Walmart, it was time to head home. UltraMom had a job to go to.
Normally, Wednesday is my day off, but sometimes I can opt to work a Wednesday and take another day, say Friday or Monday off instead. This weekend I would be taking off both a Friday and a Monday, so working today seemed a good idea. Besides, I knew my inmate employees, Randy and Brain, would want to wish me a happy….you know.
At Walmart, I had purchased a small cake from the sale basket; it even said “Happy Birthday” across the top, so I brought it to work, and we all enjoyed it. Earlier in the week, Randy and Brain had brought me a birthday cake of their own. This culinary confection was a square of banana-walnut bread frosted with sweetened peanut butter. If you think this sounds delicious, you are absolutely right. I also received a poster-sized ‘birthday card.” In the center is a beautifully drawn and shaded orange butterfly surrounded by green-stemmed flowers with white petals. Many of the inmates (and one officer!) wrote personal birthday greetings. It was a great feeling to know that many of them appreciate the good job I try to do, in spite of the fact that store prices are continually rising and I’m not always able to carry some of their desired merchandise.
When John got off work, Pat came over and we feasted on Walmart fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad and coconut cream birthday pie. You can never have too many desserts on your birthday, I always say. I got some really cool birthday gifts: a cute shirt & rose petal soap in a really pretty round box from Dan & Mary, drawer sachet, my favorite lip balm and the most interesting bracelets I’ve ever seen: they are inscribed with parts of I Cor 13, English and Spanish; and from Heather & Heath? Why my favorite Bath & Body works lotions and body washes. I esp love the sandalwood; a new scent for me. Of course I had received some gifts early: my pond and digital camera. The rest of the day was taken up with listening to and returning my phone messages. Now THAT’s what I’m talking about!
Join me next time for….UltraDad’s new pickup. Right now I think I’ll go listen to my CD again…and again…and again….
It is time, once again, for UltraMom’s birthday. At least it will be in a couple of days, but true to form, UltraMom is already celebrating. I mean, why take a birthDAY when you can have a birthWEEK, or even a birthMONTH, right?
It all started with the arrival of the two youngest UltraSons on the evening of July 3. They had each wrangled some time off work in conjunction with the natural holiday of our country’s birthday on July 4th. I had been cleaning and planning favorite meals for days and arrived home from work and Weightwatchers just in time to catch Johnny’s phone call. “We are just a few hours away, but Jim has a stomach virus. Can you go to the store and pick up some gatorade and chicken soup?”
“Sure, the store is open for another 15 minutes. Maybe I should get some juice too and maybe some 7-up and jello…..”
“Didn’t you say the store closes in 15 minutes? Maybe you should get off the phone and go now.”
Yeah, maybe I should. It turned out that Jim was pretty sick. He had even gone to the Dr. earlier that day and had to be given fluids intravenously; he was that dehydrated.
When the boys arrived, Jim made it as far as UltraDad’s big recliner, and except for bathroom breaks (frequent) and an occasional sojourn to the couch, that was pretty much his home for the next 2 days. I kept him supplied with fluids and tried to get him to eat some chicken noodle soup and jello, but the first solid food he wanted was a chorrizo, a very spicy hot dog.
Johnny, in the meantime, got to work on my birthday present: a pond and waterfall in the corner of my backyard. He had already purchased some of the components, such as a preformed waterfall, pump, filter, and my favorites: a solar powered light up water lily and a stone turtle that could spit out water if you attached a hose to his backside. Johnny kept threatening to do it the other way around. On the 4th of July, while UltraDad and Jimbo were slumbering, we went over to the Pawelek house a few blocks down the street to view the waterfall/stream/pond that had been designed and installed by Nate, the 16 yr old son. It was fantastic. A high waterfall tumbled down carefully placed rocks, while part of the flow meandered along a spillway down the side. The stream was lined with stones, and the large pond contained a few fish, captured from a local river. Interesting plants were in and around the water. As I “oohed” and “ahed”, Johnny kept glancing at me nervously. “Mom,” he finally said, “you do realize that your pond will be nothing like this one, don’t you?” Yes, Honey, I know and my pond will be just fine.
I made pizza on Friday, happy that Jim seemed back to his old self. Each pizza contained different toppings per preference of my two sons of honor. Jim’s pizza came out first. Johnny cut large slices for everyone, and I began to be concerned that Jim might not get enough. After all, he had been sick. He needed to gain his strength back. In hindsight, I probably didn’t need to go as far as having Johnny take back the piece he had just served his Dad. In the end, Johnny’s pizza was nearly gone, requiring him to remove mushrooms and forego green olives if he wanted leftovers. “Jim, tell Jessica that my pizza was better than hers,” I said teasingly. “I can’t say that.” he replied. “We are not yet in the lying phase of our relationship.” Seems that Jessica is still the reigning pizza queen.
There were lots of trips to Home Depot for supplies. The first trip, Johnny and I had looked at some preformed pools, but obtaining the price for them turned out to be nigh impossible. In the end we bought pond liner to freeform our own pond. I will spare you all the details of pond planning and implementing, but lets just say that Johnny did a lot of digging, and he and I both did a lot of agonizing and second guessing before the two practical & mechanically minded members of the family were in near possession of their full faculties and could help.
Another trip to Home Depot, this time with everyone, including Pat, who was planning to install a pond of her own. After another look at the preformed ponds, UltraMom was determined to find out what they cost. A friendly young man with a peculiar gait, wearing an orange Home Depot apron, did his best to help. As we talked, his story came out: “Several years ago, I went off the bottom end of Lamoille Canyon on my motorcycle going 80 mph. I had a broken arm, a ruptured spleen and severe brain damage. I was the first one in the county to be Lifelited to the hospital, and from there I was taken to SLC. My heart stopped 9 times during the operations and I had to learn to eat, walk, talk, etc all over again.” I admired his courage and determination. After being routed through several clerks, we finally found a manager who could do the necessary computer lookup. “Thanks for sticking with it and helping me with this,” I told the young man. “Ma’am if I was the kind to give up, I wouldn’t be alive today. Why, I was riding my motorcycle in Lamoille Canyon, and I went off the edge going 80 mph. I had to be lifelited….” The story came out a couple of more times, esp when a new person showed up to check on my progress. I can only guess that was part of his brain damage. We were in Johnny’s car, so the purchase of the pond would have to wait for another time, probably going through the arduous price look-up process all over again.