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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 12/28/08 - 1/4/09

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Howie, My Forgotten Baby

I just realized that I never blogged about Dave's and my first baby, Howie.

From Howie

The day we got him, he had to wear the leash for about 24 hours straight and the crate was his home for the first 18 months or so.

Or Howard.

Or Howie-the-Wonder-Dog.

From Howie

Howie is our 8 1/2 year old Lab-Chow Chow mixed breed puppy. We got him in August 2000, just after our 5th anniversary, from a shelter in Kettering (near Dayton), Ohio. Dave and I were grad students at the time, and it wasn't hard for us to spend enough time at home to help housetrain Howie. We also had ample time for some good training early on, which is probably the best time investment you can make in a pet

From Howie

We were hoping for a big, Lab-sized dog with Lab-length fur, and we ended up with something closer in size and fur to a Border Collie. Howie is a very calm dog, rather quiet, and chasing rodents is his #1 downfall.

From Howie

This is the scene that Dave and I faced when we'd head out the door to school in the morning...Howie with a toy in his mouth, making us feel SO guilty for leaving him for a few hours.

Before we had human babies, Howie was the one we would spoil at Christmas, he'd come with us everywhere, and before the quarantine rules changed, we were even convinced that we didn't want to get stationed in Hawaii, we couldn't bear to have to quarantine Howie for a number of months!

From Howie

Howie would jump the gate when it was just one gate, so we had to use two baby gates.

Howie is the most laid-back dog you'll ever know. In fact, he's more like a cat in so many ways! He enjoys sitting at a window looking out at the world and he's a very picky eater. He doesn't play with toys the way other dogs do -- Howie has his favorite stuffed dinosaur and bunny rabbit (from his puppy days) but otherwise he enjoys chasing squirrels in our backyard, and nipping at loose pant legs.

From Howie

Howie lounging on his "Civil War" dog bed, which I made from leftover material from reenacting costumes I'd made.

So many of our boys' friends, who previously may not have liked dogs, ended up loving Howie to death and would start bugging their parents for pets of their own (sorry Wendy and Julie!)

From Howie

Howie (left) playing wth his two dog friends in Florida, Jerome (right) and Moxie (top). We 3 families would trade around dogsitting in FL. This was in Florida, but Jerome and Moxie are now in Ohio.

(Okay, so I'm a little biased!)

From Howie

Over the years, Howie has had to take a back seat to the boys. I feel badly at how often we have to leave Howie out of a family outing because having the boys with us was enough trouble. Howie was subjected to years of having toddler boys around, each of our boys had a good 18-24 months of "Don't pull Howie's tail!" or "Don't sit on Howie!" or "Please leave Howie's dog food alone!".

From Howie

Howie is keeping an eye on the construction workers while we had tile floors put into our FL house, late 2004.

This past summer, just before we left North Carolina, we took Howie for a checkup and our vet deemed Howie a "senior dog". Howie had put on some weight in North Carolina, and he had the worst allergies...his gorgeous coat was definitely compromised while we were living there. I wanted to cry at the thought of our first baby now being a "senior".

From 2007 06 17 Family Reunion PA

One of Howie's favorite things to do, chase the hay wagon at the Vollmer family reunion!

So here are some pictures of Howie for you to enjoy...when I talk about how much I'm going to miss my boys when deployed, Howie is among my boys!

From 2007 05 01 Howies Birthday

We had a birthday party for Howie in 2007, Jacob said that Howie needs a cake, so we made one for him, and Howie even got to enjoy a big piece! (No chocolate!)

(See how grey he's getting around the muzzle? Sniff sniff!)

From 2007 06 17 Family Reunion PA

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dave, Mentos, and a 2 Liter Bottle of Diet Coke

Yeah, you know what's about to happen!

If you're interested in how we did this, you can check out this website that explains it pretty well, and tries to sell you the apparatus we have here, the Geyser Tube by Steve Spangler Science. I picked up ours at our local Hobby Lobby store and stuck it in Dave's Christmas stocking.
A Facebook friend suggested that you can do something similar by rolling up paper to hold the Mentos and holding a plain playing card underneath it. Remove the playing card and let the Mentos fall into the bottle. I like the apparatus I'm pitching above because it has a pull string that keeps you about a foot further away from the bottle, and you can get away from the shower of soda faster.

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Happy New Year, Friends! A Smile For You.

Happy New Year to my Blog-readers! Thank you for your continued support, hopefully I've done my job in keeping friends and family informed of my goings-on this past year. While attempting to keep it entertaining.

This funny story came to me from one of our North Carolina neighbors. She and her son and his girlfriend used to dogsit Howie on our many weekend roadtrips.

To my Dog loving friends out there


Excerpts from a Dog's Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Daily Diary...

Day 983 of my captivity..

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am.


There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try th is again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now..................

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008


What you see here is everything I'm allowed to wear for the next 3 months. Everything.
It's not a lot. 4 sets of uniforms, 6 sets of physical fitness uniforms, 2 sets of physical fitness long pants/jacket sets. Underclothing to go along. Maybe I won't need that additional baggage allowance after all...
Today I also packed a box of stuff to ship ahead, things like extra toothpaste, a couple books, yarn, knitting needles, iPod speaker...things that I can live without for my first several days there.
Yep, my departure date is coming up soon...

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Sunday, December 28, 2008


The boys received PixOs starter kits from Grammy Vollmer for Christmas. It was something they wanted, they asked her for it and she delivered! Thanks Grammy! The boys love it!

For those who might not remember, Pixos are a "new formula" of craft bead developed in response to the massive Aqua Dots Recall that took place in fall 2007, thus nixing one of the things Jacob was asking Santa Claus for last year!

I honestly don't know what the difference is, but whatever. The boys were very excited to open up their sets and get to work!

As you've heard me describe with both Moon Sand and Perler Beads, I get a bit particular about the mess-factor when it comes to these crafts. Pixo beads are in the same category -- the beads are VERY small (the size of plastic BBs) and you need some incredible dexterity to manage them. They do get everywhere -- but unlike Moon Sand, they vacuum up quite easily. I have to suck up my neat-freakiness for the good of happy, creatively engaged kids.

Pixos comes with an applicator pen. You fill the pen with the beads, and then apply the beads to the plastic template board with the gentle touch of your forefinger. So simple!

Not so simple.

So here's Timmy with his applicator pen working on a kitten pattern.

From 2008 12 27 TimmyPixos

See that fat pen? One has to FILL the pen. You have to unscrew the red top to the pen, and then get the Pixo beads into one of the 4 chambers. Unlike the one shown on the website, this pen has 4 chambers, which you can use to have 4 colors going at once. This took some serious precision, even with the funnel attachment you can use, to get the beads into the pen.

Timmy's pen seemed to work fine. You line up the tip of the pen, depress a button, and it deposits a bead in the location of your choosing. There's a certain finesse to putting the pen up against the template just right, otherwise the bead misses the correct location on the template and bounces elsewhere: into another location on the template, on the floor, into the heater vent, etc.

Unfortunately, Jacob's pen seems much pickier. The pen has to be oriented with one of the 4 chambers perfectly for the beads to come out when you press the button. It was frustrating for me, so for those who know how, um, particular Jacob is, just imagine his reaction! But we got it working and he was able to do some simple patterns.

I'd estimate that for each of the patterns we have, you need to fill the pen at least twice, and it depends on which colors you choose to fill the chambers with.

So -- now that we've filled the template with the beads in the pattern we want, it's time to "fix" the pattern in place with water.

This is pretty straightforward: the starter kit includes cute little spray bottles, which the boys wasted no time filling with water from the dog bowl and then using on each other.

Once we made the appropriate corrections and the boys served out their time outs, we followed the directions: "Evenly spray your complete design".

How much spray? Not enough spray, the beads don't all seal together. Too much spray, and it takes forever to dry. So I don't know the answer to this, except that an adult should oversee the spraying.

Here's Timmy's completed kitten.

From 2008 12 27 TimmyPixos

I was very impressed (again) at how well he did with this project. And once again, Jacob was less patient with this project, but he did a small set of patterns that are on the pink-colored template on the picture below.

From 2008 12 27 TimmyPixos

Straight out of the instructions: "NOTE: Store unused PixOs(TM) in a cool dry environment".

Heed this warning! When you're spraying your pattern, you need to keep the water away from any loose beads, or the applicator pen. Needless to say that the water makes the beads sticky, and the loose beads will congeal together if left out in moisture. That also means if you're in a humid environment, they might not cooperate so well. Thankfully, it's bone dry here right now so that's not an issue.

The instructions claim that the PixOs design will be ready in about 10 minutes, but I don't believe that. Of course the drying time depends on how much you "evenly" sprayed your design, and the ambient humidity. It's taking about 1/2 hour here. That seems a long time for a 3 year old to wait for the fruits of his labors. At least with Perler beads Timmy only has to wait for me to iron his design together and then wait for it to cool, less than 5 minutes!

When all's said and done, you have this cute little kitten. Like the Perler beads, you have this plastic toy that you can do with as you please. Unfortunately, Timmy's kitten fell apart pretty quickly. Just trying to hold it upright, gravity kicked it and the kitten slumped over and the beads started separating.

But simply put the parts back on the template and hit with another shot of water and it fuses back together in about 1/2 hour.

I've come across some other reviews from folks whose kids also received these sets for Christmas, and I have to admit, mine is among the most polite of those I've read so far. Timmy and Jacob seem to enjoy this kit pretty well, so as long as you are flexible with the mess the beads can make, and make sure to avoid getting the beads wet until you're absolutely ready.

One of the reviews even says "stick with Perler beads". After Jacob spilling a tray of about 3000 Perler beads this afternoon, I'm even getting frustrated with the Perler beads!

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