chemo update

The first chemo treatment was today and we drove over to join in the festivities. We had planned to get there about 10:30 but on the way over Mark called and said they had just started and the place was jammed full so it would be better if we got there a bit later. As luck would have it Nancy knew of a Quilt shop a few miles away from the hospital so………… We got there about 15 minutes before the treatment ended and found him sitting comfortably in a lounge chair but wrapped in blankets. The office was kind of cool but they had told him the treatment made some people feel cold. Nancy had heard that before and immediately started making a special chemo treatment quilt to be ready for the first treatment. So he quickly exchanged the office blankets for the custom made. How perfect was that!

The doctor’s staged Joey’s Hodgekin’s as stage 3 B. The B means symptomatic. His own Oncologist said he would have staged it at 2 but it’s right on the border between 2 and 3. I don’t know if staging is based on cell count or location but it sounds a bit subjective. The doctor estimated that the cancer first appeared about 6 months ago. He has a mass in the chest area about the size of a lemon which sounds bad but is small enough that no radiation will be required. I talked to my neighbor who had both chemo and radiation 40 years ago and his mass was the size of a grapefruit. I don’t know if the citrus scale is a Florida thing or what. The really good news was that the bone marrow test result came back and was totally clean. No doubt inclusion in the bone marrow would have been an additional complexity. They must have also test his genetic material and pronounced his genes ok. Hell, I could have told him that.

It turns out that we had some bad info regarding the chemical sequencing. All four chemicals are administered at each visit, not 2/2 as we thought. On this first visit they did a test to see how he would react to one of the chemicals – the “B” in ABVD. Apparently some people have a bad reaction to it so they need to deal with that potential complication in advance and adjust accordingly. He had no adverse reaction which makes life easier. As to the process itself,they connect a bag of fluid to the chest port and to that, inject the 4 chemicals in a timed sequence along with 2 injections of an anti-nausea medicine. They started the treatment at 10:30 and it was completed by 1 PM. Basically you just sit there in a nice lounge chair and kill the time watching TV, reading or doing whatever it is you do to kill time.

We left the treatment center and headed for a local restaurant for lunch. Joey order the biggest cheeseburger I’ve seen in quite some time. This beauty was a least 6” thick – a real double hander – and loaded with cheese and grilled onions. If he has a bad case of heart burn later today, I’m not sure it will be as a result of the chemo.

We did learn an interesting set of facts regarding chemo. The well known, notorious side affects are the loss of hair (head only), sores in the mouth, and nausea. It turns out that your body generates new, fast growing cells at the hair follicles, inside your mouth, and in the lining of the stomach. Since the chemo is designed to attack the fastest growing cells, it gets both the cancer and these other fast growing cells. Also, because of the loss of blood cells, both red and white, he has to be very careful to avoid things that would open cuts and invite infection. For example, no shaving with a razor; no flossing; good shoes, not flip flops.

So now we just keep our fingers crossed and hope the side affects are minimal. I think with the special food Nancy is loading him up with and the quilt…………………

product endorsement

We spent most of today with Joey in Cocoa at Weustof Hospital where the chemo port was implanted. It went without a hitch. We spent a couple of hours with him in the recovery room and then had lunch at a local eatery – a famous haunted restaurant. The port is located in the upper part of his right side- I guess that would be the clavicle but don’t trust me on the anatomy call. Although bandaged at this point, we could tell that it’s small and should be easy to get along with. Before he was released they did a quick chest X-ray and confirmed that the installation was perfect. I was impressed with the Silcon Valley like marketing literature for the device which is a model 260 CT with Vortex Technology. I didn’t read the fine print but no doubt it’s MP3 and Bluetooth compatible and probably has a 10 megapixel camera built in. For lunch he chowed down on a mahi sandwich with great gusto so I know he’s going to recover from this quickly. On Monday he has a consultation meeting to educate him on the chemo experience which starts Tuesday morning. We’ll be there bright and early to help him (and Nancy) over this hurdle.

We did have one moment of excitement in the hospital. As we were waiting for the wheel chair to take Joey out, an alarm sounded along with a Code Blue voice alert. People started running toward a recovery room about a 100′ or so from us and we were asked to step back into our area and out of the way. It was just like an episode of ER and lasted maybe 2-3 minutes. We couldn’t see but since all the alarms shut down I’m assuming they got it under control one way or the other. That would have been really scary if it had happened while we were walking to Joey’s room instead of getting ready to leave.

Another product endorsement.

Chris sent me something for my birthday that deserves mention – a spray insect repellent. Interestingly the label never uses the word insect or repellent but when you read it, no doubt what it is. It’s called Gardner’s Spray. As you know I spend a good time outdoors. Between the garden, maintaining the jungle, fishing or just relaxing on the dock I’m nominally outside from 8 AM to 8 PM. So I’m typically bitten hundreds of times a day. That’s probably an exaggeration but you can be sure that I go thru lots of Benedryl and Cortisone cream. For the past 3 days I’ve used Gardner’s Spray first thing in the morning and headed over to the garden to do some morning picking and weeding. It’s warm and very moist which means mosquitos will be active and ready for a snack. That’s my job – to provide them the snack. I’m pleased to report no bites. This morning I went from the garden to the dock – right through the jungle – no bites. Nancy tells me it smells very good – she says like mint toothpaste – so I probably wouldn’t want to put it on if I’m going fishing with the guys. Prior to this find, I used Avon’s skin so soft which incorporates some sun blocking and have been satisfied with that product as well. I forgot to put on the new spray Wed AM which confirmed for me that the mosquitos were indeed still out and hungry. Since the Gardner’s Spray was a gift, I have no idea what it costs but since it’s an Origin’s product, I’m going to take a wild guess that it’s a bit more than the Avon and not something I would buy for myself.

This morning I ran the ultimate test. I was out in the garden working and my neighbor George drove up in his golf cart. We talked and he continuously swatted mosquitos. He commented that he hadn’t seen them this bad in quite a while. I told him I hadn’t noticed but it was possibly due to the new insect repellent I was trying. George can’t use repellents with DEET or several other ingredients so he studied the label. He didn’t find anything that rung alarm bells so in the interest of science – rather than neighborly friendship – I let him squirt his arms with the Garden Spray. No more bites. I watched as a couple flew over to him, took a sniff and then flew away. What more could I do.

And while we’re on Chris, his area of responsibility was just expanded to include all the Jersey stores as well as New York. so I think that means 9 stores – 4 in the city and the balance scattered around NY and NJ. He must be doing the job or I’m sure they wouldn’t be adding more.

Tom and his family are in Missouri getting prepared for little Tommy’s college career at MO. They attended two days of intro sessions and he spent a night in his dorm room. So it’s getting close to real. Real, real is when Tom Sr. hands over the check to the U’s finance dept. They are capping the trip off with a few days in Branson and a stop in Memphis for ribs.

Bad news

We got some bad news last week but I waited a week for more information prior to posting. Joey went to an ear, nose and throat guy last week with a lump in his neck. The doc removed a lymph node which was subsequently – this week – diagnosed as Hodgkin’s disease – a cancer of the lymph nodes. He met with an oncologist today, so we’re happy with the rapid response. Joey has several good friends and customers among the doctors at the hospital and has donated cruises there for over a year so he’s a known entity rather than just a name. His doctor is Guisseppe Palermo so he’s a blood brother. I told him to be sure to tell him Uncle Tony from Jersey City was watching over his shoulder. He likes the doctor, a Sicilian with a real life Italian accent and a good sense of humor. At the meeting today they took a bone marrow sample which he said was unpleasant – not painful but you could hear the bone crunching as they poked in. Next week they do a full body PET scan and install a port for the chemo. Although the results from both the PET scan and the bone marrow analysis will take about 2 weeks, the treatment is fixed as to type of chemo that will be used. If I understood it correctly, it’s a combination of 4 chemicals referred to as something like ABVD. I’m guessing that’s the initials for unpronounceable chemicals. That may not be totally accurate but you get the picture. He will get a treatment every two weeks with each treatment being from 2-6 hours long. That is where the results of the testing comes in – if the disease is advanced, the treatment will be towards 6 hours; shorter if it’s at an earlier stage. After 8 treatments they retest and if the results are good, that’s it. If not, 4 more treatments – that means a treatment cycle of 16-24 weeks. If the chemo gets the job done, good. If not, then radiation follows. So it’s not a given that he will get both chemo and radiation. He’ll lose his hair with the first treatment which in his case is not a big loss. The Dr. told him that the good news is that when it comes back it will be thick and curly. Nancy says he has a nice head and that he’ll look just fine with no hair.

So we’ll probably be wearing out a path between here and Cocoa for the next few months. I know there’s not a damn thing we can do but …………………
On to more pleasant news. We have a great sunflower crop. I have to give my bride credit for this one. She has bugged me for years to grow sunflowers and I have steadfastly resisted. This year she even bought the seeds so I relented and planted them alongside the corn. They did well – 7′ stalks with 8” diameter flowers. Now the flowers have peaked and the seeds are popping through. I have to do a little research to determine if you just eat them right off the flower or have to roast them or something but for sure we have a nice crop ahead of us. Thanks Nancy.

Watermelons. We’ve got half a dozen or so and they are getting close to ready. I guess. We have meetings to decide whether they’re ready or not. Lots of thumping and sniffing but no one is willing to step up to the bar and say “pick it”. The plant biologists need to develop a variety with one of those pop up things you get with turkeys that tell you when it’s done. Hell if they figured out how to grow turkeys like that, why not melons. I built a spreadsheet calculator that provides an estimated harvest date based on planting date and the number of days to harvest listed on the seed pack. According to that, July 1 is the magic day. I’d like to say my calculator is always right or even that it is consistently wrong in one direction but that’s not the case. Even so, I think in the end we’ll use that date in lieu of thumping since it will be easier to blame the computer than any human who puts forth a go.

And it’s finally started raining. Not the same big storms as the rest of the state seems to be getting but at least something has started. Last night we got a 1” downpour- the biggest in about 4 months. That sounds like a big rain but we could use one of those every day or so for a couple of months. Right now the lake is the lowest I’ve personally ever seen it so it will take a really wet season to get to anything like normal. Better this than Cedar Rapids.

spaghetti sauce

The spaghetti sauce production line is fully open now. I planted more than a few tomato plants including both regular round eating kind and the plum type that is used in making salsa and sauces. A little tomato education: there are two general types of tomato; determinate and indeterminate. I always saw that designation in the seed catalogs but never paid much attention to it, figuring it had something to do with disease resistance. Turns out that determinate means that the the tomatoes ripen more or less at the same time; indeterminate means that you can have a continuous stream with new blossoms at the same time you are picking fruit. The varieties I planted first are determinate so we’re getting loads of fruit all at once. I can go out and pick 8-10 lbs every day which means you have to have a plan to get rid of 8-10 lbs every day. In Utah we got one crop a year and converted 90% of it into spaghetti sauce which we froze and used throughout the year. Here we will have a continuous crop through November so I can see our freezer filling long before the last tomato is picked.

We’ve also been picking corn for a few weeks and I learned that there’s a bit I didn’t know about growing corn. With most crops you put in the seeds, water, fertilize and pick. With corn, it matters how you plant it. I mean the shape and density of the planting. Corn is not pollinated by bees or insects but by the wind. The pollen comes out of the top of the plant and sprinkles down onto the silk of the corn. So if you plant a row of corn and the wind blows, it’s likely all the pollen will blow away from the corn and the ears will grow with no kernels. If you plant two rows side by side, there is a higher chance that the pollen from row one will blow down on row two and visa versa. The best thing is to plant it in squares or big rectangles so that no matter how the wind blows, the pollen will drop within the planted area. I didn’t know that – but I do now! I think what screwed us up was that for about two weeks at the time the pollen was forming, we had 25 mph winds out of the west and it blew the corn pollen onto the tomatoes or somewhere other than where it belonged. So much for my ethanol crop.

Speaking of ethanol – I guess the current midwest flooding dramatically points out the foolishness of using food for fuel. I never cease to be amazed at how stupid some people are and how tragic it is that they get into positions of power and decision making. All of this no drilling for oil crap that the enviro wackies have sold is coming home to roost. The real irony is that the Chinese, Cubans and Venezuelans are drilling off our shore – legally – but our own oil companies are not allowed to drill in the same places. Go figure.


Last week we were lucky to have Simon spend a few days. We went surf fishing one day and bass fishing in the lake on another. He cleaned my clock at the beach but I recaptured my dignity with a decisive win on the lake. He was a big help with a couple of projects including the design and manufacture of a filter for the new pump. I was afraid the 1” intake would suck up debris and even small fish into the pump so we capped the end with a 6” x 2” dia extension drilled with 1/4” holes. Simon worked through the math to determine how many holes we needed to drill o match the original 1” opening then he drilled them. We also started reworking the dock and deck furniture which was rusting. Unfortunately his trip was too short due to commitments with the Lake Mary High Marching Band. We took him home on father’s day and had a great day in the pool playing volley ball. I hadn’t done that in 100 years and was sure I’d be stiff and sore for a month. No problem – not an ache or a pain.

Spring Break with Simon

Had a really great week. Simon came up and spent it with us on his spring break. He and I went fishing every day; twice to the surf and three times kayaking in brackish water. We hit the Tomoka River, Bulow Creek, and the back canals of Tomoka State Park. The fishing itself was ok – not good – but we did manage to hook and land several nice fish. Ditto the surf although in Flagler the cross currents were strong enough to make fishing a bit of a chore. We both got sunburned and have achy muscles from so, so much kayaking. At least I admit to being sore. And of course we took time out to do a crabbing venture so that he and Nancy could have fresh blue crab appetizers before dinner one night. The great thing about Simon this year is that he crossed over solidly into being a fishing companion in the fullest sense from being a student fisherman. He’s a 100% help in moving boats, loading, unloading and splitting all the overhead associated with a trip. That cuts my work at least in half. The other nice thing is that I am now coaching him on subtle techniques rather than the basics of how to do this, that and the other thing. Those have all been mastered. The other large advantage to fishing with Simon is that every morning Nancy fixes a nice lunch in a cooler. That never happens when I’m by myself.

The garden is now at full size. I tilled up the last few hundred square feet using my new tiller. It worked like a charm and I am so glad it’s part of my arsenal. I reckon the total garden at 1250 SF give or take a few. The new summer stuff planted over the past few weeks is taking off. Believe it or not there are wee tiny crooked necks; micro zucchini; and teeny weeny cucumbers on the respective plants already. That’s about a month after planting the seeds and 2-3 weeks after transplanting them into the garden. I really wouldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t seen it myself. The last of the broccoli should come out this week and we ate the first cabbage from the winter planting last night. The cauliflower will be pickable this coming week. Each time I pull out one of the winter veggies, I replace it with a summer variety and we’ll have a few weeks where both the winter stuff and the summer stuff are hitting the kitchen table. I planted corn seeds about 3 weeks ago and it’s now all standing nearly a foot tall. I planted the rows about 2′ apart and have put winter squash in between the rows. That would be varieties like butternut, acorn, spaghetti and on and on. I have six different varieties of hard squash living in the corn patch. Simon and I kept two fish and buried them next to two tomato plants in a scientific experiment. We want to see if there is any noticeable difference in growth rate with those two plants and also whether the fruit will taste fishy. We could have anchovy flavored tomatoes, pizza ready tomatoes right from the garden. The trick might be keeping them buried until they disintegrate and away from the possums and raccoons.

No adult supervision

Nancy is away for a week on a Quilting Cruise – a real cruise to the Bahamas, Haiti, Cozumel and points wet and warm. She went with two others from her local quilt group and will join up with another 125 or so fellow stitchers from all around the country. This was perfect for both of us – she gets to go on a cruise that she’s always wanted and I get to not go, which I’ve always wanted. So I am without adult supervision. Nancy takes these lengthy sojourns a few times a year so I save up big jobs to complete during her absence. I do better without supervision and can get deep into these dirty jobs without worrying about coming into the house on occasion and really getting gribby and nasty. I also seem to survive with no scheduling – fish when the fishing looks right; eat when the urge hits; have the XM 50 on 24/7 or soak in total silence for hours at a time. I’m sure this will get very boring…….. won’t it???

I do a few quirky things to adjust to my temporary lifestyle. Such as setting out a set of silverware, a cereal bowl, a coffee cup and a wine glass. That’s all I use and just wash each piece as I finish it and return it onto paper towel on the counter. No sinkful of dirty dishes. A pot of coffee lasts me 3 days. I make it the first day and then just put the carafe in the refrigerator. I microwave a cup or two every day as needed. At night I blast thru NetFlix that Nancy doesn’t like – shows such as The Wire, Deadwood, and Quentin Tarentino movies. And I really do like to get into a made up bed so you might think that would be a problem. Not to worry. I am a very quiet sleeper and have it down pat to where I can slip out of bed in the morning and it looks like no one was ever there. Just reposition the pillows and oila, made bed.

One of those gribby jobs turned out to be a bit prophetic. Last year I ran an additional cable from the portable generator to the house. I felt better with a bit more current carrying capacity in that 150′ run. Putting the cable together turned out to be a bigger job than I’d estimated so I never got around to burying it. So with the grib patrol gone, I decided to bury it and did just that. Completing that I decided to crank up the generator. That’s something that should be done from time to time just to make sure it works It started right up on the first pull and I ran it about 5 minutes. Later that day, watching National news, I learned that Florida had a major power black out that darkened about half the state. We were untouched. I’m sure there’s a good technical reason we were spared but deep down inside I know it’s because I tested the generator and would have been ecstatic to actually put it to good use. I bought it after the 2004 hurricanes and it hasn’t run an hour since. I’d love a nice 2 hour outage in prime time just to luxuriate in my preparedness.

We got a reminder that it’s still winter with a freeze warning issued last night. I am a bit concerned about the garden but if it crashes now, we still got most of what I’d planned harvested. It looks ok right now but it will take a day or so to really determine if any damage occurred. My biggest worry is the grapefruit tree which started blossoming last week. Not sure what it will mean if it gets nailed now since there is no formed fruit yet and only a few blossoms are actual open. Perhaps it would blossom later. We have two grapefruit trees and the ruby red doesn’t blossom for another few weeks so even if we lose one crop, we have a backup going. When we get these freezes, the coldest point is just about dawn so I got up at AM and put the sprinkler system on the grapefruit tree. Hopefully that will be all it needs. Actually I don’t think it got that cold. The thermometer attached to our atomic clock was blank so clearly that craps out when it gets too cold. The old dial style read 40 and I’ve found that fairly accurate. And I have a couple of pans of water out on the porch and none of those froze so I’m hopeful that it just didn’t get all that cold. I’ll go out in an hour or so and check on the garden.
And finally – American Idol to date. Seems to me to be a better batch with more evenly matched talent so far. Right now I’m impressed with the tattoo lady and Murray UT guy although Filipino girl and scarf neck guy are close seconds. Maybe weird hair need a shave guy but I think he’ll crash before it’s over.

Mizzou Trip

Had a great few days. Little Tommy graduates high school in May and is making his decisions regarding college. His interest is in Journalism and he learned that the University of Missouri (Mizzou) is ranked #1 Journalism school by US News and World Report. He applied and had all the requirements for a direct admission to the Journalism College. The college has a “Meet Mizzou” day for prospective students and family to spend a day there and learn more than you can just reading brochures. I was pleased that Tom called and asked if I’d like to join him and Tommy to the event.

Our initial plan was to fly but the logistics turned bad when we dug into flight schedules. Instead we decided to drive up. So this past Saturday at AM we headed off for Missouri. It’s a bit over 1000 miles, almost all Interstate so it’s an easy, fast drive. We arrived Sunday about noon and into a windy, sleety day with temps in the low 30’s. Still we braved the elements and walked the campus to familiarize ourselves before the official guided tour Monday. The campus is quite old; started in the late 1800’s so the architecture is mostly that era. Factoid: UM was the first public university west of the Mississippi. One of the spots not to miss is Thomas Jefferson’s original tombstone. I puzzled over why such an important monument would be on the UM campus. Answer – It was the first public University in the area defined as the Louisiana Purchase – engineered by Thomas Jefferson. They have done an incredible job of keeping that solid look while at the same time modernizing the interiors to the very latest designs. The campus is small enough to be walkable from end to end and then right into downtown Columbia. But it’s large enough to have eye opening facilities. It had the overall feel of the University of Evansville – personalized – but at the same time, the heft of UF. The prepared information sessions were well done and answered all the questions any of the three of us had.

One part of the tour that has to be mentioned is the student Recreation Center. It’s a new sports facility that is mind boggling. The highlights include 10 basketball courts, weight rooms and exercise rooms with more high tech equipment that I would have thought possible, a winding “lazy river” with waterfalls and huge hot tubs all around. Oh yeah, in all these areas the walls are lined with individual TV’s and/or theater size screens for watching movies or sporting events. An Olympic size pool – a meet was in process while we were there. Not just a pool but get this – the floor around the pool raises and lowers depending on the requirements of the event. So instead of diving off a board for those starts – the floor is raised or lowered. And of course all of this is indoors but there’s a major league outside pool too. It also has the big screen for watching ball games from the comfort of the pool The Recreation facility was rated #1 in the nation by Sports Illustrated. Oh, and they have massage rooms, manicures, hair dressers etc. etc. etc. Those are fee based but the rest of the facility is part of the tuition – so you pay for it whether you use it or not. Of course you’d have to be wacky not to spend several hours a week right there.

And the library – wow!!!!!!!!!!!

And the eating facilities – wow!!!!!!!

We were mostly interested in the Journalism school and that was no disappointment. A few factoids: UM had the first Journalism college in the world. In the world. The local newspaper for the town of Columbia and the NBC TV affiliate are all on campus and manned by students. Students along with staff drafted from major newspapers put it all together in what looks to be a very professional setting. The Dean of the college said it was modeled after the newsroom at the Chicago Tribune. The college opened in 1908 so this will be the 100th anniversary year and they will be dedicated a new expansion, more than doubling the size of the Journalism facility. So all in all, if Journalism is your game, Mizzou is the place to be.

So to me, the decision to go there is a no brainer. The only negative I could see is the weather and Tommy should be able to handle that just fine. I couldn’t but he can!!!

We dropped Tom off at the St. Louis airport so he could attend a technical conference in the bay area and just the two of us made the return trip. Uneventful, just the way you like it.
One political note – I’m totally blown away by how fast the Dem’s are dumping Hillary. Wow! I knew we Republicans really detested her but had no idea how deeply negative the Dem’s feel. How long before Big Al Gore supports Osamabamamama. I was totally confident that the Clinton machine would chew him up and then McCain would dump on her. Not sure McCain can beat Barackomon at all. So if Barack does triumph, I think my only hope is for Hezbollah or another mid east nut case to blow up something.

winter’s here

We’re about to get winter just when I was gearing up for global warming. The forecast was for 30 degrees last night and 26 tonight. It was actually only 40 here so maybe it will only get to the mid 30’s tonight. I don’t necessarily think the forecast was wrong but rather believe we have a bit of a micro climate here due to the lake. It’s been warm all fall so the lake water temp is still in the 60’s and the ground is still quite warm. Also it was windy all night which tends to keep things warmer and more moist – picks up warm moisture from the lake surface. If we make it through this cool down, the next one could be the more damaging with cooler lake water and cooler ground temps. Just to be safe I picked a few heads of broccoli, cabbages, and enough lettuce to last a week. I covered up all the veggies which I think are vulnerable, picked all the grapefruit and will just hope for the best.

Another first for the garden – cauliflower. I have never grown cauliflower and it seemed to me that maybe they wouldn’t do well here since no heads had appeared 90 days after planting. Then early last week the mini head formed. Within 3 days there were heads forming on all and the first one had more than tripled in size. So I now know that once they start coming on, they make up for lost time. Lots of little snow peas now so those will be hitting the frying pan in a few days.

We had a nice New Years holiday and for the first time in years, actually made it past midnight. We usually celebrate when they do in Europe and are tucked away in bed by 10 PM. This year we had an early dinner at a very nice restaurant with a good friend and then drove down to Tom’s house to attend his New Year’s Eve gala. It was a nice group of people and we had a fun time. My favorite was watching Tina’s chocolate fountain and a little fella who was mesmerized by it. I think he was 5 or 6 and started slowly by picking up a pretzel and correctly holding it under the fountain. That worked so well he picked up a cookie and repeated the procedure. After a while he was dunking stuff – cookies, veggies, fruit, whatever was handy – with both hands and his face was getting more and more smeared and covered with chocolate. Finally he couldn’t stand it and stuck both hands – no fruit, no pretzels, no cookies, just the hands – and started sucking on his fingers. All the adults – except for me – were engaged in some kind of party game so I was able to witness this guy getting away with something that would have horrified his parents. What he didn’t realize was the evidence all over his face.

Gator game – what Gator game???? Sure glad I switched to the Missouri Tigers.

Christmas summary

Had a very nice Christmas at Tom’s. Simon got me a Mizzou cap which I am learning to wear without worrying what people will think. I just pretend it’s a Gator cap. Only kidding – I’ll wear it with pride – assuming Tommy decides to attend next fall. If he changes his mind, I’m back to my Gander Mountain cap. Joey got me a signed copy of a book in which he is mentioned and in which Indian River Cruises gets some prominent page time. A client of his writes these Fodor type travel books and did one on the Central Florida Coast. Joey helped her with some ideas and photo’s so the book has a nice personal touch for us. I also got the worlds nicest Sudoku book – so nice that I hate to write in it. Nancy got me a bar of soap designed specifically to be used after cleaning fish. No doubt I could use dozens of bars but I wonder what there is about it that focuses on fish cleaning. From the same source she got Simon a bar that is supposed to repel mosquitoes and Tom a camp soap that works in cold water, hard water, and even salt water. Tom got us tickets to the UCF – UCONN basketball game later tonight so we’ll drive down shortly and spend the front end of the weekend there. That should be fun although I’m guessing UCF will not be much of a match for UCONN unless maybe part of the plan is to have UCONN partying and laying out by the pool in our 80 degree weather. That could work. Joey got us a gift certificate to Karlings, one of our favorite restaurants and he also plans to treat the whole family to PF Chang’s in the near future – when we can all synchronize our times and travels to let it happen. That became even more difficult when Tom got Tina a cruise to Cozumel and I got Nancy a trip to NY to visit Chris.

Simon got saxaphone lessons starting right after the first of the year. He already has a sax and has been trying to master it on his own. His goal is to be good enough to make the marching band next year. Glad he’s doing it there and not here! I’d have him practice down on the dock since I have deeply ingrained memories of Chris learning the Clarinet.

One of the more unique gifts was the Key Lime tree that Joey and Mark got for Tom and Tina. That should be the gift that just keeps giving and the new source for key lime pies and Corona toppers.

I think my biggest surprise gift was from Chris. He got me one of the old timey, manual pasta makers. It’s a bit of an inside joke. I loved the one we had in Utah and when he and I spent time together making chicken cacciatore with home made pasta. Well we made a mess usually so Nancy hated the machine and somehow it never made it from Utah to Florida. An automatic pasta maker showed up but it just didn’t come close to matching what we made with the manual machine. I haven’t made the cacciatore since in protest but I guess now I’ll have to resurrect the recipes – that is when Chris visits – and assuming the mess doesn’t doom it from the start.

All in all, there were just way too many gifts to remember – lots of games, clothes, movies, books – and it took us all a couple hours, literally, to open them. Waste management will have to put on a special truck to haul away the wrappings just from their house.

Toyota Mouse

More about the mouse later. Keeping with the highs/lows format and starting with the highs – Attended another Christmas program in Port Orange. This time we were treated to Brenna and the singing Cubs at Sugar Mill Elementary. I’m sure that without her voice, the 40 or so member group just wouldn’t have sounded as good. There was a chime group that played an instrument that looked like a giant tuning fork with a built in clapper. To play it they would slap it so the clapper made contact with the tuning fork. Nice sound. Another high point was a solo by a first grader. Apparently they had done a dress rehearsal earlier in the day and she totally froze so about a half hour before the real performance started and the crowd was about half seated, her father warmed her up and she seemed to do fine. Still you were holding your breath when it came her turn to actually perform. Her dad accompanied her on the guitar and clearly you could see he was a professional musician and probably played in a band. At first she had a little trouble positioning herself for consistent microphone use but once she got past that – which I’m not sure she even knew was problem – she belted out a nice Christmas song – a new one I’d never heard. It was a fairly difficult song with multiple full octave or more jumps but she nailed every jump. Her name is Chloe Moran and I predict that you’ll here more from her in about 10-15 years

More good news – little Tommy (all 6′ of him) got a monster score on his recent ACT test. The test was very important to him because the University of Missouri requires a score of 29 for direct admission into the School of Journalism. He scored 32 which puts him in the 99th percentile. I’m fairly certain that was a higher score than his dad earned oh so many years ago. I think they also use the ACT test to screen for cashiers at Wal-Mart. To get that job they must score less than 10.

I think it’s good news that the lake is super clear these days. It’s clear as in Deleon Springs kind of clear. My guess is that since we’ve had so little rain for so long that particles normally contained in rainwater and runoff from the land are a far less piece of the total mix and the underlying springs are now the main source of water. It makes for tougher fishing but it’s interesting to be able to look down and see the fish, especially when a monster bass swims by.

On the other side, we missed Olivia’s Christmas program where her orchestra performed. Olivia is now mastering the clarinet and we would loved to have seen her in action. Unfortunately we had a scheduling conflict with Brenna’s performance and we had made that commitment earlier. I have a feeling there will be plenty of concerts ahead in the future.

Would a mouse in the trunk of the Camry count as a negative. Nancy had left a bag of clothes in the trunk and a mouse somehow got in and decided that, with some modifications, it would make a great nest. I honestly can’t figure out how he got in but there’s no mistaking a mouse nest made from the felt lining in the trunk. We have a trap baited with peanut butter sitting in the trunk now. First day did not net a taker so chances are he’s already found a better home. update – this is going to blow you away. This morning Nancy and I took off for Costco so I loaded a couple of coolers into the trunk to carry cold stuff. The trunk was completely empty and the mouse trap untouched. So I removed it. We loaded up at Costco and came home. After unloading the coolers, lo and behold there was mouse nest, very large and very visible in the trunk. So in the couple of hours we were gone – 9 AM until 2 PM – the mouse had built a nest probably using cushioning from the seats or something. If that wasn’t enough, there were half a dozen baby mouselets in the nest. No hair, eyes shut. So not only had she created the nest but had hatched a clutch. She reluctantly left the nest and hit somewhere so I removed the nest and waited for her to return so I could throw a towel or something on top to remove her. She came out and was certainly pissed off but I was unable to catch her. A bit later I saw her out on the lawn looking for the nest so clearly she can get in nd out with no trouble. I loaded up a couple of traps and will get some poison to finish the job but she looks like a smart mousey to me.

And the real bad news – seems I’m now sharing the cucumbers with some worms. We’d been harvesting really nice cucumbers for a couple of weeks but several of the ones picked this week were “occupied”. So I guess not only am I share cropping with George, I’m sharecropping with critters.