Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Recap

Merry Christmas to you! I hope you had a great holiday. We spent Christmas Eve at home playing Uno Attack and going to Jolly Holiday Lights. The Hoop-lahs were up at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning. We headed to my mom's house mid-morning for another round of gift giving and dinner promptly at noon - an old throwback to the days when my aunt and uncle milked cows. They no longer milk cows (or come for Christmas dinner for that matter), but we still eat at noon. Men first. Tradition at its finest.

Here are some pictures from Christmas Eve. I'm never organized enough to take any Christmas Day.

It's rare that everyone in the Hoop-lah house winds up in a picture, so enjoy. You might not see one again for a long time.

Here we are with Grandma. She comes over every year on Christmas Eve. It's the one day of the year we give her the day off from cooking. Begrudgingly, but we do it. This year the kids convinced her to get up and work her magic on the beef and noodles though. They were scared I would ruin them. Not that I've ever done that.

We left cookies, carrots and celery out for Santa and his reindeer. Carly bugged me for days to make sugar cut-out cookies. It took me a while, but it finally dawned on me that she was worried we wouldn't have any to leave out for Santa. So we spent Saturday baking. Look closely at the candy cane in the picture. Hand frosted in two colors by me. I impressed myself!

The Hoop-lahs always open a present on Christmas Eve. This year they opened the ones they gave each other and -- SURPRISE -- they gave each other stuffed animals. If I should ever mysteriously disappear, be sure to look under the pile of nine million plus stuff animals that reside here. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

Last night we returned some odds and ends and had Riley measured for a dress shirt at Von Maur. That store may be more expensive, but the service there is exceptional. They will always have my undying devotion. He needs an oddball size, of course, because he is so long and skinny. We bought the first one we found. He'll probably outgrow it in a week.

Today we started our Full House marathon. We're on Season 3. We all love that show! So nice to watch something where the content is rarely questionable.

It's 5 p.m. I'm still in pajamas. This may be the best Christmas Week ever.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Emphasizing the merry

This is what happens when you drink too much eggnog.

We hit Jordan Creek last night to see Santa. I am sure this guy is North Pole regulation, but I wish he'd put on his Santa suit. The whole casual shirt thing is wrong. He and Riley had quite the chat. I asked later why they talked so long. "He looked like he needed some intelligent conversation."

Friday, December 16, 2011

New sweater blues

I quickly figured out why my new sweater was so cheap.

Total dud. I wore it for an hour today and that was enough. The high collar drove me up the wall. I happened to be in Hy-Vee at the time. Let's just say the folks there were lucky I didn't whip that baby off. I sure thought about it.

Back to the store it goes. No more bargain shopping for me!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bargain shopping

What does it say about the economy when you can buy an $84 name-brand sweater for $15.26? I tried it on earlier this week, but passed because it was too expensive. Today it was 60 percent off and I had an additional $15 off coupon. Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 12, 2011

SIRI says get a life

I knew getting an I-Phone would be problematic. Despite my attempts to bond, it is resisting. Doing things like this. Now I know a little photo editing software would solve the problem. But it went bye-bye when my hard drive crashed. And my printer no longer works with my "new" operating system. But I haven't had a free second to take care of either thing.

I've been too busy asking SIRI if Riley is a dork. And pinpointing my living room via GPS. And watching You Tube videos. And looking up the capital of West Virginia. You know, important stuff that is way more fun on a phone. And a little more time consuming because I am, after all, over 40. It takes me a little longer to figure things out. The Hoop-lahs had it down in 30 seconds. Or less. Sigh . . .

So for now, turn your monitor sideways. These boys will look just great. They won their division in last weekend's Duel in December. The other 8th grade Kingdom Hoops team also won its division. How cool is that?

Next weekend they're off to Cedar Falls. Carly and I are staying here. "We" have a dog sitting gig - which means I'll watch the dog and she'll get paid. Be sure to check back for a sideways picture of a very cute Golden Doodle named Coco! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Exciting things that happened while I was away

Did you miss me? Even notice I was gone?

I'd like to say that I was on a self-imposed hiatus. On a dream vacation somewhere tropical with a frothy drink in hand. But that would be a lie. I've been here the whole time. It was my laptop that decided to take a vacation. AGAIN. Three hard drives in two years. I'm sensing another trend!

The experience this time was a little weird. I really missed it - a little too much, actually. Maybe because it's cold and harder to distract myself. Maybe because I missed a week of online holiday shopping. Or maybe because I had no way to check the FB status of my friends, who I could have easily called. But who has the time? Oh. I guess I did.

My name is Jolene. I'm addicted to a small black box that is at best a fickle friend.

I'm going to work on that.

What did I do all week? You might be interested to know that I . . .
  • Saw the Muppet movie, which was awesome!
  • Saw Wicked for the second time at the Civic Center, which was really awesome from the fifth row!
  • Attended Carly's first band concert, which was really, really awesome!
  • Attended the season's first Christmas luncheon at Old Main Brewery!
  • Wrote out Christmas cards! I didn't do it last year because I didn't have time. Hmmm . . . there might be a connection here.
  • Dusted the living room! Cleaned the bathrooms! And made dinner! Really. Who knew I would remember how?
  • Attended six basketball games!
  • Bought this!
If you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know why.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet Me on Monday

Courtesy of Never Growing Old

1. I really need to clean my _________?
Dog. CC desperately needs a shampoo and a trim. But there a few things I won't ever do. Giving her a bath is one of them. I hate that wet dog smell. She is spending her afternoon tomorrow at the Pet Salon getting glammed up for Santa.

2. What food makes you think of Christmas?
Sugar cookies and cherry pie. You can't go wrong either way.

3. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
Maybe 35? Any age that combines the energy of youth with the wisdom that comes from being a little older would be great.

4. What was your first paying job?
I started working at a retirement home as a food server when I was 14. It was a perfect job for the time. It was nearby and was only a few hours after school each day and then the weekends.

5. Have you read the Twilight series?
I have no interest in these books/movies at all.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for ham

The Hoop-lahs had a great Thanksgiving - lots of yummy food and activities for everyone! Hope you enjoyed your day as much as CC enjoyed her ham bone.

Monday, November 14, 2011

You know it's Monday when . . .

You spend the entire day with your pants on backward and don't realize it until you put on your pajamas. You would have thought I'd notice the back pocket.

 I am sensing a trend.

10 divided by 3 equals one big headache for me

Long-time Hoop-lah readers and those forced to listen to me know I get a little bunchy about the elementary math curriculum. Our district implemented a new one two years ago and honestly - I'm convinced it was created by a bunch of wackos who bought their advanced degrees from a fictional university.

I didn't think it could get any worse than math facts being eliminated from daily work. After all, who needs to know those? They can just look up the answers on their phones. But they do have to be able to figure out the area of a room. Priorities, people. But I digress. That was last year's problem.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Carly asked for help with division. Silly me, I got out my paper and pencil and showed her step by step how to solve it. The only problem was that she looked at me like I was speaking German. (Which, by the way, I can totally do.)

I quickly figured out that she had no idea what I was talking about. Long division is taught differently these days, something about quotients and estimating that make no sense to me. No sense at all. Doing it that way took her about 10 minutes to come up with an answer. The "traditional" way took about 10 seconds.

You gotta love progress.

Meet Me On Monday

Courtesy of Never Growing Old.

1. Does your family/friends know about your blog?
Some read it; others don't. Either way I'm good - as long as you don't tell me you don't have time to read it. In most cases I know better. Be upfront and say you're not interested. Although I can't imagine that everyone isn't glued to their computer waiting for me to post something!

2. What is your favorite card game?
Cribbage. I learned to play when I was a kid at my Grandma and Grandpa Callen's. My family would spend hours playing over the holidays. I also like Pitch. My birth family is full of competitive card players. You don't want to get into a card game with us if your feelings are easily hurt. I've been teaching Riley to play cribbage. As you might guess, his competitiveness spills over into cards. He's only beaten me a couple of times. (Maybe because I've let him.) I figure teaching him to play will have long-term benfit for me - he'll come visit me in the old folks home because he'll still be demanding a rematch.

3. What do you wear to bed?
Something warm and comfortable . . . pajamas, T-shirts, sweats, anything like that.

4. What is your favorite kind of French Fry?
I like them all. And thin onion rings too. My favorite is cottage fries.

5. What is your usual bed time?
The sooner the better! I have trouble sleeping so I am usually ready to go to bed by 9 p.m. Then I wake up again around 2:30 a.m. It's a rotten cycle. I wouldn't recommend it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Snow. Boo.

This message is for Big Dog, who I am sure was drinking beer while I shoveled last night's snow.

Ich sagte den Schnee der letzten Nacht vor einer Woche voraus. Gerade so wissen Sie. Das Schaufeln ist nicht in meiner Job-Beschreibung.

Did you know Germany is the cheapest place in Europe to buy beer? And who knew I could speak German?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meet Me On Monday

Courtesy of Never Growing Old.

1. Are you excited for the holidays or are you dreading them?
Excited! I love the holidays -- the shopping, the eating, the visiting with friends and family, the TV specials. All of it, except when people get grouchy. My mom will make cherry pie at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that is my own little slice of heaven.

2. Do you hit the snooze button or get right up?
I wish I did hit the snooze button. I am always awake early, so it isn't an issue.

3. Do you still have your tonsils?
I had them taken out in elementary school. I had strep throat so badly that my throat was almost swollen shut. I spent five days in the hospital with a cuckoo nurse who believed in torture as a healing method. I will never forget her. Ever.

4. What was the last piece of candy that you ate?
Good timing! I am eating a fun-size Milky Way while typing this. It's soon to be followed by a fun-size Snickers. Now being followed by a fun-size Butterfinger!

5. Do you shop at thrift stores?
Not unless I am looking for something that will only be used once.

Dreaming of making it big

A white board in Riley's room where the motivational message changes weekly.

Yesterday the Des Moines Register started a special series examining the pressures, investments and challenges in preparing youth to be the next star athletes, accomplished musicians or top-level students. First up: athletes looking for that competitive edge.

The article generated big interest around here. It makes the point that kids today are led to excel by their parents - who pony up for private lessons, expensive equipment, camps, tutors and more at an early age to give kids a competitive advantage -- and a greater shot at scholarship money and odds of joining the professional ranks. The article made the point that kids don't learn their sport any more in the time-honored ways of champions such as Iowa's Bob Feller.

You might know by now that the sport of choice at the Hoop-lah house is basketball. It is Riley's dream to make it to the NBA. But the reality is that boys have a one in 10,919 chance of making it to the big leagues. Only the best of the best ever go that far.

It is why we spend a lot of time around here talking about back-up plans. I'm a firm believer in chasing your dream when you're young and free from the demands of family and home. My dream was to write for a national magazine. But I didn't think I could do it, so I didn't try. It is one of the few regrets I have. It is why you will never hear me tell Riley to look at the numbers and be realistic. But I do talk about needing a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work.

Do we spend a lot of money for him to pursue his dream? We do, although compared to what others spend it isn't out of line. We don't pay for top of the line equipment or private lessons. We do pay for club fees and for him to travel because it is necessary for those who want to go to the next level. Is his dream ours? Of course it is. We want him to succeed at something he loves -- whatever that ends up being. But if he wanted to give it up today he could. And life would go on in a new direction. We make sure that he has opportunities to try anything he wants.

But we support this dream because there is something there beyond natural talent. There is a drive, a determination. Something that is rare in most people, let alone a young man.

And that one in 10,919 chance?

When I mentioned it he replied, "Not a problem."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because I am that one."

I love the confidence! Either way, we're going to have a good time!

You can read the Des Moines Register series here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Contemplating a career selling car insurance

Sometimes teenagers get a bad rap on this blog. Mostly for being hormone-crazed make-out machines at the swimming pool. But I'm nothing if not an equal opportunity observer, so today we're talking driving.

We have a new high school here in town. For now, it's the only one, although a second one should open next fall. The previous high school was on the north side, far enough away that it was easy to avoid that area before and after school. But the new school is roughly 1.5 miles from home. It's located just off a major north-south four-lane road. I drive through there at least twice a day at the same time the students are coming and going.

It's hardly a coincidence that I see an accident involving a teenager nearly every day. Most are small fender benders in the morning hours, but some have been larger. This morning's accident was a six car pile-up. When I drove by five teenagers and one adult were standing outside their cars. Guess which car was first to get hit.

When school first started I thought the high volume of accidents was simply because more cars were driving on an already heavily travled road. But as the months have passed I have noticed that all of the accidents I see involve a teenage driver. And nearly all of the teenage drivers I see overall have a phone or electronic device in hand. They are clearly distracted.

Iowa's law banning texting by all drivers and use of any handheld device by teen drivers went into effect this summer. If this stretch of road is any indication, it isn't working.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet Me On Monday

Courtesy of Never Growing Old.

1. My current weather is _______?
Clear blue skies and 38 cold degrees. It is 62 degrees in the house right now. I'm tempted to turn on the furnace, but I am trying not to before Nov. 1. I hate that smell when you first turn it on.

2. What is your favorite sound?
All of them, which I know sounds like a cop-out. It's not. I am really grateful for being able to hear everything. One of our Hoop-lahs has a hearing loss and every day I realize how much that affects life.

3. What is the worst flavor of ice cream?
Anything coffee flavored, although I'd be willing to try a Starbucks caramel machiatto in ice cream form.

4. What magazine do you look for when you are stuck in the waiting room?
Web MD. It's usually the only thing I haven't read. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE magazines. Did I ever tell that my journalism degree had a magazine emphasis? I've lost count of how many I subscribe to. It's a lot. My newest one is Entertainment Weekly. Just got my first copy in the mail this weekend. Take away? If I know your child and he/she is selling magazines, send them my way!

5. What is your favorite condiment?
French's mustard - just the regular stuff. Yum!

Manic Monday

You know it's Monday when you forget about early band and oversleep, and then rush around like mad to get your Hoop-lah there on time. Once you're in the parking lot, that's when you figure out that early band is really on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hoops for hope

Thanks to everyone who gave Riley a donation for Kingdom Cares International. The kids in the Kingdom Hoops program raised $11,000 for local basketball scholarships and a library and a medical clinic in Ghana, Africa. How awesome is that?

Friday, October 28, 2011

What the h@&! is this?

Despite their proximity and resemblance, Mike is not at all congenial to this kitty. Doesn't the look on his face say it all?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meet Me on Monday?

Here with go with this week's Meet Me On Monday, courtesy of Never Growing Old.

What? It's Tuesday? Don't be such a stickler for details.

1. My favorite kind of animal is _______?
I love them all with the exception of smelly ones and ones that look like they might eat me. And I'm not fond of snakes, but I guess that's irrelevant.

2. Do you like your handwriting?
That is an interesting question. I've never thought about it until yesterday, when I sat through 10 hours (yes, 10 hours) of interviews for a search committee. I was tasked (is that even a word?) with taking notes. Fine by me. It was actually sort of fun because one of them said "three-some."  I know, totally juvenile. Later, when reading my notes back to the group, I realized I couldn't read my own writing. Embarrassing. So I guess the answer is no. Next time I'll get out the laptop.

3. What is the last movie you saw?
I went to Moneyball on Saturday. A good movie, although a little slow. And I'd like Brad Pitt to have a different nose. There's something about his that totally distracts me.

4. Do you buy things on eBay?
Sometimes, but not recently. I never bid though. If I can't buy it now, forget it. I don't have the patience to follow an auction.

5. What did you have for lunch yesterday?
A box lunch from Hy-Vee with a beef sub, chips and an apple, which is still in my work bag. Today's lunch was much better. Lasagna, salad and onion rings at Baratta's. With a few fun size Milky Way bars for dessert. Yum!

Friday, October 21, 2011

In support of his Grandma and others

This weekend is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Des Moines. I am not walking this year, but I plan to wear my pink once this kid is done with it. And if you're due for a mammogram, make your appointment today.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Scoring big in other ways

We spent Saturday in Pella enjoying the company of the boys and families that make up the Kingdom Hoops eighth-grade boys elite team. The young men and a few siblings spent part of the afternoon collecting nonperishable food items for the local food pantry, which is experiencing a shortage of donations and an increase in need. A similar situation to what many other food pantries are experiencing.

It was a well-timed act of community service. Riley and I watched a show on Friday night about food insecurity - not knowing when your next meal will be or what it will be. Did you know that many children leave school on Friday and don't eat again until they return on Monday? It's horrifying. But hopefully families in Pella will have what they need this week thanks to the work of this team.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meet Me on Monday

Courtesy of Never Growing Old . . .

1. The thing that scares me the most is __________?
Carly asked me out of the blue the other day whether clowns scare me. Actually no, but what I'm really afraid of might surprise you. Mine is being homeless, which I know seems a little surreal considering I have a college degree and a reasonable amount of intelligence.

2. Do you like nuts in your Chocolate Chip cookies?
Uh no, that's disgusting.

3. If you couldn't change the channel, what tv show would drive you from the room?
Football hands-down. It's not the game I mind, just the screaming and yelling the goes with it.
4. Pulp or no pulp in your Orange Juice?
No pulp. My favorite is Minute Maid Regular frozen. It is delish and I can immediately tell the difference between it and anything else. LOVE it!! Why spend your life drinking cheap-y OJ?

5. Who do you miss the most?
My Grandma and Grandpa Callen, who were the best!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why hasn't ESPN called?

The cross country season winds down this week. Today's meet was the county invitational at a hilly course in Altoona. For those of you reading outside central Iowa, you are missing out on some of the best weather I can remember. Sunny and warm. I hope it is this nice wherever you are.

The Ankeny Hawks took third in this one, as did Riley. His "official" time was 11:31, but I may lodge a one-mom protest. I could have sworn the clock read 11:10. Of course I may have had a drink or two by that point in the afternoon, but that is a whole other story.

Can you spot Riley is this video masterpiece? I was trying to capture what it is like when that huge group of boys takes off. Yes, I plan to keep my day job.

The coaches threw an end-of season pizza party for the kids after the meet. Each kid kept a journal tracking his/her goals and weekly progress. One of the questions from the first week was "Why do you want to run cross country?" Riley's reponse - to win. It made me laugh because, after all, what other reason could there possibly be?

I really love this sport. The only downside is that I didn't lose any weight running from point to point on the courses. What's up with that? The season winds down on Saturday at the state meet in Saydel. Stay tuned.

And for those of you wondering what I'll do when cross country ends, basketball starts on Sunday -- which means my housekeeping hiatus is about to begin!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Six packs and school don't mix

Most families go to school conferences and get feedback about how their little angels are doing in class. You know . . . from how well they've mastered a subject to which ones they need to work on to how they're getting along with others.

We go to school conferences and this is what we hear:

"Tell your little angel to stop showing everyone his abs."

So proud.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hump Day Hoop--lah

Ankeny was the host site for yesterday's cross country meet. Great day to be outside. Sunny, mid 80s, no humidity but plenty of ragweeed.

Ankeny South came in second, as did Riley with a time of 11:26, :15 seconds off the winner from Dowling.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

From heartbroken to heart full of joy

I don't think I could be any happier.

These are being shipped to me as we speak.

Somebody should warn the postman. I'll be back in a hugging mood.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scenes from the hood

Aren't the trees beautiful this year? The top picture is one of the views on my daily walk with C. The bottom one is in my yard. Love it.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm pretty sure I gave a couple of guys in a work truck an extra thrill this morning. I had just gotten out of the shower and dropped my towel when I realized the blind was open and they were sitting at the stop sign.

You know that moment where your eyes meet? Yeah, this was one of those.

They were either lost or shocked or thrilled because they drove back around the block three times. I'm going with thrilled.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hump Day Hoop-lah

The guy who sold me makeup today had on more mascara than me. And he looked better, too. I should have asked him what he uses.

The highlight video ESPN missed

Ankeny South or Hawks or whatever we call them these days came in second at yesterday's Waukee Invitational. It was a really great meet. 306 boys from 13 area middle schools.

I really enjoy watching the kids run. It impresses me every time how fast they are and how much they improve from week to week.

As for our Hoop-lah, he ran his fastest race yet at 11:18. Some of you might notice last week's time was 11:15, but that course was shorter by two-tenths of a mile. He came in second yesterday, :09 behind a kid from Ames who is unbelievably fast. He needs to watch out though; Riley is already planning his strategy for next week. That kid totally cracks me up. Stay tuned to see how he does.

And here's a little video. Don't expect much; we're amateurs.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's no wonder why I love restaurants

My favorite (NOT!) part of being a mom is when I make the dinner and everyone disappears just when it's time to eat. Except the dog. Of course this is after the hour-long discussion about what to eat. Everyone is hungry but no one has any ideas. And then they're gone.

Next time I'm directing them to the box of frozen waffles.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Another day at the races

Ankeny is on a roll. The team came in first today at Indianola.

Remember what I told you about Riley gunning for first himself? Misson accomplished. 11:15.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get your motor running . . .

Ankeny took first place today in the cross country meet in Newton! Awesome job from those runners. The 2-mile course had three hills -- with a repeat over two. (So five hills in all!) I'm exhausted thinking about it.

Individually, Riley came in second at 12:13. Nice of the Dowling runners to sit this one out!

Sorry, no pictures tonight.

Friday, September 16, 2011

And they're off!

Check out this cool picture from my friend Tricia at Three Men and a Lady. Love it! Her son is on Riley's right. This is the start of yesterday's race in Ames. Riley improved his time by :18 and came in fifth again. Really like this sport - other than the long drives!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Headed to the finish line

Another picture from Tuesday's race. Finished the race in 12:10.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Judging a book by its cover

Read this newspaper article from the Des Moines Register about an ISU grad who was taken off a plane in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 11. Then read her blog post.

What do you think? Better safe than sorry? Or a sad reflection on society?

Hoop-lah Hump Day

This hoop-lah isn't getting much sleep, so I'm updating you with pictures because I am sure you don't want to hear me cry.

Riley won fifth place yesterday in the Valley Invitation, a cross country meet with 220 boys his age competing. How cool is that for a kid who is a newbie to the sport? He told me that his coach expected him to come in around 20. That man is either a master in reverse  psychology or he doesn't know Riley at all. I guarantee that kid will be gunning for the number one spot in tomorrow's race in Ames.

By now most everyone knows that Iowa State won this year's bout with the Hawkeyes. Do these season ticket holders look like happy campers? Riley has been telling everyone that Big Dog shed a few tears when the final whistle sounded.

Do you recognize these boys from the picture above? This one is from 2007.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Prepping for the national championship

And marking my national debut using video editing software.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quickly becoming the crazy neighbor lady

I've been driving by these beauties for weeks. Today I stopped and bought them. If they disappear I'm coming after you!

I now have more flamingos than children. You can see the original one here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hoping this doesn't end in a disease being named after me

Day 5 of being sick. I'm starting to lose my sparkling sense of humor.

Don't tell my mom. I told her I'd go to the doctor on Friday. I was too busy being miserable. And avoiding the whole blood pressure thing.

Sigh . . .

Friday, August 26, 2011


One of my New Year's Resolutions was to buy new shoes every month. That hasn't worked out. Mostly because there is long list of other things that need to be paid for first.

I've had my eye on these for a few months. I waited to get them until there was some extra money. I tried to order them today, but now Nike is sold out in my size.

I am so sad.

Man's best friend

Have you seen this picture yet? For those of you who don't know the story, a U.S. Navy SEAL from Iowa, Jon Tumilson, was killed recently when his helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan.

This picture from his funeral last week shows his best friend, a Labrador retriever named Hawkeye, watching over him to the very end.

Go ahead and cry. I need some Kleenex myself.

Seeing this picture all over the local and national news has made me think about the faithful family member we have here at the Hoop-lah house. We adopted her three years ago as a puppy, chosen for no other reason than we knew that she was the one. She belonged with us. You non-animal lovers might scoff, but everyone else will know exactly what I mean when I say the connection was immediate.

She loves us all equally and in our own ways. With Riley and Big Dog, she is rambunctious and crazy, egging them on to chase her or play. She jumps, she licks, she fights, she teases, she cajoles. With Carly she is more reserved, reflecting Carly's preference to not be licked or jumped on. She sits with her beside the couch every day after school watching TV. With me, she is my constant companion during the day, at my side or under my desk while I work. Where I go she goes.

And then, like clockwork, she gets up and goes to the window every afternoon, watching and waiting. Because she knows that her day is about to begin. We should all have someone who is as devoted to us as C.C. and Hawkeye.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of School

A little melancholy, but no tears.

And boy is it quiet.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Of course you realize this means war! - Bugs Bunny

You know you have a bug problem when the arrival of the pest control guy makes you almost as happy as seeing the mailman.

Take that ants! You crawled up my leg one too many times.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?

In your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, say who are the people in your neighborhood, they're the people that you meet each day.

So Riley was walking the dog today when he saw the police bring someone out of a nearby home in handcuffs. Nice!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hoop-lah all wet 2011, vol. 2

You might think I haven't spent much time at the pool this summer. Believe me, I have spent lots of time there. I've looked for good stories to share, but it's been sort of slow. Even with raging teenage hormones. Yawn . . . show me something else. I'm bored.

That changed today when I saw the one-legged lifeguard.

Try wrapping your mind around that. A thousand questions and thoughts flooded my head when I saw him as I floated the lazy river.

WOW!  How can he stand there? Does he have a crutch? Maybe I can't see it. What AMAZING balance. Can he propel himself in the water with only one leg? WOW, that kid is an inspiration . . .

And then I floated around the bend and saw that he, in fact, had two legs. Total party foul.

I'm blaming it on the Coppertone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A true confession from the Hoop-lah house

Summer is a contradiction that, depending on your age, either means freedom or cruel and unusual punishment.

For kids, they’re suddenly free to do the things on their to-do list:
  1. Turn into screaming lunatics.
  2. Argue nonstop.
  3. Make a lot of noise and a big mess.
  4. Whine constantly that there’s nothing to do or nothing to eat.
For parents at home, it creates a kink in the system. When you’re alone nine months of the year, you get used to solitude. It’s lonely, but darn it, you adjust. You talk to yourself or the animals and, strangely enough, no one talks back. You get to pick the TV show you watch during lunch. No one cares when you shower or if you run errands or work in your pajamas. Repeat after me: it’s LOUNGEWEAR people!

Then one day it changes. What seems like a lot of fun slowly evolves into a “how I did get here” situation, for which your life coach advises to just hang on until August. And now it's almost here. So it was with a spring in my step that I mailed registration forms this week. I think I overwhelmed the postman with my enthusiasm; trying to hug him was probably over the top. I paid the $100 enrollment fee, bought $50 worth of school supplies (and counting), and put some money into the online lunch account. I even have my first day of school outfit and agenda planned. I am ready to go.

So when you see those parents with crocodile tears, remember we love our babies, but the first day of school is secretly our favorite holiday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feed the homeless dog, the universe pays you back in pie

There's nothing I like more than pie. And free pie? Try to keep me away. That's how I found myself at Village Inn late last night. Wednesday is free pie day. Every single week. Don't ask how I know that. The place is always packed. Apparently I'm not the only one looking to save a buck.

The late-night food crowd is an interesting bunch. There's everyone from large groups hungry after a night out to men by themselves, perhaps traveling salesmen or unlucky online daters. A few young families with zombies disguised as children. And employees who probably got the night shift because they make inappropriate comments with kids around. Trust me on that one.

The food is piled HIGH. And everyone is eating like it's their last meal, except for the zombies, who are asleep nose-deep in ketchup. It's like a summer version of Thanksgiving dinner - eat as much as you can, then go sleep somewhere while those fat cells multiply.

 Ah-hem . . . so this is the part where I have to admit I ate two pieces of pie. But it was FREE pie. One cherry ala mode and one strawberry supreme. I only did it to be gracious after the waitress made a mistake. What can I say? It was the right thing to do. And then I went home and went to bed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hump Day Hoop-lah

Ten things I learned in Minneapolis

1. These boys rock. They took second place in the Great States Tournament, which started with more than 600 teams from Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

2. Sleep Number Beds also rock.

3. It is impossible to sleep in a hotel room with someone who snores. That does not rock. Next time he gets the bathtub.

4. I have a soft spot for homeless dogs and their people.

5. There is still no pizza better than Ankeny's own Leaning Tower.

6. Never, ever eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Most expensive meal of the weekend.

7. Riding the train is a great opportunity to study human behavior.

8. Staying on the hotel's 13th floor is a little creepy.

9. It's impossible to say no to American Girl.

10. If you forget the movies for the DVD player, spend your last $15 to buy one for the ride home.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hump Day Hoop-lah

This is Mike on drugs, lunging at the fool trying to take his picture.

Papparazzi be warned.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

It's a Mike Monday (minus Mike)

Mike called in sick today. Poor kitty, whatever he has, he has it bad. He's been coughing so hard. One of the Hoop-lahs insisted I take him to the vet first thing Sunday morning (think 8 a.m.). Good thing I was up. Let's just say he did not appreciate the effort to diagnose his problem.

$230 later, I think Mike has a cold.

Friday, July 8, 2011

More than a pretty face

Books fascinate me. Especially when the ones I have low expectations for end up being impossible to put down. This book fell into that category.

Rob Lowe is a storyteller, equal parts funny, smart and self deprecating. Who would have guessed? Not me. I'll freely admit I had a preconceived notion, based on the pretty-boy poster on my dorm wall, his high-profile romances, his sex tape, his gig dancing with Snow White.

But here's the thing. He seems genuinely embarrassed and regretful about the bad decisions he made. A refreshing change of pace from the "stars" of today. Perhaps it's his Midwestern roots. Or maybe he's just a guy with the ability to keep moving forward. Either way, he recognizes that nothing is more important than his family and, in fact, is grateful for them. It's nice to see that he's come out on top.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Looking good after a day in the beauty shop

It's not often that CC makes an appearance in The Daily Hoop-lah. She hates the papparazzi. But here she is sporting her new $71 haircut (yikes!). And she smells like a million bucks. The Kardashian sisters have nothing on this babe.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


To paraphrase Jay Leno, "What the hell were they thinking?"

Casey Anthony should buy a lottery ticket before her luck runs out.

Anyone else surprised by the verdict? It left me speechless, which is pretty hard to do. I always have something to say. Now I'm curious what the jurors in the case have to say. But I will have to wait for the book since they're not talking.

I understand the concept of reasonable doubt, just not how it was applied here. Is it reasonable that someone would leave their child with a nanny but not know where they are? Is it reasonable that someone whose child was missing would be out partying? You could go on and on and on.

I can't think of a single person I know who would act in a similar way. Not one single person. What happened doesn't seem at all reasonable. But maybe that's just me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Random Saturday stuff

We spent most of the day yesterday watching baseball. Won one, lost one. And it was hot out there. Pretty sure deodorant is waste of effort on days like that. Phew! But the bonus was seeing fireworks from the Cubs game and the Yankee Doodles Pop concert as I drove north on 14th Street last night about 10. Great viewing point. The traffic was terrible though. You could tell there was a lot going on in the metro.

Back to fields this morning and maybe this afternoon or tomorrow. Schedule depends on how they do in their 9 am game. Did I mention that we have the most technologically advanced baseball team around? Thanks to one smart Dad, who has an app on his I Phone that allows those of us at home to know what's happening in the game moment by moment at our computers at home. Trust me. It's cool.

Speaking of cool, I think a family trip to the pool is what we need today.

I took the first step in my good deed yesterday. Did you find a way to help someone else?

Friday, July 1, 2011

An ah-ha moment

It's interesting to me how on the surface things can seem so terrific, but behind the scenes the reality can be rough. Very rough. Oftentimes you underestimate just how rough it is.

You see glimpses. And you wonder. And you look away because it's easier.

Today I am not looking away. I am going to try and help. And I encourage you to do the same.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

He had me at ghost hunting

Today I saw a white cargo van with "The Mystery Machine" painted on the side in those familiar shades of blue, orange and green. I nearly caused a pileup looking for Scooby. You know how I get around the famous.

The guy driving was middle aged and didn't look anything like Shaggy or Fred. But he could have been. After all, most of us don't look as good as we did in the 1970s. Or even the 1980s.

The rear doors provided a phone number and a two-line description: ghost hunting and identification of paranormal activity.

I had to restrain myself from staying behind him when I needed to turn right. Truth be told, if I had had the time I would have followed him all day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meet Me on Monday

Once again, thanks to Never Growing Old for this week's question. Don't you feel like you're learning everything about me?

1. What is your favorite food?
Pretty much everything. That's the problem. But if you force me to choose I would have to say cherry pie and spaghetti. Usually not at the same time unless I'm having a really great day!

2. What color scheme is your bedroom?
Mostly navy, with some shades of maroon and green thrown in. Whites walls, gray carpet. No bedspread/comforter anymore because of hot flashes. How many years does this stuff go on?

3. Do you carry a donor card?
You betcha.

4. In your opinion, is the glass half empty or half full?
I hate to admit it, but half empty. I really would like to change that. It's just not as easy as you think.

5. Vanilla or Chocolate?
Vanilla. But I won't turn the chocolate down.

Famous or notorious?

Carly and I overheard the following conversation among three moviegoers at the theater today. No kidding. I am still laughing my a$$ off.

"Look who's standing over there."


"That's Riley *****. Everyone knows who he is."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making memories no one will ever forget

Our eighth annual visit to Adventureland. You can see our first year (and last year) here.

It's official - I will soon be the shortest one in the family. And I think Riley is now the tallest.

A good time was had by all.

At least until someone hurled. Then the fun came to a screeching halt.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

There went my day

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Did anyone think about toast crumbs in the keyboard?

Back in the day I dreamed about being a newspaper reporter. But a painful stint covering the Dick Gephardt presidential campaign for the Iowa State Daily led me to reconsider. Hindsight being 20-20, it worked out for the best.

It's a frightening time for those of us who use words and images to tell stories. The Des Moines Register fired 13 staffers this week, including a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and a photographer whose images from across Iowa and the world are stories in themselves. Gone. Just like that.

The newspaper industry is in a free fall. When the Hoop-lahs are my age, newspapers likely will be a relic of the past, like butter churns and rotary phones. Damn the digital age.

The problem is that anyone, anywhere can post anything on the Internet. A lot of what is out there is purposefully deceptive, promoting an agenda while trying to appear unbiased and research based.* While I realize that many newspapers publish online, it isn't the same. The relationship and trust level is different. And it may get harder to find objectivity. That isn't a good thing.

*The one online exception, of course, is The Daily Hoop-lah, where all commentary is reality based and totally straightforward. Usually.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meet Me On Monday

You know the drill by now. Thanks Never Growing Old.

1. What feature of the opposite sex do you notice first?
Always height. Then feet, which I know is really weird. And you can't look at someone's feet in the winter but you can look at their choice of footwear. I always suspect that people who don't keep their feet looking nice are lax in other areas of life. It's a generalization, I know, but a surprisingly accurate one based on my limited sample.
2. Do you talk to yourself?
You bet. All the time! I'm the best listener I know.
3. What is your current relationship status?
Married for 22 years to Big Dog.

4. Do you have a garden?
I have a regular tomato plant in a pot on the desk and an heirloom tomato plant in the ground. I would love to have a garden. Both my grandparents and parents had big gardens. They grew everything and it all tastes so much better when it's fresh. Maybe I'll put that on Big Dog's list of things to do.

5. What is your favorite licorice flavor?
Cherry, of course! Love it, but I have to be careful to not eat too much. It can give me one heck of a stomachache.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's a Mike Monday . . . On Saturday

Here's the Lion King protecting Pride Rock from an aerial attack.

I couldn't wait until Monday to post it. He is too adorable!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go ahead AARP, send me my welcome letter

Today I saw a purse that I own (and bought new) described online as vintage. Isn't that just a synonym for old? Classic maybe. For people of exquisite taste definitely. But vintage? Might as well start calling me grandma. Oh wait, someone already did.

I'm normally not this touchy. But I am definitely in a funk today. Perhaps too much birthday partying, or too much rain, or too much something.

Dessert. Now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's a Mike Monday

Back by popular demand . . .

Mike is a Lion King wannabe, ruling from this spot on the deck. I wouldn't suggest you tell him it's time to come in. He might eat you.