We're back, and this time we have beasts and aren't afraid to use them! We'll jump into our year, so you can feel much better about how normal your life has been. Our year started auspiciously with Terri's mother Carol visiting. Bill managed to drive the 60 miles from the airport after leaving one of her suitcases sitting in the airport parking structure. Amazing to note, the security people still had it (unexploded) the next day. Bill's mom Gloria visited in a much more sedate way, joining us at the Kentuck arts festival and running into one of her daughters who hadn't quite realized she was coming to this Alabama event.
We're back in the cat business, sharing the house now with Satchel (black with white "tuxedo" pattern). He's fit right in and doesn't share the bed very well with anyone. Particularly not another new arrival that Christopher agitated for, a puppy. ("Dog. These cat people wouldn't have the vaguest idea what do do with a dog". No kidding.) Buck, a black Lab-Chow mix, has now passed 50 pounds. It took us some time to realize that Buck the Wonder Dog came along with his evil twin Buck the Marauding Alien Devil Dog from the Obscured Galaxy. He ate Nathan's glasses (well, we did manage to save the frames, but the impact-resistant non-scratch coated lenses were goners), has proven willing to fight for cheese dip, and went through an inverse-watchdog phase when he would bark at night at all times except when a human being was in the same room. We'll get back to you on this. One of his best tricks happened when he and Christopher were home alone; Buck left droppings, not unusual except that these were strategically plopped in the air-conditioning vent. Christopher had used up a couple of cans of air freshener before we got home. We have a new appreciation of what a great pet Rex the iguana has been for several years now.
Just before we enriched our lives with the young pup, Terri had taken some time off to visit Carol in Tucson. Cosmic justice prevailed, with things breaking down for once while Bill was home to deal with them Mower, toilet, air conditioning... She was deaf to his offer to leave some of them for her to share in the experience, muttering something about payback or justice or serving him right.
Bill did the Washington bit a couple of times this year. He would have felt important sitting on a high-level NASA advisory committee, except for it being a week after his sister interviewed Laura Bush. He still felt like a complete imposter at that posh hotel in downtown D.C. The encore visit was with Nathan for a week of one-to-one bonding. The Enola Gay, Spy Museum, Smithsonian including traditional photo of male Keels at the Dimetrodon skeleton, Hubble hardware at Goddard Space Flight Center, NRA gun museum, new memorials on the mall... plus a view of the Einstein statue that suggested a new book. Watch for it coming up in the centennial year of relativity, The Sky at Einstein's Feet. And just possibly actually appearing in a bookstore near you. This trip was documented with the shiny new digital camera; a CD with all 383 pictures is available on request after appropriate psychiatric examination.
To get some sleep with the Alarm Dog going off at all hours, Bill went into the hospital for an appendectomy over Memorial Day. "We'll give you antibiotics for an infection, but I think you should go for a CT scan just in case it's something wild like your appendix". It's amazing what surgeons have learned to do through long tubes and tiny incisions.
Nathan has started wearing braces and attending middle school, not necessarily in that order. He won a prize in this year's science fair by building on an idea from a previous year (we call this "research"). He's on a puppeteer team that will shortly be performing in the elementary schools, much more fun than making the cell models for science class. He's started the Upward basketball season again, and does swimming and weight training on his "off" evenings (and some of the "on" ones as well).
Summer found us as scattered as usual. Terri and Nathan went off to Arizona, including a week in Greer with Grandma. And over our anniversary, too. Bill headed to Arizona twice, none at the same time as Terri and Nathan, while Christopher did a trip to Indianapolis for the world championship round of the Lord of the Rings card game. One thing we learned from all this was to get two cell phones. Bill and Christopher did a return engagement at the DragonCon science fiction convention in Atlanta, with Bill actually giving a couple of talks as well as meeting some cast members from Lost in Space. The fans are a better audience at 11:30 on a Friday night than most of his classes are at that time in the morning. You'd have thought Christopher would have been more impressed when Bill used his knowledge of the history of the First Age of Middle-Earth to win a pack of Lord of the Rings game cards, but those were for the wrong Lord of the Rings game.
We hunkered down for the passage of a hurricane this fall, seeing first-hand how powerful a cosmic force boredom is when power goes out for a few days. We did flip on Nathan's battery-powered TV (that he won for selling lots of Cub Scout popcorn) in time to see our house in the background of the dangerous fallen tree and loose broken power lines. Met all sorts of neighbors the next morning, finding out who has chain saws. But as for the important things - the university administration met immediately with the power company to verify that they could get enough power in place for the next evening's football game. Gotta get those priorities straight!
Christopher turns 16 in one month, and has been practicing on the road under his learner's permit. If the goal of exercise is to increase the heart rate, some of us might as well having been doing 10K races. It didn't help when our smart-aleck insurance agent expressed the option that we may or may not be getting Christopher a truck, but we sure will be helping our agent with the payments on his. His first driving lesson used the church parking lot - acres of pavement, no cars, nothing to run into. We had the usual time with remembering which pedal is which and learning (slowly) that you can depress the pedals gradually for a much smoother effect. It wasn't so much angling into the curb at 20 mph that required a new tire, as crossing the drainage cutout and hitting the second curb head-on. We then studied the art of manual tire change. As Bill's mom gleefully pointed out, this is cosmic payback for someone who, during his first driving test, managed to scrape a parked police cruiser. Yeah, let's get that out of the way now.
This December finds Terri working at Arcadia Elementary and actually getting paid, after going through all the paperwork and criminal-background checks. Bill is writing furiously and getting set up for installation of a new campus telescope, and the boys are more than ready for time off from school. Meanwhile, whether in paper, sound waves, or electrons, we're wishing you wonderful 2005!
Terri, Bill, Christopher, and Nathan