Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Alphabe-Thursday - The Letter X

It's time again for Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by our teacher Mrs. Jenny Matlock over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." Head over to Mrs. Matlock's blog for a list of this week's students.

We've been brain dead this week. We put our heads together for this one and studied all week. The kids even studied during lunch with their XYZ books.

We'd hate to flunk, so we had to come up with something.

How about a handy list of Scrabble words with the letter X? Personally, I hate getting the letter X even if it is worth more points. I feel like I have to somehow get rid of the letter X as quickly as possible so I don't get stuck with it at the end of the game. Having the letter X is stressful. So here are some words containing the letter X that you can start memorizing before the next Scrabble game.


(Note: Spell Check had a problem with some of the above words, but I found them all on Hasbros website.)

We also found some interesting X words in the Dictionary. It's fun broadening our vocabularies.

Here's a little test. See if you know the definitions for the following words:




The answers will appear at the bottom of this post.

(Note: Spell Check had a problem with a couple of these words too, but I found them in the New World Dictionary Of The American Language, Second College Edition.)

Then there's the x-ray. In doing some research I learned that it was discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen in 1895. You can read the complete history here. What really surprised me was how long X-rays have been around. They certainly play an important diagnostic role in medicine.

I've shown one of my son's X-rays before, but since we're studying the letter X and X-rays this week I'll show it again along with another one. These X-rays were the first ones taken on October 13, 2009. He was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but thanks to Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen within minutes we knew he had more than just bronchitis and a back ache.

And this is a normal chest X-ray that I found online.

Don't forget they're using X-ray technology for the "virtual strip searches" at certain airports. They now can see more than we would probably like them to see. There's a picture and article here. It's a controversial subject.

I found the cutest bag to take on the plane. The X-ray Tote has X-ray images of what you might be carrying in your bag. Click here to take a look.

Now for the answers:

1. XANTHOPHYLL-n. a yellow crystalline pigment found in plants

2. XYLOTOMY-n. the preparations of sections of wood for microscopic inspection

3. XENOPHOBIA-n. fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners

How did you do? I knew you'd pass my little test. Mrs. Matlock will be so proud. Congratulations!

Will I be on Ellen's TV show?

What do you think? Will I be on Ellen's TV show someday?

She likes bad school photos. Is this one bad enough?

I can assure you that a lot of time and effort went into primping for this third grade picture.

Yes, I sent it to Ellen for consideration.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ignore My Previous Post

Ignore my previous post. I figured out how to add labels without republishing the posts. Of course, it's going to take me forever to do it, but eventually I'll get it done.

Blog Question

Most of the time I forget to add labels for my posts. I'd like to go back and correct this oversight. If I do will each post appear on a reader's dashboard as if it were a brand new post?

Help! Anyone know the answer???

Sunday, June 27, 2010


We came home one day and found a pile of paper towels on the kitchen counter. I suspected Zoom was the culprit since she sometimes unrolls the toilet paper, but I wasn't 100% sure since I hadn't caught her in the act. Then a few days later I walked into the kitchen and caught her. I quickly ran for my camera.

Another day I heard Roscoe growling at something in the kitchen. I was busy at the sink and couldn't figure out what had him so upset. He was under the kitchen table so I went over and looked underneath to see if I could see something. As I got up I noticed this bump under the tablecloth. Yes, it was Zoom again.

She hasn't done either thing again, so hopefully she's finished with that mischief.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It's time again for Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by our teacher Mrs. Matlock over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." Today we are studying the letter "W" and it just so happens I grew up in a little town in New Jersey called WESTWOOD. I've been gone from WESTWOOD for many years, but thought I'd take us all on a trip to my old hometown.

WESTWOOD is located in northeastern New Jersey and is a suburb of New York City. The population is around 11,000 people and it hasn't grown much in recent years because they have run out of room to grow. New Jersey is the most densely populated state.

My mother was born in WESTWOOD in 1920 in an apartment above Volz Hardware Store. The store was her grandfather's place and he and his wife lived above the store. He originally came over from Germany, settled in New York City, and then moved to WESTWOOD.

This is a picture of my mom Carolyn "Betty" Morris being held by her father John P. Morris in front of Volz Hardware Store around 1921.

Her dad had a gas station on Center Avenue and the gas station property backed up to Volz Hardware. Grandpa built the station himself out of cinder blocks. That's grandpa pumping gas.

My mom first lived with her parents on Bergen Street in WESTWOOD. She once told me that her father bought this house before he married her mother in 1919.

Then they moved to Lexington Avenue in WESTWOOD. This is my mom in the backyard. (Edited: I made an error. This picture is of the backyard on Lexington Avenue, but it's actually my mother's cousin Bobby Volz standing by the flowers. I was in a hurry and couldn't find a picture of the front of the house. I know I have one somewhere, but couldn't find it in time. So, I quickly inserted this one in the post and realized later it was Bobby and not mom.)

My dad was born in Jersey City in 1918 and moved to WESTWOOD with his family when he was three years old.

This is the house dad grew up in on Seventh Avenue in WESTWOOD.

Standing in front of the house is my dad with his father and siblings. From left to right is his brother Robert, his father William P, his sister Mildred, and dad William J. Durgin.

After my parents got married in 1943 her parents converted the upstairs of the house on Lexington Avenue into an apartment for them. It was during the war and dad was in the Merchant Marine and gone a lot. My sister and I were both born while they lived here. Here we are with mom on the front porch in 1947.

Then mom and dad built their own house on Mill Street in WESTWOOD. We moved there when I was three. This is a picture of my mom on the front porch. I'm assuming this was taken shortly after we moved in.

This is a picture of the house that I believe was taken in the 1960's.

When I was growing up Mill Street was a beautiful street with many old trees. This is a picture of Mill Street taken during the 1950's. I believe it was taken during a political campaign (my dad was involved in local politics). I think that's our 1956DeSoto and they were trying to show how difficult it was for cars to pass if someone was parked on the curve. The telephone pole in front of the car had the fire alarm. Does anyone else remember those?

This is a picture of my parents in the yard on Mill Street in 1999. They're standing in front of a shrub (that grew into a tree) that we used to decorate for Christmas with lights in the 1950's. We used a step ladder. Needless to say, it grew considerably over the years.

This is a picture of Mill Street that my mother took after a snow storm in 1999.

Over the years the street didn't change that much. WESTWOOD is still a town with many pretty old homes.

It was a nice place to grow up in during the 1950's. My friends and I used to play in the woods at the end of the street during the summer and go home for lunch when the 12:00 o'clock whistle blew. We'd spend hours building forts so we could fight the boys. I really don't remember any fights happening, but we sure had fun planning.

We would walk to our friends' homes and play with our Ginny dolls for hours on end.

When we got older we would walk downtown and shop at Woolworth's and have a chocolate Coke at Conrad's. If you've never had a chocolate Coke you're missing something. Conrad's is still there, so it's not too late.

WESTWOOD is still a pretty old town, but there are a lot more people now, the woods are gone, and times have changed. My mom died in 2001 and dad moved here four years ago. We no longer have any family in WESTWOOD. My husband and I do own property in WESTWOOD though. We own plots in the local cemetery and someday will return. :)

I did find this You Tube video about WESTWOOD if you'd like to take a look. It's very short, but does show a little of the old downtown area and other landmarks.

Thank you for visiting and now head on over to Mrs. Matlock's blog so you can visit some of the other students.

Father's Day Visit

For Father's Day we decided to surprise Dad with a Lobster dinner. He always enjoyed lobster and used to talk about how he ate lobster three or four times a week at the Old Hook Inn in Westwood, NJ. Sadly, Alzheimer's seems to have robbed him of the ability to talk much anymore.

I checked all the local grocery stores in advance only to discover that they were all using the "our lobster tank is broken" excuse. So, I had to send Jim and Keith to the Hong Kong Market Sunday morning to get a lobster. While they were gone I got the crab pot going and made a baked potato and salad.

When Jim got home we plucked the lobster in the pot.

But first we had to satisfy Zoom's curiosity.

Then we packed everything up. The hot stuff in one cooler and the cold stuff in another...including a Heineken for Dad.

I reserved the activity room at the nursing home for the occasion. Jim prepared the lobster.

And he was the waiter too.

There was little reaction from Dad and he only spoke a couple of times. The grandkids all kept him company. That's Reid, Troy, Keith and Grandpa.

I sat and tried to get my Dad to talk.

Jim took the lobster meat out of the shell and cut it up for Dad.

Dad only drank about half the beer. He didn't seem to know to tilt the bottle up to get more beer out. We kept telling him to hold it up higher, but he just didn't seem to understand.

Then he opened his Father's Day presents in slow motion. Dad has been doing everything in slow motion for a couple of years now which seems so strange to me since he was always a little hyper in his younger days. I never thought I'd see Dad slow down. It must have taken him ten minutes to open each card. We kind of stepped in and helped him with the presents.

It was really hard to tell if he enjoyed himself and if he'll even remember this day. Even if Dad doesn't remember I will. I like to think he had a good day.

On the way home we stopped and ate dinner and had a little celebration for Jim too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Please do your part...

After the feral cat we had cared for for nine years disappeared I continued to put out food in hopes she'd return. She never did, but a very pregnant calico feral started appearing each day at meal time.

After a month she disappeared for a couple of days and reappeared much thinner. I knew she had given birth, but didn't know where. I tried following her down the street and saw her head up a driveway a few doors down. I asked if they had kittens in their yard, but they didn't. I had no idea where the kittens were, but she continued to appear at mealtime, quickly eat, and then head down the street. After five weeks I noticed that she started hanging around our yard all day. I feared that something had happened to the kittens. Imagine my surprise when I opened the back door one morning and found her standing there with a little black and white kitten. The next day I discovered two more kittens and the day after that a fourth kitten. We now had the mother and four kittens waiting to be fed each morning.

I decided to move my car out of the garage and the mother and kittens started hanging out in the garage, under the deck, and backyard. Then a few weekends ago my husband spent some time working in the backyard. We noticed that the mother kept pacing and was a little nervous. That night she disappeared with three of the kittens. The next morning she arrived to eat and a little gray and white kitten came out of hiding and ate with her. Then the mother left again, but the gray and white kitten was still here. Finally, I decided the mother wasn't going to bring the other kittens back and I'd better try and catch the one left behind. So, I set a humane trap in the garage and caught him and brought him inside.

We set the little kitten up in the extra bedroom and he proceeded to hide under the bed and not come out. We tried to lure him out, but he was terrified. Meanwhile, after a couple of days the mother returned with the other kittens. Since we weren't having any luck taming the one inside we considered returning him to the mother, but then he turned the corner and started slowly getting used to us. He's been inside for three weeks and is now quite friendly. Still a little cautious, but glad to see us when we go in there to play with him.

Here he is stalking the cord on my camera.

Got it!

Listening to the dog on the other side of the door.

Meanwhile, I've found a place that will "fix" feral cats for a reasonable fee. Soon I will attempt to trap the mother cat and the kittens that are outside and have them fixed. We will let them live in our garage and yard. The mother is still nursing the kittens even though they're now 11 weeks old. They seem to eat plenty of food, but still nurse and the place won't fix the mother until she's finished nursing. I am concerned that the mother will take the kittens and disappear once I get the first one trapped. I'm hoping I can trap the mother first, but there's no guarantee who will get caught first. And the mother always positions herself between me and the kittens and if a kitten is caught first I might be torn to pieces. She is a very protective mother. I still wonder why she left the gray and white kitten behind.

I'd like to find a good home for the gray and white kitten we've managed to tame. He will also be fixed. I still have to have him tested for feline leukemia and I'm hoping he'll test negative. Feline leukemia is present in about 10% of the cat population and more likely in ferals. There's nothing that can be done if he's positive and I still don't know what I'll do if that happens. He won't be adoptable and I'm not sure the mother will take him back at this point.

No matter what all of these felines will be fixed. I read a statistic in the newspaper recently. Every unspayed cat that goes into heat three times a year - along with her offspring - could produce 4,948 cats during the course of seven years. This time of year shelters are overflowing with kittens and cats.

PLEASE SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS. The life of a feral cat is usually not an easy life. Domestic cats were not meant to live in the wild. They ended up there because somewhere along the line someone wasn't a responsible pet owner. I believe this mother cat was not born feral. She waits at the backdoor each morning for her food.

I open the door and she's waiting, but usually greats me with a hiss. She will approach me, but I'm not allowed to approach her. I have to be careful when I set down the food because she'll come over to get it, but scratch me at the same time. So, she's kind of used to people. Normally ferals won't come close and will hide until the food is set out. This all leads me to believe she probably was socialized with humans early in her life and then abandoned and became feral. Her contact with humans was probably only for a short period of time, but long enough that she isn't totally freaked out around them. However, she has taught her kittens well. Whenever she hisses they run and hide. I might have tried to catch and tame them when I realized the gray and white one was coming around, but that was during the time I was taking Reid down for radiation every day and it just wasn't possible. So, we'll just try and give them the best life possible.

These pictures were taken a few weeks ago before the gray and white kitten was brought inside. This is the mother with two of the red kittens. One is eating on top of the container and the other one is behind the post.

This is when the gray and white kitten was still outside. You can see him on top of the container. There's also a black and white kitten.

Meanwhile, I've put the trap outside and have the door propped open so it won't close yet. I've done this so they can become used to it and when I'm ready to catch them it might make things easier. They have no idea and sometimes go inside the trap and play. It looks as if I could just run over and close the door, but they'd be long gone by the time I got there. When they're done nursing and all are old enough to be fixed I'll use food in the trap. That's the mother's tail you see at the bottom of the picture. She always manages to position herself between me and the kittens.

Please do your part and spay and neuter your pets. I just can't stress it enough. There are so many homeless animals out there. If everyone did their part we wouldn't have this problem.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Family Update - On To Plan B

Friday, June 11th was Reid's last day of radiation. Originally it was to continue into this week, but the decision was made to end the radiation on Friday. He has now received the number of treatments usually given to patients with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. They decided because of the lung toxicity they wouldn't risk the extra treatments.

The radiologist told us that she had never seen a mass as large as Reid's in a Hodgkin's Lymphoma patient. In fact, she said the head of radiology at MD Anderson had never seen a case like his in 30 years. I knew his mass was large, but I was surprised to learn that it was large to all the experts too. The doctor told us that it was amazing to her that he originally walked into the ER and wasn't carried in on a stretcher and intubated.

We were told that many doctors and physicists were consulted about his radiation treatments. He received a CAT scan before each treatment so everything could be lined up to the millimeter. At least that's how I understood the explanation. He had to hold his breath numerous times during each treatment to help protect his lungs and the treatments took around 45 minutes each time.

They were very concerned about his lungs because he's young. His left lung is smaller than the right lung because of a nerve being paralyzed by the mass. This will probably not recover. And one of the chemo drugs can have a negative effect on the lungs too.

We're very fortunate that we live so close to one of the best cancer hospitals in the country. I know that everything possible was done to protect his heart and lungs. Any after effects will be cumulative and won't show up for while, but I'm hopeful that he'll do just fine.

Friday he got to ring the bell. Whenever anyone completes their radiation they ring the bell and people in the waiting room applaud.

This is Reid with a couple of the radiation therapists.

Jim had the day off on Friday so he went along with us.

They have free valet parking for radiation treatments. Reid is waiting for the car to be pulled around and holding the mask he had to wear for all his treatments. At the end they let them keep their masks. We've been joking about mounting it above the fireplace.

One last time we head for home.

He's starting to have more trouble with his throat and esophagus. That was expected and he was given pain medication. It's just gotten worse over the last day or so and the pain medication isn't working as well. Today he's just eating ice cream. He's also very fatigued. The radiation has left him more fatigued than the chemo ever did, but hopefully that won't last too long. The doctor did tell him that for some people it can take up to a year to get their energy level back up to where it was before treatment.

Tomorrow we have to go back down to the hospital so he can have his chemo port flushed. I believe they'll wait until his next set of tests and scans in August before it's removed. Meanwhile, it has to be flushed every month.

While waiting for Reid to finish his treatment on Friday I walked through the hospital gift shop. I saw a plaque that read, "The rest of your life is all about how you handle plan B." I would have bought it for Reid except it was kind of girly looking with hearts and fluff. However, his life has certainly changed in the last eight months and now it's on to plan B and a life post cancer.

Thank you for your warm thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

ALPHABE-THURSDAY - "T" as in Troy!

Once again class is in session at our TEACHER'S blog Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." For information on on this weekly event and a list of this week's participants head over to Mrs. Matlock's blog.

This week we are studying the letter T and it just so happens that our middle son's name is TROY.

TROY was born on October 20, 1970 in the US Naval Hospital at Naples, Italy. When he was seven months old we returned to the states and stayed temporarily with my parents in NJ. This is one of my favorite pictures taken of TROY in my parents' backyard in NJ. His hair used to stick straight out as if he had stuck his finger in an electric socket.

Unfortunately, a lot of these old pictures have become faded and discolored over the years. I believe TROY was around two in this picture.

This was his first grade picture.

This one actually had a date on the back. It was taken in November 1979. I wish I had been better about marking the backs of all my old pictures.

This is TROY in the 4th grade. I wrote 1979-80 on the back.

This is his fifth grade picture taken in 1980.

Here he is in 1983.

And his junior year in high school at Cypress Creek High School in Houston.

This was Troy's Senior picture in 1988. That year Jim had been transferred to Oklahoma at the beginning of Troy's Senior year, so the kids and I stayed behind in Houston so he could graduate with his class.

This picture was taken in May 2009 when Keith turned 40. TROY is on the left with Keith, Reid and Jim.

This is TROY and Reid. TROY is on the left. It was taken this past April when we went out to celebrate after Reid completed chemo.

TROY is a very hard worker and does computer work for an engineering firm. He's our on call computer guru. Right now he's going through a difficult time in his life, but I'm confident things will get better with time. He's another cat person and has four rescued cats.

I had a doll scene set up for this week, but I've been experimenting with trying to take pictures without a flash and using camera lights instead. After many attempts I never got a decent picture and gave up. It's back to the drawing board to try and figure out what I'm doing wrong. TALK about frustration! I'm also in the middle of taking Reid for radiation TREATMENTS each day. As we like to say, "We're busy making cancer history." That's a play on words since MD Anderson's slogan is, "MD Anderson...making cancer history." We like to think we're funny. :)

Mrs. Matlock said it's TIME to be nice to all our classmates, so I'm off to visit as many as I can.