Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cookie Cat in Heat after surgery!

You would think that after living mostly in our basement for 6 months that a cat would figure out everything there is about its environment. Well, don't be so sure!

Here is some fantastic and incredible news! About one month after my cat went through surgery to be spayed, she was still able to go into heat!

Yes, I know it is incredible, but it is 100% true... from a certain point of view.

I recently cleaned up all my Star Wars boxes in the basement and piled them up in a corner of our storage room. A few days later we heard some noises that we thought were coming from a neighbors house. It sounded like someone was banging something so my wife and I was curious to know what was going on.

I walked around various locations in the house looking out windows and couldn't see anything outside. I continued hearing the noise from time to time and couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Then I ventured outside to see if I could hear it. I could hear it very faintly inside of the garage, and that didn't make as much sense to me. I went out on the back porch and I couldn't hear it anymore, so I figured the neighbors had stopped. I went back inside and asked Michelle if she had heard it while I was out there... and she said it had been loud!

OK. Something was inside the house. I had also been downstairs lately and called Cookie but I went down into the basement and heard some more noise, but she hadn't come to me. That didn't surprise me, she sometimes hides out in strange places and goes to sleep. But now that I realized the sound was from inside the house AND that I hadn't seen Cookie lately, I ran downstairs and started looking for ways that the cat might have gotten into the heat vents. I just couldn't find any possible way. It didn't make sense.

Sense or no sense, soon our cat was at one of the upstairs heating vents. We pulled the cover out and she just sat in there for a little while. We weren't sure if she was stuck or not. Michelle thought she didn't want to come out because of a screw sticking out the side that might hurt her if she came out. I felt down inside and figured she was just scared of coming out because we don't usually let her come upstairs, and sometimes when she sneaks past us through the door to the stairs, we chase her and catch her to put her back down. So I played like I wanted her to come out and she soon did. She was pretty dusty and had some sawdust on her. Looks like the vents haven't been cleaned since the house was built... well I guess one line of the vents has now!

I still couldn't figure out how Cookie got in the heat vent. There aren't any possible vents that are open, or even within reach that she could have gotten into in the basement. Our 2-year-old had been down there playing with the cat and I thought that maybe he had done something to put her in there... like by putting her through the furnace! However, he knows not to go in the furnace room, and the door is somewhat child-proof, and the cover to the furnace is not the easiest thing to open. I kind of ruled that out. I thought that maybe the cat had went down through one of the vents upstairs when it was loose.

After putting Cookie downstairs and going away for an hour, I came back and started to hear the noise again! OK. How in the world did she get in there? I ran downstairs into 'her' room (the storage/furnace room). I quickly made noises as if I was going to feed the cat. That usually gets her running. Soon I saw her head poking out up on a wall above my office which is next door. The kids and Michelle were upstairs trying to coax her to the vent again, while I was trying to yell to them that I had found her. Eventually, I got her down.

She had jumped up on the boxes I had moved there a few days before and then up into the wall. I still don't know why there is access into the heating vent from up in that wall. It sounds like a horrible waste of energy to be heating the inside of my walls. I'm guessing that the former owner of the house who finished the basement didn't quite get that part right. So yeah! More remodeling (and money) for me later.

At least there was also a bunch of odd sized wood pieces left over from the previous owner as well, and so I stuck them up in the wall to prevent access to a kitty. We haven't had any problems in the last 4 days since I did that.

So there you go - cats can still go into heat even after being spayed.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I wonder if the Force is with me...

Ultimate? Garage Shelving

This last weekend our family drove to Boise to help my brother install shelving in his garage. We made it up there with a pretty good gas mileage for our minivan of around 23 mpg. It took us around 5 hours to get there since we stopped to get lunch at Jake's over the top and again to use the bathrooms at some Chevron. The kids had a great time playing with their cousins over the weekend and we got to finally see my brother's new house.

The shelving project itself went fairly well. My brother just bought a table saw and was planning on using it to cut through the 12 and 15 inch wide shelves. Unfortunately, that width was too big for the small table without additional cutting aids that we didn't have or have time to make. Luckily, I had brought along my new Ryobi tools. I already had a 14.4 volt Ryobi drill since around 1999, and when I asked my wife for a power tool of some kind for my birthday last year, she went and bought me the 18V circular saw thinking that the same battery I had would be interchangeable. Since the circular saw doesn't come with a battery, I went to go buy one, but found that the battery was around $30. The saw had cost about $60. So that would have been $90 for just the saw and one battery. I decided instead to buy the cordless circular saw, drill and flashlight combo because it comes with two 18V batteries and was priced at $110. So for about $20 more, I would end up with an extra drill and an extra battery, plus a flashlight and a sander by rebate for free. Pretty good deal.

My brother had a cordless screwdriver, but not as heavy duty as my cordless drills and his battery died kind of quickly for how many screws we needed to put in. It was great that I had two 18V batteries, plus my other 14.4V drill. That meant we could both have a good drill for driving screws and drilling pre-sink holes when needed. Plus we ended up cutting almost all the wood with my circular saw.

The project took us half of Saturday and most of Monday. Now he has a 6' shelf around his whole garage, plus 3', 4.5', and 7.5' shelves in certain spots and a 9' shelf in the back. He bought good brackets to mount to the wall that we could space every other stud (32") and they should hold a weight of 750 pounds for each pair. I'd say he could hang his cars from the shelves and they would just about hold.

We did pull ups from them and sat the kids on top to prove to ourselves that we are studs... I mean to prove that we screwed the shelves into the wall's studs.
I'll try and get a picture of that from my brother...

Car problems in a blizzard
Our only problem was that as we drove home through somewhat treacherous snow on Tuesday morning I noticed that the gas pedal was suddenly not doing anything, and intermitently the check engine light would come on. So I pulled the car over and opened the hood (the wind was terribly cold), and noticed that the water in the car was very low. I thought that maybe the air was cold enough to make the car not overheat, but that the water being low had caused some sort of computer in the car to trigger the car to not accelerate so that I wouldn't burn up some component. It was a guess, but not a good one. After a few more minutes, I got the car started again, and it worked intermitently again, but I was only able to get up to about 40 mph on a 75 mph freeway. I drove about three miles with my flashers on at the side of the road and then the check engine light came on steady. That's when we decided to not try to go on. We were in the middle of no-where. We were about 40 miles from Burley, Idaho and about 50 or 60 miles from Tremonton, Utah. Those were the only places around that would have a car repair shop. We called information and after a few tries got a hold of a tow company to come and get us. The said they'd pick us up in about 45 minutes.

It was somewhat difficult to stay positive with the kids in the car, but having them there made it a bit easier to put things in perspective and be glad that everything was OK, and that we were all together. The tow company was supposed to take us to the Dodge dealership and I was hoping they'd be able to fix our car by 5-o-clock so we could get home that night. We already figured we would miss our kid's singing lessons that day. The first lesson was at 4-o-clock, we still had a couple of hours to drive home and it was 2-o-clock when we broke down.

The tow truck didn't come in 45 minutes. I wondered why. Although it was snowy and windy, the road hadn't been very bad and I figured it should only take about 30 minutes to get to us. (After all, we had traveled the same 40 miles at 75 or 70mph and it didn't take too long.) An hour went by and Michelle called the company again. The driver said that he was almost to us, but he had stopped because there was an accident that happened right in front of him. Apparently the weather had gotten worse since we had stopped an hour before.

The tow truck driver finally got to us and we loaded all 5 of us into the dual bench cab and we started off. The weather was pretty bad and the driver had a problem with both of his windshield wipers because they kept getting covered by ice and not working. The driver would be talking on his radio or cellphone and roll down the window and thump the windshield wiper at the same time. I tried to stay calm and my wife did the same. I think the kids definitely were happy about going through this strange experience, although we had been happy that we would be home that day.

It turned out that it was 5:00 when we got to the repair shop. The Dodge dealership would have been closed by then, and so the guy took us to his own shop (they are probably cheaper anyway). They figured correctly that it was the fuel pump or fuel filter, but they would need to call around to get the parts. We waited an hour or so while someone took our car apart and since there was no-one around to take us to a hotel yet (the driver had left to pickup another of the many accidents that were happening because of the snow) we watched Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper with our kids. Then we watched part of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I was glad to get out of the office when we finally were able to pack up some of our stuff onto another tow truck, but kind of wanted to see the rest of the movie.

We went to the Best Western and lugged all our luggage :P into the lobby and then found out we would have to repack it into the tow truck to go around to the other side of the complex for our room. At least we had a room. It was 8:00 at night, and we hadn't eaten dinner. The hotel restaurant was excellent, but more money than we would have hoped to pay for our next two or three meals.

The next morning we slept in a bit since we hadn't went to bed until past 10:00 and had breakfast about 10:00 or 11:00 and then checked out at noon. The hotel let us keep our stuff in a backroom since we had no car to put it in yet. Then we crossed the cold and windy streets and walked about a quarter mile to WalMart. Never have we spent so much time letting the kids look at all the toys and spending as much time as they wanted. We had hours to kill, and we spent about 2 and a half of them there. Michelle kicked back in the lawn chairs (which apparently are on a really good sale during the winter.) Finally we went back across the street to the hotel and waited around another 20 minutes or so for the tow truck to come pick us up.

$589 later we were on the road home. We got home just as it was getting dark (about 6:00) and I quickly shoveled the 2" of snow off the driveway that had fallen that day so that we could pull into the driveway. It has almost never felt so good to be home!

Sabrina, the Kid Jedi

Just two days later, my brother and family came down for my sister's surprise 18th birthday. My brother came over on Saturday and we ate dinner and played Scrabble. The kids also played and Ethan showed Sabrina how to play my Jedi Lightsaber game that plugs into the TV.

The funniest thing happened when Sabrina tried playing the game. She would try and hold the lightsaber with two hands with one hand on the handle and the other on the blade, and then just shake her hands like crazy. As she was doing that, and getting whooped in a training match by Anakin or Obi-Wan, she said: "I wonder if the Force is with me..." in her loud and animated way. That was probably the highlight of the evening since Scrabble is a pretty slow game. We were playing it to see if Michelle would be better at that sort of game where there is less strategy involved and more brain power. We all did well, but I ended up winning.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My Princess Daughter

I have a princess daughter. She loves wearing pink or dresses and especially pink dresses. She is a drama queen. She is also a freak for doing art projects.

I don't know when it started, but it was probably around a year or two ago that Hailee decided that her favorite color was pink followed closely by red and white. I think before that it was orange or 'lellow'.

Hailee is a blessing and a trial, as are my other children, but she is a little more of one than the other, which means I have some learning to do, and I'm sure she I'll end up blessed all the way around. She whines a lot and even when she isn't really whining, she has the undertone of a whine in at least 75% of her conversation. I certainly hope that goes away with time.

In some ways, Hailee is far beyond her years. After all, she definitely is a drama queen, not a drama princess! Actually, she has a very good ability to speak clearly, and can write and think well. The problem is that most of the time, when she wants something, she will revert to talking like a baby and just utter one word: Uppy, or milk. Sometimes she won't even say anything and will just point her finger and whine a little. And yet, she memorized all thirteen Articles of Faith starting when she was three years old, and again when she was four.

Help us be repaired...

Hailee has a few other things that she says incorrectly which she can't seem to get over. They are pretty cute, so it makes it hard for us to tell her what the correct pronunication are (we tell her from time to time, but she still forgets). Since we have moved to our new home, we have been working on getting a food storage so we will be prepared in the event of an emergency or problem. Hailee has since been praying: "Help us be repaired...", rather than "Help us be prepared". In a way, you could think of us as being broken and in need of repair spiritually, but I don't think that is what she is talking about. It is still pretty cute.

Art Fanatic

Just take a look at this picture. She was painting a picture just fine and I walked away for about two minutes. This is what she looked like when I came back.
You can tell that she was wondering whether she would be in big trouble...

... but in the end it was too hard to be too mad at her. Even after washing with soap, her face was yellowish the rest of the day.

Oh, what a joyain (joy + pain)!!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Savior of the World & Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration

I recently was able to see two productions put on by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Saviour of the World: His Birth and Resurrection and Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration.

Both shows were unique, inspiring and amazingly done.

The Savior of the World: His Birth and Resurrection is a live play done in the Conference Center Theater during the Christmas season. This is a much more intimate setting than the main Conference Center hall. The smaller theater holds 850 people in comparison with the large hall's capacity of 21,000.

I found an excellent review at LDSVideo.com of the soundtrack to this production:

On November 28, 2000, lights in the Conference Center Theater dimmed for the theater's inaugural performance, the premiere of Savior of the World: His Birth and Resurrection. Seven Latter-day Saint writers, under the direction of the Church's presiding leaders, created this sacred musical drama as a testimony and tribute to the Savior during the second millennial anniversary of His birth. In order to incorporate severl Messianic prophecies and the visitations of heavenly beings into the play, the production team devised a simple set: a semicircular, stone colonnade with a railed balcony to represent the heavens. In performance, prophets view scenes as if in vision from atop the colonnade and speak familiar scriptural prophecies. Descending from the colonnade, angelic messengers visit the earth. And in virtually every scene, cast members dressed in white gather on the colonnade to witness the events below -- a poignant reminder of heaven's interest in the lives of all God's children.

Since the production opened, this interest has been keenly felt by audiences totaling nearly a quarter of a million and by more than 800 cast members. At each performance, children, parents and grandparents, many participating together as families and as service missionaries, fill the colonnade and add to the rich tradition of uplifting theater in the Church. Over a century and a half ago, that tradition was established when Brigham Young built the Salt Lake Theater and directed that it be "a place... where holy angels could be, and where the Spirit of God would reign and its influence be felt by every person who should enter" (Deseret News, January 11, 1865).

That Spirit is invited into the Conference Center each Christmas and Easter season. As the events surrounding the Savior's birth are depicted, the Spirit testifies of Christ's divinity. Born a lowly babe as foretold by ancient prophets, He was resurrected and lives again, as witnessed by Mary Magdalene, Peter, and many others. He lives still, and one day He will return to the earth to reign in glory. "Come, Lord Jesus, Come."

I want to add to that review. The show was powerful and a wonderful reminder of the sacred life of the Savior Jesus Christ. I wept various times and was filled with the Spirit as I watched how the lives of those connected with the Savior's birth and resurrection had their lives changed and their faith, testimonies and knowledge of the truth that: God loves us, so He sent His Son.

If you haven't seen Savior of the World: His Birth and Resurrection, I highly recommend that you get tickets next Easter or Christmas, as it is highly effective and well written to give real meaning to both celebrations of the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

I was also able to go twice to the new movie in the Legacy Theater about the prophet Joseph Smith. This movie was also a tear jerker, testimony builder and helped me to realize in a more profound way that Joseph Smith truly is a prophet of God and that he fulfilled the mission that he was sent to do. That mission could be summarized as: Joseph Smith did what a loving Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost required of him, so that the gospel of Jesus Christ could be restored in its fulness in our day, thus enabling the work of God to go forward, which is to bring to pass the eternal life and immortality of man.

Without a restoration of the gospel, the priesthood authority to perform the ordinances of salvation could not be administered. They are now available to all of God's children through the preaching of the gospel to all the earth by His authorized servants, as well as through the preaching of the gospel to the dead. All of God's children can now receive baptism by those in authority on earth. If they accept the gospel while in this life, they may be baptized into the Church and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. If they are dead, they may be baptized by proxy in holy temples.

There is no other way that God could be just to those who didn't have the opportunity to have the gospel in this life. His plan is a perfect plan of love, justice and mercy to all of His children!

Regarding the movie Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration, I was impressed by how well it was written and how accurate it was to the life as a whole of the prophet's experience in the short time that was available for the film. The entire film lasts only about 68 minutes, and the writers did a good job of mentioning all aspects of the prophet's life by giving specific examples of each type of trial he and the early saints went through without going into details on things that would make the movie longer but be a repeat of some of the same trials.

For example: many characters portrayed in the film were named, while others were not. Oliver Cowdery was depicted helping to translate the Book of Mormon, had dialog, was shown with Joseph as they received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist, as they baptized each other, and again a few times as the Church was organized. However, his name wasn't mentioned until later in the film when it was said that even Oliver had fallen away, and many others. There was instead a character who was a Blacksmith named Lyman who had struggles of whether he would continue having faith or whether he would struggle through the trials that beset him. He followed Joseph from Ohio to Missouri to Nauvoo and had children killed by mobbers, his home burned and other persecutions. His faith was tested, but at the end when Joseph went to Carthage, he was still with a tearful goodbye. It would have been too hard to do character development and introduction by name of so many people involved in Joseph's life and then have them not be there later. The movie could have easily been a 10 part film of 2 hours each, so I was impressed with how well it was completed. I can imagine how the mother and father of Joseph's wife Emma Hales Smith could have been developed more and Joseph's interactions with them to show how hard it was for Joseph and Emma when Emma's parents didn't approve of their marriage and wouldn't console them when their children died. However, this was shown and done very well within the time available.

The over-all feeling of the movie includes happy times that show how good of a person Joseph was and how much he cared for the human race, and sad times that portray Joseph and the people who followed him as they endure trials. The movie did an excellent job of showing the strong character that Joseph had. It also made a good portrayal of why people followed him. They followed because they learned from him the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They gained a witness for themselves that what he taught was true. The gospel is simple and can be easily understood. It just makes sense. If your heart is open to the Spirit, and you truly have a desire to be a good person, you must only ask God your father in heaven, and He will tell you through simple but undeniable means that He loves you and wants you to return to Him. That is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is for.

I could tell that even my three young children (ages 6,4,2) could feel the power of the movie. The movie also did a wonderful job at showing the persecution and horrors of what the saints experienced without being graphic. Even the martyrdom of Joseph and his brother Hyrum was shown in a way that all of my kids could watch, and rather than being scarred by the images they see, they will have a memory of what happened and appreciate the sacrifice of the Prophet and Patriarch.

I was able to see the movie twice, and will see it again in a couple of weeks. I recommend that everyone see it.