Hello everyone!  It's been another busy week around here.  Tim's entire family got together at his sister, Peggy's, for the Fourth.  That's about 30 of us in the immediate family plus several aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends.  Peggy and Ed had a nice set up for the picnic and provided 3 bushels of steamed crabs and 12 pounds of shrimp along with hamburgers and hotdogs,  while the rest of us brought all manner of salads, vegetables and desserts.  Mm-mmm, but it was good!  Volleyball, horseshoes and conversation filled the afternoon and after dark some of the men set off fireworks.  It always makes me nervous, but men will be men, I suppose.  Matt and Megan had such a good time they stayed over while Tim and I made the 90-minute drive home.
       Monday I met up with Tim's sisters, Megan and all the nieces for lunch.  We went to Olde Country Buffet, which is not one of my favorite places, but at least there everyone could find something they liked.....not an easy task with 7 teenage girls in tow.  Megan and I had to make the drive north to get Matt while the rest of them went on to the mall.  Megan wasn't pleased, but we were due for dinner with my mom and John.  It was the first time they'd invited us to John's home on the ridge and I wasn't about to cancel.  As it was, Tim didn't get home from work in time to go with us.  We picked my grandmother up at the home on our way.  It was a beautiful day and a really nice drive up to John's.  We saw a doe and her fawn.  Dinner was barbecued ribs, pasta salad and fresh locally grown corn.  Talk about stuffed!  Mom, Nana and I sat and visited after supper while John took Matt and Megan outside and let them shoot the .22 at targets.  It was such a nice evening and for once my mom wasn't critical of everything and everybody.
       Tuesday morning Tim called and asked me to bring the three computers he'd stored in his workshop down to the job site.  I had to get Matt up to help me load them (they must weigh about 100lbs each) and then both kids went with me.  I was a nervous wreck as each one was worth $8000!  Traffic was fairly heavy for late morning and we ran into some road construction so the trip took us about half the day.  When we got home we found Megan's little black kitten dead.  It was out back near the alley and I noticed some blood.  I just assumed it had been hit by a vehicle driving through (maybe even me that morning).  Megan was inconsolable so in desperation I asked her if she'd like to go look at some kittens and see if there was one she'd like to have (I'd seen a sign the night before).  She's 11, of course she wanted to go look.  Matt decided he'd go too...if I let him drive.  Why not?  So up the mountain we went watching for the sign I knew I had seen.  It was still there and the people had three kittens left.  Matt and Megan each grabbed one and began arguing over which one was better.  We ended up coming home with both.  The long-haired tiger goes by the name of Tigger and the short-haired gray tiger goes by Clutch (as in the auto part...I vetoed Brake Pad).  Once home we learned from a neighbor that Middy wasn't hit by a car, he was killed by a dog that's been roaming the neighborhood.  I knew who owned the dog so set off to talk to them, but found the dog chained at another neighbor's house.  It had bitten him and he'd called the authorities to come and get it.  The owners weren't home so he said he'd let the authorities and the owners know about the kitten, too.
       I went to my First Place weight loss group Tuesday evening.  It really lifts my spirits every week and encourages me to keep going in between times.  The ladies in my group are so warm and friendly and always ready to support you.  I lost 4 pounds this week!  Came home to find our niece, Ariel, here.  Megan had called and invited her and Tim's sister and their dad brought her down.  It gave Tim the chance to have a nice visit with them.  It really caught him off guard as they usually just breeze in and out and never linger here.  I think he enjoyed it.
       The kids all slept in quite late Wednesday morning after a late night of movies and video games.  I left them alone and enjoyed the peace and quiet.  It's a rare thing with Ariel around.  She is the one who stayed with us for over a week last summer and abused our dog among other things.  She was nice to the animals this year, but that's about the only part of her behavior that improved.  She is so rotten to Megan that I have no idea why Megan wants her around.  Anyway, after lunch (breakfast for them) I took them to the local state park to fish and swim.  No luck fishing even though Matt continued after the girls decided to go swimming.  Swimming didn't last too long either.  It started to pour not long after they got in the water.  I agreed they could stay since the whole point was to get wet, but just about then there was a loud rumble of thunder so out they came.  It rained the rest of the evening.  We ordered pizza from the restaurant Matt works at for supper.  We got a 30-cut so there would be plenty for Tim and at a certain point I told all the kids no more to make sure.  I was so upset when Tim came home and looked in the box and became a little perturbed that we'd only saved him 3 pieces.  Grrrrrr!  Megan and Ariel had snuck in and eaten more.   At least Megan apologized to her dad.  Ariel just kind of snickered and thought it was funny.
       Cujo, the kitten-killing, neighbor-biting hound from Hades showed up in the yard again while we were eating.  This time he was throwing himself into the wire on the chicken run over and over trying to get in.  I yelled at him and the big dope ran over and rolled over on my feet so I hollered for Matt to grab a leash and we took him home.  Actually, he didn't belong to who I thought he did, but the man I took him to knew the owners well enough to put him in their house.  He said the dog was getting out because they'd backed into the fence and there was a gap in it.  Well, hello!  After all that happened the day before you'd think they'd be smart enough not to go away and leave the dog loose in a yard he can escape from.  I told the guy to tell the owners I wasn't going to worry about my pets, my chickens or my kids' safety, that if I caught the dog in my yard again I'd take him to the shelter myself and they could consider it a kindness because the rest of the neighbors were threatening to shoot it on sight! 
       Yesterday morning we found another chicken dead.  It hasn't really been hot so I'm starting to wonder if my neighbor, who's also lost a few birds, might not be right.  She suspects West Nile Virus.  She said chickens are very susceptible to it and we do know there have been confirmed cases in our area.  It was burn day in the township so I threw the carcass on the fire.
       I took Ariel to another of Tim's sisters today.  I used the excuse that we needed to get really busy getting ready for our vacation.  Truth was, Tim, Matt and I just couldn't take having her around any more.
       Scuttlebutt has it the animal control officer came and got that dog Thursday afternoon.  Good riddance.
       Today I really am getting serious about getting ready.  We're cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of little chores, making sure animal care is lined up, etc.  I did have to make one unplanned side trip.....to the dentist!  I really hate having my teeth worked on.  Always have so I've put it off.  For something like 17 years.  I've been having some problems and knew I'd have to deal with it, but I'd hoped to wait until after vacation.  One of my molars had other ideas and I ended up going for a temporary filling.  Hopefully it will last me through vacation because if it falls out I'll probably be in worse shape.  The doc also gave me a prescription for antibiotics, but left it up to me whether or not I take it.  I am allergic to penicillin and sulfa antibiotics so she had to prescribe something else and the main side effect of it is diarrhea.  Not exactly something you want on vacation.  We'll see how it goes.
       Tomorrow we'll do our grocery shopping for the trip and wrap up jobs around the house.  Sunday I will pack the suitcases and early Monday morning we'll be on the road.  We've rented a house on the shore in Chincoteague, Virginia for a week.  I was a huge Misty fan growing up and can't wait to share this place with Matt and Megan.  I'd hoped to go during Pony Penning Days but we got started too late to book a house for it. They are so excited.  It's our first vacation since they were much younger.
       I will still be out of town next Friday so the following week I'll share about our trip.  Until then....
Carpe diem!