Monday, February 27, 2012

Under appreciated animals: D

The Dugong (Dugong dugon) is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), was hunted to extinction in the 18th century.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Under appreciated animals: C

"The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is the largest extant rodent in the world. Its closest relatives are agouti, chinchillas, coyphillas, and guinea pigs."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Under appreciated animals: B


This is the second of a series of "Under appreciated animals" as drawn by Annabelle.

Under appreciated animals series: by Annabelle


This is the first of a series of "Under appreciated animals" as drawn by Annabelle.

Grandma's car

We need to buy Grandma’s car, my husband said to me a few weeks ago.
Yes! I said. You are so right. We do need to buy Grandma’s car!
I think I might have caught my husband a little off guard with my response. I usually just nod politely for many of his “bright ideas.” But this time he was actually onto something.
Let me back up a minute.
As we Huffmans brace ourselves (and our bank accounts) to send Oldest Daughter off to college, funds for cars — whether previously owned by Grandma or not — are tight. Or pretty much nonexistent.
But then Grandma retired from her job. And when Grandma retired, Grandma decided to retire her 10-year-old car as well. When Grandma and Grandpa first announced their plans to buy some kind of SUV combo thing that they would drive on epic cross-country jaunts with all the other newly retired people out there, I didn’t think much about it.
I should have, because our neighborhood carpool to high school had just expired. The other carpool passenger just got her license and was now driving herself to school. That left our two high school girls in need of a ride. It was either that or hitchhike on Highway 29 each morning.
You know that stereotype about the little old lady who only drives her car on Sundays to church? Well, my mom is little, and she may be a senior citizen, but she did drive her car fairly often. And just like any self-respecting grandma, she also took really good car of that car.
It got regular oil changes and all the recommended maintenance. It had a nice dry parking spot inside a garage. It wasn’t full of broken pencils, empty water bottles, old umbrellas and the other junk that comes with driving around three children. This was one pampered car. Still, it did have more than 100,000 miles on it. Apparently, one of those big maintenances was looming, and Grandma already had the appointment made at the dealership.
Who puts $2,500 into a 10-year-old car with that kind of mileage when they are theoretically about to trade in said car? A grandma who suspects that her oldest granddaughter might end up driving the car, that’s who.
Grandma might have had an ulterior motive. About four years ago, my father-in-law bought a 1966 “classic” car as a fixer-upper project. He announced that once the “restoration” was complete, our daughter would drive it. Now, when Oldest Daughter was barely in ninth grade and years away from getting her license, that sounded like a swell idea. What high school student wouldn’t like a cute vintage car to drive to school?
Everything was hunky-dory with that little fantasy until our girl actually got her license and started driving. I now knew that the words “teenager,” “cute” and “car” are not meant to go together.
Suddenly the idea of her carousing around town in a 46-year-old car didn’t sound so great. To a mom, 46 in car years is like 146 in human years. That is old. Who’s to say that car wouldn’t just fall apart in a heap at the next red light? As we drivers know, there is never a convenient time for an engine to die. Bolts could just pop out or hubcaps sail down Jefferson Street. I had visions of all kinds of car catastrophe with her at the wheel.
A newer car, say something from the 21st century, sounded much better. Something with shoulder and lap seatbelts. Something with power steering and brakes. Something with multiple airbags. I think Grandma was thinking the same “something.”
I got on the phone to Grandma to explain our big plan. I don’t think she was surprised to hear from me.
Let me pause here to say: God bless all the grandmas and grandpas out there. Your children are now in their 30s and 40s, but you still continue to support them, like by giving them Bank of Grandma interest rates and very friendly monthly payment terms. Grandkids across the country would be out of luck if it wasn’t for the grandmas and grandpas out there who are buying new cars and passing down the old ones.
A few days and a handshake later, we had a deal. Grandma, Grandpa and their neighbors were happy to have the old car vacate its current parking spot in the neighborhood. And our neighbors probably wondered how yet another car would fit into ours.
A few weeks later, Oldest Daughter had to stay late at school, and our ninth-grader talked Grandma into picking her up at school in her new car.
But her sister could have driven her home when she was done, I said to Grandma. She’s got the car, after all.
No, no, she said. It’s OK. I just wanted to see how my old car was doing.
Awwww, I thought. She misses her old car.
Don’t worry, I should have told her. You can come visit your old car whenever you want. You know where to find it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Away they go!

This Saturday, Annabelle and a group from her high school left for a one-week immersion program at a Blackfeet Indian Reservation near Browning Montana. (Apparently, the tribe calls themselves Blackfeet, not Blackfoot.)
This is her second year to go on the trip. Besides helping out at a Lasallian school on the reservation, they will also spend a day at Glacier National Park. 
I don't think she knows how good she has it :/

 Talk to the 'hand'
 Annabelle and BFF Deanna

 Away they go...

See you next week kid!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Scenes from a teen's bedroom

Nail polish collection of Oldest Daughter.

An artist's canvas

Here's what Oldest Daughter does when she's "bored" in class.
Hey, at least it's not a tattoo....

Pam Reid hates couponers too!

After I ran a reader note in our newspaper looking for Napans that love to coupon, our local postcard-writing curmudgeon Pam Reid sent me another one of her communiques:

Jennifer Huffman:
Re: your item "Crazy for coupons?" in today's Register, don't forget to emphasize that these coupon women and literally crazy. And you, Ms. Huffman, should not be glorifying craziness in those crazies, nor should you be promoting greediness & the hoarding mentality (a form of craziness) in those wanna-bees out ther who already belive in evey scam that finds its niche in Napa. In addition to crazy-making, Napans are so gullible & wishy-washy that they will take what we think is going to be one of your "cutesy" columns & they will run in a frenzy with their greed-propelled legs to stock up on massive quantities of things (mostly junk) they do not need & cannot use in a sane manner. So, THINK before you promote GREED!
Pam Reid. 

We knew Pam doesn't like immigrants, gays, dogs or kids. And now we know she's against coupons too. 

Over the rainbow....

Remember all that complaining I did in my last column about our girls, and how much work it is to be a mom, and how tired I am all the time?
Well, I take it all back.
Yeah, I’m a mom, I can do that. I can change my mind.
The reason I’m feeling all super sunny and happy-go-lucky is because we got Really Good News. The kind of Really Good News that makes a mom feel pretty darn good.
Oldest Daughter got her first college acceptance letter!
Start the wild applause and cheering now, please. Do the wave if you like. Give the person next to you a high-five. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I usually whine about our girls in this column, but I figured I’d mix it up this week. Hey, if ever there was a time to brag, this is it. I think I’ve earned it.
So it turns out that Oldest Daughter likes to draw. She started with crayons, moved on to ink pens and then took up watercolors and anything else you can paint with.
And thanks to some crazy combination of genes, she’s actually pretty good. And no, I’m not just saying that.
Pause for more bragging here. Oldest Daughter once won a national drawing contest to design a NASCAR racecar with a prize trip to Walt Disney World. Additional bragging: A real-life Disney animator once did a double-take when he saw her drawing of Mickey’s head. In that moment, I am quite sure he envisioned the two of them working side-by-side in the Disney studios, happily churning out cartoons. He could say he discovered her.
So anyway, when it came time to apply for college, naturally, Oldest Daughter decided she wanted to go to a Distinguished Art School.
It turns out art and horses have one thing in common: Add either word to any activity and it means that the price of said activity usually doubles. Take art school, for example. A year at a private art school can cost the same as a year at Stanford or Harvard. Without the football teams. And the Nobel Prize winners.
But we parents must do our parental thing, which means we must encourage our offspring to reach for the stars and realize their dreams and all that.
We don’t wring our hands and talk about a little thing like money when they are listening. We don’t call our financial adviser to ask about penalties on 401(k) early withdrawals or discuss cashing-in life insurance policies in front of them. We refrain from suggesting community college as often as we’d like to.
Instead, we get on the art school bandwagon. We shake our 76 trombones and start marching down art school’s Main Street.
“Costs be dammed! Apply to art school you shall!” we declare.
Last week, my husband called me at work. I knew it was him by the number on my cellphone, but there was no response on the other end when I answered.
He sounded like he was choking. Or having a heart attack. I started to wonder if I should hang up and dial 911.
Are you OK? I yelled. What’s wrong?
Yes, he said.
No, he said.
Lo and behold, Distinguished Art School had written back. With a wavering voice, he read the letter to me: “We are pleased to offer you admission…”
I think I’m going to throw up, he said.
It got even better. Distinguished Art School said it wanted to offer Oldest Daughter a merit scholarship. Which means the cost of going to art school just went from being Impossible to being Slightly Less Impossible, as long as one or more of us doesn’t eat for the next four years.
It was a good thing most of my coworkers were at lunch.
I screamed.
Oh my God, I said.
I think I’m going to throw up, I said.
I had to see it to believe it. As soon as I got home, I read the letter. By God, it really did say that she has been admitted to Distinguished Art School! And they really do want to give her a scholarship!
Nothing puts a mom in a better mood than when a real-life college tells her that they want to give her daughter free money just to go to their school.
It’s like they’re practically paying her to attend, I marveled.
Hey, I don’t care if that scholarship is $500 or $50,000, it’s that many zeros less than we’d need to dig out of the couch cushions come this fall.
I spent the rest of that weekend in a “my daughter just got accepted to college” haze. I floated on a sparkling cloud of happiness surrounded by rainbows and unicorns, accompanied by the theme song to “Rocky,” alternating with “We are the Champions.”
Our two other girls must have thought their mother was on drugs. Whatever they asked for, I said yes.
It’s amazing. All that cajoling, encouraging, the endless nights of checking homework and making her study actually paid off.
Now we wait to hear from the other Distinguished Art Schools she applied to. Hopefully we’ll get more good news. More rainbows. More unicorns.
You done good, kid. We are so proud of you.