Monday morning #1 got her braces. She picked blue and black for her colors. She goes back and forth between really liking them and being excited about having them, and being shy, not wanting to show them to anyone, and complaining about having them. The list of foods she can no longer eat seems to frustrate her too ... no chewy candy, no gum, and for the first week - nothing crunchy.
Tuesday we doggy-sat for Grandma and Grandpa when they took an overnight trip down to the cities to see the Blue Man Group.
Wednesday was our turn. Grandma and Grandpa took all five kids, and Tony and I trekked down to the Ordway (Performing Arts Theater) in the cities (3 hours down, 3 hours back) to see the Blue Man Group. I had wanted to see the Blue Man Group 12 years ago while we were in Vegas for our honeymoon, but tickets were either sold out or crazy expensive, so we didn't get to see them. This was my mom's gift for our anniversary this year. It was also the first time I've been away from #5 for more than an hour or two.
We stopped at Red Lobster in Maple Grove for dinner. The guy that sat behind us was the most disagreeable person I think I've ever had the displeasure of eating near. He was seated just before us and as soon as his waitress introduced herself, he complained about where he'd been seated. She offered to find him another spot, but he refused. He then complained about everything the waitress brought him... his drink, his biscuits, his appetizer, his meal, and his dessert! Somewhere between appetizer and dinner, the waitress got a manager, and the guy even complained to the manager! No matter how they tried to "make it better" the guy refused and just kept complaining! He got like three different dinners out of the deal, and was still nasty to the waitstaff. I felt terrible for the waitress, who was also our waitress... so we tipped her well ... wish I'd have had a pen and paper to tell her how sorry I was that she had to deal with the guy in the next booth!
It was a welcome "vacation" as we aren't usually able to afford such frivolous spending.
I've spent the last couple days doing more research on aquaponics, and realizing how close and yet how far my original design was to being completely functional. It looks like there are really two types... one is a floating system, where you use styrofoam with cup-sized holes cut in it, and float it on top of your aquarium, with the cups in the holes... the media (clay balls, lava rock, etc.) goes in the cup, the cup is partially submerged in water, and the seeds are sewn directly on top - voila! The other is a system where you use a pump to push water from the tank up (via tubing) into a container of some sort (filled with the same medium - clay or lava rock, etc.), which has holes in the bottom that drain back into the fish tank below. This keeps the rocks moist, but not submerged. Certain plants to better in either system. For example, lettuce does fantastic in the first (styrofoam and cups) system, but tomatoes do better in the second (pumped water) system. Since I want to try everything - I want to try both systems, or at least some variety of each system - made as cheaply at home as possible.
Today I bought lava rocks from Home Depot ($3.95 after tax). I checked prices for aquarium, pond, and fountain pumps, but at $25-$30 for a pump and tubing, it's not looking promising. The aquaponic tank in #2's bedroom with Kernel Mustard is a pump filter, but instead of soaking the rocks, it barely covers the bottom part of the cups stored in the top of the tank. For now, I'm going to have to be happy with that system as my attempt for a pump set up.
Tomorrow I plan to drill some holes in a couple containers and see if I can get them to "float" in the fish tank - without styrofoam. I'm finding that most of the stores (from online searches only) seem to only have 3/4 inch styrofoam sheeting, commonly used for insulation. The guides I found usually call for 2-inch thick styrofoam. I'm going to try to modify it to work without it. If I can make my containers fit over the edges of the aquarium, the edges should hold it up... assuming the weight of the lava rock doesn't cause the edges of the containers to bend. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. I'm hopeful.
I had a couple "floating" containers (plastic containers that are connected to the edge of the tank so they won't sink) in the tank from before, but both of the plants died... well, technically one died and the cats got the other one. Anyway, I put some lava stones in each. I took one of the red pepper plants (two plants that were seeded together and are now intertwined) and carefully rinsed the dirt off the roots and set it in one of the containers. The roots are underwater, the stems and leaves above... I'm hoping the plant does well and helps to filter the fish tank below. The other container I sprinkled some of the "lettuce mix" seeds (#2 got in the mail today) over the rock. With any luck, we will have a little salad growing in a couple weeks!
In feline news, Miss Mabel is continuing to grow rounder and rounder. We can feel little kitten movements in her belly, and she's taken a liking to the box and blanket we've provided to her - though she'd still prefer to be in our beds when given the opportunity. I still think we should have kittens in the near future. We are constantly checking on where she is and how she's doing throughout the day. I will post here as soon as kittens arrive to make the big announcement. If I can't find a digital camera by then (not looking very promising right now), I'll try to take photos with my phone and email them to myself so I can get them on the computer and posted here. The camera on my phone isn't very good; it takes grainy barely-focused photos, but it's the best I can do until I can get a new camera.