Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gingerbread Houses

To me there is nothing quite like the scent of gingerbread at Christmastime. We always make gingerbread cookies at Christmas, and now, houses. My sister's fiancee's family has a tradition of decorating gingerbread houses every year, and we loved the idea. So we set to work. First, we sought out a candy store that carries old and new, in order to procure an unbelievable quantity of candy (really, an embarrasingly large amount). Then, we set to work making the gingerbread dough, and baking the individual pieces for the houses (I simply make a template and then cut the pieces out with a sharp knife).

To glue together the houses, we use boiling sugar. It sets almost instantly and is near impossible to break.

We made 3 large houses (one for our family and the other two families, dear friends, who joined us) and two smaller ones (just 'cuz). Then we laid out the bowls and bowls of candy and the kids (six boys ages 10 and under) went to work! The kids had a great time and we had just as much fun helping and watching. And it didn't take me long to scrape up the remains from the kitchen floor, which amazes me.

Budding Triathlete

On the day we moved from Arizona, we first went to StarPointe (community center/pool) for a kids triathlon - Ryan's first! He competed in a run, bike ride around the lake (two laps) and then swimming.

He started out strong...but then later during the bike ride, after all the kids had gone by on the second lap, Ryan was nowhere to be found. I started to get worried - I wondered if something had happened to him? Why was he not coming around? After a very long time, he finally was coming up the last leg of the bike ride, tears streaming down his face. He had gotten a flat tire! And yet, he continued to ride...or try to anyway. I would have quit, but not him. He didn't even get off the bike. He actually pedaled it all the way, as hard as it was for him. He came in last, but he was first in tenacity!

Stretching before the big race.

And they're off!

Now to the bikes.

This next picture is after the second lap - when he rode most the lap on a flat tire. The man next to him stuck by him the whole time, encouraging him. We found out later that the event staffers were radioing each other about the problem - but that "this kid still wants to finish".

Following that grueling bike ride, he jumped into the pool and did his swimming laps.

After all that, he still ran to the finish line. Disappointed, but undeterred!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A 10 year old and an 8 year old...

SO as if having a 10 year old wasn't enough....Alex turned 8 on Thanksgiving Day. I wondered when and if his birthday would ever fall on Thanksgiving - wonder no more!

Eight years ago, we had family visiting for Thanksgiving. The family did most of the thanksgiving dinner work - I couldn't stay on my feet very long (very swollen) and the contractions would really get going, telling me I needed to slow down. So I'd sit down, put up my edema-riddled feet and the contractions would stop. They were never very regular, but they were strong. Pretty strong for Braxton-Hicks, I thought, but they couldn't possibly be "real" - I wasn't due for another month. I was prepping myself for having a Christmas baby. The plant where we worked was in the middle of a maintenance/refueling outage during that time as well, so I worked that weekend a little for the outage. The following Monday, everyone was either back home or back at work (my mother in law was also working the outage at the time). I had to leave work early for a doctor's appointment - and since it was the last month of the pregnancy, the appointments would now be weekly. Hubby drove me the hour and a half to my OB/GYN; that was another peculiarity of this pregnancy - if I was driving a car for more than 30 minutes, I'd get some serious contractions, with alarming regulatiy. It wasn't as bad as a passenger, but still happened.

So we went in for the appointment. When my doctor did the examination she looked at me, startled, and asked "Are you in labor?" I was pretty sure I wasn't. She exclaimed that I was 6 cm dialated and 80% effaced. Holy cow! I guess those weren't Braxton-Hicks after all. "Woo-hoo," I thought, "I did that standing on my head. I am Iron Woman! I may not even need an epidural for this one." Yeah right, whatever. "I can't let you go home," our doctor informed us, "...you need to go straight to the hospital. We're having a baby tonight." WOW! That was unexpected. Guess I shouldn't have said "See you tomorrow" to my coworkers when I left...and then it hit me...omg, this baby will be a month early. I started to worry.

So off to the hospital we went. They hooked me up to all manner of monitor and what not - no big deal, I wasn't a rookie this time. My girlfriend Jenn, bless her heart, stayed at our house and took care of our then-two year old, Ryan, while all of this was going on. I was put on a pitocin drip to speed things along. But later that night, we found that I'd only dilated 2 more cm. "We'll have to do another c-section," my doctor informed us. I was devastated - terrified by my last experience (I got really sick). I thought for sure I'd be able to do this one the old fashioned way. Not so much.

But no matter...it wasn't long before our baby joined us...another boy!! My sweet baby Alexander...and my recovery was MUCH better this time...He's still my baby, too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Decade Gone By...

Time flies when you're having fun, right? 10 years ago on November 7, the birth of my son inducted me into the ranks of motherhood. 10 years. That's double digits. Approximately 3652.5 days. One decade. Not going there with the number of hours/minutes...I'm certain the size of the number would be too much for me.

We got out his baby book and looked at the pictures from before he was born and the day he was born, and then the ensuing months of capturing every smirk, smile, and coo. That little boy changed our world, and we are so blessed. Every minute of it. Every question of "am I doing the right thing" to celebrating his successes with him. He's changed so much in the last few years, coming into his own. And yet he is still just a little boy.

Ryan woke up to a new bike, a Jeff Gordon jacket, and some walkie talkies, among other things from his grandparents and family.

This marked the second year that I didn't do all the party planning per se; instead we took him and 7 of his friends to a pizza place that has rides and go karts and all manner of things that attract 10 year old boys. They had a blast!

I marvel at how I now have a 10 year old. It's been said that once you have a child, you completely forget what your life was like before children. While that is not entirely true, there is something to be said about sharing the memories of your days with a small one that you helped bring into the world....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

He Didn't Go

I can't remember the last time Halloween was on a Saturday. Perhaps we were working a refueling outage, didn't have children yet, or the kids were so little it didn't really matter. So this year, with it being on a Saturday, we had that big party, and it was a lot of fun. So much so, I couldn't help but look at pictures and think about it all day the next day. I think the kids all running around having Star Wars battles (those lit light sabers are great for figuring out where your kids are after the sun goes down) and line dancing were my favorite parts. The Midori Sours were pretty good, too, even if we did run out.

Then it hit me. Ryan didn't go trick or treating.

I talked to him about it, gingerly probing to see if he'd merely forgotten, all the while concerned I'd be opening a pandora's box of regret and misery. No such thing occurred. He was fully aware he'd not gone trick or treating, and it didn't seem to matter. "I was just having too much fun, mom." Wow, he was having so much fun at the party, that leaving to go beg for candy didn't even hit his priority list. Or is it simply coincidence with the fact that he is growing up?

Thanksgiving Dinner Preview

Tonight is the monthly meeitng for a women's club I'm a part of, and this year the November meeting theme is a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. I volunteered to make the cranberries and stuffing. Neither of which come from a can or box, respectively. Soooo I've spent the better part of my day in the kitchen preparing the turkey dressing (which started with the unenviable task of boiling turkey giblets and the neck), and my signature cranberry-pear chutney. I always make the chutney whenever we host Thanksgiving - found the recipe years and years ago and gave it a try, loved it, and made it part of our family's tradition. The stuffing, which has been in my husband's family for a few generations, is another story. I absolutely LOVE it. But I've never made it before! The tradition is that the men of the house (usually my FIL) do the turkey and the stuffing; the women take care of everything else (though my husband rocks at making mashed taters). So today, I'm making it for the very first time. To share with 25 or so other ladies.

I was disappointed with the chutney, I think I overcooked it a bit so the bright ruby red color is not as vivid, but hopefully it still tastes good. The stuffing is ready to be baked, which I will do shortly before I depart for the festivities. Meanwhile, a small turkey is slowly roasting (needed it for making the stuffing!), so that my family will also get a little preview of our dinner in 3-1/2 weeks! Another first for me...like I said, the men of the family normally roast the turkey, so I sure hope this one turns out as good as when my husband does it. Time will tell!

Now I need to clean up the amazing mess I made in the kitchen...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A few more Halloween photos...

You'd think, as a scrapbooker, I'd be Susie-on-the-Spot with the camera. I usually am. But yesterday was a different story. I'm blaming it on the fake eyelashes and nails. I didn't get ANY pictures of Alex in his Halloween costume. Good grief, there goes my MOTY award (Mom Of The Year)...again. But we recovered smartly. This afternoon, that is.

Me: "Alex, go put on your costume."
Alex: "But why?"
Me: "Mommy wants to get some pictures of you. It won't take long."
Alex: "I don't want to right now. I'm playing."
Me: "Alex, go put on your costume."
Alex: "But it itches."
Me: "Alex, go put on your costume."
Alex: "Do I have to?"

Alex finally put it on...and we went outside to take pictures. He seemed to enjoy getting into the part!

A few halloween pictures...

Unfortunately, we didn't get many photos...I was too busy being Wanda the Party Witch and Rich was too busy manning the bar (the midori sours were a HUGE hit...we ran out of Midori! Note to self, buy at least 6 bottles of the 750 mL size next time...)


Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to put on fake eyelashes? Since I'd never done it before, it was quite entertaining, however the glue in my eye wasn't so much fun. It was time to change my contact lenses out anyway.

So I finally got them on, did the makeup and wig, and donned my coveted purple gown and hat. The look was finished with a heaven-knows-how-old rhinestone necklace (I got it from an uncle who inherited a lady friend's estate when I was in high school...so truly I have no idea how old it is...but I wore it to several proms and dances and christmas parties) and rhinestone earrings. Seconds before walking out the door to our town's 35th annual halloween parade, I realized I forgot the nails! I can't forget the nails, they are a key part of the costume! So I madly tried to press on 10 black nails with little skull and rhinestone accents, and away we went!

Once the parade was over, we finished preps for the Halloween bash...a great time was had by all!!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Halloween Playlist

Here is my compilation of mu-zak for our Halloween Party. I have several other obscure tunes I may dig into like Wall of Voodoo and such...but this is what I downloaded the other day. Some is for dancing, some for the kids, some for chillin', some 'cuz they're halloween classics and a few just cuz I've always loved them!

Dead Man's Party (Oingo Boingo)
Hotel California (Eagles)
Wild Thing (Tone-Loc)
Rock Lobster (B-52’s)
Macarena (Los del Río)
Shout (Otis Day & The Knights)
King of Pain (The Police)
Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Renegade (Styx)
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
Feed My Frankenstein (Alice Cooper)
Bob That Head (Rascal Flatts)
Chicken Fried (Zac Brown Band)
Toes (Zac Brown Band)
Unbelievable (EMF)
Witchy Woman (Eagles)
Enter Sandman (Metallica)
Cha-cha Slide (MC Jig)
Monster Mash (Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers)
Ghostbusters (Ray Parker, Jr., Ghostbusters Original Soundtrack Album)
Time Warp (Little Nell, Patricia Quinn & Richard O'Brien – soundtrack)
Stayin' Alive (Bee Gees)
I Like to Move It from Madagascar (The Party Cats)
Brick House (The Commodores)
Play That Funky Music (Wild Cherry)
Let's Groove (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Burning Down the House (Talking Heads)
Rapture (Blondie)
Dirty Diana (Michael Jackson)
Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve)
Super Freak (Rick James)
Fantasy (Aldo Nova)
Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Charlie Daniels Band)
Moving In Stereo (The Cars)
Black Magic Woman (Santana)
Get Up, Stand Up (Bob Marley)
Jamming (Bob Marley)
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley)
All Around Me (Flyleaf)
Small Town USA (Justin Moore)
Twilight Zone (Golden Earring)
Let It Whip (Dazz Band)
Secret Separation (The Fixx)
T-R-O-U-B-L-E (Travis Tritt)
Watermelon Crawl (Tracy Byrd)
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) (Big & Rich)
Rollin' (The Ballad of Big & Rich) (Big & Rich)
Jungle Love (The Time)

More on Facebook

First thing I did this morning was check status updates on Facebook. Before I take a sip from my first cup of coffee. Before I get dressed. Before I go to the bathroom even. But it goes in phases with me. Sometimes I'll check every 20 minutes (when I'm home); other times I'll go for days. This week, we've all been particularly active, especially when I posted a VERY short list of music I'd selected for our halloween party mix. That got people's attention, and down memory lane we all went. So I just can't wait to see what the next person may have commented. It doesn't hurt that I'm off work till January next year. I do have a bit of extra time that I never had before to do this. (So warning to everyone: when I start work again in January, I'm pretty sure the regular postings throughout the day will drop to periodic postings throughout the month.)

So I'm reading through these comments and following other threads and comments and it hit me why facebook is so addicting. It's the cyber window to a person's soul. For those who don't blog and spill their mind's trappings that way, facebook creates the medium where you can see what makes a person tick. And it's fascinating. You learn about your old friends and new based on what they post, and how others comment on those posts. For instance, when I posted part of my music mix includes the Bee Gees, the comments opened wide. And one of my friends from ELEMENTARY/JR HIGH school (after 9th grade we went to different high schools and I never saw her again) commented how the Bee Gees always reminded her of ME in 5th grade! 5th grade! Another friend listed a panacea of early 80's not-so-mainstream hits and some very popular ones...revealing to the world his eclectic taste and deep knowledge of all things music.

The desire to connect and for companionship - a sense of belonging - is as great a human need as food and water. And that is why Facebook is so addicting. It's one avenue that fills that great need, with simplicity and very low risk. And it's fun.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Might As Well Face It, I'm Addicted to....

...FACEBOOK. Yes I am. I "discovered" it shortly after Christmas 2008 after reading my dear friend Mare's Christmas letter (and Yes I know that it was already the rage everywhere for quite a long time; all things in due time, I say). She mentioned she and her husband were on Facebook, and for the first time I decided to check it out. I wasn't sure what all the hub-bub was about, but still I created an account. And the seduction began.

As I began navigating through the various features, I thought, "this is kinda neat." And then people started "friending" me and I started friending them. I'd connected with people I haven't seen and/or talked to in two decades or more. I was suddenly having regular conversations with old high school pals that I'd hung out with, went to Mexico with, and otherwise loved to death, but we parted ways after graduation never to hear from or see one another again...till the ubiquitous Facebook! I found myself, when I had little spare time, staying up till midnight so I could look around and see what folks were up to. I found myself checking it every so often to see if there was a new status update. "Oh look! Chris just got a cup of coffee! Good for him! Cute profile picture of Michele's baby! And hey, Jeanene just passed me a drink!" Fun fun fun! For days I was glued to it every free moment I had. And when I discovered I could access it from my cell phone - yeah buddy I was hooked for good. So now I understand why they call it Crackbook. Crackbook is probably one of the reasons I dropped off blog world several times, because it's just so EASY to quickly type up a line or two about what is happening in your life and to see what others are up to. Since that time, I've simmered down some, and the addiction is not so acute. It's more of a chronic need. And it's fun.

I don't really do the games and other applications on there, though on occasion I will type up one of those "25 random questions about you" things or pass a drink to someone. Several of my friends are deeply involved in the facebook mafia wars, farmville, and other games; those just haven't appealed to me. But I do get a kick out of the status updates from those who play.

So yeah, I'm pretty much addicted. But I can quit whenever I want.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What drew me home...

Our home in the fall...so peaceful and so pretty!


Yes, I know. It's been months and months since I've blogged. Followers may have given up on me. But I haven't completely forgotten I have this thing. I've been a bit...distracted. For instance, since my last post, we moved. Yes, moved. Back to our old house in a completely different state. I'm pretty sure I had just finished unpacking our last box from the move to Arizona, and then everything got boxed up again. I can't believe how much *crap* we have. I don't consider myself a packrat, but perhaps I need to reevaluate that... We did do some purging when we moved in February 2008, but this move happened so fast it was basically just "pack it all and load 'em up." Fortunately, in both cases, the company we work for takes care of the move so we don't have to actually do it ourselves. That would REALLY suck.

So here's how it went down. Hubby and I met many moons ago (coming up on 19 years) in Arizona at the nuke plant there. After a couple years of courtship, we wed. A couple of years after that, he had an opportunity to go permanent at another nuke in the midwest, and so did I. I was not in the least thrilled with the prospect. I love the desert. I love Arizona. I didn't want to leave. But I follow my heart first and so the man and I moved to Missouri.

Shortly after moving, we bought a house. We affectionately refer to it as the "money pit" because it's about 150 years old (at least parts of it) and needed a lot of work. We thought it would be *fun*. Princess here realized she does not like do-it-yourself fixer-uppers. At all. No matter, we thought "five years and out" anyway, so we'd just hunker down and work hard.

In late 1999, we had a baby! It had been 3 years since we'd moved to Missouri. Only two more years left! In late 2001, baby #2 arrived. It had been almost exactly five years, but of course with a newborn we weren't going to be planning on any big moves and there weren't really any job options we were interested in. Ok, we'll stick around a little longer.

A few years later, we found ourselves to be quite settled and content in our little midwest town. The kids had lots of friends, and so did we. We became active in the community and realized how wonderful it is. Then we did some craziness - we completely remodeled a good portion of the house (many of our friends said we built from the inside out...). We designed the kitchen to end all kitchens (for us anyway!) I'll post some pictures a little later, if I don't drop off blogger again. :-)

February 2008: We got our chance to go back home to Arizona. The chief nuclear officer at the plant there, with whom I've worked before, really wanted me to come and help them. I initially said no. They persisted. It was a package deal. The offer was sweet. We ultimately said yes, but it was extremely hard. Security and stability are wickedly important to me, so after almost 12 years, ripping up my roots, even to take me to somewhere familiar, was incredibly difficult. We did it anyway.

The jobs were great. The work was hard, but fulfilling (troubled plants are a lot of fun; stressful, but it's fun to be part of turning things around). But it was too much. I wasn't getting home until 7 or 8 at night. Hubby was working 60-70 hour weeks regularly. It was taking its toll. The kids were not happy. After 7 months, we ended up visiting a counselor, to see what we could do to help them. The little guy's reading got worse. Our oldest's behavior was challenging (which is somewhat to be expected as he enters the tween phase of his life...omg did I just say that???!!!). But we would persevere. Gotta give it a chance, and that means at least a year or more.

The call from the midwest came during the summer. "What would it take to get you back?" they asked my spouse. Now what do we do? It had been almost 18 months and things were not getting better in AZ, but move again? Are you kidding? True to form, I suggested we respectfully decline. Until we started laying out all the facts in plus/delta form. Notwithstanding the fact that the house in Missouri still hadn't sold; two mortgage payments do take their toll. After much heart wrenching discussion, we came to the realization that maybe home is actually in Missouri, and not Arizona after all. The negotiations began. They really wanted hubby back, but I needed to stay at least through September to get the plant through its accreditation (the main reason I was brought there). By the time all was said and done, we agreed on a start date in October for hubby, and January for me. The moving trucks came, and like a flash we were gone.

It's been a little over 3 weeks now, and I'm finally starting to calm down. The main living areas are unpacked and organized, but there are still a zillion boxes in the basement and the garage. Hubby has started work again and has been completely spoiled since I don't go back until January, and he has a homecooked meal ready every night. After all, I hadn't cooked in almost 18 months; I need to make up for lost time!

So now I'm looking for my new normal. The stress that had built up for months and months is starting to release. The kids are rock stars back at school. Everyone we meet tells us how happy they are we came back. This is where we belong.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Grandeur of Arizona

Arizona - it's more than a desert. Unless you've been here, you may not know that. Sedona, where we got married, is indescribably beautiful. And the Grand Canyon - well - you just have to see it...

Some close friends of ours came to visit and we decided we needed to show them our state! I will post pictures...but it doesn't do the beauty of this land justice...

Monday, June 15, 2009

List Maker (Compulsive...Obsessive...)

I am a list maker. I make lists for everything. Shopping lists. Christmas gift lists. Books I want to read lists. Which scrapbooks to do first lists. Budget list. Phone list. Places I want to visit lists. Idea lists for each room of the house. Who gets the school pictures lists. To do lists. Perhaps it's a vestige of my mother's teaching ("write it down so you won't forget it!") or simply another shred of evidence that I'm OCD (I also like to label things, both seen and unseen). Either way, I find great satisfaction in checking something off one of my lists. I'll even write something down that I've already done, just to bask in the glorious check mark I get to place next to it (and I'll put it somewhere in the middle of the list, somehow that makes it more gratifying). That would be the obsessive part.

Not too long ago, I was able to check a lot of things off my list...including FINALLY catching up on my ironing and some Christmas shopping. That was a bonus, because that also meant I got to update my spreadsheet (I keep a very detailed spreadsheet of who, what, and how much), which is thrilling when you see the red colors go away (I color coded it so I know who is left). It took me a long time to create that Christmas shopping spreadsheet. I'd started with a database but the spreadsheet works better for the way I use it. What it's allowed me to do is to avoid the last minute "I have to go Christmas shopping for everyone," and frees me to be able to buy something for someone I love because I want to, not because I have to, and still stay within my means. I know so many people who have become cynical of the gift giving thing, and I didn't want to be one of them. By keeping things manageable, it helps me also keep perspective, and not lose sight of what Christmas is REALLY about. It also means I don't have to take out a second mortgage just to get through Christmas.

So back to the list. I love my lists, but I have a bad habit. I write down more than any rational mortal could accomplish in a given day, week, or in some cases a month, and yet I'm delusional enough to think I can actually accomplish it all in one fell swoop. Still having trouble with that reality thing. I'm guessing that's the compulsive part. Then I get mad and disappointed in myself. Perhaps it’s my outlet for the overly competitive and ambitious drive I once had that is winding down a bit now. Seeing the whole OCD thing now?

I have to remember BALANCE....it makes me think of a song I once heard about lists...and the most important thing you can have on your list is to "start livin'." I realized I didn't write that on my list. I didn't write "snuggle with Alex" and "take a walk with Ryan around the lake" or "cuddle on the couch with hubby and a movie," "enjoy a cup of coffee in the courtyard," and "quietly watch a beautiful red sonoran sunset." And yet I did all those things. And as I think about them and the other REAL accomplishments of my days, the stuff I didn't get done doesn't seem so important now. I think I'll write them on my list and check them off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Strange Love Affair

Those who have known me for a long time know that I have this thing about ironing. A love affair of sorts. It's a long history, me and my iron. I started as a young girl when that became my job and I took it seriously (though to this day the idea of ironing blue jeans is utterly ridiculous to me...but my father insisted). It became the running joke between me and Pippa those high school summer days over the phone:

Me: "Hey Pip, whatcha doin'?"

Pippa: "Cleaning the kitchen. You?"

Me: "Ironing."

On any given day, the above exchange was likely to have occurred at least once. Of course I was always ironing - there are a lot of clothes for a family of six and of course we all loved cotton. I am just grateful we weren't linen-lovers. That stuff is hard to iron. Mom wasn't intent that I iron sheets, either. I'm grateful for that. So I took the whole ironing gig with me. And when I met my future in-laws, JoJo introduced me to the iron that ends all irons...the ROWENTA. It's the Rolls Royce for domestic goddesses, if you ask me. I was fortunate enough to procure one following our nuptials, and it was as if I'd been reacquainted with an old friend. I'd been attached to that thing for years, even when the cord blew up on me once (no injuries for me, but it was rather entertaining for Jenn who was on the phone with me at the time). My Rowenta saw me through so many things - the hurried rush of the last minute pants pressing for hubby, the struggles to get fold lines out of old tablecloths from my grandmother, a perfect press for the blouse before a big presentation. My poor iron had suffered many accidental bumps and drops from my ironing board, but only recently did I have to lay her to rest, and purchase a new one. I miss my old Rowenta. Sure, my new one is just as grand, with some lovely new features that make ironing a breeze. But your first really good iron is like your first car. Ok, perhaps not for everyone else, but that's what it was like for me.

And then I had to travel quite a bit. The one thing that keeps me linked to my domestic callings had to be relinquished to *gasp* the drycleaners. I felt like I was betraying a trusted friend! The good news is, I got over it. I have to admit, leaving a pile of wrinkled clothes by your front door on Monday and by Thursday they reappear all clean and neatly pressed is rather indulgent. But there is something comforting about me and my iron. So as my travel wound down, I started putting less in the drycleaning pile and more in the "I'll do it myself" pile, which languished for a few weeks. This past Sunday, however, was a banner day for me and my Ms. Rowenta. We went to town and if it was made of cloth and within 5 feet of me, it got ironed (I did draw the line at clothing actually being worn). The closet rod is now empty, and freshly pressed clothes are put in their proper place. All the laundry is done, too, and folded. It will be at least two days before it starts over again. AHHHHHHH, bliss.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Camping & Geocaching

Ah, the fresh mountain air. There is nothing like it. I love being in the mountains, surrounded by firs and pines and deciduous statues and the crispness as evening light fades to dark and the stars take over the watch of the earth. Growing up near the mountains instills a yearning that is not lost nor forgotten, even when one is miles away from the rocky peaks as I was for over a decade.

So the mountains called, and we answered! It was time to get out of the heat (though so far this summer has been quite mild), exercise the ATVs, and scare up some s'mores. That and we got a new tent...what better reasons to go?

Our friends introduced us to a worldwide treasure hunt called geocaching. In its simplest terms, players hide things and find things, using a handy-dandy GPS (global positioning system, for you non-techies). Once you approximate the location, you hunt for the cache and the treasures within. You can take a trinket as long as you leave one. Alex was very proud to find his first geocache this trip (with much help from Adri!).

Look at Laura and Reggie!

And no camping trip is complete without some touch football!

Alex kicking back on a hammock, with his spy gear.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Yes, you read it right. Pertoguhfer. That is what Alex wants to be when he grows up, if not a policeman or artist. I will have to find some of his "work" and post it. I love the way he pronounces words...it's been like this since he was a baby. Many of these are no longer said this way....but man was it cute when they were:

bercept = except (he still says bercept)

rayroh-roh-roh crocking = railroad crossing (at about 18 months. NO idea why or how it came out that way but there you go)

trigamo = triangle (my favorite. I was so bummed when he pronounced it correctly...)

Ry-bee = when Alex was about 12 mos., this is what he called Ryan. It went something like this:

wubie = movie as in "i wanna watch a wubie" (emphasis on WUUU)

pertoguhfer = photographer (the latest installment of Alexisms).

I remember when the kids saw Finding Nemo.

Alex: Mommy, can we watch the wubie, Fining Momo?

Ryan: It's Nemo.

Alex: dat's what I said. Momo

Ryan: No Alex, NE-mo. Say it with me: NE

Alex: NE

Ryan: MO

Alex: MO

Ryan: NEMO

Alex: MO-MO! (triumphantly. Ryan slaps his own forehead with palm of his hand. Mom tries to hide laughter).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

- Thucydides

Let us not forget this weekend, the reason for Memorial Day, the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, our liberty, our lives.
Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Disney World May 2009
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Ok, Ok, yes I have succumbed. I failed to blog. One day. Then another. Next thing I knew it was weeks...which, as you find out when you hit 40, rather rapidly (if not exponentially) changes into months...that and one forgets their password...I have a lot of excuses, you know. I was out of town more than I was home, so when I got home I just didn't feel right sitting at my computer blogging or facebooking when I hadn't seen my family for a week. And then I had to turn around and leave town again, for several weeks it seemed. It's just one of those times at work for me, being an accreditation year. I first went to Atlanta for about 4 days, and then the following week was gone for 6 days for an accreditation visit at a differnt nuke (I call it my recon mission, in preparation for our visit in September), home for a week and then gone again for several days for a workshop in Atlanta. And then our director decided to send me off to DC for a few days for a conference. So I was wiped out - especially since hubby has been working six-12's for the Unit 3 outage. I could barely breathe when it was time to pack for our vacation - you know you're stressed when you'd rather stay home than go away! But I'm so glad we went!!!

So after much scolding from many of my friends, I am making it right again....I'm back to my blog, new password and all, and in a few short moments will post a picture album from Disney World (we just got back last night!).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sugar River

I just figured out how to make a river for my son's diorama (it's a dinosaur scene). I liquefied sugar, adding some powdered food coloring (blue of course) before the sugar started to melt. If you're wondering how to liquefy sugar, just put on the stove and heat - start stirring when it starts to melt and just keep stirring as it liquefies. It makes a fantastic glue for gingerbread houses. Once liquified I poured it into a glass measuring cup so I could gently place it in the riverbead (made from the salt dough he and I made last week). I noticed it bubbled quite a bit, wasn't sure what to do about that. So I didn't do anything. Before it completely cooled and solidified, though, I took a toothpick and kind of drug it along the bubbles to pop them. It turned out okay, maybe less food coloring next time but it has a nice dark greenish-blue color to it so I think it will work!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Have Beads, Will Party

The Mardi Gras, french for Fat Tuesday, happens this Tuesday. It is the culmination of the Carnival season, a centuries-old Catholic tradition (dating at least back to the middle ages, however its roots go even further into history). Carnival - which means "farewell to flesh," is a period of feasting before the fasting of Lent. Carnival begins on January 6 - the feast of Epiphany. Which means just about anytime between January 6 and whenever Fat Tuesday occurs is free game for a PARTY. So we took advantage of the situation, and threw our own Mardi Gras party last night. Plus we thought it was fitting since yesterday we SIGNED CLOSING PAPERS FOR OUR HOUSE!!!! More on that later...

But back to the party...it was a great time - and G-rated, I might add (this was a family event!). Rich made his soon-to-be-famous Jambalaya and Red Beans-n-Rice (one hot, and one milder version for the more faint at heart such as myself). We had cornbread, french bread, appetizers (thanks to all who brought them!), mardi-gras punch (a-la hurricane sans alcohol) and other assorted beverages. We topped it off with a traditional, authentic King Cake flown in from New Orleans!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Mardi Gras, AZ Style!
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Really Don't Know How...

...my son became a huge NASCAR fan. Rich and I are not NASCAR "people", never have been. Sure, the Daytona 500 was on in our house every so often, as it the "biggest race of the year" (not unlike Indy), and thus carries with it a similar flavor to other major events we (meaning my husband and I) don't follow like the Kentucky Derby - it just has a lot of ballcaps and beer instead of prim hats and mint juleps.

So back to my son the NASCAR fan. His favorite driver is Jeff Gordon. He is a diehard fan, even though #24 had a less than stellar year last season. He's not as rabid about the "sport" as he was when he first got into it, but he knows a lot more about it than I even knew existed. He used to go onto NASCAR.com, study the track for the upcoming race, and build models with his blocks. Pretty amazing ones at that. He'd even tell me "see Mom, turn #3 is between a 27 and 32 degree angle...", and all I could think of is why would a 7 year old (at the time) know that? Is he doomed to be an engineer?

He's been to about five races or so now, and it's likely he will be begging to go to the next one at PIR in April. Since NASCAR season has officially started again, the TV is on with all things NASCAR. I have to admit, the Viagra commercials trouble me on many levels, not the least of which being that my 9 year old son is watching (Ryan: "Mom, what is Viagra for?" Mom: "Ask your father.")

Monday, February 9, 2009

Soup Weather

Oh, how I love soup weather. I miss it, since moving to the desert. In Rock Port, though I couldn't count on it by Halloween, I knew it wasn't far off, and I'd be whipping up batches of butternut squash soup, baked potato soup, and my favorite sherried mushroom bisque, among others, to warm the cooler days and bitter cold nights. For 12 years that was my norm.

Now we're back in the desert, where it isn't uncommon to be wearing shorts in January. Just last week, we hit 85 one day. Don't get me wrong; I love it - no more ice storms, no more 20 minutes of bundling up for the 5 minute drive to daycare. But I sometimes miss the coziness.

Except today! It is rainy, wet, dark, and no warmer than 55 degrees! That's cold! Well, relatively speaking, that is (all my Rock Port friends are laughing at me now, I'm sure. When we first moved here, we told Ryan he could drop the "above" after citing the temperature, as it's unlikely he will have to tell temperatures in terms of the relativity to 0 degrees Fahrenheit anymore).

Seriously, though, with the wind actually howling (it blew the cover off the patio furniture and now the cushions are all wet. WAH!!!), rainy cold weather has me aching to make soup. Hubby got called home today to pick up a feverish Alex from school (it was Rich's turn), so I also left early in order that Ryan could still go to Tae Kwon Do. And then, instead of logging in and continuing my work from home...I made soup. Sherried Mushroom Bisque. It's quietly simmering on the stove, foretelling of a quiet, cozy evening. I can't wait till it's ready!!! Come on by and I'll serve you up a cup.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thank you...

To all who called. To all who emailed. To the ones who listened to me lament what the future holds for my loved ones. To those whose thoughts and prayers have been constant since it all started...And big thanks to those who stand by my brother and hold him up. To loved ones across the sea who are taking care of my beautiful nieces and their mother...always a sister in my heart. Your thoughts, your prayers, your wishes for good hopes...I thank you. How lucky - to have so many caring, wonderful, thoughtful people in my world. Your outpouring of love never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hearts are Breaking

Hearts are breaking, and there is a great sadness in my world today. Not because the Cardinals lost the Superbowl (it was a great game, after all, and the Cards showed a lot of character); not because of anything with Groundhog Day (did he see his shadow? Did he not? Do I care?); not because the economy shows signs of worsening. No, these things don't enter my psyche today. Today my sister in law and my nieces boarded a plane. To move to Norway. Divorce is never easy, especially when it involves two contintents. And suddenly, the reality of how our family is forever changed begins to settle in. My brother will survive on letters and emails and occasional pictures and updates, and a promise of reuniting with his daughers sometime soon. I know there is rejoicing on the other side - the prodigal daughter is returning home and now her family gets a turn at being a part of the girls' every day lives. Who can blame them? They've been the ones surviving on letters all these years. Now it's their turn, and what a wonderful opportunity for the girls. But nothing will be the same for those left behind.

For me, the change is more transparent, since I moved away long before I had nieces and a sister in law. So I'm used to the occasional calls now and then, the email exchanges, and hoping to visit once a year. But for the rest of my family, who lived basically around the corner from them, it's a whole different story. And I started feeling the ache in my heart when I spoke to my mom and my sister. An ache so deep and so painful, I'd forgotten how fragile my heart really is. I can be - and usually am - awfully cold and unfeeling. I've not decided if this is because that's just the way engineers are, or if perhaps it's a coping mechanism I've built over the years to shield myself from the things I feared would break me. I don't know. Whatever it may be, though, it isn't there right now. I started having chest pains, thinking of my brother, and thought maybe I'm having a heart problem??? But then I realized, this caving, sinking, crushing feeling is the pain I'm feeling for him. I only wish I could keep it for him, so he wouldn't have to feel it himself.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


WHAT A DAY! My hubby and my big boy saw some sports history today...LIVE! They were at the stadium and watched the Cards take the NFC championship. What a game it was! I found myself screaming at the TV. I never do that. But knowing two of my boys were there was just too much excitement for me.

Last week when it became evident that the championship game was going to be here, Rich decided to get online and see if he could get tickets. You know, the tickets that sold out in 6 minutes. He came walking into the kitchen with this *look* on his face...he got 'em all right. Did I want to know how much? No. No I didn't. But he told me anyway. YIKES! SELL THEM ON EBAY I cried. But after having slept on it, I thought, what the heck. Did I want to go? No. Take Ryan, I said.

I just got a phone call - that I couldn't hear - because of all the noise in the stadium! Ryan was yelling "they won mama! they won mama!" He sounded elated. No pricetag for that, my friends.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How cool would it be...

I find myself in meetings a lot. It's just a part of what I do. Industry focus groups, information sharing meetings, leadership workshops, board proceedings, classes...

Many times these start out with ice breakers that include a "tell us something most people might not know about you" kind of thing.

How cool would it be to say "I'm a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do"? I am hoping someday I can say that...

So what do you want to be when you grow up?

The perennial question asked by parents of their young - please, tell me with your full 8 years of existence on this planet how you want to spend the rest of your adult life. And the answers one gets are all at once full of hope and surprising. Ryan wants to be a NASCAR driver. Alex wants to be an "army man". To clarify and confirm, I responded, "So, you want to be a soldier, eh?"

Alex: "NO! I said army man."


I was asked the other day that very same question at work...with a "due date" of January 2010. Surprising somewhat. I'm 40 after all, and have been in my field for almost 18 years. But January of next year marks a milestone in the project I'm working on so I'm guessing this individual wants to know what is next for me. And I realized I don't know...are they wondering what they will do with me??? I've been so focused on the goals and strategies I've laid out for this year to dig our program out of a perceived hole (it's why I was brought to the company last March), that I've thought of nothing beyond. It's a bit unsettling. I'm used to "fixing" now, having built my career over the last several years on recovery.

So I guess I need to figure out what my next coup d'etat will entail...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photo Shoot

We did a little photo shoot of the boys so Grammie could finish her grandbaby gallery in her new room. I was pretty pleased at how they turned out, here are some of my favorites that I think truly capture the essence of my little guys.