Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Faith

This Christmas I did a lot of reflecting on faith.  Christmas is a lot about faith really.  First of all it's the celebration of the birth of a deity in human form.  Born to a virgin no less!  So from the start you have to first have faith that there is a God.  Then I suppose the next step would be to believe that He loves you.  You would have to believe that He loves you enough to send His Son to be born to a virgin for the purpose of sharing His love and then dying for our sake.  Whew!  That's a lot to have to accept. 

Let's say you don't believe in any of that but you still celebrate Christmas.  What are you celebrating?  Santa?  The "human spirit?"  Good will toward men?  All of that takes a lot of faith too.

Gabriel is teetering on his belief in Santa.  It's the right age for that but I fanned the flame in hopes of keeping that fire going just one more year.  He's so smart and so black and white that I am pretty sure he knows and is drawing it out too.  Maybe for me.  Maybe for his little brother.  I hope for himself.  It's fun to believe in Santa! 

I never did.  I just always knew that it was mom and dad but we still played along.  Every Christmas Eve my brother, sister and I would sleep under the fireplace in the hopes of catching Santa in the act.  See, every year my parents had one "Santa" gift.  It was usually big and it was never wrapped.  It was the one gift that did not get put out under the tree until Christmas Eve when we were asleep.  We would sleep out under the fire place, hoping to catch mom and dad putting out the "Santa" gift.  They always did it with out getting caught.  Stocking stuffing too. 

This Christmas Eve, mom watched the kids while Aaron and I went to our neighbors for a little cocktail hour.  We toasted the holiday with champagne and snacked on summer sausage and cheese.  There were other friends there too and we all gabbed and caught up.  Some how the conversation turned toward the topic of religion.  Always a good idea to steer away from such topics as religion and politics but one guest really wanted to dive into it.  He suggested we go around and declare our belief/stance on religion.

"I don't believe in religion, " one fellow began.  "I don't think there is anything after death.  It's final.  I think you become something else, like maybe a tree, but your conscience is gone."

"I believe what ever my wife tells me to believe," came a safe and light answer.

I don't quite remember what the other guy said because it was pretty long winded but it seems that he believes in God and possibly Christ.  I don't know...he lost me.

"I'm a Christian and I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again on the third day, " was my husband's text book answer.

"So you believe in a Heaven?" someone asked Aaron.

"Yes."

"And what is that?"

"I don't know."

"I'm also a Christian.  Like Aaron said, I believe in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection but I do not really have a religion.  I have a relationship with Christ.  He's always with me and I talk to Him all the time.  It snowed the other day and I could see every detail in the snow flakes.  As an artist I just can't believe that there was not an intelligent and creative being behind the creation of those snow flakes.  From the science I've studied I can't believe that something as well designed and well balanced as our universe could be created by accident.  These things tell me there is a God and I want to know Him,"  said I.  (My answer was not nearly as long as that other guy who's answer I can't actually recall.  I think he was dancing about what he actually believed...)

"I am an atheist.  I practice Buddhism.  I don't believe in a God because I can't believe that a God would allow bad things to happen, especially to children."  This response came with tears.  This sweet woman and her husband lost their son at a young age.  I could totally get why she would not believe in God or want to.  If there is any part of her that does I'm sure it's a part that is angry with Him.

My heart was aching at this point.

The grieving woman's husband put an arm around her and began to pontificate on his beliefs.  Like her, he could not believe that a God would let bad things happen to children.

"Religion hurts people," he said.  "'Let all the little children come to Me,'" he scoffed. "Religious people abuse children and others.  Religion causes war.  Nothing good comes from it."  At some point he specifically argued that Christians were essentially unloving people who believe in a myth.  There was a crack made by the guy who will be a tree when he dies, about the "virgin" birth and the other way-far-out-there things in the Christian faith that come across as a fairy tale.

The long winded guy pointed out that Christ is indeed a historical fact.  There is proof that He lived.  But the other guy continued to point out the evils of religion.

"You're right," I tell him.  "Religion has done a lot of bad things and bad things have been done in the name of religion.  Christ did not create religion.  People did.  Christ came to create relationship."

At this point there were several talking at once.  No one was angry, mind you.  Everyone was very civil about the whole thing.  Aaron of course said nothing.  He always quietly observes.  We pretty much disbanded on this "high-note."  After all it was Christmas Eve and we all had things to do to get ready for the holiday.  (Whatever that meant to you.)  So we toasted the "human-spirit" as mine plummeted further into sadness.

I really wanted to ask what everyone was celebrating for.  If they don't believe in Christ what was Christmas to them?  I know that Christmas is not celebrated on the actual day of Christ's birth but for hundreds of years that has been what the day is honoring.  His name is in the name of the holiday for goodness sake!

I was so sad.  My heart ached for my friends.  Their answers had no hope in them.  Life just ends and in the mean time, our hope is in the "human-spirit?!"  Ug.  Humans are so flawed and selfish.  I can't have my hope in that.  I can't have faith in that.

When we got home, Aaron and I snuggled up to the boys on the couch and read Twas the Night Before Christmas and then the Christmas story in Luke, from the Bible.  The boys excitedly prepared a plate of cookies and a mug of milk for Santa and set it on the hearth.  They couldn't wait to go to sleep because then Santa would soon arrive!  We said our bedtime prayers together; Drew went first as always.

"Father God we thank You for this day and I ask that You get Santa here safely with all of the presents and we thank You for giving us Your Son, Jesus." 

He gets it!  I sighed, Thank you Father for a child's faith.

After we did our Santa Duties, Aaron and I got ready for bed.  I cried the whole time.

"What's wrong?"  Aaron asked.

"I'm just so sad by tonight's conversation."

"All kinds of people believe different things," he shrugged.

"I know that.  I'm not surprised or offended.  Just...sad.  They have no hope."  I prayed for my friends and asked God to help me be a good representative of His love for them.  Then I asked that He bring someone else to be a light to them because I'm not any good at that sort of thing.  I cried myself to sleep.

Christmas morning was bright and beautiful.  And snowless...  The family had a lovely and quiet day together.  I've been wanting a Christmas like this for so long!  It's usually chaos with scads of family.  It's always a good time but it's a lot of work and quality time together is lost.  So I was very thankful for this intimate Christmas with my family.

I am still reading Eat, Pray, Love.  It's become a challenge now.  Her time in Italy was a great read but her search for God is exhausting me.  I can appreciate how meditating can help one to hear from God.  But I don't have to have a quiet mind for Him to reveal things to me.  Neither did the author of this book.  She was "hearing" from God before she ever took the trip.  Admittedly so!  (And she does not flip flop tenses as I previously thought.)  So I don't quite get all of that.  God does not require that you sit still and be bit all over by mosquito's in order to be near Him.  He is already near!  At least that is what I believe.  I just try to love.  Love Him and love others. 

I don't claim to know how God works or that I know what Heaven will be like.  My kids ask me all of the time about these things.

"God has lot's of mysteries that He does not reveal to us.  We simply trust that His plan and His ways are perfect.  You have to just have faith."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cats and Dogs

I don't intend to write about every day with Drake but he has brought much excitement in my household in a very short time.

I really want to weigh him.  He is so heavy and strong!  Aaron said he is 60 lbs but I hardly think that is accurate.  My whole body aches from the pulling and pushing I do to him and he to me.  In the one day we had him I lost a pound.  Go ahead and laugh that off and call it "water weight."  Aaron did.  But I know it's not.  I weigh myself multiple times during the day (I know it's unhealthy, yadda yadda) and I know when my weight fluctuates.  When I gain "water weight" it shows in the evening and it's never a loss always a gain.  Also, my weight had been stuck at this certain number for a couple of months so...don't knock my small victory. 

Drake is constantly making efforts to get in the house.  I'm working hard to keep him out.  Until he gets more training he can't come in, especially after what happened today.

Usually Sinclaire goes in and out but since Drake has come along she has not ventured out.  She has hardly even gone down stairs which is a bit of an issue since her food, water, and litter box are down there.  Not to mention, Smee.  Smee has not left our room.  She's been under my bed for days.  Last night I brought them out and carried them downstairs to see that the dog was not there and all was safe.  They looked around and dashed back up the stairs.

This morning Sinclaire was feeling more comfortable and she even made a request to be let out.  Drake was not out yet and I thought it would be good for her and so I obliged.  An hour or so later I needed to let Drake out to feed him and just because I don't want him cooped up in his room too long.  I figured with the big yard they could avoid each other fine.  I figured wrong.

While having breakfast I look out the window and see Sinclaire hanging on for dear life to the log poles that hold up our deck roof.  Drake was at the base of it barking like mad.  Sinclaire was so scared she peed down the pole!  Poor baby!  I ran out and grabbed a hold of Drake's collar.   (I keep trying this.  I know.)  Some how I bought a little time for Sinclaire to scramble down the pole and then Drake was off after her.  I had the sense to not try to hang on, otherwise I would have been dragged down the stairs.  Drake chased Sinclaire out into the yard and she turns around and slashes at him.  Her claws hooked into a jowl.  Drake stood up and the cat was hanging from his jowl by her claw!

I was alarmed but pleased because I thought that would teach Drake not to mess with her.  But instead it goaded him on!  He went at her again and I thought he was going to bite her.  So I ran down and actually got into the mix myself.  I pulled on that collar and grabbed a stick in case he turned his aggression to me.  To his credit, he never did.  He wanted the cat.  Sinclaire did not run away but stood her ground and after much wrestling I finally convinced Drake to head up the hill to the house.  I pulled, pulled, pulled him up and got him back into the mud room.  I had another tussle with him there because the kids left the mud room door open to the house and he tried to run in again.  I managed to hold him back and reach the pincher collar.  Once I got that around his neck I had more control and got him to stay put in the mud room.  Whew!

I made sure the kids knew NOT to open that door and went down to check on poor Miss Sinclaire.  She had not moved from where we had left her.  She was still arch backed and puffy tailed.  I was not fool enough to try to touch her or pick her up but she did let me get close enough to get a look at her.  I noticed one of her paws was bleeding. 

Crap.  Did that dog maul her foot? 

Sinclaire started to spit because she was salivating so much.  Trauma. 

I used to have a beautiful, white, long-haired Angorian named Gidget.  She was strictly an inside cat but my mom left the back door open one time and Gidge got out.  She was attached by another cat.  She only suffered from one scratch but the event was so traumatic she as shaking and salivating just like Sinclaire was.  The next day she died.  She just couldn't take the shock of it all.

So now I see Sinclaire shaking, frozen in fear and salivating and I'm thinking this is just like Gidge and she's going to be dead by tomorrow.  I called the vets emergency line.  They warned me against trying to pick up an upset cat.  Really?  They said it could be a flesh wound or he could have crushed it.  (More obvious statements.)  They suggested I wait to see if she would calm down and then bring her in.  I went and got her crate and set it in front of her.  She was mildly intrigued and sort of peered into it but she did not move in. 

"You will be safe in there,"  I coaxed.  "He's not going to get you again.  Promise."  But cats don't really listen. 

I had to get the kids to the bus stop so I left the crate in front of Sinclaire hoping that she would consider my idea to hide in the crate.  I had planned on walking Drake to the bus stop but I did not want him to scare Sinclaire and keep her from going in the crate.  Plus I was a little mad with him.  Gabe was crying as we went down to the stop.

"This is just another bad thing that has happened to us in Colorado!  Terrible things keep happening to us here!"

"Son, Theodore died and that was sad but he was going to die soon anyway.  Even if we were still in Texas.  And this is not terrible.  Dogs and cats don't get along.  Sinclaire is probably fine.  Drake is a little bloodied but he's fine.  He needs more training but he's a good dog."

"I know he is.  I love him but I love Sinclaire too!"

After the boys got on the bus I went back to the yard to see if Sinclaire had got in the crate.  Right away, I noticed she was not where I had left her. 

Yea!  She moved!  I thought and hoped it meant she had moved into the crate.  She hadn't though.  I could not find her anywhere.  I searched our fenced yard and then moved out to the rest of our property.  She has always been a slave to her belly, so I got her treats out and searched around while shaking them around.  I couldn't find her anywhere there.  I was not gone long enough for her to fall prey to another animal.  Plus I think I would've heard something had that happened.  I decided that she was either hiding, she ran away or she went away to die. 

I am the worst pet owner ever.  And the worst mother.  Gabriel is going to be devastated. 

The whole point of getting the dog was to have a happy memory in Colorado instead of a sad one.  (Gary is dead too BTW.  Gabriel also blames this on Colorado.  Who brings a snail to a dry climate?)  I finally gave up on my hunt for Sinclaire.  I had a big day planned at Baking Day.  Tamales.  It's no small thing and I had 5 lbs of chicken already boiled, a tub of lard and a bag of masa.  This needed to be done.  I left the back and front sliding glass doors open in case she came home and went into the mud room to leash Drake.  He was coming with me to play with Caren's dogs while we worked.

When I entered the mud room there was a very repentant Drake.  He still had the pincher collar on.  I took it off him and pet him and kissed his head.  I sat on the bench in there and he plopped his top half onto my lap and began pressing his head into my belly.  He rolled it around and around against my belly and then licked my chin. 

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

"Drake.  You were very naughty.  You can't do that to the cats.  They were here first.  This is their home too.  You have to learn to get along.  I'm very mad with you.  You may have hurt Sinclaire very badly." 

The whole time I'm lecturing him he is rubbing his head around on my belly and then he tries to slip his head back into the pincher collar.

Never take it off of me.  I'm a bad dog.  I deserve to wear it!

"Oh you are being silly!  Well...we have some time before Baking Day.  I'll take you for your walk."

Thankfully our walk was uneventful.  He had one pause in the road with perked ears and tensed body.  I really hate when the dogs do that.  They know something is there but I can't see it.  Probably just a deer but...gives me the willies.  After the walk I took him to Caren's to play.  Only one of her three dogs was there though.  Rascal and Rosemary have a habit of breaking out for a little adventure.  Caren got a call though from someone who had them.  She went to get her dogs and I went home to get the rest of my things and to see if the cat had returned.

Nothing.

The dogs had so much fun together.  I kept worrying though about the way Drake and Rascal would wrestle.

"Caren are they playing or...?  How can you tell if this is just fun?"

"You will know the difference.  They're playing.  You need to leave Drake here sometime when you are not here to fret about it."

Well Rosemary did not like it either she kept barking at them.

Stop!  Just stop!  Someone is going to get hurt!

Or she was placing bets.  I don't know.

The baking ladies and I set to work and eventually I noticed that Rosemary had stopped barking.  I figured they must've finally wore themselves out.  I looked out the back windows and could not see the dogs anywhere.  I opened the back door and called for them but no one came.

"Crap.  Caren, I think your dogs have busted out again and I think Drake went with them!"

So Caren and I head out in her car driving around with our heads out the windows calling for them and waving Puperroni treats.  Before long we saw some guys working on the road.

"Oh, this is going to be embarrassing," Caren said.  "I've had to ask these guys if they've seen our dogs before. 

Sure enough:  "Your dogs got out again?!  No, we haven't seen 'em."

We drove back home and I prayed allowed.

"Lord, please bring those dogs back.  I can not lose two pets in one day!" 

Caren and I came home and announced that we had not found the dogs but were sure they'd return.  Rosemary always gets Rascal back home.  I just prayed Drake stayed with them.  It was not long though that I heard Laurel make a little whimper.  I figured she messed up her bread or something but then...

"There's Drake!"  Caren said.  The whimper had been his!

Sure enough there he was at her back door.  Then Rascal and then Rosemary came to the door.  Caren and I looked at each other and laughed. 

"I don't think they ever got out, " she said.  "I think they were just far up the hill."  She gave them each a treat.

Seven or eight dozen tamales later, I went home and lo and behold Sinclaire greeted me when I walked in.  She walks fine and seems unfazed except for a little blood in her fur on her paw.  Come to think of it that could be Drake's blood from when she clawed him.  Brat.

I just let Drake out to go potty before bed.  When we came back in the mud room he stood at the door to the house wanting me to let him in.

"Nope.  It's bed time."

He laid down in his bed.  I turned out the lights and went into the house with out having to fight him.  He is learning.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Dog Blog

Well, of course I'm going to blog about our new dog!!!  He is only the best dog in the world!  (No offense to the rest of you suckers who only think you have the best dog in the world but really just have great dogs.  Sadly there can only be one BEST and that's our Drake.) 

Shortly after we moved here our dog, Theodore, died.  It's sad, yes, but he was like 16 years old, deaf, blind and incontinent.  He was also not the sort of dog that was going to last long in the mountains anyway.  He was a pain in my ass....and I loved him.  Just a few weeks ago, I got a little choked up when I passed his dog food in the pet aisle at the grocery store. 

The boys miss him too.  They write about him at school, pray for him in their prayers and they asked Santa for a new dog...

Aaron and I thought now would be a good time.  Plus it is so fun getting a dog for Christmas!  It ranks up there with getting your first bike for Christmas.  So we began "shopping" on the Boulder Human Society website.  We know there are closer shelters but it seemed fitting since the previous owner of our house is the director of the place.  I saw Drake on the website before Thanksgiving but Aaron thought we should wait until closer to Christmas. 

A week later, Drake was no longer listed.  He'd been adopted.  Poop.  I continued my search and found some other cute dogs as well but we still wanted to wait until a little closer to the big day.  Then last week I saw that Drake was back.  They had a video of him on the website and I saw how well he walked and that he could sit and lay on command.  And that face!!!  So pretty!  He was also the right age.  We did not want another senior (that's for sure) but we did not want a puppy either.  Too much like having a baby.  I am not in the mood to potty train anything right now and we have new carpet downstairs...no to a puppy.

I called BHS to see why Drake was returned and if we could put a hold on him until Sunday.  They said he was a great dog and he was returned to no fault of his own.  His new owner was in a car accident shortly after he got him.  The owner's injuries would require that he do physical therapy and he was in no shape to be caring for/walking a dog.  I asked about putting a hold on him but you can only put a hold 24 hours in advance.

So Saturday morning I look up Drake again and find that someone else had put him on hold!  I perused the other options...Lola looked like a cute dog but we would have to change that name....Shadow seemed like a good one... But Drake!  I just knew he was our dog!  So I called BHS again.  They said not to worry.  They have lot's of puppies right now and most people are going to choose them.  I comforted myself with the knowledge that God has a perfect plan for us, even down to the right pet.  If Drake is not there that's OK because the right dog would be.

Sunday morning I looked him up again and Drake was there and his hold was lifted!  The boys had a birthday party to go to at noon.  Aaron and I planned on him going out to Boulder to check it out while we were at the party.  I wrote a note to the boys from Santa and rolled it up like a scroll tied with a pretty satin ribbon.  (Gabriel is sort of on to the Santa thing I think but I will play along as long as he lets me!  Such a serious boy needs some silliness in his life.)  The plan was for Aaron to tuck the note into his collar, creating the illusion that Santa had arranged this adoption.

The kids and I went to the party (which was the strangest kids party I have ever been to BTW.  I'll have to tell about that another time.  I mean, they served chicken noodle soup and honey roasted ham, like the nice holiday ones, with baguettes.  Really?)  The Party That Would Never End was under way when Aaron text me that he had the dog. 

Who did you get? I text back.

Drake.  And he's great, came his response.

I decided the party was over for us (I really could not take it anymore) and we left 1/2 an hour before the party was scheduled to end.  The boys seemed fine by it.  I think they were as puzzled by it as I was. 

Aaron called about 30 minutes after we got home and said he was close.  I called the boys up stairs.

"Hey guys, come outside with me!  A surprise is on it's way...."

"Really?  What is it?"  Drew asked

"Drew!  If she tells us it won't be a surprise," replied Gabriel.  So practical.

They saw Aaron's truck coming up the road.

"Is it a visitor?"  Gabriel guessed.

"Well....sort of... You'll see!"

Drew walked up to the truck for a better look and out of the window poked a dog nose.

"It's a dog!"  Drew yelled and started jumping up and down.  Aaron leashed Drake and lead him out of the truck.  The kids were tentative.  We've always taught them to be careful around strange dogs.  Aaron had to tell them, "You can pet him.  He's yours!"



The scroll did not stay put very well but it still had a nice effect.  Gabriel read it out loud. 

"Dear Gabriel and Drew,
I know that you were very sad when Theodore died.  I talked to your dad about getting a dog for Christmas because I know a lot pets in need of a home.

I know this dog will be a good fit for you and your family.  Take good care of him.

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Santa"

"And look," he said "his collar is Kringle red!"  (I also noticed Aaron got a green leash.  Nice touch, Love.)  And so Drake now has a middle name: Kringle.  I got Drake Kringle his water and food.  Drake started eating the food as it poured out of the bag, he was so hungry!  The boys thought I may have been off on giving him water though.

"I'm pretty sure they only drink hot cocoa at the north pole," Gabriel reasoned.

Drake ran around the yard getting to know his new home.  After his exploring was finished he really wanted to come in where the rest of us were.  Aaron has insisted that he be an outside dog but thought we could let him in so he can get to know the house some too.  Aaron and the boys let him in from downstairs.  I was up in the kitchen baking biscochitos.  (Caren and I were having a mini-bake-off to see who makes the best biscochitos.)  All of a sudden I heard a sound like thunder coming from under me and then was nearly bowled over by the cat, followed by Drake, followed by Aaron.  Drake stepped right into the cats bowl.  The bowl flipped and the water splashed.  The kids were cracking up and Aaron wrestled Drake while I put the cat back in our room.

"So I see you've met Sinclaire."  I said to Drake.  Or "Dumb Dog" as Sinclaire refers to him as.

"Bad dog!"  yelled Drew. 



"No buddy, he's not bad.  He just wanted to meet her and he is going to need a little grace while he learns the House Rules.  But he's not bad.  He's great!"  I told him.

"Oh yes!  He is GREAT!"  Drew cheered and wrapped his arms around Drake's neck. 

Drake and the boys went outside to play and I finished my baking.  After a bit, Drew wanted back in but when he came in...so did the dog.  I grabbed a hold of Drake's collar before he got too far in the house.

"Drake!  No!  Outside!"  But the dog did not budge.  In fact he just sat down.

Listen lady, I've already sized you up and can see that you are no match for me.  I'm in and I'm sitting right here.

"Drake, come on.  Outside!"  I ordered with a tug on his collar.

Nope.  I'm staging a sit in.  Come on.  Move me.  Just try. 

And I did try.  I pulled.  I pushed.  I tried coming at him from behind, lifting his front paws and using a body press to move him out the door but the boy is strong and I could not get him to budge.

"Aaron!!!"

Aaron got him out.  Whew!

Drake is like Aaron in that he is calm, quiet and can make a point with out raising much of a ruckous. Also he is lean and muscular. Very strong. He is also like me in that he is SOCIAL! He needs, needs needs to be near someone. Anyone!


Later that evening Kevin and Caren came over to meet the dog and taste biscochitos.  We were all down stairs.  Aaron was on the couch.   I let Drake in and he ran over to Aaron and laid right on top of him.  This boy is a snuggler!  I love it!  Whenever you pet him, he leans into you.  It's the cutest thing ever!  I wished I had my camera right then.  Aaron on the couch, the dog on Aaron and the boys snuggling the dog.  So sweet!  Caren and Kevin concurred that he was a good and beautiful dog.  (And we concurred that biscochitos are biscochitos.  Though I like Caren's because she sprinkles more cinnamon sugar on hers then I did.  Something easily remedied...)

Bed time came and the boys said their prayers.  They were sure to thank God for Drake and asked special blessings on Santa for giving him to us. *tear*  I went downstairs to the mud room where we decided Drake will sleep at night.  (Darn you Aaron and your rules!)  I took him out for a potty before bed and brought him back into the mud room.  I sat down with him for awhile, petting him and telling him how glad we were to have him.  Drake leaned into me for the snuggle and closed his eyes.

"It's been a big day.  I think you are falling asleep right now."  I got up to go and so did Drake.

"Lay down."  He did so.

"Stay..."  He did that too.  I turned out the light and heard a few little whimpers and then that was it.  See?  Best dog in the world!

This morning Drew went out to say good morning to the dog and of course Drake came in when Drew did.  I again, grabbed his collar and tried to pull him out the door but to no avail. 

"Fine.  But you are going out after we take the boys to the bus stop." 

I wrote dog treats on my grocery list.

When it was time to head to the stop, I grabbed the leash and Drake started to jump and spin and basically made it very clear that he loves a walk.  I mean the dog was pumped!  I was not so sure how it would go.  Seeing how I can't even budge him if he wants, it's evident that he is stronger.  What if he sees a squirrel?  There is no way I could hold him back.   Plus we are going down a mountain side.  Ouch!  The thought hurts me!

Some parts of the walk was a little like water skiing.  I dug my heels in but Drake pulled harder and I slid down the gravel drive.  I wrapped the leash around my arm to make it shorter but he pulled so hard the leash burned my wrist.

"Can I try mom?"  Drew called after me.  Is he freakin' kidding me?!  A vision of Drew being drug down the road on his belly by this horse-like dog popped into my head.

"No."
Caren drove by and called out her window, "If you wait until I get back, we'll walk the dogs together and you can use our Bad Dog collar."

"Perfect!" 

The Bad Dog collar is a pincher collar.  When the dog pulls it emulates how a mother dog bites her pups necks.  When Caren returned, Drake and I met her at the bottom of the hill.  She brought her dogs, Rosemary and Rascal with her.  The dogs were happy to meet each other and Drake walked like a pro with the pincher collar on.  We even came upon some deer.  He did not bark, growl or whine about them.  He pulled some in their direction and I let him check them out a bit but then, with a gentle tug, he would return to my side.  He was perfect!  The best dog in the world!

As the walk was nearing the end Rosemary and Rascal started to get uppity about something.  That something was a little white fluffy dog farther down the road.

"Is that a poodle?"  Caren asked.

"It actually looks like Theodore after he's been groomed...is it Ghost Theodore?" 

"Oh no!"  Caren laughed, "It's Theodore saying 'you can never replace me...'" 

After the walk I had to get groceries.  Dog food, treats and a pincher collar were on the list.  I could not find the collar but the rest was found.  Yahoo!  As I pulled up the drive I could see Drake sitting at the top of the hill watching the road.  He was waiting for me.  I also realized I had another problem. 

As soon as I open that gate I knew he would rush out.  I opened my garage door but the door to the house was locked.  To unlock it I would have to go in the gate and deal with Drake.  Then I remembered the treats!  I popped the trunk and dug into the bags until I found the Puperroni treats. 

I went to the gate and explained to Drake that he would need to "stay."  He jumped up on the gate. 

"Yeah...that's not gonna work buddy."  I broke off a treat and tossed one over the gate.  Drake took the bait and I opened the gate and slipped in as fast as I could.  He was back at my side in a flash.  So I took out another treat.

"Sit." He did.  He was rewarded with a treat and a "good dog!"

"Stay..."  He did.  Until I started to move.  I went up stairs to the front door and got out my keys and another treat.

"Stay."  I ordered but when the door opened, Drake plowed on in.

"No Drake!  Outside."  Drake sat down.

This works every time...

"Not this time Drake.  Outside."  Nothing.  I showed Drake the treat.  He tried to reach it with out moving his butt off the floor.

"Outside Drake!"  I said as I tossed the treat out the door.  Drake followed and I closed the door behind him.

So you see he has to learn the House Rules.   He will because he is so smart and because he is the best dog in the world!!  (And because I suspect I'm more tenacious.  I will prevail!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eat, Pray, Bllll!

After many reccomendations, I am finally reading Eat, Pray, Love.  So many people have suggested I read it that it made me not want to.  Then it became a movie.  Ug.  I know it's bratty or snobby or something but I did not want to get on the band wagon.  It was the same thing with the Twilight series.  I just was not going to succumb.  But then I did.  And I love it!  So I promise, that next time a book is being raved about by critics, is invited to book clubs, and is being pushed by my friends I will read it. 

I love Elizabeth Gilbert's style and I am thrilled to see that she flip flops between tenses.  This is something I have always been told is a big no, no and that I stress over in my blogs.  The result is that I do it anyway but with out reason and it's sloppy.  I know that, for the most part, I am a rule follower but I don't think people realize how hard it is for me to do so.  Anyway, I may have to read her book again just to underline where she changes tense and to see exactly how she is getting away with it.  She must be following some sort of rule...  I am only in Italy and so I don't know how the rest of her journey goes but I love the way she relates and converses with God.  It's oh so familiar.

I found myself wishing I could take off to some far away country for some self-exploration as well. What a luxury!  Then again, I kind of am.  It's not all zen and "solitary man on the mountain" like her but I am far away from what is familiar.  I am not alone where I can hear my inner voice more clearly or have the quiet and stillness to recognize every ping of emotion.  I have a whole family in my travel pack.  So I sling them up on my back and we are grwoing and learning together.  Aren't we all?  Life (amazing life) is happening all around us.  Adventure is everywhere!  On this journey there are trials...

The latest in my family's adventure:
A few weeks back, the kids had a Veteran's Day performance at their school.  I was thrilled to see that Gabe was placed in the front row.  There would be no searching about for him with my camera.  The performance began.  All of the students began to sing.  Except Gabriel.  He stood there expressionless.  He did not look nervous or embarassed.  He just looked like he didn't care.  There were a few times where it looked like maybe he was trying to sing but it was evident he did not know the words.  While the kids danced, Gabriel was always a step behind.  (More then a step.  More like 5 steps.)  When the children had their backs to the audience, Gabe faced front.  When they faced front, Gabe's back was to the audience.  At one point he even fell off his riser.  If I'd seen some kind of effort I would have laughed at his lack of coordination but what I saw was a despondant little boy.  This is the boy who was Winthrop in The Music Man, the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.  It was very eye opening for me.  My son was sad.  I knew he missed Texas but this performance turned a spotlight onto a problem I had not focused on.

The Thanksgiving holiday blowed in full steam.  I worked hard to get the house ready for company and to plan the Gingerbread House Competition with my friend.  The whole family had a great time at both events.  Then it was back to work and school.  Aaron left for business in Canada and the boys and I set about getting back into routine.

There was a club starting called Destination Imagination.  It's like Odyssey of the Mind in Texas.  The kids are presented with problems and they solve them by building things, creating plays, etc.  It sounded right up Gabe's alley and so we stayed after school to check it out.  I thought this would be something he would enjoy and could make some friends at.  As the program was described, I could see his wheels slowly creek around.  There was another boy there and I encouraged Gabe to sit with him.  Maybe they could form a team.  The other boy looked over the sheet of challenges.  Gabriel picked up a Dr. Suess book. 

"So do you want to be challenged or take the 'Easy Street?'" Gabe asked without looking up from his book.

"Oh, we don't do 'easy,'"  the boy's mom answered for him.  (I tried not to roll my eyes...)

"Then it's decided."  Gabriel set his book down momentarily and pointed to one of the challenges on the sheet, "We'll do that one."

I was bothered again at his behavior.  Who is this kid?  I expected to see him bent over the sheet, head to head with this other kid, excitedly exploring the options.  Tears stung my eyes as I looked at this faded version of my boy.  We went home and started our homework, now later then usual due to the meeting.

"What do you have today?"

"Spelling, Math, and my book report."

"Oh!  Is that due tomorrow?"  I asked.

"No.  It was due today," he sheepishly answered.  I was shocked.  How did he miss this?  How did I?  Gabe has always been on top of his school work.  He can be disorganized and unfocused but his drive for perfectionism has always kept him on task.  Did I encourage him too much to allow himself to make mistakes?

I called Gabriel over to the couch.  He snuggled in close to me and I wrapped my arm around his shoulder. 

"What's going on Gabe?" 

He shrugged.

"Baby, I'm worried about you."

"I'm worried too," he said.  He looked up at me with teary eyes and red nose.  He went on to tell me that though he has friends, he is lonely.  He said he has two buddies at school but that they sometimes leave him out.  "They only talk to me when I ask them a question."  He said that kids won't play with him at recess.  He said that he has "flash backs" of Texas.

"How can I help, Baby?  What can I do to make it better?"

"Move us back to Texas.  It's the only thing I know that will make me happy again."

Gabriel has quietly endured his lonliness and homesickness.  He has not been like Drew who unleashes his frustration with fits or like me who cries in the deli over choosing cheese.  I interviewd Drew as well, who said that school is terrible, that he is failing ECAW and that no one plays with him at recess either.  I told both boys that they need to ask the other kids to play instead of waiting for them to ask them.  I also corrected Drew.  He is not failing ECAW or anything else.  He is doing excellent academically. 

I helped Gabriel with his book report and got him to bed.  Late.

The next morning I e-mailed the mom's of the two boys that Gabriel is friends with.  We arranged play dates for the weekend and another for the following week.  I also fired off some e-mails to their teachers asking them what they see happening at school.  Not knowing my kids, it would be hard for them to know what is odd behavior for them and what isn't but they see them more then I.  I e-mailed and called old friends too, asking them to send letters or drawings from their children to mine.  I just want them to not feel alone!

That evening Gabriel announced that he had a lot of homework again because he had not finished Because of Winn Dixie.   It was supposed to have been read and a tri-fold....thing...filled out on it, THREE WEEKS AGO!  He said his teacher gave him two more days to get it done.

"OK son, I know that you are sad.  I know that you don't want to be here but here is where we are.  We live here and you need to start living!  I have made some play dates for you with your buddies for this weekend and I'm going to make more but if you don't get your head back in the game at school I won't be able to let you do those things.  You can not let this affect your grades." 

He nodded his profuse understanding like a bobble head.  I checked my e-mail and found a response from his teacher.  She informed me of the unfinished work and that she had given him an extension.  She said that he daydreams a lot at school ("flash backs") and that he has little focus.  She was unaware of anything going on at recess but that she would keep an eye out and she also introduced him to another little boy who is new to Parmalee this year. Gabriel told me about the boy as well and said that they played at recess and had lunch together.  Drew announced that he asked a boy to play with him at recess too and that he had a good day at school.

I think the measures I've taken are going to help but....ug.  Why did I wait so long?  Have I been so preoccupied with getting myself rooted that I completely missed how much this has been effecting my sons?  Gabriel especially.  Ech.  Disgusted with myself. 

This weekend we have the mission of finding our tree.  I am allergic to live trees so we have to have an artificial.  This totally bites.  Drew really wants to go and cut one down.  I suggested to Aaron that I could take allergy meds but he said he did not want me on drugs all Christmas long.

"I don't know..." I teased, "Mix in a little wine....could be fun!"  He didn't laugh.

So we set out as a family to find our tree.  Gabriel complained the whole way to the store that a tree is not necessary.

"We have my little tree.  We could just use that one."  (The kids have a little tree that they decorate with their cartoon character ornaments and colored lights.  Its sort of a night light for them over the holidays.)

"Nah buddy!  That's for your room.  We need a big tree for the family room."

"Mom, it's not the size that matters.  And that's a fact."  Oh how I laughed!!!  But the Boy was still annoyed with every bit of excess he came upon.  I texted Shalah that I was shopping for a tree with Charlie Brown.

"That boy is so serious," she responded.  "He probably doesn't even think farts are funny."

"I don't care who you are.  That's funny."  I answered.  But Gabe is serious and he began to point out everything wrong with the way people were celebrating.

"They sure have stocked up on the toys.  What is this Christmas song?  It sounds crazy."  (Note: it was the Trans Siberian Orchestra.  He did not like their untraiditional rendition of....something.)  "We don't need a tree to have Christmas."

I stopped in the aisle and pulled Gabe aside from the line of traffic.

"Buddy, I love your heart.  You are right.  A tree is not anything that we need.  We don't need it to have Christmas either and it's not about all of the toys or the carols but that's ok.  It's ok to have fun and do frivoulous things sometimes.  If you are going to do it at anytime of the year THIS is the time to do it!  We are celebrating Jesus and we like to have great birthday parties!  We decorate for our parties and we eat yummy treats and we sing songs and play games.  So for Jesus, in this season, we are going to party!"

Gabriel just looked at me sternly.  He didn't buy it.

Last night Aaron and I were supposed to go to a Christmas party for his company.  Some genius planned to have the event downtown, the same night that downtown Denver was having it's parade of lights.  After driving in mad house traffic and finding every road we needed to turn down blocked off for an hour and half, I finally told Aaron to turn the car home.

"I would've done it along time ago," he confessed, "but I wanted to get you out for some fun."  What a sweet heart!  Doesn't he know that I am having fun nearly every day with my new partner in crime?  Caren is in constant fear that I will be cut off from her.  So we try hard to make it look like we tend to our homes while running about enjoying one anothers company.  No, I don't have on fancy evening make-up, my hair is not fabulous, I'm not wearing heels or wearing a stunning dress but I am having fun!

Pissed, he whips the car around and as soon as we were in a break from cars, he floored it.  I am completely turned around and lost.  He is flying down the road, mad and hungry.  And then we see it.  The unmistakable lights of Casa Bonita.

"Oh my gah!"  Aaron practically vomitted the expression as the events of that night were recalled to him.  I burst into tears and laughter!  I couldn't help it!  It was so awful.  (Sorry again that I can't give the details.)  I felt awful for the parties involved but sometimes things are so wretched that all you can do is laugh. 

I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Aaron drove on stone faced.

"It was not funny."

"Oh it was, Baby!  It was!"  I recounted some of the highlights.  Aaron tried to stay stiff lipped (and he did really good) but I saw some smiles crack a few times.

"Baby, if you can't laugh about it what else can you do?"

We pulled into a restaurant and had a lovely dinner together.  As lovely as one can have with a brooding date. 

We went home and sent the babysitter home. I got the kids ready for bed.  They kept making this gross noise that would send them into fits of laughter.  I was tired and wanted them to wind down. 

"Guys, that's enough.  Bed time."

Bllll!  More laughter.

"Seriously.  It's late.  Let's settle down."

Bllll!  More laughter.  And now not just from them but from me too!  We kept giggling and making rude noises until Aaron came in and it was time to say our prayers.  Mid Drew's prayer, Gabriel started cracking up laughing.

"Son,"  Aaron said sternly, "We're praying.  Enough of that."

"Sorry, but I keep thinking about Drew making this fart sound and..."

"We're praying.  Enough."  So Drew continued but Gabriel couldn't help it and started laughing again.  Aaron lectured again about not acting silly during prayer time.  This however, caused me to start laughing!  As if God would be offended by hearing His dear ones bubbling over with joy!

"Dear,"  (That's what Aaron calls me when he's not happy with me.)  "Dear, do you want to get in trouble?"

Now we are all laughing, including Aaron.  We continued our prayers through fits and tears of laughter. 

This morning I woke up to the sound of my sons telling stories to each other in their bedroom.  There were more rude noises and more laughing.  Adventure.  Life.  Trials.  Lot's of fun!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving ProDUCKtion

Thanksgiving week...Whew!  So much went down that I would love, love to blog about.  It would be both therapeutic and good comedy but these things were to personal for me to share with the masses.  You are probably thinking: Umm...you just blogged about your boobs.  My boobs are mine to share or not.  These other personal stories belong to my house guests and I will keep them theirs no matter how badly I would like to divulge.  So I will tell my Thanksgiving tale but there will be some holes.  Hopefully, I can weave it in such a way that it will still end up making sense. 

Scene I Act I

The festivities began on Tuesday last week.  Aaron's family was scheduled to arrive that evening.  I was thrilled their arrival would not intrude on Baking Day because this Baking Day was to be crucial to our Thanksgiving meal.  We planned to make as many of the sides and desserts as we could so that everything could just be re-heated on the big day. 

Baking Day started off pretty stellar when Caren greeted me by asking if I had any whiskey.

"I ran out last night,"  she explained.  Riiight.

I thought it was some hard core Mountain People thing.  She clarified that she needed whiskey to make home made Bailey's.  So we were off to a great start!  I learned to make home made cranberry sauce (which is both easy and delicious) bread stuffing, and cornbread stuffing.  Kathy is our Crust Queen so she made pie crusts for all of our pies.  The innards of the pies were a joint effort. 

My bread stuffing went smoothly enough and was pretty easy to make.  I needed the cornbread stuffing for Aaron's Turducken that he had decided to try and tackle this year. 

I screwed it up.  I'm not going into the details but it was bad.  Kathy tried to act like it could be saved.  Laurel winced a tad and said it had "bite."  Caren took a bite and suggested we feed it to the birds.  I was so ticked.  It is hard for me when I mess up on baking day because I am rarely making something just for me and my family.  Half of the Thanksgiving sized portions were going to Caren's family.  Not only that but I just wasted a bunch of organic ingredients. 

I carried my tray of cornbread-poop out side and fought tears as I crumbled it out onto the ground.   Part of my tears and anxiety was caused by the caffeine in the Bailey's spiked coffee we'd been drinking the rest is because I still had sweet potatoes and green bean casserole to make and the day was mostly over.  Family was on their way and I still had a few more things left to do at the house.

When I returned to the kitchen the other ladies were packing up their things to go.  Caren had a glass of red waiting for me. 

"Sit.  Relax.  It's only Tuesday.  You can make the rest later.  After you've had your wine we will remake the cornbread casserole."  Dear wise Caren!

Note to self: no coffee on Baking Day.

The second batch turned out super yummy!  Plus, Caren added bacon from Laurel's hog to it.  (Mountain People.)

I finally gathered my goodies and went home.  As I walked home, I couldn't help but notice that the cornbread I left for the birds had yet to be touched...

I was so happy that I had started a crock pot stew before heading to Baking Day.  I walked in and dinner was ready!  I had about an hour before the kids got home for some finishing touches in the house.  When Aaron's family arrived the house was filled with a savory aroma, candles were lit and a fire was roaring.  I love to set a scene!  It was a lovely evening.

Scene II

Wednesday I woke up at the crack of dawn and pressed my face to the window looking for any sign that my next guest was near to arriving.  I had been much anticipating this visit with my friend Shalah.  There were no cars out yet but there was snow.  Yee haw!  I had been praying that it would snow for our guests.  Nothing stuck but it was still fun to watch it fall while snuggled down in a blanket, next to a warm fire. 

Every hour I fogged up the windows again, looking for signs of Shalah. 

Nothing. 

After about my 3rd time to the window she text that she was on her way.  On her freakin' way!  It was 9 in the morning!!  Unacceptable.  I told her to leave at the crack of dawn.  She had began her trip the day before and stopped in Raton, New Mexico.  That was hard enough for me, knowing that she was only about 3 hours away!  Oh the angst!  Plus she was missing the snow.  She finally arrived at 12:30.  The snow hung on just a touch for her.  I scolded her for her late start and for following GPS directions instead of mine.  Then there was hugging and squealing and I ushered into my home. 

Sitting on the couch with my Shalah was such a joy.  Moments were surreal.  She was really here!  Wine and laughter was in abundance.  In fact UPS showed up to deliver our wine club wine.  I seriously could not have arranged it any better.

That evening my BIL, Matt, wanted to treat the family to dinner for his dad's birthday.  The restaurant of choice was Casa Bonita.  Casa Bonita is no ordinary restaurant.  They have shows every 15 minutes.  I imagine this place is an ADD's dream.  There is a pirates duel, gorillas, sky divers and more.  There is also an arcade, in case you get bored.  Upon arrival they immediately herd you into lines and hand you a menu.  Once in line, you really can't leave.  Drew announced that he needed the restroom but we told him there was no escape.  While in line someone comes by to take your party's order.  You inch on a little more until you get to a cashier who rings up your ticket and sells arcade tokens that Uncle Matt had to of course purchase for his nephews.  Inch on a little more until you get to the trays and silverware.  Up a little more and there is an assembly line of sorts.  Our party of 8's plates were all there waiting for us.  Oops...wait..where's the All You Can Eat Beef Plate?  No worries!  A plate of Mexican Beef entrees slides out of the kitchen.  This started some concern about the quality of the food we were about to eat.  Maybe the concern should've started back in line where they trapped you like a rat.  Maybe it should've been piqued when I noticed the Help Always Wanted signs they had posted while we went through the line. 

Once we had our food things moved fast.  We were quickly ushered through the restaurant (nay...the CARNIVAL) to our table.  At the end of the table is a flag.  Like a Panchos flag!  You raise it when you want more.  Looking at my plate of gruel I was pretty certain that I, for one, would not be raising the flag.  The kids were up and down from the table to watch the various shows.

"This man dove off of a 20 foot waterfall,"  Drew announced, "and he LIVED!"  So the entertainment was good. 

Matt also pulled out all of the stops and had a mariachi band come to play a Happy Birthday song to his dad.  After the song they moved about one table over to play it again, then down about two more tables to play it yet again. 

Matt had been to this place once when he was 6 years old.  I see now why he remembered it so well.  It is scalded into my brain.  Forever. 

(This is where there was another adventure that I can't share happened.  Just imagine the fun one can have upon ingesting Mexican food.)

Scene III

Turducken.  Aaron had declared that he would be making Turducken earlier in the week.  He did his research and his time had come to execute his plan.  He began by deboning the chicken and duck.  This was done Wednesday night.  I think after the adventures of Casa Bonita he was ready to knife something.  It proved to be very cathartic for him.  He first worked on the chicken.  By the time he got to the duck he was nothing less then jovial!  Matt and Shalah were armed with cameras, prepared to document the making of a Turducken.  Aaron lifted the duck by it's wings and danced it about for the cameras.  With very little coaxing, he next posed with his head in the place where the ducks once was.  It was hilarious!  It was even more amusing that this was my oh-so-serious Aaron.

Thursday morning Drew woke me up with, "Happy Thanksgiving mom.  It's Giant Meat Day!  It's my lucky day!" 

Shalah and I took a walk around the "hood" and reviewed what was left to be done for the meal.   This made me realize that I forgot pecans for the sweet potatoes but knew where Caren kept hers.  I went to her house to grab them and noticed my cornbread from two days before were still on the ground.  Undisturbed.

Back at the homestead, I set out some snacky foods and made the prosciutto asparagus puffs again.  Aaron was not only baking a  Turducken but also frying a turkey.  The timing of it all was crucial and so he kept asking us when we thought dinner would be served.

"2-ish,"  I said.

"3:30,"  Shalah countered.

After the snacks were out and being snacked, I moved on to the green bean casserole.  I washed and snapped the green beans and added cream of mushroom soup and those crunchy onion thingys.  Just as I finished prepping the casserole Aaron entered the kitchen and asked, "Are those green beans raw?" 

Usually I use canned green beans but the goal this year was to do nothing from a can or a box.  Canned green beans are pre-cooked.  Once the casserole is made it has 30 minutes in the oven before ready.  Who knew how long it would take if we put raw green beans in.  Matt, with his uncanny way of always catching me in a low point, was there with his camera and snapped the very moment.  I am looking down into the dish with this new realization, feeling a little burn in the eyes again.  Behind my back, Shalah is giving Aaron the "shut it" sign with her hand.  Aaron is grinning ear to ear, amused by my kitchen skills. 

Shalah shewed them both out of the kitchen, pried the casserole out of my hand and redirected me to some potato mashing.  That I can do.  I don't know how she fixed it.  I think she rinsed all of the ingredients off of my beans.  Whatever she did it worked and I found solace in the soothing rhythm of mashing taters.

The meal was finally ready...at 3:30. 

Both of Aaron's turkey's were great!  He accomplished a Thanksgiving culinary fete! 

After we were all stuffed to our gizzards, we agreed that a hike was in order.  Leaving the kids with my MIL, the rest of us bundled up and set up the hill.  It was a crisp cold!  Getting ourselves moving was just the thing to warm us up and move the turkey down a bit, creating just enough room for pie.

Scene IV

Friday morning we took the crew to a favorite breakfast place for the Mountain People, Kountry Road Cafe in Kitteredge.  Portions here are not normal.  Food is delish!  Gabriel ordered pancakes.  They were about 2 inches thick and as big as his plate!  Matt ordered something called Holy Cow.  Evidently it was named such because that's what one said when the dish is set before you.  It was sausage laced mashed potatoes, with a layer of scrambled eggs, layered by more sausage mashed potatoes, topped with gravy, crowned with chicken fried steak and bejeweled with four slices of french toast. 

Towards the end of our meal the waiter comes by and asked if he could take our plates.  When he saw how much Matt had put away of the Holy Cow he said that he had never seen anyone eat that much of it before and added that no one had ever finished it.

"Really?" Matt asked, "No one has finished it?  Oh...now I have to do it."

We tried to convince him that there was no need.  We were all impressed with how much he had eaten.

"This isn't about you, it's about me."  Matt said and forkful after painful forkful he chiseled away at the meager remainings of his breakfast.  The waiter came by again and Matt asked if he finished, would his picture be put up on the wall. 

"No.  But we should start doing that."

"Forget it."  Matt said and pushed the plate away.  No gut, no glory.  Or something like that. 

A hike was once again the remedy for our over indulgence.  I took Matt and Shay to Mt. Falcon.  The views were great!  I had to scold Shalah a little bit because she kept texting.

"Shay, if you don't look up from texting you could trip on a rock or something."  I tell her and then...trip!  She did.

"How do you do that?"

"Common sense."

We saw deer in the meadow and interesting, grizzly looking people and then a mouse scurried across the trail.  It has taken nothing less then a mouse to cause me to turn around on a hike before but not our Shalah.  Noooo.  She thought the little mountain mouse is adorable!  Ignoring my warnings of diseased bites she bent down and scooped up the little critter in her hand.  Cupped in her hand, he was so warm he darn near fell asleep.  Or he fainted.  Who knows.  Matt and Shalah proceeded to have a photo shoot of the mouse and named him Howard.  I stayed on my side of the trail waiting for her to get bit.  After the photo shoot, Shalah tucks the little rat into her coat pocket.

"That is not going in my car.  You are going to forget about it and accidentally crush it."  Shay poo-pooed all of my objections.

"You can't even take wild flowers from these places.  I'm pretty sure it is a no-no to take actual wild life."  This did not deter her either but she did have a thought that she could be taking him away from a family.  And so we all headed back to the very place where Howard was found and returned him there.

Act II Scene I

So, I know this is a terribly long blog but we are reviewing darn near a week instead of a day like most times.  Hopefully, you have found it entertaining enough to hang in there.  If only I could have added those other funny moments of....*sigh*  I may have to start having people sign consent forms for me to tell their tales.

Saturday was the Gingerbread House Snack Down!  Caren had once been apart of these and wanted to revive them this year.  She and I had spent two weeks shopping for decorations and scheming for our entries.  The theme was Christmas Storybooks.  I knew right away that my team would do The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  Who-ville is so colorful, whimsical and kooky!  Anything goes and so we would use that to our advantage.  If our homes are lopsided we can claim that it is just Who-ish.  It was fool proof!  I found a very Who-like apron and a spirally Santa hat.  Just looking the part could be all that is needed to intimidate the competition.

Poor Shalah.  I'm pretty sure she started to break out in hives as soon as I told her about the whole thing.  Not that Shay is not a fun girl but she is just not....festive.  Or creative.  She is not really anything that -ive follows.  I knew this would be hard for her but I was not backing down from the challenge and I needed her help.  Oh!  There is an -ive word that does describe Shalah and that is COMPETITIVE.  I knew it would kick in eventually and boy, how!

After I showed Shalah my Who-ville print outs and all of the supplies that I had bought she got to brainstorming.  I wanted a village surrounding the tree where they sing their song.  In the back ground I wanted Mt. Crumpit.  Everything had to be edible and everything had to be assembled on sight.  I did some preliminary runs on the Grinch and pre-made a gingerbread arch way, some roofs, and the Grinches sleigh.

I did ask Shalah that she not have wine until after the competition.

"Really?  I think you will find I work better that way."

"I can't have you getting sloppy and risking a house caving in or something."

I was making creamed brandy cordials for the party though and since neither of us had ever had brandy we did decide to try a bit.  We gave our sifters a swirl, clinked them together and took a sip.

*Hoo-ah! Ack!  Doi-oi-oing!* 

We both winced and wheezed in unison.

"Whew,"  Shay said.  "Ready for the next sip?"  The next was the same as the first.

Luckily we were spared any more of it by a call from Caren.  Time was running short and she needed help with decorating and making bowls and bowls of icing.  Shalah and I packed four bags of supplies and headed over the hill.  We both let out a little whimper when we still saw evidence of my cornbread from what had now been 4 days.  Not a rat, bird, fox or otherwise had come to eat it. *sigh*

We entered the house to a vision of red and white clothed tables that were full of candies and food.  As I took it all in The Nutcrackers "Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairies" began and then in swirled Caren looking gorgeous in a red sweater, black embroidered skirt and tall black boots.  There were quick but warm introductions as she handed me a bag of decorations (my forte) and recruited Shalah to making icing in the kitchen (her forte.)

Caren and I had a vision of candy decorations all over the house and so I had painted designs on Styrofoam circles that her daughters then wrapped in colorful cellophane.  I "pinned" them to corners of the tables and hung candy canes from windows and chandeliers.

Then I set to work on the creamed brandy.  They were to be topped with candied almond slivers.  These, of course, I burned.  Caren came behind me to smooth things out (as always) and I opted to just throw them in the trash this time, since the word of my fine cooking had apparently spread to the mountain critters.  I decided instead of giving it another go that we could just sprinkle them with cinnamon.  The recipe called for 2 T of brandy so I did 4.  My plan was to throw the rest of my competitors off balance.

The competition began with the pop of a champagne bottle.  My friend Robbie was also on my team.  She was also instructed to stay clear of the booze but somehow she and Shay both managed to bootleg some.  We had our game faces on though and executed the whole thing beautifully.  Shalah was in charge of Mt. Crumpit.  I showed her many picture with Crumpit's distinguishing curved tip.  The curved tip was the tricky part but Shay pulled it off perfectly!  Robbie layed down the frosting snow and piped green frosting over inverted ice cream cones to make the village tree.  I  made a few houses, the Grinch himself and then, at the last minute, a tootsie roll Max topped with a broken pretzel for his antler.  It was a good call because he turned out to be the biggest hit!


Everyone finished and the judging began.  The judges were nearly as serious as the competitors (i.e. me.)  There was long discussions and notes made over each creation.  I walked about to see how everyone else did.  There were several that had me nervous.  The Mountain People are creative.

The winners were finally announced.  There were several honorable mentions and even one "Dig Deeper Next Year" award. 

"It was tough to choose the winner and we even argued a bit about a few..."  I nervously gripped Drew's hand and then got embarrassed because Caren caught me, "...but we finally decided that if you are going to go big, then you should go Texas big!" 

With that a bottle of wine and a gingerbread man trophy was passed to us.  Just under our cheering I heard Drew ask, "Did we win a trip back to Texas?"

This brought me down a little.  Poor bug!



Final Scene

The next morning I took Shalah to my beloved Red Rocks.  I knew if anyone would appreciate it she would.  I've raved enough about them in previous blogs so I won't beat that horse.  We went into Morrison for lunch and shopping.

There is a small antique store that I had always wanted to check out and so Shalah and I started there.  The place was so packed full  of "treasures" that we could hardly maneuver through.  The floor boards creaked beneath our feet.  It smelled just like my Grandma's house, may she rest in peace.  A very old woman asked to assist us with anything we needed.  We turned a corner into a kitchen-like area.  There was a silverware tray with old pieces of stainless steel and even some plastic flatware.  It was like an episode of hoarders!  The elderly woman encouraged us to shop down stairs as well.  It was just as crowded and creepy.  Behind a curtain of sheets we saw a small living area with a bowl of cat food set out.  We climbed back up the groaning, creaking stairs and made as polite of a rushed exit as possible.  There were some really cool ski's in there though....poop.

After a few more over priced stores we walked over to a B&B place that I had always wanted to peek in on.  As we walked though I noticed the air was colder and the clouds looked different.  Snow clouds.

Shalah teased me that if I was able to predict snow by looking at the clouds it was time to return to Texas.  I laughed too because I was pretty sure I could not predict snow.  I did hope (really hard) that it would though.  What a perfect way to end our visit together!  So we headed home and sat on the couch under blankets and our hands wrapped around hot mugs of tea.

*Cue snow...black out and....curtain*

Monday, November 22, 2010

T & A

Disclaimer for Men: Hey dudes.  There will be boob talk in this blog.  Particularly about mine.  If you are one of those guys who I grew up with and I am like a sister to you, you may just want to stop right here.  For those of you who are still reading; there will be nothing sexy going on in this blog.  It's stone hard truth.  The big, the bad, and the DD's.

My friend, Caren, has a fabulous butt!  She's got this whole Beyonce thing going on with her booty and thighs.  It's absolutely beautiful and I very much envy her.  No amount of squats is going to put the junk in my trunk.  I know.  I gave it 4 good years of trying.  I will forever have legs sprouting from my back.  I mean, it's as flat as the Texas plains back there, but Caren!  Blessed woman!  I ain't gonna lie to you either; I spank that thang every chance I get.  On Baking Day, if her glorious booty is blocking the cabinet or drawer that I need to rifle through, I give it a pop.  It is very satisfying.  Very.

Caren, of course, has little to no appreciation for her booty.  She will concede that at least it is "trendy" right now but she feels the booty worship will pass.  She is a slim woman with get up in her go.  Just like I can not work out enough to create a butt, she will never work her butt away.  (It's true Caren.  Sorry.  I only apologize because I know you don't like it but I am happy for it!)  I have told Caren that I will make her love her booty.

One day Caren says to me, "I've been thinking about what you said about making me love my booty and I've decided that I will love my booty the day you love your boobies."

Touche.

I hate 'em.  They make me look fatter then I am.  I have a size medium body but the boobs make me have to get a size (or two) larger which then can look frumpy.  Or the top will then be too long because apparently designers think large also means tall.  Idiots.  I can wear an 8-10 in pants but a 12 in a dress.

Everyone looks at them.  Not just men.  Women look at them and usually with disdain on their face.  They think I'm out to get their men or something.  That's right ladies, I grew these suckers myself to go out and woo your man away.  Sometimes they look with admiration and envy.  They don't realize that you can't wear shirts that button, that your back hurts, your bra strap cuts into your shoulder which then you can't help but think, damn, I have fat shoulders!  I have woken myself up in the middle of the night because I have rolled onto my boob.  And it hurts!

Men!  They are the worst.  Eyes up here fellas.  Men seem to agree with their wives and think that I sprout these suckers for their viewing pleasure.  Several have the gall to even talk about 'em with me.  I recently met a guy who mid sentence said, "I'm sorry but I keep looking at your boobs."  At least he apologized...  "And I am sure there is more to you then that."

"Nope.  Not really." I answered dryly.

This weekend Aaron and I went to a 50th birthday party for a guy he works with.  I carefully chose an outfit that would hide my cleavage.  It was a form fitting tunic that accentuated my waist.  Unfortunately, it also accentuated the Ladies and so I wore a pretty cardigan over it.  Paired with skinny jeans, tucked into heeled boots and I found the outfit to be appropriately modest and party friendly.  So, here I am meeting lot's of new people.  One guy there (who does not work with Aaron directly but is in the industry) tells me and the other gal I am with that he "feels surrounded by boobs tonight!" 

"Well, hers are bigger then mine!"  quipped the other lady. 

Thanks a lot, Sister.  And Aaron walks up with my glass of wine....thank you, thank you, thank you!

Some people seem to be under the impression that I purposely display my cleavage.  Here's how it works my flat chested friends:  if I wear a top that goes all the way to my neck, I then look large because there is this expanse of fabric stretched taught across my chest.  It is more slimming (for all people) to wear a v-neck, scoop neck or boat neck.  Boat necks are my favorite because they cover things very nicely but still expose the clavicle.  That bit of bone actually gives the allusion of being skinny.  I have a hard time finding many boat necklines though.  So I will wear a v or scoop neckline and sometimes layer it with a lacy cami or something.  For some reason though, fabric moves.  It shifts and stretches as the day goes on and inevitably some cleavage is going to be out there.  (We took some family photos once and I worked hard to put together a breast minimizing outfit but low and behold!  It was like the freakin' grand canyon.)

There are bras that claim to minimize the breasts. 

A. they are ugly.  They are big with wide straps and are in the colors white or flesh and in the same fabric they cover mattresses with.  Feeling pretty starts with under garments.  Truth. 

B. They mash the boob flat but the excess has to go somewhere.  Guess where it goes?  Your armpit.  So then you have the lovely Pitty Titty.  Pitty Titties are even less attractive then actual titties.  You can try to stuff the excess back in there but the resluts are also unattractive.
There have been some benefits.  I was most appreciative of them when I was breast feeding.  Well, not with Gabe.  Poor thing.  I had the wells but they were always dry.  He was this half starved little baby...  Drew however, reaped much benefit!  I swear that boy came out with a bib on.  When a baby is newborn they have to work up to how long they breastfeed.  For one, because they are so little and two because mom has to work up the supply.  So usually, you have a goal to nurse for 5 min. on one side and then 5 min. on the other and then you increase it to 10 and 10 and so on.  Drew was nursing a full 15 min. on each side from day one.

I remember one road trip down from Kansas City to Dallas for Thanksgiving.  We were just north of Denton, TX and in stand still traffic.  Drew was wailing because he was hungry.  Aaron said he could pull off the road so I could feed him but I really did not want to get any further back in that line then we were, especially as close to our destination as we were.  So I climbed into the back seat, whipped out my breast and nursed the little guy with out having to take him out of his seat.  I felt like a female Inspector Gadget!  It was the one time I was really happy to have the big boobies.  Way to come through for me ladies!

(A girlfriend and I often used to try to figure out a way to feed babies while driving.  The idea was to have something like a breast pump attached to our boob that then had a long reaching straw to attach to a pacifier that could get to the baby in the back seat.  There are a lot of kinks in the design that, as mothers of young children, we were too tired to figure out but we loved to dream about it....)

So I consider a breast reduction all of the time.  My husband says no.  Of course.  He's a man.  I am certain Aaron and I were made for each other.  We are yin and yang.  He is quiet, private, and subdued.  I am a loud, open book, when's the next party?  I think physically we were made for each other too.  He has it going on (booty) and I have his beloved boobs.  As my friend Lauren once said of me, I put the "fun" in "fun bags." But I often wonder...which came first?  Did God make him a boob man because I would have giant boobs or do I have giant boobs because he is a boob man?  And why did God not make me taller?  These DD's would look much more proportionate on a gal who is 5'5 or taller then on this 5 foot nothing frame.    And then God talks to me through produce.

The other day at Whole Foods I saw this crazy fruit:






It's called Buddha's Hand.   I thought it was just beautiful!  It looks like a star burst!  This fruit that grows in Japan is related to the lemon.  The skins color and texture are the same.  If you gently twist one of the "fingers" a mist of juice comes out in a light spray and it smells just like lemon!  It's used for it's zest.  When cooking you can thinly slice a "finger" and add it to your dishes.  I did not care for it's culinary use.  I could not get over God's hand in this Buddha's Hand.  The masterful artistry...again!  How beautifully designed.  There were other Buddha's Hands that were more closed.  That is really where the name came from because the closed ones look like praying hands.  I did not find those ones as attractive.  I loved this one and I had to have it.

As I carried it through the store there were lot's of questions.  Mainly: what is that and what will you do with it?  I just wanted to display it.  It's a lovely centerpiece.  A work of art on it's own accord.  I think it would be really cool if I could make a Christmas tree out of fruit and set this on top!   Any how, I loved the Hand and had to give God a hand once again for his creativity. 



And God said "Yes, I make beautiful things.  Like you." 

My eyes got teary and my nose tingled because I was about to cry and then I said to my Lord,  "Shut up."

"Do you think I did it wrong?"

"Uh...yes."

"I don't make mistakes.  My designs are perfect and you were fearfully and WONDERFULLY made."

"I am stacked.  Like a snowman." 

"How can you hate what I love?"

And so I have to concede in this argument because I know He is right.  As usual.  This is the body the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.  (I'll try to anyway.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Poop: It's what's for Dinner

It is a pet peeve of mine (and pretty much every mother I talk to) that the kids ask every night, "what's for dinner?"  Typically, an honest answer is given which is then followed by a whiny "not again!" or "I don't like that!  I want _______ for dinner."  There is nothing more annoying then working hard to put together a healthy, delicious, and (if at all possible) quick meal and to have everyone complaining about it before you ever even get it on the table. 

One of my friends gives the same answer every night: a sarcastic "Yummy Goodness!"  Another friend offers her children two choices for dinner: "Take it or leave it."  When my kids ask me "what's for dinner?"  my answer is always the same.  "Poop." 

Today is a Tuesday so you all know what that means....BAKING DAY!!  The last few weeks I've been coming home with loads of tasty sweet carbs so I thought this week I would make something to bring home for dinner instead of dessert.  I found two recipes in a magazine that sounded delish! 

One was asparagus-prosciutto pastry puffs.  This yummy appetizer is made with frozen pastry puffs, filled with herbed cream cheese, a slice of prosciutto and an asparagus spear.  Everyone at baking day found their taste buds to be delighted with the treat!  We ate most of them while we worked.

The other dish I wanted to try was a creamy herbed spinach soup.  It looked so pretty in the magazine,, garnished with croutons and  parmesan cheese.  Besides the obvious ingredient of spinach, it also had garlic, onion, basil, olive oil, sour cream, heavy whipping cream and parsley.  I'm not a parsley fan so I left it out.  The ingredients are cooked and then pureed together.

We worked hard today!  Besides those two things I also made natillas which is a pudding that my Grandma makes.  (Tastes like a very yummy tapioca.)  Same as the soup, I made six recipes of it.  Whew!  One of the gals made banana bread.  Another made orange-gingerbread biscotti.  There was also breaded chicken tenders, buttermilk bread, chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls and chocolate pudding.  (Is that all?  I think it is.) 

I decided for dinner tonight I would serve the breaded chicken tenders on top of a salad, with a side of spinach soup.

When Aaron got home he announced that he was hungry.  I had three of those asparagus puff things left and so I heated them up for him to taste.  He bit into one and had a thoughtful look as he chewed.

"Do you like it?"  I asked.

"Um...yeeeeah..."

"Well, what is it?"

"I just can't place this taste..."

"Rosemary?"

"That's it, " he said and he put the puff down. 

We then noticed that it was starting to snow out.  Just a touch was falling.  We have a lovely view of mountains/hills from our home.  The distant hills looked to be getting more snow then we were. 

Cool!  More snow coming....!

I walked into my bedroom and then back out into the living room just in time to see the hills disappear in a down pour of snow.  It was the coolest thing! 

Anywhoo...this prompted a rush to the log pile as our in-house supply had dwindled.  When Aaron came back in he had lost interest in the asparagus spears.  (Personally, I don't think he liked them all that much.  Not a fan of rosemary.)

The kids came home, did home work with cocoa by the fire, and asked "What's for dinner?"

"Poop."

"No it's not!  Stop saying that mom!"

I was actually pretty excited about tonight's dinner.  I was pretty sure it would please all.  I made a honey mustard dressing for our chicken tender salad. 

Everyone gathered 'round the table.  The first thing the kids noticed was the very green spinach soup. 

"Ew!  What is that?!"  Drew asked.

"It's a delicious spinach soup!  I know it looks funny but it has lot's of things you like in it like sour cream."

"Does it have whipped cream too?"
"Actually it does.  It has something called heavy whipping cream."

"Mmm!  I can't wait to try that..." Drew said into his bowl.

First taste though went to the chicken salad.

"This is great mom!" Drew exclaimed, "You are the best chef ever!"  It was so good to finally hear some kudos for dinner.  Especially after how hard we worked at Baking Day today.

Drew has always had plans to open his own restaurant one day.  He has promised me a job there as a waitress. (Oh joy.)  After tasting the chicken salad (which I did not actually make, BTW) Drew announced that Aaron will now be the one taking people's orders.

"Mom, you will cook with me.  I'll be the one wearing the tallest hat."

Gabriel had not said much about dinner.  When I asked what he thought he agreed that the chicken was very good.

"How about the soup?  Have you tasted that yet?  It has croutons and a little parmesan cheese on it."

"Um...I don't want to hurt your feelings but...I'm a little afraid to try it."

"I understand.  It's green.  Just have a taste though.  You may find that you really like it."  I encouraged.

So Gabe took a tentative spoonful....

"Well...?"

"Well, the first word that came to my mind was 'frog.'"

Mmkay.  Awesome. 

I must've looked hurt or pissed because Gabe said that it was just what came to his mind but that he actually really liked it.

Yeah, right.

I asked Aaron what he thought.  He gave his typical dry, "it's good."  I really liked it so I finished it all up and started to clear the table.  Meanwhile, Drew had finished all of his chicken and was asking for more.

"Well, buddy you have not even tasted your soup yet."

"Umm...I change my mind.  I don't want more chicken.  I'm full."

"That's fine but I would like for you to at least taste the soup."

Drew looked down into the bowl and weakly stirred it with his spoon. 

"Ok, but if I don't like this we are NOT putting it in my restaurant."

*sigh*

"That's fine.  Just taste it please."

With a twisted up face Drew raised a spoonful toward his mouth.  He opened wide and then...

"Mom, will you stay by me while I try it?"

"Seriously Drew?  You are being silly.  It's soup.  Just try it."

Drew made another attempt.  This time his body squirmed with his twisted expression.  He raised the spoon to his lips and then...

"Mom, would you just feed it to me?"

"Fine."  I marched over to his side of the table getting a little annoyed with the dramatics.  "Here...let's get a crouton on that spoon with some of the cheese...mmmm.  This is going to be yummy!"

Drew opened wide for the bite.  The spoon just made it into his mouth and then....he started to gag.  He gagged twice.

"Come on Drew.  It's not that bad!"  I chided.  But apparently it was because Drew spit it all back into this bowl, left the table and then puked.

Aaron started to chuckle but could see my indignant expression of pursed lips and instead got up to help Drew into the bathroom.  I grabbed a towel, cleaned up the mess, and started to clear the table.  I was so annoyed that no one liked my soup.  I worked really hard today and no one liked it.  Hmph!

As I was putting the way the soup I confessed to myself that it really was gross looking. 

Basically, you made glorified baby food, I thought to myself.  And then I laughed!  You finally did it.  You made poop for dinner!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

YESSSSS!!!!

I have one of those new fancy phones where you touch the screen to make it go.  It's been a rough introduction but I'm starting to get the hang of it.  I've recently set my alarm on it.  I got to choose the sound I would wake up to.  There is this fun little diddy that starts soft and charm like.  A melodic "Good morning" is sang and then..."bup bup bup bow bow bup bup bup bow bow bow !"  A funky little rhythm erupts garnished with a chiming "beautiful day!"  I LOVE THIS!  It puts me in such a good mood!

Still having not adjusted to the time change, Drew woke up at 6 this morning and climbed into my bed.  He has always had a thing for my earlobes and so I awoke to his tugging on them.  (I swear when I'm an old my earlobes will be past my shoulders.) 

"Good morning my beautiful mother," he whispered, "I think it is going to snow today."

I had told the boys that the weather was predicting a chance of snow so during our bed time prayers last night Drew pleaded with God for snow.

"We'll see Bug.  It's early still so lets try to sleep a little longer, k?"  But no.  He did not want to sleep.  He kept talking.

"I love your beautiful face, mommy!  I'm so glad you grew up big and had a little boy to love you." 

Irresistible.  There was no sleeping after that, just lots of 'nuggling until...."Bing, bing, bing.  Good morning!  Bup bup bow bow bup bup bup bow bow bow!"  Drew smiled big at my alarm and I got up and did a little morning dance for him. 

"OK, mom...that's enough."

Hmph.

All that to say, I had a great start to a great day!  It did not look like the snow was going to come so I was a little bummed but it was baking day.  Woo hoo!

We had stellar results today.  We all come with something in mind to bake.  Everyone helps clean up (but mostly Patti) and we all take home a little bit of everything.  Today I came home with a loaf of Ezekiel bread, 8 bagels (4 plain, 4 cinnamon), sombrero cookies, apple pie, Quinoa (YUM) and cupcakes with the cream filling in the middle just like Hostess makes.  (Is that everything...?)  I made the pies and they did not take long so I got to help with a little bit of everything else.  As we baked, ice started to fall outside that eventually turned to snow.  I don't know if it was the long awaited snow or all of the amazing baked goods that surrounded me but I did my Happy Dance many times.  And I sang the Good morning song. (I couldn't help it.  It was stuck in my head.)

After getting my goodies home (I walked home from Caren's.  In the snow.  Up hill both ways.  I jest!) I had to head to the school to pick up the boys.  I went into the mud room to pile on some winter stuff.  I actually paused awhile over wearing my snow boots.  There was not even an inch of snow on the ground.  Would that really be necessary?  I had visions of me showing up at the school all bundled up while the other moms had nothing but a long sleeve shirt and maybe a vest on.  I finally decided that I wanted to be warm and if bundling up in the snow means I will stick out like the foreigner that I am then so be it.  I mean, it's snowing!  So I donned a hat my Grandma had knit me, my leather coat, gloves and snow boots. 

The roads were fine and my times of driving in the snow in Missouri came back to me.  It wasn't scary like driving in the snow in Texas.  The hardest part was keeping my eyes on the road instead of the beautiful snow scenes I was passing by! 

I got to the school a little early and so got out to enjoy the snow a bit.  There were so many people I was wishing would appear next to me.  I wish you guys were here to enjoy these little moments!  As I suspected I was a tad over dressed.  There were many with the long sleeve shirt and vests.  There were a few with nothing but a sweater and a knit cap on.  Then there was a lady who walked up with one of those "fur" caps on with the ear flaps, a big puffy winter coat, and boots up to the knees. 

She must not be from here.  I thought, and then I had a good chuckle at myself.

The bell rang and the kids burst out of the school with cheers and laughter regarding the snow!  It was straight out of a Peanuts cartoon. 

"It's snowing!"  they shouted and then they tried to catch the snow flakes on their tongues, scooped up snow and dared each other to stick their tongues on the flag pole.  One young man began packing a snowball but it his attempt was thwarted by a teacher.  Apparently snowballs are not allowed on campus. 

I found my sons making their own snowballs.  Drew over heard the teacher and dropped his snowball to the ground.

"It's OK buddy," I said,  "You can throw one at me or your brother if you want."

"But we're not allowed!"

"Well, I'm your mom and this is your brother so you can throw one if I say."

Gabriel still had his and Drew wanted Gabe to toss it at him.  I zipped up Drew's coat so the snow would not get in his shirt.  Gabriel wound up his pitch and then...

"Gabe,"  Mr. Chris, the bus driver squawked over his bus intercom, "Don't throw it...at his face."

I smiled at Chris!  I love that guy!  So Gabe wound up and SPLAT!  The first snowball of the season was pitched with a few little cheers from the kids on the bus.

I dropped Drew off at cub scouts and then home we went.  Gabriel announced that he would need a fire in the fireplace to keep warm by while doing homework.

I'd never built a fire before but decided it couldn't be too hard.  I mean, forest fires start by mere accidents and neanderthals were able to figure it out.

Aaron already had wood stacked in there and so I just shoved in newspaper here and there, lit a match and wa la!  Fire!  Well...fire for about 3 minutes.  As soon as the paper burned out it was over.  I tried using the bellow but only succeeded in making the paper temporarily glow.  Hm.  I shoved new paper in and lit it again with the same results.  One log in the back finally caught and I was pretty satisfied but Gabe complained that it was not sufficiently heating the room.  I tried again and tucked some matches in between some of the bark for good measure.  My little trick worked and I had a bona fide fire!  Woo hoo!  Now I know how the cave men felt.

Today I woke up to happy children, baked many yummy things with several fabulous ladies, I danced, I sang, I drove on the mountain in the snow, I was not the biggest thumb sticking out at the school and I built a fire.

"Bup bup bup bow bow bup bup bup bow bow bow bow bup bup bow bow bup bup bow bow!"