Friday, December 31, 2010

Revolving Door

I'm not entirely sure how many children I have.  Especially during school breaks because sometimes they're here, sometimes they're gone.  If they're here, sometimes they have friends who are here too.  So it was the norm this break to sit down to a meal and find one or more of my children missing and having been replaced with a different child.  I have found for the most part, that it has been a win-win.

The boy has had two friends over the past 9 days stay over at different times.  The boys are probably the easiest because they have learned the art of "quiet" (mostly out of self preservation).  They set themselves up somewhere out of the way, and aside from eating me out of house and home, are fairly self sufficient.  Last night, he was elsewhere.

My oldest daughter is a social beast.  That means that she is rarely content with having ONE friend over.  She needs to have a gaggle of girls.  On weekends, it's not as big of a deal as on weekdays when the husband needs sleep and yet the basement is filled with a plethora of raging girl hormones who have the ability to laugh in high "c".  For those who don't realize, high "c" can permeate floors.  Tonight will be sleepover number 5 for her.  In her defense, I will add that she KNOWS she will get cut off from sleepovers if she comes home with "attitude"*.

My middle daughter has had just 2 sleepovers.  One with her cousins and one with a friend.  She is typically the most difficult because at 12, the entire goal of a sleepover is NOT to sleep.  EVAH. Even when she DOES sleep, she's loud, when she doesn't sleep, well, her voice rises about 10 decibels.  And, so as to not put too fine a point on it, she does NOT do well without sleep.   This child gave new meaning to the word "attitude". 'Nuff said.
  
Beanie has her oldest friend over.  By old, I mean they have been friends since they were babies, which beats the longevity of ANY of the other kids' friendships.  And the two of them together crack me up.  In looks, they are almost polar opposites:  Beanie is white blond, dark blue eyes with very fair skin, her friend has dark hair, chocolate brown eyes, and perpetually tanned skin. Put the two of them together and if one starts a smile, the other completes it.  Since they don't get together too often, I tend to try to cook for her friend, because I find that she not only eats what I cook, but she enjoys it.  Last night, I made  fish tacos because the last time she was over, she set a record, outpacing the boy. This morning it was homemade cinnamon rolls.  And aside from food, the little ones are easy because they're not yet in the stage where they want to stay up all night.  Put them on the floor, with a bowl of popcorn or a malt and a movie and they're out cold by 11pm.

Still, I'll be glad to get the all my kids back into their own beds, getting a good night's sleep.  Not so much for their sake, but for mine.

attitude=picking fights, whining, being unkind, basically being a stinker to the nth degree

edited to add...spell check is your friend.  Ahem.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting You

So, the big question after the Christmas holiday is "what was the favorite gift?"  Kids are easy.  It's always the number one item on their list.  Well, except maybe the boy.  But he got everything on his list (which was small so easy).  My oldest daughter, was her Coach tennies.  NOT the design she asked for but in this she sometimes leaves things up to my discretion and I think I exceeded her expectations.  Middle daughter was the personalized basketball jacket.  Beanie, the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker (OK...that was SORTA for me too...ahem).

Since we did the floors and got the new table,
there wasn't much more on my list I wanted.

So, if you think the table and chairs and floors, which were desperately needed, were my favorite gift, think again.  My favorite gift has a little story to it.  All of my emails end with the following tag line: 
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, But rather, a skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, worn out and screaming 'WHOO HOO what a ride!'"
I love that line and try to live my life by that premise.  So, my favorite gift this year was from a friend who found a T-shirt that embodies my tag line.  It says "Live Imperfectly with Great Delight"

I have finally found a friend who "gets me".

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Happiness

Well, the major excitement has come and gone.  And it's been a wonderful 36 hours-ish (so far).

Let's recap:

Got all the "things" done I needed to do before we went over the the ILs last night.  Things= appetizers for taking tot he ILs made + creme brulee for Christmas dinner dessert made (AND removed from the oven so as not to repeat last year's Christmas cheesecake debacle)+cinnamon rolls and frosting made (for Christmas morning)Luckily, nothing involved me having to leave the house.  We all got ready for church (at ILs church), packed the car with gifts and food, and headed over to the ILs for the afternoon/evening.

We arrived to find the additional snow (3-4 inches) that morning had blown a transformer in the neighborhood and Xcel Energy was out fixing it.  Leaving the house electricityless.  Luckily it was only about 45 minutes before it came back on but we were unable to engage in our pre-church Tom and Jerry.  So, we did as my BIL said..."let's drink all the beer so it doesn't get warm".

Church was typical.  Be there 45 minutes before it starts in order to get a seat and we didn't even get to sit IN the church but sat instead in the lobby.

Back to the house for pictures:
Note the well coordinated outfits.  Black and Navy(me)/Green(husband)/red(the boy)/purple(DD1)/teal(DD2)/pink(Beanie).  Yes, well thought out in advance.  ALSO...see all those big bouncy curls?  My oldest daughter did both the little girls hair with...A STRAIGHT IRON.  Seriously.  There is an oxymoron in there somewhere.

Then Tom and Jerrys and appetizers.   This is how Tom and Jerry's work:
Then the gift giving began.  Kids first because, even at 630pm their patience was about as thin as it could get.  Lots of Aeropostale.  Lots of Bath and Body works.  Hit of the night?  Twinkle toes for Beanie, who promptly showed us that they lit up by striking them on her head.  Oh, and the boy FINALLY got his Percy jersey:
Then it was the adults turn.  White elephant time.  This was ALOT of fun.   My gift, stolen once thus safe, was a plaque with 100 favorite movie quotes.  My nephew ended up with it, claiming it was PERFECT for his apt.  The husband ended up with two bottles of Quaker Steak and Lube hot sauce, which was promptly used this morning on breakfast, and I "lucked" out with a bag of Crest, tooth paste, floss and massage oils.  Not sure exactly where the massage oils came in with the rest of the theme, but I'll make an effort to put to good use.

It was 11 when we packed everything up and headed home, which is actually pretty early.  We unloaded, put the kids to bed then "Christmased" up the house:
Surprisingly, the kids slept in until around 730. (I however had to be up at ungodly hour in order to get the cinnamon rolls out and to room temp to rise).  By time we got downstairs, we were greeted with:
And this:
Coach? Really Santa?  What the heck were you thinking?  Does he know her?  Has he seen her room?

I am happy to report, that despite the Christmas NOT being filled with excess, my children were all EXCEEDINGLY happy with their Christmas.  And as a parent, what more could you want?

So, the day was lazy.  I got the prime rib in the oven and somewhere around 3pm, I decided a shower was in order.  Yes, I stayed in my jammies til then, because I could.

Sister and brother in law arrived at  430.  I was carving the prime rib at EXACTLY 634, 4 minutes off of the ETD (Estimated Time of Dinner).  Dinner was Prime Rib...cooked to and EXACT medium rare, THE GRAVY (yes, it has to be capitalized because it is THAT good AND important), yukon gold mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus, drunken mushrooms, and the most PERFECT popovers EVAH!  A bottle of Franciscan Cabernet and a Caymus Cabernet.  All finished by Creme Brulee that was TDF.

Now...I'm going to go take a bath and contemplate how perfect this holiday has been.  And how blessed I am.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

...then a show

We have arrived.

First Dinner...

Ok...so we have this figured out right? I'm easy but I'm not cheap. Beanie is cheap but she's not easy.
Whew!

Date Night with Daddy

When my older two girls were younger (like 8 and 5), my husband was doing a lot of hunting and taking the boy with him.  He felt bad about that so we planned an evening where he took the older two girls to dinner and Disney on Ice.  We have been talking about him doing something similar with Beanie, but nothing has really sparked his interest.  Until this year.

The Children's Theater in Minneapolis is doing the play A Christmas Story, which is right up both of their alley.   So, I picked Beanie up a little early from school, brought her home to get changed then took her to meet Daddy for "dinner and a show".


Here's my baby as she left the house (do pause and admire the floors):

Monday, December 20, 2010

And It's Back Together

Busy day.  Dining room?  Check. Snow? Check. Grocery store? Check. More snow? Check.  Presents wrapped? Check. And yet more snow? Check.  

The only thing I did not get done was the sugar cookie dough made.  But hey, there's still time.  It's still snowing, so I got no where else to go.

Here is my dining room.  New floors.  New paint.  Cleaned upholstery.   No art up yet.  Not sure what I'm going to do in there yet.
Dontcha love the floors?  I do.

When Life Gets in the Way

Yes, the floors are DONE!  I am SOOO pleased with how they turned out, but I have to add that there was a wrinkle in the process.  When I called the owner to set up an appt to get this done (by the company whose bid was right in the  middle...not the cheapest, not the most expensive), I asked what it would cost to get flush mounted floor vents and was told $30 each (we have 3).  I said good, let's add the flush mounted vents, I'll add it to the bid.  I added the verbiage "add 3 flush mount vents at a cost of $30 each bringing the new total to $X" (and I even rounded UP).  I put down the agreed upon dates, signed it and wrote a check for half.

When I came up last Thursday to inspect, I asked when the flush mount vents would be added.  They "forgot" to  add the vents (having stapled the revised bid to the back side of the original and then they worked off the original) and the only way to add the vents in is to redo the whole floor.  Talk about going from a high to a low in one fell swoop!  Since it was their error and I was not getting what I wanted, I expected them to do something to fix.  The owner said he had some raised wood vents in the shop and he would bring them by on Friday morning and if I was ok with it, he would sand and stain them for free.  NOT what I wanted but what I wanted was no longer an option so I agreed.  He called me on Friday to say no he didn't have the vents available.  I asked if he could get them and he said he would see, but I could just get different vents from Home Depot.  Which I interpreted as, "tough luck sista...you're on your own since I already got paid" (which I paid the balance minus the vents).

So, the moral of the story, before you begin ANY work, make sure all the expectations are stated up front, on paper, any changes verified by all parties.  Lesson learned.

Now, it took one day to disassemble the house to get this done last week and I'm working on day 4 now trying to get it all put back together. Thursday after they left, I thoroughly cleaned all the cabinets in the kitchen, because you know "dustless" isn't REALLY dustless.  Friday I painted the dining room, first time in 14 years.  It looks awesome but of course it now means the hallway looks shabby, so I see more painting in my future.  Friday afternoon, the husband and I bought a new kitchen table and he spend Friday evening putting it together.  54 inch square counter height table with 8 chairs.  It looks GORGEOUS.  Saturday my oldest daughter had a dance competition north of the cities, so we went to watch that and have lunch.  It's amazing the lack of motivation that follows two beers at lunch.  Sunday we went to church, then took the girls out Christmas shopping for their friends (yes, we braved the mall...and while it was CRAZY busy, it wasn't as bad as I expected).  We came home, went to some friends', ended up back here for our weekly "side of steak".

This morning my oldest daughter told me that my bedroom (which currently has all the boxes containing the contents of my china cabinet...including TWO full sets of dishes, one 8 place settings, one 11 place settings, stacked in the perimeter of my bed) resembles an episode of "Hoarders".  YIKES!   My goal today:  return the china cabinet to its original form.

And get the stack of Christmas cards in the mail (all stamped and ready to go).

And get a batch of sugar cookie dough made so it can refrigerate.

And get to the grocery store since we're supposed to get another 8-10 inches of snow late this afternoon and my refrigerator is BARE!

And if I can manage all that, I can probably manage  to get the last of my Christmas presents wrapped, right?

This is what happens when  life gets in the way of carefully made plans.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day Three...dare I cross my fingers?

An appearance of everyone at the bar this morning (how often does a mom get to say THAT?) proved once again that noxious fumed be d@mned!  We will survive.  And really, it wasn't nearly as bad as Monday night.  

So, if all goes well today, they'll have the last coat of poly on the floors today, we'll give it all night to dry fully and hopefully we'll be able to start the clean up process and moving stuff back into place tomorrow.  WHOOT!

One more day of self imposed exile.  I can survive, right?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day Two (evening)

Today I'm going to share with you how poorly we are eating. Since I have limited cooking facilities at my disposal, I'm trying to work with what I have:  a microwave, a toaster oven and a pizza oven.  Don't know what a pizza oven is?  Well, if you ever spent time in bars in the midwest (NOT that I'm an expert mind you), you'd know that you can order pizza from the bar.  It's a frozen pizza that is cooked in a pizza oven.  Like this(don't judge me by the finger prints on the front...OH, go ahead, judge me):
Yesterday I took the easy way out and we had frozen pizza.  Who knew we could eat THAT much frozen pizza (four).  Tonight, I'm...improvising.  Actually it's not me but my kids who discovered that if you put a tray on the rack of the pizza oven, you could bake a layer of french fries and chicken nuggets on it.  Actually the kids are having chicken patties on a bun and french fries.  I'll bake up chicken chunks for me and toss them in a caesar salad.  The husband is making himself a steak salad.

Lest you think we're all about processed foods...well, we are.  Breakfast had been Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Crunch Berries and Frosted Flakes.  All in paper bowls that I throw away.  Sue me.   I DO however have a bowl of bananas, cuties, apples and oranges on the bar and everyone seems to be availing themselves to it.

And the funny thing is that I am finding this much more difficult than the meals I cook "from scratch".  Which I think, ultimately, is a good thing much to my children's dismay.

Day Two (morning)

Well, we all appear to have withstood the noxious fumes during the night.  Wait...still not sure about the boy as he has yet to appear from his man cave.  He may have succumbed. A loving caring mother would go check on him.  I, however, am a fearful mother.  I happen to believe strongly in the adage to "never wake a sleeping baby".  Nor 16 year old boy/man.  Fear is a good motivator.

As I suspected, my husband is not quite embracing this adventure in true pioneer spirit.  Not that I blame him.  I mean, the pioneer spirit usually means having wide open spaces in which you create your own adventure rather than a fume ladened house where the only space available has been designated as "beds" and it's too friggin' cold to step foot outside (current temp -7 degrees  that's the TEMP NOT Wind Chill).  And I'm sure it didn't help that he cracked his head on something (don't know what) this morning.  No, it wasn't the back of his head but smack center of his forehead, which means that he will probably have to explain each of his co-workers.  Or he could blame me because this adventure was all my idea, thus my responsibility.  And you know what?  I'm OK with that.  I just hope he makes the story a good one.

Oh, look...my son also rises. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day One (evening)

Well, there's good news and there is bad news.

The good news?  They not only got the floor stained, they also got the first coat of poly down.  Which means that we might be on the way back to "normal" on Thurs vs Fri.

The bad news?  Ever slept in a house where the smell of polyurethane permeates the house?  I suspect it won't be pleasant.

That's what the wine is for right?

Day One (midafternoon)

The floor guys showed up around 830.  I had just enough time to get Beanie off to school and run the dog to the kennel.  When I came back, they had prepped the house and had sanded a good portion of the kitchen.  I got to decide the color.

First he used a straight cherry stain.  And as I expected it was too dark.  I asked if he could bring it lighter by about half so he thinned the stain and tried again and it was PERFECT.  He's lucky I'm easy (go ahead...you can say it...just not cheap).

I had no desire to be there to listen to the sanders or the giant vacuum that was used to grab most of the dust, so I headed to the mall to attempt to get some Christmas shopping done.  But before I left:
with the vacuum running (boy does it suck):
When I got home they had water popped the maple and were waiting for it to dry to apply the stain.  Before long, the dining room looked like this:
I know it probably doesn't look much different but it is.  There is a slight red hint to it that will look gorgeous with my cherry table.  It will also look a little darker when they get the poly on it.

And, just so you know, I warned my girls earlier today:  I will be writing about our little adventure, so anything they say and do will be held against them in a court of blog.  I suspect that might lend a hand in keeping the bickering down to a minimum.  We'll see.

Day One (early)

The hardwood floors guys are not even here yet and we've already had "issues".  Something about my older daughter not wanting anyone's stuff but her own (she would prefer that we line the cramped living room with our stuff) in her own room because she can't be inconvenienced with someone else having access to her room when she might need privacy.  I believe, this morning, I actually said the words..."if I hear that door lock one more time I will remove it from the hinges".

GAWD.  I suspect these next 4 days will feel like a month.

It's noon somewhere right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How Many Days...

does it take to dismantle your house, yet moving NOTHING out of it?

Apparently one.

Tomorrow starts an adventure for our little clan.  We are having the hardwood floors on our main level refinished.  I can in all honesty say it's about time.  They have not been touched by anything but human feet, metal protruding felt chair pads, and longish dog nails in almost 14 years.    That doesn't include the time our faucet leaked, or the time the light fixture fell from out 10 foot ceilings, leaving a lovely dent in our floors or a myriad of other mishaps that are common with 4 children.

We had several choices of when we could do this.  MY preference would have been to do it over the Christmas break.  Not sure why I thought this would be a better choice, having the children home for the duration rather than doing it while the children were spending at least 6 hours each day at school.  Regardless, Christmas break wasn't an option. Apparently someone thought likewise, although my guess is that they will not attempt to reside in their house while it's being refinished, instead heading to warmer climes (see Let it Snow post).  Our choices were Dec 13, Dec 20 or into Jan.  Now, Dec 20 was off the table.  They would JUST BARELY be done by Christmas.  Initially Dec 13 was also off the table and I was leaning more towards January, because it would be more convenient.  Then I realized...NO TIME is "more" convenient.  So, why not just bite the bullet and get'er done now and start the New Year out with fresh beautiful floors?  The husband took a little convincing.  I still don't think he's completely there yet.  We'll find out tomorrow when he has to enter and leave the house through the basement door and trudge through the snow (which he DID shovel a path, on the grass, around the house to the driveway) anytime he needs to leave the house.

So, what we did today was: pack up my china cabinet and store it, moved everything out of the foyer closet and the linen closet (since both have contiguous wood floor), removed everything from my kitchen counters and from atop my cabinets, moved my bakers rack out of the kitchen, moved my china cabinet into my middle daughter's room, moved my 8 dining room chairs into my youngest daughters room, moved our kitchen table and chairs into our living room, moved our dining room table into our living room, set up a "mock" kitchen at our bar area in the basement consisting of my coffee pot, the microwave and toaster oven (and a variety of cereals and paper plates/utensils).  Luckily we have a full sized fridge in the basement so that won't be a huge issue.  I have to remove all the artwork from the walls.  I also had to clean out the fridge as they will be moving both the fridge and oven out to finish the floors beneath.  Even though the living room isn't being done, we still needed to remove all the items on the mantel to avoid it being shaken to the floor. The area rug under the dining room was stained beyond redemption (spilled wine/cream wool carpet do  NOT mix), the area rug in the foyer was rolled up to be returned to its place when the job is complete.

For the next 4-5 days we will be living out of our basement. The younger two girls and the husband and I will also have to pack for those 5 days as we will be living in the basement.  Luckily, we have 2 bedrooms a fairly large living area a bathroom and the washer and dryer (and a full sized fridge) down there, so it's much bigger than, say a hotel room, if we were willing to spend the extra money for that.  Then, first thing tomorrow morning I have to take the dog to the kennel.   She is only a main floor dog and we just can't chance her getting upstairs (and there is nothing preventing her from running up).

The process, as it was explained to me, will be them coming in, removing my baseboard trim, sanding the floors.  Then we're adding an extra step.  We are having our floors stained.  Since they are maple, they will need to be 'water popped' in order for the wood to take the stain.  I will have to be here tomorrow morning to approve how dark I want the stain.  They anticipate doing the sanding and staining tomorrow.  Then 3 coats of an oil based poly.  We debated the oil vs water based poly and decided to go with the  oil as it would be more durable.  It would also be a longer time in between applications to dry, making the process about 4-5 days long.  I figured if we were going to be inconvenienced, best to get it done to last longer so we won't have to do this again, at least while the kids are in residence.

When I think of what the floors will look like when this is all done, that (and a case of red wine) makes the inconvenience bearable.  So, let "the great adventure"* begin.


*the great adventure...other wise known as WTH was I thinking

Let it Snow...then Let it STOP!

So, yesterday it was supposed to snow.  We keep our blinds cracked a bit and several times during the night I woke up and looked out.  It just looked foggy, with no snow at all on the rails to our deck.  That's how I typically judge how much snow we have gotten.  My middle daughter had a basketball tournament Saturday morning as well.

When I finally rolled out of bed, I found that we were in the midst of was was bordering on a blizzard.  Thus the reason why there was no accumulation of snow on the rails.  It snowed and blowed and snowed and blowed most of the day.  And yes, my daughter had a basketball game.  And yes, they canceled all games after hers.  My husband said the roads were HORRIBLE.

He got home from the game bringing my daughter's friend.  We also had 2 of my son's friends who had stayed over Friday night.  He started shoveling.  He actually shoveled twice before he gave up, came inside to talk with his strapping young 16 year old son and his friend.  The conversation went like this:

Husband:  Hey boys.  Get enough sleep?  I've been outside shoveling the drive way.  For the second time.
Son:  Well sure Dad...it's snowing REALLY HARD.

How does one respond when sarcasm is met with sarcasm?  I guess with laughter.

So, we (yes, I volunteered) went out and shoveled again this morning.  Wait...did I mention that we have lived in MN for 14 winters WITHOUT the benefit of a snow blower/plow?  My husband considers this "frivolous".  Mostly because up until this year, 80% of the storms have happened during the week and I end up shoveling.  But this year we have lucked out and our storms have all arrived on the weekend, prompting the following words of insight from my husband:

Husband: I'm rethinking this whole snow blower thing.

May wonders never cease.  But I'll believe that when I see it.  Parked in my garage.

Final snow tally: 21.5 inches.  Not the record of 28 inches from the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.  We weren't here to experience that.  However, we have the dubious honor of being present in Minnesota for the collapse of the roof of the Metrodome due to this storm.


The snow has stopped.  It is now in sub zero temps.  It's Minnesota.  If it's not a snow storm caving in the roof of a sports facility, it's mosquitoes the size of albatrosses who will suck you dry.  What's not to love?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pick-up Etiquette for Dummies. Version 1.0

Beanie is open enrolled in one of the now 5 soon to be 6 elementary schools in town.  There were several reasons for this.  Between K and 1st grade the district changed our school boundaries.  We were moved from one of the "under performing" schools to the other "under performing" schools with the opening of a new elementary school and our thought was "better the devil you know".  No, we wouldn't get to go the new school.  We're one of those older "established" subdivisions that has the name "estates" in our title which means we fit a certain demographic for under performing schools.  And that's ok because I didn't want her to be at the new school as it would involve a fairly long bus ride.  I was also very happy with the teachers and principal of the "under performing" school.  So, since we had two children in elementary school at the time and the district has planned another elementary school, the closest to our house, to be opening in 2009 (which was put off til 2011) and I didn't want my middle daughter having to change elementary schools 3 times in 5 years, we decided to open enroll them both in the school they were at (and the school their brother and older sister thrived in).

But, being open enrolled means, above all else, I HAVE to get dressed in the morning as I have to drop them (now just her) off at school and pick her up from school, vs staying in my jammies, box of bon-bons under my arm, a schedule for all the day's soaps at hand and seeing them climb onto their big yellow bus from the comfort of my front door /end sarcasm.  Luckily, our friends have also open enrolled their girls and we have been able to share our carpooling duties.  That means, I do get my jammie mornings, occasionally.  BUT, I think I would rather forgo the jammie morning every morning if it meant I didn't have to pick up after school.  EVER.

I have been doing this pick up every afternoon for the past 3, going on 4 years and I swear, some of these people who are picking up their kids are either the stupidest, or the most inconsiderate people, OR BOTH I have EVER come across.  Pick up would go so smoothly if people would move along in the line, pulling forward as cars moved out of the circle.  BUT NOOOOOO...they just sit there.  While there is a long line of cars waiting to get in to pick up kids and wait.  Most of these cars are in line on a 4 lane road waiting to pull into the pick up circle because someone can't have their little precious child walk an extra 10 feet if they were to pull forward. And the front half of the circle is devoid of cars.

Originally I figured, I'd just arrive late and swoop in, grab my child and be gone.  But no.  Apparently it really doesn't matter what time you come to pick up your child, SOMEONE will be blocking the circle.

Then late last week there was a police car there.  Blocking the inside lane (which, I readily admit, I use in an attempt to bypass the mess on the road).  So, I stayed right...only until I was able to go around the police car.  Heh, heh, heh...  Beanie said he was giving some direction as apparently I am not the only person to have seen this whole pick up scenario as an accident waiting to happen.  Then again, earlier this week there was another police car, in the inner lane again but pulled further up.  OY!  As if to make my life more difficult. (YES..it IS all about ME ME ME)  I was literally blocked in by the car in front of me, as the driver had gotten out of her vehicle and was being instructed (or so I assumed) as to how to do the pick-up after school by the police officer. So, I figured EVERYONE was going to get instructions on how to pick up.  I dunno.  As I got close, though I got waved through.   Maybe they thought, "Hey, SHE looks pretty intelligent and can figure this crap out".  Or maybe they thought, "DAMN...I'M not going to be the one to tell that Amazon how this works, she might hurt me".  Either way, I got waved through  to pick up Beanie.  Not sure if I actually stopped...she may have had a running start. The car door may have been open.   I may have left tire marks.  I don't remember.

That brings us to yesterday.  I go...LATE...to pick up Beanie (you understand now why I drink right?) and once again, I am in a line of IDIOTS.  But this time there is no  police car.  However, the principal (who I happen to adore) is out there and he is motioning me to...wait for it...PULL FORWARD.  To do what I know to do.  I grab and go...and maybe leave tire marks again.  In the snow.  It's all a little fuzzy.

I know this shouldn't be a "big deal".  In the grand scheme of things it's not.  I guess I just can't wrap my brain around the WHY some parents can't seem to figure this out.  It's not rocket science.


I guess that's why they have "dummy" books.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Awareness

My panties are in a slight twist.  Nothing to restrict movement, mind you, but something for me to write about.

Facebook has a new "awareness" thing going this week, through til tomorrow (Monday, Dec. 6).   The action? "Change your facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday, Dec 6th of 2010, there should be no human faces on facebook, but an invasion of memories! This is for a campaign to bring awareness to the violence against children."  I didn't have a problem with it and in fact, it DID bring up many memories of the happiness I had in my childhood as I paged through avatars I might use.  Again bringing my awareness to the children of today who were not so lucky.

In case you are wondering...I decided upon Underdog...because I can still hear the start of the show..."There's no need to fear, Underdog is here." Quite fitting I thought.

So, fun, a little silly, a little reminiscent. And underlying it all (for me) was that awareness of how I would love for no children to be the recipient of violence.  Yes, I really did think that.

But instead of seeing this for what it is, or should be, I think the word "awareness" seems to have escaped those who are critical.  Something so silly as changing a profile picture to a cartoon character seems to be haled as a mockery.

And yet, when facebook groups had women put their bra colors in their status last year to bring "awareness" to breast cancer (and let's face it, to get men wondering), I didn't see the same type of criticism  leveled at that.  Or when we put in our status where we kept our purses, again to bring "awareness" to breast cancer, it too was seen as humorous.  I happened to have mine "hanging on the closet door nob".  Again, no criticism I know of was levied against this action.

So, bringing awareness to realities of life, whether it be breast cancer or violence aimed at children, should never be be scoffed at.  Take it for what it is.  Bringing awareness.  And while it might not be enough for some, no one really knows if this might inspire a person/people to take that extra step.  To do the relay for life.  To volunteer at a homeless shelter.  Even if it is just one person, it's one person more than would be doing it if they hadn't been made aware.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Actions Have Consequences...

but for whom?

This is going to be somewhat of a rant so if you aren't interested, I won't be offended if you move along.  OR you could stay and sympathize/empathize with me because sure as shootin', it'll be one or more of your kids are doing this too.  How do I know your kids do it too?  Because my kids got the idea from SOMEONE and it wasn't me, so it must have been your kids. 

It is winter (although not technically) in Minnesota.  Winter=cold.  Just in case that wasn't crystal clear. Oh, it hasn't gotten to that "I'm cold to my bones" cold yet, but it's coming...I can just feel it.
And yet, this is the conversation I had with my middle daughter (age 12) earlier this week:

Me: We got a dusting of snow so make sure you wear your boots. (you can already see where this is headed right?)
Her:  I'm going to wear my ballet flats.
Me: You can't wear your ballet flats.  You can TAKE them.  Wear your sneakers and change when you get to school.
Her: NO ONE stands by their locker and changes shoes at school.  I'll be ok with my ballet flats.
Me: No, you won't.  Just walking to the bus will put snow in your shoes and you will start out the school day with cold wet feet.
Her:  I'll be OK.
Me: NO. This is NOT negotiable.  Put on shoes.
Her: *stomp off*, *slam door*, *move in slow motion raising fear that she will miss her bus and I will have to take her*

Sadly, this is not the "exception" conversation, but rather the "rule".  Replace boots with coat or hat and gloves and we can spin this one out every day and twice on Sunday.  And in answer to your question, NO, I don't let her (them) do what she (they) wants to do for several reasons (not necessarily in order of importance): 
  1. I am the parent.  I don't make stupid rules that I can't enforce simply to thwart their little psyches.  I have rules in place for their safety.  Winter in Minnesota means EXTREME cold.  Cold that can cause you to lose fingers or toes (as has been experienced by my husband's uncle).  I can do without the consequences of amputation thankyouverymuch.
  2. When I see other kids trudging off to school in flip flops and shorts, IN SNOW, my first thought is, DO THEY NOT HAVE PARENTS WHO KNOW THE WORD NO?  Yup, that's me judging others using my yard stick.  If I don't want to be a hypocrite, I need to walk my own walk and follow my own standards by which I judge others. (Yes, I judge others...sue me)
  3. Our jobs as parents is to guide our children.  Help them make the right decisions.  But it is also to get them to understand that sometimes in life we don't get to make and follow our own rules.  Adulthood is RIDDLED with rules someone else set up for us to follow.  Some of those are good sound rules.  Do we just throw them out because we had no part in making them?  Or do we follow them because they make good sense?  In some respects we have to accept that these rules are in place for a reason and follow.  Best learn it early in life because your boss, he's not going to take kindly to you questioning each and every rule he has because you weren't there to help in the process.
Contrary to my children's opinion of me, I'm not stupid.  I GET some of the reasons for their balking at winter attire.  Boots and thick heavy jackets take up space in lockers where space is already tight.  I GET that.  And while I'm not completely happy with them NOT wearing winter boots in 6 inches of freshly fallen snow, I will compromise with shoes that cover their whole foot (read...sneakers, Ugg style boots, etc).  The jackets...well, that's a different situation.  My insistence that they be appropriately attired for the temp comes from a fear that, even in a car, should it break down, they need to have that added warmth.  Do I expect a breakdown?  NO.  But when does the expected ever happen?  It's the unexpected that bites you in the fanny.

And finally, actions having consequences...children rarely have to deal with the consequences of their actions.  If my son wears his slippers to school (yes, we have had THAT talk as well) and somehow gets them wet/lost/etc, then *I* get the phone call saying, come bring me shoes. Bringing him the shoes teaches him that he is not responsible for his actions, someone (mom) will bail him out Not bringing him his shoes MIGHT teach him a lesson, unless his immune system (for which I am ALSO responsible) is low and he ends up catching a chill, getting sick and being home (yeah, yeah...I know GERMS cause illness, but a depleted immune system does nothing to prevent it either).   Then again, there is me, being judged as a cold-hearted b!tch for having made my child suffer so. *insert eye roll*  Again, who REALLY suffers the consequences?

And why should there be consequences when a simple "because I said so" should be all that is needed. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Well, the drive up to Father Dick's was harrowing.  We took back roads all the way and I expected it to take much longer than it did.  Surprisingly, a typical highway drive is 2 hours and it took us 2.5 hours in snow and sleet going the back roads.  Yeah us!

What ensued was fairly typical.  Chili and pizza burgers, followed by a sauntering down to the local watering holes (a town of 78 has not one but TWO bars) and a little pull tabbing.  No money to be had this year.  Back to the rectory (or as my son calls it, the wrecktomy) for a venison fry.  At that point, midnight, I felt like I had been up forever.  In mom-time, it was close.

The morning brought coffee, church, breakfast and me, firmly cocooning myself into the rectory/church basement.  I was NOT THE LEAST bit interested in going outside for the temperature was FRIGID!  My oldest daughter however did manage to scavenger hunt her way to a $20 cash prize.  Then my husband found the jackass wining him the big money prize of the weekend...$100.  Whoot!

As we were waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, we played several rounds of bingo.

Father calling bingo:
Playing sit down bingo...other wise known as LOSER* bingo:
My baby and her cousin playing bingo:
When bingo was over, we got our family picture.  My middle daughter stood on the counter to get the whole fam damily:
We ate...and ate...and ate...and had dessert...and ate some more.

Then, there was a sight to behold.  The "boys" doing the dishes.
Or maybe not.  Maybe my ONE nephew was doing the dishes, while his uncle and they boy...er, uh, played "snap the dishtowel".  They actually made the little kids run a gauntlet:
Due to the temperature, the hay ride was canceled (did you hear the whoops of joy?) so we ended up in Sauk Center, touring one of Father's old churches that was built in the early 1900s in a baroque style (and since someone had to do the...if it's not baroque, don't fix it joke, I did the honors), followed by a trip to the local meat market were we left with a full strip loin, cut into steaks. 

After a stop for lunch, we made it home mid afternoon, got unpacked and relaxed.

Saturday we went and go our tree and my husband put it up.  I wasn't up to doing the full house so it's been a gradual process.  The tree went up on Saturday and we brought it in to warm up.  I put the lights on the tree on Sunday and the kids decorated it on Monday.  The only thing left to do is to put the candy canes, peppermint only please, on the tree.  Wanna see?
So, today, I got the house decorated.  The only thing I have left to do is strip a string of lights off my pencil tree (artificial....the one I put in the corner of our living room) since the whole middle section is out, and replace them and get that tree up.
Then, all that's left for me to do is to bake my cookies, finish writing my Christmas letter, order my Christmas cards, write out my list, buy all the Christmas presents, wrap them, send those that need to be sent, plan Christmas dinner, attend choir concerts, dance competitions and  basketball games.  Nothing out of the ordinary...if your name is Martha.


Loser bingo*=last one standing who does NOT have a number that has been called on their card, wins.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We Really are NUTS

Stomach knotted. I believe it will be a much longer ride than typical.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ramona

I never read as a kid.  Matter of fact, I HATED reading.  Even the standard "Little House" books, I didn't read until I was in my early teens.  So, I really had no idea about Ramona Quimby books.  Well, maybe a vague idea, but that was all.  When the Ramona and Beezus movie came out, the only remarkable thing I knew of the movie was that Selena Gomez was in it.  Still, when my 9 year old requested it as movie fodder while our oldest daughter was off being Lyndi Lauper on Saturday, I was willing to hit up Blockbuster to find it for her.

We ended up watching it at a friend's house, someone who WAS familiar with the books.  We discussed the movie a little and while it was OK, IMO, it wasn't great.  I explained that I like watching movies to be entertained.  I WANT the happy ending.  Oh, the ending was fine, but there wasn't that AH-HA moment with Beezus when she realized AND verbalized that Ramona was Ramona and EMBRACED her for who she was instead of who she wasn't.  That was what I wanted.  I wanted rainbows and unicorns (pooping Skittles...call me a romantic) and I didn't get it.  Still the movie was cute.

Fast forward to this morning.  My 9 year old was home from school yesterday.  She was up the night before with a bad stomach ache and woke up with it (yes...shades of Ferris Bueller without the licked palm) and ACTED sorta sick until around 4pm when all that suppressed energy bubbled forth and I KNEW she would be at school today.  Did she happen to mention to me while dancing/jumping/bouncing off the walls that she needed to write a speech she needed to give for her run at student council representative?  Uh...NO!  She waited until she had 30 minutes this morning, while eating breakfast (which is always an ordeal getting her to focus) to ask me for help...while she starts writing random things.  Like..."I promise to give all my clothes to those in need"...or "I promise to feed all the poor"Not that those are not admirable intentions, but let's face it...it's STUDENT COUNCIL, not Secretary General of the UN.   And woe be unto me if I should dare to point her in a more appropriate direction.  Whining and tears and help me/don't help me ensued until I finally said ENOUGH.  We do NOTHING more until...1. breakfast is eaten  2. body is clothed and 3. teeth and hair are brushed.

Here is where I made my mistake.  Breakfast was done.  I called out to her to ask if she was dressed and she said yes (which you KNOW didn't include socks) so I said brush you teeth and hair and I'm going to jump in the shower.  I turn on the shower, stripped to nekkid (yes, you are excused from forming a picture of THAT in your mind's eye) only to turn and find myself in a "Ramona Moment".  My daughter stood in the bathroom doorway with a comb in her hair.  No...with a comb ROLLED UP and STUCK in her hair.  840am.  I need to be OUT THE DOOR at 850am, I need to quickly jump in the shower.  And now I have to attempt to unroll a comb stuck in the front quarter of my daughter's hair.  Then her dad called.  And I was short with him.  I was also still nekkid.   I gave him a briefing of what was happening and went back to the "decombification of Beanie".  

It was then I realized that my life with Beanie is like a Ramona movie.  EXACTLY like a Ramona movie.  There are no rainbows or unicorns pooping Skittles in my life either.  No happily ever afters, nothing is ever neatly tied up with a bow.  What I have...is messy, it's funny, it's frustrating, it's  aggravating,  it's adventurous...and it's important to me to EMBRACE my Ramona for who she is.

I'm trying.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Murder Mystery, with a Twist

My oldest daughter has a friend who has THE BEST birthday parties.  They are so out of the norm and yet she comes home with the best stories of the parties she's been to.  This years party was no different and actually caught my attention (Oh to be a fly on the wall).  Her party?  A Murder Mystery with an '80s theme.  
So each of the guests were assigned a character.  The character theme was '80s characters where they had a slight variation of the original form.  They were all pulled from music, TV and movies.  It was SO clever.
 
The list of attendees included: Fadonna (Madonna), Nork from Pork (Mork from Ork), Alligator Dundee (Crocodile Dundee), Debi Gribson (Debi Gibson), Danielson (Daniel Karate Kid),  Wee Pee Vermon (Pee Wee Herman), Toni Oregano,  (Toni Basil), Polly Abdool (Paula Abdul), Spunky Brewster (Punky Brewster), El Vampira (Elvira), Jessica Bunny (Jessica Rabbit), Muffy Bangles (Valley Girl) and Lyndi Lauper (Cyndi Lauper).   They were to come dressed accordingly.

My daughter was Lyndi.  Holy cow did we have fun outfitting her.  We raided every nook can cranny of both of our closets and pulled together a pretty good look for her.  I think the only thing we bought was the tights off the clearance rack at a whoppin' cost of $1.75.  You decide:

Not only did they do the character route, but they pulled in pieces of '80s culture...Mogawi's, songs, movies...things so uniquely '80s that those of us (ok...me) who were a product of that culture got to relive it as we (ok, I) helped my daughter prepare.

As it turned out, Lyndi was the murderer, having killed Alligator Dundee because, apparently while her public persona had her as an animal activist, she secretly was eating Mogawi burgers and Alligator Dundee knew and was blackmailing.  Murder, intrigue, makeup..what more does a girl need on a cold wet (and icy) November Saturday night?  Even if she has to wash her hair 3 times to get all the paint out.

And yes, she had a blast.  That's what I love about 14.  Or maybe it's just this group of girls.  They are so willing to embrace silly and take it to the nth degree.

I like to think she gets a little of that from me.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feats of Modern Engineering

also known as, what I (well, my husband) did on my (well, his)  snowy Saturday morning.

We moved into our house almost 14 years ago.  We had it built and we had a designer come up with a landscape plan, but we did all the work, planting, mulching, etc.

When we first planted, we wondered...would this REALLY EVER fill in.  What do you think?  I think this was taken spring of 1998 (we completed the front landscaping in  Aug 1997):
See those "trees" in front, staked? I'll wait if you need to get a magnifying glass. There were 3 and they are single stem purple rain birches.  
And believe it or not, the landscaping DID fill in.  After about 3 years, the house looked like this:

You can see the trees are starting to fill out nicely.  Then about a  year later, the tree furthest to the right, which was still staked, ended up breaking.  The rope from the stake seemed to be the culprit.  We ended up cutting it down.  Thus breaking the cardinal rule of landscaping...always plant in 3's.

So, we were reduced to two trees, that continued to grow, although not too rapidly.  They framed the door nicely, in MY opinion (my husband's differed..he thought it obscured the front of the house and was ever cutting down branches so one could see the house through the trees).

This was last year, after a snow, so you can see how big those trees grew to be (and how much more the landscaping had filled in)
Earlier this year, I noted that the birches seemed to be losing leaves REALLY early.  It couldn't be a lack of water as we had the perfect year for rain, so much so that our grass NEVER went brown and we never even turned on the sprinklers.  All the other plants around the trees were thriving.  It would rain at night, so it was perfect.  So I didn't understand why the trees were losing leaves.  I thought it might just be a fluke and we would see how they looked in the spring.  My husband, however, wanted to take them down as a precaution to them potentially damaging the house.  I balked.

Until this morning.  Which timing wise was probably wasn't the ideal "tree taking down scenario".  Last night it started raining, a cold rain that was a precursor to snow we knew would be coming.  It came (and at 1245 is still coming, although it is finally tapering).  We opened the front door to find many branches having completely broken off the trees and most of those still attached, barely so, with the weight of the heavy snow having snapped the branches at the trunk.  Thus, the decision was made.

My husband borrowed a chain saw and began cutting as many branches as he could reach with a ladder.  My son, a budding engineer, said they had done a similar project in school (SEE...they DO teach) and what worried the boy was that they weren't taking into account the full height of the trees.  He said that usually they underestimate the height and that's where it causes damage.
So, after much  consultation (with added input from the chain saw lending neighbor), they brought down the trees.  Necessary equipment needed:  chain saw, rope, 4 wheeler (who knew it would come in handy) and goggles...Mustn't forget the goggles*, because, above all else, safety first**.
First a large branch on the first tree was taken down.  Before:
After:

 Now the fun begins.  Going:
 Going:
Gone:
Tree two was a little anticlimactic:
And now our house looks like this:
Oddly enough, I am OK with this.  I don't know why I was so totally against doing this when it would have been more convenient.  Now, it's a done deed.

The snow will cover the stumps during the winter, and I guess next spring, we'll figure out a game plan for what we're going to do with them.  In case you don't know, Purple Rain Birches have and EXTENSIVE root system (I hit them all over when splitting my perennials) that we'll also have to deal with.

So, here are my thoughts on this whole experience(from the comfort of my nice warm and dry kitchen table).  One:  it's just a plant.  Look at the bigger picture.   Two:  we have some pretty awesome neighbors.  Not only did neighbor one gas and oil his chain saw he lent to us, he came over and helped, in the cold and snow, so as to avoid us doing greater damage to our house.  Neighbor two is the optometrist.  I called him at home, on a Saturday and he immediately came to our rescue.  Without a moment's hesitation.  Three: sometimes starting over is a good thing.  

*goggles.  The husband wore goggles because he was chain sawing.  The boy, on the 4 wheeler, did not and ended up with a piece of sawdust trapped in his eye, which after two hours of pain, watering and frustration, ended us up at the local optometrist to have his eye flushed and determine that YES, he did scratch his eye.
**safety first...why yes, that is my husband, standing on a ladder, with a chainsaw, in the snow, on a slope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions

Every family has their own traditions, things they do each and every year.  I'm not always sure why some "traditions" continue while others do not because, you know, not every tradition is a good one.  Like for some reason, every year, I manage to get my panties in a twist over something my husband does.  Not one of those traditions you really NEED to carry on from year to year, but, alas, it has become "tradition".  Luckily, I'm wearing bigger panties so it's not quite so painful.

But this is going to be all about good traditions, or maybe memorable ones.

Thanksgiving in our house...well, is never at our house.  My husband's uncle, Fr Dick, hosts Thanksgiving at whatever parish he happens to be assigned.  In my 18 years of marriage, I have been to Elizabeth (probably the furthest away...think...North Dakota-ish), Isanti (the smallest house, BUT, the place I learned all I ever wanted to know about the making of lutefisk and I STILL can't get the smell out of my clothes, 13 years later), Osakis (large rectory house AND a convent with plenty of actual beds...and when hosting upwards of 50 people, this is a plus), and finally Spring Hill (where he has retired at a huge rectory).

"Traditionally", Thanksgiving begins when we receive the invitation that has a "schedule of events".  Yes, this is important.  For planning purposes.  And NO Thanksgiving isn't actually ONE day, it's a string of days that almost have the feel of a never ending frat party (NOT that I have ever attended one of those...ahem).

Thanksgiving (beyond the preparations I need to make for food I am required to bring) begins for us on Wednesday, usually around noon, when I start to load the truck.  "Traditionally", my kids' elementary school has 3rd grade parent visitation day on this Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  For each of my 4 children (2 of which had the same 3rd grade teacher) we have warned the teacher that we would be pulling them from school early so PLEASE, do NOT give them a integral part of the 3rd grade parent visitation program.  Now some, NOT me of course, would call the pulling of the children early from school thus missing the presentation a win-win situation.  We do this because Father's parishes have ALWAYS been north of the city and we have to contend with "make a move Thanksgiving traffic" that begins earlier and earlier each year.

If all goes well, we usually arrive at Fr Dicks somewhere around 5-6 pm.  Father usually has a big pot of chili going.  This is tradition.  He tries to vary it up every now and then.  Like the year he made his chili from beef tongue.  We didn't want him making chili anymore after that.  One year he had a chili competition where people were to bring their best chili's (already made) and let the townspeople decide the winner.  I took myself out of the competition as I couldn't decide which of my recipes to make (and really it didn't matter, no one had a chance if I entered).  

After sating our appetite, the adults walk down to  one of the two bars in town.   The joy of being in Spring Hill (being able to walk).  In other towns, we've driven to...the legion, the VFW, etc. to meet up with the locals who know Father hosts his family and enjoy meeting us all...again.  Or for the first time (God help them).  If there is a pool table, then it's game on.

It's back to the rectory where "traditionally" there is a poker tournament.  Several tables are set up the cards are dealt and it is now, every man for himself!  Husbands and wives?  Fuggetabout!  It's cut throat.  Because, you know, there is a cash prize for the winner.

Hopefully the poker tournament is over by midnight because that is the time for the Venison Fry.  Those hunters who are lucky enough to bag a deer are required to save the tenderloins for the "traditional" midnight venison fry.  Even if you happened to be sleeping, once the venison, onions and peppers hit the pan, your nose will lead you back to the kitchen for a taste.

Clean up is quick as by now most are exhausted...AND it is JUST BARELY THANKSGIVING!

The next morning everyone is up for "traditional" Thanksgiving mass over which Father presides.  The challenge, at Spring Hill, is now how to get 30 adults through the single shower.  Yes, even though the rectory has 7 bedrooms, it is a true rectory house in the sense that it has only one shower (there is a half bath downstairs).  Most of us actually sleep in the church basement on the floor, where there are school type bathrooms...with stools and a sink only.  No shower.  That's what deodorant is for, right?

The clan usually takes up the front 5-6 right hand rows of the church.  Luckily it's a big church so the town people DO have someplace to sit.  And as is tradition, Father gives a heart rending sermon.  Occasionally (not traditionally) he'll sing his sermon.  THIS is a treat.  When he does, I have to remember to bring tissues.

Luckily, we only have to move to the basement for the "traditional" Thanksgiving breakfast.  Items included in the breakfast:  vanilla pull apart bread, cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, and smoked sausage (from every butcher shop from Rochester to Bemidji).  Occasionally there will also be egg dishes, but we have in the past also done just a large pan of scrambled eggs.  Oh, and "traditionally"...there are bloody mary's.  I make a MEAN bloody mary!

So, after breakfast and clean up, a plethora of games begin...for young and old.  First giant cardboard football games are squared off so that the betting can begin.  You pick squares until all are filled in, pay $x per square.  Numbers are drawn for both horizontal and vertical edges.  If your set of numbers match the score of the football game at the end of each quarter, you win.  Usually half and final scores are the bigger winners.  Both games get their own boards.
The funny part, there is usually so much going on, it's rare that the games actually get watched!

"Traditionally" there is a cribbage tournament.  I am a novice so I have never participated.  I need to up my game because as with poker, CASH PRIZES!  WHOOT!

The entire clan is involved with card bingo.  I think Father has to use upwards of 5-6 decks of cards to produce 50+ hand of 5 different cards, with enough left over for him to draw numbers.  As he draws a card, and you hold that card, you get to pull that card.  First one with zero cards to yell Bingo wins.  Traditionally...cash prizes.  This is fun because the kids can and DO win.  Everyone switches hands between games.  Usually around 10 games are played.

By mid afternoon there is the "TRADITIONAL" (note upper case...this is the one that is not only traditional but COMPETITIVE...) Father does the annual hiding of the Jack-Ass, a 2 in tall jackass that he hides somewhere on his property outside then gives clues as to where it is hidden.  Obscure clues, because you know...you can't have a quick winner.  Even if it's cold.  And snowing.  I've seen adults knock over kiddies like you would imagine a black Friday shopper after a $50  42" HDTV would, thinking they knew where the jack ass was and woe be it unto you if you were in their way.  Yes...THAT kind of competitive.  And as you would expect, that one is usually the BIG CASH WIN of the day.

Somewhere in there turkeys (yes multiple) are put in electric roasters, 50 lb bags of potatoes are peeled (note...we learned long ago...we MUST bring our own potato peeler unless we wanted to be there until Christmas peeling potatoes, so you might consider it "tradition"), wild rice dressing is put on, premade dressing goes in the crock pots.  Most of the other side dishes are already made and need to be heated, so the use of the church basement ovens (yes plural) is necessary.

"Traditionally" we USED to pull out appetizers, shortly after breakfast.  And a different appetizer rolled out almost hourly.  While this was lovely, we found come 630(ish) no one was hungry.  So we finally did the smart thing and put the kabash on appetizers.

Father does "traditionally" put together children's games too.  Sack races, apple races...the kids are not left to fend for themselves (well, yes they are, but not with regard to game participation).  If the weather cooperates, there is also a game of touch football.  This really is a sight worth seeing.  Never broken bones, but the occasional bruise is not unheard of.

The goal is to have dinner ready around 630.  "Traditionally", this does not happen.  But last year we got close.  When Father moved to Spring Hill, we began a new tradition of taking a picture, from atop a counter, of all the adults.  This is a tradition I really like.

After the picture, food is set out.  Prayers are said.  These vary from the children having their say, to EVERYONE having their say, to the "tradition" of Father giving the blessing and truly showing us what we have to be thankful for.

Then it begins:  turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing/dressing, wild rice dressing, warm bacon coleslaw, green bean casserole, sweet potato souffle (or a sweet potato dish of some kind), cranberry relish, occasionally corn pudding.  Fairly standard Thanksgiving fare.

IF you have room...out come the desserts.  Pumpkin and sweet potato pie.  Always.  Tradition.  Additionally, pecan and or chocolate pecan (or specifically Madiera chocolate pecan pie...ahem).  Maybe an apple (because MIL only really like apple pies).  This year, I'm bringing a Chai Pumpkin cheesecake.  Because, yeah, sometimes I like to thumb my nose at tradition (and my oldest daughter asked if I would...who am I to tell her nay?)

My favorite part?  "Traditionally" the boys do the dishes!  WHOOT!

Thanksgiving becomes pretty anti-climactic after dinner.  One "traditionally" finds a place to sprawl and digest.

On Friday, Father usually plans some sort of activity.  In Osakis, he would rent out the WHOLE bowling ally...all 6 lanes.  This was always fun.  But at most locations, Father enlists one of his farmer parishioners to hook up a hay wagon and provide his family with a hay ride.  Many coolers and flasks are "traditionally" involved.  And blankets.  Years before I entered the family, a farmer had used horses to draw the wagon and something went awry, ending with bodies being strewn every where, and if I recall the story correctly, an emergency room visit was involved.  So the hay ride has evolved into a tractor pulled hay ride.  And it works out fine.

Most of us leave late Friday afternoon.  I think Father is thankful to see the lot of us (and we are a LARGE LOT) go home.

But one of my favorite traditions at Thanksgiving, is the chat I have with my pillow the night we return. It's not usually long, but it includes lots of kisses and expression of love and how much it was missed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conscience/Convenience

Church last Sunday had a very thought provoking message.  They are finishing up a series on "Is Jesus Lord of Your Life?" and Sunday's service revolved around doubt.  Typically one would think doubt wouldn't have a place in a church service, well, not an acknowledged place, which is what I love about our church.  Let's not brush issues under the rug but let's take the bull by the horns and address issues head on.

So, doubting Thomas was the subject of the service and how doubt is healthy and beneficial part of our spiritual journey.

Proverbs 14:15  A simple man believes anything but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.

Doubt of conscience.  I think this is the foundation for faith.  How do we believe that which we cannot see.  Funny enough, I recall a line from the Santa Claus movie from elf Judy..."Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing."  This was what Thomas needed.  He would only believe when he saw/felt.  We don't have that luxury.  We can't see...we just have to have faith.

Doubt of convenience.  This one struck closer to home.  How often in the past have I made decisions not because they were right, but because they were convenient?  Easy for me?  I could say that it's human nature to do what's best for ourselves, but bringing Christ into the equation, gives me pause.  WWJD?  When given too much money at the register, do you correct the error or do you justify it because of when you weren't given enough money?  Does it even out?  Should it?  I have made a concerted effort (moreso in the last year) to live a life more in light than in darkness and I when I do something I KNOW is right, my world shifts.  Literally.  I feel it down to my toes.  I LOVE that feeling. But it's not always easy... as the Fray said in All At Once..."sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same."

Faith...believing is seeing...Jesus said, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

Yes, I am truly blessed.