Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Week 2013

(All pictures in this post are from LAST Christmas)
In case you were wondering at my quiet, I would remind you of something I said a couple of years ago, "I blog on the upswing."  If you are new to the blog, this drop in visual productivity, it has happened a lot over the years...I feel the downward pull of emotion or circumstance and I can't.find.words.

A girl and her "Grinch Punch" and her living back stop

Those closest to me will recognize it in my arguing style...I lose nouns and descriptors and start calling everything "crap" and "thingie" and "stuff" and find that, while I may have a valid argument in my head there is no way that it will be passing my lips anytime soon. So, I go quiet and stay that way until I find I have control of my faculties again.  It's just how I process.

The girls and Uncle K putting up the lights that I STILL have up on my back fence.

But, today, dear reader, I found my upswing.

Uncle BakerMan chattin them up

This has been a hard week for me, well...honestly...a hard month.  It's Christmas for crying out loud.  Usually I'm one of those OBNOXIOUS "Let's sing Christmas carols on Halloween" people.  I usually start in about September sizing up my kid's friends to see which would be caroling fodder and try and teach them new songs they might not know so that when Christmas comes around I can drag them around the neighborhood.  BUT...not this year.

Those are his ACTUAL horns...been there all his life...only
became so prominent as he lost his hair.  Just ask Uncle J...he'll tell ya.

It's odd how a fact that underlies your life affects you.  I've know since the divorce last year that my-ex and I would be trading off holidays...he was nice enough to give me the first Christmas, and I've KNOWN that meant that I wouldn't have my kids this Christmas.  KNEW it.  Prepared my head for it or so I thought.

There is a whole series of these
I'm saving them for her wedding video.

See, I've been "crankier" than normal since putting my feet back in my house after my Florida trip.  It started out as just little things...running out of coconut milk and butter.  Other people have other staples that they never run out of...in my house it's coconut milk (for curry) and butter (for life)...I am NEVER out.  Over time it progressed to either me being too weepy or too silent with everybody. 

Hilarity all around.

When last week started, I could feel the completely counter-productive desire to tell the kids to just "GO ALREADY!"  It's been a surprising emotion for me, "get out of here, it hurts me to know you'll be gone, so just GO."  I've felt that way a lot in the last year.  Thankfully, by the time Mom GOT married, I think I was better at recognizing it for grief and NOT saying stupid things that I didn't mean...I think. 

Anyway, when it hit this week, I definitely recognized it...I lowered my goals for the week...I pulled my kids close and actually WENT caroling on a whim with zero preparation (which was great by the way) and finished up school and tore apart caches of clothing that needed to be torn apart and went to a movie and did everything I could to ENJOY my last week with my girls for the year.

I was SO sick in this picture...but it's become on of my favorites
Go figure.

And then they left.

Singing with my family around is not something to miss...

And then I sat on the floor in the middle of the mess and cried...for awhile.  And then I reached out to people in one post...spent awhile chatting, texting, and talking...to say that my phone 'LIT UP' would not be an exaggeration.  And then I realized that this was something I was going to have to walk through ... So I did what any self-respecting total geek would do...I set up my laptop in my bathroom,  watched a couple of episodes of "Farscape" from my tub and decided that sleeping was a pretty good option, all things considered.  I find Science Fiction soothing...it is part of my charm.

Ah wrapping...a skill I hope their daddy realizes HE needs to teach them.

I wish I could say that my "funk" was over at that point.  I'm not sure it's over now.  But over the last couple of days of quiet within my own house, I realized something pretty great... I realized that I walked through another valley and made it...again.

Nine of us last year.  So much fun.

In "The Screwtape Letters", chapter 8, C.S. Lewis talks about the "Law of Undulation".  If you've not heard of this book, in a nutshell, it is letters from an elderly "Uncle" demon (Screwtape) to his younger nephew detailing ways to bring people AWAY from God.  It's a very interesting juxtaposition in Christian writing, taking it from the devil's point of view, everything that seems like a triumph is actually a defeat for Christ.  In the quote below, the "patient" is this nephew's charge.  The nephew has noticed that the patient is downhearted and supposes it is his success that has make him so.  Dear old Uncle Screwtape offers insight into our lives in his answer.

If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life - his interest in his work., his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down.  As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.  The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it. 
Let's just say there is a LOT of estrogen in my house, and leave it at that...

I made it through another undulation...another turn of the wheel.  YAY ME! Every one of these "undulations" has taken me farther into comfortable-in-my-own-skin and given me proof that I'm capable.  It's hard to admit, but without these dips I wouldn't have made the progress that I've made.  When things coast along, I get proud...supercilious (one of Bean's words this month ...  go on, go look it up...I'll wait. ;) ).  I guess I need that humility of despair now and then, maybe we all do.

Monkey Face dazzling her Grandma

I've gotten a couple of emails from the girls and it sounds like they are having a GREAT time.  I wouldn't take that away from them for the world.  The hardest part of this week is that guilty feeling that I have in the low moments where I would rather it be ME having fun with my girls.  How selfish is that?  And narcissistic? And entitled?  I pray THAT part goes away.  I think that it's probably a natural reaction...but so SO destructive.  Just keepin it real.

Monkey Face's mantra last year, "I'm going for the Yahtzee"...and she got about 8 of them. 

Today is Christmas Eve...by tonight, Nali and I will be tucked in among our dear friends, probably eating cookies and playing Rummi Cube.  Tonight, I will be surrounded with family I've adopted as my own and I will make memories and they will be beautiful, too. 

Scott and Stacey 2012
Love my big brother.

And next week, when my girls get back, for the first time in THEIR lives, we won't be starting school on the 2nd.  Nope, we're going to figure out some new fun New Year's traditions beyond taking down the tree, so the NEXT time I have my Christmas week to myself, I have something great ahead of me.

I have so many pictures of the sky changing colors over those roofs.
Just my favorite spot to watch the sky change.

Well, unless we get bored...then we'll just break out the microscope...

My loves, 2012
See ya around...

Friday, December 6, 2013

snow, Snow, SNow, SNOW!

I really hope you heard Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen singing that title, because that's how I wrote it. Well, truth be told, I wrote it singing all by myself; but, as is completely possible in one's imagination, I was part of that chord while I was singing it and typing it...so, dear reader, you should endeavor to hear it thusly.

Yes, indeed.  We have snow.  Well, that's not exactly true either.  Here in Texas we don't really GET snow.  At best it's a "wintry mix" which includes some snow, more sleet and a bunch of just plain ice.  Last night and this morning was no different...it wasn't exactly snow that fell from the sky.  And now, on the ground we have solid ice covered by powder.  And it's cold...and that is a wonder for my children. 

This is the seam of my garage, where the door goes down...

Monkey Face was up at 6:45 and in clothing and outdoor gear sometime before 7 am.  THAT never happens.  She had this icicle and wanted me to eat it.  I declined.  I try to keep my icicle eating to after my morning tea...and only when it's more than 65 in the house.  She seemed to enjoy it, though.

As for the other two, they were pretty content to stay in bed until I offered them the chance of a shortened school day.  First I had to check the weather because the temperatures can change VERY fast here.  There have been other times that I've tried to get school done first only to have the snow completely melted by the time they were finished.  At least for today, we aren't getting above 28 degrees, so it was on.  They had to work hard until noon and then they were free.
It's amazing how much can be done when "snow" is on the table.  Seriously.  I wish I had such a great carrot for every day. 

Once all tests were taken and all assignments safely stowed in my inbox, they started putting on clothes.  I've heard that at least two people have on two pair of socks, two pair of pants...and after a dip in the slush at the end of the drive way, two MORE pair of unmentionables.  ;)  Not sure how much EXTRA warmth is to be found in a second pair of choneys...but there it is.

I always feel badly that we don't own a sled on days like this.  Now, to be fair, we only have a couple of these days a year and I've never, even one time, seen sleds on sale in my local stores...but still, I think it would be cool for them to have a sled.   However, every single time we do have a day like this...many things are tried to substitute for a sled.  I think they nailed it this year.

I, for one, hope it doesn't last forever as I prefer dry pavement overall. I start getting antsy about three days into a forced stay-in-the-house ice storm.  But at the same time, I'm glad they get a few of these.  Everybody needs a different-than-the-norm day now and then.
 I personally hope this child survives...she likes to jump...and slide...and skid...and splash...waaaay more than her sisters.   I try really hard not to watch because she stresses me out and who needs momma stress when you are flying through life, really?  So, I provide extra choneys and look away.  Good thing she's cute...


Happy Snow-Day, y'all,

See ya around...


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Atlanta, Georgia and Spartanburg, South Carolina

We just got back from a big ol' trip...I choose not to post until I got back...
I suppose for the safety of it...
This post is from that trip.

We ended up leaving Huntsville about mid-day to head toward Atlanta...and we arrived IN Atlanta around 5pm on the Friday before Labor Day.  But starting there, well, that's only part of the story...so let me back up a little.  There are so many pictures from this time frame...I'm just going to throw them in here...

First of all, let me introduce my friend the Composer...(hey, look, another picture of me from this trip...)

The Composer and Me, at a football game...
gee, it's like we're 16 again...sorta.

Okay...so how do I know him?  Well, years and years and years ago, when I was between 11 - 13 years old, we lived near each other and were friends.  My best friend, Kehaar (who now lives in Wisconsin) and his best friend, Gator (who now lives in South Carolina) were neighbors in Stuart, Florida.  As their best friends, we often went to the same parties and hung out together.  When I was 16, I went back to Florida to see everybody and he and I went on a DATE...and then I went home to California and grew up, got married, had a family of my own, while he was doing the same thing in Florida and eventually Georgia. 

The very first night...see the video below...the composer decided to get all the kids in the band.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship between Monkey-Face and the composer.  She has a tendency to wrap grown men around her little finger...he had no hope, really.

Fast forward slightly less than 30 years...we reconnected, maybe 5 years ago, on facebook, and have been "friends" in the "oh look, kids" sort of way that distant friends are "friends" on facebook...until Mother's Day of this year when we started talking.  Obviously, we ACTUALLY became friends again along the way. 

It was hot...it was muggy...but OOOOOoh, I love the trees in South Carolina.

Bear and Drummer-boy got along pretty well over all...they are closest in age and have a similar humor that kept the rest of us laughing.

Now, we'd been talking about intersecting on this trip for awhile and there had been a couple of snags along the way, but by the time it was set...the Composer and his two boys and a couple of their friends were planning a "Sissy" camping trip for Labor Day.  See, they'd always roughed it...tents, etc.  For this trip, they were getting a camper.  Once we'd decided that we girls were going to be near the same place at the same time...it became a much bigger deal.

The Composer said we had to have a fire...my less-fun personality said, "Um, it's like 900 degrees out here"...I was disregarded.  Turns out camping is NOT camping without a fire...period.

Lunch...it's a roasted marshmallow on a peanut butter sandwich...not pretty...but yummy, nonetheless.

See, with us involved, it boosted the headcount from 4 or 5 BOYS to possibly 8 or 9 mixed gender all trying to CAMP.  We decided that consolidating us into one vehicle would be easier and more fun than driving two...so the Composer arranged to get a 15 passenger van to PULL the camper. 

Our very "manly" 15 passenger van and the camper.  There was a day dream going around that we were FBI Surveillance...boys are weird.

Drummer-boy unhooking the camper from the van.  Incidentally, we had two hitch issues on the trip...but not one once Drummer-boy started handling it...Coincidence?  I think not.

Only one problem, the Composer was not SUPER familiar with the ins and outs of pulling THAT much real estate down the road.  Enter Grandpa Bob and Grandma. 

See, Grandpa Bob knows all about pulling all manner of vehicles down the road...and he was in Florida the week before we were going to take this trip.  Now, when I called Grandpa Bob about this potential dilemma I was hoping that he would CALL the Composer.  Y'know, talk him through the questions that he had.  In the end, Grandpa and Grandma DROVE to Atlanta to be with the Composer as he went to get the van and camper and then proceeded to teach him everything he could possibly need to know about pulling and setting up the camper.  Let me take just a moment to say how very VERY thankful I am to have Grandpa Bob.

Drummer-boy  and Bear

Perfect marshmallows, Baby!

Okay...so the trip, in a nutshell, we got there Friday night.  We packed and sorted and consolidated for much of Saturday.  Thankfully, we did get there almost 24 hours early, if we hadn't, the consolidating and packing would NOT have gone as well.  It takes a herculean effort anytime one camps, and if we really hadn't been there until midday Saturday, I'm not sure we'd have gotten it done.

Around 5 pm we were ready and took off with the Composer, his younger son, Drummer-boy, and a friend of Drummer-boy's (who shall remain nameless as he is someone else's child), and the four of us...the Composer's older son was unable to join us, so, in the end we were seven in all...to Spartanburg, South Carolina.  We camped Saturday night, all day Sunday and Sunday night, and headed back to Atlanta on Monday.

There are SO many stories.  Seriously, I never knew you could pack that many little tiny things into, essentially, 3 days.  First of all, the kids got along great.  No worries there.

This was NOT a road...This was a barricaded Horse Path...This included asking children to remove the barricade so that we could drive on this path.  This lawbreaking was done without my knowledge or consent.  I only found out after we entered the "road".

This IS my favorite...funniest memory and too bad for you, I'm not sharing it here.

Hello, Deer!!  There were actually two of them.  So pretty.

The Composer is one of those, "Come do this with me" type of guys.  You know the ones, if there is a kid within earshot, that kid is holding the flash light or pulling the rope or carrying the firewood.  Honestly, I was kind of humbled by that.  My, "OH, I'll just do it myself" nature really took a hit watching him set things up while keeping every one of those kids busy and underfoot.

"We're hot...hurry up!" 

Best thing ever...kids loading the van...the WHOLE van.  Maybe the Composer helped them with the heaviest cooler...but I don't think so.

One of the more memorable moments was my girls helping him set up the awning.  OH.MY.GOODNESS. I laughed so hard.  I wish I'd gotten it on video.  To say that it didn't go RIGHT, would be a major understatement...but they all laughed (well, I did, anyway) and managed to get it at the right height and shading as it should.

This is actually taking DOWN the awning.  It went pretty smoothly overall.  Not nearly as funny.

Please note the Composer.  He is doing his very manly, "Happy to have CONQUERED the awning" dance.  Sadly, another moment I failed to VIDEO.

He is also a musician (hence the nickname) which came in handy several times.  Whether it was teaching the girls a little guitar, bass, and drum that first night...playing guitar around the camp fire...or picking up the rhythm to the cup song IRRITATINGLY quickly, he fit right in with our bursting-into-song nature. 

I think the thing I noticed the most was how comfortable the trip was.  I'm pretty easy going.  I like camping.  But I've seen these things go JUST wrong.  Nothing bad happened.  Even the "stressful" parts, when the camper/hitch didn't work quite like we'd expected, were quickly resolved so we could go on with the fun.  We adults let the kids run all over the countryside with walkie-talkies (of course) and we got to talk...and laugh...and walk...and just relax.

The creek that we managed to get to without driving illegally on a barricaded horse trail after all....

I had to MAKE them be still...creeks are awesome.

Kids on a bridge.

Yeah...I have no idea.

It was a great sub-trip.  My kids have been talking about it ever since and we all hope to have another opportunity some day.  For now, it was great to see my friend again, and get to know him as a grown up and a father.  I really am so blessed that we could reconnect and do this together. 

What is a roadtrip without Cracker Barrel?

See ya around...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vicksburg, Missippi to Huntsville, Alabama...

We just got back from a big ol' trip...I choose not to post until I got back...
I suppose for the safety of it...
This post is from that trip.
Okay...so the trip...the trip...try to keep up will you?  I mean I know that I reached the end of the stuff I'd already written about the trip...I know that I've sorta lost the momentum, but c'mon, it's Saturday...the kids are watching T.V. ... Let's see what we can do here.
So we drove from Mississippi to Huntsville, Alabama...listening to Harry Potter the whole way. 
Huntsville was one of our EVENTS with a capital E we had on our original plan.  There is a space center in Huntsville that we'd wanted to see since my Aunt and Uncle had been here and we'd eaten the space ice cream they'd brought us, back in July.
Huntsville was the reason that we'd studied the history of NASA right along with the history of the Civil War.  It was the reason that we'd watched "Apollo 13" and "When We Left Earth"...

The thing is...we were getting excited about the next part of the trip...the camping portion...the interacting with other people portion...the seeing Grandma and Grandpa portion...

Really excited.

We woke up the morning that we were supposed to GO to the Space Center and Beanie started the "Um, how far IS it to Atlanta"  "Um, couldn't we go today and not wait overnight?"  "Really, it would save us money to stay with the Composer tonight instead of in a hotel, AND we'd see Grandma and Grandpa."

I love this one...it's going on my Happiness Wall.

Monkey Face laughs every time she sees this one.

For my part there were major issues with straying from the plan...first and foremost being the COST of the Space Center and then cutting the trip short.  I mean, most of the time it doesn't matter how long you stay at a place...5 minutes or 5 hours costs the exact same, and frankly, I was not willing to pay for it only to bail so that we could throw off everyone's set plan.

It turns out that the cost was not an issue.  Once again, my membership to a local museum came to the rescue.  As my local museum and The Huntsville Space Center have a relationship that allows members to either museum access to the other, we were able to go for 5 minutes or 5 hours for free.

Oy...those little faces...learning... 

Watching a video on black holes which was the theme of the month at "Ye Olde Space Center"

My second issue was that I was getting tired, every day on the road adds to my overall feeling of fatigue. This is not a new thing, I've experienced it with every single trip I've ever taken.  While I love to drive, no kidding around, even on my best days, I'm much more comfortable driving earlier in the day...by about 2 pm I'm getting sleepy and I like to stop often and slow down.  I've even been known to pull over and nap for 20 minutes, so I knew that any afternoon driving WAS going to take longer than if we left in the morning.  If we went to the Space Center at all, I was going to have to drive the 3 1/2 hours to Atlanta in the afternoon or early evening...not MY prime driving time.

Turns out, adrenaline took care of that.

A mock up of the Rocket Pack...I think.

Coolest scale ever...it tells you how heavy you are on earth and on the moon...and one other place (sadly, I didn't get a closer picture and I can't remember...I was focusing on the moon weight...I seriously loved the moon weight)

The last and probably biggest issue was...well...See, I wasn't all that sure that I wanted to go on this camping trip.  I mean I WANTED to go...but then...well, I hadn't laid eyes on my friend in about 27 years.  It's kind of like deciding if you want to go to your high school reunion...only worse, because there were kids thrown in.  What if the kids didn't like each other?

I decided to just quit thinking about it...and carry on.

This was a simulator for landing the space shuttle...Bear managed to do it right-ish once.

This is the screen you got when you failed.  I wish that I had taken video because the audio for each failure was SO surprising and funny.  A sarcastic man would tell you just where you'd gone wrong.

I'm glad I did.  The museum was fun.  We were there about 3 hours and got to see a little bit of everything.  Owing to the timing, it being the Thursday before Labor Day, all the local schools were in session so the place was nearly deserted.  Every staff person that we found was ALL ours to ask any question we wanted and a couple of them offered up various demos almost immediately because there really wasn't anyone else around.

One of the staff...she set off a baking soda rocket for us and one other little boy in the vicinity.  She and Beanie hit it off because Bean stomped right up and said something like, "So, what have you got to show me?"

One of the smaller Command Module mock-ups.  Anything to lay on your back with your cool shoes up in the air.

It was kind of great actually and somehow magically played into the plan that we didn't know was in place when I started out by saying, "Let's see what happens" as we started out on the road.


I didn't get a picture of it...but we actually rode a couple of rides.  One that made me SI-ICK, well, nauseous anyway.  It was just a mini-flight simulator deal, like a scaled down version of Star Tours at Disney.  But it was very small and had no air flow...and it was a little warm.  BARF.

"HEY MAAAH!  LOOOKIE!  We're playing under the Rocket!!"  It was kind of cool because the engines were steaming and dripping, so from far away it looked like they were about to ignite...although, a little terrifying if you really think about it.

This was the full sized mock up of the command module that they used to simulate all sorts of things that the astronauts would go through...The girls are laying on their backs in this picture. 

I was pretty sure after the simulator that I was a goner, because the next one that they wanted me to ride was G-Force.  You know, the one where you stand against the wall and they spin you and in a minute the thing you are leaning against lifts off the ground and because of centrifugal force you are hanging on the wall.  Yeah...that one.  Actually...it wasn't too bad at all.  Maybe because there wasn't any horizon to tell me that I was spinning.  Whatever the reason, I was glad not to be sick.

In the end, we were there exactly the right amount of time.  And because we left early and ended up in Atlanta, Georgia a night early, we got more time to spend with Grandma and Grandpa and the people that would soon be our WHOLE family's friends...

But that's another post...

See ya around...