Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!

This Christmas season has been a bit whacky around here. It seemed that December 1 gave way to December 20 and I am just now addressing our Christmas cards! Power shopping yesterday helped me finish all the gift buying. Today, tonight and tomorrow (Christmas Eve) will be filled with wrapping presents. I can't tell you I was ever finished shopping in September...

or October...

or even November, but usually we have it all together by now!!!

Life just happens this way sometimes.

Since you will not be receiving a Holiday card for a while, I thought I would share a few pictures that didn't make the Christmas cards.

I think there may be a young man behind that floppy-moppy puppy dog.

Our Cockapoo is a good sport.

I believe the instruction was "do whatever you want".

My personal favorite!
Our wishes to you for a memorable holiday season filled with laughter, family, friends and, of course, a bounty of food!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dialog in the Dark

On Saturday, we packed up the crew and headed to Kansas City. My mother-in-law was treating us to the wonderful Rockettes Show at the Sprint Center (more to come on that show soon). A few years ago we saw an exhibit in St. Louis called Titanic. It was truly remarkable. The KC Star included a recent article about a new exhibit called "Dialog in the Dark", produced by the same company that created Titanic.

My husband and I decided to run the premise of the show by our kids to see what they thought about touring it. If they seemed interested, we would go in the morning before the Rockettes show. They gave us the staring, puzzled, you-are-kind-of-strange look, which is a long way from "no way", so we ordered tickets.

The Dialog exhibit begins in a room like the one pictured above. My husband, my three kids and I all selected our canes and sat on our lighted cubes. We listened to a short audio tape that explained that the lights would be slowly dropped to "off". The soothing female voice added that many fear the dark, but that this was unneccessary as we would awaken our other senses as we moved through the exhibit with our guide. So...

...the lights faded to complete black. I'm not talked dimly light room, light around the doorways, clock-radio illumination...no, no, no... Total. Complete. Darkness. I could not see my hand a few inches in front of my face. My heart began to pound, my breathing became rapid and I began to sweat. Thoughts raced through my mind, "Where was the door? Could I get out? Maybe I needed to get out!" and I then heard a door open.
Our guide entered the room and began to speak calmly to us. My mother instinct took over and told me to get myself together! I was in here with my children! If I panicked what would it do to them? I began to hear Middleman and my husband whispering to each other. Middleman and I are cut from the same cloth. We experience everything with intense emotions and usually react with... intense emotions.

Our guide was a blind man. Todd was a 32-year-old newlywed. He reassuringly explained that he would guide us carefully through the exhibit and help us to bring our other senses to life. He asked each of us in turn for our name and whether or not we were ok. We each gave an affirmative (mine falsely buoyant, as I suspect Middleman's was, too). Todd kept his word and he clearly led us from room to room in the exhibit, all the while encouraging us to explore and guess what type of environment we were experiencing. We passed through a park and boarded a boat among other adventures. I don't want to give it all away. My youngest amazed me, he seemed completely unfazed. He frequently led us to new rooms and would wait in the new room alone while Todd returned to lead the rest of us! Middleman also became more comfortable even joking with Todd on several occasions. He wouldn't choose to do it over again, but was courageous and calm in facing his fears. As for Hubby and Oldest, they moved through with ease.

We ended by having a "Dialog in the Dark" with Todd, where he explained how he was diagnosed with diabetes as an infant. He added that he began to loose his eyesight 9 years ago and was close to being completely blind now. He explained that only 4% of the visually- impaired population experiences total darkness like the exhibit. However, the exhibit's power is in drawing your focus to your other senses, which is important to anyone experiencing an impairment. By the time we had reached this moment, I was having lapses of time when I didn't even think about the darkness. I just listened to his story.

The Dialog in the Dark experience will not soon be forgotten. I hope that I and my family have taken away from it a deeper understanding of what people with a variety of impairments must face. The difficulties and fears that they must overcome, and the adaptations they need to make. I had to reach inside to find the courage to continue and am glad I did. For more information on the exhibit, click here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I've Been Away

Hello Everyone,

I've been away...on an African Safari! No? A backpacking trip across Europe! What? No? A scuba diving adventure in Key West! Pfft! Oh, Alright! I've been right here with my nose in my testbooks. I've been studying math, math and way-hey more math. I've been thinking about math, talking about math and even dreaming about math...what defines a field? What defines a group? What's the order?...you will not believe that order has nothing to do with, well, order.

I finished my finals on Thursday and, yes, I was so very excited, except that I was so very tired that it took me a couple of days to realize I had in fact finished my finals.

Tomorrow...hopefully, I will have a new post. Today was one of those days where so much happened I want to share it all but need a little time to get it contemplated, sorted, organized, outlined, parsed and written. See you then.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

I love that title! My friend, Dina, threw it out after I ran down our Thanksgiving guest list. My husband, kids and I usually travel to St. Louis to have Thanksgiving at my brother, Marty's house. Last year was the last Thanksgiving we were able to enjoy with my Mom before she passed away, which made us feel that a complete change-up was in order.

The Thanksgiving Celebration landed at a new location...my house in Kansas, offering the opportunity to include my husband's family as well. The guest list swelled to include my brother and his wife and his kids; my sister, and my Dad and his new friend - all traveling from St. Louis and staying for the weekend. Additionally, we pulled in my father and mother-in-law; my husband's sister and her husband, her daughter and significant other and granddaughter, her other daughter and her son along with my husband's other sister. 22 people in all.

I would be showing you pictures, but since I was already bossing them all around on when to arrive, what to bring, when to eat, who would say grace and at which table to sit, I decided to not make them pose for pictures. You'll have to take my word for it...they all looked fabulous!

I'm 44 and I've never roasted a turkey...may we just start there on the prickly nervousness hovering in my subconscious. My father-in-law came over the night before and instructed me on brining a turkey and left me with cooking instructions for the next day. Don't be believing ANY recipe that says 15 minutes per pound! You may end up 1 1/2 hours off like we were...thankfully I was checking the turkey every 3 1/2 minutes. I highly recommend brining. The turkey was tender and succulent without being salty.

My mother-in-law decorated two of the three tables. My sister made a fresh flower arrangement for the third. Lovely, inviting, festive... some things should be taken care of by others...like table decorations! Everyone contributed a edible delicacy.

My nervousness caused me to create all sorts of time-out plans for myself. A stroll around the pond, a game with one of the kids, a bottle of wine (glass, optional) in my closet... silly, silly girl. It was a wonderful day! Truly wonderful. The guests chatted animatedly, the food was divine and the day relaxing.

We decided to ask the kids to spit up between the three tables, instead of forming a pack of five wiggly, giggly goofballs. This led many of the couples to split up and the two sides of the family to mix together. I was thrilled to watch as all three tables bubbled with conversation.

My family stayed on until Saturday...hitting an interesting gallery and some off-the-beaten-path stores along with more communal cooking and... overeating. I enjoyed every minute and didn't realize how much energy I had expended until I crawled into bed at 8:30 on Saturday evening.

I hope you also had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Watching B-Ball with the Boys!

Tonight I sat down with my four boys to watch a Kansas Jayhawk basketball game. They were all very excited about the game, so I decided to settle in with them and enjoy the match-up. KU was playing Syracuse in a tournament game. I can't tell you which tournament because I don't really know much about basketball.

I was determined to enjoy the game. It was being played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and they sometimes showed shots of the city. I enjoyed that part very much. Anyway, I began to concentrate on the game. The anticipation in the room was intense. I watched the dribbling and the passing... some shooting and some scoring ...and then... I noticed a little curly-que in the back of Bill Self's hair. I also noticed that many of the audience members had on the same T-shirt and it provided a sea of Jayhawk blue as a background. I then began to notice all the tattoos! Oh, my, some of those players are covered in tattoos!!!

I commented that the uniforms were really cool! I think I saw an eyeroll.

Ok, back to the game. Dribble, pass, pass, pass, dribble, shoot and score! One of my sons commented on this being a re-match of the 2003 championship game with Syracuse. Yeah, they all cheered! I complimented my son on knowing this piece of trivia...he responded with an eyeroll.

More watching of the game...dribble, pass, pass, pass, shoot and score! Suddenly the room erupted with "FOUL!!! Why didn't they call a foul? That was definitely a foul! I saw a foul!" I was very tempted to add my observation, "I didn't see a foul," said with knowledge, experience and authority. However, I was certain that comment would have been met with yet another eyeroll.

After a few more minutes, I knew I was destined for reading a good book in my bedroom. Before I left, however, I had to make one last comment. "What do all those boys have tattooed on their arms? I bet it says, I love my Momma". You guessed it...a lot of eyerolls.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's About the Hunt

It all started many years ago something like this...

Bart - John, best friends in college
John - Shermoe, hunting buddies
Shermoe - Big Wave, hunting buddies
Big Wave meets Bart and they become hunting buddies.

Big Wave, nicknames are a plus, has been driving from Michigan to stay with us during hunting season for many years. He usually comes on very short notice and stays anywhere from a couple of days to more than a week. Panic, you say? Inconvenience? Nope! He's the easiest houseguest you will ever have. He comes home after dark, goes to bed before the kids and leaves in the morning around 4:30 a.m. He also calls on his way to the house offering to stop for groceries, bears gifts of homemade delicacies from his garden bounty and tells great stories.

Why, you may ask, does this guy drive from Michigan to Kansas twice a year?


To hear him tell it, Michigan does not have a large deer population but they do have a huge hunter population. Kansas, on the other hand, has a huge deer population and not a large hunter population. Kansas also has acres and acres of prime deer habitat...so much so that these areas are overpopulated.
Kansas is where Buckasaurus lives!

In the last few years, I've suspected that Bigwave has an alterior motive.

Cocobolo's Restaurant in Manhattan.

It has become an anticipated part of each visit...we head to Cocobolo's for some margaritas and de-vine food.

This year we took another hunting buddy, Ron, with us.

Thankfully his wife, Sherry, joined us, too. There's only so much pretending I can do that they are in the woods photographing wildlife when two or three hunters get together to tell stories with only one she-girl along.

Now he's a happy man! He can "photograph" his Buckasaurus and head home.
See you next spring, Bigwave.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Back to the 80s

We continued to celebrate Rechelle's 4-0 birthday last night. She and a gang of newly 40 gals decided to host an 80s party. She explains it here.

Initially I wasn't feeling the 80s vibe and decided to wear a retro-ish shirt and old knit poncho, then the day before the party I sat in my closet and tried to conjure the perfect 80s outfit. As my eyes scanned the pants, shirts, sweaters and skirts, a little something caught my eye.

Do you see it?

It's was crammed back in there with my old business suits and high school prom dresses. Thank you, Mom, for saving these treasures all these years.

I thought, "ok, if I can get my 40-something self into that, I will just have to wear it". By some miracle I got the thing on, so I explained my plan to my husband. He ran downstairs and came back with his "plan".

Here we are in our 80s glory...the Kirkwood High School hockey cheerleader and the Wamego High School tennis star!

Our friends, Dale and Nancy came over just before the party. Nancy helped me try to get big gorgeous hair like hers. Ah...well, half a can of hairspray later. I wasn't one who ever truly achieved big hair. I must not have had enough AquaNet...

Off to the party we went, which conveniently was next door!

Here are the birthday girls ...

You could start a forest fire with that cake! Us over-40s can throw down the jokes, can't we???

We spent the first half hour cracking up at all the "costumes" from Flashdance to Preppy to Madonna to High School Jocks... and lots of mullett wigs. We then danced the night away to all those unforgettable 80s tunes by the Flock of Seagulls, The Gogos, The Bengals, The Clash, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Prince... now that was a night to remember. Thanks, Rechelle and Mike for hosting!
For more 80s retrospective, check www.countrydoctorswife.com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adventure Girls

These two - it was ALL because of these two, Nancy and Rechelle!

They were both born on November 4, you see. Do you know what a birthday means among friends... let alone two birthdays?

A reason to celebrate, of course, and celebrate we did!

Under the inspiration of Kim, we piled in the car and headed west. We met up with Katie in McPherson (McFearson in my spelling book), Kansas, at The Cook's Nook.

But that was only the beginning. We wandered down the main drag, moseying in and out of shops until we found this little treasure...

"What? Me? Why, yes, I would love to be interviewed for your story! It was 29 years ago this week that I was born. This day with my girlfriends? It's spectacular! No I would not say there is a food theme. No, definitely not! Well, yes, we met in a kitchen store... yes, we are in a cake store and... well, um, yes, we are planning on having lunch... "

Toting our bags of pancake mix, muffin mix and syrup "for our children", we slogged on to lunch at a greek cafe... hummunahummuna...hummus, anyone? We gabbed and gabbed until the the cafe workers turned off the lights and padlocked the door...ha ha ha, so it seemed, but it turned out the workers needed to set up for a wedding reception while wondering if we would ever leave!!!

We continued on our quest to investigate any shop with an interesting name, sign or window display.

We ended the brisk, breezy afternoon with a warm cup at the local coffee house.

What better way to celebrate two birthdays then...

hanging with your girlfriends.
Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rechelle writes about our day, too, right here and Nancy gives her pics and perspective here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Just a Crazy Hair Day

Youngest had "crazy hair" day on Friday. After considering his options, he wanted a mohawk. I believe it may be every mother's nightmare that their teenage son will come home with a mohawk, blue hair or a piercing. For my nine-year-old, it's just adorable and funny!

A can of hairspray and some hot air later... and I don't mean to imply I talked his hair up, although that would be entirely possible ... wah-la.

He had a great day!

Friday, November 7, 2008

I'm Back...from the Political Blackhole

We interrupt this political programming to say...the election is over, you may return to your life!

I don't know about you, but I have been consumed by the election information. I've read political commentary, reviewed polls and developed a close personal friendship with Anderson Cooper. Whether your candidate was elected or not, it sure has been interesting. Compelling, engrossing and addicting would be my personal adjectives. I've enjoyed and fretted over every minute of it! We couldn't really lose, could we? Either the first African-American president or the first female VP, which would signal progress toward a more fair and equitable future. This election, however, was even larger. We are facing the worst economic issues since the Great Depression. People are losing their jobs and their homes.

So I hope we will pull together regardless of whether or not our candidate won. We'll try to make good, responsible, personal choices, and we might even be ready to sacrifice for the good of everyone, because I have the sense that the ship carrying all of us is taking on water. When we help each other, we, in the end, help ourselves. I'm very hopeful that we will see positive change. I realize it will take a while... maybe years, but we live in an incredible country! A country of hope and renewal... one where dreams can come true.

So let's weather this storm together and know that good times will return and with them the hope of a good life for even more people worldwide.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let the Buttons Do the Talking

As I've mentioned before, my mother was politically active. Some political punch exists in my husband's family as well. His aunt once served as the Chairman of the Kansas Republican party.

We've inherited some commemoration of these experiences - political buttons.

Here's a sampling of my Mom's buttons. She worked on many civic projects including raising money for the library, the school district and the city pool. She also was a democrat, a yellow dog democrat! I recently learned from my cousin, Shelley, that this is a real term, studied in college political science classes, and I assume a moniker of great honor within the Democratic Party. It means even if the dems were to put up a yellow dog as a candidate, my Mom would have voted for her!

Here's a look at the buttons collected by my mother and father-in-law.

I love that many different parties are represented here with buttons from Reagan to Carter to Perot. Even Rockefeller. I need a little help though. Who's Stassen and Bob Ray???

A true political button collector has the cool button from both parties. You might see Carter's face while reading Ford's name, but look from a different angle and see Ford's face while reading "Carter".

How about this cool Ford button? How could he not win with a button like this?

We have followed this election so closely for the last few months. It's hard to believe it is finally Election Day! We will know, I hope, who our next president will be before we go to sleep tonight. We are going to a Watch Event this evening... the kids, too. We've got them so excited (some might suspect brainwashed)! I hope you take the time to VOTE today, because...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Celebrating A Life

Earlier this week, our family lost another beloved member, my aunt Jean Day. Aunt Jean was one of my Dad's two sisters. His other sister, Jewell, passed away a few years ago. My aunt Jean lived her 82 years in the Alton and Godrey, Illinois areas working 40 years for Shell Oil Company. She loved to travel, crochet and keep a stash of chocolate.
Over Labor Day this year, we packed our five selves in the car and traveled to St. Louis to help celebrate my Dad's birthday. On Saturday of that weekend, we ventured over to Alton, picked up my Aunt Jean and headed up the Great River Road. We dined at a family, favorite restaurant, The Finn Inn.

It's not nice to take a picture just after the food arrives. Your subjects are...well, busy ... my Dad and Bart are on the left, and my Aunt Jean and my niece, Ellie on the right.

The catfish and buffalo (fish) were divine. Ellie prefered the fries.

We learned just a few weeks ago that Aunt Jean had become very sick and she declined rapidly. My breath catches as I think of the two family members we've lost this year, so I will turn to the positives, as they are always so many.

Following the services, our family gathered for lunch at one of my aunt's favorite restaurants - Red Lobster!

Table one includes her son, Jerry, my husband, Bart, our cousins, Ted and Joy on the left. On the right are two of Ted and Joy's kids, Kevin and Shelley, and Alice, Jean's husband, Walt's sister.

Table 2 hosts Ellie and my sister-in-law, Leslie on the left. My sister, Pam, my Dad, Jim, my brother, Marty and David, Alice's son, all on the right.

Table 3 - the boys!

It was wonderful to visit with Ted and Joy. This has been a difficult time for them and I know they seeing everyone and having two of their three children with them.

Kevin, who lives in New York City, Shelley, from Tennessee and her daughter, Brianna.

Aunt Jean, thanks for those bottles of Coke, some of the only soda I had as a child. I guess you figured out that I knew where your stash of chocolate was following my weekend stays. I also remember studying the map of the United States in your basement that had push pins marking all the states you had visited with Uncle Walt. A white one for once, with a red pin added for twice. I can only imagine the wonderful memories that map holds. We will all miss you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oh, To Be Nine Again

Yesterday our youngest had two boys over for dinner and a sleepover. Since it was Friday night, it was easy-on-the-cook night. We had beef tips and noodles from the illustrious Banquet Chicken Company. I know we were living on the wild side with that beef...
Hubby went to the store to buy a second box, some cheddar cheese and some salad. The kids devoured the beef tips in record time and only nibbled at the Chardonnay Cheese Bread I made. We dined in opposite proportions. The bread was incredible, especially paired with that glass of wine!

The kids ran off to play for about 15 minutes and reappeared for more food. Off to play, more food, more play, more food...
Is it just boys???

We all settled into bed about 11:00 p.m. The three young men decided to sleep in the living room, just outside our bedroom door, rather than the downstairs family room. For the first fifteen minutes my husband and I were treated to an at-length discussion of farting and food, interrupted periodically with hysterical giggling. A brief rumble ensued with much more giggling and just when I was ready to get up to ask them to settle down, they became suddenly quiet and we heard not from them again.

I remembered I had this picture of the same three dudes from this last spring.

Oh, to be nine again!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

100,000 People gather in St. Louis

Wow! That's what he said... I say, Wow, too. This photo was taken from a vantage point under the Gateway Arch with the Mississippi River behind and downtown St. Louis in front. An estimated 100,000 people gathered in my home town to hear Obama speak. I wish I had been one of them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

That Just Right Piece of Furniture

This house of ours had a deep, painful void. A place of emptiness... cold, vast and unpleasant. Yes, that's the only way to describe it! Oh, not really, but it makes the story more interesting, don't you think?

In our eating area of the kitchen, we had a wall with a nothingness quality to it. We tried to fill it with plants and then commenced to ignore it's unfinished appearance. We looked for just the right hutch for more than two years. Who knew it could be so difficult to find the right piece of furniture! What we found was either of the wrong style or, more often, the wrong price range. You know that range...way too much!

I had a little time recently and secreted myself away to Topeka and I saw her. At first my mind could not, would not register what I was seeing! There she was and she was perfect. She was newly made in an old style using salvaged wood. So she has a comfortable, well-used patina. I fell deeply in love with her...now what would my husband think?

To my deep satisfaction he loved her, too. At least he humored me with, "yes, honey, it's perfect". I know he cares for her about as much as our cats. So we bought her and pulled our previously readied van around back. To my frustration we found that only her bottom would fit in the van. I know usually it's the bottom that has trouble squeezing in, but you see, she's very tall. We explained we would return with a truck. With one last look, we said goodbye and promised to return as soon as possible.

If she had known the state of her chariot, she may not have agreed to come home with us. Our truck is a classic, a 1975 Ford that was once used to deliver monuments to the local cemeteries. It must have had a life before stone deliveries that involved emergencies judging from the light on top?!?

It's not safe to drive this particular truck more than 55 miles an hour, but we were in no hurry. My boys refuse to ride in it anywhere beyond town for fear a door will fall off. We brushed all this aside because our hutch needs to come home.

A moment to talk about the store where we found this hutch: Gallery Classics. It's a wonderful store filled with Belgian antiques and all manner of gorgeous house decorating accessories. If you are in Topeka or even the state of Kansas, you may want to stop in at this store. I know it's not the first time I've told you to drive for hours for something, but if you've taken my advice and had some Ted Drewes custard, you'll be loading up this weekend to visit Gallery Classics. I just know it!

We gently laid her better half in the truck, carefully strapped her in and headed home. We nearly killed me carrying her into the house. I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to carrying furniture, even though my incredibly patient husband has the heavy end.

Once we got her positioned, we stood back and thought...just right. It will probably take years to fill her shelves, but that's ok, as I imagine the collection of keepsakes will eventually tell our family story.

"Honey, about those curtains."

I think I heard groaning.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Friday!

With all the seemingly never-ending rotten news of the economy, what we need is a little sunshine and beauty! Thank heavens for the spectacular weather of the last few weeks. It's been alternating between mild, sunny, breezy days and days of soft, steady rain. A few days of howling wind have made an appearance, too, but overall it's been lovely. My husband and I are starting to think we have been magically transported to a resort town.

Shhh... please don't tell this profusion of flowers it's darn near the middle of October!

And what of these beauties...they've been fooled into thinking it's still August.

Those tall grasses! They're just too smart, spurting out their fall seed pods. Yet they are unmistakably retaining a summery green glow.

We had dinner on the screened porch a night ago and yes, this morning is gorgeous. This weather is what I'm talking about! I hope you have it, too. Happy Friday, everyone!