Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013...2014

 
It's New Year's Eve in Las Vegas!! Whoooo!!
 
And when all the action that you see in that photo is happening at midnight, I'll be up on my roof with CoolGuy watching it. And then, we'll climb down and go to bed. Because we are Major Partiers!! Dude!! Well, not since about 1982...The last time we actually went out on New Year's Eve. We used to go to a command party at the base, or to one of his co-worker's homes, and we danced and laughed and drank lemonade. But that year, as I went out to pick up the babysitter, something broke on our truck, and, although CoolGuy could fix it, right then was not a good time. So we just stayed home that night. And it turned out to be a great new tradition.

As the kids grew older, there was a lot of fun to be had there at home. We don't drink, and --for sure now---I'm not much of a dancer. And at your own home, you don't have to worry about drunk drivers or other troubles. So, after we got a T.V. again, we started having movie night, and at midnight, the kids would go outside and bang pots and pans and wave sparklers around and we'd holler in the New Year. Most of the places we've lived have had plenty of people willing to shoot off their semi-legal fireworks all around the neighborhood. Now, we just climb the ladder to our roof, and enjoy our panoramic view of Sin City and all the various fireworks that light up the sky.

Here are some of the favorite New Year's Eve movies over the years:
  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  • The Great Escape
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Casablanca
These were memorable to the kids because they'd never seen nor heard of them. Plus, they had famous people from our youth in them (Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Phil Silvers). And, two of them are black and white. These are also movies that all ages can enjoy. It was interesting how three of them also are set in historic contexts, so they gave our children some cultural literacy, too. But...mainly we watched them because they were such great entertainment!

So, this year, with no children around, we're still going to watch a movie, and then climb up on the roof and enjoy the fireworks. We had an amazing 2013---two college graduates, three summer trips to Wyoming, and a wedding! Here's hoping that 2014 will be a memorable year, too--also for good reasons. It is a landmark year for one thing: 40 years of the CoolGuy and EarthSignMama collaboration. That's worth a WHOOOOO!! isn't it?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebration Time

Today is the day! The Last Day of Darkness! December 21st, the winter solstice, is a date I anticipate eagerly each year. It means that the dark times are finally moving on and we will experience the gradual increase of daylight. By February we will start to notice that the sun is slipping behind the mountains a little later each day. When I leave the school at the end of the day, there will still be a little light in the western sky. Joy will fill my heart.

I've never enjoyed winter. It isn't hard to know that It wasn't all that fun to trudge around in the snow and the cold. Some days could be beautiful with the sun gleaming off the brilliant white snow, the stunning blueness of the sky arching over the mountains. I didn't dislike winter when I was a child. I had no particular opinion of it. It was what it was. Winter was a normal part of my life. I reveled in the mini-thaw that always came along in February, melting the snowpack off the highways, leaving the sidewalks bare and easy to traverse. Of course, March usually came in with a lion-like roaring blizzard, and we often had snow storms right through April, too. But, that is life in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. Summer was more pleasant than winter, but winter was just the way it was every year.

Then...I lived in Southern California for twenty years. So, I'm ruined. I'm a certified weather sissy. I do not ever again want to live in an environment that makes me walk or drive on snowy, icy roads or sidewalks. I like to see the bare ground, or---even better--flowers and shrubs and grass and trees that are green year round!

So, this time of year, I laugh with CoolGuy about how we should light a big bonfire in the yard, and paint our faces and dance around with antler crowns and amulets and cheer for the end of darkness. But probably, we'll just soak in the hot tub and tomorrow I'll go to church and play the organ for the celebration of Christmas. I know...the old Christians just incorporated all those ancient customs into a new reason to have a ritual joy-filled event in the dead of winter. But, doesn't it really make sense to take a pagan celebration of the return of light by replacing it with a Celebration of the Light of the World---He who conquered the ultimate darkness--death? Sure it does! So join in the joy and have a great day tomorrow as we begin our seasonal journey to the days of light.


 
Some day I'd like to go to Stonehenge and join these devotees in their celebration.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

I'm Glad I Was Invited

Yesterday, the ward mission leader left a message on my cell phone. He apologized for the late notice, but asked if I'd be able to come to the church on Thursday at 6:00 P.M. to play for a baptism. I called back and said I'd be happy to be there. I just assumed that this was for the missionaries. They are quite busy in our ward, I've played for five or six baptisms this year. It was quite a different event than I expected, however.

When I arrived at the church and walked into the foyer, I recognized the older lady sitting on the sofa, but I hadn't seen the fellow who was reclining beside her. His feet were on her lap and his head resting on a pillow with an oxygen tube in his nostril. His wheelchair was off to one side. Several other people from my ward were chatting with them. So I just went right into the font room and sat down at the piano.

The ward mission leader came over to greet and thank me, again. That was when I looked in the program to see what songs I'd need to play. The baptism was for an eight year girl---not the adult convert I'd expected. The very frail, elderly man in the foyer was her grandfather, who is dying from cancer. His son is the father of the young girl and is in the Air Force, stationed in Minot, North Dakota. His parents live in our ward, but the father has been ill for as long as we have been a ward (a little over two years) and has never been able to come to church. But that is why I recognized the woman--occasionally she can attend.

Son had come home from Minot to baptize his daughter, and---I presume---to be with his dying father. Apparently, the daughters and the mother of the children live here in town with her parents. There are a few questions that I'd like to someday get answered: are the parents divorced? Why do the kids and wife live here, if not? How did they both get such an amicable set of in-laws if they are divorced? The two sets of grandparents were pleasant and warm with one another. On and on....

Here's how it went: We were going to just hold our meeting in the usual way, when our bishop (who was presiding since it is the grandparents' ward) said, "Let's just move it all out there by grandpa." So, we picked up our chairs, the full-time elders rolled the piano, and we took the meeting to the foyer so that grandpa wouldn't have to sit in his wheelchair, but could continue to recline on the sofa. We sang, we prayed, we listened to a very nice talk by the mother's side grandma. Then, they gently lifted Grandpa into his wheelchair and we all went back into the font room. With each grandfather poised as witnesses, Dad and his little daughter entered the water and performed the ordinance. Then, they moved Grandpa back to the sofa, we all sat quietly in our foyer meeting place and listened to a couple of testimonies. Dad and daughter returned.

Then, daughter sat in a chair right next to the sofa. Grandpa leaned up with support from Grandma, and joined the other grandfather, dad and a couple of men from our ward and all put their hands on the sweet little girl's head. The father pronounced the confirmation and blessing. When the prayer was finished, Grandpa sagged back into the sofa, and his little sweetheart gave him a tight hug. She hugged all the grandparents and both parents and then sat down by Dad, who by now was wiping tears from his eyes. Me too.

I don't know much about this family. But it was evident that this is likely the last of these precious events that Grandpa is going to attend. Son will have to return to the base in North Dakota, at some point. Life will go on. But I'm so glad that I had to opportunity to be a witness to this very precious hour they all spent together tonight.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What Great Cooks Do

Here's what was prominently featured in the grocery store where I went for a few things tonight:

 
If you look closely, you'll see that it is a display with large bags of whole dried chilies, piles of cleaned corn husks, big cooking pots, and just behind the corn husks are bags of masa. Because....tamale time!

I've lived most of my adult life in communities where making tamales was a critical part of the Christmas preparation. I've even been the blessed recipient of some of these tamales. It just isn't Christmas without tamales. And believe me---it is no small thing to make them! It requires hours of work and many hands. And love and devotion to your family, because it wouldn't be the holidays without this traditional food.

Which is why I am writing this tonight. Today is our mother's birthday. She would have been 86 years old. I'm pretty sure that she wouldn't have been actually still cooking all of the bounty that came out of her kitchen when I was living there at home, but I imagine she may have been directing others in the "right" way to prepare these foods that we all associate with Christmas and our mother's kitchen.

We didn't make tamales in that kitchen, but we did make hand-dipped chocolates. She made a variety of fondant centers---cherry, mint, maple, orange, lemon, vanilla. She would also wrap some of it around a Brazil nut and then all of the centers were dipped in chocolate that was gently melted in the top of the double boiler. When she used up all the centers, she'd pour raw Spanish peanuts into the remaining melted chocolate, stir it around until they were all coated, and scoop little heaps of them onto the waxed-paper covered cookie sheets. These trays of bounty were then carefully carried into her room where they were lined up on top of the chest deep freezer that stood along the wall. [There wasn't any other place to put that behemoth.] Our house didn't have the greatest heating/insulation and so that corner of the house was cool enough to allow the chocolates to set up.

Another big production was lemon meringue pies. These weren't  specific to Christmas, but were regularly served for dessert, usually on a Sunday. Now, as an adult, I've become quite skilled at baking lemon meringue pie, and I still marvel that she whipped out two of them on those Sundays. It's not like she had extra time. There were many small children to dress, feed and whisk out the door by 9:50 so we'd have time to drive past an elderly lady's house and pick her up, and yet arrive on time for Sunday School. She'd get up with the milking crew on Sunday, bath and wash her hair, set it in brush rollers, and then make the pie crusts. They'd be put in the oven and she'd brown the beef roast or the huge chicken that would then be set to roast while we were at church. [This was back in the days of one hour Sunday School, and then you went home and came back in the evening for Sacrament meeting.] After the pie shells cooked, she would kneel on the floor in front of the open oven door and let the warm air flow over her hair to dry it in the curlers. Then, the roasting pan lid went on, and on the other front burner, she made the lemon filling. As the filling cooled slightly in the sink, she'd beat the egg whites into meringue, dribbling in the sugar just soooo, in order to dissolve it completely. The warm filling was poured into the cooked pie shells, the meringue quickly swirled over it--ensuring that it was smoothed right over to touch the pie crust so there'd be no gaps---and a sprinkle of coconut flicked over the egg-white peaks. Back into the oven for 15 minutes to brown the meringue, and after the pies were set to cool on counter top trivets, she shut off the oven, but again...leaned down to dry her hair a bit more in the still warm air.  By the time we finished Sunday School, the roasted entrĂ©e was finished, the pies cooled enough for dessert and we'd feast.

I could go on and on: scratch Angel Food cake for every single birthday.  Fruit cake at Christmas (and it was delicious -- I don't know why fruitcake has such a nasty reputation). We ate cherry pie for Washington's birthday and three birthday cakes within a ten day period in February. She made outrageous fresh strawberry pie in the summer. She cooked ridiculously delicious fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. I don't even make fried chicken because I don't want to be disappointed. Homemade root beer, cinnamon rolls, fudge, and ---twice a week---six loaves of bread. I'm drooling now.

Ask any grandchild and they'll tell you of all the amazing feasts they ate at her table. And the interesting part to me is that many of their favorite culinary memories of Grandma are foods that she didn't even cook when I was child living there. The menu differences between we older four girls, and the younger four children are even startling. But....that's what good cooks do: they change it up. She was a kitchen adventurer. She looked for new ideas as well as using the old standards. I thought of the joyful memories that will be made this year by the Latino mothers and aunties and grandmas as they unite over the tamale ceremony this next week or two, and I remember the joy my family experienced all because our mother was a GREAT COOK.
 
Here's my dad with one of those Angel Food cakes on his 50th birthday.
 

That's my mom (in the blue shirt) with her two sisters. She was the best cook, they all agreed.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two of My Friends

Throughout my teen years, I knew that winter meant I would have cracked and bleeding cuticles. I always assumed this occurred because of the two hours every morning, and two hours every evening, that I spent milking cows. My hands were usually wet or cold, or wet and cold, from washing udders and carrying the milking machines around. Out in the barn, (in the olden days) it was impossible to wear gloves because your hands were wet so often. The whole process involved lots of washing, rinsing, etc. Anyway, the ultimate result was chapped hands. I used lots of lotion, carried it around in my purse and had it by my bedside. Actually, in an attempt to keep my hands from being a total disaster all winter, I became very faithful at applying the udder cream to the cows that my dad encouraged us to use. By "greasing" the cows, I was also slathering it on my own hands and it helped to protect my skin from the ravages of the job.

However, after I moved away from the farm, I found, to my dismay, that my hands would still get dry and cracked and my cuticles would peel and bleed anytime the weather got cold and dry. Blah! I spent years rubbing Vaseline on my hands and sleeping in gloves, or over-lotioning. Then...I met the best friend that cracked cuticles ever had:

 
This blurry photo may not show you the title clearly: Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. It smells lovely (unlike Bag Balm) and really, really works! When I use this faithfully -- i.e. night and morning--- it really keeps my pathetic fingernails from having raggedy cuticles. There isn't any cracking, peeling or bleeding. I only wish I'd found it sooner. But when I went online to look up the history, it seems that Burt's Bee cosmetic products have only been widely distributed since the early 2000's.

I've used another product of theirs longer than the cuticle cream:


This is Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment. It is a first aid cream that has one of my favorite healing herbs as an ingredient: comfrey. When I had a serious injury to my hand in 1980, my mom made some poultices from comfrey leaves she'd been given by a friend and the wound healed up very quickly. I've used comfrey leaves in poultices for a variety of injuries and bruising on myself and some friends with excellent results. So I was quite pleased to find an ointment with comfrey.

Anyway, I just wanted to introduce you to two of my "friends" and recommend them to you. We'll be buddies for many years to come or until I move to the tropics where there is never cold, dry weather. But...I'll probably still manage to hurt myself, so I'll keep Res-Q in stock.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feliz Navidad

Well, this is .... well ... I'll just let it speak for itself. Here's a still photo. Then, definitely, play the video.

 
This is a little friend I borrowed from the music teacher at my school. He has a musical message for you at this festive time of year.
 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Preparing for the Freeze

Well, it didn't snow--much to the great disappointment of my students. But it has been mighty cold here. Yeh, yeh...I know. We're sissies here in the desert. It barely made it into the 20s. And in the state of my birth and childhood it was in the  MINUS 20s. I know. But, I don't live there anymore and there is a very good reason for that. I don't like to be cold. I didn't like it then, either. But I didn't realize that there were options. Actually, when I was a child, there wasn't an option. But, as an adult, I've discovered the regions of our country where one doesn't have to shovel snow or cow manure, and I plan to reside in one or the other of them for the foreseeable future.

Here's how we prepared for the coming frost:  First I harvested the remaining tomatoes.

 
After the blast furnace of August, I let my tomato plants just sit there in my garden and they begin to recover and, by early October, I can usually pick another small batch of the lovely red orbs. These were the remaining green ones that had formed in the balmy November days we enjoyed. But I knew that temperatures below freezing would wipe out the plants, so these can ripen on my counter.

Next: CoolGuy helped me bring in all the potted plants that line the patio. They didn't all fit in this corner. There are ten here, and two more on the other side of the room.

 
I always plant geraniums and pansies in the fall, and they thrive all winter in the [usually] mild temperatures. But, frost would kill them, too. And the ice doesn't do a thing for my succulents. After a few more days, it will be safe to put it all back out there. I'm glad we brought them in, however, because all the other yard plants are now showing the signs of the frost: dead leaves, curled up blackened flowers. We'll have a big yard trimming "party" in January.
 
This morning, there was a thin sheet of ice across the swimming pool. Usually, we leave the pump running all night to keep it circulating. But we didn't even go to the hot tub last night because there was a brisk breeze rushing that cold air across the yard. It just didn't seem like a very inviting idea.
 
But, the wind has stilled, the thermometer isn't supposed to be dropping below the freezing mark tonight and by Sunday----60 degrees is back!  So, we're going out to the tub tonight. Sigh. Survived another "winter" and we're ready for .... well, it's not quite Spring, but at least it isn't Wyoming in December.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Excuse Me???

 
 
Do you see that little snowflake icon on Saturday????  That is just SO WRONG. I'll be expecting a correction right away, Weather Gods. This is the Mojave Desert and we only want our snow falling on the mountain tops, where we can gaze on its beauty while walking around on our dry, bare ground in our shirt sleeves. Okay, okay, I'm willing to wear a sweater, even. BUT NO SNOW.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Thankful

I'm thankful we got to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter's family here in the desert. They arrived on Wednesday afternoon because they didn't have school that day. So it was a pleasant drive during daylight to get here. I came home about a half-hour after they arrived and we all  enjoyed a pleasant little meal. Then, we started in on the fun.

First, we went over to see the Christmas lights in the cactus garden! Doesn't that sound like a very Mojave Desert-y was to celebrate the season? The cactus garden is adjacent to a chocolate factory, and I don't know why I was a little surprised to see that the factory and the store were open. Duh...So after we wandered around the beautiful outdoor scenes, we walked through the chocolate factory tour and got our free samples. Yum...then, naturally, I bought some chocolates, and we headed for home.

The little people got tucked into bed for the night and I baked a pumpkin pie. I spread out some bread slices on a cookie sheet so that it would be dry enough to make dressing the next day, and then I went to bed. About 1:00 A.M. the three year old starting vomiting. Poor mom... Grandma slept through it all.

I woke up the next morning and found out about the disaster of the night before. The little sick sweetie was sitting forlornly by mom on the couch, with a bowl standing by. Mom had had very little sleep---little sister almost none, too. That is where the sweetie ended up spending Thanksgiving---on the couch. Her seven-year old brother (with the help of Grandpa Cool-Guy) made breakfast pancakes --from scratch---for the rest of us. So cool.

I started the turkey roasting, and then I heard the discontented quarreling of children who've done nothing but lie on the floor and watch T.V. The sick one was quietly enjoying not moving and just letting Minnie Mouse and friends entertain her. But those two older ones got scooped up by grandma and we went off to explore one of the entrances of the wetlands that is near our house. Binoculars, hiking shoes, sunscreen---off we went.

After about an hour and a half, we headed for home and finished making the whole meal: rolls, dressing, a pumpkin and a pecan pie, pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy. Those of us who could eat, did just that. We ate and we ate. Then we cleaned it all up, and by then, it was late afternoon and so, as the sun set, Grandpa and I and the two big kids went out and played in the little pool (hot tub) for a while, just enjoying the orange sky and the warm water. We watched a movie and everyone got into their beds/sleeping bags and actually spent the entire night sleeping. No puke. Yeah!

The next two days were filled with hiking and eating and playing with their uncles' old Legos. Little did I know that old Legos are "super awesome" because all of the figures are "classics" and my Lego loving grandchildren were thrilled. It was pretty sad when we finally tucked everyone in on Saturday night, knowing that the next day they had to pack up and go home. Well...sad for me. Actually, they considered staying with us and Grandpa almost had them convinced that they'd love going to my school, too. But, ultimately, no matter how much fun you're having---there's no place like home.

So we bid farewell, found all the missing socks and sweaters and packed up their clay and their stickers and their really dirty clothes and they headed north on a beautiful morning. They're going to get snow this week. We're going to get really chilly weather (for us). We had an idyllic holiday to enjoy together with nothing more important to do than stop and examine rocks and dig in the clay.

 
The cactus garden is a pretty fun place to go. If you're ever down here during the winter holidays, we'll go there and get a couple of cups of Mexican hot chocolate and wander around and enjoy a unique light show.
 
 
This is my new motto.

 
Grandpa and one of his Sweetie Pies enjoying a lovely afternoon in the desert.

 
Here's who they were gazing upon. He was only about 30 feet away. These wild desert bighorn sheep graze in this park during the day. It's a great life, if you can get it.

 
Here's the formerly sick girl giving her brother, sister and grandpa a ride.

 
Clay! Real clay! It's just part of the ground out here in the Mojave. It rained for three days the week before they came to visit us, so in a shady spot like this part of the trail by a mountain, it was still damp. It was just such a new experience to find REAL CLAY out in the wilderness that the hike was over and a new fun time was begun.

 
The afternoon light is beautiful out there by the lake and it was a great place to take a photo.

 
The next day we went to the wetlands near our house. Here we are looking at the mosquito fish darting about in the shallow water. Also, some coots and moorhens swam near to us.

 
Again, there are lots of photo ops in this place. In fact, we came across a large family taking pictures with the grandparents, the little babies, the grown children. It was a beautiful day, just warm enough, no wind and so many nature things to see.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mr. Li-Zard

My dad had a favorite joke. It used a barnyard word, so I rarely retell it. It goes like this:

There were three friends, Rabbit, Turtle and Lizard. They spent a lot of time together and when they grew up, they went their separate ways. Turtle and Lizard hit it big in the stock market and got filthy rich. They built a big mansion and were thinking of how they were going to landscape it, when they remembered that Rabbit had opened a nursery and so they decided to hire him to do the work. Rabbit drives into the long driveway in his truck with a big load of fertilizer in it, and stops at the front door. He gets out and rings the bell and the butler answers it. The butler gives the up-and-down look to the Rabbit, standing there in his overalls and his work boots.
The butler sniffs a bit, and asks, "Yes?" 
Rabbit replies, "Is Turtle here?" 
The butler pauses and then responds, "Mr. Tur-tell is down by the well." 
"Well, then is Lizard here?" Rabbit tries again.
Butler sniffs again and says, "Mr. Li--Zard is out in the yard."
So, by now Rabbit is a teensy bit annoyed at all the airs being put on, and he says to the butler, "Well, please tell Mr. Tur--tell and Mr. Li--Zard, that Mr. Ra--bbit is here with the sh**!" 

Okay, maybe you're not laughing. But as a nine year old girl, helping my dad milk cows, and surrounded by the very item that Rabbit had loaded in his truck, it was hilarious. I was reminded of Mr. Li-Zard this weekend when we were cleaning the living room.

We'd moved most of the furniture out so that we could shampoo the carpet. We'd had the beautiful oriental carpet cleaned at a shop and now were trying to clean up the rest of the living room floor so that we could put the 8 x 12 foot rug back out on the carpet. I was crawling along the baseboard with the hand-held vacuum, dusting behind and around the big cabinets we couldn't move, and I heard a clatter and felt a hard piece of something slurp up into my little dirt holder. I decided to check if I'd sucked up a game piece or a Lego or something else like that, so I felt around in the debris for it.

Here is what I found:

 
It's a mummified lizard. He used to look like this:
 

 
Although, we definitely put this little guy out on the lawn when we found him in the house, hiding under the rug from KitCat. But that desiccated little fellow I've encased in plastic in the top photo is about the right size, so maybe our little friend from last spring came back in. 
 
The lizard I put in plastic (so I can take him to school and we can all admire him) is completely mummified. His eye sockets are empty, but on his belly, you can see his internal organs are all dried up. He lost his tail, but a new one had started to grow. Every little claw on each little toe is intact. He's only about 2 inches long, just like that lizard on CoolGuy's hand in the second photo. His skin is all there--every little bump and stripe visible. It's so awesome! A very thoroughly dried and preserved lizard.
 
It's such a great find because, just today, we were reading in our text about a prehistoric person whose mummified remains were found in a cave in Northern Nevada about 60 years ago, and how the archaeologists have reckoned that the person lived about 1000 years ago. So, I'm totally taking in Mr. Lizard Mummy for show and tell tomorrow. I've put him between two pieces of clear tape, and he's inside a small glass jar so he can be viewed but not touched, shaken or broken. I love my job!
 
As I was examining him with a magnifying glass (yes, I'll let people use it tomorrow) CoolGuy pointed out how inflexible he was. Yes, Mr. Li--Zard, you've gotten very hard. Mr. Li--Zard, you should have stayed in the yard. (I'll stop now.) 
 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rain-maggedon

I live in a desert. The definition of "desert" is a biome that receives 10 inches or less of rain a year. It began to rain yesterday in our desert. There has been about an inch of rain fall so far, according to a report I just read. It is predicted to continue to rain through noon tomorrow.

In just 24 hours, there were 141 car wrecks that police responded to because people here don't make any allowances for the newly wet roads. These are roads that have had oil and grease and other slimy offal, from machines and the air, building up for a couple of months...since the last time it rained.

In front of our school, there is a low place in the road, and with this rain, we have a lake from side to side. It's a pretty impressive pond, too. Cars really have to just creep carefully through it because the water comes up to the axles for most cars. It is strategically located right by the entrance to our parking lot. Sigh.

Today, it rained all day. The students were dropped off by anxious parents, and then were directed straight to the classrooms because there was no other place for them to be. We also had no opportunity for recess because...rain, puddles, soaking wet grass.

The electricity went out twice in our school today. Rain...we have that happen whenever it rains. Fortunately, it was only out for about five minutes each time. But, most of our classrooms do not have any windows. But---they do have emergency lights which popped on within 15 seconds of the power stoppage.

It was 48 degrees when I went out to direct traffic and help students cross the busy, wet, flooded street this afternoon. Everyone came back in their cars to collect their children. Lots of cars.  Brrrrr....at least the rain took a break for about 15 minutes. We only had a brisk wind. Some of the clouds lifted off the mountains to the north of us and we could see the fresh snow.

It's still raining. Blah. I live in a desert. Bring on the "less than 10%". Please?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Field Trip Marathon

Every year, our favorite fourth grade field trip is to a local wetlands area. I wrote about it last year. I'm sure some people are surprised to discover that there is a wetlands here in the desert, but the name Las Vegas is Spanish for "the meadows." On the early Spanish Trail, this was the one area in the surrounding bleakness where one could find a spring with grass and trees. Now the springs are gone, but the water that flows from rain run-off and out of the water treatment plants, still goes to the lowest place which trails it right down to Lake Mead. And, there is a lovely natural habitat where we take our students each year. Volunteers are there to lead us around and point out cool nature stuff and the students absolutely love going there.

In order to get this experience, I call for our reservation on the first day that teachers return to work in August. It is hard to get in if you wait too long, because they only give field trips two days each week and you risk not getting a spot. So, before I even had students this year, I had booked two field trips: we take two classes one day and two classes the other day. We were all set for a great week and then, another opportunity came up about a month ago: another field trip!! And...bonus! We didn't have to pay for the buses. They were being donated.

The wrinkle: this new field trip was on the day in between our fourth grade trips to the wetlands park. It wasn't really a problem, it was just interesting! So, on Tuesday, I took my students, along with a fellow grade level teacher and her class, and we hiked all morning along the trails. We saw coyote tracks and scat. We measured the height of a tree stump that had been chewed down by a beaver. We watched the American coots and moor hens on the pond. A large road runner dashed across the trail in front of us. Some quail scurried out of our way into the bushes. A jack rabbit hid in the brush, hoping we'd just keep on walking. We investigated some owl pellets that were at the base of trail marker post. The sun peeked in and out of a thin cloud cover, keeping the day at a pleasant temperature. We tasted the leaves of a salt bush after we'd looked at it closely with our hand lenses to see the white crystals glittering on the green surface. It was totally awesome, as it is each time we make this visit to nature. I walked along with one of my students who usually is mostly silent, often blinking at me with the eye of a chicken. But, today! She talked my ear off: this reminded her of a camping trip she'd gone on with her mom and grandma and sister. They saw a deer! They saw some rabbits! They cooked marshmallows! On and on she chatted and kept interrupting herself to tell me, over and over, that this was so fun!!  It was astonishing---usually I get one word replies or just that chicken-eye stare. It was wonderful! Now, I'll know what to talk to her about when we need to write a story and she just sits there...I told her special ed teacher, who partners with me, and he was thrilled, too.

Then, today, we boarded the buses again for a trip to the university from which I finally made my escape with a diploma last spring. The university has a lot of community partners and together they sponsor a reading incentive program for 4th and 5th graders all over the city. They invite all the elementary schools in the district to come to the sports arena on campus and attend a huge pep rally/kick-off for the reading program. Many of them came today, and it's a blast! Again, free trip! The community sponsors provide the money for the buses and the prizes. A group of mascots are dressed and playing basket ball in their costumes. There's loud music playing--all the fun songs the kids know from the radio and like to sing along and dance while listening. There are the cheerleaders from the college, lots of student athletes in their team shirts taking us to our seats and throwing beach balls into the crowd. It's loud and rowdy, full of yelling and singing and screaming and the Wave. Then, they introduce all the schools who are in attendance and we cheer and holler. Local T.V. celebrities read a book to the kids, we learn all about the reading challenge and the prizes being offered. Every student ends up with a free book (they were sent to our school in advance, and we passed them out when we got back.) In all, it is a big wild party where the main chant is: Read to Know! Read to Grow! For some of our students, it may the only time they go to that campus in their entire life. But, for others, it is a nudge toward finishing high school and joining all the cool young adults they spent a really fun morning with, yelling and cheering about.....reading? Yes!

And, as an added bonus: we arrived on our buses, a couple hundred of us from our school, and many hundreds of others and as we were climbing the steps to the stadium doors, some poor person's car caught fire in the parking lot! We were never in danger, neither were the buses, but it was very exciting to watch! The smoke started up and a few kids pointed it out. Then, FLAMES!! and lots of black smoke! Then, we got a fire engine roaring up and they extinguished the fire before it involved anyone else's vehicle. I'm sure there were many disappointed elementary students that there was not a violent explosion. I'm rather surprised there wasn't either. But relieved...In all, it was almost more memorable than the pep rally!

But, by the time today ended, poor old granny-teacher was ready for the hot tub and bed. Two days in a row of disrupted schedule, walking-walking-walking on the pathetic feet, and general chaos, and the extra attention used to keep 23 little friends from wandering off, have left me really tired. But, it's a good tired. We have had a fabulous week of new experiences. We're going to have a lot to write about!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's a Birthday!

We've been celebrating for two days now! The person whose birth is being noted was born on November 17 in San Diego, CA. But he is currently living in Guam, aboard the U.S.S. Chicago, a submarine. Here in North America, today--Sunday--is the anniversary of his arrival into the world. But yesterday it was today in Guam. Get that?? International dateline and all that...So, on the Internet, we celebrated with him yesterday, and I'm celebrating today, too. It's awesome---he gets a two day party. Except, I understand that he had a duty watch yesterday, and got to strip and wax floors. Go Navy! That's the life of the sailor.

A fun fact: his new mother-in-law was born November 16, so his bride pointed out on Facebook that she got to enjoy the birthdays of her two favorite people on the same day!! Cool.

Well, I'm sure I've talked all about the wonderfulness that is him many times on this forum. But here I go again!  It's my prerogative as the mother to go on and on about my fabulous children. This post will be no exception.

He was my first child to experience ear-tube surgery. I wasn't convinced that he really needed it, until the otolaryngologist did the hearing test and one of his ear drums didn't move at all and the other barely moved. He was a year old, and didn't do much babbling or chatting. But he had four older siblings who waited on him hand and foot, and he didn't need much communication. So, we had the ear-tube surgery and that night, while he was in the bathtub, the dog barked on the patio, near the open window, as he had done often. My little guy, with his newly cleared-out ears, jumped out of his skin at the sound he apparently heard for his first time. Oh, I felt like such a bad mother...

But, evidently, his failure to hear much for the first year of his life didn't hold him back. He learned to play multiple instruments and was found to have a lovely bass singing voice. He had never tried singing much, till a friend overheard him singing at the campfire one night while out with the Scouts. The friend encouraged him to try out for high school choir, where they sorely needed more male singers.This required a schedule change, which first had to be signed for by the choir director. He told me about the audition. She played a little something and he sang it back to her. She played some more lines. He sang those. Then, she played a note, "Sing that." Then she just said, "What is that note?" And then she asked him to sing a particular scale. Sure, he could sing that, too. She went down the bass notes, he kept up with her. Finally she laughed, "Give me that schedule!" and happily signed for him to rearrange his classes in order to add choir. That was the beginning of beautiful relationship between him and singing. Who knew he was a natural talent with a perfect ear for tones?? It must be something in the gene pool, because neither his dad or I have any great musical skill.

So, now, he is utilizing that amazing gift for tones and notes as a sonar technician on a submarine. We're quite proud of him---well, we've always been proud of him, and this Navy gig is the gravy on the frosting of the cake. Enjoy a few photos of his progression from the cutest little brother, to a grown man who just celebrated his six-week wedding anniversary. Too bad the bride is still living in a different hemisphere. But that will soon change...Exciting!

 
"Standing" on Dad's chest
 
 
First birthday!
 
Two years old in Idaho.
 

Getting rained on in Wyoming in Grandma Frome's yard.

 
We're back in California. He loved to swim.  
 
 
Did I mention that he made it all the way to Eagle Scout, finally. (This photo is his first or second year.)

 
He was a pretty awesome baseball player in Little League.
 
 
This uniform is the favorite of his wife: a life-long, multi-generation Boston fan.
 

 Clarinet for freshman and sophomore band; saxophone for junior year; drums and tuba as a senior. Mr. "Hand him an instrument and give him a couple of hours...."

 
This is Tuba Christmas. I think he's playing a euphonium for this gig. He got to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Washington D.C. Tuba Christmas.

 
Singing in Les Miserables for Summer Stock production during college.
 
 
He's also a fantastic piano player, and plays guitar: electric and acoustic. He even learned the banjo, which I love, too.  
 
 
Standing with the ever-shrinking Mom at the submarine training base in Connecticut.
 
 
He looked so cute in this uniform, he almost upstaged the bride....well, at least for me, anyway. But I have a serious bias. He's been so cute since he was born 29 years ago.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Recycling

I've recycled things all of my life. When I was a child, most of my clothing was "recycled" because I was the third sister in the family and whatever the two older sisters had worn, was naturally saved and re-worn by my sister and I --the next two on the list. It was the only reasonable thing to do. The clothes were new to me, so I was delighted and that lasted right up until high school. At that point, fashion took a dramatic turn toward Liverpool and, suddenly, all the beautiful sweaters and box-pleated skirts that my sisters had worn were simply no longer even close to "cool."  Luckily, I also learned to sew right about then so I was in a position to create the wardrobe I really craved.

Then, as a young mother, I discovered that I could get cash for old newspapers in San Diego. It became my routine on trash day to cruise around my neighborhood and pick up all the neatly tied up bundles of newspapers left out on the curbs. I'd combine them with the papers I'd saved from my daily delivery and usually I'd earn enough money to buy milk for the week. It was extra work, but totally worth it! I kept those newspapers out of the landfill and I got something important for my efforts.

Well, I'm still a recycling fiend. I save all the plastic bottles at school in bins that I've strategically located around the school and bring them home to set out on my curb for the fortnight pick up. I don't earn any money from it, but, again! Less landfill debris, and plastic can be used over and over. I've also started recycling something else from the school: celery.

Yes, in the effort to introduce a more healthy school lunch, about every two weeks the students are served celery sticks in little cellophane bags and offered ranch dressing in which to dip it. However, at least one half of the celery sticks are simply dumped into the trash can. It makes me cringe! So, during my ten minutes of supervision at the end of the lunch session where my students eat, I wander around dispensing napkins and sporks and picking up trash and asking, "Are you going to eat your celery?"  And those who answer in the negative hand it over to me, looking a bit confused. The first couple of weeks, students asked me if I ate it all. Then, I began to explain that I just took it home and cooked with it.

By this week, everyone knew that Mrs. [EarthSignMama] would take your unwanted celery and they began to pile it up on their tables, informing all their friends that there was someone who did want it. I do use it: last weekend, I made a huge pot of the most delicious vegetable broth. I ended up with quarts of it and it sits in my freezer. Tonight I added a pint to some leftover stew to increase the moisture and not take away the flavor.

I just cut up an onion, lots of garlic, a huge pile of celery diced, and started that cooking in some olive oil in the bottom of a big soup pot. Then, I scrubbed, but didn't peel, several carrots and a couple of potatoes. These were diced up and tossed into the oil. I cut up one bunch of parsley, quite a bit of basil from the last of the plants in my garden, a handful of thyme that is still growing there, too, and tossed in several bay leaves. All the herbs and veggies were coated and warmed in the olive oil by then, and the delicious scent was filling the house. Into this I poured several quarts of water, a tablespoon of salt and a lot of fresh ground pepper. I put on the lid and let it simmer for about an hour. After it cooled down, I strained the broth into containers and put it into the freezer.

It is delicious, nutritious and handy as can be. We also used some of the carrot and potatoes and celery and I made a vegetable soup for supper by putting some of the broth and adding a can of diced tomatoes. I used tiny shell noodles and it was unbelievably good.  You could also roast the veggies and add parsnips or turnips before you simmer them in the water--that would add another element to their yummy taste.

So, use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without---that old pioneer-y motto that our grandmothers used to repeat---it still works! Use up the extra stuff---don't throw it away. Figure out if you can use or reuse it, or give it away to a thrift store, and put all the extra uncooked fruit and veggie bits in your composter. That's where quite a bit of the celery goes, because some of it gets icky before I can use it all in tuna casserole or hamburger stew or whatever. But, hey---I use the compost to refresh my garden every spring and I grow new vegetables. So that celery is part of the circle of life, instead of languishing inside a little cellophane bag, inside a big black trash bag, underneath the layers in the landfill.

 
These were the sort of groovy clothes I craved in high school.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

This has always been an important holiday for me. When I was a child, I just thought every one's dad was a veteran. I didn't realize until I was an adult that there were people who hadn't served in the military in WWII or during Korea. My dad and all of my uncles, and several people that qualified as honorary uncles were all veterans. So, it was just an assumption that kids make.

Interestingly, even though so many men I knew had served their country, it wasn't the main feature of their lives when I knew them. They were teachers, or farmers, or business men. Nearly all were also husbands and fathers. I knew some from church, some from school, and some as neighbors. So, when I got married, and my husband was in the Navy, it was just a normal part of life. His identity was also husband and father. He thought of himself as a "biker in the Navy" instead of a "sailor with a motorcycle." But, I know he came from a family of veterans, too. Even his step-mother is a veteran, along with his brothers and father and several uncles. It was a deliberate choice for them, and him, and was undertaken as a responsibility of citizenship.

So, today, I want to honor veterans and illustrate that they are people who have many hats, not just the one from Uncle Sam. When you're going about the rest of the day, week, month and year, you could be encountering veterans in many areas of your life---not just on this special day, when we single them out for our gratitude. Don't forget to be quietly grateful everyday, because each day of our routine lives is afforded us by others who are part of those Armed Forces.Their service provides the freedom to just think about them once a year.

 
Lynn Ray Welch
United States Navy
 
 
Lynn Ray Welch
husband, father of eight, grandfather to 37, farmer
 
 
Kelly C. Frome
United States Navy

 
Kelly C. Frome
husband, father of 5, grandfather to 4, technical consultant, biker dude
 
 
Peter Kelly Frome
United States Navy

 
 
Peter Kelly Frome
husband, brother of 4, beloved son, crazy good musician

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Winter Stars

It seems funny to write the word "winter" when it was 74 degrees here today...but, we are definitely moving on from autumn. By dawn it is always in the low 50s and that feels chilly. I also realize that winter is approaching because Orion is back!

I love the constellation Orion. I think one reason is that it is just so easy to recognize. Those three distinct stars in a straight line that are topped by the other three stars that make his shoulders and club. I've since learned that Orion has the stars Betelgeuse and Rigel. But, mostly, I associate it with fond memories.

Whenever I see Orion, I am transported back to childhood. I remember seeing this constellation whenever we left the house in the winter because it would be dark by 5:30 and those bright stars lined up distinguished themselves from the millions of other stars that were visible. If we were leaving the house to get in the car after dark in the winter, it would for something fun like a Christmas party at the church, or going to town to the movies. When I was a teen, my sister and I were driving the car to the high school for a basketball game and the dance afterward.

Even the not-so-fun events that brought me outside would feature Orion in the winter. After we milked the first dozen cows, they were ready to be walked out of the barn and let out the gate to return to their sleeping shed. Then, we'd herd another dozen into the stalls where they'd get their evening grain treat and we'd wash and milk them. After that, we'd get the last remaining "bunch" of six or eight, and we'd be-finally-on the downhill slope of the nightly chore. But each time we'd change bunches, it meant going outside to stand under the black vault of the night sky that was filled with glittering stars. And Orion was what you noticed when you stepped out there because our barn door opened to the south. When you're out of the city, the sky is the most prominent feature. Most of your vision is filled with sky. And there it was--the first group of stars that were visible as the darkness settled in and it remained the most prominent as the evening went on.

This week was my first sighting of Orion. I went out one night to soak in the hot tub just before bed, and I settled in with a sigh and looked up at the heavens. Just peering over the edge of the roof, I saw it--the three stars of the belt and the triangle over top. I knew that winter was on the way. It might seem incongruous that here in the city synonymous with Bright Lights, that I was enjoying the stars, but that's what I do while I'm lolling in the warm waters each night. We're on the far eastern edge of town, right next to a big rocky mountain. On the other side of that mountain is Lake Mead National Recreation Area and there are no lights out there. So, we get to star gaze in our own back yard. Now mind you, it's nothing like the Wyoming sky of my childhood. I can only see the most prominent constellations. But, I can see them, and it is one of the little joys of my day. So, when you step outside after dark for the next few months, look up and salute The Hunter. Apparently, throughout history, lots of civilizations have been fascinated by my old friend.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Poetry Night

I got to help with the younger girls at church this evening. The ladies asked me to come and teach them how to write poetry. So, I gathered up a few teachery materials and took them over. We mostly concentrated on cinquains, where you write a five-lined poem that has a specific number of words in each line: 1, then 2, then 3, then 4 and then you end with a synonym of the first word. They're fun and I have used them with my students quite often. I also had clip art pictures for them to color and cut and glue onto their final products, so everyone left with a beautiful, original poem. We had a great time.

One of the patterns I included in their booklets of poem patterns was the season poem. It has rules, too, but they're probably exclusive to the teacher resource book where I got it. However, I'm quite proud of the two poems I wrote yesterday in anticipation of our poetry night. So I present them to you:

Desert Autumn
 
Fall finds me
Still sweating
And swimming
But cools October down
Till we wear sweaters and
Put socks on our feet.
 
 
 
Fall
 
Fall rolls in on
A jack-o-lantern
Costumed kids collect candy
And autumn leaves twirl down
The sun sets sooner
And coats are worn
By chilly children.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Friday Night Eats

[I was just too busy all weekend to write this, so I'm writing it now.]
 
We went out to eat on Friday. It's a favorite Friday night dinner, lately. I drag myself home from school about 6:30 or 7:00. We're hungry. I'm tired. We realize the solution: Rubalcaba's Taco Shop. Please go to the link and read the comments.
 
I had driven past their cafe many times since I moved here, and then on a staff development day last year, our principal ordered us lunch from there. Apparently, the wife of the owner was once a teacher's aide in our school, and then quit to go to work with her husband when he bought this restaurant. In the comments, it points out that "it isn't in the best part of town..." and "it isn't the nicest place..." B.U.T.
 
The food. Yes, the food. It is superb. After we'd had our lunch at school from this little taqueria, I encouraged CoolGuy to stop there one day for our lunch. The carnitas tacos won his heart. Or at least his taste buds. They really are super-duper yummy. How can you go wrong? Slow-cooked pork butt that is then shredded and grilled in a bit of lard until there is a crispy crust on many of the pieces. Then, the tasty bits are tucked into fresh warm corn tortillas. You then slather them with your choice from the delicious salsa bar and enjoy. Myself, I vary my order between carnitas, chile rellenoes and----the best thing on a brisk autumn night---caldo de res. It is a beef soup that takes some tough old cut from the cow like neck bones, or shanks, and simmers it until the meat falls off the bones. Into this simmering broth goes a whole peeled potato, chunks of carrots, pieces of Mexican squash, cabbage and small corn-on-cob pieces. You then dump into this steaming bowl of deliciousness fresh pico made of chopped onion, cilantro and a bit of tomato. The scorching broth cooks the onion, and then you can also spoon Spanish rice into it for an extra bit of tastiness. Of course, it is served with a fresh, hot, homemade flour tortilla.
 
This is definitely not a fine-dining experience. It is squeezed into a corner lot next to a car repair garage and a dollar store. It borders a very busy street that has city buses chugging up and down, and along which people who are down on their luck shuffle along, hoping for a hand-out. The interior is furnished with cracked vinyl booths with tippy tables. The jukebox is filled with ranchero music and narcocorridos (gangster ballads). It's a little warmish in the summer, but quite cozy in the cooler weather because of the steaming kettles of delicious food and the ever-busy grill.
 
But the owners are so pleasant and friendly. And by now, CoolGuy has stopped by for enough lunches and we've come in on so many Friday nights, that they greet us like old friends and just know that I'll have horchata and he'll have an orange Jarritos to drink.
 
Last Friday was especially colorful. We pulled up on the bike and as we walked in the door, a neighborhood fellow smiled at me and said, "Kinda cold for a motorcycle ride, ain't it?" I told him that if I lived any further away, I'd have definitely needed my jacket. I was wearing a long-sleeved sweater with a t-shirt under it, my leather vest, and a wrap-around neck scarf. We ordered and then sat down and ended up chatting about the weather some more as those people waited for their take-out order. The guy who sells pirate DVDs was there with his big binder full of discs. A Spanish language dubbed version of "Incredible Me 2" was playing on the flat-screen T.V. that is hung on the wall over the vending machines. You can put in two quarters and get a chance to test your grip. Or you can get some fake tattoos. Or you can get any number of little plastic thingeys. No music was playing because of the video, but when we go in for lunch, we usually play a three song rotation of something with "Corazon" in the name. It's bound to be heartfelt and earnest. 
 
There was a steady stream of take-out customers who filled up small plastic dishes with salsa while waiting for their styrofoam boxes of dinner. Other tables were filled with pairs of men who were dressed in clothes that showed they'd spent the day working hard, and were now ready for a really filling burrito before they headed home for a shower. Then the door swung open and a fellow in a cowboy hat strode in, with his spurs jingling on his boots. He had on his suede half-chaps that are very distinctly Mexican. He ordered something, then purused the DVDs and finally picked up two drinks and strode back outside. I watched him leave and realized that he had come on his horse! His buddy was waiting on a horse in the parking lot, standing right by our motorcycle, holding his partner's mount. I watched them sipping their drinks as their high stepping caballos pranced off down the street behind the restaurant. Umm..yes, it's that part of town, too. There are still properties in our area that have corrals and are zoned for horses, goats, chickens, etc. Sadly, not my block.

We finished the last succulent morsels of our dinners, cleaned off our table and put on our helmets. We waved good-bye and thanks to our hosts and went out into the chilly evening. We live about a mile and half up the hill from our homey little food spot, and I cuddled tightly up behind CoolGuy to ward off the cool air. Another excellent choice for Friday night dinner after a really crazy week of 4th grade.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day Off

It was an odd week. The whole week was "off" in that we only had students for two days. The district-wide parent conference day was on Tuesday. Then, we had a staff development day on Thursday, and Friday was the official celebration of Nevada statehood and so all schools in the state were closed for the day.

Tuesday meant that I sat and held conversations with 20 of my 24 parents--the others were held on different mornings or after school to accommodate parent schedules. Each conference is very intense. I didn't realize, until I became the teacher, how intimidated many parents are when they come into your classroom. School has been a life-long positive event for me: as a student, as a parent, and now as a teacher. But, many people have had a far different emotional experience with school. So, a parent conference is a balancing act between reassuring adults that I'm actually a kind, caring person who is  partnered with them in helping their child succeed, and in being the authority figure who insists that their child accept responsibility for his/her own education and quit being a pain in my...neck...in the classroom. By the end of that very long day (it lasts from 8:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.) I was done...wiped out...exhausted. I went home and fell into bed.

For Wednesday, we learned about how Nevada became a state---Battle Born is our motto. Lincoln needed this new state for three reasons:  the votes from a Union supporting territory to ensure re-election; additional Congressional votes for the 13th ammendment battle; and the silver from the enormous Comstock Lode to support the war effort. [maybe a myth....] So, statehood was pushed through as quickly as possible and Nevada became #36 on October 31, 1864. But modern life has moved the celebration to the fourth Friday every October and so we get a day off from the grind. After we read and learned a little about the why, I passed out something to do that everyone was delighted to work on and they eagerly partnered up and put their little heads together and stayed on-task for the rest of the class period. What is this academic wonder? A word search of the cities of Nevada, with a color-by-number state flag on the reverse side. I realize that word searches are universally condemned by curriculum gurus, but students LOVE doing them. Actually, I mostly worked with the last group of people who were typing their final draft of an elaborate paper we'd been writing for a week, and I needed all those who were finished to be engaged independently. Then, they could take their paper home and tell their parents all about Nevada statehood day.

Thursday: teacher meetings. We generally have well-planned and useful staff development meetings, so I won't complain. And they are legislatively mandated, so I know why we have them. And, seriously, there must be time to plan and talk to the other adults in the building, or we tend to just focus on our own routines. It's just that it is hard to sit all day when our job usually entails a lot more action. One of my co-workers pointed out that the true value of staff developments days was to show teachers how it is to be a student:  Sitting all day with someone up there talking at you. So...it helps us to teach our students in a more active and involved way.

Friday! Even though I had to set my alarm for the same time because I'd scheduled an early doctor appointment, it was just exciting to know that I was going to get to do what I wanted to all day. After the doctor appointment, I searched out a place that cleans oriental rugs and reassured myself that they would do a good job for the very large amount of money it will cost to clean my beautiful, but filthy, rug. Then, I found the location of the yoga studio where I am going today to start a beginner class and found where I can park. (It's a tricky part of town.) Then, I went to the Cowtown Boots store, and (finally) found a pair of new boots that my revised feet can fit into comfortably. It was a sad, sad day when I realized that my repaired feet could not fit into my dear, dear cowboy boots who had been my constant companions for more than 20 years. They'd been re-soled and re-heeled, and I loved wearing them. But...sadly, the feet are different. It was an interesting experience at the store since it is just a short taxi ride from the Strip: I was one of the few English speaking customers there. Most of the other shoppers were exclaiming over their new boots in Portuguese or German or French or some other language I didn't recognize. Apparently, buying cowboy boots is a uniquely American experience.

Then, after I scrubbed the kitchen floor and did a lot of laundry and had a little nap with Kit-Kat---we got on the motorcycle and drove down to the Crazy Part of Town and ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. CoolGuy was craving their hot-wings. It's fun to dip into some of the iconic Vegas-y parts of life now and then. This is definitely one of them. It is an anthropological event to watch people in this city.

The best part, though, was the motorcycle ride. Beautiful night, fabulous weather, new boots, wind in my face. It's weird that I like it, in view of the fact that usually I am too afraid to do things like roller coasters and skiing--both of which involve speed and sense of impending doom. But, somehow, I still just love riding the motorcycle. I think it because of my confidence in CoolGuy's driving skills. He's learned to be very vigilant and drive offensively (not even defensively) and I think that here, especially, that is a good concept. The weather is going to be excellent for riding for the next seven months and we'll be out there on the road.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Alone in the Grocery Store

I went to the store late this afternoon. It's Saturday, I needed a few things, and I like this one store that has a lot of produce that is specifically for people who cook authentic Mexican food. So, there were a fair number of mothers shopping with their kids. I noticed the carts with a little one sitting in the seat, with a cluster of "helpers" milling around as the mom toiled up and down the aisles. Occasionally, one of the littler ones would perch on the side or front of the cart for a ride. The "big" sister ---maybe eight years old---would help get some of the cans or boxes that mom needed, and also help to wrangle one or both of the little brothers that would wander off or start running around. One of these groups had the little brother looking over his shoulder as he tried to run off, and he ran right into the back of me. I turned and laughed as I helped him up. The mom looked appalled and my smile helped calm her down. But we didn't share a language so I couldn't tell her that--"Don't worry---been there! Done that!"

I was that lady with the three or four or five kids accompanying me to the market. I sometimes got two carts--one to corral kids and one for the groceries. I actually left a grocery store once (it only took once) when someone was pitching a fit about something and I took everyone home. Later, I had to go back, but I waited until CoolGuy was home so I could go alone. One memorable day, I was waiting to pay at the check out when the woman in line behind me asked, "Are these all your kids?" (and I think I only had four at that time) I replied, "Yes." And apparently my youthful appearance in my late twenties made her assume something because she countered with, "Well! I hope you're married!" The clerk and I exchanged astonished looks and I don't even know what I said to the lady. But later, I thought up a great answer:  [Said with laughter and a toss of my hair] "Oh, heck no! If I was married to any of their daddies, I couldn't get my county checks!"  Yeah...

So, to the ladies in the grocery store with your small or large group of children: don't even sweat it. Just teach them to try and have good manners while walking around with you. It is truly one of the most boring things you have to do with your poor, frazzled mother. At least I didn't have to go shopping after spending a long day at a low-paying job like I suspect some of the women I saw today were doing. My day with my children was my low-paying job! (low-paying if you only count money) Just spend time with your kids where ever you can. Let them learn the realities of where that food comes from that they gobble down every day. Have them help you figure out the best price and look for the sales and the coupons. Let them practice their reading by finding things on the shelf for you.

But, just know that these days of cooking and shopping and feeding your children will come to an end. And it will be sad. Someday, you, too will be all alone in the grocery store, buying just three bananas because the fourth would get brown before you got it eaten. You too, will be cooking only for two people (if you're lucky) or just one. Enjoy those frantic days of motherhood, or at least don't hate them. They'll be over before you know it and you will be the one looking at the busy mothers in amusement and empathy, and just a little bit of nostalgic envy.
 
   Five kids---eight years

Monday, October 07, 2013

Weekend Nuptials

What a fun trip! It was pleasant all the way out there, and all the way back, and everything in between. CoolGuy is a good person to fly with--we cashed in his frequent flyer miles and we traveled in first-class. That is a very nice way to fly all the way across the country. I recommend it.

I also recommend New England in October. It was very beautiful! The autumn leaves were about halfway turned, and every now and then there'd be a group of trees that turn absolutely fluorescent orange--they glowed! There are beautiful old houses everywhere, with lovely landscaping and brick walls, and superb old barns that were surrounded by rolling verdant pastures speckled with picturesque cattle. Each little community is so traditional, with the brick buildings and little businesses lining the main street. It was almost like a series of calendar photos.

 
But, you didn't click into this website to see autumn leaf photos, did you??   How about this topic:
 
 
Is this more what you were hoping to learn about?
 
Yes, the wedding!! It was just wonderful. Everyone was there who needed to be there--both bride AND groom. He flew into Boston from Japan/Guam on Friday evening and we all met up at a nice Irish Pub restaurant. The parents, the best friends, some brothers and sisters of both the bride and the groom were all there, laughing, talking, eating.
 
Then, the next afternoon, we rendezvoused at the bride's home, where that photo was taken on the deck, among others. Then, we went to a nearby town, where the wedding and reception were to take place and had some more photos taken. The location for the following pictures was an historic mansion in that town, and we had permission to use it for photography. (There was another wedding being prepared inside the mansion as we were taking pictures outside.)
 
 
Here is the lovely couple with the groom's parents. The bride was going for a '40's look, to complement the groom's dress blues. She rocked it...The professional photog got a great shot of them replicating that famous scene of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square.

 
Here are both sets of parents. We moms are both teachers, so we hit it right off.

 
This is the best man (also older brother) and the Life of the Reception Party (older sister.)

 
They dated at baseball games the summer they met. Notice the groom's baseball...in his other hand is a baseball glove.

 
Remember that this wedding was held in the greater Boston area. And that the Red Sox are in the playoffs. And there was a game that very night. At the bar section of the reception hall, there was a flat screen T.V. playing the game during the reception. The guests were grateful. Even the bride occasionally went over to check out the progress of the game. In fact, midway into the reception, the DJ played Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and we all stood and sang for 7th inning stretch. (No, I didn't know a thing about baseball/Red Sox before this event. I learned from serious fans.)
 
 
This is a little hard to see, but it is the "guest book." They made "baseball cards" with their important stats: their birthdays, and the date of the wedding. Then, each guest was to sign one side and leave a sentiment, and on the reverse side, draw a picture or whatever. These "guest cards" were then put into the binder you see lying on the table at the bottom of the picture, which was a baseball card collector notebook, complete with plastic sleeves for each card. Too cute!

 
Here is the box into which you put the gift cards.
 
 
Here is the concession stand...you could just go choose some candy.
 
 
When you came in the door, you looked for your "tickets" and then went to the table you were directed to, with the team name.
 
 
We were seated at the Baltimore table (appropriately) and we met some very fine friends of the bride at our table, and enjoyed a pleasant evening of chatting and eating. We had hors d'ouvres before the ceremony and then sat down for a meal of pasta and salad and other stuff after the wedding.
 

The centerpieces were peanuts and baseballs---official Major League balls, too. The napkins were made by a dear older friend of the bride, from baseball printed fabric. The bride and her friends had a lot of fun decorating the reception hall!! I had the newlyweds sign a baseball for me the next day, as my souvenir.
 
 
The bride and groom sat here to eat, but most of the night, they were on the dance floor having a wonderful time. Once the DJ played some music from "Grease" and-- since the bride had directed all her friends in this musical in college--the whole bunch of them grabbed the mic and sang along in beautiful harmony.

 
Party's over...it's time to call it a day. Time for everyone to gather up their things, and head for some sleep. We'd had a tremendously joyous celebration. The bride and the groom had finally reunited in the same hemisphere and we'd had a WEDDING!! Yeah!! A good time was truly had by all--especially the energetic Older Sister who owned that dance floor!