Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z ~ Zesty Martini

I'm a martini drinker. I've mentioned this before, but this is the last post of the AZ Challenge, I'm brain dead, and zest is what came to mind. I like my martinis with a zesty twist, as in the rind of the lemon, cut into a pretty little sliver, rubbed around the rim of the glass, then tossed in. Some bartenders don't understand this. OR, more likely, some wait staff don't know what I'm talking about.

Have you noticed that the trend lately is for the wait person to take your order without writing anything down? Why is that? Does it make them look smarter? More experienced? I don't get it. Because here's a typical me ordering a martini interaction from one of these paperless folks.

I'd like an extra dry, Beefeaters martini, UP, with a twist, NO olives.”
Oh. Let me get something to write that down on.”

Do they not know that martini drinkers are some of THE most individual folks out there? You can't just say martini. There are too many variations. And the language that we order in is a code. So if they don't write it down, and aren't martini drinkers themselves, they will get it wrong. I don't have enough time to get into the translation of this code at this time, but don't worry, I'll keep drinking them, and will have more stories ;-)

I'll leave you with this. I recently learned that gins are going to the way of microbrews. Small, boutique “gineries” (I forgot what they're really called) are making small batches of really yummy new gin. I tasted a local one just this week. “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.” (That's a movie quote. First one to get it right, I'll buy you any martini you like :-)

Y ~ Yummy Yams

I love yams. Of course, I used to think they were sweet potatoes. There seems to be some confusion in the foodie world about what constitutes a real yam or a real sweet potato, not to mention that cultural traditions from various parts of the country also contribute to the confusion of what to call these delicious veggies. Or root crops. Or whatever. The orange potato looking things.

For today's post I'm going to give you a recipe. And then I'm going to post again on the letter Z. Because by golly, I WILL finish this challenge. I only missed one day. I will not quit! Even though I'm tired, and I have to leave for the evening in about ten minutes. Sigh.

We're a big meat eaters in this family. The Engineer hunts so we do a lot of venison. Friends have a farm. We buy half a cow. We are by no means vegetarians, but we do eat meatless from time to time. This concoction I'm about to tell you about came from a vegetarian friend of mine and has become a family favorite. It can be ready to eat in 15 minutes.

Yams (about 2/3 per person)
black beans (refried, whole, whatever variety you like)
tortillas (corn or wheat, whatever you like. We buy ours from one of the many authentic tortillerias in our little town)

Wash, poke, and nuke the yams until soft. Scoop out flesh, mash with butter and milk making them the consistency you like in mashed regular potatoes.
Take tortilla, throw in some beans and some yam mash. Nuke to warm through. That's it! I like to add various other yummies, like chopped tomatillos, shredded cheese, diced red pepper, etc. The Engineer and the boys are purists and don't add anything to theirs. The leftovers last about a week, and are delicious for breakfast, too. Try it! There's something magical about the combination which just screams comfort food. Bon apetit!

Friday, April 29, 2011

X ~ Xylophone

Before you get all bent out of shape about me employing such a cliché, let me explain that as a teacher, I get to use this cliché. Now mind you, I wasn't an elementary teacher with the alphabet and its corresponding words as a border around the ceiling of my room, but I was a math teacher with a bulletin board of hysterical math jokes. And I played the xylophone. In front of the entire student body. Because I lost a bet. Does that sound more like something you'd like to read? Tina, sitting on the stage floor, cross-legged, green Christmas bow on my head, playing my little heart out? Thought so. Or bye. Whatever! I'm telling this story. You may read, or not read.

When I joined the faculty of, let's call it Ryder Middle School, I was a brand new teacher, fresh out of college, full of enthusiasm and ideas. It would take eight years to squash all that, but squashed it was, eventually. One of the ways I stayed sane enough to make it even that long in a broken system was that I had friends. Good friends with whom I could rant and rave my little heart out about the crap that is government bureaucracy applied to a system that's barely functioning. (I know some of you dear readers are teachers ~ this is in no way meant to demean what you do. I mean to applaud you for keeping at it. I only lasted eight years. If you're still out there in the trenches then you have that something that I lacked. And you have my admiration and awe. You rock.)

Without really planning it, five of us ended up really bonding. Let me introduce you to the group. It started with me and the veteran eighth grade math teacher. (I taught 7th grade math.) Without being asked or assigned in any sort of official way, she became my mentor. “Ms. K” had it dialed in; she'd been at this job her entire career, and she was damn good at it. I don't know what sort of teacher I would have become had it not been for her guidance.

Ms. K” was good friends with “Ms. L” the “consumer and family studies instructor” (who refused to say, “I teach home ec.”) She was also nearing the end of her career, but didn't “need” to work; she and her hubby owned a very successful business. She taught because she loves kids.

Ms. M” worked in my classroom everyday. Back then, they “tracked” kids in math, as in I had a class of pre-algebra smarty pants kids, a class of “I hate math and I don't get it and I never will” remedial kids, and three classes of “we're so average no one notices us at all” kids. The third member of our group was one of the resource teachers. That means “Ms. M” devoted her life to helping the kids burdened with learning disabilities, both in her own classroom, and if enough of them were all in the same class at the same time, in the “regular” classrooms. We hit it off right away. What's not to love about a woman with enough patience to explain for the millionth time what subtraction means, rides her Harley to school, and teaches her students poker to hone their math and logic skills? All that, and with a sense of humor so strong that we had to be careful not to dissolve into hysterics. Daily. (If you're into humor, read T is for Teacher .  She was in the room that day)

The fifth member of our posse was the guidance counselor. “Ms. N” was a pastor's wife with two grown boys, and the voice of reason we all needed. (Her boys played baseball, one of them for the Rockies. One of my most cherished souvenirs is his baseball card.  Signed, of course.)

Most Friday afternoons we met at Ms. K's house, two blocks from the school. We drank. Believe me, by Friday, we needed the release. Ms. N was a martini drinker. I'd never tried one, but now I am a martini drinker. Yes, I still chug chardonnay, but when in a bar or restaurant, it's Beefeaters, extra dry, up, with a twist, NO olives. Ms. L wasn't much of a drinker, but when she drank, it was shots of tequila. I know, right? With all the libations floating around, It wasn't long before we came up with THE perfect name for our group. 4 + 1. Yup, mathy-nerdy, but 40% of our group were math teachers!

Let me explain. You pick a category, four of us would fit, one would be left out. For example, four of us owned homes, one rented. Four of us drove American cars. One drove a Volvo. Four of us were heterosexual. One of us was not. Four of us had siblings, one did not. I could go on and on and on. Because that's what we did when lubed up enough, but I know you're all wondering, “Where's the damn xylophone?” so I'll go there now.

Middle school kids are bright. Bright, and insanely curious about the private lives of their teachers. They knew we were all friends, they knew what we called ourselves (because I cracked. And no, I never heard the end of it from the other four...) and they tried to break the code. Day after day after day of categories were bantered about, everyone trying to find SOMETHING that all five of us did/had/were. Can you see where this is going? Finally, to shut them up, I made a bet. “If you can find something all five of know how to do, we'll do it for the school talent show, BUT whoever finds that answer, also has to be in the talent show.”

So there you have it. The last act of the talent show that year was the five of us, playing xylophone. Bows on our heads. The song? Jingle bells. And no, thank GOD, I have no video.

P.S  Yes.  This was supposed to be posted yesterday.  Yes, technically, I failed to complete the AZ Challenge.  But in my defense, what I was doing instead was helping Best with the latest marketing for her debut novel.  See Family Secrets.  Then go buy her book!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W ~ Wingardium Leviosa

Are you a Harry Potter fan? I am. And I'm very glad for that. The whole process of becoming one was a journey of great importance in my faith and in my life. The lesson goes far deeper than Harry and his invisibility cloak (which by the way, is THE item I most want from that world.) It speaks to the whole “look before you leap”, “investigate before you judge”, and “walk a mile in his shoes”. I wish I'd learned this lesson sooner, and applied it more appropriately after I finally DID learn it.

When the Harry Potter phenomenon hit the world, I had a three month old boy, but much older nephews and nieces. I remember my mother-in-law reading the first Harry book. That wasn't strange, she's an avid and varied reader. What struck me was why she was reading it. “I want to know if I should give this to my grandchildren, or not, and the only way to know is to read it myself.” Made sense to me, though I was a new mother and therefore hadn't yet put a lot of thought into what I would and would not let this tiny child of mine read. One of the panicked thoughts screaming through my brain was, “I'M A MOM! I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THIS!” The other was, “Hmm...reading it myself sure would bring a more accurate opinion than searching out reviews and opinions of others.”

So I picked up JK Rowling's masterpiece and was instantly hooked. This woman can tell a tale, and I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear at how she hooked kids just learning to read with the joy and wonder of escaping to another world in the pages of a book. She accomplished all that while still making her tale interesting enough to engage an adult reader. Very remarkable, actually. But for some reason, the Christian community was in an uproar about it. “Magic.” “Spells.” “Wizards.” Hmmm. Somehow “Gandalf”, “The Ring”, and “Isengard” or even, “He's the answer to bring balance back to the Force”,“Jedi” or “Aslan is on the move again” were OK. Why?

I don't know why. Maybe it was because those other authors either didn't cause enough broo-haha with “just some space saga”, or were certified “Christian authors.” I approached Harry with an open mind. Devoured the books. Of course, my son became a much faster reader than I am, finished all of them before me, and I had to about duct-tape his mouth to keep him from divulging plot points.

Some of my friends loved Harry. Some TRIED to love Harry, but didn't get sucked in. Some of my very dearest friends wouldn't even so much as pick up the book because “it's not something my family will involve ourselves in.” I respect your right to censor your children, but increasingly I was becoming uncomfortable with friends censoring their children WITHOUT reading the book. Because if you ask me, it's as powerful an allegory as the Chronicles of Narnia.

This post's purpose is not to debate my theories of why Harry had to die, or why the ending of the book was perfect in my opinion. (Which I'd be glad to do at some other time. Seriously.) The real purpose of this post is to confess my failings. I took the same, “Judge without a shred of evidence” when it came to the video game Halo. And I'm sorry for it.

I try to know the latest movies, music, and games to make intelligent decisions about what my boys should and should not be exposed to at certain ages. And for as vocal (and judgmental) as I was about the Harry Haters, I must admit I was just as obnoxious (in the other direction) about parents allowing Halo. How could they? Then I started learning about it. Hmm. Outer space. Soldiers. Epic battle of good vs. evil. Hmm...Star Wars-esque? Good and bad on both sides of conflict? Wow. What an idiot I am.

So now my boys play Halo. And I watch, and we discuss strategy, and technology. And my YellowBoy says, “I know America is in a war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think I might want to join the army. We need to help. I know I might die. But people do have to be willing to die. I'm scared. But I think I could be a soldier and help others.” So before we get into a debate about recruiting and young men going off to war, let me clarify what I'm saying:

Playing this video game caused my eleven year-old to think about our troops and appreciate their sacrifice and to then think about joining the fight. I submit that something which fosters patriotism, debate, and action can't be all bad. Bottom line? Don't judge a book by its cover, and NEVER by what others say about it. READ. IT. YOURSELF.

P.S Wingardium Leviosa is the spell to make things float in the air at the direction of your wand.  I'd love to use that on the smelly socks which accumulate around here..

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V ~ Very...

...blessed, let me never stop counting the ways. Out loud, in prayer, on paper. On line. In person to the blesser.

...glad that this school year is almost over. Homeschooling is by far THE most challenging adventure I've ever accepted. And you know this acceptance was reluctant.

...excited for our road-trip back East at the end of May. GorgeousGirl and The Marine (who is one of the most wonderful people I've met lately) are getting married! But that's not all. I also get Ocean City and Annapolis. Bliss.

...excited to plant this year's garden. Love my veggies. Love my flowers. Some of you know what a departure from personality this journey to gardening truly is.

...content right now. This week's laundry is put away. The Engineer and I are going out to our favorite restaurant (see R ~ Restaurant).

...very glad I participated in this challenge. Actually reminds me of the answer to a therapy question I read about in one of the tattered magazines I paged through in the countless rooms I've spent far too many hours waiting in...but we already passed  S ~ Sex, so I'll write about that later (in case you're not coming back, if you want to get your (insert desire here) back on track, do it once every 24 hours.  I've been posting once every 24 hours.  Seems that ___________ every 24 hours helped this particular couple...)

Thanks to all my readers for still traveling along.

P.S To my “never miss reads”: I WILL be back. You can count on it. You're a big part of what has grown me so far this year. And yes, I will admit I'm counting down to the end of this April challenge. After all, I'm human, and

...I'm very tired. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

U ~ Unveiling

This blogging journey (that I feel like I'm still on the first lap of) has brought a lot of growth to my self-esteem. Before you get all blustery thinking I'm bragging, let me explain. I'm a recoverING anorexic (like alcoholism, it's always with you, and unlike alcoholics who can just quit completely, those of us who struggle with food, can't quit food completely. Well, not anymore. I already did that, and therein lay my problem ;-) But writing, and even being brave enough to write about that , has brought healing. I'm still pretty hesitant out there, though.

That might not make sense to those of you dear readers who've been with me since 2009. I come across as rather arrogant and self-confident at times. But have you seen my face? It's on my blog once, hidden behind my YellowBoy, in Alaska, and I only included it because it had almost our entire group AND the glacier. Not only was there safety in numbers, it was on an Alphabe-Thursday where everyone is running hell bent for leather all over cyberland trying to visit as many blogs as possible, so I thought I was pretty safe. One or two people commented. And that's how I wanted it.

Now I'm feeling better. Don't know if it's being over a year removed from the job loss which sent me spinning into a pit of despair, or also a year removed from the whooping cough which left me winded and on the side-lines. I am still dealing with the hip thing, but I thank God that the pain is down to a 3 or 4 (out of 10) and that's a place where I can live for a while. After all, I've lived with my fused wrist and its chronic regional pain syndrome for eleven years now, and on a good day, it's a 6. But I'm not just talking physically better. I feel better on the depression scale, too. (Chronic pain and depression have one of those chicken/egg relationships...) So without further ado, I give you: me.

I took no less than 47 self-portraits. I'm willing for you to see this one.  I'm a work in progress.  If you're interested in the other stories I alluded yourself.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T ~ Thankful

On this resurrection weekend, I want to say how thankful I am that I have a Saviour who died for me. Because of my sin, I owe a debt I cannot pay. By His mercy, He paid the penalty for my sins, a debt He did not owe. Thank you Jesus. You are the Way and the Truth and the Life.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

S ~ Silly Limerick

There once was a girl from Sweden,
who was writer, and searched for meanin'
but on a Friday
the wind blew away
All her drive to share with those readin'

Hello friends.  I have spring fever to the nth degree here and am going to go enjoy the weather instead of writing a long post.  Feeling itchy to be out there...

P.S New readers.  Yes, I'm Swedish.  First gen immigrant who came to the US in 1974.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R ~ Restaurant

I love eating out. I've blogged about this topic already, but I just can't say enough about going to a place where you sit down, relax, and then they bring you fabulous food. The Engineer and I have differing opinions on what makes a good restaurant experience. He likes: go in, get table, eat GREAT food, get out. I like: go in, squeeze up to bar, secure libations, crowd into a well, crowd, people watch. Get table. More libations. Appetizer. Order dinner. Linger over dinner. Make up stories about the people sitting at the other tables. And no, I did NOT steal that from the Steve Carell/Tina Fey movie. I've always done that.

One of the marriage-building catch-phrases of the last, oh, decade, has been “date night”. One should date one's spouse. I'm all for that. But when you've dated for nine, been married for 19, “date” takes on a whole new connotation. For the first few years, our boys were young and baby-sitters were expensive so we made do with eating a bit fancier of a dinner after the boys had their mac-n-cheese. Lately, however, we've actually started leaving the house, and eating at a restaurant. Considering how The Engineer is the definition of frugal, and eating out makes him a bit uncomfortable, this is nothing short of a miracle. But it's completely understandable if you've ever eaten at “our place.”

Las Palmeras is a family owned business. There are probably at least six or seven other restaurants that would fit this description in our 40% Hispanic town. We've tried most of them. And yes, we do Taco Bell. I mean c'mon, five bucks for a box of three entree items, cinnamon twists, and a drink? I try to stay on budget.

If you ever get to Longmont, you must visit Las Palmeras.  I usually get #26, five small tortillas with either beef or chicken chunks, grilled, then pico de gallo, avocado slices, lime wedges, and you put together wonderful little bites, each one slightly different as you work your way through five or so napkins.  I've eaten a lot of refried beans in my life, but these are the best. Regardless of entree, I always order a side of beans. The service is friendly, and they appreciate their regulars. Most Wednesdays (that's our night) they “run out of smaller glasses” and bring me my margarita in a tankard twice as large, no extra charge. Their portions are huge – I can usually get three MORE meals from my left-overs. That's my definition of a good value. But then again, anytime you bring me food I didn't cook, I'm happy.

AZ Challenge for the month of April. Button and navigation in side-bar.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q ~ The Ultimate Question

What's the answer to life, the universe, and everything?   If you're familiar with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy you know the answer.  This sci-fi phenomenon has had numerous incarnations: radio show, TV shows, of course the books, and in 2005 they made a movie.  It's one of my all-time favorites, and it's hard to get on that list because I watch about four movies a week.  I like indie the best, but also tend to gravitate toward sci-fi, post-apocalyse being a favorite setting, adventure, action (Terminator combines all of those interests quite well), and the occasional chick flick. Today you get a Quick review since you made it through the long tale of my rise and fall from power the past two days and deserve something short and sweet. Well, the five of you who stopped by ;-)

I love this movie for it's sheer whimsical nature, its dry-wit narration, and for the good old-fashioned love story. I mean, what's not to love about Vogon poetry, almost eaten by monsters, smacked in the head with shovels for having ideas, and the ultimate weapon of all time, the POV gun.

The inventions are great, too. A knife that toasts bread while it slices. A device where you stick your head in, it senses what you're craving, and makes it for you. Instantly. It also has the most creative use of a lemon juicer EVER. Not to get all political on you because of my sheer hatred of politics, but every single elected official could use a lemon juicer. Watch the movie and you'll see what I'm talking about.

If you're feeling blue, or stressed out, or bored, go rent this movie. I dare you not to laugh. This member of the third smartest race on the planet sure did. And no, the first isn't dolphins. Though they do say, “Thanks for all the fish.”

P.S 42

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P ~ Patrol Woe's

This is the continued tale about my career in law enforcement. Part 1 was yesterday.

So there I was, queen of my domain, all the little minions obediently obeying every,
Sally, get your foot out of the aisle. You know someone could trip and get hurt.”
Gerald, we're at a light. There is no talking at a light so that the driver can concentrate.”
Tommy, stop poking Sam in the back of the head. If you can't keep your hands to yourself you have to sit in the demerit seat for a week!”

I was, well, a real hard-ass. Power corrupts even the well intentioned. No worries though, soon powers greater than I were to come to my kingdom. High schoolers. Not just any high schoolers. Delinquent high schoolers. I thought I was ready for them. After all, everyone always did whatever I said, therefore I must have by my own actions conjured good respect of the authority I wielded, and everything would be fine. No. Not so much.

We picked this rag-tag bunch of kids up from the alternative school. As a former teacher, I now know a lot more about what sorts of behaviors can land you there. Not all of them are criminal, far from it. But we middle schoolers were scared of them. Really scared. We hadn't considered that some just had learning disabilities and didn't thrive in traditional school, or were teen mothers and attended that program. Nor did we know about the vocational section of the school where they were getting their auto-mechanic certs and a lucrative career upon graduation. Nope, we had them stereotyped right off. Scary criminals. Sigh. I was such a snob, it just makes me cringe sometimes.

Mind you, they were loud, and lewd (some of them) and kept their feet in the aisle, wandered the bus, and stole items from the scared, younger riders. You know, to toss around for keep-away but return later. It didn't take more than two or at most three of:
Shut up little policewoman, you're not the boss of me!
Until I gave up. I didn't even bother patrolling the younger riders.

Why should I, when they don't have to?”
Yeah, that was a good question. And though misguided, I wasn't completely stupid.

I don't know what would have happened to our relationship on this shared bus if it hadn't been for the ice incident. That adventure cemented us as ONE bus of kids, all in it together, and all needing to come together right then to get out of a rather dangerous situation.

On an icy, snowy day, our wonderful, regular bus driver was ill.   I can best describe her as a blond, smaller Roseanne Arnold, complete with attitude and strident voice. She took some getting used to, but we all loved her. She knew us by name, asked about our lives, gave us candy on Fridays if there had been no infractions, and genuinely loved her job. Her sub was an idiot. Probably only the minimum age of 21, he had no business driving a school bus, let alone in ice and snow in the Nation's Capital where ice and snow send everyone into a frenzy. We're not talking Colorado where you need a foot or more for them to start thinking about closing. We got out two hours early that day.

One of the hard parts of sharing the bus with the high schoolers was that they each got dropped at their own house. I'm pretty sure that wasn't how it was supposed to be, I think “Florence” probably did that out of her own kindness. If there was only one kid per stop, might as well make that stop easy for them. That's the kind of lady she was. The sub? He was not so thrilled about this. But he listened to their directions and managed to take about half of them home before disaster struck. One girl lived in the last building at the bottom of a hill. A hill that was very icy that day. He dropped her off, managed to turn around, and tried the hill. No going. The wheels just kept spinning and spinning.

Ok you kids, get off the bus and push!”

We thought he was joking, but he wasn't. He started pulling us out of our seats and shoving us off. All of us. I know I'm not the only one who was scared. At least he didn't know I was the patrol. I'd given up my prestigious uniform not long after the high schoolers joined us. What was the point? With no authority, why bother?

So we're pushing and pushing, and grunting, and finally, the bus actually gets some traction and guns up the hill. Without us. Well of course, one of the guys says, if he stops he'll be stuck again and we have to push again. Don't worry, he'll be waiting at the top of the hill. So we trudged up, and were just in time to see him take-off. As in leave a group of 20 or so elementary and middle school students, and about 7 of the high schoolers standing in dumbfounded shock as our ride disappeared.

Little girls were crying. Big girls (like me) were trying not to cry. The high schoolers? They sprang into action. Arms around little kids. “It will be OK.” “Let's go to “Mary's” house. She'll let us use the phone.” One of the girls still “on the bus” was “Mary's” friend, and knew which apartment in the building to go to. She took the kindergarten girls with her, while the rest of us waited in the snow.

Eventually a substitute bus came and got us and drove each of US to our own house. Never heard what happened to that idiot driver, or what he was even thinking about just leaving us like that. I can't imagine he ever worked with kids again.
As to our bus? We were now a team, and after that, when we picked up our beloved high school heros, we were excited to learn to play poker for grapes and listen to their music on their walkman, or even get to sit by one of them. I didn't so much mind I couldn't patrol them. We had older friends, and that made us cool.  Cooler even than being a safety patrol.

AZ challenge for the month of April. Button and navigation in the side-bar.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O ~ On the Job!

Did you have safety patrols at your elementary school? We did. It was a big deal for us Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes type of folks to be chosen. I was chosen. Then I was hit by a car in the street in front of my house, broke my hip, and then was in a body cast for four months. This was third grade; we had just moved to Silver Spring, MD from Gothenburg, Sweden that summer. The accident was December 13, 1974. I was in an enormous amount of pain, stuck in a cast, at home, with a tutor. And I couldn't accept my post as Safety Patrol. That, more than anything, bothered me immensely. (Yes, perfectionist even then. From birth.)

But as most of you were probably thinking while reading this, after all you're adults (I think ;-), I'd get my chance as soon as I was sufficiently healed to not need crutches and could then run like a maniac, tackle the offender, hand-cuff him,(yes him, we girls don't break rules!) and send him to school bus jail. Ok, not. But I could tattle. I loved my job. Yes, I was the teacher's pet too. And relished it.

Being the patrol on a bus was the coveted assignment. If you were an outside patrol, there was a teacher with you at all times, and you played back-up. On the bus, only the driver had more authority, and they left it all up to us. Our buses were full, so there were three of us fantastically important officers on each bus. Of course, our uniforms were impressive: we had day-glo orange belt-harness contraptions that went from the belt, over one shoulder and down the back, again connecting to the waist strap. They had adjustments like bike helmets with that snapping lock mechanism thingie, and we spent hours adjusting ours for maximum placement. AND, if you made it through your rookie year, you got a BADGE to go on your belt. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was a sergeant. My badge was green to show my immense status, and I was in charge of ALL the bus patrols, on ALL the buses. Oh, the power. As you've probably deduced, my bus riders were perfectly well behaved, and my driver loved me. Or, I probably drove her nuts but she tolerated me because the kids sat still, didn't speak, and didn't leave trash.

All was smooth sailing in my little kingdom, um, on my bus, until it was chosen for special duty. We now had the privilege of transporting the high school kids who went to “a special school for kids who need more discipline.” Little did I know it, but my reign was soon to be over. Big time.

This riveting tale will be continued tomorrow in P ~ Patrolling Woes. See you then!

P.S Just FYI, I didn't end up pre-scheduling my Saturday post. I schlepped it from the woods, down the hill, into town, to the McDonald's parking lot, and posted from there. Just keeping it honest ;-)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N ~ Noodles

I love noodles. LOVE noodles. I could probably eat pasta everyday and not get bored. Think about the almost infinite combinations:

Shape of pasta (fettuccine, angel hair, shells, corkscrew, bow-tie...)

Ingredients of pasta (whole wheat, potato, organic, gluten-free, rice, those awesome Japanese noodles that when you add the dry brick to screaming hot oil in a frying pan, they explode into a nest-style mess of pasta)

Sauce! I'm not even going to begin to list these. I'm good with anything that has garlic and DOES NOT have an olive of any style anywhere near it. My pasta is an olive-free zone, just like the peanut thing on airplanes.

Add-ins chicken, sausage, beef, shrimp, tofu... The choices limited only by the strength of your imagination (or how many cookbooks you have read) (Yes, I read cookbooks. For pleasure. But that will have to be another post. P ~ Pleasure Reading?)

I've had many delectably scrumptious pasta meals, but there's one that stands out from all the others. I've never enjoyed a pasta dinner as much as the one The Engineer and I had late one November night, 1994.

We were living in our 1925 Old Town bungalow at that time, and as I've mentioned before, it was a steal, needed work, and was quite small. One of our major projects was remodeling the kitchen. The Pepto-Bismal pink kitchen. With the Pepto-Bismal pink rolling dishwasher. With asbestos-laced ancient linoleum. I know, we're picky. But we think color does matter, as do cancer-causing components. The Engineer had estimated a week or two. Fortunately, after nine years of dating and two of marriage, I knew that time estimates from The Engineer are rarely accurate, and a week becomes a summer, a weekend a year, and in the case of the kitchen, a month became five.

At first, I thought it was awesome. No cooking or dishes to worry about. Chances to try new restaurants. I'm a foodie, and thought that I would NEVER get tired of going out. But his was also before I learned to cook, before I was even remotely interested in cooking and I actually did get tired of going out.

So one evening, kitchen not yet done, but done enough for cooking, we decided to inaugurate our beautiful new digs by making pasta. From scratch. Using our newest kitchen gadget, the Pasta Queen. Though I didn't know how to nor like cooking, The Engineer always has. He's a great cook. Can you see why I wasn't motivated to learn? I had no need.

Cooking together that night with light-hearted banter and some a splurged on expensive wine, was quite a celebration. As we sat down to enjoy our fettuccine with garlicky parmesan sauce, we were content.

I've told this story to my boys, both of whom are into cooking, and Jake's comment still cracks me up. “So you'd been waiting and waiting for the kitchen to be done and then you make macaroni and cheese? I don't get it.” Yes, Jacob, I guess you could call it Mac-n-Cheese. Perhaps you need to learn some marketing techniques ;-) It was a great meal.

AZ Challenge for the month of April. Button and navigation in side-bar. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M ~ Maybe I'm Cheating's cheating. But this IS a post. You're at my blog, reading what I wrote. That's pretty much the definition, right? It's what I'm going with today, anyway because I'm out of time. We're leaving for our camping trip in about an hour and a half. I'm almost done packing, but I also send to push “send” and “print” on my taxes, go to the bank, and post something. Oh, and figure out how to do the auto-post for tomorrow, when we will be off-grid...

I solemnly promise that next week, the posts will be real. However, I did forewarn you that the topics would be random and think you'll agree I've already kept that promise ;-)

I hope you have a fantastic weekend as well! I'm looking forward to some good writing time, all the better to provide more interesting reading for you next week.
Thanks for bearing with me!

AZ Challenge for the month of April. Button and navigation in sidebar. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L ~ Life is a Highway

Life is a Highway...I wanna ride it, all night long...

I've long been a fan of kids' movies. I guess it started with all the babysitting I did as a teenager (starting at 50 cents an hour...)when I'd watch those movies with the kids I was entertaining. Back at our house, TV was strictly monitored to two hours a week. I know, right? HOW did we survive??? So at home, I didn't use my precious time on kids' movies. I saved it for Charlie's Angels, Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. (Why my mother censored The Brady Bunch and let us loose on Aaron Spellling shows still baffles me...) (I love you Mom!)

I've enjoyed many movies with my boys as they have been growing up. Not just Pixar's amazing advances in animation and story-telling, but all the good old classic Disney movies, you know the ones where they actually drew each picture. That still boggles me, the work involved. And they didn't give it up that long ago, really. My neighbors, husband and wife, were both Disney animators. He's a cartoonist, and one of his best know pieces is the scene from Tarzan where the young Tarzan swims with the elephants. Apparently bubbles are hard to do right. She was a colorist, yet she poo-poo'd her talent, calling it “paint-by-number-with-a-mouse.” Yeah well, that's her mouse click up there making Jane's dress yellow.

One of my favorite movies of the last decade (I've been a mom for 14 years) is Cars. I was just blown away with the world they created where cars were the people, and the world was turned on edge to accommodate this idea. For me, it just worked. Then of course, there was the catchy sound track. My boys have enjoyed it as well. I think at one point we probably had Lightning McQueen in at least ten incarnations, from towels to bathing suits, toy CARS, lunch boxes, and crocs. Yes, they made Lightning McQueen crocs. Ok, knock-off crocs. But with the front part of him as the toe! What's cooler than that?

But lately I've been wondering about the whole marketing machine we've created. It scares me a little to think of the influence the entertainment world has on our lives. You only need to go to the toy aisle at a Walmart of Target to know which movie is about to be released. The shelves will be filled with every conceivable tie-in toy available just in time for the movie's release. Then we go to the fast-food toys. They are also strategically timed to coincide with the young child's latest obsession. “Mom, let's go to McDonald's cuz they have Lightning McQueen keepsake cups!” And off we go. I mean, if we're going to harm our kids anyway with fast food, why not get ½ hour's worth of free entertainment at the same time?

All these have come to my attention lately as I'm continuing my de-cluttering journey with FlyLady. What was once a must-have is now, “Just a stupid McDonald's toy, Mom.” Yeah, that would be all fine and good. Toss it. But then we have The Engineer. Mr. Ebay. “But isn't someone collecting those (Bionicles, Dalmations, Beanie Babies...)? Maybe we could sell these. Sigh. It's an uphill battle. But I've got the soundtrack.

I wanna ride it, all night long...”

AZ Challenge for the month of April.  Button and navigation in the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K ~ Keepsake, Handmade

Keepsakes. I'd love to keep almost everything since I'm a sentimental girl, and a hell of a pack-rat. Let me tell you, the combination of those can be a major strain on your square footprint. However, I have been slowly and surely working on that...shall we say...ISSUE...for a while now. I thought I'd share with you my progress.

It all starts with, “You can't make something hand-made for everyone.  Maybe you should give away all those, 'But it would be great if I were making a...'" Maybe, someone else can make the..., and that resulting transaction blesses everyone involved.

One of my dear friends moved away from our small, Colorado town to Michigan. It's been a complete blessing to me that this latest technology of facebook has kept us in touch and close over the last many years. I was dragged to fb kicking and screaming...but now have even conscripted several others to come over to the dark side...  And I have begun to appreciate what great tools we have available to us as we seek to follow our dreams.  I want to share “Momma's Hands” newest dream with you.  

I'd never heard of Etsy, but my bloggie friend  PJ  introduced me to many wonderful artisans. (And for the record, I'm eagerly awaiting my personalized, sterling silver, stacking rings.) It was fun to see that my Michigan friend was jumping in head first, and I could at least say, “Oh, Etsy. Yup. Heard of it.”

Lori of “Momma's Hands” is a master crochet artist. She's the mother of five, a homeschooling-mama and pastor's wife all rolled into one fun package of outgoing charm. I encourage you to take the time to visit her Etsy shop. Her work is exquisite, and in my opinion, completely under-priced.  

I bought this gorgeous set for the daughter of a dear friend.   Ok.  Not this exact set...cuz I got it first! But it was this pattern, in my fave turquoise. I do think YellowBoy would approve of this version, though ;-)

This one reminds me of camo, all the rage with teens these days.  Might as well start them early ;-)

Cranberry is a great color, especially on her darling daughter

I love scarves, and this one is just so fun.  I'd never heard of the circle scarf concept before!

In today's fast-paced, disposable society, I find great comfort in the old-fashioned, hand-made, pass-on-to-the-next-generation, crafts of our great-grandmothers.  So if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to my knitting.  After all, this  baby whose blanket I'm still working on was born 2 1/2 weeks early and his blanket still needs two weeks of work.

So I encourage you to get out there and browse, check out Lori's shop and others. Handmade doesn't have to go by the wayside in today's technology age. Technology just gives us the means to connect with others who are doing the wonderful tradition of handmade. Happy shopping!

AZ Challenge for April.  Buttons and navigation in side-bar

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J ~ Just in Time

When I started this challenge, I pledged to blog every day in April except Sunday. I never promised these posts would be thought provoking, entertaining, or significant. I promised they would exist. It is in that spirit that I submit the following.

I finished my taxes today! So Best and I went out for happy hour and free chips and salsa. (I left the boys for “PE” at the rec center.)

Then The Engineer and I took The Boss and The Advocate (his parents) out for her 75th birthday dinner. I had my first blueberry martini and an amazing gorgonzola/spinach/bacon wrapped swordfish.

I did not write today. I am now going to bed pleasantly buzzed and with the relief of just having to push “send” and “print” at TurboTax tomorrow. I feel like it's been a good day. Hope yours was also.

AZ Challenge for April. Button and navigation in sidebar.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I ~ I'm SO Excited!

I'm so excited! We do have some fun plans in place for the beginning of our summer, but this weekend we will take our first camping trip of the season! It comes at a very good time. I need some serenity right now, and my favorite place to get it is in nature, away from all the modern hassles, that though they make life convenient, don't make life necessarily peaceful.

We camp with our 1968 Forester camping trailer. It's 21' feet long, sleeps six, has a shower, toilet, and sink in the bathroom, and a three-burner stove with oven, and another sink in the kitchen section. We adore our camper. Originally, The Engineer and two of his hunting buddies bought it dirt cheap. I'm talking real dirt, it was a steal, accomplished by The Salesman, with cash in hand. Of the three of them, it was perfect that he did the negotiating. I don't think the The Rocket Scientist or my Engineer would even have dared to offer less than half of what they were asking. Which they promptly took.

The initial intent was to have a shell for them to duck into while hunting. None of the systems (electrical, plumbing, heat) were in good condition. Various repair scenarios were discussed, and the final decision was that if one of the families felt like putting time, money, and considerable effort into repairs, they would do so with no expectation of those expenses to be shared by the other two families. Can you feel the trouble brewing?

The Engineer and I both grew up camping. Hard-core tent camping. Rain, shine, sleet, hail, snow, we experienced them all. We had dreamed of being able to offer our boys that same childhood pleasure, and were prepared to do it in a tent. Which we did for the first seven years of parenthood. We hadn't seen it possible to afford a camper until it was almost time for them to go off to college, though. When given the chance to have a camper already, we were elated. We repaired.

The Engineer redid the plumbing, the electricity, the undercarriage (which we discovered was hanging on by a few nails, and had to be reinforced not to mention reconfigured to allow for the new grey water and black water tanks,) the ceiling, and he also put a bunk over the dining table to add sleeping for two more small campers, or one more large hunter. (The dining table collapses into a queen size bed, and sofa opposite the kitchen counter pulls out to make a full bed.)

That summer we camped a lot. One of the other families took it for one overnight trip. It went hunting. Words were exchanged about the camper. Let's just say that The Engineer's hunting buddies since that trip do not include The Rocket Scientist, nor The Salesman. We bought them out, and became sole owners of the treasure. Thankfully, their friendship has mended over the years, but it did take a while.

Come Friday morning, the boys and I will head to the hills, Rocky Mountain National Park's Moraine Park campground, to stake our claim on a spot. (No reservations are accepted until the season officially starts on May 25.) Once The Engineer gets off work, he'll hook up the camper to our new tow vehicle and come join us. Speaking of tow vehicle...up until this year, we've had to borrow the truck from Swissie. Though sturdy and reliable, our ancient Volvos don't have the towing capacity needed to pull this rig. We've been saving and hunting a good long while, and last fall, we found the perfect solution. We bought a used, 15 passenger van with removable bench seats. It's basically a full ton (or whatever they call it...) pick-up chassis with a van on top. And it's perfect. You see, it used to belong to the Colorado Department of Corrections. If you look on the doors, you can see the faint outline of where the sticker used to be. It goes well with the bullet hole in the oldest Volvo :-) 

(Click on picture to enlarge)

AZ Challenge in April. Navigation in side-bar.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H ~ Here's Where I Am

We're at the end of the first week of the AZ Challenge, and I feel like it would be good to step back and assess what's happened so far. I realize that I failed to follow through on my Fact of Fiction answer, and for that I apologize. Thanks, faithful follower H of Little Sealed Packages for reminding me. So without further ado...

#3 is a lie. I CANNOT WHISTLE, nor sing. The Engineer, who has almost perfect pitch and went quite far in his pursuit of music with a prestigious symphony and his tuba (see music in my search gadget and you'll catch that AND our courtship... high school sweethearts...) will be glad to vouch for my non-abilities in these two areas. But what I think is worse than lacking those abilities is that after 14 years of pursuing music in it's choir, handbell, and multi-instrument ways, I'm oh so painfully aware that I lack those abilities. I'm NOT done deaf. I cringe when I hear myself sing.

Trust me on this one. I know it doesn't make sense. I can tune most instruments. As in tell you what to do to tune your instrument. The mechanics of said instrument might not be familiar, but I do know when the pitch is wrong. “You're sharp. You're flat. You're still flat.” You'd think (I mean, wouldn't you?) that if I could hear that I am, like I can hear it in others, off tone, that surely I could CORRECT what is off. After all, I can say to the clarinet next to me, “Pull it out a bit, you're sharp.” I just can't seem to do that with my voice. So yes, if you guessed #3, you were right. Next time you're in CO, I owe you a drink.

I'd like to take this time to thank all of you who have hopped on as followers, and all the new readers who have left supportive comments. THANK YOU. It means a lot to me that you take the time to leave a footprint before you go. I know that each of us has a different protocol for celebrating new visitors and new readers. I so appreciate you taking the time to let me know you were here. I've have had a great time visiting so many of you and am excited to have new blogs to follow, as well as several more in my list yet to visit.

Here's to three more weeks of joining together in this challenge!  Buttons and navigation in my sidebar.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G ~ GOD (I'm a Believer!)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen

One of my favorite bands does a rockin', guitar shreddin' version of this.  Third Day, live.  Happy Friday Friends!

AZ Challenge for the month of April.  Button in sidebar ! And NEW!  Navigation buttons.  I may just end up learning some HTML through this...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F ~ Fact of Fiction?

Remember that game where you say things about yourself and people have to guess which one isn't true? Can't remember the name of it, or if it even has a name, but since today is the letter F, I'm calling it Fact or Fiction. Here's how it's going to work. I'm going to tell you five (again, for the letter F) random things about me. These will be like Cliff Clavin's little known facts, as in totally useless. One will be a complete whopper of a lie. Now I know what of some of you're thinking. “I just found this blog yesterday. How am I supposed to know these things?” Well, to make it fair (because we all know that all mothers are fair all the time, and IT'S THE LETTER F TODAY) these are facts that I haven't blogged about, OK? Sheesh. Calm DOWN you competitive people! (Wait, that's me...ya'll are yawning...)

  1. I had a secret boyfriend in my sophomore year in high school. A real “bad boy” my parents wouldn't have approved of (not that I was allowed to date, mind you...) He played guitar in a band, smoked, and boy could he kiss. My mother would drive me over to his house. For guitar lessons.

  2. I taught myself calligraphy. I'm not half bad.  It just takes practice, and the right tools.

  3. I'm a champion whistler. Can't sing worth anything, but for some reason I can whistle. Maybe all those years of clarinet, piano, and guitar lessons did me some good after all.

  4. My worst fear as a child was running into Stephen Kings' Carrie, covered in blood. We were at a campground with a store and the book was on a rack, and I kept looking at the pictures from the movies every time I was in there, even though I thought she was after me. This lasted until well into adulthood, where the creep from Silence of the Lambs took her place.

  5. I learned to swim in freezing lakes in Sweden, but I taught my boys to swim using crocs on their hands and in one of those quick-set pools with the inflatable ring around the rim. In the backyard.

    Tomorrow I'll let you know which one is false. Good luck!   Fame and Fortune await! Nah, just bragging rights.

AZ Challenge all month. Button in sidebar!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E ~ Expressive Language

Since we were talking about YellowBoy being a late talker yesterday ...this next story fits perfectly here. Not only did he finally start talking, he hasn't stopped. The boy talks NON-STOP. Random question. Intricate descriptions. Long movie quotes. Extensive explanations of how things work that he learned about from watching Modern Marvels. His design ideas for his latest Lego Digital Designer project. (The boy can “auto-cad” like an experienced engineer. Kinda creepy-cool in a child prodigy sort of way.) And like any good hypochondriac, he describes his symptoms. Over and over and over and over again.

I've tried various methods of curtailing the complaining. I've given him “one full minute to list all your symptoms as fast as you can”. I've had him write them out on a notecard and hand them to me for future reference, to “save him” from having to repeat himself. And I've banned whining in my pretty room. But it was the YellowBoy himself who solved the problem. Elegantly. And for school credit.

During the fifth grade, kids at my boys' former school took keyboarding and learned to type quite well by the end of the year. Well, at least Jake did. Can't actually speak for the others. So since YellowBoy is in fifth, we've casually been working with him to improve his skills, while at the same time teaching him how to organize and save files, how to make the most of the word processor's features, and how to save to a USB drive to move files to a different computer. He catches on fast and isn't afraid to poke around and try to figure it out on his own. (By the way, that's my theory of why kids are so much better at electronics and technology: They aren't afraid to try. We, on the other hand, worry about screwing something up, so we don't try anything.)

So there we are, I've just gone in to wake him up for the day of school and am snuggling in his queen sized water bed with him. 

 “Mom, I feel like flip.”
Oh, what's flip?”
Allergies as usual, but not a bad allergy day. Just an average allergy day.”
Ok, then what about a bad allergy day?”
Flep. Cuz I just want to flep out."

I think he's onto something. If I can condense his complaining to one or two exactly chosen words, I won't have to listen to the whole, long recital.
That's brilliant. Why don't you go write the definitions down for me, and then print it out and we'll put it on the fridge for us all to learn.”

And off he goes. I head to the store, knowing that he won't need me for his English lesson that day. When I get back, this is on the fridge.

Not bad, eh? Pretty stinkin' clever, in fact, using suffixes to tweak the meaning. AND he figured out how to do the colors. And then put the file on the USB drive and took it to the computer that has the color printer. Not bad for a day's worth of “English”.  

I'm happy to report that so far it's working.  That's a good thing, because while I'm not needing the “y” much these days, I am most definitely flapp-ing. Going to go take a nap....

AZ Challenge for the month of April.  Button in side-bar.

P.S  If you're new, and wondering why I call him YellowBoy, you can read about him here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D ~ Don't You Talk?

YellowBoy (now 11) has always been special. He's a prayed for boy, the survivor of a high-risk pregnancy, born three weeks early (to avoid the difficulties that resulted from his older brother being 9 pounds 10.5 ounces and his mother being 5'4”. Enough said on that topic here.  It's in "Just Call me Jake". ) He still checked in at 7 pounds 10 ounces, even though technically a preemie. Everything was fine (if you don't count that he never really slept much, and instead screamed much, as in 24/7 ) until he was a toddler. While most of his peer group had their “normal” 20 or so words, Luke could say “Mama.” That's all. Just “Mama.” This of course sent the healthcare system into an overdrive of “preventative and proactive” services.

We were referred to Child Find, which operates out of local school districts to identify kids who might benefit from intervention NOW as opposed to only dealing with their particular handicap or disability once they have begun school, when it might even be too late to accomplish as much. It's really a great program, and I don't mean to be complaining, I just feel that freaking out about a 2 year old not talking is not really helpful to the mothers who might have shared the struggles I had, from conception to delivery, only to now be told that something's really wrong.

So off we went, eye screening, hearing screening. (Just wondering, um, if he can't talk, how can you tell if he can hear you when you hold up an apple and say, “What is this?”)  Interviews. Home study. No one could find a cause for his not talking. We got a year of free speech therapy. Do you know what speech therapy looks like with a toddler? Here, I'll show you.

YellowBoy, let's play with the train! Can you say train? TTRRAAIINN?”

Yabbadabbadooba-da! (Or like in this video...Seriously, you don't have to watch the whole thing, just take a peak to get the idea of what I mean. But if you watch to the end, know that it just gets sweeter and sweeter...if you're in need of something sweet to make you smile, spend the two minutes ;-)

Ok, so like I was saying, speech therapy is nothing different than a normal mother playing with her child. We instinctively do those language building kinds of activities all day! Narrating what we're doing, asking their preferences. We probably don't think about it, most of us. But whatever.  If you want to provide free, in-home experts twice a week for a year, be my guest.

At the end of that year, no change. He was still talking up a storm, but not English. Again, like the video. They sure look like they know what they're saying, don't they?

I would tuck him in, and pray with him. And then stand at the foot of his (now big boy bed) and wonder if I'd ever hear him say, “I love you Mommy!” I needn't have worried. We had a family, dear friends of ours from the other side of the country come visit us for a week. They had two kids at that time, same ages as my two. Second day, YellowBoy is running around speaking in full sentences. FULL SENTENCES. It was quite the shock, let me tell you.  And of course one of those precious sentences was the long awaited declaration of love.

It all goes to show that kids develop at their own speed, to their own level, and when they're ready. Wish I'd realized that when I was potty training Jake.  For a year.  But that's another story. P ~ Pee? We'll see.

It's AZ challenge all of April. Button is side-bar!