Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rage Against the Development Machine

I'm over here today. . .

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Am Not Alone

I'll be back soon to post some Christmas pics--we had a wonderful day--but I've had some shocking news that scoops everything: Apparently other people like Andy Williams, too, and are willing to go to great lengths to see him.

After hearing about our trip to Branson, a friend of mine from grad school e-mailed me to let me know that he had driven to Branson with his family in early November and also saw Andy Williams. They also drove 15 hours.

I swear I'm moving several hours west so I can top that next year to really prove my dedication to being Andy's Biggest Fan.

I won't let this rest.

Then my friend Maryanne e-mailed to let me know that friends of hers also went to Branson. They rented a house and each day Andy would jog by. The friends stood on the front porch and waved to him. True story.

Can you imagine what I would have done if I had seen Andy running down the road? I'm trying to envision it. Would I have run after him? Tried to run with him?

That, my friends, would have been a travesty because it's no secret that I have absolutely no cardiovascular fitness for running. For some reason, I can leap around to all sorts of intense aerobics for an hour, but I can't run farther than the refrigerator (unless popcorn is involved and then I bet I could muster a pretty good sprint). But trying to run alongside Andy? He's twice my age and I'm guessing he could jog me into the ground. And that would be embarassing, so I guess it's best that I didn't see him.

But you can bet I'm going to be asking Maryanne to shake down her friends and tell me where they stayed and I'll be parked on that porch next Thanksgiving.

My guess is that I'll have to go to Branson alone after this year's shenanigans, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

I should probably start training to run farther than the refrigerator now.

Eek. That sounds like a New Year's resolution.

I hate those. I'm still working on my resolutions for 1993. It's not looking good.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do I Want Chivalry to Be Dead?

Not at the end of a long day working on the mountain, apparently.

Am I setting the Women's Lib movement back 50 years if I confess I wish men would give up their seat on a bus for me? Because I do. I want them to give me their seat so badly that I try to fix them with a steely glare that will move them bodily from their seats. If they offered, I wouldn't be proud and say no. Just in case they're worried about rejection.

So, I've talked about how I work at one of the local ski resorts. Because the resorts are on U.S. Forestry Service lands and the resorts lease the land, there isn't a lot of space devoted to parking at the resorts themselves (and besides, the land is worth a fortune and wouldn't it be better spent building a new Ritz Carlton versus a parking lot?). Where I work, you park in lots below the resort and ride a shuttle to the base of the ski area. It works fine. It's kind of a hassle to do it with and in all of your ski gear and especially if the kids (i.e., Finn) are with you, but that's just how it is. Plus, the parking is free at the bottom. On days I worked last year, I could take an employee shuttle that shaved some time off my "commute" from bottom to top and vice versa. It was nice after a long day to jump on the employee shuttle and go straight to the employee lot, instead of riding around with all of the skiiers from lot to lot to the last stop for employees.

Anyway, buses used to run every 10 minutes or so, zipping people from parking lot to skiing in just a few minutes. The buses are apparently paid for out of taxes or home owners' association dues from the people who live in the very exclusive community on the mountain.

Well, it seems that these very wealthy people aren't paying their taxes and/or HOA dues because there is no employee shuttle this year, so we're all cramming onto the skiier bus, and buses are running less frequently. So the cramming is at critical mass.

Today, Declan went to work with me and took a snowboarding lesson while I worked. At the end of the day, we went to the bus stop with about 3,022 other people and attempted to get on the bus. We got on the first bus that came, which was a lucky break, but there were no seats to be had. No, the seats were mostly frequented by 20-something male snowboarders who had enjoyed a day on the slopes. We wound our way back down the mountain, clinging to the straps and/or support poles,
hoping our weary knees would hold us up. And not that the skiiers/snowboarders didn't have weary knees. They probably did. I just wanted them to move so I could sit and doze off, like I usually do.

But no one offered anyone a seat and I'm conflicted as to how I feel about this. Is it rude? Is it a statement of manners today? Is it ridiculous to expect that men should give up their seats in this day and age? Do we have equality now. . .and wish we didn't in some arenas?

I have no idea.

And with that, I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Feeling the Holiday Love

OK, my PMS has abated slightly (sorry to the three men who read this blog). There is no abating of the fact that my stomach is sticking out, but that could be eating too many Christmas cookies vs. PMS so I won't hold that against Mother Nature and I'll get back to enjoying Christmas now.

I feel like I need to make a public service announcement: We interrupt this bout of PMS with some Christmas spirit.

Anyway, it's snowing, so that always puts me in a good mood.

Yesterday I got the presents mostly wrapped, and today I made several batches of toffee and cashew brittle. I washed and folded four loads of laundry. My kids had friends over and everyone was in their happy place. Especially me because I ate bourbon balls most of the afternoon. Plus, I made a rockin' dinner. If you're a crock potting person, try this: Green Pepper Chicken. The boys wolfed it down, and that's saying something.

Today was an unfrazzled day. I don't like feeling frazzled around the holidays. What I like most of all is being in my house, baking, wrapping, reading to the kids, watching Christmas movies and shows, listening to Christmas music, reading in front of the tree (that hasn't happened in more than a decade so I might have to strike that from my list of Christmas favorites). I'm a simple person. Other than school parites, we haven't attended a single holiday party, and even though that makes me sound like a recluse(which I am), I like it that way. I'm a homebody at heart. I don't like it when outside forces intrude on my Christmas mojo.

Anyway, I was thinking about what makes me frazzled at the holidays. I think I have in my head an idea of how I want things to go and basically it looks like what I just described above--at home, baking, reading, etc. When something comes up and interferes with that, I feel frazzled. It's not that I'm trying to fit so many things in, I'm trying to keep from doing anything that I don't want to do! Does this make sense? I don't relate to people who go to party after party at the holidays. First, I apparently don't have enough friends to garner that many invites, but I would also had that sort of demand on my time. Heck, I'm annoyed that I have to work tomorrow on the mountain. Can't they just give me free ski passes in recognition of my riveting personality?

Honestly, I don't know how people who in traditional jobs do it. I've been self-employed for more than eight years now, and I can't imagine not having the flexibility I feel like I need to deal with life. Yes, sometimes I work ridiculous hours at night, but I'm OK with it because the tradeoff is getting to do what I want/need to during the day. Like skiing. Just kidding. Of course I mean volunteering for countless hours at my children's school. That's exactly what I meant.

I've got to go now. I'm watching White Christmas for the fourth time this year. I never seem to get to sit and watch it from start to finish though. But I'm OK with it.

Now the only thing giving me stress is the boys' ever-changing Christmas lists.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas! Now Leave Me Alone.

I've come to an earth-shattering conclusion which will reveal my true genius: getting ready for the holidays while enduring PMS may challenge the holidays with a child on steroids for enjoyability.

For the past few days, I've been snappish and mean to my children. Bet they can't wait to spend two whole weeks at home with me now.

This morning I made the monumental mistake of preparing Grands Cinnabon cinnamon rolls for the boys for breakfast, obviously ignorning the fact that I know Declan cannot cope well with all of the additives and preservatives in stuff like that. But they were in the fridge and needed to be consumed (we were slightly past the expiration date), so I made them.

I regretted it about an hour later when he was bouncing off the walls and behaving in an agressive, obnoxious manner while we were all trying to have a joyous time decorating gingerbread houses.

I was not feeling the joy.

So my sister started looking up videos on YouTube. I never knew she spent so much time on YouTube.

One Semester of Spanish Love Song
Second Semester of Spanish Love Song
United Breaks Guitars--this one is a true story. Over 6 million hits.

They made me giggle.

Now I am in slightly better humor. But that mostly goes away when I think about how in 20 minutes I have to leave to go to a mandatory employee training. On the last Saturday before Christmas. And it should have been done before the mountain opened a month ago. But I am not in charge and they apparently did not feel the need to consult me before scheduling this. Curious.

Bah humbug.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Constructing Christmas

I'm blogging on Rocky Mountain Moms today! Check me out!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Festivities, Part I

In the run, and I do think I mean run this year, up to Christmas, we've been out and about doing various and sundry Christmas activities to get ready for the holidays and celebrate the season.

It always seems to get here before I know it--a phenomenon that is more pronounced living out here versus Ohio. I keep wondering why, but I think it's because there aren't any malls, no hustle and bustle, no chaos. I love the lack of chaos, but then again, I sort of lose track of time.

And, of course, I absolutely loved our trip to Branson, but I've decided that from now on, I'm not leaving my house between Thanksgiving and New Year's because if I do, I feel like I fall behind in some critical area. Like cookie baking. And the cookie baking is very, very critical to my state of mental health during the holiday season.

Plus, I just like to sit around in my house and look at the Christmas tree and listen to Christmas music as often as possible. So basically I'm not coming out of the house until 2010.

Besides, I'm still reading Eclipse and I can't be bothered to get dressed.

So, here's a little pictorial showing what we've been doing since returning from Branson. . .

The annual Santa parade. I've given up trying to take pictures of the parade--too dark--and have settled on taking pictures of the boys.

Finn was invited to a Christmas shopping event put on each year by Make A Wish. Last year we didn't go because it was right before we left for New York. This year I drove Finn to Denver and he Christmas shopped for all of us in a special store for kids only. I know what everyone's gifts are, except mine. I can't wait until Eamonn opens his. Tee hee. Finn shows off the shopping bag he decorated.

Finn with his personal shoppers. So many people volunteered to help the kids shop at this event. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Like any good kid event, Make A Wish had face painting. This is face painting in the Big City--spray paint.

As for our Christmas tree, we made plans to cut a tree on forest service lands again. You can buy a permit for $10 and trek out into the wild to kill a tree.

Looking up into the Aspen trees. I think Aspens are one of the few trees that might look more beautiful without their leaves. All the silvery bark. . .

We found a place to park and got ready to hike. I took pictures of the boys in case we got lost in the wilderness and they needed to put our faces on milk cartons or something.

There were a few breaks for snow angel making

More angel making. . .

General messing around in the snow.

Measurements were taken. This one was determined to be too big.

After crashing around in the underbrush for awhile, we found the perfect tree. . .

. . .and we began to murder it.

Eamonn: "You know, this would go a lot faster if you stopped taking pictures and helped me cut."

At last, it succombed to the Woodsman's blade.

Oooooo, isn't this just like a scene from a L.L. Bean catalog? Isn't this great?

Eamonn: "Oh yes, this is exactly like an L.L. Bean catalog. Where is the camera crew to lug this fricking tree for me?" Do L.L. Bean models sweat?

Get. Out. Of. My. Way.

Do they take rest breaks in L.L. Bean catalogs?

Hey! Where's the car?

Clark Griswold straps the tree to the top of the car.

While Clarke was busy, I found this little manmade shelter in the woods. There were cute animal footprints in it. I'm so easily amused.

Cool. Check this out. It's a picture of the great horned owl we saw on the way home. Isn't that stunning photography????

Tara and I started our cookie baking. We only got one type of cookie done though. We felt like our Cookie Mojo was a little off. However, I taste tested one today and it's awesome. Tara is putting the jam in the Norweigan Holiday Cookies.

A rare-for-Colorado packing snow has allowed for:

Snow fort building

And snowman building

And last, but not least, a little quality time on the mountain. My first day skiing at Beaver Creek this year. I forgot my helmet and goggles, just in case you think I'm some daredevil. . .But seriously, how gorgeous is that? (The scenery, not me--haha)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Heart Andy Williams

With Andy Williams. . .a cardboard version, anyway.

OK, I've left you dangling for a horribly long time. I'm so sorry. Since I last saw you, I have: kept up with (sort of) my regular client work; worked at my mountain job twice; worked four days at the World Cup ski races in Beaver Creek; watched my computer succomb to a virus and go off to someone to fix it; cleaned the house; enjoyed spending time with Eamonn's sister who arrived Monday during a snowstorm in which we received a foot of snow; cut down a Christmas tree (OK, I didn't actually cut it myself--Eamonn did that); decorated the house for Christmas (and the tree); and I don't know what else. I felt like I would never get to blog again. But at last, photos are uploaded and I'm ready to write. I actually have to go get the kids in 15 minutes, so we'll see how much I get written.

Here goes.

So. Andy Williams. I love him more than ever.

The End.

Just kidding.

Here's the long version. . .

The drive from Colorado to Branson is a pretty hefty one and I didn't realize how hefty until we were driving across Kansas for what seemed like three weeks. Did that state grow between now and 2006 when we last came across it? It was really only a day, but it was like being in the Twilight Zone--The State That Never Ends. And let's be honest here--there's not a whole heck of a lot to look at along I-70 in Kansas. Although that windmill farm was pretty cool.

The last time Eamonn and I went to Branson, it was a whirlwind trip. We drove in at dusk, spent the next day there and then left at dawn the following morning, so we didn't see a whole lot. The Branson Effect was lost on me. Not so, this time. Holy cow. There is a lot of stuff there. I think it's what Vegas might be like with a slightly older (and heavier) target market. And, just a word about heavier: you've got to love a state where I am amongst the thinnest people there. No lie. And may I remind you, that's saying something. I felt positively svelte the whole time we were there. I plan to go back every year to boost my self-esteem when I belly up to the all-you-can eat buffets. Which I didn't feel so good about when I saw some kid sneeze on it at breakfast. Suffice it to say, we didn't make any return trips through the breakfast buffet that morning, but it does make you wonder, how often that happens. It makes me wonder at least. Because I'm sick like that.

Branson was, of course, very crowded. We nearly missed our exit twice because we were waving at the Andy Williams billboards along the interstate. The billboards feature the dates of Andy's shows and have the same picture of him in a different sweater on each sign. So Finn was constantly calling out, "Andy in a white sweater!" or "Andy in a red sweater!"

The big excitement of the trip was my Dad flying in from Florida to surprise us. I had been hoping he would come, but he said his work schedule wouldn't allow for it. But then he decided the day prior to when he absolutely needed to leave to get there that he would just go anyway and he was hiding out at our hotel when we arrived. He came into our room while we were unloading the car and I had one of those moments where you know what you're seeing, but your brain doesn't register it so I stood there catching flies while the boys shouted, "Hi, Grandpa!" like it was no surprise to them that Grandpa should just turn up in Branson any old day of the week.

My Mom had planned to meet us all along so we had a fun few days of the boys having both grandparents all to themselves.

We arrived on Wednesday night. The boys went straight to the pool. Eamonn swam with them. I sat in a chair and read Diana Gabaldon's new book and then Twilight. It was to be a recurring theme on the trip (and now that we are home, I can't get a single thing done, including finishing this post because I cannot tear myself away from the Twilight Saga. I've finsihed Twilight and New Moon, started Eclipse, watched Twilight twice and am going to see New Moon. I stayed up until 1 a.m. two nights in a row watching that darn movie and oogling Robert Pattinson like a lovesick teenager. It's depressing to realize I could be his MOTHER. Anyway, perhaps another few reasons about why this post is so long in coming. And why you may not hear from me again until 2010).

That brings us to Thanksgiving Day. What else would you do other than drive go-karts in Branson, Missouri? Another recurring theme.

We ate Thanksgiving dinner at Andy's Moon River Grill. Excellent food that Andy says is made according to his mother's actual recipes. The hostess was rude, but we'll overlook that.

And then it was off to the show. There is a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of tacky stuff in Branson. Andy's theater is not one of them. It is really lovely and the walls in the lobby are decorated with pictures from his television show. It's fun to see all of the famous people he's worked with over the years.

The show. Ah, the show. So good. I hope I'm still tap dancing when I'm nearly 82. Of course, I don't actually tap dance now, so I'll need to work on that. Andy's Christmas Show is a throwback to his variety television shows and Christmas specials of the 60s and 70s. In addition to him singing some of his classic Christmas songs, he has a group of dancers/singers who join him onstage. And then he also has additional acts, usually dancers and singers, who perform in between his own "sets." This year he had a Russian couple who danced and the woman somehow changed her costume at least six times during the routine. The man would swirl a cape in front of her or sprinkle confetti on her and suddenly her outfit would be completely different. The boys loved that part. There was also a dance routine that looked like a couple dancing together and they would perform these amazing leaps and twirls and acroatic moves. In the end, it turned out that under the costume was one guy bent over, dressed to look like two people dancing. Very fun also. Then Andy performed with these four sisters and they did the Do Re Mi song from Sound of Music. This was when he tap danced with them. Finally, Andy had this guy on who impersonated all of the "old" guys--Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. . .Andy Williams. He was hilariously excellent, especially when he was staggering around the stage like Dean Martin.

Now, for those of you who asked, I didn't get to meet Andy. Apparently my Dad had written to Andy, but so many of his family were visiting, it wasn't possible. So, I am destined to die without meeting Andy Williams. Ah well, I'm still his biggest fan and my Dad told him so in the letter, so at least he knows. If he saw the letter, which may not be the case, but I'm going to pretend it is. It was kind of funny--when my Dad was talking to the people at the theater, they said, "Can she come back next year and meet him?" And I'm thinking probably not because of an incident at the hotel pool one evening. . .

We stayed two nights at a basic (read: cheap) hotel and then for the next two nights, moved to the Lawrence Welk Resort. It had a huge indoor pool with a big, twisty slide that I knew the kids would be so excited about. So on Friday, we moved over there and the kids (and Eamonn) spent hours in the pool. My Mom and I sat and watched, and chit chatted (gossiped), as usual.

One of the features of this indoor waterpark was a giant spigot that you could turn on and off. The water flowed down through this series of platforms and the kids could set up barricades to stop and start the flow of water. Eamonn and the boys were playing with it.

At one point, I heard raised voices and looked over to see a great big guy and his wife standing in front of Eamonn, shouting and poking at his chest with their fingers. Eeek! I dashed over and asked what was going on. The man and woman were flailing their arms around and shouting incoherently, "You can't do that to my kid! I don't know who you think you are!" Blah, blah, blah. What???

So the man walked away and this woman, who had huge fake boobs (yes, I am that petty) and a very bad Jon and Kate Plus 8 haircut, just kept raging at Eamonn. I still wasn't clear about what happened. Finally, Eamonn got a word in: "Are you going to let me explain what happened?" And she replied, "No!" And then kept raging. So I stepped forward and said "Then we're done here." And we turned our backs to her.

Turns out that she had two ill-behaved children who kept turning off the water to the water game the boys were using. Eamonn asked her kids several times to please leave the water on. They refused and at one point, Declan tried to turn the water back on while her kids were holding the wheel. One of the kids ran and told his mother that Declan hit him. The mother jumped up, went over to Finn, who wasn't even involved in all of this, and said, and I quote, "Don't touch my f*ckin' kid."

Declan stepped in front of Finn and said, "He didn't touch him."

Crazy woman: "So you touched my f*ckin' kid?"


At that point, Eamonn realized what was happening. So then she confronted Eamonn and was literally having a freak out in the pool.

Now, I may be crazy, but wouldn't it have been more logical, if your child had told you another child hit them, that you would approach the parent, ask what happened and discuss it like rational adults? Not go and verbally assault someone else's kid? But we actually didn't know about the swearing part until the next day when Declan finally told us what she said.

Anyway, it was a little tense in the pool there for awhile because the Swearers apparently told their version of the story to their other friends who had lots of tatoos, long ZZ Top beards or shaved heads, and looked like they were from a motorcycle gang and/or a neo-Nazi group. If I had known about the swearing then, I'm not sure if I would have approached them or not. Just not sure about that. Because that's just not OK in my book.

Fortunately, we didn't see them again for the duration of our stay.

Dad flew home on Saturday, Eamonn took the boys to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Mom and I returned to historic downtown and the Moon River gift shop for one last look.

And, because the Rooneys can't go anywhere without someone getting sick, Finn threw up on Saturday night, which Eamonn then came down with on Sunday night when we were in a hotel on the eastern Colorado plains. Truly, I thought we'd have to remain trapped there for a day or so, but he gamely got in the car and I drove the rest of the way home. It can't have been pleasant, so my hat is off to him for his bravery over the mountain roads. And I'm also grateful he didn't hurl in the car. There's nothing worse than hurling INSIDE the car.

And that drive across the plains that seemed hefty before? Nothing compared to when you've got a stomach virus, I'd imagine.

You can see a pictorial of our Branson adventure HERE.

I'll be back in a few days with more pictures from our Christmas tree chopping adventure and a holiday construction project gracing our foyer. It's what every woman wants for Christmas.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back and Buried

I'm back. From Branson and Andy Williams, that is. I know--I realize I never said when we were going, but then again, I didn't want to tip off my Internet stalkers that we'd be out of town. It's so hard to find a good bodyguard these days.

Anyway, there is much to tell: a surprise guest on our trip, observations on people who go to Branson (other than me, that is), sickness (it wouldn't be a family trip unless someone was sick), altercations with rednecks, adventures on the road, etc.

I have a crazy work week for clients ahead, plus I start working at the ski school tomorrow AND I'm volunteering at the World Cup Ski Races this week (so I can get a free ski coat, lest you think I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart). So I'm a little frenzied. As usual.

I'll try to be back soon.


Friday, November 20, 2009

OK, So He Is Pretty Cute. . .

. . .but I'm still withholding the hot chocolate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm a Jackass

There's nothing like shooting down your kids' good mood and wrecking their day, is there?

Today Finn lost his first top tooth--you know, one of the big ones in the middle that make them look so cute. It was really loose after school and we were going to the dentist anyway for Declan's cleaning, so the hygenist helped Finn pull his tooth the rest of the way out. He was so excited (and now is expecting the Tooth Fairy to leave $3. He's going to be disappointed).

So while Declan was getting his teeth cleaned, Finn was with me in the waiting room. New on this visit, the dentist had put in one of these little portable hot chocolate/coffee machines. They seem to be the rage in waiting rooms right now. The health center has one, the orthodontist has one, and now the dentist. (Now, I love my dentist, but I'm wondering what sort of shenanigans they're up to. They bake cookies and serve them at the office, and now sugary hot chocolate? I think they're out for more business, those sly dogs!)

So Finn wanted to make hot chocolate. You just choose a little cup of what you want, insert it into the machine, press a button and there you have it--hot chocolate. Or coffee or chai latte or whatever. I hesitated. It was right before dinner. Did he really need all of that sugar and chocolate? But I say no to treats a lot of the time and sometimes it's nice to be the good guy and say yes.

So we investigated the machine, inserted the cup of chocolate, put a cup under the drippy area thingy (as a non-coffee drinker, I'm not intimately familiar with the names of coffee maker parts), and surveyed the button choices for brewing. There were two cup size choices--larger and smaller. I was confounded. The cups in the waiting room were fairly large, but I always have this horrible fear of a cup of hot liquid boiling over and burning me. Or my kids. Of course, I'm worried about the kids. So should I choose the smaller cup button and just have the cup half full? But I was worried the hot chocolate would be too strong if we didn't use enough water.

But the big cup would make so much. And, Finn has a terrible history with hot chocolate. Last winter, we were skiing and went into the Ritz (to mooch free hot chocolate and cookies at 3pm which should probably only be for guests paying a bazillion dollars a night, but we're low class like that). So we're there in this super nice hotel and Finn fiddles with his hot chocolate cup and spills it. Not once, but twice. I'm not really sure how you spill something twice, but there you go.

And you know, not to bash my kid or anything, but he's one of those people where things just "happen" to him. Things break at his merest touch. He injures himself. Shuts his fingers in doors. He falls down things that don't actually have an elevation. It's a little disturbing.

So, dilemma. Little cup of potentially bad tasting hot chocolate or big cup of scorching hot liquid pouring over his hands and scalding him causing thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.

Hmmm, I actually hadn't thought about the scorching and burning and potential medical bills at the time or else I might have chosen differently because I finally faced my fears and chose the large cup.

It was frickin' hot. So we were letting it cool. Finn walked in and out of the room where Declan was having his teeth cleaned, because Sponge Bob was on TV and it was apparently a dead heat between what was more exciting--Sponge Bob or a cup of hot chocolate. Occasionally Finn came out to check the status of the cup. It was still frickin' hot. So he started blowing on it. And moving the cup around and I don't know what else--I was too busy reading (but not clearly not taking any advice from) Parents Magazine.

It wasn't until I heard the telltale tap of the cup going over and a huge splash of liquid--and remember, I had stupidly made the big cup--that I realized what was happening.

I handled it so well.

"FINN!" I said in a terrible voice that is reserved for mothers who are being horrible to their kids in public, raising the eyebrows of the better, kinder, and more understanding mothers around them.

And then I ran and started cleaning it up. It was everywhere. Soaking into the nice doily they had on the table, all over the table itself, on the floor, on the wall, running down the trashcan, pooling under the hot chocolate maker itself (I'm surprised I didn't electrocute myself). It was just a sticky mess.

And all the while I railed at Finn for his carelessness as he sat there, dejected. If we hadn't been in a public place, I feel certain I would have made him cry.

I made him apologize to the office staff several times.

I informed him he would never drink another cup of hot chocolate again.

Then Declan asked if he could make hot chocolate. Are you kidding me? So I railed at him, too, for good measure.

I barked at them to sit on the bench in the waiting room while I had to do the exam part of my cleaning, which was actually a month ago, but the dentist was in a surgery and couldn't pull my tongue out of my mouth with gauze and check it out. So I went off to do that. There wasn't a single sound from the waiting room the whole time.

As I was leaving the exam room, I apologized again to the dentist. "No problem," he smiled. "What kind of person would I be if I got upset over spilled hot chocolate?"


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Memory Lapse

I've written before about how dependent I am on my To Do List. Bottom line: If it's not on the list, it doesn't happen. Unfortunately, I have been the victim of technical difficulties that have made it so that even things on the list aren't happening.

Remember the old days? When we kept everything on a paper calendar? In fact, we loved those cool organizers and all of the inserts you could buy at those Covey stores at the mall. . .and charge them to the company. Life was so easy. And I never missed meeting.

Enter the digital age. The really digital age. Because I had an electronic calendar system way back when, I guess I just didn't really use it. But in the Really Digital Age, I no longer had a paper-based organizer. Nope, I was hip. I had a Palm Pilot and I lived and died by everything on it. I loved tapping the little check box indicating a task was completed. It beeped to remind me of meetings. I had all of my contacts in the palm of my hand.

And then I left the corporate world and a Palm Pilot wasn't really necessary. But I was so hooked on my electronic task list in Outlook. I put everything on it. It was set up to remind me to buy anniversary cards (after forgetting several years running), when to send birthday cards, when to call people and sing happy birthday, when to reorder vitamins. . .and of course, a bunch of work stuff. But who cares about the work stuff?

Apparently, I should care because a few weeks ago I installed the Ofice 2007 upgrade on my computer and it totally freaked out any reminders on my computer and I no longer get them. Nothing about meetings, projects, birthday cards or vitamins. The list is there, it's just that the reminders don't pop up and, you know, remind me.

As a result, I have missed meetings, phone calls, the occasional deadline, and most importantly, birthdays.

I know that I could get in the habit of just going to my to do list in Outlook each day and just looking at what I need to do, but that's not the point. The point is that my computer is supposed to be reminding me. I neeeeed the reminders.

I'm a wreck. It's leaking into other areas of my life and I'm starting to lose it. In fact, yesterday I was out running errands and thought I'd left my sunglasses in a store. I was retracing my steps and then I realized I was wearing my sunglasses. On my face.

Clearly I have used up all of my finite brain cells trying to remember my to do list. This has to stop.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Food for Thought

I posted over at Rocky Mountain Moms today so I'm killing two birds (blogs) with one stone. . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Got Me a Case of the 501 Blues

Yesterday I had to go to Denver for a client meeting. As the meeting wasn't until the late afternoon, I went to Denver early and did some Christmas shopping. I try to buy local whenever I can, but sometimes I can't find everything here in the valley (and I'm fine with that Mr. Mall Developer Who Wants to Invade Our Town) and I don't mind going on a little shopping excursion to the big city.

Since I'm going to see Andy Williams (I'll keep mentioning that ad nauseum until the big day gets here) and really only own cargo pants and fleece right now, I felt a few new clothing items were in order. Now, people don't exactly dress up to go to the shows in Branson. Yes, there are a few people who get decked out, but mostly you're out and about running around Branson all day and then you just pop into whatever theater show you're seeing in whatever you're wearing. I had a nice outfit to wear the last time we went and I never ended up wearing it. I went in jeans and fit right in.

So I wasn't looking for anything flashy to wear to the show, just maybe a new pair of trouser-style jeans and a nice top. Something other than cargo pants and fleece. Anything but cargo pants and fleece--my daily uniform.

After all was said and done when I returned home at 10pm last night, I estimate that I had tried on at least a hundred pairs of jeans. OK, that's probably an exaggeration, but I'm guessing I tried on at least 50 pairs in three different stores (Ann Taylor outlet, Old Navy, Kohl's).

It was depressing.

I've been working out.

Thought I was looking pretty good.

Nothing like the three-way mirror in a department store to dispel that myth.

There were so many styles to choose from, how I had so much trouble is beyond me. Personally, I think it all goes back to the whole "jeans conspiracy" that clothing manufacturers have created against women. I think they're in cahoots with the bathing suit industry, frankly.

Nothing fit. Crazy cuts. Huge in the waist, too small around my bee-hind and saddlebags. And skinny jeans? That fad can't go out fast enough for me.

While I'd like to blame it all on the manufacturers, I'm guessing a "few" extra pounds may be the culprit.

I've been on a mission to drop some weight before I see Andy. Who wants a chubby biggest fan? I don't think he wants a biggest fan in the literal sense. So each time I start to eat something that isn't a vegetable, I look at it and say: Is this _____________________ more important than Andy?

Here's how it has panned out so far:

Doughnut: yes
Popcorn: yes
Malted milk ball: yes
Pizza: yes
Cheese: yes
Halloween candy of any ilk: yes

I hope Andy never finds out he was less important than a malted milk ball. And it wasn't a very good one at that.

In the end, I do have a pair of new jeans--in a size I am not happy about, incidentally--and several new tops. When I stroll into the Moon River Theater, I will not be wearing cargo pants or fleece.

But I might have some malted milk balls in my purse.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Shoes

But unfortunately, not for my feet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And Now, On a Slightly Happier Note. . .

I'm going to see Andy Williams!

Well, I should say WE'RE going to see Andy Williams. Including my mother. Mr. Christmas! Brace yourself, Andy!

This picture is especially for Lisa, my cousin's wife, who loves Andy in his Christmas sweaters. Who doesn't?

The Williams Brothers. Andy got his start singing with his brothers before breaking out on his own. If you ever get a chance to watch the Biography Channel's Andy Williams episode, do. I own it. And once I accused Lisa of stealing it. She didn't. She would never do that. She loves Andy, too.

So how did all of this come about that we're going to see Andy Williams (and most importantly, how do people with tens of thousands of dollars in health care debt afford to go see Andy Williams? Two words: generous parents :))?

Many of you Finn followers will recall (because I'm sure that's what you do, spend your time recalling my Andy Williams obsession) that in 2005, we were still living in Ohio and I convinced Eamonn to go to Branson to see Andy. Finn was still on chemo and was only 3 at the time, so Mom and Aunt Kathy stayed with the boys so we could go.

I recall the trip's inception something like this.

Me: Can we go to Branson to see the Andy Williams Christmas Show?

Eamonn: Branson? Do you know how long it takes to get there?

Me: 10 hours and 56 minutes.

Eamonn: I see you've already done some planning.

And so we set off on a very fun adventure. It was the first, and only if I recall, time we were both away from Finn during chemo, other than the occasional night out.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we left the house at 6am. We rolled into Branson just before 5pm (you know, 10 hours and 56 minutes after we left).

The town was packed. We stopped at the visitor center to get the lay of the land. The woman working there was very helpful and asked what our plans were.

Woman: What shows are you seeing?

Us: Andy Williams.

Woman: Pause. And?

Us: That's it.

Woman: You drove all the way from Ohio and you're only seeing Andy Williams?

Us: Yes.

She laughed and agreed he was worth it.

And it was. I sat in the audience like a giddy schoolgirl, hands clasped under my chin and a silly grin on my face the whole time.

At one point during the show,

Eamonn: Are you crying?

Natalie: No. Yes. I don't know! Maybe!

And at the show, Eamonn said, "We're totally coming back here with the boys next year." Andy had the kids in the audience come on stage with him. It was so sweet. I could just picture the boys up there--Declan paying rapt attention to the show, Finn dangling off the edge of the stage talking during the whole thing. . .ah, such a picture.

Well, in 2006 we'd just moved to Colorado. In 2007 we'd just come back from England. Last year? Hmmm, I don't know what the heck we were doing last year. We weren't at the Andy Williams Christmas Show, that's for sure.

But this year, we will be. And I will be sitting like a giddy schoolgirl in the audience with my hands clasped beneath my chin. A silly grin on my face. And possibly a tear in my eye.

And now, the only thing left to do before the trip (aside from packing and planning my Andy Williams Christmas Show outfit) is to decide how I will let Andy know his Biggest Fan is in the audience. What do you think? A big placard? I wonder if those are allowed. A giant foam hand that says "Andy! I'm your biggest fan!"? Should I set off some sort of flare or firework? Find a Christmas sweater that matches his and see if he notices? Jump up, run to the stage and throw myself around his legs? I'll be careful--I don't want to hurt him.

Let me know if you have any ideas.


And now, as a follow up to yesterday's health care rampage, I don't feel so alone anymore. Thanks to all of you for your comments and e-mails. The Today Show hasn't called and I haven't been asked to testify before Congress (imagine that), nor has Anthem called and said, "Just kidding! We WILL cover all of that stuff!" but I feel a little bit better after getting all of that off my chest. Thanks for being such great listeners!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So. Asthma. And a Rampage About Health Care in our Country.

OK, so I touched in my last post on the fact that Finn was officially diagnosed with asthma. I'm annoyed. You know, the whole time Finn had cancer, I never asked why. Because really, why anyone? I didn't ask why my kid because it could be anyone's kid. Or husband, sister, mother, friend, etc. It sucks no matter how you slice it.

I didn't ask why when he had to get glasses.

I didn't ask why when he was diagnosed with the sensory issues.

But now, I've had it. Asthma? Seriously? Why? Why does he have to deal with something else?

This kid should have a free pass from now on as far as I'm concerned.

I'm just pissed off and annoyed. I'm annoyed that my kitchen counter once again looks like a pharmacy. I'm annoyed that he has to sit on the couch with a tube in his mouth twice a day so he can know what it's like to breathe freely like the rest of us do. I'm annoyed that his medication is currently running about $150 FOR A TWO WEEK SUPPLY--that's our share after the insurance pays it's share.

I remember when we were paying for chemo. When Finn was ready to start preschool, he was just finishing chemo, so we said to ourselves, "Well, chemo money will now be preschool money." When Finn finished preschool, we found out we had to pay for all-day kindergarten. So we said to ourselves, "Well, preschool money will now be kindergarten money." And then during kidnergarten, we had the added bonus of paying for occupational therapy for his sensory issues. Not exactly a drop in the bucket.

So this year we thought we'd be pocketing some cash for a change with no OT, no kindergarten tuition, no preschool or chemo to pay for. Ah, finally something to look forward to.

Apparently not.

I cannot get over how expensive this medication is. Granted, hopefully we'll only have to pay this outrageous price for a few months, then he'll cut down to taking it only once a day and our outlay will only be half as outrageous.

I just want you to know where I'm coming from right now.

I'm mad at the world.

And, just to get everyone really riled up, I'm so mad at the way our country is being run right now.

I'm not a Republic or Democrat. Seriously, I'm not affiliated with either party right now because frankly, they're all a bunch of crooks (and that is said with apologies to the ONE, and I mean only one, politician that I have ever encountered that I think is the real deal--really working for the people instead of himself, Hank Brown from Colorado, I interviewed him for an article and was amazed by him--but I digress).

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right. I'm in a rage about Republicans and Democrats alike. Nancy Pelosi? I wish a tree would fall on her. Right now. I know, I know, it's such a hateful thing to say, but I don't know how someone can stand up in front of God and country and say how hard they are working for the people when you have as much going on behind the scenes that is total bull as that woman does.

And health care reform? What a crock. What's missing from all of "their" proposed bills, plans and big ideas? Hmmm? Maybe REFORM? If I showed you the tens of thousands of dollars in health care bills lying around our house, you'd freak. Ever taken a look at what big ticket items, like, say cancer or nearly cutting off a few fingers in a saw will cost you? Medical bankruptcy. It's not just for breakfast anymore.

As an example, Eamonn has been working with the local hospital and physical therapy office to deal with the exorbitant payments we owe on his hand (and I'm not telling you all of this because I want you to feel sorry for us; I'm telling you this because it could happen to anyone. We're all just one quick medical nightmare from bankruptcy. And I want you to be mad about it so that something gets done to change it.).

So, back to Eamonn and the hand. We still owe many, many thousands of dollars to cover what insurance didn't cover. Eamonn was talking to the PT place and found out that the PT facility has already received from our insurance company MORE than it would have received from a Medicare patient. Hmmm, so someone who comes in with Medicare pays a different rate then we pay because we have different insurance? And so, because we had "better" insurance, we are left holding the bag for thousands more. Many of you may already know this. We're just discovering the joys of all of it now.

And don't even get me started about how only one person in our house (Declan) qualifies for "normal" insurance right now. The rest of us all had to go on different state plans because no one would give us covereage because of pre-existing conditions. A bad pap smear. Yep, it will keep you from getting insurance, even when the result was wrong and a biopsy proves it. They won't care.

Oh good grief. What a rambling rampage I'm on. I think the frustrating thing is that I see no light at the end of this hideous health care tunnel. If you are anything but a perfectly healthy person, you're screwed. And you may think you're healthy, but that nosebleed you had last week? Well, the insurance company is convinced you have a brain tumor and will send you a letter telling you they'll cover everything except to any current or future ear, nose, throat, brain or cancer issues.

All of these reforms people in our government are talking about? It's all just window dressing so they can say they're doing something for the people. What people???? I think it's the people with nothing. The rest of the "middle class" is totally getting screwed. I just read an article about how the privately insured will still see huge premium increases under "ObamaCare." Huge increases? I got nowhere else to go, people!

And don't get me started on the whole topic of why are our legislators designing a health care program for "the rest of us" when they won't even be using it? I want to be on their plan! Hell, I'm paying for it!

I'm going to go take a valium and calm down. Oh wait. I can't. My horrible prescription coverage makes valium too expensive.

A few deep breaths.

So my point here is to put a face on this health care dilemma. It's not just the homeless and jobless and illegal immigrants who are having trouble. It's people you know. It's my family. A two-income family that just happens to be privately insured, who has worked their asses off and has nothing but boxes of medical bills and fricking EOBs to show for it.

And has a child who has survived cancer, for which I'm grateful, just in case it sounds like I'm not. I'll trade financial solvency for my children's health any day, just so you know.

But it shouldn't have to be this way.

And so what does all of this mean in my twisted mind? Do we need government run health care? No. Why? Because no government run by either party could run it effectively, in my mind. They're all crooks and bandits and couldn't successfully run an ice cream stand at the beach in the middle of July without a whole bunch of paperwork filled out before you could purchase your artificially flavored popsicle, which was approved by the FDA, but is killing you.

What we do need is reform of the insurance industry, which frankly, will never happen because of the lobbying that goes on in this country. We need reform of the medical system simultaneously. They say they charge so much because the insurance industry reimburses too little. So frankly, they both need a kick in the ass and some good penalties to force them to get their respective acts together.

Most importantly, and more important than the ravings of a crazed woman like myself, what is happening with Finn? For now he'll need to use a nebulizer two times a day to get him straightened away and breathing normally. Hopefully we can cut that down to once a day. And then hopefully he'll grow out of it.

But until then I'll be exploring all sorts of other things--changes to diet, accupuncture, voodoo, etc.--to see if there's a better way to help him. Let's face it, did you expect that I'd do anything less than explore some whackadoo alternative medicine? Admit it--you'd be disappointed if I didn't.

Yours in Nuttiness,

PS--I don't know how to make our government see what is happening to the "little people" and make them understand, and my frustration stems from that. Let's see if my blog post can go viral on the Internet. Send every person you can to this post and maybe I'll end up on the Today show talking about the real face of health care!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

This Morning's Soundtrack

So yesterday I was huddled in bed hiding from the world until after 9am (not an easy feat with the boys). I had terrible PMS which was making me totally morose and annoyed about Finn's asthma diagnosis (which, I realize I haven't told you about yet, but I'll post about that another time, AND I also realize that asthma is not cancer and I need to get my head together and deal with it, but again, I'll talk about that later).

Anyway, after consuming my weight in Reese's Cups and Almond Joys last night, today I am feeling better, partially because I took a huge walk this morning and reminded myself how lucky I am to live here:

One of my favorite views--The New York mountain range

And it seemed like every song that was being shuffled through on my iPod was something I wanted to listen to. Even though the iPod is loaded with all of my favorite CDs, stuff comes up all the time that I don't feel like listening to at that given moment. But today, I didn't hit forward once.

So I strolled along, singing (after looking covertly over my shoulder to make sure there wasn't someone behind me to hear), and enjoying the morning.

The picture above shows what I saw this morning. This is what my walk sounded like:

Sick of Myself, Matthew Sweet
Those Magic Changes, Sha-Na-Na
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), Dead or Alive
Hold Me Down, Gin Blossoms
Does She Talk?, Matthew Sweet
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
Looking at the Sun, Matthew Sweet
Born to Hand Jive, Sha-Na-Na
Small Town Boy, Bronski Beat
The Meaning of Love, Depeche Mode
Bodhisattva, Steely Dan
Wild Honey, U2
Love in Itself, Depeche Mode
Get Back, The Beatles
Add it Up, Violent Femmes (OK, kind of not appropriate for a Sunday stroll)
What's the Matter Here?, 10,000 Maniacs
There She Goes, The Boo Radleys
Rhyme & Reason, Dave Matthews
Nikita, Elton John
Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Hmmm, I don't think there's anything in there from the 21st century. Perhaps I need to update my life's soundtrack.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Baking & Talking: A Cautionary Tale

On Wednesday, my first post appeared on Rocky Mountain Moms Blog. I wrote about making Finn's birthday cake last week. It was somewhat of a fiasco.

It wasn't always this way. I used to be a great baker when we lived in Ohio. I blame my problems on the altitude here.

But, apparently there's one thing I can't blame the altitude on: my inability to talk--to anyone--while I'm trying to do anything in the kitchen, regardless of what state I'm in.

My cooking history is littered with disasters that were a result of attempting to talk and cook at the same time.

I can walk and chew gum at the same time, in case you're wondering.

Notable cooking/talking fiascos:
-Baking ginger cookies for a United Way silent auction while talking on the phone. I forgot to add the baking soda. Do you know what happens to baked goods when you forget the baking soda? Hockey pucks. Eamonn insisted that I not throw the pucks away--he was sure he could eat them. After nearly breaking a tooth, he admitted defeat.

-Baking Christmas cookies two years ago while talking on the phone. I was making Russian Teacakes and doubling the recipe. Except that I doubled everything but the flour. The cookie sheet was basically just one giant cookie.

-Christmas 2008, baking with mom and Tara and trying to talk/socialize at the same time. I was mixing up the Norweigan Holiday Cookies. I lost track of how many teaspoons of salt I put in. You had to eat those cookies with a big glass of water. In my defense, last year my mom was so busy jabbering she tried to chop nuts in the food processor without the blade. She kept telling me my Cuisinart was broken. It wasn't. Pilot error.

-Pot roast circa 1988. I was living in Florida and was talking to friends while putting a pot roast in the oven. The result? Shoe leather for dinner.

-Since Facebook came into my life, I was burned numerous batches of cookies while stepping away to check e-mail or Facebook, "just for a second." That's the 21st century version of talking while cooking.

-And finally, today, I burned, yes burned, Rice Krispie treats while trying to help Finn with homework (damn that Sunshine Math).

I'm not exactly sure how you burn Rice Krispie treats, but there you have it. What could be next? Burning boiling water? Oh wait, I did that once and ruined a pan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rocky Mountain Moms

Hey! Check me out! I'm blogging over here today!

Thanks to Jill for letting me know about this opportunity!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Walk in the Woods*

*I blantantly stole that title from Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, incidentally. Thanks, Bill.

About 10 days ago I went on a hike with some friends. There's something decadent about going on a hike in the middle of the day when everyone else is working or at school. Of course, I had to stay up until 2am the night before to finish my work so I could go on the hike guilt-free, but that's beside the point.

Last year I went on a fall hike with this same group of friends. It was a hard hike. For me anyway. I was huffing and puffing in an embarassing fashion. I tried to blame it on the fact that we were 1,000 feet higher than where we live, but, and this is just a guess here, it was probably because I was out of shape. I thought I was in shape. But apparently I wasn't. I vowed to do better if we ever did this hike again.

Fast forward to this year and we all decided to hike again. Several options were mentioned for a location, including last year's trail. Mercifully, my friend mentioned a location new to me and I jumped at it under the guise of "I've never been on that trail before." It had to be easier.

It wasn't.

I had to be in better shape this year.

I wasn't.

I had to conjure up a bunch of photo ops to give myself the chance to catch my breath.

Heading up the first hill. It doesn't look like it, but it's crazy steep. I'm bringing up the rear. And yes, that is snow.

It was a mostly overcast day, but occasionally the sun peaked through at us.

We missed hiking at the peak of the fall color, but it was still beautiful.

These are all Aspen trees.

It's always so great to get out and commune with nature.

Hmmm, what's this? Bear track. Very fresh bear track. Walking in our direction. Did he hear us coming and leave the trail? I was very happy that we were accompanied by two nutty dogs who were running and barking like mad.

The bear passes a squirrel. Or chipmunk.

My foot. The bear's track.

Soon we came to a really steep part of the trail leading down to a creek.

We decided it was time for lunch.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Sweet It Is: The Mighty Finn is 7

Birthdays are exciting. . .when you're a kid. When you tip over a certain age, maybe not so much.

Today is Finn's 7th birthday. It was fun this last week to see and hear him so excited about it because let's face it, his birthdays haven't always been so much fun.

But this year, it's all about the fun!

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Happy Birth Day!

October 22, 2003--Age 1

Celebrating with scones and clotted cream in Cornwall, England.

October 22, 2004--Age 2

On chemo, getting ready to start delayed intensification and 3 weeks of steroids.

October 22, 2005--Age 3

No steroids! Giving his all to blowing out the candles.

October 22, 2006--Age 4

First birthday in Colorado. On steroids and hair a little thin. This was about the only smile of the day. We celebrated again a week later to make up for it.

October 22, 2007--Age 5

Chemo finished! Celebrating Finn's 5th birthday in England. In the hills above Ullswater, the Lake District.

October 22, 2008--Age 6

Home all week because of the "incidents" going on at school, he vomited up his birthday dinner and pie in the middle of the night.

October 22, 2009--Age 7

At last! Your big day is here! Enjoy it, Kid. You've earned it.