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.