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Friday, December 30, 2011

That Blur Was the Holidays

(I'm writing this on a new laptop and the keyboard feels very different in terms of placement--it has an extended keypad--and how much pressure to use when you strike keys. There will be more typos than usual. Just a warning.)

First, a few pictures of our December:


The morning we went to get our tree, we made this gingerbread man. I don't know what we did wrong, but he was seriously dry and required dunking/drowning in hot chocolate to be edible.


Eamonn experiencing some technical difficulties with his snowshoes.


Out on the hunt for the tree. We came across this fallen tree. These are its roots.


We're messing around, taking pictures on my phone and waiting for Eamonn who has used a fallen tree to actually cross water to get to The Perfect Tree that we could see way off yonder. We can see him cutting it down in the distance and now we're waiting for him to come back and ford the stream again, this time with our tree.


Eamonn trying to get back across the water WITH the tree. He made it! There was a bit of excitement when his foot went through the ice at one point, but he didn't need 10 toes anyway. Most people can get by without a few, right?


Snowshoeing back to the car. I wonder if snowshoeing is actually a word?


Enjoying hot chocolate and stale gingerbread after the tree hunt



Cookies for Santa


The holidays are nearly over. Is this what happens? Life just speeds up to a pace where I can no longer keep track of time? Truly, I thought I'd blogged last week so I was a little shocked when I came over here and saw Dec. 13. Heck, the kids weren't even out of school yet at that point and now they go back next week!

The holidays were busy and fun, for the most part. The fun parts were baking cookies with the boys and then my mom and Tara once they got here; watching lots of Christmas movies; listening to Christmas music until I drove everyone crazy; seeing the lights and decorations around town; taking a day before the boys were out of school to wrap everything (although our printer died and that didn't go exactly as planned); dealing with the post office--oh wait, that's goes on the UnFun List.

The UnFun was definitely dealing with our post office. Those of you on Facebook know of my loathing for our post office. And really, many people have the same issue, but I feel like it's magnified here because we don't have any home mail delivery at all. And even if you order something and the vendor says it's coming UPS or FedEx, it may STILL end up held hostage at the post office. But I'll stop talking about that because it puts me in a very UnHoliday mood.

The end.

Other unfun stuff--I weighed myself this morning. EEEEEEEEEK! Were you aware that if you don't exercise and eat too many Christmas cookies it's bad news? I was lying in bed this morning playing a little game of "How Bad Do I Think It Will Really Be?" I hadn't weighed myself in weeks. I was in denial. So I made up a number in my head. I shot high because I figured if it was lower, I'd be so happy.

It wasn't.

Yikes.

I'm trying to keep it in perspective. I'm where I was when I finished the weight loss challenge last spring, which is 10 pounds below where I was at this time last year. But still, I had lost more and have jumped up from that. Sigh. It was all in the name of Christmas cookies. Very delicious, yummy Christmas cookies.

I'll be chronicling my attempts to get back in gear on my other blog and also doing a challenge over there, I think starting in two weeks or so if anyone is interested.

So now we're in that post Christmas phase. Some presents have been put away, some are still on the floor. It's a bit here, there and everywhere. I'm trying to decide how motivated I am to take the decorations down this weekend. I usually like to bask in their glow for a bit longer and then take them down a week after New Year's so I'm good and sick of them and not sad to see them go.

Really, what needs to go at this point is the Christmas cookies. I'm going to see if I can go a whole day without eating any.

It's 9:52am. I'll let you know how it goes.

But at this point, as much as I hate to admit it, it's probably time for the boys to go back to school. The squabbling, which probably really isn't that bad, is bugging me. While the weather is lovely and they could get outside to play (if we drag them kicking and screaming), we don't have enough snow to sled or to make the skiing enjoyable. The town's outdoor rink probably suffered mightily in the warm sun yesterday. This happened last year--no snow--and it was such a bummer. We had about 4 inches of snow a few days before Christmas, so that was nice, but nothing else and nothing on the horizon.

So it's probably best for all concerned that school resume. You know, so we don't kill each other. That would be a terrible way to end the holidays, now wouldn't it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy News!

Just got a call from the surgeon. My pathology report was all clear!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and support!

Now it's back to business as usual!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Preoccupied

All fall I've not felt the love for blogging. It's not that I don't love all of you--I do, I really, really do--I just feel boring lately.

It's a drag.

I'll tell you what else is a drag, having a 3 inch chunk of skin taken out of your upper right arm along with four lymph nodes.

Just for the record, I'm not a good patient. I'm feeling sorry for myself. But the surgery is over and I'm glad and I fully anticipate that the little melanoma that started all of this drama in October will not have spread.

Let me back up just a tad because the last you knew of the melanoma, I was having it removed on Nov. 8 in the dermatologist's office. Except that when I got to the dermatologist's office, she was not in agreement with my family doctor that we should just do a basic excision on my arm and call it good.

This set off a month-long saga of trying to decide what to do next. The cast of characters included my family doctor, two dermatologists, an oncologist, two surgeons, and a melanoma expert at the University of Colorado. Yes, I know. How many more people can I get involved with over a melanoma the size of the tip of a pen? Leave it to me.

To be fair, my lovely little melanoma had some unusual characteristics (OF COURSE IT DID!!!) that made it a bordeline case, and that's what was causing all of the debate. The excision was a sure thing--a bigger patch of skin had to come off. The part up for debate: to do a sentinel lymph node biopsy or not?

The docs were split on their decision.

In the end, after much deliberation and hand wringing--because I am at my very core, a wimp--I went with the excision with a bonus of sentinel lymph node biopsy. And that means that they injected me with radioactive dye to find the lymph node(s) nearest the melanoma site and they removed those for biopsy. I should have the results this week and of course, I will let you know.

But, as always, I've learned a few things along the way and I will freely impart my knowledge upon you.

1. Don't be a dumbass (like me). Got a mole or any suspicious mark? Get thee to the doctor.
2. Get a second opinion. Getting second opinions gives me angst. It's like saying to your doctor, "Thanks, but I don't really believe you so I'm going to talk to someone else who I will believe." But you need to do what's right for you.
3. Be your own best advocate. Again, this can be hard. It was actually easier to do when it was Finn. It felt less awkward to say, "I'm behaving in this manner to protect my child" versus "I'm just being an ass today."
4. Be careful what you read. This one is almost impossible to follow. I stressed myself out pretty badly reading about survival statistics for my type of melanoma, which quite frankly, were exactly the same as Finn's for his leukemia. But as Eamonn always reminds me, someone makes up that survival statistics--let's proceed as if it's us. Done.
5. Take care of yourself. That pretty much wraps up the first four items into one nutshell. I waited too long. I procrastinated. I forgot. I didn't pay enough attention. And all of those things were very close to combining to become a very bad thing. Don't do that.

So my surgery was last Friday. I didn't think I was overly nervous, but I didn't sleep at all well from the moment I decided to have the surgery until the day of. I concocted all sorts of scenarios that mostly involved me never waking up from anesthesia versus dying of cancer. I wasn't quaking in fear, just pondering going under and never coming back to the point that I filled Eamonn in on where all of the Christmas presents were hidden in case he had to do Christmas without me. But here I am. I guess I need to wrap everything now.

Versed is a weird, weird drug. It's what they used to give Finn when he had his spinal taps. When I've had Versed before (sinus surgery and another minor surgery), I've remembered things--it just made me really relaxed, but I was still aware of saying goodbye to Eamonn, being wheeled away, to them talking to me in the OR, etc. This time it was completely different. I remember kissing Eamonn and then I was waking up in recovery. No recollection of them wheeling me away, going to the OR or ANYTHING. And that is disturbing on many levels because Eamonn said I was talking. To who? About what? It's such a curious thing.

We got home Friday evening about 7:45pm and I went straight to bed. On Saturday we went to Declan's hockey game. However, earlier today I realized what a post-anesthesia fog I'd been in because I thought I'd gone to two hockey games that day. I even asked my friend if I made sense at the rink because I truly don't remember most of the game or that day. I do remember the surgeon calling to see how I was. He asked if I had any numbness. I said no. He said that was good because that meant he hadn't damaged any nerves. Um, yeah, I think that's good, too.

By Sunday, the pain meds and the knockout drugs were truly wearing off and I was uncomfortable. But each day is better. I hate not being able to work out, especially during Christmas cookie eating season, but this too shall pass.

I should probably stop eating guacamole for dinner though or else I'll have to put "Lose 20 pounds" back on my New Year's Resolution list and that will make me very unhappy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I am Full of Pie

Raise your hand if you overate on Thanksgiving.

Count me in. Not horrible, but definitely over the comfort zone.

While I'm a pumpkin pie lover, Eamonn is not. Apparently if you don't grow up eating things that are pumpkin flavored, you never really develop a love for it. I have yet to meet someone from England who says they like pumpkin.

Anyway, I was debating about what our second pie flavor would be on Thanksgiving. The boys and I decided on apple after I found THIS recipe. Sometimes I come down a little hard on The Pioneer Woman because her recipes will put the average citizen into cardiac arrest. But on Thanksgiving, I'm willing to throw her a bone. It's time to throw caution to the wind.

I'm telling you, this apple pie is the bomb. The final two pieces need to go away before I suffer death by pie.

And definitely make the hard sauce for the top. Wow.

I made an attempt to have a gluten free Thanksgiving. I did it with one exception: the sausage stuffing Eamonn makes. I just ate a little because it's worth a little stomach cramping.

I made gluten free pie crusts with THIS recipe. I was a little worried because sometimes gluten free = nasty. But it was a total hit. Eamonn was complimenting the crust. When they were all finished eating, I dropped the gluten free bombshell.

Next up: Gluten Free Christmas. I'm already plotting and planning.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vanity Sizing. It Does an Ego Good.

First, a brief announcement. I haven't had the excision on my arm yet (see the post below this one). That first dermatologist appointment was really more of a check with the excision--nice word--scheduled for Dec. 8. Just an update because several of you have texted or e-mailed. But for now, I still have all of the skin on my arm. Except for that little bit they took off originally.

And now, for today's post...

As I have lost weight over this past year, I have also, obviously, lost clothing sizes. Every once in awhile I like to go into a clothing store and try things on to see what size I am. Except that I'm left still not really knowing.

Not too long ago, I read in People magazine (yes, I confess to being a long-time subscriber. Don't judge me.) about Kirstie Allie's weight loss and how she is now a size 6. And then Tim Gunn (I think) was in the same issue saying, "Yeah, Kirstie looks great, but she's no size six," or something to that effect. (And when I looked at the pictures, I thought the same thing.)

Tim Gunn then went on to explain about vanity sizing--a term I had heard before but was selectively filtering out because yes, I do want to believe I'm that smaller size--and how it's rampant today. I wonder if a lot of it has to do with the, uh, upsizing of our nation's waistlines. Maybe people will buy more clothes if they can fit in a "14" versus an 18? I don't know what the logic is. I'm just guessing here.

If you Google vanity sizing, you'll get a ton of different opinions. Wikipedia feels vanity sizing is alive and well. Others say it's a myth. I feel like I remember my mom telling me that more expensive brands ran larger than cheaper brands, and I certainly have felt this has been true over the years.

But I have to say, I'm definitely feeling like vanity sizing is going on. You can't argue with Tim Gunn's facts. In the article he quoted actual measurements and how what was a 10 in the 1980s is inches smaller than what a 10 is now. It's vexing.

What do you think? Do you notice that you can buy smaller clothes these days? And what is your opinion on vanity sizing? I admit I like seeing the smaller sizes. Vanity at its finest!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Wear Sunscreen

I'm pretty fair skinned. In fact, someone once called me the whitest woman in America. That may be pretty true. Unfortunately, despite my light hair, light eyes, light skin, I spent a good majority of my youth on a boat or at the pool, in the hot summer sun, not wearing sunscreen. Did sunscreen even exist in the 70s?

And then I chose the very inappropriate college years job of lifeguard. Again, not wearing sunscreen. Did anyone wear sunscreen in the late 80s?

So my life in the sun has netted me a bunch of freckles and moles, many of which I've had removed. Some of which were basal cell carcinomas, which isn't really that scary.

About two weeks ago I went in for yet another mole removal. I wasn't really worried, except that this time, I should have been worried. Yep, I had a freaking melanoma on my upper right arm.

So tomorrow I will go have a larger patch of skin removed. I'm a little worried, mostly because I have no pain threshold and what if I cry in the doctor's office over having a little patch of skin cut off? That would be embarrassing. I will try to soldier on. Maybe I'll post gruesome pictures.

Or not. I don't have a stomach for such things.

Mostly I'm telling you this because I almost waited too long to have this thing looked at, and actually my doctor saw it on my arm as a fluke when I had gone in for something else entirely.

Health care in this country (yes, we're not reduced to a diatribe about health care) is in a sorry state--that's obvious. When you don't go to the doctor because you're worried that something will then go in your health record that will then preclude you from getting health care (like I did), you can end up in a pretty serious situation. Don't do that.

So, wear your sunscreen, stay out of the sun, wear a big floppy hat and long sleeves, and for the love of all that is holy, stay out of tanning beds (which, in my defense, I have only ever used one once)--that whole "I'm just getting a base tan" is a total myth. You're fricking radiating your skin. It's no better than the sun--in fact, it's worse. Anything else you hear is brought to you directly by the people who own tanning beds. And what? You want to end up looking like a leather boot? Stop. Immediately.

And if you feel like something isn't right, go to the doctor. Get your annual pap smear (sorry, men). Get your mammogram. Go to the dermatologist. Hey, you could really have some fun and go for a colonoscopy when the time comes. There's something to look forward to!

I'm just asking you to take care of yourself so you don't wake up dead in the morning, OK?

End of diatribe.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Sign of the Times

So what do you think? Is the recession over? Is it over where you live? If you had changed your spending habits, have you gone back to how you used to spend?

The reason this is on my mind lately is because of birthday parties.

The boys have been invited to several birthday parties so far this school year.

In fact, we even had a birthday here:


Holy cow, Finn is 9!

Anyway, what has struck me at the birthday parties, including Finn's, is the lack of presents wrapped in yellow or lavender paper or birthday bags.

Why is that relevant? Because our local toy store, which endured for as long as it could during the economic crisis, closed in late August. And when you went to or hosted a birthday party, pretty much every present was wrapped in the signature paper, which I loved because it meant we were all buying locally from our little store. Was she the cheapest? No, of course not. It's really hard for bricks and mortar stores to compete with online prices these days.

But even with all of us buying locally (because I'm sure not everyone did), it wasn't enough and in the end, the store had to close after 10 years of business.

I'm pretty sad about it because there's another big push to build this horrible shopping development with big box stores on the eastern edge of our town.

May I pause for a moment here and say, Ugh?

I know it may seem bizarre that I wouldn't want a Target nearby, but frankly, I look at it as a place full of stuff that I don't really need and shouldn't be spending money on anyway. We have a WalMart about 23 miles away. I can be at a Target in 35 minutes if I drive west and one hour if I drive east. That's plenty close for me. One of the things we love about living here is there is no mall. We were surrounded by suburban chaos where we lived before, and I don't miss it one bit. The fact that our local stores are closing and Big Business might be in our backyard again is depressing to me.

Do I buy locally 100% of the time? No. I have been known to be seen running from the post office with a Zappos box tucked under my arm. But I do make an attempt to buy locally first. And I definitely confess to having an unhealthy addiction to Athleta. But overall, I want Target to go away and I'd like those lavendar and yellow packages back, if you please.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reality for the Rest of Us

For the longest time, I've been annoyed by the Biggest Loser. That doesn't mean I don't watch it--I admit I do--but I do find myself annoyed. Why should these people get special nutrition and fitness treatment because they've let themselves totally go to hell?

And so that got me thinking. Why are reality shows always geared to the extreme?

OK, so it's probably because it's more interesting that way.

But in my head I started concocting all sorts of reality shows that would involve normal people.

Would normal people want to be on reality TV? Have I ever mentioned that The Bachelorette's Trista and Ryan live in our valley? And then there was another girl from here on the Bachelor. There you have our local reality claims to fame.

So anyway, these are the shows I came up with for us normal people.

Medium-Sized Losers. This is targeted at those of us who are just marginally overweight. We need help, too! Wouldn't it be great to be swept away to the Medium-Sized Loser Ranch where someone helps you lose those last nagging 10 pounds? Yes, it would be hard work, but you'd get to totally concentrate on you and get all ripped and awesome looking without having to be morbidly obese as a prerequisite. Sign me up. Even if it means having to endure Jillian (who isn't actually on the show anymore).

The Amazing Sports Race. This race will pit teams of parents against one another as they try to escort multiple children to sports practices or games, and other various and sundry after school activities on different sides of town at conflicting times. Participants will be graded on their ability to run from game to game, often of differing sports, all while remembering what child is where, the rules of the game at each respective event which includes what to yell (Goal! Touchdown! Penalty! Foul!) without sounding like you clearly don't know what sport you're watching at any given moment. Because trust me, people do give you a look if you yell "Foul!" at a hockey game.

Motherhood Survivor. This could also be Fatherhood Survivor or Parenthood Survivor. I chose Motherhood because I am, in fact, a mother. Really, this is the mother of all reality shows. In this show, somewhat like The Amazing Sports Race show, people will compete to have a day run as smoothly as possible. The tasks you must complete are: exercise at horrifically early morning hours, make breakfast at multiple times, pack lunches, pack snacks, walk children to school and/or drive carpool, complete a day of work, remember to eat, plan dinner, go to the grocery store, take out trash, clean a toilet or two, do several loads of laundry, answer recorded calls from political candidates, plan a birthday party, mail birthday cards to various and sundry relatives, perform volunteer work at one or more schools, attend at least one meeting (likely unpaid), run the vacuum, take out the trash, help with homework, nag children not to watch too much TV, get children into bed, read to children, do more work without falling asleep, have some sort of interaction with spouse, read 10 pages of a book without falling asleep.

If you make it through those items, you can go on to the second round whereby you will start adding additional items to your list--things like making and taking birthday treats to school, attending PTA, etc. But that's only if you're lucky enough.

Dancing With the Regular People (DWTRP). I'm going to come clean here and admit that in 2007, I pretty much watched the entire season of Dancing with the Stars. Does anyone else remember that season? That was the one when Heather Mills McCartney was on and I was dying to see if her leg might fly off when she did some of those dance moves. It didn't. What a letdown. But anyway, why is it that the stars get to go on the show, dance with the hot professionals (come ON, you cannot tell me that Maks guy is not the hottest thing ever! Ai yi yi.), lose weight and then have their careers revived. Again with the ratings and the stars. Whatever. Personally, I think it would be way exciting to pluck Debbie from Des Moines and Wilma from Wichita off the streets and throw them onto DWTRP and just see what happens. Everyone has a story and I bet if we got to know Debbie and Wilma and whoever else they dredge up, we'd all love it.

Secretly, I do have dreams of going on the real Amazing Race with Eamonn. And in my dreams he does all of the stuff where you jump off buildings or bungee because I'd probably pee my pants on the way down. And that wouldn't look good on TV at all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Idiots on the Internet

I'm not referring to myself.

For my work I have to read the news. So I'm pretty much cruising the Internet hours each day looking for news stories that will interest my clients' readers. And I admit, that every once in awhile, I'll click on a non-client-related story because it looks interesting to me, looks crazy to me, whatever.

So a recent story I clicked was about how this man is suing White Castle because he cannot fit into their restaurant booths.

Hmmm. Really?

So I clicked and it's true.

Let's break this down: Turns out this dude has been eating White Castle hamburgers for 48 years. And he's suing because he can't fit into the booths. Now, I'm no super genius, but even I can probably draw a pretty quick scientific conclusion.

A) You ate sliders for 48 years.
B) You got fat.
C) You can no longer fit into a White Castle booth.
D) You are embarassed because you tried to get into a booth and couldn't.
E) You decided to sue.

Does this man not see that his own actions led to his problem? I'm flabbergasted.

But it gets better. In his lawsuit he discusses how he has been such a loyal customer, why doesn't Whitey's fix their booths? And better yet, he hasn't stopped eating White Castle. No, now he sends his wife out to get them and bring them home.

Call me crazy, but if you perhaps stopped, or even just cut down, eating White Castle, perhaps you COULD fit into a booth?

What has happened to common sense in this country?

No wonder we're the butt of every other country's jokes.

Good grief.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What I Love About Fall

Changing leaves, warm days, cool nights, snow back on the mountain tops. One of the most beautiful sights to me is a bright blue sky, yellow aspen leaves, and snow capped peaks, and sometimes a dusting of snow in the red canyons.

These are things I love about Colorado's falls, which I've grown accustomed to and love.

But, I will say, that fall in Ohio was my favorite season. I still miss the red maples. We don't get huge piles of fallen leaves here. I raking leaves in our backyard growing up. We hated it, come to think of it, but we did love raking the leaves into mazes or "houses" and we chased each other through them.

Then we complained that we had to put the leaves in bags. Blisters. I remember lots of blisters from raking leaves. Plus, the leaves in the backyard were from some nasty tree, not a pretty maple.

Whatever.

My Mom usually had a pot of soup cooking on the stove every Saturday. Chili, vegetable, bean. The whole house smelled so good. Then there was that time she put lima beans in the vegetable soup and we all freaked out.

Earlier today I went to the Food Network's website and they had a whole section about tailgating, and it reminded me that this is something else I miss about growing up in Central Ohio--football Saturdays. Specifically, Ohio State football. There is nothing like Columbus, Ohio, on a football Saturday. I'm a third generation graduate of The Ohio State University. On those Saturdays we were raking leaves and getting blisters, I remember my Dad having the radio on and listening to the game. I heard Archie Griffin's and Cornelius Green's names all the time. I even remember their jersey numbers (45 and 7). I can't remember my anniversary, but I can remember their jersey numbers. I don't know what that says about me, except that I might need to take some ginko.

I remember the first time I ever went to an OSU game with my mom took me. It was the era of Art Schlicter and Cal Murray, which will mean nothing if you're not from Columbus. But I loved it and every fall I'm a little annoyed that I can't get OSU football on TV, except for the rare occasion.

These days I get OSU football game updates from everyone on Facebook who puts the game info as their status updates while the Buckeyes are playing. Gives me some angst, but it's better than nothing!

What says fall to you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Snow



This is early. Mighty early, people. I love winter and all, but...well, it's early.

I suspected yesterday that we might get snow last night. Because basically, that's what the weather people said. Actually, I think someone in the neighborhood told me because I don't remember watching the news yeterday.

Anyway, a cold rain was falling and even at our elevation it dipped waaaaay down into the 40s, so you just KNEW something was going to be afoot at the higher elevations.

When I peeked out this morning, the clouds were right down in the valley so I was clueless. Snow or no snow?

Finally, around 3:15pm, the clouds lifted a little and I could see.

Yep. Snow.

I looked back at the pictures I take each year to mark when the first snowfall on New York Mountain occurs.

2010: September 23 (Tara's birthday!)
2009: September 20
2008: Hmmm, apparently I hadn't started marking the occasion yet

So now as I look, we're not too far off the trend. I confess I'm hoping for a very nice, long Indian Summer now. I'm not ready to wear socks.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Alone in the Valley

Well, of course I'm not really alone in the valley. But today I feel a little bit alone. Tara, Craig and Garvin took off yesterday for another adventure. They will be roadtripping around the U.S. for this fall, and then after the holidays, they will be spending six or seven months in Thailand and China.

Good grief. That's long when you calculate it in sister time.

I am already missing sister time.

This is when I start calling Erin an inordinate number of times a day and driving her out of her gourd. If she has a gourd left after six kids.

Anyway, if you want to follow Tara, Craig and Garvin's adventures, they are at: www.nootsonthego.blogspot.com.

It's sure to be good fun. Not as much fun as if I were there with them, but fun all the same.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Do I make that same lame (Green Day) joke every year? If not, I feel like I should.

The school year. It's here and I'm glad, but September is also a nightmare in terms of schedules. The kids' schedules. My schedule. Eamonn's schedule. The schools--two different ones this year now that middle school is in the mix. Sports.

A month ago, my September schedule was amazingly clear. Now, it's nearly black with pencil marks, erasings, and more pencil marks. (I still keep a pencil/paper calendar if you can believe it)

Where the heck did all of these meetings, sports practices and volunteer thingys come from?

Last weekend we decided to get out of town for the Labor Day holiday. We headed southeast to a mining area called Cripple Creek. We camped at 10,000 feet (my sister said, "What is it with you guys and camping at high altitudes in the fall?") at the world's highest KOA. It was very fun. We visited the Florissant Fossil beds and saw the gold mines and just had a relaxing time in general.

Some pictures:


We stumbled upon a llama farm. This llama was very interested in Finn!


Cool old dead tree as we started a hike at the fossil beds.


I discovered I love, love, love the pondersosa pines in this area. In our valley, the trees tend to be lodgepole pines (and aspens), which, incidentally, have been partially eradicated by the pine bark beetle. Bummer. But these ponderosa pines were so beautiful and green. I'd never seen pine cones in this green stage before.


One of the things offered by our country's national parks system is the chance for kids to earn a junior ranger badge. It's pretty cool and the boys have done it at each of the national parks we've visited. Here we are out on the Ponderosa Loop at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Stunning scenery and great temps--in the high 60s or low 70s and a light breeze. Coat on. Coat off. Coat on. Coat off. Colorado is fickle like that.




One of the assignments to become a Junior Ranger was to see if you could find an animal track. Any guesses as to what animal left this track?



Indian Paintbrush


Taking the oath and earning their badges.


The Hornbeck Homestead. First homestead in the area was started by a single woman (who outlived three husbands) and her children!



Leaving the fossil beds park.


A chilly morning. Trying to get the fire started.


This area of Colorado was known for its gold mines, which produced more gold than the California and Alaksa gold rushes combined. This tire is from one of the big earth movers.



Views of the very beautiful Lost Creek Wilderness Area.


I couldn't stop staring at it.






Car picnic in the Lost Creek Wilderness Area


Top of Guanella Pass. This pass has been closed for the past two years for construction and paving. It's still not finished, but we could take it as a direct route to Georgetown, finally.


Top of Guanella.


The reason we wanted to get to Georgetown: Our annual trip to the soda fountain. Malts and shakes all around. If the pass had still been closed, it would have taken about two additional hours to get there!

Came out of the soda fountain and...

...ran into my friend, Paige, who I met through an online travel forum many moons ago. We have met once in person, also many moons ago. Now we both live in Colorado, but several hours apart. A huge coincidence!

So now we're home after a great weekend away and the week is in a full-blown frenzy. Next week I'll actually get to work a 5-day day week. I've forgotten what that's like.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We Need to Get Off Our Butts

School is still not in session.

I still have lots of work to do.

Therefore, I ask you to read this little gem of an article, and be alarmed, as I was.

And then, as soon as you're done reading, get up off your rear and do something about it.

We've got to do something about our health as a nation and it starts at home. Put down the doughnut. Drop the remote. And get out there and save your life. Take a few friends and neighbors along with you, too. Clearly, we could all use a little more activity.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Time for Summer to Go Away

I'm sure if you're a kid, you don't feel the same way. Or maybe if you're a teacher, these last few days of summer are depressing. It's the run up to fall.

But it's time. The kids are bored, but they don't really know it. They need to be on a schedule. I need to be on a schedule. Their brains need some stimulation beyond Lego and the Wii. I'm out of ideas.

Last week we made a Jell-o volcano that we have never made erupt. I'm just out of enthusiasm.

I want to work during the day. Does that sound crazy? I want to work during the day and sleep at night like normal humans do.

I also want it to cool off. I still see temps in the 90s in our 10-day forecast. I do not like that, Mother Nature. My people are fair. I am fair. I do not want to look like an old leather boot in another 10 years, so I shun you. So it's time for us to spin away from you for the next half of the year.

I want to eat soup on a cool day.

I want to eat lunch and actually sit down and eat it.

I want to read the newspaper.

I want to plan out my day and have it go accordingly. At least a little bit.

I want to check things off my to do list instead of them endlessly rolling over to the next week.

I want to tackle some projects without feeling guilty.

And there, right there, you have it. Guilty. Mother Guilt.

I feel guilty for even writing these things down, that I am ready for my children to go back to school. That I need some space from them. That while I love them dearly, I am ready to have a little separation.

Because I will feel guilty. I'll think about that Jell-o volcano that was left un-erupted. About how someone else is basically raising my kids during the day (albeit, teaching them things I have no idea how to teach them). About things we said we'd do this summer, but didn't. What will they remember? The things we did? Or the things we didn't? I thought I did well balancing work, letting them have time to get bored (I'm a firm believer that if you let your kids get bored, they'll finally get creative), and getting them out and about doing fun stuff, whatever that fun stuff may be.

But, it's time. Declan starts one week from tomorrow. Finn starts one week from Wednesday (and don't ask me how the heck I'm going to work for those two days with only ONE kid home--one kid home is much worse than two kids home, I think).

To try and save my sanity this September, which is normally a very stress-filled month from a work and back-to-school volunteer perspective, I have dialed back on what I'm involved in this year, so that I don't come to the end of September and wish it was summer again already.

We'll see how that works out.

But I am already looking forward to Christmas break. Strange and slightly ridiculous, I know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Music for the Masses

When we have to go to Denver, like today, I love listening to this "oldies" station, 105.1 FM. I put that in quotes because I can't bear the thought/truth that they're playing 80s music on that "oldies" station. Sigh.

Anyway, we're motoring along and I pretty much know every single song that comes on there. I'm famous for knowing a few words to just about every song ever. They're not always the right words, but whatever.

So there I was, belting out the lyrics to "Magic" by Pilot, when I realized, I had a little choir singing right along with me.

What the heck? How did they know that song? Once at an event at the boys' school, the DJ played it and said he'd give a free hot dog to the person who knew who sang it. I sent Declan right over with the answer (because I love hot dogs almost as much as I love being right). He said the band was "Chilot"--WTF???--clearly he was having trouble hearing me in front of the blaring speakers, but the DJ gave Declan the free hot dog anyway. Which Declan then ate before returning to me. Again: WTF?

But there was no way he would know all of those lyrics from hearing the song once two years ago.

Turns out, "Magic" was used in the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, which we own because my friend Rachael is in it so we've watched it at least 100 times. At least. And that's how they know it.

Over the course of the drive today, we were all singing together on tracks by Bon Jovi, Elton John, AC/DC, the Beatles, and there may have been some Queen in there for good measure.

What does crack me up is when they hear an "old" song and say something like "Hey, I thought Flo-Rida sang this!" Then I have to explain about what a "cover" is.

I think it's probably how my parents felt when I was insistent that Kylie Minogue invented the Loco-Motion.

What goes around comes around.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

That's What Kids Are For

I've come to a conclusion: People have kids so they can eventually stop doing stuff and make their kids do it instead.

I've long suspected this is the case based on my own youth, and now I'm doing it to my children, so it must be universally true.

When I was a girl, as we like to say around here, I figured my mom had me only so she had someone to clean the silver, unload the dishwasher and vacuum the basement steps. And also maybe to wash the baseboards every spring. Even as I write those chores, I cringe. The silver, the dishwasher and the basement steps were my most hated--HATED I tell you--chores. There was other stuff, dusting, general vacuuming, and lawn mowing, but the silver, the dishwasher, the basement steps--drudge work. It was like I was Cinder-frickin-ella when I had to do those. Minus the singing cartoon birds and woodland creatures, of course.

I remember also sitting on the couch, my mom plucking her eyebrows, "Can you go get me a tissue?"

What? No! What am I? Your slave?

I usually ended up getting the tissue--you don't really mess around with the person who has the power to not drive you places.

But the short answer as I look back now is yes, our children are like tiny indentured servants that we need to take advantage of. They'll be gone soon and we'll be sad there isn't anyone to do stuff for us anymore.

A few of the things I used to do, but now make my children do. In no particular order of importance:
-Get out of the car and put library books in the drop box
-Get out of the car and check the post office box
-Go stand in line at the post office to pick up a package
-Get out of the car and get me a newspaper
-Get me a tissue when I'm sitting on my rear on the couch
-Get me a piece of paper towel when I'm sitting on my rear on the couch
-Pick things up off the floor because I'm almost too old to bend over now
-Help me pick up things that appear to heavy

And the list goes on.

And reading this list makes me realize that:
1. I spend too much time at the post office
2. I wish we had home delivery of mail AND newspapers, but alas, we do not
3. I'm glad my kids aren't in car seats anymore and can take part in these activities
4. I'm entering a lazy phase of life.
5. I'm going to be very sad when they leave for college, for a variety of reasons, but most of all because I will have to get out of the car and get my own newspaper. That makes me all choked up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Zillion Years Ago, We Went on Vacation

OK, so it wasn't a zillion years ago. It was about 3 1/2 months ago. But it feels like it was an eternity ago. I look back at the pictures and I can't believe how it sped by. I'm ready to go back!

Anyway, at long last, here are the pictures from our trip to England and Germany, April 27 - May 2.

Someone let me know if that link doesn't work.

As if any of you wouldn't.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Heart Athleta

So Eamonn made a comment the other day that we needed to rein in our spending a little. Oops. Reading between the lines, I think what he was really saying was: "You know all of those clothes you've been buying? Stop it."

I confess, I have been terrible over the course of the last few months and it's for two reasons: Buying clothes if fun after you lose weight, and my friend Wendi kept waving the spring Athleta catalog under my nose. Really, I think it's mostly her fault.

Athleta. I love that catalog beyond anything that's rational. I used to receive the catalog sporadically, and I'd look through it and think, "Nothing in here would fit me or look remotely good on me."

But as I started to lose more weight this spring and get fitter, here came Wendi with a new copy of Athleta. And I thought that a pair of yoga pants from the catalog might be just the ticket for the long flight to England.

I ordered a pair and it was love at first wear.

The pants are a little too big now, but oh well. I'll keep wearing them because they were a little on the expensive side. Hope Eamonn isn't reading...

Anyway, that sort of opened the Athleta floodgates. And clearly they know that I am now a sucker. I receive two catalogs and two promotional e-mails constantly. A screw up on their part or are they crazy like a fox?

I ordered some new workout clothes. Loved them. I ordered some new clothes just to wear. Loved them, too.

Then the sale came. If there's anything that I love more than Athleta in general, it's Athleta ON SALE.

If you've never seen an Athleta catalog, go to Athleta.com. The sale is still on AND for the next four days, there's an additional 20% off promotion if you enter SUMMER20 at checkout. What I got and am LOVING: the Whatever skort, the Hopkinton Hoodie (more about my hoodie obsession in another post), the switchback tank, the PR tank, and the chase skort. I also ordered the Dipper skort, but it's not here yet so I cannot comment on whether I like it or not!

It's a long list now that I look at it. Yikes! Especially when you consider I have several of the same items. Yes, that's how much I like Athleta. Frankly, I also find the women in it inspiring--more athletic looking rather than model-y looking. I don't really relate to model-y, truth be told.

Anyway, get on over to Athleta and check it out.

Disclosure: I am not paid to endorse Athleta. I do not get free clothes from Athleta. I wish I did because I love Athleta.
The end.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Once Upon a Time, I Had a Blog

Oh, and look, it's still here. Is anyone still reading?

Summer. Ah, summer. I love the warm weather--it's so short-lived in this part of the world--but truth be told, it's killing me.

The boys and I came home this week after two weeks visiting my mom in Ohio. We had such a great time, and I THINK I did an OK job of balancing fun for the boys and work. And visiting people. And eating Graeter's and Donatos.

Nevermind that it was 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, nevermind that at all. The benefits of being in that kind of humidity--great curls, my wrinkles aren't so defined, the closet in my old bedroom was so hot it steamed all of the wrinkles out of my clothes after traveling. The drawbacks--puffy ankles, puffy fingers, lotion doesn't rub in, you are sweating immediately after getting out of the shower.

And now, I'm going to comment on airline travel. Because I feel like it. And what the heck is up with the airlines? I don't know if any of you have ever used some of the small, regional airlines in Europe, but they are VERY strict about your carryon luggage. One bag. One bag, I tell you, and it had better fit in their little size thingy that they have at the gate--measurement-wise and weight-wise. While this made it more logistically more challenging to think about flying, I have to say I appreciated it when I was boarding and someone wasn't trying to stuff a gigantic bag in the overhead compartment right above my seat.

So here's my beef. On our way to Ohio, two women carried on bags/suitcases that were technically of the right size per airline standards, but they had clearly packed them so full AND these women were not the most physically fit, that they couldn't lift their own bags into the overhead compartment. Why would you do that? Perhaps it's time to suck it up and check your bag? I understand that none of us likes the baggage fees or to wait in the baggage claim area, but the situation with carryon luggage has gotten completely out of hand. The rest of us checking luggage get our bags weighed. Who is weighing the bags of all the people carrying on? Hmmm?

I carry one bag on--usually a backpack. And I usually put it under my feet. On two of the flights this time I did put it in the overhead bin, just to have the leg room. And I love it when someone asks me if they can move my bag to fit their gigunda bag up there. No, I'm sorry, you cannot move my bag, you overhead bin hog.

Anyway, I feel that there should be a new rule from the FAA: If you bring a bag on so heavy that you cannot lift it unassisted into the overhead bin, you will be left on the tarmac.

I feel better for getting that out of my system.

Life is busy and kind of boring now, but on my agenda for posting in the next week, I am committing to:
-Finally posting pictures from our England/Germany trip (remember that?)
-Posting some pictures from Ohio
-Getting caught up on everyone else's blogs!

We'll see how that works out. Hope everyone (all one of you reading this which probably doesn't even include my mom right now since Erin is there visiting) is having a great summer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Good 'Ol Summertime

I fear that once again, summertime is going to cause me to be somewhat of an absentee blogger.

I'm really trying to be "present" in the summer this summer. Does that make sense? It's hard because I want to the boys to love summer like I did, but I'm also struggling with getting work done. I got a new assignment from a client, which is very, very good financial news, but it also means yet even more to try to squeeze in since I do most of my work at night. I'm also trying to maintain my morning workout schedule. Eamonn is also working out in the mornings now, so we're vying for space! But that's a good thing. I've settled on a schedule where I get up and start work while he's working out. As soon as he's finished, I go downstairs and do my workout.

It seems to be working--all of this working out.

This morning I did Day One of Couch to 5k. I did it. And it wasn't very hard at all. Considering I despise running. It's just one of those things I wondered if I could do. The answer: I can.

With that said, I'm not formally starting the program right now, so all of you C25K nuts who just got all excited: calm down. I just wanted to see if I could do it. I'm thinking when we're back from Ohio in August is going to be more feasible in terms of time.

So, everything that's going on here is WORK, tennis lessons for the boys, WORK, hockey for Declan, WORK, swimming lessons for the boys, WORK, playdates, summer reading program at the library, the occasional doctor or dentist appointment, etc., etc.

AND, one of my favorite activities: CAMPING! Last weekend we camped down in a place called the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It's a national park and we had a blast. I ate many (MANY) s'mores and I have determined that I am the champion marshmallow roaster.

So I'll be here and there this summer, but when I'm more there than here, here are a few pictures from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.



Setting up camp. We camped on the South Rim for the bargain rate of $12 a night. This was a very sparse camp. We had a great spot--shady!--but it was vault toilets and only a small drinking fountain and spigot on the camping loops. Truly, pack it in, pack it out. It was fun. I was happy to get home and get shower though. I think 3 days without a shower in the summer is about my limit. There was also some excitement because there was a bear roaming the campground. On the final morning it was just a few sites down from ours. He's not malicious--just hungry for camper food. We had to keep a very clean camp!


The Taj Mahal of tents is up!


Checking out the view.


This was actually taken on the way out of the park, but I was trying to make it look like we were just getting there. And now I've outed myself.


Views from a hike on our first afternoon/evening.


Another canyon view.


This is us.


We came home via Gunnison and Crested Butte. CB is a very remote town. In the winter, there's only one way out because the mountain pass closes. I like remote. I want to live there. Inside the ski/mountain bike museum in Crested Butte. Cool history about the sport and town.


Anyone see the irony here? Anyone? Bueller?


Coming home via Kebler Pass outside of Crested Butte. Stunning views.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bake Yer Bacon

I love bacon.

Yes, I know. It doesn't fit with anything else I talk about in terms of good eating. I especially love the bacon in England/Ireland--back bacon. People say, oh, that's just like Canadian bacon. It isn't. The end.

So a few months ago, I had a Bacon Revolution. I don't think I've told you about it. And you may read this and say, oh yeah, I've done that for years. But for those of you in the dark, I'm here to show you the light about cooking bacon. Because while I love bacon, and I especially love the flavor when it's cooked in a cast iron pan (which is how I've done it for years), it's messy and I nearly always burn it because I'm running around trying to make pancakes or waffles, etc. to go with it.

Burned bacon doesn't make anyone happy.

And then Tara told me about baking your bacon.

It sounded weird.

And then I did it. I am now a convert. It's easy. I just did it tonight for BLTs.

Check it out:
Line a cookie sheet (one that has sides) with foil (curve the foil up at the side of the pan.

Put your bacon on the foil.

Put it in a cold oven.

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. For those of you in England, I think that's about Gas Mark 6.

Cook for maybe 15 - 20 minutes. I can't remember the exact time. Keep an eye on it because when it's done, it will burn, just like on the stovetop! Take it out when it looks like it's done to your liking. We like ours a little crispy.

Drain on paper towels.

Eat it up. Try not to eat too much. That's hard, I know.

Crumple up the foil and put your cookie sheet away without washing it because it's still clean.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Unsuccessful Dream Killer

As I write this, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is about to get underway. Aside from the fact that it totally bugs me that people try to put their own spin on The Star Spangled Banner and sing it in a different rhythm so it's hard to sing along, I'm pretty darn excited.

I love hockey.

Good thing considering that we leave early Friday morning for a hockey tournament.

But whatever.

My point here is that to this day, Declan thinks he's going to the NHL. And I'm very glad for that because of something that happened on his first day of Mini Mite hockey. First day.

Picture this. About 35 or 40 kids, 6 and 7 years old. Declan was 6. It was his very first official day of hockey. He'd done all of the learn-to-skate, learn-to-play hockey, intro to hockey, and hockey camps that he'd been eligible to do at this point. This is a kid who, at the age of 3, told us he wanted to learn to skate. And pretty quickly after that, skating became hockey and hockey became playing as goalie.

By the ripe old age of 6, he has already started watching hockey on TV. He has already started playing hockey in the basement (mostly making up his own rules so that his little friends don't actually want to play with him). He makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..."

It is beyond sweet.

So it's October 2006 and 6-year-old Declan is one the ice, stick in hand. The kids skate around and warm up. A coach skates to center ice and blows his whistle. All of the kids gather around. The coach gives a little speech. I assume it's some sort of motivational speech, welcome to hockey, yaddah yaddah yaddah. The coach is talking. I see all of the kids raise their hands. More talking. They start doing drills.

I was wrong when I thought the kids were getting a little "welcome to hockey" speech. And I found this out after the practice when I asked Declan what the coach said. There was no, hi, great to have you. Nope, it went something like this:

Coach: "Who here thinks they're going to the NHL?"

Of course, every hand goes up.

Coach: "Well, actually none of you are going to the NHL. There is no one here who is going to the NHL. And because none of you are going to the NHL, we're not here show off or let people be superstars. We're here to learn and have fun."

Now, his words are true, I'll grant him that. Statistically, it's unlikely that a little Mini Mite from a small rural Colorado mountain town will end up in the NHL. And I agree, overall, with his message. Kids need to learn the sport, have fun and not have all of the crazy competitiveness that comes, regardless, with kids' sports.

What I resent and despise is killing a child's dream by saying "You know those dreams you have? Well, they're never coming true." His speech would have been better served being directed at the parents: "Keep your shirt on, your kid isn't going to the NHL."

Anyway, right or wrong, from that second on, I despised that coach. And I still do. I try not to be a person who dwells on stuff for too long, but that has always bugged me.

And I probably should get over it because clearly Declan still has the dream. He still makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..." Sometimes he'll say in a horrified voice, "What if I get drafted by the Red Wings?!?!?!" They're the Blue Jackets' archrival, in case you were wondering.

So tonight while I was cooking dinner, a player for one of the teams playing tonight (Vancouver Canucks--Finn's favorite team vs. the Boston Bruins) talked about how Game 7 is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, the playing out of a fantasy since he was a child. He talked about how as a kid he played hockey in the basement, in the driveway, in the street, or on a pond with his friends and in their games, it was always Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Never Game 3, never Game 6. Game 7 is IT. It is THE DREAM of anyone who has ever played hockey.

Which wouldn't be me, of course, I can't even really skate. But I have heard that Game 7 scenario in my basement more times than I can count--coming up through the air ducts, floating through the house, whether it's spring, summer, winter or fall. Regardless of whether we've been away at hockey, camping or the pool. It is their dream and they replay it over and over and over again.

So I admit I got a tiny tear in my eye when I heard the player talk about what playing in the biggest game of his life tonight meant to him. Maybe a coach told him he'd never be in the NHL one day, and yet, there he is on my TV screen right now, living out his greatest dream.

And so really, is it so wrong to let kids dream big dreams? Do we need to be the ones to say to them, "You know, that's not going to happen, right?" I grew up riding horses and for a long, long time, maybe into high school, I had a dream of going to the Olympics. Now clearly, there came a point in my life where I realized I wasn't going to the Olympics, but I figured that out on my own and it didn't diminish the love I had for riding or my commitment to it. My point is I didn't have some jackass telling me I would never achieve my goals and dreams at any point, let alone when I was 6.

So go chase your dreams--whatever they are--and don't let anyone ever tell you they won't come true. And then look for me in the stands in 2018 or maybe 2022 when I'm watching Declan in the gold medal ice hockey game at the Olympics. Because when he goes, I'm definitely going, too.


Learning from Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mmmm, Good

I've pretty much kept recipes over on my other blog, but this one is the bomb and more people read this blog, and this is too yummy to not share.

Cooking Light's Salmon, Asparagus, and Orzo Salad with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

It was good. Good, I tell you.

A few notes: I didn't have fresh dill and used dried. Next time I'll up the lemon juice by at least a tablespoon. I like a lot of tang.

Finn was 50/50 on it, as he said. Declan ate it, but I noticed he didn't eat all of the asparagus. Eamonn liked it, but admitted he was so hungry after his bike ride up Vail Pass tonight that he would have eaten anything I put down in front of him.

I loved it and had trouble stopping at the 1 1/4 cup serving size. We ate it as a main dish and I served it with fresh strawberries.

Next year I'll make sure to make it in the prime asparagus season.

Incidentally, have I told you how much I love my Cooking Light cookbooks? I do. I really do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Last Time


Today was Declan's last day of elementary school. And the last time the boys will be at the same school...until they're in high school.


I got up at a ridiculously early hour to get my workout and shower in before making chocolate chip pancakes and bacon.

I think I actually feel asleep standing up during the all-school slide show at 2pm.







I have spent nearly every day of the last 10 days at school. Plays. Music concerts. Class parties. Park trips. Pool trips.

Today, for example, started at 8:15am with class plays. At 10am there was a "continuation" ceremony and celebration. Then on to the park for a picnic. I delivered ice cream sandwiches. Back to school. Clapped the 5th graders into the gym. Then the epic slideshow.

It won't ever be like this again.

I think I might be a little relieved.


Check him out: Middle schooler

And maybe just a little bit sad.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Is Gaga the New Madonna?

Aside from the fact that music from my high school era is now playing on the oldies station in Denver, I'm feeling really old because I don't recognize any of the "modern" music on the radio. I have to constantly ask my kids, "Who's singing this?"

I've become more acutely aware of this in the last few months. When we are in Aspen for hockey--good grief, was that February or March--they usually play music during game stoppages. As a fan, I love that. Declan says it's distracting to him.

Whatever. He's only the goalie.

Anyway, I recognized the music playing, but I never knew who it was. Someone usually clued me that it was Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Usher, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, Bruno Mars, Pink, etc. And then there are other times when I don't recognize a darn thing.

It's very humbling.

But the whole thing about my question about Lady Gaga goes back to her outfits/costumes. And what about the dress of meat? Ewww! If that doesn't turn you into a vegetarian, I don't know what will. So I was wondering if her crazy outfits are any different than the antics of artists in other generations. Elton John and all of his whacky glasses. Madonna and the cones on her boobs (there's a story about Eamonn and Skylar putting cones on their chests in a UDF in Powell. I won't go into the details here. A small amount of alcohol may have been involved.). Is it just something that happens in every generation's musical lifetime?

Because I do wonder--what the heck did my parents think of Madonna? I loved her! I was a Wannabe, trying to wear my hair knotted up in the bandanna, etc. Ohhh, I thought I was so cool. And what did parents think of nut jobs like the Thompson Twins, who were neither named Thompson, nor were they even related. In fact, there were three of them. Flock of Seagulls--what's up with the hair? There are just countless examples.

My mother's favorite group when she was young was the Kingston Trio. They probably weren't too objectionable to her parents from my point of view. It probably all started with Elvis and the Beatles. Neither of which my parents were into, which I found shocking. How could you not love the Beatles?

Anyway, I'm feeling old in the music department. I probably need to download some new music (because who buys CDs anymore?) since the last time I bought anything was...well, I can't remember when. Oh wait, I bought Eamonn some Tom Jones for his birthday. But I'm thinking that won't actually bring me into the modern age.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Milestones

I have a really old car.

As you can see...






I took these pictures today as my car rolled over the monumetal milestone of 200,000 miles.

Weeks ago, Eamonn had put the camera in the car so I would be ready for this event.

I brought the camera into the house and said, "Why is the camera in the car?" The camera never made it back into the car which is why when I was pulling into the Costco parking lot at 199,999 miles, I panicked because what in the world was I going to do because I could picture the camera in the kitchen and not in the car where it was supposed to be on this momentous occasion!?

Thank goodness for camera phones.

I took several shots that didn't work. Then I figured out I needed to turn off the flash, which can actually be done. After two years with this phone, I was able to figure this out at the moment of truth. Yay me.

So I pull into the Costco lot and just happen to look down and see 199,999. Whew. Glad I didn't miss it while randomly driving around.

Took the photos. Drove around the Costco parking lot to rack up another mile and took the 200k picture.

I'm pretty sure I alarmed some of the patrons with my continued circling.

Whatever.

And the thing is, I love this car. I do not want another one. In my mind, it can't be replaced. It's a '99 VW Passat Wagon and it was the last year these were made in Germany. Now they're made in Mexico. I feel unenthused about a German car made in Mexico.

It has been an amazing car. Other than routine maintenance, we've had nary a problem with it. KNOCK WOOD. KNOCKING WOOD LOUDLY RIGHT NOW.

I figure at least 100,000 of the miles have been to and from hockey and soccer games.

But in addition to sporting events, some of the VW's exploits include:

-Four roundtrips from Ohio to Colorado. And then one Ohio to Colorado trip (no return that time!)
-Two round trips Ohio to Florida
-Round trip Ohio to Ocean City
-Two round trips Ohio to Canada (Ontario)
-Two trips to Branson--one from Ohio, one from Colorado
-Countless trips to Utah
-Colorado to Yellowstone (Wyoming)

It has carried 12 Christmas trees (and nearly been stuck in the snow on one of those adventures--no four-wheel drive on our little car!), transported kids and pets alike (RIP Kirby!), was bumped in a parking lot once, had numerous windshields, and more sets of new tires than I have shoes (OK, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point), has held bikes, tents, snowshoes, skiis, more bikes, hockey gear, soccer gear. Sometimes much of that was at the same time.

And in 12 years, when I take pictures of it turning over 400,000 miles, I swear I'll dust the dashboard before I take pictures.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ta Ta, Oprah!

Has anyone else been watching the last season of Oprah?

I've watched her show on and off over the years. When I was a freshman in college (I think), the Oprah Show started airing on a local TV station. I vividly remember waiting for a class to start and listening to the show where she went to the all white town on a friend's Sony Walkman since we weren't at home to watch it.

Sophomore year, after classes, I'd run over to my friend Wendy's dorm and we'd watch it. Memorable event from that year? When she lost all of the weight and wheeled the wagon full of fat onstage.

My viewing waxed and waned however. Once I started working, it was harder to watch. I still caught episodes here and there though. And of course, since having kids, I felt like I rarely got to watch. You should hear the cries of protest that go up when I turn on Oprah when I start dinner.

But this year I decided that since we now have the Amazing and Wonderful DVR, I would record the shows and watch when no one was home. That way I didn't have to deal with the "You're watching Oprah again?" drama.

As an added bonus, Oprah's new TV network, OWN, has been airing Oprah Behind the Scenes. Ooooo, I confess I love that show even more than the actual Oprah Show itself!

So this whole season (the last three episodes air Monday - Wednesday this week) has sort of been a "where are they now." Aside from not being invited to the last Favorite Things show (they actually did two this year), I've enjoyed the season and I don't think I've missed many episodes. Except when we were in England. I didn't record three weeks of Oprah, much to Eamonn's relief.

Anyway, as I've been watching, I've realized how much I DIDN'T see over the years. For example, I vaguely remember Dr. Phil getting his start on Oprah and the whole lawsuit with the beef industry, but who the heck was Ilyana Whatshername? And why did we need two shows devoted to her?

And James Frey. Did we really need to see James Frey again on TWO episodes? What a waste. I would have prefered to have an episode about Oprah's hair stylist and ask him what he was thinking for many, many years.

Other episodes I started and then deleted after a few minutes: Goldie Hawn talking about happiness. She's apparently some sort of expert. I will grant you that she seems very happy, but in a dingy kind of way. And actually, I can't remember what else I deleted...because I deleted them.

I missed the Sister Wives, dang it. How can you not watch that train wreck? And how about the Mystery Sister being unveiled. Wonder how that's working out? Loved seeing Ralph Lauren's ranch in Telluride, but if I had to hear her say one more time about counting the number of fence posts and wishing she could go inside, well, it was driving me nuts.

Diana Ross--liked it.
Michael Jackson's mom--liked it.
Makeovers--liked it.
Hookups--liked it.

Susan Lucci--could have done without her and her zillion on screen husbands.

Sound of Music reunion--awesome.

Camping in Yellowstone--freaking hilarious. I even watched it when they re-ran it.

Fergie--get your life together, woman.

Barbra Streisand--love her music, but can't decide if she's an annoying diva or what. While that house of hers looks really cool, the dolls in the basement scared me.

I can't think of anything that I felt like I wanted to see, but didn't. Except for me on the Favorite Things, of course.

Two more days and then Oprah is history! I think Eamonn is immensely relieved.

I now have some extra time in the day to fill.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Would You Say to Your 20-Year-Old Self?

Assuming you're over 20, that is.

Over the past 18 months, and especially in the last six months, I've really made a concerted effort to take better care of myself. I lost those last few nagging pounds, I'm trying to get more sleep (terrible at this), drink more water (also terrible at this), take better care of my skin, etc.

I've definitely noticed some changes over the last few years, since turning 40 of course, and they seem to be accelerating. Basically, everything I made fun of my parents for (groaning when they get up or down from a chair, stiff knees, moving reading material forward and back in attempt to focus) is coming true.

Gah. It's gross.

With that said, while I don't want to go gently into that good night and just let my body detiorate without a fight, I also want to be somewhat graceful about the whole thing. My Grandma was a really great example of aging. Although I definitely remember her getting down on the family room floor at her house and rolling around on the floor in her nightie, doing exercises to Gloria Marshall, she always talked about how each age was something to look forward to.

She may have been lying to make me feel better. Who knows.

So I'm trying to think about my older self talking to my younger self, really at any age. What would my 40-year-old self say to my 20-year-old self? What will my 50-year-old self say?

At this point, here are the things I would advise/suggest/encourage my younger self.

-You are not fat. Your weight went up and down some, and there were some times that you were softer (like after living in Europe for the summer of '93), but fat? No.
-With that said, eat better. Avoid chemicals!
-Take care of your skin. Stay out of the sun. Tans are overrated. Moisturize. You may try to age gracefully, but age spots are a drag. So is skin cancer. Fair is just fine.
-Stop fighting your hair.
-Don't sweat the small stuff. School work will get done. Work will get done. And if it doesn't, the earth will not stop turning.
-No one is looking at how clean your house is. Instead of cleaning, go outside. Be active. On your deathbed, you will not regret that you didn't dust.
-Don't gossip. Be genuine. Smile more.
-This, too, shall pass. Whatever it is.

What would you tell your younger self?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Things I Don't Make My Husband Do

Once upon a time, and truly, I think it was only once, I went grocery shopping with Eamonn. He was still my boyfriend then, but truly I only recall going to the grocery store together once. It was very early days in our relationship and I think we were planning to cook dinner together, so off we went to peruse the aisles of Kroger to decide what to make.

We are a Divide and Conquer family. If I'm at the grocery store, it's usually during the day when he's at work. Or if it's the weekend, he's doing something with the boys or working on the house. We don't have enough time for both of us to take off and go to the store. We've got things to do!

The reason this is on my brain is that yesterday I was in Denver for a meeting. If I have to go to Denver and if I need something (or one could argue even if I don't need something), I'll stop by Kohl's. We don't have a Kohl's in the valley. I confess, I miss it. I like Kohl's.

Anyway, I was pulling up to Kohl's and I saw a couple heading in together. I giggled a little. Of course, Eamonn and I have been in Kohl's together before. Trips like that usually mean I have indicated that his wardrobe is in a shambles and he needs to buy something new, so I drag him there when there's a sale. But frankly, more often than not, I go in, pick stuff out and bring it home. That was easier when we lived 10 minutes from Kohl's, but we still use that strategy. He's not a big shoppper. Big surprise.

So seeing that couple walking into Kohl's got me thinking about things I don't make my husband do:

1. Go shopping with me--grocery store or otherwise. I can't imagine parading out of the fitting room in multiple outfits for his review. Plus, I try to keep what I buy pretty much of a secret, pulling it out of my closet as needed and hoping he doesn't notice I've even been shopping. And as for the grocery store, as long as there's food in the fridge, he seems happy.

2. Watch Woman TV or Chick Flicks. Every once in awhile, he'll humor me on a special occasion and sit through something his friends will make fun of him for. Like the time we went to see You've Got Mail on our second anniversary. But there are limits. Like the time I wanted to see Mama Mia. I confirmed that he did NOT want to go, and I was right, and I went with my sister and her friends. We sang through the whole thing. There was one guy, one sad, embarassed guy, in the whole theater. He was there with his girlfriend. And he was slumped so far down in his seat you could just see the top of his head. I bet they broke up the next day. Heck, I would have dumped her, too. Get a clue, girlfriend. If want to watch Woman TV, I go to another part of the house. Like when I want to watch Oprah.

3. Eat frou frou food or a meal that nothing has died for. Or lentils. One time in our newlywed days, I slaved for hours over this lentil casserole with this special topping. He was about to eat it, fork poised at his lips, and he said, "I love everything except lentils." So never again.

4. Go on beach vacations. Or any other vacation where you sit around. One must be doing something on vacation.

5. Wear dress up clothes unless there is a wedding or funeral, and sometimes not even then.

It's taken 16 years, but I'm learning the ropes.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Library Angel is...an Angel

You may remember that back when Finn was in kindergarten, his year started with a lot of struggles as the result of his Sensory Processing Disorder. You may also remember that I wrote about a woman, our school's librarian, who stepped in and made life bearable for Finn during those first weeks of school and while his occupational therapy kicked in and he learned to cope.

I wrote about Ruth, who I called The Library Angel, several times. Yesterday afternoon, our school principal e-mailed us to let us know that Ruth had passed away that morning.

I'm sad, but Ruth was ready to go, and that gives me some peace of mind.

I like the staff at our school--they're a great group of people. But there was something special about Ruth. I'll never forget how she took Finn under her wing that horrible year. She was a safe haven. She listened to him when he was sad or scared. She didn't bark at him and tell him to go back to his seat at lunch. She was exactly what he needed. Exactly what we needed.

Ruth was one of the first staff members I met at the school when we moved here. I arrived late to my first PTA meeting and crept into a seat at the back. Ruth was sitting in the back as well. She swiveled in her seat and with a big smile, thanked me for coming.

We became friends. She was in remission from her first bout with cancer and we swapped stories of different types of treatment--we were both very into alternative options as well as traditional medicine. I worked in the library every Thursday and during the school's book fairs each spring and fall. We enjoyed talking the role nutrition can play in healing. I used to make experimental raw foods and taste test them on her. If it was horrible, she never let on.

The library has so many loyal volunteers, all jockeying for position to have their favorite day. And Ruth was the reason. She was a person you just wanted to be around. Positive, funny, wry, smart, athletic, just a great enthusiasm for life and living.

I'll leave you with a little story about Ruth that makes me smile even as I'm writing it. I know some of you follow Ruth's blog and so as we all read, on April 22, Ruth's daugheter, Sarah, posted that a blockage Ruth had been dealing with was back. This had happened before, but Sarah's post seemed more definite this time--there was nothing else to be done. We were traveling, but every chance I got, I accessed Ruth's blog to see what was happening. There was no update. When we got home, the word was that Ruth was just hanging on. I don't know how to define the state she was in--not conscious. Sleeping. Is that coma?

Anyway, last Monday, after not eating or drinking for weeks and not being conscious, Ruth suddenly woke up and said, "What the hell am I still doing alive? I'm supposed to be dead by now!"

I looked at the person telling me the story. "No way did Ruth say 'hell'," I said. The story teller, who had heard this directly from Ruth's daughter, assured me that yes, Ruth did say hell. And at this, I laughed out loud because those of you who read Ruth's blog also know that Ruth is one of the most Godly women ever and to think of her swearing, well, that's just nuts.

Ruth spent time that day looking at the pictures Bob and Sarah had picked out for the memorial service. She didn't like a few that were chosen and tried to lobby against their use even though Sarah said, "I love those!" Ruth shrugged matter of factly and said, "I guess I won't be there anyway!"

And that was just Ruth. Truly, what an amazing woman and you will never convince me that she wasn't an angel sent here for those of us who needed her. Selfishly, I'll miss her, but it was her time and she was ready.

If you visit her blog today, you'll see that in huge capital letters, "RUTH IS WITH THE LORD!!!" It makes me smile and cry at the same time. I'm smiling for her, but crying for the rest of us.

I can't decide what I like to imagine her doing in heaven--running like the wind or shelving books.

Either way, it's something she loves.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Did Not Run Away

Although I guess I sort of did. We got home late last night from 3 weeks on the road visiting Eamonn's family in England and Germany. I would have told you before I left, but I'm getting a little freakier about notifying the Internet that our house is sitting empty.

Even though we live in a neighborhood where the houses are as close together as New York City apartments and there haven't been any robberies or even attemted robberies in the nearly 5 years we've lived here. But who wants to tempt fate?

And anyway, if we're Facebook friends, you probably figured out. Because truly, how discreet can I be for 3 weeks?

I did have my iPad with me (best invention ever) and I had intended to post occasional photos to see if you could guess where we were, but then, Sooper Genius that I am, I couldn't figure out how to upload pics from my iPad to the Internet. And clearly, I was too lazy to figure it out.

I will be back later this week with some pictures and info on our trip.

It was fun. Very fun. And long. Very long.

It produced a lot of laundry and miscellaneous stuff that I don't know what to do with or where to put now. I hate that part of coming home from vacation.

I'm going to bed in about 2.5 hours. It's 4:37pm. I hope I make it that long.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Fine Line

What is the fine line between standing up for yourself and being obnoxious?

Almost exactly one month ago, we were in the next town for a hockey game. They have a Target there, and we stopped in to pick up a few things. One of the things I purchased was a t-shirt. A $9.99 t-shirt. It is the same t-shirt as several I bought last summer. When I find a good t-shirt, I buy lots of them in different colors. I was delighted to discover they had this same line (or very similar) of shirts again this year.

I took it home. I washed it. I hung it up in my closet.

The other day, I pulled it out to wear and I noticed that after I had washed it, the hem at the bottom had become all puckered. Clearly, the stitching on it was defective causing the puckering.

No problem. I knew I was going back to the next town today and I could exchange it. I didn't have my receipt, but given that it was a recent purchase and I wanted to exchange it, not return it, it seemed like it would be OK. As an aside, it was very strange for me to not find the receipt. I'll probably find it tomorrow.

So, I went into Target. I explained my sitaution and said I wanted to do an exchange.

They said no.

I was dumbfounded.

And the reason they said no wasn't because I didn't have my receipt. It was because I had washed the shirt.

What?

Girl at counter: Our store policy is that it has to be new for you to return it. Since you washed it, now it's not new.

Me: But I didn't even get to wear it. I washed it and the puckering appeared.

GAC: I'm sorry (waving at a sign behind the counter). That's our policy.

Me: So I'm stuck with a defective shirt. (A statement as opposed to a question)

GAC: According to our policy.

Me: But that's not OK. You sold something defective and that defective quality didn't appear until after I washed it. At some point I was going to have to wash it. You're saying you won't replace this defective item? I would understand if I were trying to return this, but I like the shirt. I just want one that is actually constructed correctly. You won't do an exchange?

GAC: I can't according to our policy.

Me: Can I talk to your manager?

GAC: Actually, I am the front of house manager.

Me: Well then, I need to speak to whomever you report to.

GAC goes away to find her manager.

Declan: Are you mad?

Me: I'm getting there. I'm more frustrated than anything.

Declan: It doesn't seem like she's listening to you.

Finn: Are you going to swear?

GAC comes back. My manager says we have to stick to the policy.

Me: OK, so here's what's going to happen. I spend a lot of money in this store each year. If you refuse to exchange this shirt, I'm walking out of here without shopping today. I will never come back. I live in the next town. I will go home. I will blog about this. I will put it on Facebook. I will tell everyone I know about how you treated me in your store today. Do you really want to have that happen over a $10 shirt?

GAC: I wish I could help you but it's not our store policy to return the item.

Me: OK. Please have your manager come over and tell me this herself.

GAC disappears again. Other manager comes out.

I run through my spiel emphasizing that I want this shirt, but this shirt is defective. I just want a non-defective shirt.

The second manager returns the shirt and offers a refund or store card. In good faith, I take the store card. I use it to buy another shirt. I had to get a different color though--they didn't have my size in the original color.

I felt like Target did the right thing, because seriously, was I so out of line to expect them to take back a defective item even though I didn't have the receipt? Again, I wanted an exchange, not a refund. It was current merchandise.

I'd be so curious as to what you guys think.

As an aside, I worked retail all through high school and college. Apparently you have to fight for your customer service rights these days.