"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Sunday, January 31, 2010


The best part of our entire weekend. A phone call from Mom and Dad on Friday morning to say that they were headed out on a trip that would bring them through our neck of the woods later that evening. Even better, a rare treat, they would spend the night and visit over breakfast the next morning before continuing east.

I can't tell you how much I love it when they come. It makes me want to crawl into the back seat and go too. I could visit and catch up with them forever.

And then I vow not to let so much time pass before I put the family in the car and make the trip to see them. I know that one day I will look up and wish I had done it more often. They aren't as far as they used to be and I ought to take advantage.

It's always funny to me how you really don't know what you've got until it's gone -- or it's at least farther away than it used to be. Mom and Dad always taught that no matter where we went in life, we would be able to stand on our own two feet. I would say "but I want to build a house right next to yours". And my father would say "No, Sugar, you go out into the world and make your own home." I'm glad they taught me that. Over the years it has enabled me to make the best out of wherever I've been. Can't say, though, that I wouldn't love to sit and partake of their company forever.

Their visits just lift my spirits. My grandfather would always say it was good to see folks come and it was good to see folks go. I've never yet felt that it was good to see these two go. I do love them so.

Friday, January 29, 2010

bee happy

This is how it feels to come away a winner of the middle school spelling bee. Wow. The pressure.

I remember my mom sitting up late at night quizzing some of my sisters on their spelling words for school, and later county, spelling bees. I remember that the county spelling bee was broadcast over the radio each year and because there were so many little guys in our family, Mom would sit out in the car in the parking lot and listen for our family winners. She would bite her nails while straining to hear and recognize her daughters' voices over the cooing of the baby or requests of a toddler in the back seat of the car.

Yesterday, I packed up Grant and Eliza and headed to the middle school for the bee. The parents sat in silence, the students sat in silence. And I, in the back of the auditorium with my two, took the hint from those looking over their shoulder at the sound of my infant shaking her toy and slipped into an adjoining classroom to listen through the wall. There I stood for the better part of the afternoon, biting my nails and listening for my daughter's voice and the tell-tale ding of the bell indicating that she should sit.

And look at her now! Headed to the Douglas County Spelling Bee in two weeks. Here is her new best friend:

And I must have a very limited vocabulary because I only recognize one word here.

Can you spell "hacienda"? This is one happy girl calling Dad at work! Late nights, here we come.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

progress report

Six months of kindergarten. I've dropped him off at the bus and picked him up at noon each day.

This week, Grant came running out of the school at release time, barreling down the sidewalk with the other excited kindergartners. Seeing my car waiting in the pick-up line, he ran straight to the door. His hand pulled the lever and with the door halfway open, he turned and waved with all his might to the group of kids behind him.

I heard him yell at the top of is voice, "Goodbye guys, goodbye!!!" and then he turned and clamored into the back seat. Seat belts fastened and pulling away from the curb, I began our after school small talk:

"How was school?" I ask.
"Great!" he exclaims.
"Were those your friends?" says I.
"Yes!" he answers.
"What are your friends names?" I counter.
He replies, "I don't know ... but I sure love those guys!"

Six months of kindergarten.


I love that we live out in the countryside but I also love that we are only a very short distance from the city. I do so enjoy what the city has to offer. The restaurants, the activities and events, the arts, the sports venues. It is every bit as fun and exciting to me as the country is.

This weekend our "organization" had a fund raising gala at a downtown hotel. It's our Oscar party of the year. We get to dress up, have a fancy dinner, try to sound intelligent amongst the who's who crowd of Denver society. There's a silent auction and a live one where the sheer magnitude of 10's of thousands of dollars flying around makes me sit with my chin in my lap. Last year I really had to use the restroom right in the middle of the auction and Newel forbade me as any motion whatsoever might indicate that I was willing to drop 15 grand on a backstage pass to something. You see, it's actually a night for the well endowed to share some of the load and the two of us are simply present because he's the CFO and Treasurer come to count their cash. But so much fun to be a part of.

The party runs very late. This year, having a baby and not feeling completely secure that my almost 13 year old could handle the load so far away at home for such a long time, we decided to take everyone down to the hotel with us and get a couple of rooms for the night.

We went down early to wear everyone out with a swim in the hot tub and Eliza got to sport her new bathing suit:

And the views were amazing:

I worried that this could go one of two ways. Either it would be great or it really would not. The number of things that could go wrong ... fighting disturbing neighboring guests, kids leaving the room to ride elevators unsupervised, prank phone calls, the fire alarm, porn charged to the room ... As luck would have it, it went very well. Eliza slept the entire time and the kids were enamored by the Disney Channel. Not having TV at home will do that, I guess. And, it was so convenient to leave the ballroom to check on them periodically and then tuck them into bed when the time came without stressing. My thanks to some really great kids!

He looks so, so nice in a tuxedo.

I love dusting off my Maddens -- not Manolo's, but hey. And though the hotel room lighting was really low, and one of the kids took the picture -- here's one of the dress I designed and made just for the occasion. Yes, Cinderella has to make her own ball gowns.

Okay, I'm cutting the secret code crud here. It is so funny to watch the female company dancers swarm around and smother him with European kisses as he rolls his eyes over their shoulders. He treats the visiting choreographers from New York as though they are real people while I stand there with my heart all aflutter. I get all tongue tied talking to the artistic director and he scrunches up his forehead as if to say "Whats wrong with you -- he's just a guy who chose an unmanly profession." He looks at his watch while the Principles are performing a special segment for our enjoyment on stage. He yawns while the artsy video about the outreach program is being played. Me? I'm enamoured and enthralled. But most of all, I love that he took me down this road with him.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank you "Sven"

Here's to true love.

I have to write this in code, because a certain man I know, lets call him "Sven", doesn't like certain information to be made public. So, here goes ...

A few years back "Sven", who has a financial background, came home from work and told me that his firm at the time wanted its' employees to take on a non-profit organization to assist. It would look really good for the firm to be serving out in the community and in turn would help serve the organization in need. "Sven" had been presented a list of non-profits to look over and was interested to see that a certain "sport" near and dear to my heart, was looking for a board member. I lit right up at the possibilities and after mulling over the usefulness of the connections he would make rubbing elbows with members of my favorite "sport's" inner circle, he took the position as head of their finance committee.

As time would have it, "Sven" moved on to start his own business leaving the firm behind. However, the non-profit continued to love him and he has been chief financial officer and treasurer ever since. And, boy, have I enjoyed the perks -- the private events, the season tickets, and being a part of the behind the scenes of it all. In the "sporting" world, one can only stay involved for so long before physical limitations take over and those are pretty much excelled by the birth of six children. No longer actively participating in my "sport" was hard and I felt as though a large piece of myself was missing, though I love my new parental path. This "sport" just has a defining quality and getting to take this ride along with him, however vicariously, allowed me to enjoy that just a little bit longer.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that this man, "Sven" has enjoyed this as much as I have. On the contrary. I'm aware of how painful this has been at times. How many times he's second guessed his laps in judgement to have jumped both feet into something so not of his own interest. I recognize that this is coming to a close for him ... for me. It's taken a lot of volunteer hours, blood, sweat and tears (in the manly sense of the word) on his part. Hours he will never get back. I know that deep down he probably did all of this to further a career. But, I also know that he would never have done it had it not been for me ... a girl with a passion for "sports".

Thank you "Sven", I really love you. But if you tell my husband Newel, I'll deny this post ever existed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pure Americana

Every year, our blonde Arizona cousins would come for a visit. They'd come with their boots, big belt buckles and love of music with lyrics about dying dogs, pickup trucks, and tears over unforgettable sunsets. Not being country western folks ourselves, we found them fun and exciting and sure loved their visits. They just seemed so ... pure.

We still don't consider ourselves very country western. Okay, yes, we live in the country... and we all have boots to work in... and are enrolled in 4-H ... and like to hobby farm ... and have a tractor ... and are on a first name basis with our local extension office and feed store owners. But, I still wouldn't say "Country Western". Every year however, we love to go to the stock show here in Denver so we can get a full dose for just one day. And they sell it hard. I don't really know why but I always walk away feeling so full of Americana -- minus the whiskey. There is nothing more majestic, for lack of a better word, about being so connected to the land. I love the idea of hard work that keeps folks honest. It just seems ... pure.

Here are some of the highlights of yesterday's excursion:

Yes, we saw the rodeo and thoroughly enjoyed it. It gave credibility to some lyrics by Queen regarding blood, disgrace, and getting your can kicked. These boys do not have time for video games.

Crazy that an animal can move 360 degrees in the time it took my camera to snap three consecutive pics. But my favorite aspect of this, is the comrade cowboys meant to be in the arena to assist the rider when he falls:

Yeah, I want those guys watching my back. Never have I seen a group of hardened good ole boys bail over a fence faster, once that bull started kicking.

I love it when Newel jumps on my bandwagon. Can I say that? By the time we left, he was convinced we should add bee keeping to our repertoire, nearly bought me a miniature Hereford, and was totally sold on upgrading our tractor to this one:

It's also the only place where you can get one of these. Now, if it was only served on a stick...

Annie and Janie made some friends. Annie fell in love with the bad hair day cow, and Janie didn't love the bull ring idea so much.

Celia and I love the chicken exhibits because that's our thing. But ... someone needs to break it to these two that they zigged when they should have zagged. What the ... ?!?!

Callin' a pigeon a chicken, don't make it so.
A little dose of Americana that was just pure fun!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bottled determination

"You owe me" says the voice on the other end of the phone. One of those rare mornings when Newel's late start for work has earned him the opportunity to drive the kids to school. "Janie?" I ask. I don't need to ask. I'm just hoping the apologetic tone of my voice will smooth the "short end of the stick" feeling I know he's experiencing on his drive to the office just minutes after making the drop. Nothing else need be said. I can picture it now. Something akin to stubborn persistence over a window seat, only jacked up on acid. A finger on the lock defying anyone to use the car door which now has exclusive ownership. A seat belt war. And there are certain rules -- no breathing, no looking and no crossing the personal space cloak of invisibility that exudes three inches from the surface of her skin. Ah ... Janie.

If I could glean determination off of that one and bottle it to sell, I'd be a wealthy woman no doubt. People tell me they've never seen anyone like her. Offhanded comment, yes, but I'll take it. She's certainly got spunk and, well, whatever else you'd call it. In kindergarten, I put her on the bus one morning. After a few minutes in an uninterrupted hot shower, the phone rang. "Janie's still out in the school parking lot on the bus." said the school secretary. "She refuses to come in until Mr. Harrell comes out to carry her to class." I'm sure Mr. Harrell, the principal, was loving this. Secretaries don't like to hear "leave her there" so I headed down to do what I could. Upon my arrival, all had been solved. Mr. Harrell had convinced her to come in and go to class and having received her winnings, a moment on everyone's stage, she'd merrily done so.

Last year, Janie came home with a flier in her hand for Student Body Council. First grade? Really? -- hmm. Only one class member could be chosen and it had been trumped to the class as an opportunity to develop leadership skills. They need only write a couple of sentences telling why they would be a good choice for their class. Janie disappeared with it along with her homework and came back with sentences that read: "Leaders are the best and I'm the best. So, don't you want the best?" Somehow, she won. Council was held on Wednesday mornings before school and each and every time, she was ready. One evening at dinner, we asked what she was learning there, and she said that they were gathering ideas of ways to better the school. We, as a family, started throwing out suggestions such as donated books for the school library or more trees to add shade to the playground. Janie told us that those were all very good ideas but that she had already suggested in the council meeting that hash browns available as a daily lunch option would best serve the school. The Council had told her to take it to a class vote and so she did, and the first grade class had approved. Her teacher, probably dismayed that this nonsense had gotten so far, informed the class that the decision would remain with Mr. Harrell -- who consequently vetoed the motion with all due respect. Needless to say, Janie fell in love with the power of negotiation and the ability to sway the masses.

Sometimes it's hard to take. And sometimes it's incredibly ingenious, the inner workings of that girl's mind. She fights for the top, no matter what the score. We've had our battles, pitting will against will, but she's determined and self confident and I love that about her. She will never be the underdog. The lights will certainly seem just a little bit dimmer when her time here is through, some of the color will be missing from my day to day life. Janie just sets everything aflame. And I'd pay good money for a bottle of that sort of determination.

Ask her and she'll tell you, to look for her on the gold metal stand in the Olympics someday.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Come and get it

I can burn a pot of water. Sounds impossible I know. Mealtime has had a real evolution for us. It began with multiple pans of lasagna for two simply because I had grown up cooking for a crowd. In retrospect, I wish I had utilized those earlier years when we were just two by making fun gourmet recipes because once children came along, nothing I made was liked anyway. But at that point in my life, all of the extra effort seemed a little silly since, after all, I was cooking for two.

And then came the kids who turned their noses up at everything as I tried one fun recipe after another. I've caught myself thinking that when time brings us back around to being just two, I will be so good at making the exciting culinary creations I skipped out on the first time around. Time has definitely made my children older and aged their taste buds as well so that now, yes, there are a few favorites at dinner time around here. Unfortunately, either my lack of attention to detail or my inability to follow directions often sends some experiments awry.

There was that time I over salted the scrambled eggs. Newel, being a new-ish husband with an astounding ability to guard his words, lovingly ate them. Years later, though, I learn that at that moment he thought I was trying to kill him. And then I baked a cake once mixing up baking powder for baking soda. Wow, was that a mess. And bless those missionaries for choking that one down. Which brings us to my most recent. Beef stew minus a few apparently essential ingredients. I served it up with my apologies that it didn't quiet look like a beef stew should and my children who -- somewhere -- have learned to eat with loud exclamations of delight and move things around on their dishes to look like they have eaten, did so with smiles of adoration. Dinner finished, dishes done, I poured the left-overs into Tupperware for the next day's lunch because, after all, there are people starving in the world.

And then the next day being Saturday, I over heard a discussion over what was available for lunch that went something like this: "Hey Dad, when's lunch?" Dad: "Now I guess." Kids: "What are we having" Dad: "I think Mom has more dead person stew". (Groans all around) ---- Dead person stew? Dead Person Stew??

Is that stew that turns you into a dead person or stew made out of **gulp** dead people? 365 days a year x 3 meals a day = 1095 meals a year. Can't a girl get it wrong once or twice in awhile? Or maybe I should be flattered that, good or bad, some meals are simply memorable.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Christmas reflection

Finally, the Christmas decorations are put away. Taking them down is so hard for me because it makes me just a little bit melancholy. It's funny how a bright and shiny tree can look so inviting all through December and yet so stale sitting in the corner too far into January. I guess keeping Christmas in your heart all year 'round does not include keeping it in the living room corner. And so it is all finally put away. But here are some memories that I'm not eager to put away too soon.

1) We got a new mattress. It was long over due. Now there are no excuses for not hopping out of bed at 5:30 a.m well rested and ready to meet the day - Ha! In the process of changing out the old mattress, we left it in our family room just a minute too long. And there it had to remain for a week due to popular demand. It was a fort. It was a slide. It was a trampoline. And it eventually became a fight club ring. The kids had a ball and would have traded every present under the tree if I would only let the family room mattress become a permanent fixture. Sorry guys!

2) Ah, the Buzzby guns. I'm waiting for a recall to be issued on those. One would think that being a generic version of the Nerf dart gun would mean half the reliability of the product the manufacturers are trying to knock-off. Not so. Those suckers sting like a son-of-a-gun. Trust me. Last night I had to hide under the double duvet covers of my bed just to escape the onslaught by a man still tickled by the sheer power those dart guns punch. Wish I could put them away as easily as the other Christmas stuff.

3) Christmas firsts.

4) And then ... Grant and I came home from an afternoon of Christmas shopping. Temps had dipped into the teens and then single digits and it was colder than cold. We came through the door with our wares and I sent him down to the finished basement to retrieve some item for me. He came running up the stairs hollering and informed me that water was pouring from the ceiling and that he hadn't done it. Poor guy. Sure enough, Niagara falls was coming from every recessed light and I'm not sure how, but as I scanned the unfinished basement portion, I turned the first faucet and it was the water main. Thank heavens for inspiration. Newel was out of town for work and so the recovery efforts due to frozen pipes were entirely up to me. The Fire and Water Restoration team were fantastic and have gone above and beyond getting us back on our feet. I put this as a good memory because the contractors are upgrading the basement as we speak with sound proofing. No more amplified noise from the basement wild rumpus. This could be the best "accident" that ever happened to us. And we must have been living right, because the only damage was cosmetic to the house and all else was safe.

5) It was just so nice to be together and enjoy each other's company. Good friends and neighbors, new snow, and the companionship of my favorite people. I could have eaten it all up with a spoon!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oh, baby

Being the oldest girl and second child of nine children made me, what I considered to be, the luckiest girl in the world. Though I know my mother always wanted a large family, I think at times she felt as thought the world cast it's judging eyes upon us. I could never understand this as I was the happy recipient of a new baby every couple of years and who could ask for a better present. And I think that's how I became hooked. In the event that I was left to babysit, I would anxiously await the moment when a "blow-out" would occur and I could undress that baby down to nothing and give it a bath. My mother showed me how to trace the bridge of a babies nose to induce the eyes to feeling heavy and usher it off to sleep. She taught me that holding a baby against my chest so it could hear the even beats of my heart would make it feel comfortable and safe. I was a real professional by the time I was twelve and as baby after baby came through our family, I took possession of each one. Even long after the babies of our family became too big to carry around, my favorite cousin and I would scramble around reunion gatherings robbing mothers of their infants just for an opportunity to hold.

(Me with some of my babies -- gotta love the hair and teeth!)

I couldn't wait for the time when I would have my own. I looked forward to it and over the years, I have had six beautiful babies come into my life. I've looked at each with wonder and awe and every single time felt the feeling that I could do this forever. This time is no different. I could do this forever. My heart nearly bursts every time I pick this baby up.

Eliza just lights up our lives around here. She surprised us when we had begun to think that maybe there were no more babies meant for us but now we just couldn't imagine our lives without her. Getting her here had it's complications and in so doing, has given us a realistic wake-up call that we really can't do this forever. It's a hard feeling for me. It makes me want to take time and make it stop right in my hand. It makes me wish that my day had just a few more hours in it to enjoy. And so, I soak up every minute like a sponge. I continually put off moving her from the bassinet by my bed to the crib in the far off girl's room -- though the girls are begging for it. I don't mind that she has no set bedtime schedule as I get to sit and hold a little bit longer after the house settles into the quiet of nighttime. And I love afternoon naps, reading stories until she and Grant fall asleep, each warmly tucked into the crook of my arms. It's so hard to remove myself to complete chores that leave me free of needed attention because I just want to lay there and absorb it all in for one moment more. And so I catch myself, breathing in today just a little more deeply.

Thoughts about my other babies as I watch them grow:

I love lazy afternoons warming our feet on the heater. Grant has been my cuddliest baby. Our morning always starts with a few minutes in my bed with his favorite blanket.

This pair of frien-emies always have a song and dance routine to share. Since the minute Annie scooped Janie off the bed at one-day-old and dropped her on the floor, these two have been inseparable. I love this picture because they took it themselves with the self timer and it was a hoot to listen to from the kitchen.

It's had moments of frustration that he just could not stay still for one second, but Christian has always been a man in motion from day one. I've never seen a baby not be able to settle even when asleep. I just love that about him.

I love every stage of life with this one. She's experiencing the joys and hardships of youth and even though those were some of the toughest times of my life, I'm so glad I have memories of those struggles to share with Celia so that she can feel validated and understood.

And one more just because.

These people make my world go 'round.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Family full of taggers

Aw, cute -- Grant carved his name into the kitchen table. Well, not really cute. There was upset and then lemonade made out of lemons hence the start of this blog in the hopes to turn some of life's frustrations into cute things I'll miss when the kids are gone.

This morning while gathering laundry for the day, I find this little jewel on the side of one of the girl's bedside tables:

And so begins the detective work. 1) we know it's not Eliza. 2) this person has sisters. 3)would this person do this on their own table? and 4) is someone being framed?

And no one will 'fess up and it is so hard to get upset at this to the extent that I would like to due to the content of the message. I feel that punishments should fit the crime so does that mean when I find the culprit, I should take a sharpie to their forehead and write "We love you too"? How will that be perceived at school tomorrow?

One thing I do know, this has GOT to stop. And by the way, Grant put this in the steam on the window during bathtime:

He says it was written in "haunted". I didn't even know that was a font. I think these kids need some more paper and refrigerator magnets.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In Memorandum

We're cat people, really. Not crazy cat people, we are just preferential. We tried the dog thing for a brief stint which we laughingly refer to as our "adventures with Lucky the Devil Dog". Definitely a story worth telling but best left for another day. However, moving into a house out in the wild brought with it the challenges of keeping nosy rodents at bay. And so we acquired two barn cats. Some animal lovers insist that there is no such thing as a barn cat but we picture them realistically as a working animal. They have a job to do like any farm animal and you tell yourself that in a countryside riddled with predators, it's really best not to get attached. And so we took on two male kittens, brothers from the same litter. The children held them constantly from the day we brought them home so that they wouldn't be skittish around people. We were also strict about enforcing the fact that they were not house cats and therefore they served their outdoor purpose very well. They have been everything we had hoped. Wiley and smart, good with the children and yet cautious with the dangers of woodland life. Not to mention, nary a mouse in sight. Most nights they came home at dusk and fell into a pile on top of the rabbit hutch in the garage. Occasionally they didn't, but still sauntered in at sun-up looking strangely satisfied.

On one such occasion, the gray one came home and literally keeled over onto an old sleeping bag. It was a Saturday, and our dad came in from working in the garage to inform us that he thought the cat was dying. We all shuffled outside to see what we could do to help and sure enough there lay the cat, chest heaving, eyes rolled back and tongue hanging. We dipped his limp head into some water in the hopes of revival to no avail and then spent the rest of the afternoon ringing our hands and standing around watching for that last and final breath which we knew would surely come. After several hours of such anxious waiting, that cat sat up, shook his head as if to clear it, stretched from the very end of his nose to the tip of his tail with a yawn that consumed the whole of his face. He took one look at all of us with our furrowed brows and moist eyes, sipped the water, licked the cat food and b-lined for something he saw in the far off bushes. I guess that is what the sleep of the dead is really like.

The school offers a class called Project Wild in which the children learn about animals and their behaviors. My children came home one day a little bit upset that the teacher of this class had insisted that animals don't know how to love, that domesticated animals do what they do because of instinct. Animals need to eat and sleep and they only appear to care simply because you provide them a service which they need and thus a partnership forms and we interpret that as love. Now, I don't know about an animal's ability to love a human being but my observances have taught me a little bit about an animal's capacity to love another animal. See, though we have tried to hold these cats at arms length, we've watched them grow together as brothers. One brings home the head of a rabbit while the other brings home the tail. One waits for the other to eat first. And even as kittens, the brown one slept while the other stood guard, hissing and throwing an angry nail-filled paw the size of your thumb if anyone so much as tried to touch his sleeping brother.

And then two weeks ago, the brown one never returned from a days worth of prowling. It's was bound to happen. We knew it would someday. As afternoon turns to evening and the waining light makes shadows mysterious, the instinct to night-hunt seems to override the sensitivity to fear owls, coyotes and other evils. It had happened many times before but always with a happy ending in the morning. But morning-after turned to morning-after with no return of the brown brother. Still we called and called to the hollow sound of our own voices bouncing off of the hills that surround our little piece of heaven. We had told ourselves not to get attached. We had tried to steel ourselves against the day that the barn cats should disappear. They always do, people of these parts claim. "What will we do when they are gone? We'll go get another one", we'd say. But what we hadn't prepared for was one to leave the other behind.

Now tell me about love, teacher at school. There he sits, day after day vigilantly awaiting for the return of his brother. He goes nowhere else but to sit and keep watch to the edge of the woods for a chocolate brown blur. There are human beings in this world with less thought for another than this cat has for his long lost sibling. I find myself longing today for my children to feel that way about one another. I hope in our family they are learning what eternal love is. It's funny to see a cat know by instinct the very thing that we all try to teach. Our hardened souls are changed forever by the the brotherly love of two barn cats. Thanks for the memories Snickers. We will miss you.