14 December 2007
My father-in-law, upon hearing my Rudolf dancing toy sing, said, "Sounds like Burl Ives. I've been trying to find some Cd's of his but can't find any. I just like to hear him." I was thinking "Burl Ives?" But I'm sure there is a story to that and I should ask him about it (by the way, hope he doesn't read this 'cause I found several albums on the almighty amazon.com site for him for Christmas). But it got me thinking (and anything that gets my brain to engage these days is a boon) about why I react to certain music like I do.
To this day, I don't like the theme song from "Chariot's of Fire" mainly because I LOVED it when we first moved to England in 1982 and listened to it over and over and over as I drove around, missing the States, missing my parents, missing things familiar. At the time, I drew strength from that song but over a few months, it became associated with my initial depression with being overseas the first time (my love affair with England had OBVIOUSLY not started yet). So when I hear that song, I automatically feel sad!
On the other hand, anytime I hear Elton John, I feel a bit euphoric! Mike and I dated to a lot of Elton John - he was a favorite artist of Mike's - and I have super-good memory connotations listening to him. Also, symphonies usually make me feel peaceful and help me get focused on whatever I'm doing or conversely help me relax. Turns out my folks played a lot of the Readers Digest music compilations that came on 33rpm records when I was young. And, seeing as I had a stellar childhood, anything that evokes feelings of well being, security and love is always good!
Then there are hymns - can't hear "Father, Here the Prayer We Offer" or "Be With Us Lord" without thinking of our wedding. I chose those songs and changed all the singular to "we" or "us" and to this day think of our commitment made in love to each other 32+ years ago. And the familiar "God Will Take Care of You" and other comforting songs continue to impact me in positive ways. Rousing marches like "Soldiers of Christ Arise!" and "We're Marching to Zion" get my blood pumping. And I also think of rocking my babies to sleep singing every calm hymn in the book to them in the process.
One year, back in the days when we drove to Florida to Walt Disney World instead of flying, the kids were hooked on Beach Boys (and Mike and I had just finished seeing the movie "Cocktail") so that song, whatever it's called, that goes "Aruba, Jamaica, boy I wanna take you to..." - remember it? It became our summer theme song and I associate it with our fun trip to Disney as the kids got older and more independent.
And now it's the holiday season. Everything from Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" to "We are the Children" to traditional English carols sung by boy's choirs - memory lane is flooded and almost impassable. Also I am tempted to sing those wrongly worded made up versions ("I'm Dreaming of a Pink, Purple, Polka-Dot Christmas" and "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robing Laid an Egg" come to mind) to Ben and Kennedy, but I figure Jen and Megan would kill me so I desist. But they too are part of a huge memory bank of Christmas fun times past for me.
One thing that Tim and I like to do is to take songs and change up the words to suit the occasion. It's a gift or a curse, depending on the person who has to hear it. Mike always says we have a "knack" for it. From the expressions on our other children's faces, I think perhaps it might be a curse. But it's fun to do - mental gymnastics of a sort. I guess that's why he and I enjoy programs like "Whose Line is it Anyway?" and "Mystery Science Theater". But again, it's a memory for me of bonding with Tim on another level as he grew older.
I've been in choirs of one sort or the other in almost every overseas location we've lived in - it was something that helped me get used to my new environment/culture - especially in Trinidad. Singing for me is an expression far more powerful than spoken word. Choir was very competitive in my high school - top choir required multiple auditions and sight reading skills. I was shocked to find out that in other high schools, choir was an "easy A" - not at Coronado High in Lubbock back in the '70s! You had to be on your game, work hard and attend rehearsals weekly outside of school hours to be in the Chorale. And Chorale exposed me to many forms of music and expressions of music - my association with euphoria and music really cemented there. I was relatively shy at that stage in my life and being on stage, singing, put me in a totally different sphere, one where I was confident, competent and happiest of all.
So think about your music and what it means to you. And use music as a tool, actively, to get you out of a funk if you're in one, to rekindle magic, to share a memory with your spouse or children, to share God's love with your little ones, to reconnect to Him yourself. Music is powerful stuff! I think perhaps that's why God commanded us to sing with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in worship. It's the language of the soul, a language of love. Use it wisely. And enjoy it's immense power.
Yesterday, in a burst of semi-good health (read, "my back wasn't killing me 24/7") I cooked dinner - roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes (okay, THOSE were Schwan's but if you want a really good semi-instant mashed potato actually MADE with real potatoes, cream and butter - call your Schwan's man/woman and get some of these...but I digress), spaghetti squash and grilled rolls. It was very delicious if I do say so (especially that gravy - will share marinade recipe at end) and Ben really relished the meal. He said several times with great solemnity, "This is a VERY good dinner!" I had also prepared a salad of fresh blackberries, very sweet fresh blueberries and some gorgeous Forelle red pears (if you've never bought them - seek them out! Sweet, delicious, great in salads, for snacking, for DISPLAYING with their gorgeous red color and elongated shape...but I digress...) and realized as we were finishing up dinner that I had never brought it out from the fridge. Jenny said, "Oh well, we can have them for dessert". Well, that got Mr. Ben's ears up as he announced loudly, "I'm ready for dessert".
Pleased that my 3 year old grandson had not only enjoyed a dinner meal (one meal for which he is a notoriously picky eater), he was excited about FRUIT! So I get out the salad and dish it into ramekins and serve it.
Ben looks at it.
Ben looks puzzled.
Ben picks up a piece and sets it down.
"Aren't you going to eat your dessert?" I ask. He picks up a blackberry and frowns and says, get this, "THAT's not dessert! That's FRUIT!"
Jennifer laughed and said, "Mom, that's YOUR child!"
He is. :)
We got out the gingerbread cookies.
Now to the marinade for the best ever roast beef - got this from my Grandma Cottingham (with a few additions of my own)
Get out a measuring cup and slosh the following into it:
about 1/4 cup of soy sauce - Kikkoman is the best for this recipe in my illustrious opine
couple squirts of bottled lemon juice
several dashes of paprika
several dashes of ginger
several dashed of dried mustard - actually, more like a teaspoon
1 teaspoon of sugar (yes, sugar)
a splosh of good balsamic vinegar if you have it
a drink of dry cream Sherry (or white wine if no sherry)
Garlic powder (without salt - I like the kind that is dried and in a grinder)
Fresh cracked pepper
Don't be tempted to add salt - the soy sauce has tons and if you add, you'll be sorry and then drink tea all night and then have to go to the bathroom all night...don't go there....
I use a boneless roast - about 3 lbs or so, the leaner the better. It will still be tender. In a large dutch oven, bring a little olive oil up to heat and braise your roast for a few minutes. Pour the marinade over all and then sprinkle the top of the roast with fresh cracked pepper. Cover and put in preheated oven at 375F for about 2 hours or until the middle of the roast registers around 150-160F. Remove the meat and place in shallow dish, spoon about 1/4 cup of pan juices over all (to keep moist) and cover with foil to keep warm.
In a saucepan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil (don't let it smoke) and add in about 1/4 cup GRADUALLY of white flour, using a whisk to stir into the oil and thicken. Start adding the cooked marinade left in your roasting pan little by little, stirring all the while until all the juices are used. You should have a gravy that is fluid, coats a spoon well and is deliciously rich and flavorful.
Slice your roast and drain any juices left in your warming pan onto the meat. Put gravy in a pitcher and serve. Leftovers make a GREAT shepherd's pie - if you want, I can tell you how to do that as well.
If you really want to go "whole hog", make yourself some popovers with strawberry butter to go with your roast, potatoes and gravy.
Also, if you are a veggie-cooked-with-meet person, arrange potatoes, onions and carrots in roast pan before cooking. Cook gravy the same way after removing said veg and meat.
May you enjoy your cold winter evenings with good food, family love and the joy of the holiday season!!
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Definitely wrapping paper - have you ever tried to stack gift bags? It RUINS them! I am spoiled but I love to have coordinating wrapping paper and ribbons that are more or less themed. And never underestimate the wow-factor of a simple ribbon.
2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial. We have had real ones in the past, but between the $70-$100 cost of a good fir tree and the years of finding needles throughout the house in the most unLIKEly places, you can't beat an artificial tree. And then there's the old safety issue. You can always get GREAT oil diffusers to give that "fresh pine" smell.
3. When do you put up the tree? Historically, the tree went up the weekend before Thanksgiving. Our home has been in a couple of charity tours so those years, it all went up in October or the first week of November. For someone who used to start listening to Christmas music in July, this is not an unusual thing to happen.
4.When do you take the tree down? Whenever we get to it. One year, back in 1999 when we lived in Trinidad, I ended up going back to the States with Tim (it was his and Megan's first year at UT) and didn't come back till March - and all that decor was still up. Now, that's a GREAT reason to have the aforementioned artificial tree! I met Megan for the first time at the Houston airport after that Christmas - she met Tim and me at our gate (remember when you could still DO that?!?). Megan came back to Trinidad for spring break and she knew what she was in for with this family when she walked into this home in March, in the Caribbean, to be met by full-blown Christmas decked out house! And she still took us on, bless her.
5. Do you like eggnog? It it's freshly made and alcohol free.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? One? Only one?? I love(d) dolls and Santa never failed me. From Chatty Cathy to Baby Pat-a-Burp to late '50s Barbies, I got dolls. I quit collecting them about the time Kennedy and Ben were born. I had REAL dolls to play with!
7. Do you have a nativity scene? No - we do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. I know this isn't going to go over well with some people, but Christmas as a religious holiday is a man-made, not God authorized, celebration. It is founded in pagan celebrations to false gods and was "varnished" in the 600's to become "respectable" so that the celebrations people had become used to could continue. I always hear "Jesus is the reason for the season" but while that may be true, it's only so because people made it that way, not God. As we are to neither add nor take away from the Word, we are not at liberty to dictate to God how He is to be worshipped or honored.
8. Easiest person to buy for? Jennifer, the water baby not withstanding - having said that, there isn't any indication that the person actually LIKES what is bought for them - just finding them easy to buy for! :)
9. Hardest person to buy for? Mike's folks
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I frankly can't remember - probably had to do with a fruitcake or something
11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Mail! And I like making them - I'm just not very prompt on getting it done. And I like newsletters as well as long as they aren't the "Dr. and Mrs. Barf" variety. Those kind become fire kindling pretty fast. I really do NOT want to hear that you were mistaken for a student at your high school reunion or that you got a new Mercedes AGAIN for the past umpteen years.
12. Favorite Christmas movie? White Christmas - purely because it is a movie Mike has always wanted to watch every Christmas Eve, no matter where in the world we were.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Dec. 26th
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Nope
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Beef Tenderloin, pecan pie
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? White although I do like colored lights - we've had both but currently have white (or technically "clear")
17. Favorite Christmas song? Anything choral, English and written by David Rutter. One of the highlights of my musical concert attendances was hearing the Kings College Choir perform in London at the Royal Albert Hall - that and the "Messiah from Scratch" concert in the same venue where 90% of the audience is also singing Handel's "Messiah" - chills, really.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? When the kids lived at home, we always had Christmas at home, wherever that happened to be. My folks would almost always travel to spend it with us. These days we go where the kids are - sometimes at our home in Katy, sometimes up in the DFW area. We're flexible.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Of course.
20. Angel on the tree top, or a star? None of the above - we have a Muffy Vanderbear up there this year. We've had Snoopy Santa in the past. But now that I think of it, we also have a German wax angel in brocade we got at one of the Kristkindl Markts in Germany.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas morning - always!
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Getting castigated by denominational friends about me not celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday and then not being given a chance to explain the basis of my own belief system.
23. What I love most about Christmas? That feeling of happiness and hope that MOST people get. There's an air or expectation in the air - people generally seem nicer to each other (except on the freeway - ha!). And I love the traditions - getting out the ornaments and decorations and playing "remember when" - doing things because your mom did them and her mom did them - that sort of thing. The generous spirit is given reign and shines during this time of year. Plus, it's just so much FUN!
11 December 2007
After waking up at 4:41am not being able to breathe, I slowly pulled upright to make sure I wouldn't immediately spasm again only to realize that I was going to spasm anyway AND I had a full blown sinus infection. I could not breath, I could not stand, I could not get comfortable, Sam I AM! (have you ever sneezed with your back out? - it ranks right up there with transition in labor in my book) I watched TV for awhile and tried going back to sleep. I laid awake then with all the "night demons" that have possessed wives and mothers since the dawn of time ("I still haven't finished my shopping...those things I've ordered have not been delivered yet...I haven't booked tickets for our flights to Disney...nor our rental cars...Christmas is two weeks away...) and on and on and on. I finally fell asleep for about an hour but wish I hadn't because I had nightmares.
7:30am - finally drag my weary and painful bones out of bed and let the dogs out. Great - it's pouring rain. Drenching, wet, the-dogs-won't-stay-out-to-do-their-business kind of day. Also the muddy-paw-prints-everywhere kind of day followed by the oh-yea-my-back-hurts-so-can't-bend-over-and-clean-up-said-doggy-prints kind of day. So I call Mike in Kazakhstan (where it is getting close to bedtime for him 11 hours ahead of me). His day was belly-up too. So no inspiration there from me to him nor him to me. Batting zero.
Pain if standing, pain if sitting, pain if getting up, pain if getting down. Decide to call and see if any of my physicians in this area will give a poor girls some drugs! Nope - have to go into the doctor to get that since it's been a year since I've seen the orthopedist and I'm a new patient with the GP. Sigh...Advil it is then.
Decide if one position is as bad as another, might as well be productive so decide to tackle flights to Disney. Spent 6 hours - yes, SIX hours sorting 4 sets of tickets on a single day from 3 locations to arrive somewhere within an hour's time in Orlando and not spend our retirement. Finally get that sorted out and realize I've put Mirai down as an adult - call American to get her back to "Infant" status and through a misunderstanding (and I think major fault on American's part), end up changing one set of flights incurring an almost $300 change fee that I thought would be only $91. Can't change it or it will cost me another $300. Sigh...wishing my back pain on American...feeling guilty for wishing said back pain on them....sort of....
Jenny comes by with some over the counter meds for me, bless her. Chris offered to go by the pharmacy and pick up any RX's if they came but as previously groused about, none were in the offing.
More rain, doorbell rings 6 times. I'm in gown and am doing the yell through the door thing making everyone think I'm nuts (well, I am but does anyone have to KNOW?) Wet packages left on doorstep - but at least I can mark those items down as "delivered". But I notice that I'm getting up and down easier. Become cautious that maybe this back thing won't be a deal breaker for progress this week after all.
I ended up talking to all the kids today at one point or the other. Start getting excited about Disney now that everything is in place. Still can't get the dog prints off the wood floors. Still can't wrap Christmas gifts since that involves lifting and twisting. Still can't keep Mirai nor lift up Ben in a big bear hug nor Luke either. But I feel the mood lighten as the day closes and I've spoken with the kids, talked several times with Mike, have a chance to sort out my calendar and sort of catch up on a lot of things. So maybe my back was telling me it was time to SLOW DOWN and think about things for once! I'm not an advocate of pain for progress but I have to admit it does have it's uses. I just hope I can sleep tonight and only "twinge" tomorrow. I still have many packages to wrap, menus to plan, gifts to buy, and don't get me started on Quicken - that may well be my entire February. But it will get done eventually - it always does somehow.
But being a woman, I had to share. It's my duty. And you know you privately like to hear of other people's woes - kinda makes you feel better about your life. So I hope I made all of you feel REALLY good today! Ha! Oh, and don't go out to the mail box in 50's weather, barefoot, when it's raining. Not smart, not smart at all...especially after said pedicure...
06 December 2007
Today was momentous in that we had a very special visitor come and see us! None other than "The Man" himself - Father Christmas, Sinter Klaus, Yule Nisse - or, as WE know him, SANTA, dropped by today to visit the grandchildren and spent an hour talking with them, asking them about their wish lists for Christmas, answering their questions about his reindeer and sled (and they had PLENTY of those, I might add!) and making himself at home - IN MY LIVING ROOM! How utterly AWESOME is that!! (or as Jennifer would say - "How-awesome-is-THAT!?")
I always thought Santa was a big, rather boisterous old fellow who more or less "boomed" into a room! Nothing could be farther from the truth - he came in quietly, got on eye level with Ben and Kennedy and greeted them each by name. Then he got down on the floor with them and just made himself at home! Each of the grandbabies woke up at different times from their morning naps so got to meet him one by one. Not a one of them cried, was worried or scared. It was, well, magical!
Anyway, I decided to put in a good word for the old guy - he seemsto get a bad rap sometimes from the older generation of unbelievers. My mantra with MY kids was "if you believe, you receive" and today we sure did!
Merry Christmas ya'll!!
P.S. I really SHOULD give my son, Chris, a shout-out for doing the photography. It's nice to have a professional in the family! You did a GREAT job, son - thanks!
28 November 2007
Tonight, I was buckling Ben into his carseat to drive home from church (he often rides with me when I'm up in Keller) and he calmly says to me, "Gramma, you are fat." Well, this is true - and something that came up soon after his discovery of the book "One Fish, Two Fish" - remember the line, "This one is fat. This one is thin." Or something to that effect. Anyhoo, soon after that book, Ben asked me, "Gramma, are you the fat one?" It was cute, it was true, it was humerous - it was reality.
Now tonight, I decided that while some things are TRUE, some things are NOT to be pointed out (I was thinking ahead to the inevitable "why does that man have no legs? where is that lady's hair? where is that man's eye?" sort of thing.) So I decided in my best grandparenting voice to do a bit of coaching here. "Yes, Ben - it's true I am fat. But it's not polite to tell people they are fat. You might hurt their feelings." Ben thought about that for a moment and then solemnly announced he was sorry.
I smiled, confident in my "still with it" parenting skills when he then said, "So you're big. Really big."
That's my Ben! Gotta love it!! :)
Well, it's been two weeks since I last posted and for obvious reasons - tis the Season and we've all been decking our halls, right? We are having Christmas in Keller this year in our new second home and spent time last week getting it all gussied up for the holidays. And I admit - I've had a blast! It's been fun not the least because it's the first time I've seen some of this stuff since 2001! Many things have been in the family for years and years - they were moved to England with us when we moved back in 2000. But then the family grew - the kids started getting married and we started having Christmas back in the States instead of London. So these memories lay in storage in the attic of our house in England (called Brown Gables - the house, not the attic - we didn't have a name ffor that unless you want to call it home to mice!) until we moved in December 2005. Even then, they stayed in their plastic time capsules awaiting a glimpse of sunshine. They sat in a warehouse in England until January 2006, then sat in a warehouse in Houston until February of 2006, then sat in the "Texas basement" (a room finished attic for those of you with UNDERGROUND basements) until last month when I hauled them into my trusty "Gramma car" (aka "the Pilot") and brought them up to Keller, which we've appropriately dubbed "Brown Gables", to finally see the light of AMERICAN day for the first time in 11 years last week. (I won't tell you how they gasped for breath when I unpacked them nor the names they called me...)
Anyway, the old is blended with the new (that being GORGEOUS stuff I got at the Accessory Place half-price sale after Christmas LAST year) and we have Christmas in the making! Being the big head I am about decorating and the holidays, I decided to share photos of our home and hopefully inspire you to create your OWN brand of magic (if you haven't already done so) for this fun, Fun, FUN time of year! And if any of you are baa humbug types, go read blogs about deforestation or the demise of the ubiquitous dundee flea (okay, I made that one up) - just don't rain on MY parade!
And have a HAPPY holiday season - enjoy it to the "nth" degree and don't let traffic, crowds or Visa get you down!
So deck them halls, y'all! And have a bodacious Christmas!!!
15 November 2007
Today is Megan's birthday. She is Tim's beloved, so therefore is one of ours as well. Although she had a "ticket to get in" this family (again, Tim...) she has, on her own, carved out a space in our hearts. And, as I've always told Tim, if they get into an argument, we will ALWAYS take Megan's side so "don't go there". :)
From her willingness to take family vacations with us before she and Tim got married (first few photos are from a trip to the Cotswolds in England - 2003), traipsing through Walt Disney World with us when Tim was working, spending time in Katy with us sans Tim, trusting us enough to keep Kennedy for a few days on our own to her heartfelt thank you notes, webcam sessions (when we lived in the UK), times with the grandchildren, times with her and phone calls, she's been a real sweetheart!
So Happy 27th Birthday - yes, I can post ages 'cause you are so stinkin' YOUNG! We love you!!
So I went to www.hgtv.com to see if I could find the program details on it (which I did - lovely room, I might add) and also found this "Rate My Space" thing. You upload photos of your house - otherwise known as "space" I'm finding. "I use this space for" or "utilizing the maximum potential of my space"...when I was growing up SPACE meant one thing - OUTER space! But space now has a totally different take on it. But I digress.
You then write descriptions about aspects of said "space" and then folks who are likewise addicted come and rate your space and leave comments! Within 1 hour of posting my kitchen, over 200 people had rated my space (I'm glad to report I'm a solid 4 out of 5 stars). Later on that night I posted the powder room (the only two rooms I had photos for) and same thing happened.
So now I'm kind of in a double bind - I love the attention, love the comments, love the instant gratification of it all. But on the other hand, why am I spending so much time on this and why are OTHER people spending so much time on it?? It's addictive so tread lightly (or logon when you either (a) are sick and (b) have the kids at grandmas for more than a few hours). But having said all that, go rate my space!
03 November 2007
Anyway, we went to West Oaks Mall, bought our tickets after a walk up and down the mall (gotta get the circulation going before sitting for a couple of hours eating food that will clog our arteries and further impede said circulation - a pre-emptive move of little benefit I'm sure considering the cheeseburgers, french fries and chocolate shake that was to come) and headed into the theater. I looked on the left side to see our theater and Mike said, "It's over here - on the far right!" So we walk over, walk in and sit down. Now we were there to see "Dan in Real Life". Theater was empty. We ordered food. We watched all the kitch they have before the trailers (why are they trailers when they are BEFORE the movie - shouldn't they be called "leaders"?) and it was like sitting in the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater at MGM Studios, Disney World. All these old gory movies from the 50s, 60s and some 70s. I thought, "hmm, Halloween leftovers?" as it was just this week. I even mentioned to Mike that for a PG-13 movie, the old trailers seemed a bit extreme for possibly having some youngsters in the crowd. Our food comes, we start chowing down and then the aforementioned trailers start.
Now folks, that should have been our 2nd clue - the 1st being the old horror movie kitch while waiting. But no, we sit there waiting, confident our lovely little light movie will be on shortly. And you must understand, there's a good reason I don't watch horror movies - the first being I wasn't allowed to growing up (Thanks, Mom!) and secondly I get nightmares from them. I mean, I can get nightmares just from looking at my American Express bill (okay, NOT a good example...our Amex bill would give ANYONE nightmares). I saw "Carrie" with Cissy Spacek and Amy Irving (Steven Spielberg's first wife - triva for the day) when Mike and I had been married a few years - it was on TV so I thought "how bad could it be?". I couldn't sleep for a week and when I finally did, every time there as a flash of lights from someone's car driving by, I'd wake up and freak out. So there's a good reason to NOT have Cheri watch horror movies (if you live with her and plan on sleeping with her so that narrows it down to about...hmmm....one). So there we are, hope springing eternal, when the trailers come on. I'm again thinking, WHY are they showing this stuff before "Dan in Real Life"?? (have now finished salad and cheeseburger and fries are next). I'm wondering why I even ORDERED food as my appetite is quickly waning in the wake of all this gore on upcoming films. I turn to Mike and ask, "Are we in the right theater?" He says he thinks so. Then the movie starts.
Imagine the surprise on faces of the waitstaff in the lobby when two "early-middle-aged" patrons come busting out of the theater, food in hand, look up at the marquee over the door and see "Saw IV" on it and blanch! "We're in the wrong movie!" They looked at us like we'd spring antlers and say, "You didn't want Saw IV?" (I'm personally thinking at this point, "can't you TELL???" as I'm almost frantic at this point, wondering if some zombie or serial killer is going to follow me out of the theater).
They direct us to the right theater (which was, DOH!, right next door) and we settle in to the handicapped places (it was full by then, movie about to start) and proceed to enjoy a very likeable film (which I highly recommend by the way, not to rub your faces in the fact that we DO go see movies not having little ones anymore - mixed blessings and all that).
Later, after the movie was over, as we walked hand in hand out to the car, we discussed how much the movie was so much fun, how it was nice to finally get a good movie (after several disastrous choices earlier in the year - Wickerman - we actually paid money to see Wickerman - and a dumber movie I've not seen) and finally how EMBARRASSING it was to get the wrong theater. I don't think we've ever done that before but it did give us pause and make us wonder if we were on the cusp of "losing it". But no, I did find the Ladies Room on my own ("in time" I might add), we did find the mall okay, we remembered where we parked and we canNOT seem to forget we went into the wrong theater! So I guess we're okay.
I'm just still traumatized by the trailers....
31 October 2007
Jennifer and I have had this Starbucks thing ever since she was a senior in High School back in Katy and she worked at Munchkins Day Care. There was a Starbucks, the FIRST one in Katy, right across the parking lot. One car for both of us to use so I'd take her to work, run over to Starbucks and get us drinks and a breakfast bread of some sort and take it over ot her. Odd thing was, I didn't like coffee (then - I've been converted now.) Anyhoo, I tried for years and years to find a drink I liked - teas, coffee configurations, everything under the sun - but the main thing was, Starbucks just represented time spent together to me. Even overseas, we'd go to a Starbucks and think of the kids. I eventually got hooked on coffee (see, if you stick around something long enough, you eventually get used to it and even like it - words to the wise to all those teenagers flirting with dangers other than caffeine... ha) and have an auto-reload Starbucks card that probably gets more use than any other card in the wallet (and that's a LOT of cards, folks!)
After dinner, before a movie would start (pre-grandchildren days), to kill time, we'd all go to Starbucks! We'd get adventurous - ooooh, Republicans trying such different things as ICED Lattes! Gingerbread Lattes!! The occasional "mixed drink" (ever try a Orange Passion Iced Tea Lemonade on a 100+ degree F day??) We had 'em all! It was an orgy of coffee and tea flavors and we tried 'em all! I've since settled down and usually enjoy a nice quiet Americano (no-room, tall) with a rather old-fashioned glazed donut (no, I'm NOT going into the police academy). But through thick and thin, Starbucks saw us through. I even lost one of my favorite David Yurman earrings at a Starbucks in Waco - good times, good times.
A Sunday sometime this fall, we went to Starbucks after lunch following worship services and I snapped a few photos of Jennifer and Jason's family - it was so "now" to me as far as a great place for a family to visit, relax, spend some time. So I think Starbucks should pay me - for free advertising, for persevering to find a drink I liked and getting hooked, for being a "frequent flyer", for propagandizing (is that really a word?) the link between family and their franchise.
I'll settle for a coupon for a free drink however. Call me! We'll talk...
And Target, don't get me started on Target - it's a real sob story! My emotional life and consumerism...details at 8.
Then last night we went to the Fort Worth Zoo for their annual "Boo at the Zoo". Not a whole lot of animals but there were trick-or-treat stations, live shows, train rides, lots of people in all kinds of costumes, spooky "mist" and just good SAFE fun! Ben was a pirate - but not just ANY pirate - he was a NICE pirate! He made sure I knew that - guess he'd seen some "not so nice" pirates? Luke was a "li'l pun'kin" as was Mira although she was a Pooh Pumpkin (limited supply of costumes when you go shopping the day before Halloween as I did for Mirai.)
I put Mirai in the sling when we got there just to see if she'd like it better than laying down in the stroller. After she had her bottle, she fell asleep and stayed that way all through the evening waking up just as we got to the car to go home - then she decided to be rather, ahem, "vocal" freaking Luke out a bit. Mirai can go from 0 - 60 decibels in 1 second flat - truly an experience in keeping with the whole Halloween, scary times theme. :) She finally quieted down about the time we got on I-35 north by which time Luke was pretty spooked. Ben spent the night with me, exhausted though he was, and we had a good time together. This is what being a grandparent is all about - getting to be part of their lives in slivers of "one-on-one" and nothing beats, "Gramma, I love you!" to which I reply "I love you, too!" to which he usually replies, "I love you THREE!" and so on.
Happy Halloween and can't wait to see everyone's pictures of their little darlings in full costume. And, yeah, we know about the caution on the Bumbo thing - and we were watching him all the time!!! I promise I don't spend all my time and money obtaining hazardous and/or recalled equipment and toys for the grands.
22 October 2007
I'm getting the house ready to "close" tomorrow when I drive up to Keller for a week and a few days. Mike's in Singapore, Grandma Crawford is heading to visit Ann and Charlie in Columbia so I'm heading north! I'll drop Mom off at the airport on my way out of town.
On a different note, Izzie (our 2nd miniature schnauzer) has finally decided that I am "hers". She wants to be with me all the time and comes up when I'm sitting, plants her front paws firmly on my lap and stares at me intently until I pick her up and pet her. After my initial "why did I get another headache...I mean dog?" I'm glad I have the two of them. They are pretty entertaining and when Mike is out of town, very good company. Of course, Izzie is still a youngster and gets into "youngster mode" quite a bit. I thought I'd come up with the perfect solution for penning them both up when I leave the house and it worked for a whole week - I'd put them in the pool bath with a couple of toys, water and their doggie bed. Well, Saturday I went to a movie with Grandma and came back to "snow" in the bathroom! Somehow she'e managed to get the FULL NEW roll of toilet paper off the hanger and it was torn up to shreds! So now I have my checklist - water...check...toys...check...bed...check...all trash and toilet rolls out of reach...check...and just to be on the safe side...close the toilet lid...check (she might decide to go swimming - you never know!) :) Oh, and I have to be careful when we drive as well - she gets carsick! What do you give a dog that gets carsick?? I finally decided to not feed her on driving days and make sure the backseat is covered up well (especially the Britax seats). But that girl's a pip! I wish I had half her energy...
17 October 2007
Now if it was just as easy to change MY "aspect" from "wide" to "normal"...and no comments about the role said strawberry pop might play in this, please. :)
16 October 2007
There's something about a cool, crisp fall morning that takes me back to childhood and the joy that a day like today would herald - it made me excited to think about Halloween coming, about pumpkin donuts and apple cider, about planning for Thanksgiving Dinner and making Christmas presents and putting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, then the Christmas season culminating in the greatest even in a child's life - Christmas anticipation! I think thinking about Christmas was more fun that the actual day in a lot of respects - even as a child!
I don't have little children at home anymore and miss their excitement coming home from school to find the house decked out in Halloween decorations. I miss baking zuchinni bread, pumpkin loaf, cinnamon coffee cake and other such "cooler weather" goodies which were usually eaten within 24 hours (if I make them now, they still are eaten within 24 hours but by only 2 adults who have no business eating them and not the 5 who USED to be in residence!). And I miss coming home from school on a wet, cold fall day growing up in Lubbock to find Mom had made hot chocolate and had baked that day. There is just something intrinsically cozy to me about a drizzly, cool day in the fall. Call me crazy, but (yes, Jennifer, I can hear you say "Hey, Crazy Butt!" just like you used to) I love rainy days - and cool ones are the tiptop fav!
So I think I'll go clean out my pantry, organize my spices and think about baking, and Christmas, maybe even put some Christmas music on - who cares if it's only October? I used to put it on in July - I'm showing "restraint" here! :)
May your day be filled with that excitement and sparkle which is the substance of anticipation and hope! I love Fall...
14 October 2007
Photos - Summer 2007 with Luke, Christmas 1976, Our wedding 1976 (we paid EXTRA to have those candle flames be heart shaped!)
21. Who is the first to admit when they are wrong? Oh, we are NEVER wrong! (ouch! there's that lightening I was afraid of...) In truth, we are usually pretty good about owning up to things.
So I'm supposed to tag someone now - well, the aforementioned girlfriends I have do not blog. If they did, I'd tag Marilyn, Cynthia, Lee Ann and Rebekah (in Australia - that would be interesting!). But Jenjer, YOU blog so "tag, you're it!"
08 October 2007
There are tons of birds who obviously get fed by park attendees. After our train ride and a visit to the Betty Crockrell Butterfly Exhibit at the Natural Science Museum, we took a bit of a rest outside the zoo before heading home to beat the traffic. As we sat on the benches, the pidgeons arrived. I told Ben if he rushed them, they'd fly away - which they did the first time he tried it. Then they flew back and Kennedy and Ben tried to get them to fly again without a lot of result. But it was fun to watch them go for it!
Although your birthday was last Saturday, I'm only just home today and want to wish you, Kennedy, a happy, happy birthday week! Although you were sick Friday night - and your party at the park had to be canceled - you took it in stride and enjoyed a day kite flying with your dad and Papa Mike, balloons all over the house, princess cupcakes and rings, lots of presents and our undivided attention. You have been a bundle of energy and such a loving child ever since the day you came screaming into this world! And when you come up and lean on me and say, "I love you, Gramma Cheri!" I could just die with happiness! So Happy Birthday my little butterfly! You forever have a home in our hearts.
02 October 2007
23 September 2007
20 September 2007
Thursday September 20, 2007 For Better or For Worse
This pretty much sums up how I feel (except I DO change diapers, DO deal with tears...okay, so I can sleep at night - so sue me...) But it did seemingly go by too quickly and I do wonder, now that I'm reveling in the joy of this next generation, if I realized just how precious those times were. It was not all fun and games but there is a deep satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment looking back. Anyway, enjoy! (and thanks to my daily friend, Lynne Johnston, whom I've been reading ever since Jennifer was a toddler and Tim a baby. I've often joked that Michael Patterson and Jennifer were friends and "grew up together". I know Elly and I grew up together.
19 September 2007
18 September 2007
It's funny actually - when we lived in England, my battle cry was "let's move somewhere where I can be Wife, Mother and Grandmother all at once!" Well, I'm closer now - only 2-1/2 hours to one family, 4-1/2 hours to the other two families. My mother has actually moved down to Katy from Lubbock. Mike's folks are in Bedford around the corner from Chris, Jenjer and Mirai. No longer is it an hour's drive to Gatwick, 2 hours of checking in and waiting, 10 hours to fly, etc. But it still seems far away when you aren't with the ones you love. There are times when we are all together - July 4th week was one. Another is coming up the last weekend in September when almost everyone (we'll miss you, Jason!) will be in the "Big House" (see earlier post - tee hee) in Katy. There's Christmas and possibly even Thanksgiving (plans anyone??). And in January, of course, DISNEY WORLD! :) Events that fill my heart with joy. I find myself wanting it all.
But it got me to thinking about that old hymn and especially the 2nd verse:
In heaven no drooping nor pining,
No wishing for elsewhere to be;
God's light is forever there shining,
How beautiful heaven must be
How beautiful heaven must be,
Sweet home of the happy and free;
Fair heaven of rest for the weary,
How beautiful heaven must be.
So Happy Birthday, Benjamin. And on Saturday, Happy Birthday to not only Christopher, but his brother Benjamin, who DOES know "how BEAUTIFUL heaven must be"!
15 September 2007
Be still my beating heart....
10 September 2007
Once when we were out kissin',
A real good time not to be missin',
Up drove some cop,
And everything stopped,
And to a long lecture we listened.
Kids are always on about fairness - "that's not fair" is a mantra we hear day in, day out from our children when they are young. We were no exception. Despite our best efforts to reason out why life wasn't fair, it always boiled down to "that's not fair" as far as the kids were concerned it seemed. One day Chris had to go to the doctor for an illness - he was feeling really puny, was going to continue that way for awhile and, feeling really bad that HE felt really bad, I did what any self-respecting mother would do - I bought him a toy.
Now Chris was about 4 years old at this time. Big brother Timothy was a first grader and had reached the illustrious, mature age of 6. So Chris and I are at home, resting after our exertions as the doctors, the resultant trip to the pharmacy and the purchase of the aforementioned toy when Jennifer and Timothy come home from school (we were living in Norway which means that it wasn't EASY to get out and do all this go to the doctor stuff - Europe in general does not have the drive-in/through, 24/7 convenience of the US of A) and Tim immediately notices the toy. He starts moping and sulking. I ask him what's wrong.
"Chris got a new toy."
Yes he did.
"Why didn't I get a new toy?"
Well, you weren't sick and didn't have to go to the doctor.
You think I should have bought you a toy too?
So whatever Chris gets, you should get? Is that what you're saying?
You sure about that? I ask.
He nods again.
So I reach over and give him a swat on his backside. With surprise on his face mingled with dismay, he exclaims, "What was THAT for?!?"
I replied, Chris got a spanking today and I ONLY WANTED TO BE FAIR!
I never heard another word about fairness from that child for the next 10 years.
I've been tagged...and here are the rules:
1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
- I don't have a university degree - I did go to Texas Tech for one year at the insistence of my (future) husband and my mom. I only took classes I was interested in (which drove my course advisor crazy) - no English, no math, no P.E. (HATED P.E. anyway), no history. Instead I took Child Development (clashed mightily with the prof as I didn't agree with their so-called "child rearing" philosophies big time!), Home Economics, Clothing and Textiles, Interior Design (an easy "A" for moi!) and, laughably, "Courtship and Marriage" where my term paper of a marriage contract garnered a lowly "C" for "too traditional values" while Miss "I live with my boyfriend" got an "A" for her "personal class interview with Q & A" - I'm sure SHE'S languishing away somewhere with her contracted STD's and hates men while I've been married 31 years to a lovely, salt-of-the-earth guy and have all these lovely children and grandchildren - and "germ free" - ha!
- We lost a child at birth. Our Benjamin (which we inadvertantly misspelled "Benjamen" on the birth and death certificates) was only 5 hours old. He was one of twins (Chris' twin - they were 3 months premature) born to us in London. The NICU in the UK was marvelous and we were fortunate to be there at the time since they were the leaders in infant intensive care at the time. We had the support of a loving church family and as a result of the outpouring of love by that congregation, our nanny (yes, we had a nanny for awhile) studied and became a Christian. Lovely ending to an otherwise sad story.
- Mike and I met at the J.C. Penny coffeeshop my senior year of high school. And we started dating on a bet - I bet him he couldn't go a week without "picking on me". He threw the bet Day 1 and he's been "picking on me" ever since. :) Oh, the "loser" had to take the other one out for dinner - no real losers that way! Met in Sept. 74, started dating in Feb. 75, engaged by Oct 75 and married Aug 76. I was 19 when we married. Jennifer was born 18 months later. By the time I was 25, I'd had all my children, had moved 4 times as a Mrs., was living overseas and been married 6 years. It was great to have worked together before we dated - you get to know a person by their work ethic, their reaction to people and situations "under fire" and we were on a similar plain...except for how to make a chocolate milkshake - mine "wasn't by the book" but it got folks coming in for them. When brought to the attention of the store manager, he closed the book and told me to keep making those milkshakes. I won.
- I love interior design and am especially fond of English interiors. While living in the UK, I collected antiques (mainly Edwardian) and incorporated them into our new house we built in Katy. My kitchen was copied from a Clive Anderson kitchen brochure and the result was a LOVELY Victorian kitchen - all that's missing is the Aga stove (a little too hot for the deep south but would have been so nice to have had in there otherwise). Oh, I'm also addicted to Polish pottery - really, I'm addicted. I have my favorite manufacturer, favorite eBay vendors, favorite patterns - it's a sickness...no cure...must have pottery....
- I sang in a well known choir in Trinidad & Tobago when we lived in Port of Spain. It's called the Marionettes and I was the first American to audition for the choir. I sang with them for 3 years and really enjoyed it! There were about 85 members, it was a nationally and internationally known choir, we had a full week of performances in the Queen's Hall every Christmas season and other concerts throughout the year. It was, as the British say, "lovely". I was in an expatriate women's choir in England called "Expatria" for 3 years as well - not nearly as professional a group but fun none-the-less.
- My first car was ...wait for it...a really "cool" avocado green Ford Pinto - oh, it gets worse - it was a STATIONWAGON! (gasp!!) This was alongside Mike's VERY cool MG Midget sports car...I've improved on my taste in automobiles (and on the safety record of said autos as well - for those of you too young to know this (go ask your mothers), Pintos were "under investigation" for their penchant for blowing up when rear-ended since the fuel tank was located near the rear of the vehicle)
- I've never had a moving violation in my 33 years of driving. Got a ticket for an expired registration sticker, got a warning for going 67 in a 60mph zone (last spring) but never have had a ticket for anything else (watch...I'll get one this week now....)
- I got to go to Wimbledon back in June 2001 and was probably the only person who ever had to have the game of tennis explained to her. It was the men's semi-finals (Pat Rafter and Andre Agassi are the only two I can remember) and we were invited by some lovely people to attend as their guests (thanks, Helen and Trevor!). Much protocol, strawberries and all that tradition - for a non-sports person, it was still a fantastic day and so great to be able to go "in person" (vs. what - "out of person"? That was stupid). Mike was happy as a clam (being a tennis player). And I was intrigued by the (not very well known) "changing of the shirt" between sets. They strip off their shirts, squirt water all over themselves, towel down and then put on a fresh shirt. Really, if I'd known, I'd might have been more interested in tennis years ago! (just kidding Mike...and I did check and NO, they do NOT do that at the women's sets - sorry guys!)
Now as to whom to tag - I guess it will be Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Sneezy, Happy, Bashful and Snow White. I don't know their blogs so I hope they read this and let me know!
But anyway, back to my main point, be patient with me and I'll blog again soon.
And I've been "tagged" by Megan so my list of 8 little known things about me will be up soon. Only 8??
03 September 2007
I don't know about you, but early on in our children's years, we started praying for the future spouses of our children. And the result of all that prayer was graciously answered in the form of Jason, Megan and Jenjer. They are also our children now and it's always been a bit of a quandary how to answer people when they ask how many children we have. I used to say "six" which led to further questions of if they were all married (which of course technically is "yes" but they don't yet understand that), how many boys, how many girs and (my personal favorite) "You don't look old enough to have six children!" Now I answer, "Six - three by birth and three by marriage". I've never liked the term "in-law" (which always conjures up the polar opposite, "out-law", to me) but for some reason our society just does not want to recognize the people our children have chosen to love, honor and cherish as bonafide children to us! They are outsiders or an extension but not of full rank or some such nonsense.
Families are a community and a sense of community must always be present for all members to feel connected, involved, of equal worth as well as equal responsibility. We all want to be accepted and feel loved and it's hard to feel that way if held at arms-length. I hope all of you with children at home have been praying for the future spouses of your little ones and, if not, will start TODAY to do so! For they will also become your children, a part of your family community, a part of your heart.
For those of you with married children, I hope you will embrace them as your own (which they truly are) and make every effort to include them and treat them as sons and daughters of your own blood. Forge bonds with them as individuals. They will become the mothers and fathers of your grandchildren and also hold the hearts of your "birth-children". If you can't love and cherish them, you wil have lost out on so much and will put your relationship with your "birth-children" on shaky ground. Don't ever make your children choose between you and their beloved.
So God bless Jennifer, Jason, Timothy, Megan, Christopher and Jenjer. And God bless Benjamin, Kennedy, Lleyton, Luke and Mirai - and their future spouses, whoever they are, wherever they are.
God bless us every one.
31 August 2007
It is so easy to be fooled into thinking we should be something we are not. I'm all for self-improvement, but what exactly are we trying to improve? Our parenting skills or our image (how others perceive us)? I challenge you to examine WHY you do things and how it stacks up against the so-called "supermoms" of the world.
From the day our litt'l darlin's are born, basically, we are working to let them go. This is a hard truth. But think about it - the reality is we are given 18 years (if we are lucky) to supply a child (hopefully with the help and support of a loving husband) with everything he or she needs to function as a responsible, conscientious member of the human race. This entails doing seemingly UN-supermom-like things such as
- saying "NO" when necessary. Children actually feel more secure and confident within themselves and their families when they know there are limits. The same limits that sometimes spoils their fun are the same limits that also keep the family unit safe, couples committed, etc.
- knowing that stretch marks are our badge of honor.
- recognizing that giving your children "the best" of everything is counter-productive. Always insisting on "the best" creates unrealistic expectations of what real life will be like and creates the "me first" monster. You want to DO your best, but when it comes to things or experiences, "the best" can do more harm than good
- recognizing that how your child perceives you is way more important than how your friends perceive you. Your children watch you, they mimic you - your actions either build character or tear it down so choose wisely. If you want to be remembered as the mom who was beautiful, slim and popular, you'll miss the boat on things like instilling personal self-worth, self-control, fiscal responsibility, integrity, character.
- other than sex, if you don't want them to do it, you shouldn't be doing it either. The "do as I say, not as I do" mentality is called "Congress", not "successful family life". :)
- realizing that life is not perfect and your children shouldn't think and then expect it to be perfect. Life is dirty, life is messy - if you are truly LIVING! Things break, hair turns grey, paunches develop, we get tired, we run out of money, we run out of patience - don't whitewash reality because you're just setting your kids up for a fall. Then when reality hits them in the face, they respond with dangerous behaviors
- accepting that we have flaws, our children have flaws, our husbands have flaws and our marriages have flaws. We have to get over it and learn to work with what we have and build on that.
- giving your children opportunities for growth without you, hard as it is. We want our children to need us, to love us, to want to be with us. But you can overdo that to the point where you will be mommy for all their life and they can't make their own decisions or take actions without your approval. They need to become independent.
- letting your kids make mistakes. Now I'm not talking about running naked in the streets or not using a helmet. I'm talking about things like letting them run out of money and not bailing them out - letting them hurt for their actions, let them know there are consequences for their decisions, be they good or bad
- recognizing that "keeping up with the Jones'" could also mean putting your children in the same detox center. Keep up with your ideals and your spiritual goals, not the neighbors
And what you need from your friends is good advice, commiseration, empathy, encouragement - not envy. So go out there and be REAL super-moms!
Jennifer and I braved the dreaded 'photo experience' which means we took the boys to a local photographer, someone who claims to be an expert in children's photography (the chain will remain unnamed...but you all know who it is) but then proceeds to take 20 minutes to check you in, then make you wait 40 minutes past your appointment time (with CHILDREN???) and then take you back with youngsters who a) didn't want to come in the first place, b) are fractious by this time, c) are not happy about having to "smile naturally" for a photo they didn't want in the first place, d) don't believe the bribes the photographer offers since they are never delivered once the promised "happy look" is produced...
After all this turmoil, we wait, and we wait, and we wait...to see 95% of the photos taken look like either mug shots or standard head poses from any public school (which is okay except how many 3 month old babies do you see in Kindergarten? Just a little weird!).
The result of this - two cute photos which I'll share with you - I think these were the only good photos out of the entire 2 hour ordeal and Jennifer and I once again wondered, "WHY did we do this??" Because hope springs eternal...and they are so very cute...
30 August 2007
We decided that anyone who does NOT know our situation has major reservations about the character of his Papa Mike when Ben announced, in public, "I want to go visit Papa in the big house!" Poor Papa. We'll visit you soon...