Monday, August 27, 2012

The Iliad (or a blog post that is just as long)

We were lucky enough to be invited back out to the Gee lake house for a Greek party this weekend.  The hostess (with the mostess) is a woman named Carol (Grandmother "Nan" to Dakota).  You can read about Dakota and his family here.

Anyway, Dakota's dad, John has a place on Lake Ft. Gibson in a community called Rainbow End. And Nan throws extravagant parties every summer at this very festive location.  I had heard that she was quite the party planner.  In fact the invitation that John sent out said that she was the "mother of all party planners" and that the "children who attend would be more successful in life than those who did not".  I have to agree.  She is the "mother of all party planners" AND our children's success is secure now that we have attended a Carol Bentley party.

This is Carol (Nan).


She planned everything down to every detail.  She had games planned for the beach.  Arts and crafts planned for the porch.  And a traditional Greek feast planned and prepared for the pavilion.

We started on the beach with some swimming and then proceeded to play games.  There was a race on horses (noodles) through the water around an obstacle and to Helen of Troy (or Helen of Rainbow End).

Then they played "Medusa Hair".  This involved shaving cream and the tossing of Cheetos at the head of the partner.  It was exactly like the ancient Greeks used to do.

Nan also had a game involving ping pong balls in a cup and a spray bottle.  The kids paired up again and tried to get the ping pong ball to float out of the cup by spraying water into it.  This game required a lot of patience from the bigger kids who were paired with the younger kids.  Look at Dakota's face in this picture as he talks to "bug" in the orange life jacket.  He was smiling at her the entire time.  He never lost patience with her.  I love this kid...


Nan even had accessories!  Helmets...

And swords... (think Greeks vs. Trojans)

And ropes for a rope game.  We started out all tangled up in a web of ropes and arms.  Then we had to work together as a team to untangle ourselves. 

I think Camryn knows how to solve this riddle, she's just not telling.

Because some folks are having way, way, way too much fun...

After traditional Greek beach games, we headed up for arts and crafts.  The kids made laurel wreath crowns and fans with feathers and glitter glue.  We brought our togas but adorned them with gilded accessories created by the kids.

Apollo and Hermes

After the kids made their accessories it was time for the feast.  Nan spared no expense.  She introduced these kids to food that many had never seen (I know mine had not).

The menu included olives in every color, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, dates, apples, grapes, honey, feta cheese, cucumbers, goat cheese, hummus, pitas, chicken, stuffed grape leaves, almonds, pistachios, yogurt and wine (the kids had grape juice).  Since the Greeks did not have plates or napkins, Nan had them use flat bread for a plate and more bread for their napkins.

The Greek Gods and Goddesses sat on the floor wearing their togas and laurels.  They ate with their hands and tried new food.  With each new food that was presented Nan would ply them with Greek cultural facts.

Here is Nan explaining about the pomegranate.

Thank you Carol Bentley for including us in one of the best family-friendly parties I have ever had the pleasure of attending.  Your attention to detail is amazing and your research and diligence was evident.  You really do know how to throw a party!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The New Mayo


This marks the end of our first week of school.  Last weekend we worked at Mayo to help get it ready for the first day.  They moved buildings and the new building was quite old and needed a lot of renovation.  But it is a beautiful building and we are so lucky to be in it.

The call went out for volunteers over a week ago and Mike answered the call.  He was invaluable to all the teachers and staff at the school.  All weekend long I heard, "has anyone seen Emma Jane's dad?", "oh, you should ask Emma Jane's dad to fix that, he can do it."

We all went up and chipped in but Mike put in more than his fair share.

The girls unpacked boxes, scraped stickers off lockers, and fetched snacks for the teachers.

And if you know me at all, you know I LOVE School Supplies!  (I was accused once of becoming a teacher just for the school supplies.)

All the pencils sharpened to a fine point.  All the crayons in every color.  The markers still have ink and the correct lids on them!  All those primary colors! 

And all the books ready to be read to eager children sitting "criss-cross applesause" in a circle around a nurturing teacher who knows all their names and sings songs and gets down on their level.

After a full weekend of working the school had it's grand opening on Monday morning.  It was quite an event!  Lucy was so happy and excited to be going to her "sissy's school".  She was a little intimidated by the hoopla surrounding the grand opening.  There were television news crews and music and people talking on a PA system and lots of cheering.  It was not the best way for a little girl who doesn't like crowds or noise to start school.  But it was the perfect way to start off the school year for the rest of us.

Here is sweet Lucy on her very first day of big girl school.  Pre-K here we come!

And both of my beautiful girls in our front yard.

And here is Emma Jane's best friend Sophie too!  Two of the smartest and prettiest 4th graders I have ever known.

Then we all drove to school.  I have this exact same picture of Emma Jane with her dad 5 years ago.

 I love the community of Mayo.  We have the best teachers and parents.  I am so proud of how we all came together to get the barn raised.  It takes a village to raise a child or open a school.

It is going to be a great year!

Reading, Reading, Reading!

All summer long I have been trying to get Emma Jane interested in reading.  At nine years old she can sound out most words and doesn't need to be read to anymore.  We are trying to create an independent reader who loves books.  We have been to the library.  We have bought, borrowed, and checked out books that were recommended to us.  Books about fairies, mermaids, young girls her age, all fiction and all age appropriate.  But it was like pulling teeth to get her to read.  She finished two books but there was not a "love" of reading that her mother possesses.  I tried to find a book that she could not wait to open.  A book that she would rush home and run to her room to read.  Nothing.

I had a long summer reading list and modeled the behavior of a veracious reader.  But she plodded through these pre-teen dramas with all the enthusiasm of a teeth cleaning.

Then right before school started, we were working at Mayo and Mike rescued a set of Science Encyclopedia's from a dumpster.  He brought them home and she squealed with delight.  She sat in her room looking and READING about whales, dolphins, spiders, snakes and lightning.  I had to ask her to turn out the light and go to sleep.  "Stop reading!" I said.  "It's past your bedtime!" 

It turns out that non-fiction is what she likes.  She can't get enough of these volumes of science.  Each morning she would pepper me with facts about spiders, or dolphins or how a thunderstorm forms.  She became a veracious reader...finally!

Then on Wednesday night, I was tucking her in and she was reading the encyclopedia, again, when she asked if I could possibly read this paragraph to her and explain what it meant.  "It has some big words in it that I can't sound out and that I don't understand".  I said, "of course dear, let me see the book".

This was the passage she needed help with.

Earthworms are hermaphroditic.  They contain both male and female cells.  During reproduction, two worms come together in opposite directions with their clitellums in contact with their mating partner  The clitellum produces a mucus which holds the two worms together for sperm exchange. Sperm are made in the seminal vesicles, which are large organs on either side of the esophagus.  After the sperm exchange the worm backs out of the mucous tube and it passes over the organ that releases the eggs.  The mucus tube now contains both sperm and eggs.  The earthworm wiggles out of the sac and the cocoon remains in the soil for about three weeks when a new earthworm hatches from the cocoon.

Mom, what does "hermaphroditic" mean?  

The last big word Emma Jane learned was anthropomorphizing.  You can read about how she worked that word into conversation here.  Therefore, I am a little reluctant to have her learn this word at nine years old.

No good can come from this...except maybe a few good stories.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hats, belts, aprons and running shoes

Like most people I have many different hats to wear.  I was thinking of titling this post "all the hats I wear" but they are not really hats.  I think of them more like different articles of clothing.  I only have one head and I can't wear more than one hat at a time.

There is the Mom Hat which I have worn for almost 10 years now.  This hat is more like a belt that has to go with all of my other clothing.  I never take it off.  I wear it to bed and I wear it in the shower.  It is really a tool belt that holds the family calendar, a digital camera, a blankie, cheese stick, emergency chocolate, band-aids, multiplication flash cards and a 5 hour energy drink.  This belt is my most prized accessory.  I wear it like one of those big rodeo belt buckles you win for staying on the bull for 8 seconds.  I am proud of this belt but it does get heavy and does not go so well with fancy cocktail dresses.

There is also the Work Hat.  It is more like a sleek black suit that makes me feel so professional.  When I am wearing my black suit and high heels I am in charge.  I can give a presentation to a group of 100 or work in the server room all by myself with my high heels click-clicking along with my fingers on the keyboard.  I enjoy my work suit.  I do.  It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger.  But my suit doesn't fit anyone else.  It is tailored to fit me and me alone.  The uniqueness of the suit makes it a burden to ever shed.  And I am always wearing my big mom belt with my suit.

And the Wife Hat. This hat is more like a sexy bra...(sorry to the men reading this).  It needs to be supportive but still has to look good.  And it goes well with the suit and the belt.  It is 17 years old and has seen so much change.  But on a daily basis it performs well and still holds up in the wash.

The Athletic Hat is better represented by running shoes.  They must carry me for miles each week. When I don't get to wear them I am grumpy.  I feel like I have to make time to put them on.  They get shoved under the bed or to the back of the closet but I feel so much better when I can squeeze in the time to lace them up and get out there.  I often wonder why I like wearing these shoes.  Is it really a selfish decision to make the time to run or a societal pressure to be the complete woman who also takes great care of herself?  Who knows.  

Now for the Social Hat.  The social hat is really a purse that keeps peoples birthday presents, cards, stamps, addresses, and phone numbers handy.  This purse can get really heavy and sometimes I forget to look in it but I never stop carrying it around.  Oh, there is also glue in this purse.  The glue that holds friendships and families together.  This purse carries responsibility and thank you notes.  It makes time for friends who are having a bad day.  It hands out complements to complete strangers in grocery stores.  This purse is not trendy or expensive.  But sturdy with big wide straps that can hold a lot of stuff.

Craft Hat:  This is a cute smock sort of apron with ruffles that I sewed myself.  I wish it got more use but when I do pull it out of the closet, it has knitting needles in the pockets and a long forgotten scarf that was being made for a birthday or special gift (see social hat).  This apron makes me feel creative and alive.  I love this apron.  It is a joy to wear and I get compliments on it.  It is seasonal though and I don't get to wear it every week.

Archiver Hat:  This hat is like a pair of big pop-bottle glasses.  I wear them all day trying to record what I see and hear and smell.  I don't want to forget the cute things my girls say or the sweet fingers that wrap around my hands and ask if they can have "some of my warm".  These glasses record all the history of our family.  They see everything and try to keep it in RAM memory so it is easily accessible.  These glasses never forget.  They have amazing storage and can recall things so quickly.  I hope I always have these glasses. These glasses are the reason I blog.  I want my girls to know all the stories and be able to go back and read them when they can appreciate them.  Because I know that one day these glasses will fail me.

Baker's Hat:  Now this is really a hat.  It is a poofy chefs hat that sticks way up in the air.  I have to dust it off and it is definitely a seasonal hat.  I LOVE this hat.  I love to bake with my girls.  This hat makes my family so happy.

I always think of this moment when Emma Jane was 3 and enrolled in ballet. I was in her closet wearing a suit and on a conference call about a server that was down.  I was explaining to someone how to ping for the IP address of the server, while on my hands and knees digging for a ballet slipper while Emma stood over me sobbing because she was going to be late for her class.  The dog was barking because the timer was going off on the oven to alert me that the cupcakes that I was making for school the next day needed to come out.  I thought to myself...this is true multi-tasking.  (And I used to be so much better at it.)

So the picture I have drawn for you is a 41 year old woman wearing a black suit, tool belt, running shoes, frilly apron, glasses, baker's hat, carrying a huge purse and has super sexy underwear underneath it all.  That is quite a mental picture, I am sure.  But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Oh, and I have wings...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Toy sorting blues...

We emptied Lucy's room on Sunday. I mean we took everything out. We piled up her toys in the front living room so she could sort them into piles. (And so we could give some things away). She rediscovered her harmonica as we were cleaning. She laid on top of her pile of cherished possessions and played a mournful tune on the harmonica. Nobody knows the trouble she has seen...nobody knows what it must be like to be Lucy...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Poison Control and a Dead Porcupine

When we set out on our road trip a week ago, Lucy said she had a sore in her mouth.  Boy, did she ever!  It was when she stopped eating ketchup that I knew something was wrong.  She cried about her mouth hurting and she was miserable at every meal.  Lucy loves ketchup.  Once when I asked her if I could steal a french fry she said "yes, mommy, I only use them to get ketchup in my mouth".  So when we were driving through Kansas and Colorado and she stopped eating ketchup or any salty foods of any kind, I realized that we were in trouble.

So I bought some canker sore medicine.  She let me use this for a day or so, but it caused more trouble than it helped.  So near the Colorado Utah border I stopped at a Walgreens and bought some Hydrogen Peroxide.  I took a bottle of water from the ice chest and drank half the water.  Then I poured H2O2 in with the water until it was half water, half H2O2.  Then every time we would stop I would make Lucy swish her mouth with the mixture and spit it out into a cup.  She would complain and cry and say how bad it tastes.  How bad could it taste really?  She would fight me and say no and I finally decided it was more trouble that it was worth as well.  So she doesn't eat french fries or ketchup for a while.  What could be the harm in that?

When we finally got to a place where we were going to be staying for more than one night, I asked Mike to empty out the van.  We needed to reorganize and unpack and do some general cleaning of the floor for goldfish, trail mix and fruit loops.  I was standing in the kitchen of the condo when I realized that I had not had very much water since leaving Arches National Park.  I was probably dehydrated and even though I wasn't thirsty I should stay ahead of this.  So I grabbed a bottle of Dasani water that had been opened and I downed it.  I mean I leaned back and gulped it.  I swigged it all.  I didn't even stop to breathe until the bottle was empty. 

I noticed immediately that my throat was burning.  Then I started to foam at the mouth and I realized that I had just chugged the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture!  I have had poison control's number stored in my phone since Emma Jane was a baby.  I have never used it.  I called it.  I confessed that I was a 41 year old woman who had consumed 2 to 3 cups of hydrogen peroxide mixed with water.  He told me that I would probably throw up soon so I might as well expedite it.  It would take some of the burning away from my esophagus.  So I did.  It was not pretty.  However, I was pretty savvy about keeping my tribulations away from the kids.  I did NOT freak out.  I remained calm.  I was pretty sure no one even knew what happened.  I puked.  And foamed.  And frothed.  And brushed my teeth.  And drank more water.

That same night we were driving down the road to the restaurant that had the hummingbirds when we saw a dead porcupine on the side of the road.  It was gross.  The next morning we saw it again.  It was more gross.  It made an impression on Lucy.

On the way home I was asking the girls to tell me what they saw on the trip.  A verbal recap of the highlights of the trip.  After all, we had seen so many different kinds of animals and landscapes.  I thought it would be a good idea to solidify those memories in their heads. 

I started with "I saw a moose". 

Emma Jane said "I saw an eagle". 

Lucy said "I saw you throw up and a dead porcupine".


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our Vacation Part 4

After leaving Arches National Park, we drove north to the mountains of Utah. We spent the next 3 days in a condo that belongs to my cousin Beverly.  The condo is in a ski resort in the Wasatch Mountains.  It is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, northeast of Salt Lake City and west of Park City. 

It was cold at night.  The first night we arrived it had just rained.  The air smelled like pine needles and rain and was chilly.  It was a welcome change from the heat of the Moab area.

We ate dinner down the road at a restaurant called the Silver Fork Lodge.  It was the perfect ending to a long day.  We sat outside among colorful flowers and hummingbirds flitting about.  The sunset was spectacular.  They lit heaters and brought us blankets to wrap around our legs and shoulders.

When we arrived and saw all the hummingbirds, Emma Jane jumped up and put her hand out.  I said "sweetheart, you are not going to be able to pet a just doesn't happen."

The waiters started calling her the "hummingbird whisperer"  because it happened more than once.  It happened the next morning when we went back for breakfast and after I said "sweetheart, that will never happen again..."

It was magical.  In fact the entire place was magical.  We heard an eagle cry at breakfast one morning.  We saw an eagle.  We saw moose and deer and chipmunks.  I loved being up in the high mountains with so few people.  The resort was desolate and the wilderness was everywhere.  We went hiking and swimming and watched the olympics and slept with the cool air coming in the windows.

We drove over the mountain on a dirt road to Park City and walked around the ski town. 

We rode the chair lift up to the top of the mountain above Park City.  This was another magical moment of our trip.

Because we did not have any coffee in the condo, and because there was free Starbucks coffee in the resort front office, I walked to the office every morning to get coffee for Mike and me.  Every morning I would put on my fleece jacket and leave as my family was barely stirring to walk the cobblestone paths through the blooming flowers to get steaming hot Starbucks.  It was a magical walk in the cool morning air listening to eagles cry and watching chipmunks scurry.  

I told Mike I felt like a hunter-gatherer out to forage for sustenance for my family.  It was funny how I would return home triumphant presenting my "game" to my husband.  He started calling me his "grinder-brewer"  It was a tough job walking to get Starbucks every morning...

This was a magical place.  As we were getting ready to leave the condo on Friday morning, Lucy was looking out the window and said "mama, I hope we can come back here when it is snowy".  Yes, Lucy, I bet the place is beautiful when it is "snowy".

We left on Friday morning and drove back over the mountain to Park City.  We visited an art studio and had lunch and then drove through northern Utah and southern Wyoming and back to Boulder for the night.

As we were heading across the Wyoming border the sun was setting behind me.

The next night as we were driving through Kansas and so close to home, we got into an incredible lightning storm.  

Between the hummingbirds, the lightning, the sunsets, the moose, the changing landscapes, the eagle, the cold nights and the memorable quotes from my kids, it was a magical vacation.

Thank you babe...