Belle - she gets around

As I promised my mother, I took her granddaughter to every possible Halloween-related event I could find.  If Meemaw was willing to slave away over yellow fabric for weeks on end, the least I could was to make sure the kid was seen in the glorious Belle gown.  We attended three different events this weekend.  And of course the actual trick-or-treating in our neighborhood.  My daughter has had a sugar buzz for about three days straight. 

I'd been holding the trick-or-treating gig over her head for the past week or so.  I told her that for each infraction, I'd take five houses off the list.  I may or may not have implied that those five houses are known to give out full-size candy bars. Listen, I work with what I've got.  Thank goodness I can roll out the ever-useful S-A-N-T-A threat shortly.

Earlier today, we had a minor battle over lunch.  I'd made steamed cauliflower, couscous with pine nuts, and drop biscuits.  Okay, not the most interesting meal but we are running low on groceries. Don't judge me! Anyway, I invoked the "you have to try at least one bite" rule on the cauliflower.  A sat with it in her mouth for about a month of Sundays. Finally she started sputtering and whining about how she had to spit it out.  She did so, and I promptly put her in time-out for being rude about the meal I had cooked. I should add that I'd put a bit of butter, salt, and cheddar cheese on the cauliflower to make it more palatable to her.  I only required her to eat a tiny bite. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to my mother for all the grief I gave her at mealtime as a child.

After being paroled from time-out, the kid seemed to realize that trick-or-treating was possibly in jeopardy.  She ran back to her room and started churning out letters of apology.  The first one says, "I am sor e mama and but I sil lve yuo."  (still love you) She delivered another one to me a few minutes later, laying it on a little thicker this time. This one said that she couldn't wait to "gv yuo a hug."  And finally the third one: "I cat wt to gv yuo anotor hug mom."  Oh my.

So yes, I took her trick-or-treating. I gave A one assignment, which was to score a Peppermint Patty for Mama.  She accepted the challenge and we were off. I pulled her around our 'hood in a wagon full of blankets since temperatures have dropped and princess gowns are not known for keeping a kid toasty. She kept getting excited and breaking into a run, at which time her tiara would fly off her head.  She was having a great time, though. We trick-or-treated until Belle realized she desperately had to pee, so I brought her home.  Once her bladder had been emptied, we emptied her bag onto the counter. Would you believe there was not a single Peppermint Patty in the pile?  I mean, honest to God, you give a kid ONE job . . .  She says she "really tried" but frankly, I just don't feel like she gave it her all.

Happy birthday Ryan!

Yesterday we drove to Quebec to attend cousin Ryan's birthday party. Kerri met Spiderman, and she was not impressed. She told him she preferred Batman.

Spiderman told her that Batman was cool, and his best friend. And that sometimes they hang out together. That convinced Kerri to somewhat warm up to Spiderman.

So she reluctantly posed for pictures with Ryan, but asked Spiderman to hold her teddy bear, named "Teddy". Spiderman thought the name was original.

Kerri thought Batman was way cooler.

We had a wonderful time at Ryan's birthday party, and it was fun to see our family again. We don't get together often enough - but that is because we live several hours away.

When we arrived home, it started snowing. Snow! And lots of it. The last time we had snow for Halloween was in 2007.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Life with Kerri is bat-tastic!

All the News That Is News. And Some That's Not...

A random list of random thoughts:

1. The Mighty Hunter (Neal) once again had a successful hunt; he got a nice bull elk the first morning of elk season.  He and his hunting partner then had to field dress, butcher and pack out all the meat five miles in the mountains back to camp. It took a day and a half to get it all out.

2. Guess what we'll be eating on Thanksgiving Day!

3. Mr. Dirtywrench headed out to elk camp tonight. I am officially off-duty for the next three days. Even though there are still three kids in the house that occasionally need to be fed, they will gladly (yea, enthusiastically) eat popcorn for dinner.  If I feel like lifting a finger in the kitchen it will be to make girl food which will not be eaten sitting at the dinner table. I have some puff pastry in the freezer that I am thinking of doing something phoofy with.

4. Does anyone have some good Netflix movies to recommend for me? Movie requirements for this weekend will be that they contain no gun fights or car chases. Yes, Chique Flique.

5. I am making and delivering my last ten dozen apple turnovers. Apple Turnover Season is officially over until next year.

6. Mt. St. Laundry has erupted. Recovery could take a while.

7. Why? Why? Why? do boys keep all their dirty socks under their bed? When I finally give in and buy them some new socks, because I am tired of seeing the same two and a half pairs of dingy, holey socks go through the laundry, I then find the other eight and a half pairs of dirty but decent socks under their bed.  I won't even talk about the underwear I find under there. Underwear under there. Heh.

8. I've been cleaning underneath boys' beds for twenty four years.

9. I shouldn't say all their socks are under their bed because there are at least four more pairs scattered around outside. On the porch. In the barn. In the garden. Backyard. Driveway.

10.  The internet is the best guitar resource on the planet. Every song in the world can be found on the internet. The lyrics, chords, tablature (which I cannot read anyway) and finger-picking demonstrations are all there for free. If this had been available to me thirty-five years ago, I'd be a much better guitar player today and I would have played more than the same six songs all this time.

11. I'm currently working on "Southland in the Springtime." Favorite line: when God made me a yankee He was teasin'.

12. We have five registered voters in our household. Five. Can anyone imagine the avalanche of election junk mail we get every flippin' day!?! What a waste of money! We don't even look at any of it! Stop! Please, for the love of Abe Lincoln! Stop!

13. Can I rant about the election poll phone calls we get every single day? Every hour?
I'm begging. Please. Stop.

14. I planted more tulips (double pinks that look like peonies) and nice tall allium (purple and white). I can't wait for spring!

15.  This weekend I have my first cake consultation with a bride and groom. Wedding Season 2011 has officially begun.

Mr. Pumpkin Head.

Nana Jessica came over to carve a pumpkin for Halloween.

And Kerri decided to help.

It was quite the sensory experience!

And at times a bit gooey.

By the way, Kerri dressed herself in matching stripes. She likes stripes, as you can tell.

And we named him Mr. Pumpkin Head.

Of course, Nana did most of the work. We just posed for the pictures!

The stripes are a bit distracting though.

And it was certainly very messy.

And this was what the pumpkin looked like when Nana was finished carving it:

But this is what it looks like now after a day out on the porch:

It looks like Mr. Pumpkin Head took out his dentures!

Mr. Pumpkin Head should have taken better care of his teeth, because now he is rotting.

Thank you Nana for all the pumpkin fun!

Life with Kerri is stripey.

Yoga, Yo

I tried a yoga class for the first time last night.  I must admit I have been curious about yoga for most of my adult life.  I've often been tempted to purchase a yoga mat and try it at home but then I remember: "The dogs will step on my head."  At our service auction at church last week, I (apparently caught up in the festive spirit of the 60s-themed event) signed up for a "yoga party" to be held in January. A few days later, I decided to check out the yoga studio's website to see what I'd gotten myself into.  The first introductory class is free - well, that's an offer I can't refuse.  The site did a good job of making me feel like beginners would be not be shunned, so I decided to give it a try.

I have a few reasons why I've wanted to try yoga.  For starters, the mind-body connection continues to elude me.  I seem to suffer from what the Buddhists call "monkey mind."  My brain is full of distracting worries and I do not know how to quiet them. Inner peace is a foreign concept to me. But, I truly, truly want to get there. Plus, yoga provides numerous physical benefits and since I'm expecting to need this body for at least a couple more decades* I should probably try to take care of it.  I do belong to a gym and actually show up there fairly regularly, but I feel like maybe I need both - the calorie-burning workout at my gym and the strength and flexibility-building of the yoga session. Maybe yoga will also help me to be more self-aware, to be able to stop myself in those moments when I find myself standing in my kitchen with a handful of cookies (usually some variety that I don't even like all that much).  I eat too much, I probably drink too much . . . yes, I have been relegated to the status of a walking Dave Matthews song.

I showed up at the studio about ten minutes before class, not really sure what to expect.  The lights were low and I caught the vague scent of . . . I guess I'm not sure what. It was akin to the aromatherapy scents you find at a spa when you get a massage (and since I've had three massages in my adult life, I think you'll agree that I'm an expert on this). There was a sign on the desk that read "bare feet only after this point."  I peeked around the corner and found the instructor, who helped me get set up with a mat and other equipment (a strap that is used for certain poses, a blanket, and a cork block that looked like an over-sized brick). I was relieved to see that it was a small class.  I knew I'd feel self-conscious regardless, but if I have to look like a dork, I'd rather have as small an audience as possible.

As soft music played, I did my best to keep up through the series of yoga poses.  The instructor called it "your practice" as in, "you may want to add inversions to your practice."  I inherited bad hips from my mom (thanks again, mamacita!) and struggled with a bit of discomfort on a few of the poses, but mostly I did manage to get my chubby limbs into something vaguely close to what was expected.  I noticed that I was the only one in the room who broke a sweat, but also knew that the other students had been coming for quite a while. Oh, and get this - it turns out that "downward dog" is a legit pose and not just some made-up thing you say when making fun of yoga. At the end, we laid on our mats and the instructor handed each of us a cooled eye pillow (filled with flax seeds, I believe?) There is a multi-syllable term for this meditative period, but I forget what it is.  I really enjoyed it.  I did feel, for just a second there, like I was truly at rest - physically and mentally.

After class, the instructor told me that I'd done well (and didn't even add "for your first time").  I definitely plan to go back.  I also need one of those eye pillows, I think. The things I won't be able to see! Naked Barbies on the floor of my home, glitter from art projects all over the couch, a sliding glass door perpetually smeared with with dog slime. I may just strap that tiny pillow to my head full-time.

*My daughter apparently does not expect me to be around that much longer because she keeps starting sentences with, "Mama, when you're dead . . ."  A few weeks ago it was, "Mama, when you're dead can I have your marrying dress?"

Chewing the Fat

One of the biggest and most prevalent myths about food is that fat makes people fat. That butter, cream, lard and fatty, marbled meats are bad for you. That they raise your cholesterol and cause obesity. I have read many articles on this subject and there are several good books available that explain where this myth originated (some bad science is involved) and why it is still so prevalent (bottom line always: money of course). One book is Fat : An Appreciation of a Misunderstod Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan and another important book about cholesterol is The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov I say important because in America we have now come to a place where statin drugs to lower cholesterol are being given to children! What children really need is a more nutrient dense, whole food, unprocessed, high (good) fat diet like the one children ate a hundred years ago.

We only eat whole milk dairy products in our household. (Take a look at that photo on the sidebar of those seven kids and tell me if they look like they are suffering from a high fat diet.) When I read about the fact that the butter fat in dairy contains the necessary Vitamin A that facilitates the body in assimilating the mineral nutrients in dairy, we stopped bringing low-fat and non-fat dairy into our kitchen. A body cannot absorb all the calcium and vitamin D in milk without the fat and children need all the calcium and Vitamin D they can get while they are growing.

My daughter reintroduced me to the joys of cooking with lard when I stayed with her last summer. She had a ready supply of good quality lard and we used it for cooking things like potatoes. What an amazing flavor difference it made! And the potatoes got a beautiful brown crisp without burning. There is a reason it is the preferred cooking fat of French chefs everywhere!

If y'all think I'm talking out of my ear or that I'm a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket, check out any of these well written and documented articles at this link on the subject of fats for a healthy diet.

Also, check out this blog post by Stanley Fishman on Tender Grassfed Meat. It makes some great observations about the unnecessary fear of fat.

Here is an excerpt to peak your interest!

Fear of Fat Makes a Fortune for the Diet Industry

If you look at old photos of Americans at the beach taken during the early 20th century, you will be astonished at how fit almost everybody was. Obesity was very rare. Prior to the demonization of animal fat, most doctors had a simple and effective cure for overweight people who wanted to lose weight. Reduce the amounts of carbs and sugars, and eat a high-fat diet full of butter and other animal fats. These kinds of diets worked, because nothing satisfies like animal fat. There was no diet industry.

Once people became afraid of animal fat, these time-tested, high-fat diets went out the window, and the diet industry came to life. The diet industry has created a myriad of ways to lose weight, based on counting calories, eating a low-fat, nutrient-poor diet, and exhausting exercise. All of these programs are expensive. All of these programs are difficult to do, which allows the victim to be blamed when the program does not work. Typically, these programs work well for a few people, and some may lose a lot of weight on them, but the weight always comes back, and the victims end up fatter than ever, and are soon looking for a new diet program, which is always there. The severe malnutrition and exhaustion that many experience during such programs often leads to chronic illness, sometimes death.

Color My World

They didn't name this a "Burning Bush" for nothing!

This shrub is on fire!
I need to get some more of these amazing color bombs to cheer me when all the flowers are gone. Even on a rainy, gloomy day it is a bright spot.

This beauty is on view outside the dining room window. I never get tired of looking at it.

Musical Memories

On Saturday night, Samuel and I attended our local orchestra's fall concert.

It made me kinda nostalgic for the old days...

For many years classical music was a big part of our lives. It started when as a family we attended the community orchestra's free concerts. The performances inspired our children to take up instruments themselves. Katie played flute as well as piano, Seth and Alyssa played violin and piano. Neal was even recruited to play percussion for the junior orchestra for awhile. It was a time of running to music lessons, rehearsals, recitals and orchestra performances. Through my children's involvement in the music culture of our area, I was drawn in and had a secret dream come true. I didn't have much musical training except for a few years of piano lessons and music classes in school. I had always secretly wished I could play in an orchestra. Though I play several instruments I didn't think I was proficient enough on any of them to play with an orchestra. When Katie was a teenager she began playing flute in our local community orchestra and they were in need of a percussionist. I was recruited despite my  lack of formal training. They were desperate, weren't they? This began years of participation in the orchestra playing timpani (aka "kettle drums") and percussion instruments, essentially teaching myself how to read orchestral music, play the instruments and tune the timpanis. It was a period of musical growth and gains in musical maturity that I am so grateful to have had.

I continued with the orchestra for a number of years even after my kids all moved on to other places and other musical venues. I left the percussion section just a couple seasons ago because I simply had too many irons in the fire. Attending the concerts always makes me a little nostalgic for those days.

Here is a bit of one of the concerts where I had a complex part in a performance that was both challenging and fulfilling for me as a naive musician. This little clip is from a modern symphony that was based on Dante's Divine Comedy- The Inferno. I am on the far left playing timpani and Seth is in the violin section.

Seth had more involvement in orchestras than any others in our family. Besides being proficient on the violin he also played viola and dabbled with the cello for awhile. He played with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and we attended many concerts in the big city when he played.

A highlight of this time in our lives was when the orchestra traveled to Europe for a concert tour and Seth got to play in concerts at spectacular venues like this neo-classical hall in Tuscany. I'll never forget sitting under the starry sky with the other parents listening to this orchestra -made up of our own offspring, our little baby boys and girls- playing Greig. It was magical.

Those days were long ago and yet not, somehow...

...and that little boy is still playing music. He needs to get himself into an orchestra again though... (Seth!)
Because I need to attend more concerts and the little boys need more inspiration.

Samuel shows signs of carrying some of the same musical inclinations. He has already composed several pieces on the piano.

Maybe he is my hope for the future for more music in my life.

It's a draw

Although there are moments when I think it would be nice to have another kid around, I'm generally very content with just one.  A keeps asking for a sibling, of course.  She says, "I want a sister who's five just like me!"  I keep telling her, "That's usually called a twin and it's, um, not happening."  Anyhow, as parents of onlies can attest, keeping a single child entertained can be a challenge at times.  Therefore, I was pleased as punch when my daughter embarked on a coloring/drawing kick recently.  She sits for a solid hour or two at a time, churning out artwork at a steady pace.

The drawings are generally of me, her dad, her, her teacher, and her teacher's cat (Cookie).  She is also learning to write, so many of the pictures have words on them.  A few days ago she handed me a drawing on which she had written: "I like fire."  I really do not know what to say about that.  She learned to write the word after a recent fire safety week (and trip to the local fire station).  However, I do not think this was the intended effect of the lesson.

Here are a couple of samples of recent masterpieces.  You should be able to click on them to see a larger version.

Here is one of me and P. I am always depicted in a dress, even though I only wear a dress or skirt about four times a year in actuality. Not that I don't like wearing dresses; it's more like I live in a part of the country where winter lasts about eight months and pants are simply more practical.  Oh, and please don't make fun of my husband's T-Rex arms - he's very sensitive about them.  Although he is eight inches taller than I am, the proportions are actually a bit off in this drawing.  He only wishes my head was naturally right at the level of his nether region.

Here is one of the whole fam damily.  Note that we allow her to eat ice cream cones that are the same size she is.

Here is a drawing of everyone we know, wearing a sombrero.  Including our dog Gideon (at bottom).

Finally, here is my favorite: the tooth fairy
I get a kick out of many of the drawings.  Some of them make me wonder about her quality control procedures, such as the drawing she handed me the other day, which was a sheet of solid blue.  "It's a lake," she said.

My Grand Boys

I miss 'em!

Inappropriate, to say the least.

You never expect that sending your child to school would put her in harm's way. And if dealing with a bully in Kerri's class every day is not bad enough, yesterday Kerri had another inappropriate experience at school. One that she thinks is weird, and one that her Daddy and I find totally unacceptable.

When Kerri came home from school yesterday, she told me she had something to say but she did not want the teacher to know or to get in trouble. My eyebrows immediately went up.

Apparently, Kerri was on her last recess break of the day. An older girl that she really does not know took Kerri to the bathroom with her, and forced her into the stall with her. Kerri's teacher has a rule that no talking is allowed in the bathroom, so Kerri did not speak. The girl made Kerri watch her as she went to the bathroom. We are not sure what else happened yet, since Kerri will not say.

I immediately called the school, and the principal picked up the phone. I asked her if she knew this girl (I gave her the name), and she said there were three girls by that name in the school. Kerri interrupted and said (loud enough for the principal to hear over the phone) "She wears glasses". The principal knew exactly which girl this was. I then explained what happened, and before I could finish, the principal said that she had already addressed this with the girl and talked to her earlier in the day - but that she did not know Kerri was involved. I asked Kerri when did this happen, and the principal heard her answer again. And she lowered her voice and said: "Oh no, it happened again." I think I said "Excuse me?!", and the principal promptly said that this had happened to another young student earlier that day, and that she had talked to her about it. She then said she was going to call the girl's parents right away. Because Kerri was listening in, I thanked her and hung up, careful to keep my tone of voice cheerful.

I dropped the conversation with Kerri and tried to regain control. I talked to a dear friend who helped me calm down, and then called her Daddy to tell him what happened. I cannot explain the dread in our hearts, the sick feeling in our stomachs.

Kerri is a very bright child. We talked to her at dinner time about never going into a stall with anyone. We talked about privacy and what is and isn't OK. And Kerri kept saying that it was weird, that she felt weird, that she did not like it. We decided to drop the conversation again. Nana is coming over this weekend to carve a pumpkin with Kerri, and we are going to give them some space so they can "girl talk". Hopefully, Kerri will open up to Nana and tell her everything. And Monday, hubby and I are going to the office to speak with the principal. Because this is unacceptable, inappropriate, and inexcusable that my child is afraid to speak in the bathroom to ask for help in a situation like this - because of the school's rules.

I pray nothing else happened. I do not understand why an older child is taking first graders into bathroom stalls with her. Or what is being done in them or to them. I do not understand how the school allowed this to happen yet again to another child the very same day. And why they have rules that are unsafe. Because my daughter sticks to the rules. So she did not call for help.

Later that day, I took Kerri to her Kung Fu class, and talked to my neighbors (their kids enrolled in Kung Fu after watching Kerri attend a class). Their children attend a different (Catholic) school. And they proceeded to tell me that they had heard bad things about Kerri's school. That the school has a bad reputation. The hairs on my arms stood on end.

And then a friend reached out to me and told me how her young daughter had been sexually assaulted and molested. I almost threw up. I am so heartbroken for that little girl and her family. And I know only too well that could have been Kerri.

I am starting to think homeschooling is not such a bad idea, after all.

Life with Kerri keeps me up at night with worry.

Pardon the dust

I'm doin' a little renovating. The other blog design was just supposed to be up until I was discovered by a major literary agent and then handsomely rewarded for my limitless talent, at which time I could afford to pay for a custom design.  Shockingly, this has not happened.  So, I'm going generic all the way. I've swapped the color scheme at least a dozen times today so don't be surprised if the palette changes a few more times.  I refuse to commit.

In other news, a few days ago I was contacted by the program chairperson at my church.  She said that the program committee met last week and because I did such a stellar job the first two times I presented a topic at Sunday service, they wondered if I would be willing to speak again in February.  Part of me thought, "Oh, how flattering!" and another part thought, "Oh, they must be running low on speakers."  Regardless, I agreed to do it.  Now I just need to come up with a good topic.  Typically, each speaker tackles a subject that ties in with the seven principles or is at least spiritual in some way.

So far I've considered the following topics:
  • Merging into moving traffic: why it's not as hard as people seem to think.
  • A two-pronged study of Subway restaurants: a) what's up with hiding the napkins so that I have to come up to the counter and beg for them if my child spills orange Fanta all over me? and b) how come 100% of all Subway employees fail to understand what "just a little light mayo, please" means?  
  • Why my daughter directs all requests/pleas/miscellaneous whining to me, even when her father is standing right there.
Needless to say, I've got some additional brainstorming to do.

In the meantime, I insist that you kick off your weekend by listening to this upbeat little ditty:

the pumpkin patch

Same picture, but I had to crop this one, to show Kate a little closer. This was Kate, pretty much the whole time. Sequin purse in hand, only willing to walk in the pumpkin patch if Shad held her hand, carried her, or pushed her in the stroller.

Rebecca and her girls, Aliese, Anna and Gracie.

This is Steve. Rebecca's significant other.

My favorite thing about the pumpkin patch, is that it actually feels like fall there. The leaves, the bit of chill in the air, people in sweaters and boots (they're still probably hot, but they give it a try anyway), the pumpkins and caramel apples. We love it.

Here's the highlight of the trip every year for our kids. The monkey that will shake your hand for a dollar....

The mother of all temper tantrums.

Yesterday Kerri had the mother of all temper tantrums. The day before, bully boy had hit her on the head, hard. But he apologized, so we chalked it up to an accident. But I wrote her teacher a note, since the teacher was unaware of the incident. And so, yesterday, the teacher grilled Kerri about it. She decided that it was indeed an accident, since he apologized, and that Kerri was very mature and had handled it very well, following her classroom policies. The teacher made a point to talk to me about it when I picked Kerri up from school, right in front of Kerri (who kept walking away and looked upset that this conversation was happening). We went home, did homework, and I praised Kerri for reading her first book all on her own. As a reward, we went outside to play for an hour before Kung Fu class.

And that is when it happened. It started when we went outside to play, and none of her friends were in front. They were all playing in the back, where Kerri is not allowed to go. So she started getting upset and saying she hated the neighborhood. Then she approached me (I was sitting on the doorstep), and told me I had a ladybug in my hair. Without thinking, I shook my hair and head (because I have this horrific fear of bugs). And that is when Kerri lost it. She started yelling at me, telling me I was the worstest for shaking my head. So I told her to go inside.

Inside, she continued her yelling and screaming. She would not listen to anything I had to say. I needed a few minutes to count to ten, so I told her she had a choice: she could go to the corner in time out or go to her room on a time out. She stomped up the stairs, screaming and crying that she hated me, that she wanted to go back to China, and that I was not fair. She slammed her door and started banging things and throwing things in her room. I took a deep breath and counted to ten, determined not to raise my voice.

When her crying and screaming seemed to calm down a few minutes later, I told her that when she was ready to talk she could come downstairs. This only led to more screaming and crying, but eventually she started yelling that she was sorry. I told her to come downstairs so we could talk face to face, since I would not scream up the stairs at her. So she did. And then she asked to watch TV. I told her no, that she would not go outside or watch TV for the next hour because she was being punished. She erupted again and was sent back upstairs to continue raging in her room. I took another deep breath and counted to twenty this time.

When she finally stopped banging and screaming, it was eerily quiet. I asked her to go to the bathroom and blow her nose and wash her face. She started crying all over again, telling me I could not tell her what to do. And that she was leaving for China. I finally raised my voice, and said: "fine, then go now. But you take nothing with you. You leave the same way you came, go back to the orphanage if that is what you want, but leave now and don't forget to close the door behind you." I instantly regretted every word I said. Kerri said nothing. Next thing I know, she is in the bathroom, blowing her nose and washing her face. She came back down and shuffled her feet. I asked her to sit beside me on the couch and look me in the face. She reluctantly did.

We had a conversation about how hurtful her words were. And that I would never say any of those things to her, or let anyone bully her. So why did she think it was OK to bully someone else? She agreed it was not OK. We then talked about why she really was angry. She would not say. I told her she needed to use her words instead of screaming and throwing things around and saying mean things. She agreed. I reminded her that she was not going to go outside or watch TV, but that we needed to get going to Kung Fu. She started to panic and worried that I would tell her Sifu that she had misbehaved and disrespected me. I told her I would not tell her Sifu, but that she would. She pleaded and begged, and all I said was: "We'll see." Her Daddy called and - after I briefed him - she talked to him, and then re-apologized to me. I told her I did not want her to leave, and I hoped she would choose to stay. She asked if she could live with me when she moved out. I told her she could stay with us as long as she wanted. We hugged.

We dressed for Kung Fu and she was all of a sudden her chipper, happy self again. I think she was trying to pretend nothing had happened and trying to change the subject. So, I let her. When we got to Kung Fu, her outbursts and anger were all but forgotten - by her - and she happily went to play tag with her friends. And when we got back in the car to go home, she said she wanted pizza. I told her I would not reward her bad behaviour that day and she would eat whatever Daddy was making for dinner. She went on to say she would not eat anything but pizza. So I told her that was fine, she could go straight to her room to bed without dinner if that is what she wanted. Or, she could choose to eat whatever Daddy made. The decision was hers to make.

We arrived home and we sat at the table, where Daddy had prepared our meal. As we talked about our day, I told Daddy that Kerri said she would not eat what he had made. Kerri was already biting into a chicken nugget. She said: "I won't eat chicken." Daddy told her she was eating chicken. Kerri laughed and said: "Oh, that's right." And then I told Daddy that after dinner Kerri needed a quick bath and to go to bed. She had a test the next morning, so we reviewed at the dinner table. And then Daddy (knowing I needed some time to myself) gave Kerri a bath, and put her to bed. But not before she came downstairs to hug me goodnight.

This morning was better, and before Kerri left for school she made a point to give me a huge hug. I hugged her back, and silently prayed that whatever is really bothering my daughter ends soon. Because I did not recognize my daughter yesterday. And I came very close to losing my own temper, something I rarely do. I try to reason with Kerri, since she is a very logical child. And I know that deep down, something is troubling her - and it was not a ladybug that I shook out of my hair. But I am not sure if she even knows what is making her angry. Or, maybe, she is just afraid to say it out loud. I sincerely hope the incident with the bully was not the cause. Ever since this boy was put back in her classroom, Kerri has not been the same.

If this is normal six year old behaviour, then I am definitely not looking forward to the teenage years!

Life with Kerri gives me reason to worry.

Come Fly With Me

My little brother, Tim, is an airplane pilot. He also has a business repairing and maintaining aircraft and doing inspections. There was never a doubt what my little brother Timmy would do with his life. His entire childhood was spent shooting rockets and flying remote control airplanes that he built himself. His bedroom was strewn with balsa wood scraps, tubes of airplane glue and jars of paint, wire and motors and tissue paper.

Tim spent about fifteen years restoring an historic aircraft called the Arctic Tern which he now flies for pleasure. That airplane was used in the 1950's by an explorer of the northern polar regions. Tim did extensive amounts of research while he was restoring the plane, collected the books written about the explorer and his adventures in the plane, and eventually had the privilege of meeting the man who flew the plane over the arctic circle.

It has been many years since I have flown with my little brother. Yesterday, for my birthday he took me on an aerial tour of our valley.

The first order of the day was to fuel up the airplane.

Dave the Fuel Guy told me that the Number 1 reason for airplane engine failure and crashes is... running out of fuel.  

Um. Hello?  Do pilots drive cars? Anyone who drives cars knows that you've got to have Degas to make the VanGogh.  It was shocking and appalling to hear that airplanes fall out of the sky mostly because the pilot didn't stop at the gas station before attempting to defy gravity with an airplane.

Thankfully baby brother Tim still has the brains his mother gave him and we were leaving the ground with a full fuel tank.

It was a perfect high pressure day for flying. Though the sun was high and I had to be aware of flare and glare on my camera I was able to take some fun photographs of the gorgeous area where I am blessed to live.

It was endlessly fascinating to see the places I am so familiar with on the ground from about 1500 feet above.
The orchards... neighborhood.... town...
This is the whole thing. Population 600.

...The valley stretching between mountain and gorge...

...Our mountain... which is a sleeping volcano.

The volcanic evidence could be clearly seen from the air. This is the lava flow from the last time Mt. Hood blew centuries ago. Scientists think that it erupted in the 1790's, just a few years before the arrival of Lewis and Clark.

The locals call this the Lava Beds and the area is only a few miles from my house.

I saw many other interesting topographical features from my aerial view, some of them naturally formed like this scar from a landslide...

...and some of them not natural.
This is a place where my big boys have spent many, many days of their lives.
It is the half pipe snowboard area at the mountain ski resort where they worked every winter of their high school years.

This is a crazy mountain logging road...
Talk about switchbacks!

This is evidence of a flooded area on one of the forks of the Hood River. All the trees are flattened, there are boulders and sandy silt areas. This natural devastation as well as the land slides occur during late winter  and early spring when we get heavy rainfall and snowmelt that sends water gushing off the mountain slopes.

Mount Hood has a number of glaciers. Right now there is very little snow on the mountain and the glaciers are laid bare. So amazing to see!

On the horizons both to the north and to the south we could see other mountains in the Cascade range. These are the Three Sisters on the middle left and Mt. Jefferson on the middle right.

To the north we could see Washington's mountain peaks: from the left Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Ranier and Mt. Adams.

Tim flew us around the peak of Mount Hood. A weather system is moving in this weekend and next week these rocky areas will probably be snow covered. The mountain is always changing its look; grey and rocky in late summer and early fall will change to snowcapped in the winter and spring.

Hundreds of climbers challenge Mount Hood every year. The majority of them succeed in reaching the summit. Some do not. Last  year there were three climbers who fell to their deaths. Their bodies were not found because the winter's snow fall made them impossible to bring down. Early this summer Tim was able to assist in the recovery of the bodies of those people when he received a request to fly with the sheriff to examine this area of the mountain where they suspected the climbers had fallen.

Tim's intestinal fortitude was tested when they flew the plane around that rocky peak known as Cathedral Rock (in the lower right quarter of the picture) so that the sheriff could photograph the slopes. The pay off occurred when just a few days later the bodies of the fallen climbers were found and brought down to their grieving families.

What an awesome flight we had on a gorgeous day that just happened to be my birthday.

I hope you've enjoyed this little aerial tour of our valley.