Some phases are more irritating than others

When my daughter was around two, she started calling her dad "father."  It was just about the cutest thing ever, of course. It all started when she asked me a question and I responded, "Go ask your father." For nearly a year after that, it was "Father, can I have a fruit snack?" and "Wait until I show this to Father!" Eventually, the phase ended. There have been other phases: the orange juice phase, the Dora phase, the "I'm a kitty" phase, and so forth. The newest phase is by far the most trying: the "my mom is a dumb ass" phase.

Lately it seems like my adorable little cherub is hell-bent on proving me wrong about, well, everything. Or at least catching me in a mistake.

"Mom, you forgot to get me something to drink." 

(Through lightly clenched teeth) "I didn't forget, I just didn't DO IT YET."

The examples are plentiful.

"Mom, this isn't the way home from the Y."
"You picked that tomato too soon."
"You didn't put enough milk in my cereal."

Well, it's a wonder I manage to get myself dressed and feed myself every morning.

We are planning to go to Disney World in May. Last night she asked me, "Mom, do you even know where Florida is?" Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not great at geography.  Some of the squarish states in the middle of the country do throw me off a bit (I'm looking at you, Colorado) but I think I can confidently say I know where Florida is. Plus, I have a GPS and trust the voice implicitly.

I responded: "Well, I thought I'd just drive all around the country until I find it. Don't worry."

She cocked her head. "Really?" I nodded.  Two can play at this game, Little Miss Bossy.

What I fear most about this phase is that I suspect it won't end until she's in her thirties. Maybe, just maybe, she'll recognize my competence by then.

Win a Baby.

I was driving back from dropping Dad off at the airport yesterday and heard about a new contest on a popular radio station here: it is called "Win a Baby". The winner of the contest would not actually win a baby, but three in vitro fertility treatments.


I thought about it, and remembered back to when hubby and I dealt with infertility, and subsequently our adoption. I remember how it felt to want to be a mother and not conceive, or know if we would ever become parents. And I can never forget the hoops, intrusion, and mounds of paperwork and social worker visits we endured and jumped through just to be "approved" to start a family. Not to mention how much money we spent.

And then I got mad.

This radio show contest is not taking into account the future of the baby. It is a popularity contest, where the prospective couple will be picked by votes based on their photo and witty disclosures of why they should win. Don't get me wrong, I think couples deserve a chance to win, but only if they are really ready to deal with the responsibilities that come with being a parent. Not because they are cute or witty.

And then I think about all the children that are brought into this world who cannot be provided for, or are abused, or lacking the basics: a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, a loving and safe family, health care, education, etc.

And then I get madder.

My daughter was only a few days old when she was left alone in a train station. She was denied the opportunity - for whatever the reason - to be loved and provided for by her biological parents.

In a way, hubby and I "won a baby" too. But we had to be approved: prove we were worthy, make promises and financial commitments. We were screened by police and FBI, lawyers and immigration officials, governments and psychologists, doctors and adoption agencies. It did not matter if we were cute and/or witty.

Sometimes I wonder about the society we live in. How a child's life can be joked about, "won" or bought, sold or stolen. And then I just have to look at Kerri and thank G-d above that she is now safe, loved, provided for, and our daughter.

So yes, we won a baby too. But we now have a daughter we love and cherish and sacrifice everything for. I can only hope the same applies for whomever wins the radio contest.

Life with Kerri is priceless.

Off On the Next Adventure!

I'm sitting in the airport in Portland heading to my daughter's home in Michigan. Here are a few random things:

*My house is under construction. In my scramble yesterday to get my eight mile long To-Do list finished, I forgot to take a photo of its current state. The walls have siding and windows but there is no roof. It looks interesting! I wish I had taken a photo, darn it. This weekend the trusses come and young, able builders will be cat-walking the upper framing to put them in place. Someone take photos for me! Then the roof sheathing gets put on before the rain starts Sunday night. That's the plan.

*Alyssa and I are now an apple turnover machine! Together we turned out twenty dozen apple turnovers that Alyssa will bake and deliver while I am in Michigan snuggling grandsons and nuzzling a newborn.

*Speaking of my young daughter, I said good-bye to her last night and will not see her again until almost Thanksgiving. That kind of separation is a first for us. We have been together nearly every day since she was born. She will fly to Michigan to her sister's the same day I leave there and we won't even meet in the airport. keeps moving on and taking my children with it.

*I have been so ridiculously busy and my mind has been so cluttered with details of sundry life activities that I haven't been able to take enough time to reflect on the event about to occur. A new member of our family is about to arrive. I am only now thinking about the imminent birth, my role as a mother to the one giving birth and my blessed occupation as grandma to some little guys that I don't see often enough. It's time for me to switch gears and submerge myself in this special time.

*My thoughts are also with the family I am leaving behind. It's not going to be easy for them to soldier on with Mama gone. I'm thankful for a daughter who grows more competent every day to fill my shoes and for two boys who are also growing more mature and responsible.

Time to board my plane for the next adventure!

Internet is Down

At least on my computer.

It's been 3 days. I'd forgotten how much we rely in the Internet.

The Internet works on shads computer somehow. He made sure to point that out several times. How PCs are "so stable". And "reliable". He was doing it to push my buttons.

Hopefully I'm getting it fixed today.

I'm blogging from my iPhone.

Didn't know I could do that.

Hope your Internet is functioning better than mine.


Yesterday afternoon, I dropped my Dad off at the airport and we said our goodbyes. I told him I would see him soon. I had no idea how right I was.

Within the hour, my Dad called me from the terminal to tell me his flight was delayed, and that he would miss his connecting flight. There were no employees at the gate. And he had already passed Customs and Immigration, so he was technically on U.S. soil and I could not get to him. I told him to stay put and I would call him right back.

I called the airline, and they confirmed what I had already seen online: there were no more connecting flights available to him, and he would be stranded at the airport until the next day. So I pleaded and begged, and was able to cancel his ticket and have a new one reissued for today. But since his boarding pass had already been scanned at Immigrations, the agent had to contact the airport to nullify his boarding pass. She could not, however, get in touch with anyone to help Dad out of the terminal.

So I called Dad back on his cell, and guided him to the first employee he could find - who refused to talk to me. I instructed my Dad to tell them he was booked on another flight and needed to be escorted back into Canada so we could pick him up at the airport. Hubby, who was home sick, was sent to pick him up while I went to get Kerri at the school bus stop.

When Kerri got off her bus, I told her I had a surprise coming. She said she knew what the surprise was. She told me: "Grandpa went home, fed Kitty, and is back to visit us." I told her that was impossible, since it would take too long for Grandpa to fly to Florida and back in such a short time. But she insisted that Grandpa would be home. And as she headed to our front door, Grandpa came walking up the front entrance, wheeling his luggage. Kerri yelled "Grandpa!", ran to hug him, and then turned around and told me: "I told you so!".

We had one more fabulous day with Grandpa, and this morning I took him back to the airport to return home. What a wonderful way to start the new year - Shana Tova! I told my Dad as we hugged goodbye that I would see him soon - but this time, not until December.

Life with Kerri is full of surprises.

Delicious and Nutritious Black Bean Salad

It has been a crazy gardening year. We had such a long, cold spring and a late start to summer without ever having much real summer heat. The garden grew but not vigorously. The hot weather crops have produced slowly so that we are still picking corn and tomatoes though it is almost October. Some things seemed to thrive with the cool weather. We had more blueberries than we could pick. Some of the bushes are still hanging to the ground with berries. Peter counted sixteen gallon bags of blueberries in the freezer.

The peppers also liked the cool summer because we've had an abundance of them from just one or two plants.

I had never planted jalapenos before, thinking that they needed hot sunshine every day but I took a chance on them. They loved our cool mountain summer and produced many perfect peppery pods. What to do with them? Last night I threw together a big jar of pickled peppers. A first for me in thirty plus years of gardening and canning! Oh, and that eggplant there is also a first. I put a plant in the raised bed on a whim and it made a fruit! There are actually about six more fruits coming on but we'll see if a frost doesn't take them down soon.

During the month of September our evening meals have been loaded with our homegrown garden produce. Sometimes everything on the table, including the chicken or elk, potatoes and vegetables will have come from our own efforts to feed ourselves. Those are some very satisfying meals.

So despite our cool summer I have had an abundance of vegetables from the garden in my kitchen every day. Here is one recipe that uses a variety of them.

Black Bean Salad

Black bean salad is a great side dish for taco or enchilada suppers. I also make it for pot lucks and picnics and eat it for lunch. The kids love it. Black beans are very nutritious and with all the vegetables it is a truly health-building salad.

I start by chopping lots of vegetables- sweet peppers, jalapenos peppers (very finely chopped), sweet onions or green scallions, tomatoes and lots of fresh cilantro. I also add fresh or frozen (and drained) sweet corn.

Drain and rinse two cans of black beans.

The dressing is simple. The juice of one lime, cider vinegar, sugar, cumin, oil and salt and pepper.

Start by squeezing the lime for about two tablespoons of juice. Add two tablespoons of cider vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cumin (to taste), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

Whisking with a fork or a whisk, add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil until emulsified.

Pour over the beans and vegetables, toss and serve!
Simple, delicious and nutritious.
A great way to use the garden harvest.

On Being Patriotic

The list of adjectives I assign to myself is pretty long: clumsy, organized, competent, uptight, etc. One that might surprise you: patriotic. I fully understand what it means to be an American and am darned happy about living here. But, I have a beef (that part won't surprise you). I've grown tired of certain segments of the population thinking that they've cornered the market on patriotism or that they can dictate precisely how the rest of us express ourselves when it comes to our shared country and flag.

Sometimes it seems like the Toby-Keith-boot-in-yer-ass brand of patriotism drowns out the rest of us. For the record, I don't believe that patriotism requires a love of NASCAR, a disdain for immigrants, a Republican voting record, or a preference for country music. Nor does it require adherence to a specific religion.

I've seen Facebook posts from some of my friends and acquaintances that call for all of us to return to the "Christian principles on which our country was founded." Did you know that John Adams and John Quincy Adams were Unitarian? It's a little presumptuous to believe that every person walking around New England in 1776 subscribed to precisely the same religious beliefs. I know a lot of nice Christian people but have trouble with the whole American = Christian = Incontrovertibly Good Person scenario. I have a friend who's Buddhist - is she allowed to fly the stars and stripes on her flagpole?

The other common refrain is for immigrants to "learn the language, damnit!" Or at least that's what the bumper stickers tout.

As Jack White (in the White Stripes song "Icky Thump") so aptly sang:

White Americans
What? Nothin' better to do?

Why don't you kick yourself out
You're an immigrant too.

Who's using who?
What should we do?
Well you can't be a pimp
And a prostitute too.

It's hard to say it much better than that.  Should recent immigrants learn English?  I don't know. Maybe. But if they choose not to, they're really only inconveniencing themselves, don't you think? Honestly, I'm pretty well convinced that there are plenty of red-blooded Americans born right here in the U.S of A. who speak the language so poorly that it's barely recognizable as their native tongue. You should see some of the adoption applications we get through the rescue. Sometimes we have to read them over and over again and take our best guess as to what the applicant was trying to say. (As a side note, if you cannot spell Shih Tzu, you may not own one. That's my proclamation.)

I feel fortunate that I grew up so close to the nation's capital. It was a diverse environment, to say the least. I had friends whose parents hailed from Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China, Mexico, Spain, and India. In my mind, an American citizen is an American citizen (and, in fact, passing the citizenship test requires a greater knowledge of American history than most of us have stored in our brains). I don't get to be "more American" because my family got here a little earlier than some. I found it so disheartening, after 9/11, to learn of the rampant violent acts that occurred against American citizens who just happened to be brown. There were reports of hate crimes against Sikhs, Pakistani-Americans, and others who had no connection whatsoever to Islam, Al Qaeda, etc. For that matter, declaring open season on Americans who practice Islam is another shameful chapter. Sure, there are people across the globe who hate Americans and some of them are downright dangerous, but throwing out the baby with the bathwater seems awfully short-sighted and, well, un-American.
I have an American flag and fly it proudly. I married a Marine who gave four years of service to our country. I stand when I hear the national anthem and raise my right hand to my heart. I don't support the war but I do support the troops. I vote. I appreciate the fact that I can freely criticize my government if I feel like it, work wherever I want, and practice any religion I choose. Just don't tell me you're somehow a better citizen than I am. I'll shove a boot in yer ass.

Season Finale

One last wedding cake of the season.

And I am exhausted. I have never been so tired at the end of wedding season as I am now. Tired of baking cake. After thirty-something weddings in four months I'm just tired of it all. I really need a break for awhile. It's been a great year- the best ever. I've met some wonderful people and been challenged by their unique ideas. I've learned many new things about providing this most special of desserts for the most memorable of events. I still have much more to learn but I have made great strides this year. Many people in the wedding industry in our valley- the venue owners, the caterers and florists, wedding coordinators- have blessed me with opportunities and support that have grown my business and I am grateful.

I have had a few unfortunate events too, disasters and almost disasters and customer relation issues. I'm told that as a business grows these kinds of things are inevitable. I found each one to be a valuable learning experience, the kind that is painful to learn but will stick so that I do not need a repeat lesson.

This week I am leaving for a break from my routine at home to help my daughter, Katie Rose, as she and her husband bring their third child into their fold. I can't think of any better way to step back from the cake then to snuggle up with my grandsons and read books and to nuzzle a newborn. It's going to be great!

One last minute birthday cake order. Thank you, Karen, for the beautiful flowers that made this cake just right!

Now my focus is to prepare the family as best I can for my absence and to try to pack for colder climates. There is still lots of construction taking place here. Once again I'll be returning from a trip to find a house that is not the same as when I left it.

Life continues to be an adventure.

Shad's Alaska Trip

Another "work" trip. It's so hard for him that he just "happens" to have a client or two up in Alaska.

He says he had a meeting while he was up there.....

But I am loving our freezer full of freshly caught halibut and salmon.

Brother can you spare a lung?

Short Stuff helped out at our rescue's fundraiser yesterday. She also ate enough cupcakes to throw a mastodon into sugar shock.
I've been horking up a lung for the better part of a week. It's been frustrating, because I haven't had an asthma flare-up in 18 months. For a second there I almost wondered if it had somehow gone away (maybe all those inversions in yoga or something?) but alas, I'm still afflicted.  The kid caught a cold a couple weeks ago. We scarcely knew she had one, to be honest - she sniffled for a day or two and that was it. By the time it got to me and her dad, however, it had evolved into something much, much worse. You'd have thought we were both in the throes of advanced tuberculosis, emphysema, and pneumonia all rolled into one. I pulled my beat-up albuterol inhaler out of my purse and within two days was abusing it so badly that my hands were shaking like an alcoholic enduring the DTs. So, I gave in and called my asthma doctor.

The doctor hooked me up to a machine meant to measure the nitric oxide in my lungs. I had to breathe into an apparatus while trying to follow a cartoon on the screen.  On the monitor was a girl in a boat on the water (no kaleidoscope eyes, in case you wondered) and the objective was to blow the sailboat across the water at a steady pace. First I had to inhale, which caused the cartoon sun to rise in the cartoon sky, then I had to exhale to maneuver the boat. It was like a video game except, you know, not even remotely fun.  Anyway, I guess a normal reading is something like 20 and I was at 55. What this tells the doctor, in short, is that there's a lot of shit going on in my lungs. He sent me home with a couple different inhalers (plus a prescription for Zyrtec) and I'm supposed to call on Monday if I'm still coughing.

I'm still coughing. I think I've worn out my welcome in a few different places. When I left work on Friday, I said to my cubicle neighbors, "my cough and I are leaving now" and a few of them broke out in applause. Co-workers send me IMs throughout the day with questions like, "Are you SURE I can't give you some cough syrup or something?"  If my desk weren't attached to all the others, I'm pretty sure they would've relocated me downstairs to Storage B* by now. I went to yoga on Tuesday and all but left a lung on the mat. Nothing breaks up the zen like a woman trying to expel all of her internal organs - through her mouth. By candlelight, no less! I've also coughed my way through the library, Target, and church.  I'm spreading the joy far and wide.

I guess I'll see how I'm doing tomorrow and then decide how to proceed. I've been coughing so hard that I seem to have a few ruptured capillaries in my left eye. This looks as sexy and alluring as you'd imagine.  I worked at a fundraiser for the rescue yesterday. It was a long day and my lungs were on fire by the time it was over, but I lived through it. We could really see the effects of the sucky economy this year. Fewer attendees, less revenue.  We were down about $1500 from last year, but were still glad to have so many people come out and support us. I think the highlight of my day was meeting a Boxer named Obi who recently lost his lower jaw to cancer. His tongue hangs down to his chest but it doesn't seem to bother him. He won our "best kiss" contest by planting that tongue on his owner (who was very cute, by the way). I guess you could say Obi was a ringer, but it was really a sweet moment. It was also nice to see so many former adopters and long-ago foster dogs that are still going strong. 'Twas a good day.

Well, I'll sign off now, as I feel another round of convulsive hacking coming on. I may have to take some Nyquil later. That stuff is potent, though, eh? You can't cough when you're fully unconscious.

Baked goods named after my brown son (we have a bake sale as part of our fundraiser)

*Random "Office Space" reference - if you missed it, you and I are no longer friends. I'm sorry. And, I believe you have my stapler.

Kerri's 7th birthday party.

Yesterday we celebrated Kerri's 7th birthday at a party with ten of her closest friends.

The theme was "Spongebob Squarepants", one of Kerri's favorite TV shows.

The popcorn and pizza was a hit!

And Kerri picked out her own cake.

It took her a while to make a wish.

But I am pretty sure it came true.

And that "Spongebob" doll vibrates. The kids had fun passing it around.

After the food, it was time for face painting. Most of the kids picked cute things on their cheeks, like flowers, hearts, the "Harry Potter" scar, and one boy even had a superhero mask. Not Kerri.

She had her whole face painted yellow, just like "Spongebob".

Yeah, I thought you would want a second look.

After the party, we picked up Grandpa and went to our favorite sushi restaurant, where we indulged and filled our tummies. And then we came home to open presents.

Even Pookie got in the fun.

Kerri read every card, and loved every gift.

This was one of her favorite gifts. A "Barbie" makeup kit from Ian and Stephanie, Simo and Sifu.

And so we ended our families birthday celebrations for this year. But don't feel bad, we already have two birthday parties coming up for some of Kerri's friends!

Life with Kerri is all partied out for today.

Morning Surprise

Some secret friend left this bouquet of loveliness on my door step this morning!

Thank you, secret friend!
Whoever you are...

UPDATE:  I'm happy to say I found out who my thoughtful secret friend is! My neighbor, Annette, read this article about me in our local paper and was so excited about it that she went out and found these beautiful dahlias for me. I taught Annette how to make pie a couple years ago at one of my classes so we have a pie kinship and she was thrilled to hear about the Pioneer Woman Lodge pie workshop. 

Thank you, Annette! You are so thoughtful!

darling holiday gift

My little sis Danielle, just finished up a pattern she's been working on, and listed it in her Etsy shop. It's an adorable Santa apron and the pattern is so easy to follow, with great instructions and pictures. Any beginning seamstress could follow it.

This type of a pattern is the only kind I use. I know how to follow the ones you buy at JoAnns, but they are sooo confusing to me. I LOVE these kind of patterns, that have a picture for EVERY step.

When I first saw it I immediately pictured having an assembly line going making them for Christmas gifts, or a bunch of women making them at Super Saturday, or girls making them at a YW activity. Or just someone making it for themselves to have a merrier holiday.

My Mom had one of these growing up and I LOVED it.

I might just have to make one for myself this year. Tanner and Kate would LOVE it.

Have a happy weekend.

Conversations with Kerri.

For those of you who have seen my picture, you know that I tend to wear V-neck shirts and have a large cleavage. So I usually end up with some crumb falling in there, and hubby always teases me and says I am storing food for winter (like a squirrel). I am telling you this, so you understand Kerri's perspective in the following conversation, which happened last night at the dinner table:

Mommy: "Kerri, you are starting to get a belly!"

Kerri: "Well you have a bigger belly than me, or Daddy, or Grandpa, or Nana."

Mommy: "Yes, that is true."

Kerri: (pointing to my chest) "And you have extra storage for food in your big boobies."

Life with Kerri reminds us to be careful what we say.

Claudia's List of Awesomeness

You know how Oprah makes her list of favorite things? It's mostly stuff like $500 cashmere sweaters and Coach bags, but she throws in the occasional CD. You know, for us po' folk. Although my level of influence does not extend very far (I can't even influence my child to brush her teeth before school), here is my list of stuff I like, in no particular order (note that I am purposely omitting people, however):
  1. Bath bombs from Lush.  If you can find a Lush store near you, check it out. Also, get me a Sex Bomb while you are there! It is also worth noting that the vast majority of the bath bombs are vegan.
  2. Hoop earrings. I cannot be convinced that hoop earrings are ever out of style (they may not be perfectly IN style at any given moment, but are seldom out).
  3. Keebler Fudge Sticks. I haven't tried the new jumbo ones yet. Maybe I'd better not.
  4. Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade.  I only drink these in the summertime, but man, do they go down easy!
  5. Yoga. I have only been doing yoga for about ten months, but I am hooked. Although most of the time I feel like I am hopelessly uncoordinated, I have noticed some changes. My core is now strong enough that I can pull myself into a headstand fairly easily. My flabby arms have gotten a little stronger (lowering myself from a plank over and over has to have some effect). The most important benefit, however, is that it helps me to clear my head.
  6. The Muppets. I have been a big fan all my life. I guess most people are - I mean, what kind of jackass hates the Muppets?  I'm pretty excited about the new movie coming out in November.
  7. Tarts from Yankee Candle. I like the fruity/floral ones in the summer and the spicy/warm ones in the winter, but never the ones that are meant to smell like food. That's just gross.
  8. Being a Unitarian Universalist. For years I tried churches on for size, just waiting to find one that spoke to me and my true beliefs. It just wasn't happening. As soon as I walked into the UU fellowship, I felt like, "Here are my people!" I'm also very proud of what my daughter is learning about working for social justice, embracing diversity, and questioning everything.
  9. Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. I seldom buy it, because I will basically eat it all in one sitting, but oh I do love it so.
  10. Wine. You knew that already. Over the past year or two, I've slowly migrated from sweeter wines to less sweet wines (I hesitate to say "dry" because I don't care for the really dry ones either).
  11. Boxers.  They're too energetic, they jump up on visitors and french kiss them, they have doomed genetics that often lead to an early death from cancer and/or cardiac issues, but I do love them. I'm proud to be part of a rescue organization that has saved over 700 dogs to date.
  12. Stand-up comedy. I love a good comedian. I adore Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan.  I'm also a huge fan of Bill Maher, although in his case it's more for his political/religious views as anything else.
  13. The iPod. I love my iPod more than I love a few of my blood relatives. Sure, I do the "cloud" thing some, too. I use Spotify and Pandora. But I always come back to my own personal music library and my iPod. XOXOXO
  14. Cola Slurpees. Maybe ICEEs really do taste the same, but I'm convinced they do not. 
  15. Honey Crisp Apples. They maketh me so happy.
  16. Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza from Papa Murphy's. I would eat this constantly except that I'm living with a small child for whom anything other than cheese pizza is unacceptable (and, in her mind, inedible).
Note that there are 93 days until Christmas, in case you wanted to start stocking up on bath bombs, tarts, and wine - for me, I mean.

Getting It Done

Construction projects usually progress pretty slowly with us. A little here, a bit there, as we have money and time. The current addition on the house has been getting done in record time since -the rains- they are a' comin'!

The last two weekends and the next three or so will be work parties from dawn until dusk. Last weekend the sons helped their dad and so did my little brother.

Son Neal would like to just build the whole thing himself except that he has this regular job he has to go to every day.

Even the little boys have been busy. Sam is in his element. He loves anything that involves tools and working with the men. He's getting very proficient with tools too. Peter is always cheerful when asked to complete a task. Both boys are learning about the satisfaction that comes from working hard and doing things for ourselves.

Though Samuel prefers tools over toys, he also can set a very pretty table. He spent a lot of time and thought tonight setting the table for our al fresco supper on the decking of our new construction.
The boy is a paradox. Actually, he is simply creative and has an interest in many different things.
Kind of like his mama.

the electricity went out....

....for about 7 hours. I realize this doesn't sound like a big deal. But when you live in weather that's still past 100 degrees after the sun goes down, and you're trying to get 3 little ones to sleep, with no a/c, and a really pathetic dinner of frozen pizza cooked on the grill outside inside their tummies, and no noise machine (the worst of them all...we are really poor sleepers around here), it was sort of a big deal.

It was actually kind of fun for the first bit of the evening. We ate outside where it was still a bit light, swam in the pool, trying to lower our body temps, and had fun as a family. It felt like camping. Shad whipped out the flashlights and camping lantern. We felt a duty to eat the melting icecream in the freezer. It was fun.

Until no one could fall asleep. First we set them up in our room, thinking they wouldn't be as scared. But are room is the warmest, so we moved everything into the playroom. The coolest, and also messiest room in the house. We covered the kids little bodies with wet wash cloths, remembered we had a noise machine app on our iPad, and finally they konked out.

It's scary to think that 7 hours with no electricity was a "big deal" to us. It was a good kick in the bum to remind me that I need to get our food storage in order, we need to move our huge water tank from our old house/garage and move it here, fill it and treat it. I need to figure out where our gas shut-off is at our new house, and buy one of those handy tools to shut it off in case of an emergency. I need to ask Shad where all of our 72 hour kits are. I knew all this stuff in our old house. I felt prepared. But when the electricity went out, I was reminded quickly that I'm not organized/prepared at all in this house.

I kind of felt like the electricity going off for a mere 7 hours, was a huge gift. A needed reminder.

Carrot Harvest

The kids harvested a nice crop of carrots from the garden.

I've tried a number of ways of storing them including keeping them in a spare refrigerator but inevitably the carrots end up getting moldy or rotten pretty quickly. This year I just don't have time to blanch and freeze them all so we're doing what I did successfully last year for long term storage.

In a large heavy plastic container the carrots are being buried in clean play sand and the whole container will be kept in the cold storage/root cellar where we keep potatoes and pumpkins. The sand keeps the carrots from freezing in the winter while keeping them dry enough to prevent mold growth or decomposition.

The kids got most of the wheel barrow load of carrots into this container and completely covered them with sand. We'll pull them out as we need carrots and they'll be as crisp and fresh as when they were harvested.

Close Call

My daughter owns a slew of Barbies and one Ken. She's got at least half a dozen of the standard-issue blond Barbies (ballerina Barbie, some kind of fairy Barbie with wings in her back, etc.) and a bunch of the Disney princess dolls. All of the females are basically interchangeable. It always startles me a little to see Belle wearing Ariel's dress and Snow White wearing Belle's dress and so forth. More often than not, however, everyone is naked. They all hang out in one big obscene jumble inside the plastic bin I bought for storing all of the dolls and their microscopic shoes. Princess Tiana, in particularly, has not bothered to get dressed since last Christmas. Also, I have to wonder how many moms out there are trying to figure out how to (surreptitiously) get rid of the big matted wad of hair that is . . . Rapunzel. I know I am.

When A is playing with her Barbies, I can hear lots of conversations going on, but she clams up when I walk by or even when she can tell I am in the vicinity. When I ask, "What were they talking about?" I get dramatic eye rolls and a "nothing, Mom!" response delivered in a tone of voice meant to convey that it is really none of my beeswax.

My curiosity persists, however.  Yesterday I was in the kitchen and could hear the dolls "talking."  I tiptoed down the short hallway and stationed myself around the corner so that I could eavesdrop. Hey, she could close her door but she doesn't - fair game, I say. Here is what I heard:

"Hey, get off my boyfriend!  Do you even know her name?" Something unintelligible followed.

I felt the blood drain out of my face.  Get off my boyfriend? Oh my. My mind was racing. What does she know or think she knows?  Maybe the shows on Nickelodeon are racier than I realized.  My sweet, innocent baby! I stood there for a moment, trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I took a deep breath and then willed myself to poke my head around the corner to see the shameless dolls for myself.

There stood Ken, held up by my daughter's hand wrapped around his calves. And there sat Ballerina Barbie . . . right on top of Ken's shoulders, her legs dangling past his armpits. Just like A sits on her dad's shoulders. Ha ha! Right! Get off my boyfriend.  I am not sure which doll Ken is dating these days, but apparently she doesn't approve of the other Barbie trying to get a better view of the stage at the Big Time Rush concert or something.

Just then, my daughter saw me peeking. I smiled like I was an Alzheimer's patient just wandering the halls with no purpose. I turned on my heel and took my dirty mind back to the kitchen.

Napa Valley Ragnar


It's done and I'm happy. But sort of sad at the same time. I can totally see how people get addicted to this sort of thing. The energy, the high, the complete exhaustion and joy. All at the same time.

My favorite part was being with such an AMAZING group of women. I knew some of the girls pretty well, but others not at all, and I feel so much closer to everyone, even if we were in different vans, simply because we were all in it together. I love them all so much.

It was different than I expected. I guess it was Ragnar's first try at Napa Valley, and I heard from other runners who had done other races that it was sort of disorganized.

My first run was great. It was morning, I got to run along the bay in San Fransisco and then up in some beautiful neighborhoods overlooking the water. It was a 5.4 mile run with some hills, and I loved it. It was labeled as "hard" (Ragnar labels them as easy, moderate, hard or very hard), but it was by far my favorite.

My next run was in the middle of nowhere 100 miles or so outside of San Fransisco, running through a forest at night, pitch black outside. I'd always heard the night runs were the best. That you'd get an adrenaline rush. Your times would be faster. I'd heard there would be so many runners around, and that it was completely safe.



I was scared out of my freaking mind. Usually your van can "leap frog" you....see you along the way, cheer you on, give you water if needed, make sure you're okay, etc. Well I said goodbye at the start and didn't see them again until the finish. Not because of them, but there was no way to get to me by car. (which usually it warns you if you have a "non-support leg" but it didn't say anything about that on mine).

I'd run about 1.5 miles and hadn't seen a runner in sight. Every Ragnar sign I'd seen a long the way giving my directions, did NOT match the little map I'd ripped out of the Rag Mag (the Race Bible that tells you where to go). So of course I'm already freaking out. I hadn't seen a runner, I hadn't seen ANY Ragnar vans and it's night and I'm alone running in some place I've never been. Then I finally see a sign and it points up a trail in a forest. I look to my left and see some random man standing there looking my way. And to his credit, I'm sure I looked like a freak. I have a headlamp on, butt lights on, and I'm completely scary looking from lack of sleep. But of course I was thinking, "this guy moved the sign, he wants me to go in the forest alone".

I didn't know what to do. I went ahead and started running up the trail. I don't know how far I went, but I was scared out of my mind.

Seriously freaked out.

Have any of you seen "The Village"? You know the creepy forest they aren't supposed to go in? It was like that, but night. Honestly. I was praying in my head the whole time. So finally I couldn't take it anymore, I turned around and sprinted out, back to civilization, completely backtracking, knowing I'd have to go back again, adding miles onto my run. But I didn't care at that point.

I went back to the town and waited. And waited. And waited, until I saw a glimmer of other runners with a headlamps on. Three came running up in a group and I asked if I could tag along. We all plunged through the forest together. Then I felt completely fine. There were two men and 2 of us girls. They had a much faster pace then me (I'm really slow. I run the whole time, but it's sloooooow), so I had to sprint as fast as I could through 2 miles of forest with them, trying to keep up so I didn't get left behind. THEN in the middle of the forest trail, we run into two random males just "hanging" out. Scary. If I wouldn't have turned around and found the other runners, there I would've been with 2 random men in the forest. (come to find out later we get a text from the Ragnar people, well after I'm finished, warning us about some people "harassing" runners on that trail). Anyhow, I got through and finished that leg. That was supposed to be my "easy" leg , but to me it was the hardest. I felt like it would never end.

My last leg was good, but poorly marked. I ran into 3 different T's in the path with no sign directing me where to go, and no sign of the T's on the map I had stuffed in my sports bra. Already having run 12 miles by then (on combined runs) on little to no sleep, I was tired and didn't have the brain power to make a decision. I felt sort of like Alice, on Alice in Wonderland. I'd look around anxiously to any other runner in sight, pull my ear buds out of my ear and yell, "This way??" They'd yell back, "I don't know either!" So I'd make a quick decision, run, feeling okay and then second guess myself, slow down, look around and see if I could spot any other runners in sight.

I guess it's all sort of part of the experience though. I'm sure it sounds CRAZY to anyone reading who hasn't done it, but it was actually a really cool experience. It really was. I got to run in places I'd never seen before, be with a big group of girls that I love dearly and we did it. We are all mommies in our 20s, 30s and 40s, and we did it. We finished. And is it weird to say, that I'm sort of craving a run??

There's so much more to write about, like the time I peed on the side of the road and a car pulled up mid-stream, and needed us to move, or how 6 of us girls crammed into the van squished like sardines and tried to "sleep" for a couple of hours in the middle of the night before our next set of runs started up again, but it's just too much to write. I'm sure Shad's ears are already tired from listening and I feel like he doesn't even have a glimpse of the whole experience.

I asked him if he'd do it with me next Spring...the Southern Cal. Ragnar. A few of us would do it as couples. He said, "Sure. If you run all my legs for me". = ) I'd love to do it (not run his legs, but do a Ragnar as a couple) and run our night legs together. THAT would be fun. We'll see.

I have tons of pictures, but I'll have to post them another day.

Buried- But Not Treasure

The foundation had been poured and finished and it was time to back-fill the trenches before starting the floor joists on our home improvement project.

I decided that those open trenches were a good opportunity to get rid of some junk pottery that has been collecting in my kiln studio for years and years.
Every potter has a certain percentage of work that comes out of the kiln with cracks, warps, glaze drips and other undesirable effects. Old, ugly pots qualify as junk too. There are seconds (pieces with slight flaws) that can still be useful but then there is garbage. There was a time in the beginning of my career as a potter when I had a hard time parting with anything that I had put my blood, sweat and back muscle into. My family collected my cast-off junk and I used the rejects in my own home. Some of my ugliest, most poorly made work still exists and occasionally comes back to haunt me.

As I've gotten more mature in my thinking as a potter I have become more jaded and hard-nosed about getting rid of the junk and keeping only pots that I am happy to leave behind as my artistic legacy.  But a box full of stoneware garbage is a heavy box. I couldn't just dump it at the curb so junks pots have been collecting in the corner of my studio for years and years.

Filling the trenches gave me an opportunity to clear out my studio and follow the lead of centuries of potteries in cultures all over the world that have shards and pieces buried under the ground.

It makes me smile to think that someday in the far future this property could be excavated and all these bits could be unearthed. Or, they may just stay there forever, leaving a reminder that once a potter lived here and she made things with clay, things that don't decay or decompose but that can last for centuries underground. The good work, the work I'm proud of, stays above ground in the hands of family, friends and collectors, to be seen, used and enjoyed.

The rest- good riddance!