Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Didn't Just Have Fun. I Learned Some Things, Too! or Dyanne and I Take St. Charles

As you may or may not know, I went on a little jaunt to visit my friend, Dyanne, in a little town near St. Louis a week and a half ago. (It is the only city between Joplin and Indy, and good for us, it's almost exactly halfway.) We had a roaring good time, and if you want to read the details of what we did, you're going to have to read Dyanne's post about it. I'm only going to reveal the things I learned while on the trip.

1. I am absolutely the WORST selfie-taker on the planet.

When Dyanne was about to leave her house, she took a cute photo of herself buckled into her car and sent it to me. When I was leaving my house 20 minutes later, I did the same.

Minus the cute.



I even counted to three before I took it.

Still blinked.

A pity the selfie-taking couldn't end there...

 Dyanne is a pro at selfies and takes bunches of them. Unfortunately, she kept including me.


While she poses, confident in her gorgeous selfie ability, I sit there resembling Long Duk Dong after his first teenage drinking party. For the love of all, I could be tried and convicted of public intoxication by that photo alone.


Seriously, not once the entire weekend did I look AT the camera.

Only one solution for such selfie ineptness...


No, not strangle the selfie-taker! Wear sunglasses!

2. There are many, many creepy places around the northwest side of St. Louis, made creepier by the fact we were always the sole visitors to the locations. 

Everywhere we went, my first thought was "How pretty!" but that thought was quickly followed by "This would be a great setting for a horror movie!"

We were constantly on the lookout for dead bodies.

For example...

It started out as a lovely walk on a curving path through native Illinois plant life. It ended on the top of a hill overlooking the dam and lock on the Mississippi River.




But when I took that photo, this was behind me...


Pretty sure there were mole people living underneath our feet.

How about another example...

The signs led us to believe we'd be seeing some turtles and other wildlife if we just took the short little walk down the path.

But then the path looked like this...


and the view looked like this...


All around, as far as we could see. No water. No turtles. Just this vine covering EVERYTHING. And it was silent. Not even bird sounds.

Creepy to the nth degree.

I was afraid if we stood there much longer, the vines would overtake us and we'd be trapped forever.

But! That wasn't as creepy as the nuclear waste dump.

OK, we probably could have expected this one to be creepy, but seriously, when you see that on the list of things to do in or around St. Charles, MO, how can you not go take a look??

Once again, they tried to make it look pretty...


but that is one GIGANTIC pile of rocks behind the flower.



The museum at the bottom of the hill claims that there is less radiation on the top of the hill than there is in our own backyards, but I don't know if I buy it.

Majorly creepy.

But still not as creepy as this last one...

We struck up a conversation with the park ranger lady at the museum and she said, "If you like to visit odd things, you need to go down the road and have a look at the bunkers!"

Yup. That nuclear waste dump used to be the site of the world's largest explosive plant, and they needed safe places to store all of that TNT. Hidden bunkers. Dozens of them scattered around a nature preserve.

Of course we had to go see them for ourselves!




We found lots of them. One was actually open, so we parked the car on the side of the road and had a look-see.

Well, I had a look-see. Scaredy cat Dyanne stayed back and took a photo (which she put on her post).

Unfortunately, when I stuck my head in, there were noises coming from the inside. I wasn't about to stick around long enough to find out what was making them. So, no photo of the inside.

3. When given the chance, I will eat my weight in desserts.

And by given the chance, I mean any time without my kids. I hate being a bad example when they're standing right there watching me.

But I outdid myself this time.

Gigantic ice cream cones after our Saturday creepy adventures? Sure!

Use Dyanne's casino winnings ($12!) to have pie at almost midnight? Count me in!

After lunch dessert? Of course! We're kind of full, shall we split one? Heck NO!

Really, if you were there, no way you could have resisted. They had creme brulee cheesecake for Pete's sake!

No exaggeration, I gained 5 pounds in those two days.

It's all the fault of the restaurantuers. If you ever go to St. Louis, have we got some recommendations for you!

4. Surprisingly, I really do know people everywhere I go.

The kids claim that it's true, mostly because every time we leave the house I run into someone I know, and I usually stop and chat for a while and the kids hate that.

I just chalk it up to me knowing a lot of people and the south side of Indy being a relatively small place.

But then...

After pie at the casino, as we were standing up to leave, I heard, "CHRISTINE!" I instinctively turned  around and there, walking towards us, was a woman from our old neighborhood. She has a son the same age as Buttercup, and back in the day, we hung out all the time. I hadn't seen her in years.

So of course I had to stop and chat.

Dyanne took it way better than my kids do.

To those of you waiting patiently for a new post *cough* Kris's mom *cough* or not so impatiently (Dad, you can stop texting me the number of days since my last post now!), I'm sorry it took so long.

See you on the weekend!

Have a lovely day!

Friday, August 12, 2016

My Kids Have It, but Clearly It Didn't Come From Me

One of the million or so papers I had to sign or fill out at the beginning of the year was an inventory of sorts the 3rd grade teacher sent home. While I wasn't looking forward to filling out a 2 page paper, I was thankful it did not require a check, as so many of the beginning of the year papers do.

Question 4 or 5 asked for me to give the teacher three words to describe Turken. Not a fan of those questions, but for this marvelous teacher I would do it.

1. Funny. (The boy is hilarious.)

2. Kind (He wouldn't intentionally hurt a fly, either physically or mentally, let alone a kid in his class. His brother, Cuckoo is a different matter, but we're working on it.)

3. Intelli... That doesn't look right.

3. Intelle...Well, that doesn't either.

How in the world is it spelled?!!

Friends, I had to look up the word in the dictionary.

In case you're wondering, it is spelled I-N-T-E-L-L-I-G-E-N-T.

No irony here.

And that's how things are going around the coop.

In case you were wondering.

So, I'm taking a break.

Leaving Bryan and the kids to fend for themselves.

I'm meeting up with a friend for the weekend.

I'll tell you all about it on Sunday in my TToT post.

I'm sure there will be a photo or two.

You just might recognize both me and the friend I'm meeting.

Try not to vaporize in this oppressive heat and humidity while I'm gone. Oh the insanity of this humidity!

Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

It's a Sports-Lover's Favorite Time of the Year! TToT Time!

The Olympics have begun!!

Oh how we enjoy watching these stellar athletes competing for those gold, silver, and bronze medals.

This week, I'm thankful for...

1. Swimmers

2. Divers

3. Water polo players

4. Soccer players

5. Gymnasts

6. Technology that allows us to watch races being raced in another hemisphere.

7. My family's interest in sports. One of us have played or raced in just about every sport in the Olympics, and those we haven't, we know enough about to know what's going on. Except for rugby. That one makes no sense to any of us.

8. In other news, I'm also thankful for opportunities to get together and visit with friends. There were several this week.

9. The soccer boys had the annual Red vs. Blue games, where our school's teams play each other (JV plays the JV2 team, then after a short break plays the varsity team). It is the only time in their lives that Giant and Star played against Phoenix. Everyone, players and spectators alike, thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Giant getting to the ball before a varsity player.

Phoenix taking a kick.

Why being a goalkeeper's mother is nerve wracking. Star slid in front of that player in order to keep him from scoring. See the ball?

Luckily the varsity player was able to jump over Star. That doesn't always happen.

10. The high school kids had a great start to the school year. They all have friends in their classes and they all are happy with the teachers they got. I am enjoying watching them all enjoying their teen years.

So, what good things are you grateful for this week? Have you been watching the Olympics? What's your favorite event?

Have a lovely day!




Ten Things of Thankful


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Saturday, July 30, 2016

School Stuff, Do With My Life Stuff, and Funny Kid Stuff. TToT Time!

When I taught 5th grade, I wouldn't let my students use the word "stuff" in their writing.

Even now it bothers me to see that I typed that.

But I'm leaving it.

Probly ain't gonna bother no one.

:)

It's the last weekend before school starts. Can't say I'm happy about that fact. Although, I'm happier than the folks whose kids have started school already. One of the big, nearby public school systems started on July 26. Just the sound of a July start date doesn't sit right.

But, there's no point in whining or I-wishing. We'll get to the thankfuls...

1. Kids' imaginations are awesome. Completely out of the blue from the backseat, Turken asked, "Mom, who is your best friend?" I answered his question, and after a pause continued...

Me: Why did you ask?
Him: I don't know. It just came out of my mouth.
Me: What was going on in your head before you asked? What led up to it?
Him: Nothing. I think there is a hole in the bottom of my brain. Sometimes things just fall out into my mouth and then it just comes out.

2. Two of my boys went outside their comfort zone and tried something new. I was pleased as punch that they did, and even happier when they had a great time.

3. Phoenix, Bryan, and I had our meeting with Phoenix's counselor to begin the college application process. Good heavens, is it ever a process. An action plan is in place, and he'll be hitting the ground running on Monday.

4. I'm getting closer to figuring out what I want to do with myself when the kids are in school. I mentioned to a friend that I was really missing the classroom. I do love working in a school. Two days later I was offered a full-time job (for which I did not apply) to teach first grade. Cuckoo's class to be exact. I turned it down, but I will be putting my name on the sub list.

5. Also, I can't remember if I told you, but I found a volunteer opportunity that I think fits perfectly with me and my life at the moment. In mid-August I'll be training to be a Family Friend with Safe Families. It is basically an organisation which helps families who are in danger of having their children put in foster care.

6. I'm thankful for friends who know me well and let me know about opportunities I may be interested in, even if I do turn them down. ;)

7. I just got back from dropping Giant off at freshman orientation. Some tears were shed. Thankfully, not from sadness but joy. I always cry at drop off, but it was extra emotional this year, since Phoenix, as a senior, was there to greet him when he got out of the car. I am so glad we were able to have all these kids so close together.

8. I am glad the National Conventions are over. Perhaps we can take a break from political memes for a while. Are ya with me?

9. Libraries are the bomb dot com. We've been using ours frequently lately. While there are now more books lying all over my house, I don't mind. It means lots of reading is getting done.

A little yoga while he reads, I guess. 


10. I could not be happier with the fact that Cuckoo can read. He is the kind of kid who must have attention at all times and will do anything to get it when he doesn't have anything to keep him occupied. It was always worst in the car. Now, car rides are a breeze. He brings a book, and we don't hear a peep out of him for a good 10 minutes.

So, what happy things do you have to report this week?

Have a lovely day!


Ten Things of Thankful


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday's Hodgepodge

Two posts in one week?!?!

Yup. Over-achieving blogger comin' atcha.




1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your summer so far? Why?

Well, summer break is only one week away from being over, so regardless of what I rate it, there's not much chance of changing it. Thankfully, it has been an ok summer. Super fast and quite odd, with all the summer work the teenagers had to do. We managed to have some fun and get some much needed work done around the property. Unfortunately, we've only been to the pool once. That is a big fail.  I'll give the summer a 6.

2. July 26th is National Aunts and Uncles Day. Did you have many aunts and uncles growing up? Were you especially close to any one or maybe all of them? Are you an aunt? Share a favorite memory relating to one of your own aunts or uncles or relating to a niece or nephew who calls you Aunt.

We lived in the town where my dad, my grandma, and my great-grandma were all born and raised. My dad's siblings all moved away, but we saw them pretty frequently when they came back to visit Grandma. While I always enjoyed my aunts and uncles, I was actually closest to my great-aunt, Donna. (I even wrote a post about her a few days before she passed away.)

I have lots of nieces and nephews. My goal is to be the favorite aunt they have. While visiting them anytime is a treat, I especially love it when they come stay with us for a few (or more!) days.

3. What's your favorite food dipped in chocolate? What's your favorite food dipped in cheese?

Can't say that I'm a fan of anything dipped in chocolate. I used to eat peanut M&Ms every day, but I don't know if that counts. I do like ice cream with chocolate sauce on it. As for things dipped in cheese, tortilla chips. The cheese can be in a nacho form, with spinach and artichokes, or any other cheese dip form, as long as I can dip a tortilla chip in it.

4. When were you last astonished by something? Explain. 

I don't know how, but I'm still astonished every time I read comments on FB. The level of hatred and lack of empathy and actual thorough thought is mind-boggling.

That, or, if I actually get this done, I'll have posted two days in a row. Pretty astonishing after the dry spell I've been in.

5. Surf board, paddle board, ironing board, Pinterest board, score board, clip board, bulletin board...which board have you most recently encountered?

Each night, Sunday through Thursday, I iron Bryan's clothes for the next day, so I'm gonna have to go with ironing board. I would like to try paddle boarding someday, though.

6. What's your favorite story from scripture? Why that story?

I think I'm going to have to go with the story of Martha and Mary. While serving people is good and noble and expected, it is also necessary to stop the busyness to enjoy and appreciate the people in our lives, including some time with Jesus.

7.  If you were to travel from the east coast to the west coast in your own country, which five cities would you most want to see?

This is a tough one. While I love to travel, and I do have an appreciation for cities, I much prefer small towns and off-the-beaten track traveling. (Long-time readers know that, thanks to posts like this one.) Now that I think about it, I've gone to most of the cities this side of the Mississippi and many on the Mississippi and a few out west. The only east coast city I haven't seen and would like to someday is Boston. From there, I'd go west, hitting...maybe...Denver...a city in Texas, maybe Dallas or Austin...San Francisco...LA.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Based on this morning's debacle, this family needs to get it's collective butt off the proverbial couch and get in gear. At 9:51 this morning I was talking with Bryan about a get-together to which we were invited and happened to look at today's box on the calendar. Lo and behold, something was written in it! Phoenix was scheduled to get his senior yearbook photo taken at 10:15 at a location 20 minutes from our house. The boy had just woken up and was two bites into a bowl of cereal.

We have enjoyed that "nowhere to be" attitude of summer, but that lackadaisical state of mind is, sadly, coming to an end.

Good news, though. He was only 10 minutes late to his appointment and the person ahead of him was just finishing. No one was put out by his tardiness.

Any of the questions or answers jump out at you? You're welcome to join in the linkup if you're so inclined. Just head over to Joyce's blog.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Footwear, College, Recipes, and Other Off the Cuff Thoughts

Have I ever told you I am anti-flip-flop. I cannot stand those shoes. Not just because anything between my toes drives me nuts, but they just aren't good for people's feet. I never bought them for my kids. Have you ever seen preschoolers trying to run around a playground in them? It pains me to watch their poor little toes balled up in a death grip around that tiny piece of plastic in order to keep their shoes on their feet. And if it's not the gripping the toe thing, it's the shuffling of the feet. Either way, the person wearing the things is not walking in the proper way a person should walk. And it doesn't have arch support. The only thing they could be good for is taking a shower in a public place or going to the bathroom at a public pool. 

Betty Crocker rules. It is one of two cookbooks that I own and use consistently. Recently, it has been the Blueberry Streusel Muffin recipe. Delicious. Lucky for you, it's also on the all-knowing internet.

Does anyone have a good, easy, quick way to make streusel? That whole mix until it's crumbly bit throws me for a loop. I've used my fingers in the past, but sometimes my hands just warm the butter and it turns into a blob instead of crumble. Lately I've been using the backs of two forks to kind of squeeze and press and get it to crumbly. It works, but it takes forever. Any ideas?

Speaking of recipes I love, I'll share two more. Both I found online when I simply googled what I wanted and found recipes with normal ingredients and instructions I could follow without difficulty. These were my first attempts. We enjoyed them, so I didn't look farther for other recipes.

Chicken Pot Pie minus the peas, of course.

I just had a helping of Black Raspberry Cobbler. My word, that stuff is good, especially when topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. And it could not be easier to make.

We're getting close to crunch time for college planning. Phoenix, Bryan, and I have a meeting with his counselor on Friday. Seeing as how Phoenix is basically putting all of his eggs in one tiny basket and planning to apply to one college, this should be a looooong meeting. Perhaps I should remind Phoenix about that time Turken collected eggs, then put the basket down to feed the dogs, only to find, when he turned around, the dogs licking their lips after eating every single egg...

While we will have 4 kids heading off to college, one each year for the next four years, it seems we'll have a break after that. Turken is currently researching jobs that don't require a college degree. His research began when he saw a sign outside Kentucky Fried Chicken which read, "Now Hiring. Pay starts up to $13/hour". "Mom," he asked, "does a person need to go to college to work there?" Can't wait to see how his counselor handles this in 10 years.

As I type, the dogs are howling outside the door, as they do every. single. time. a train goes by. The tracks are on the other side of a giant cornfield, and a train passes at least 5 times each day. It isn't loud enough to bother us, but apparently it bothers the dogs. As soon as the train gets within half a mile, they start howling. For 11 years, at least 5 times each and every day. I have no idea why.

Lastly, my new-to-me minivan has that bluetooth function in it. I can't seem to understand that it is not necessary to yell in order for the person to whom I'm speaking to hear me. I try not to yell, but with each sentence I get louder and louder.

Just so happens, my mom also got a new car. One day recently I called her from my car. The conversation went like this:

My mom: HELLO?
Me: HI MOM!
Mom: HI THERE!
Me: I'M CALLING YOU FROM MY VAN!
Mom: I'M TALKING TO YOU THROUGH MY CAR! I'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE!
Me: AWESOME! NOW WE CAN UNNECESSARILY YELL AT EACH OTHER FOR OUR ENTIRE CONVERSATION!

And we laughed and laughed until we went right back to yelling at each other.

'Cause that's how we roll.

Literally. :)

Have a lovely day!

 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ten Things of Michigan Thankful

I'm thinking most of this TToT post will focus on this week's Fun Friday that became Fun Friday AND Saturday.

1. I am thankful for Bryan's ability and willingness to take the odd day off of work to go on a short road trip with us. The man is super busy at work, with deadlines galore looming, but he always, always puts his family first. (When he was a new lawyer, for the first 2 years of employment, every single evaluation dinged him for never being in the office after 5:30 on weekdays or at all on weekends. He refused to change his schedule, and they finally backed off when they saw that he was still getting his work done, and done well, in his own time frame.)

2. I am thankful to live in a place with lots of things to do within a few hours drive. This time we took advantage of the nearness of Lake Michigan. We've vacationed there 4 times over the years (Here's a post about one of our trips.), but for some reason we've never gone on a quick overnight trip before. The closest beaches are less than 4 hours away from our house!

3. We are always grateful for fun dunes to jump and run and hike on.

The boys were trying and trying to get the timing of their jumps straight in order to all be in the air at the same time. This is as close as they got.



Five kids racing down a dune. I had to follow them down, collecting shoes and hats as I went. 
4. We're all grateful for beautiful blue skies for the entirety of our 25 hours in Michigan.

5. And in 95+ degree weather, we are extra grateful for the cool, cool waters of Lake Michigan.

For fear of sand, I didn't take my phone to the beach. I ran to the van right before we gathered our belongings to head back to Indiana to get my phone and snap one photo of everyone in the water.

6. We are grateful for the internet, where we found some tips about beaches in St. Joseph. Namely, to skip the ragingly popular Silver Beach and instead go to Tiscornia Park. We could see the Silver Lake beach from where we were, and it was PACKED with people. We couldn't even see the sand through the beach umbrellas. On our side of the river, there were people, but there was plenty of room for romping games of keep away and water football.

7. We are grateful for local, interesting places to eat. We avoid chain restaurants, especially when we're on a road trip. There are way too many new places to try, and it's a rare day that the local place doesn't taste way better than a chain.

This awesome ice cream stop is directly across the street from the entrance to Warren State Park, home of the dunes you saw above. We are blaming the sunburn on the crappy, cheap sunscreen Bryan bought. It was applied, but it didn't work very well.

If you ever find yourself in Lafayette, IN, this is a must stop. It's an 87 year old diner, where everything is made fresh, and half of it right in front of the customers. There are no tables. Everyone sits at the long counter that snakes its way around the entire inside of the building. The name of the place, Triple XXX, comes from the name of the root beer they sell. Seriously, it was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. AND, the prices are more than reasonable.
I asked for volunteers to take a photo in front of the place. While Giant did volunteer, we have to be content with his perpetual 13-year old resting "whatever" face.
We also ate at a restaurant in St. Joseph called Clementine's, where we got to eat some fresh lake perch. So, so yummy. (No photo taken.)

8. I'm thankful that our van is still running well, even after 201,000 miles, so we can take these road trips without fear of breaking down along the way. Sure, it is now completely filled with sand and has been said to smell like toots inside, but it gets us where we want to go.

9. I'm thankful we were able to get a mini-vacation in before school starts. This coming week will be busy as we get everyone ready for school and squeeze in all the last minute summer fun we can get. Having two days to just have fun (and not cook!) was the perfect way to end our break.

10. I'm thankful I do still have another week to get the big kids ready for school. We haven't even started buying school supplies, and three of them need some pants! (Thankfully, only one needs shoes.)

How is your summer break going? What happy things were in your week?

Have a lovely day!


Ten Things of Thankful


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