Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Devil & Miss Mia

This week has seemed to just drag, hasn't it?  Today when I shut off my work laptop, I felt like a kid being let out of school, and I'm not really sure why.  I'm just glad to have a weekend, work a day or two, have a holiday, and then work a day or two.  And truthfully, there won't be much work next week, so I may as well make up my mind to enjoy myself.
Tonight when L gets home we're going to go buy an American flag.  I've wanted one to fly on holidays for the longest time.  This year it just seems especially important, so off we go for an exciting evening jaunt to the Home Depot for our flag.  I just love it when lots of people have their flags out on July 4th, and other patriotic holidays.  It's a beautiful sight, and makes my heart proud and thankful.
We're having the folks over for their belated Father's Day BBQ on Sunday.  I need to figure out what we're having and go shopping.  And speaking of shopping, if you have a Trader Joe's by you, pick up a jar of Cookie Butter.  You heard me.  Cookie Butter.  It's like gingerbread you can eat with a spoon.  I guess you can put it on pancakes or toast.  I've even put a little of it in smoothies.  But mostly I just eat it with a spoon when I need something sweet.  Try it.  You will not be sorry.  And you'll thank me.

Maybe we should just open a jar on Sunday and pass out spoons.  Just kidding.  Even I'm not that bad. Not, at least, when there are other people around.

I've been hearing from Katie that little Hayden has been walking around the house muttering "Dammit!" under her breath.  But when Katie asks "What did you say?" she just gives Katie a raspberry and walks away.  It's hilarious.  She doesn't say no, or throw tantrums.  She just gives the 
old raspberry.  For any reason, whenever she's avoiding something unpleasant.  She makes me laugh, but I notice Katie needs a lot of naps.  Ahhh... two year olds...  If I ever get a video I'll have to post it.  It'll make you laugh.

And finally, it was this little sweetheart's 6th birthday today.  She celebrated by going to see the movie "Brave" with Katie and Hayden.  Tomorrow is her party at the park.  She is beyond excited.  Katie made cupcakes and told the girls not to touch them.  Mia crept up to Katie and confessed that she hadn't touched them, but she had smelled them.  And she was hoping she wasn't in trouble for that.  Miss Hayden, later on, was not so subtle.  Katie caught her with the high stool, picking the sprinkles off of one of them.  Her response upon being caught red handed?  Yep, a raspberry.  Life is gonna come a knockin' for that one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Ideas, Summer Living

I stumbled upon a Facebook page - Homesteader and Survivalist.  I know, I know, it sounds like it involves hillbillies or mountain men, definitely guns, and bunkers -  and in some ways it IS a little hardcore, telling you how to build a chicken coop with a garden on top, and many other green suggestions that are just a little too green for this girl in the city.  However, they also feature a lot of creative suggestions that are brilliant ideas, and I've been trying them out.  Here are some of my favorites:

Make Your Own Vitamin Water

I think what they're showing here is a large Mason jar.  I'm a little shy of Mason jars at my house (it's all that canning I do *wink*) so I just put it in the biggest glass I have.  I tried making it in a pitcher the first time, but for one thing you'll need a whole lot of fruit in there, and at least where I live, things like raspberries are expensive.  So, I slice up/pop fruit in a large glass (has to be glass to truly enjoy the esthetic beauty of the whole thing), put ice cubes on top, and just keep filling it up all day.  The other bonus to doing it this way is that it gets me out of my chair to run up and down the stairs getting new water in my glass.  (Also, as the day wears on you run to and from the bathroom a lot too.)  But if you're on the go, this would work just as well in a large drink container.  Plastic won't taste as good, and you also need ice as it tastes much better nice and cold, but whatever works for you.  So far, I've tried the blackberry sage (delicious) and today I'm sipping raspberry lime - my favorite so far.

Salad On The Go

Now this was an idea I could have used when I worked in an office and took my lunch to work.  I rarely took salads, as it was too hard to transport everything.  But look at this! - dressing on the bottom, next your veggies/fruit/meat/what-have-you, and finally the lettuce on the top.  Genius!  Of course you need the ever-popular Mason jar to add interest and allow you to see those beautiful salad layers, but really, I think Tupperware would do as long as it couldn't move around too much.

Green Idea - Love the Earth!

This is one of the most clever ideas I've ever seen, as far as re-using something that is nasty for landfills in a good way.  Keep your chocolate chips fresh in the bag, or rice, or just about anything that comes in a bag!  Normally I would just be boring and recycle the old Diet Coke bottle, but THIS I actually would do.  It's a very clever way to repurpose those old soda bottles.  I notice that it does say "wide mouth plastic bottle" but especially if its something like rice or something small I don't see why a soda bottle wouldn't work too.  Whatever.  You can always recycle if it doesn't work.

Patio Dining Table Complete With A Salad Bar

I'm still trying to figure out how to do this one.  But isn't that the coolest idea ever?  A table with 3 places on each side with a garden of salad greens growing down the middle and on the sides.  Beautiful AND practical!  I showed it to L, and even he was intrigued but we couldn't figure out how to water it nicely, how does it drain, are the garden sections lined with plastic, etc.  Perhaps a nursery could shed some light on the logistics if we ever get to the point that our patio is worth sitting on.

The other really nice thing that L and I have done the last few nights is a twilight/evening bike ride.  Now, these are not to be confused with the kinds of bike rides where you sweat profusely and you might actually tone muscles.  No, no.  These are the kind where it's too late to hit the bike trail, but you need to move a little bit to work off that nachos plate you just polished off.  On our hard-hitting rides we never pedal side by side.  We rarely talk except briefly at beginning, midpoint, and at the end.  
But these evening rides with our lights blinking on and off like crazy little strobe lights are the equivalent of an evening stroll.  It's leisurely, and we notice that the moon is now more than a sliver of a crescent - it's almost a half moon.  Sometimes you can see some stars (we are city folk), but most of all, the air is balmy and we ride along and discuss the events of the day, or ones coming up.  We mostly just ride the same streets round and round, but we aren't paying much attention to that.  We're enjoying moving our muscles while we also enjoy each others' company.  Cats skitter across the street here and there, and sometimes people are out walking their dogs.  It's been a nice end to a busy day, and happily, I've learned to avoid trash cans.

I can't believe that next week brings July 4th.  It's one of my favorite holidays, although I haven't planned one thing yet.  There's just something about laying back on a blanket on the grass, and watching fireworks exploding overhead.  Preceded, of course, by a good BBQ or an abundant picnic shared with family and friends.  Our little community puts on a pretty good show, although it's a bear to find parking anywhere close.  But maybe this year we'll bite the bullet and go and enjoy a night out with everyone else.  Patriotic music, kids running amuck, and a sky full of loud fireworks.  Waving sparklers in the shape of your name, careful not to step on a hot one in bare feet.  Dessert after the show.  Celebrate this wonderful country we're so lucky to live in.

What new ideas have you been obsessing over?  What new fun has summer thrown your way, what activities do you have planned?  Paint me a picture of what summertime is where you live.  

*Excuse me. I'm just going to run down the hall.  All that water, you know.*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Colorado Lovelies

Back from Denver - we had such a good time, but I feel like I've been going at top speed for the past week!  Now that I'm hope - and all caught up - I need to cool my jets a little bit.  It's felt good to have a couple of slow, mundane days that have let me take a deep breath or two.  Tonight after dinner, just as it was getting dark, L and I took a slow leisurely bike ride just around the neighborhood.  No long distances, no arduous hills - just a relaxing ride in the cool of the evening, with a lot of folks out walking their dogs.
Our Denver visit is still fresh, and for the past couple of nights as we're drifting off, L and I reminisce about our favorite parts of the trip.  It was good to catch up with the "big kids" - Rex and Ronna - but it was heaven to spend 4 days with 3 of our favorite little people: Lexi, Matthew, and Skylee.  Now, Skylee is a bit of a newcomer, being only 9 months, but she was everything that was promised: happy, easy going, and the easiest baby since Rex.  And amazing blue eyes that were a show stopper everywhere we went.

When we arrived on Thursday early evening, we pulled up to their house and were greeted by Lexi and Matthew running down the driveway with big hugs and excitement to see Mema and Papa.  Sweet memory #1.  Both of them jumped up for hugs and kisses - an experience that was especially enjoyed by Papa L.  We piled back in the car and went out for ice cream.  Their downtown area (in Parker) is charming and restored old-timey, with a lovely park in the middle of it.  Victorian houses and buildings abound.  We sat outside with our ice cream and caught up with Rex and Ronna while the kids chased wild rabbits around on the grass.
The next day, Friday, we'd planned on going to the Denver Zoo.  I sat in the back of the SUV with Lexi and we played "I Spy" all the way into Denver.  Matthew played here and there, his little voice piping up "I spy somefing..."  While L bought the tickets, the rest of us sat in the shade and the kids had a little lunch.  Skylee, ever content, sat in her stroller and just looked around.  Matthew was on a kick about cotton candy.  He wanted cotton candy, when were we going to get cotton candy, is it time for cotton candy, where's the cotton candy... you get the picture.  This one note kept getting struck all through the exhibits until we actually came to the blessed cotton candy vendor.  The bag that Ronna bought was part pink and part blue.  Lexi, taking charge (as usual) started to tell Matthew that she would have the pink part, and Matthew would have... and it was here that she noticed that the blue part was twice the size of the pink.  She quickly amended her sentence to say "Well, we'll just share."  This girl doesn't miss a trick.  Ever.

About halfway through the zoo, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and it started to rain.  We watched as they herded the elephants to shelter, and then began to make our own way out of the zoo.  We dropped them off, and went to our hotel to change for dinner.  Next on the agenda: dinner out at The Fort restaurant with Rex and Ronna.  I promised Lexi that I would be back tomorrow, and that we would for sure spend some time playing with her.

Saturday was slated for the Butterfly Pavilion just outside of Denver.  They also had an insect room where you could hold Rosie the Tarantula, and an aquarium room where you could touch starfish, sea urchins, and other small sea creatures.  Lexi couldn't stop talking about Rosie the Tarantula.  We made our way to the insect room and Lexi got a good look at Rosie.  She got red in the face, and then she hid her face.  She didn't want to have anything to do with Rosie.  Rex held Rosie.  Ronna held Rosie.  I held Rosie.  L held Rosie.  We looked at the glassed in beehive and watched bees do their thing.  We looked at exotic cockroaches and praying mantis insects, and other types of spiders.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, Lexi got her courage up to hold Rosie, and I was so proud of her.  I knew that it took bravery for her to do it, but what a wonderful thing it is to conquer your fears and have new experiences!  This girl is no shrinking violet.

And then Matthew had to have his turn.  Typical boy - he was thoroughly delighted, and laughed all the way through it.

Time for the butterflies.  This was my absolute favorite thing that we did.  We got there just before they released the newly hatched butterflies.  The kids all sat in a circle while the butterfly man told them about the butterflies - what they like to eat, their life span, etc.  Meanwhile, hundreds of other butterflies flew around right in front of your nose and overhead and all around.  Gorgeous colors everywhere.  The plants were green and lush with colorful flowers everywhere.  The temperature was about 90 degrees in there - they were trying to replicate a rainforest atmosphere, and they succeeded.  It was like being in a steamy Garden of Eden.  Besides the plants there was a pond, some fish, turtles, and every so often misters sprayed a fine mist into the air.  We were all enchanted.  Here is Skylee, who couldn't stop watching all of the butterflies flitting in front of her.

Can you see that little butterfly she's watching?

Lexi and Matthew had a great time running around looking at all of the spectacular species of butterflies from all over the world.

Here is a small sampling of what we saw.  It was breathtaking.  Unfortunately, some of the most colorful ones were also the most shy, and it was hard to get a picture, but we did our best.

It was a good day, and we headed home full of stories to tell about beautiful butterflies and big hairy spiders that sat in our hand.  Rex has loved butterflies since he was Lexi's age, and he enjoyed being surrounded by them as well.  

Lexi and I had our time to play that night, and she kept shooing poor Matthew out of her room, saying that we needed to have "girl time."  Matthew had to be content to play with Papa L - but it was probably a good trade off.

We got up Sunday and went to church with Rex and the kids.  Ronna wasn't feeling well - she had a bad cold that had gotten worse.  So, Rex had a real Father's Day morning with us and the kids.  After church we headed back to our hotel for a rest.  We needed some quiet time as well as the kids, as Colorado seems to kick up allergies in both of us.  That, plus the altitude was totally making me feel very tired.  I know - I'm a wimp, but it all worked out.  About 4:00 we picked up some good eats at Maggiano's and headed over to the party house to have a combination Father's Day/Matthew's birthday dinner.  We sat around and gobbled up wonderful Italian food until we could eat no more, and then we let Matthew open his gift - his own Tag reader and book.  Now he and Lexi can each read books at the same time.  He was very excited about that.  We all headed outside to sit in the beautiful twilight.  The kids chased rabbits, and rode their bicycle and trike.  Lexi finally consented to let L take her picture sitting on her beloved Princess bike.

It was lovely to just sit in the cool air and watch the kids play.  It reminded me of childhood summer evenings, running barefoot in the grass, playing until it was dark.  We finally had to break the spell and say our goodbyes.  Matthew thanked us again for his birthday gift (unprompted I might add!)  They each gave us big hugs and I squeezed Skylee's juicy cheeks one last time.  It was a combination of being so tired that it was almost hard to think, and yet never wanting our time with them to end.  Such is the lot of being a grandparent, I think.  It's a mixed gift - mostly full of wonder, giggles, and amazing love for these magical little people, but tempered with a small amount of relief when it's the parents' turn to take over.  
And so we're home, back into our curmudgeonly little routines, and yet I can't help dreaming about the next visit.  Small hands get big so fast, and juicy cheeks don't last forever.  Smiling babies, crooked smiles, and creative imaginations are good mojo.  Hoodoo of the best and most magical kind.

PS: For those who left a comment for my dad on my Father's Day post, a heartfelt thank you. He thoroughly enjoyed each one, and it was wonderful for him to see what great and interesting friends you all are. I have been ordered to print it out, complete with all comments, so he can keep it.  Again, thank you for making his day very special!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Post For Dad

This is for my dad.  Also for family members who may not be up on dad's latest adventure, but the rest of you are welcome to read on, and I'll have a part for you to play at the end.
My dad is a powerful presence with just a touch of comic relief sprinkled in - just to make him mortal and to humble him a bit, I suspect.  As a little girl I remember he was long, long legs to hug when he got home from work.  He was the monster who chased us through a dark house when Mom wasn't home.  He was the gentle discipline - at least for me.  Mom would have thrown up her hands in exasperation and Dad would be the calm listener.  Now don't for an instant believe that he "got " me.  Not at all.  To him, I've always been the enigma, the free spirit.  (The funny part is, if he thinks I'm a free spirit, he's never really met one.)  But for argument's sake - and in my family most particularly - I am the free spirit.  I am the artist, the dreamy idealist, the perpetual optimist.  And the math dunce.
My dad is a math genius.  He can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and get the square root of columns of numbers - and all in his head.  He has dazzled us kids with his math parlor tricks since we were small.  My brothers went on to follow in his footsteps (well, maybe not the surgeon brother, but I doubt he failed as miserably as I did) and they are at least good to brilliant in that subject.  Algebra and I will never understand each other.  Geometry and I don't even speak the same language.  But I have other talents that my father can only try to imagine, except he has no interest in them, so I doubt he even tries to think about what it would be like to, say, hear music as it was written, or sketch a drawing.  He does sing a mean "Come, Come Ye Saints" or "On The Road To Mandalay" but it wouldn't be a tune that anyone, musically inclined or otherwise, would recognize.  He is hopelessly tone deaf, and gave up on all artistic pursuits decades ago.
I can remember when I was a child, though, and he would gather us all in the kitchen on Saturday mornings and whip up a batch of waffles or pancakes from scratch and no written recipe.  We would all take turns dumping ingredients and stirring.  In fact, one morning in the first week or so after I'd gotten married I woke up and laid there in bed sort of half asleep.  And I could hear them all as if they were just downstairs in my old house: my brothers and my dad clanging bowls and stirring spoons, and conversing about nothing in a just barely inaudible level - meaning I could hear them talking to each other, but couldn't quite make out what was being said.  I remember thinking that this was really odd, because I was miles away in our new apartment, wide awake at this point, and yet I could clearly hear the Saturday ritual that had been a part of my life for so many years.  Being newlywed, I suppose I was a little bit homesick, and "hearing" the familiar chatter in my head was comforting.
There were other kitchen forays - the attempt to cook an actual pumpkin and make pumpkin pies from it, and the time he made biscuits with jam baked inside.  Those mostly had the jam a little burned, but it was an exciting experiment in the joys of baking.  I don't think he does much of that anymore - my mother likes a clean kitchen and doesn't take kindly to grand messes in her domain.  But they are fun memories.

He brought home a camouflage parachute one time, and another time an empty (and clean) barrel for us to play with.  We made forts, and we learned circus trick after circus trick as we taught ourselves to walk around on that barrel.  He built us a sandbox to end all sandboxes, complete with a roof to climb up on with an attached ladder.  We made endless sand cakes and castles, climbed up on the top and either sat looking at the view from up there or having contests jumping off.
My dad took us on a vacation every summer, and sometimes in between.  We camped in Yosemite, visited my grandpa in Spanish Fork, Utah, drove down the crazy winding Lombard Street in San Francisco and rode cable cars, and saw Old Faithful.  The saddest trip was when we'd just moved to the east coast, and for Thanksgiving we took a road trip up through a bit of New England.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at a Howard Johnson restaurant, my poor dad trying desperately to make it jolly and fun.  I feel bad about that - I could have tried harder to be happy but I was 14 and moody, and all of my friends were back in California.
The best trip was a sort of graduation from high school celebration for me - a trip to Hawaii - Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.  I was beyond excited, but again - I probably wasn't as appreciative as I might have been because I was 17 and moody and self centered.  And I wanted to appear independent and cool, and there were my goofy brothers dorking around.  In retrospect, I was the one who was the goofy dork, but age really changes perspective, doesn't it?  But I loved that vacation - every minute of it - so thanks, Dad.  And even more, I love the fact that the trip was largely for me.  (Right Dad?  That's how I remember it, anyway, being the narcissist I am...)  I felt that he knew I would be growing up and on my own soon enough, and he wanted to give me something special.  He may not always understand me, but I am always his little girl.
My dad has always been kind of larger than life to me.  Smart, strong, capable.  Solver of problems.  But he is also someone who will walk miles at Lake Powell with a peach pit in his shoe, and only at the end of the day will he say "My foot is KILLING me," take off his shoe, and see that peach pit roll out.
I've never known anyone else who will walk outside barefoot at night and then come inside whining that "I cut my foot on a snail shell!"  He rarely laughs really hard, but when he does it goes on for a REALLY LONG TIME.  His eyes squinch shut and he just shakes, laughing silently and hysterically for several minutes.  It used to scare us when we were little.  We would cry and beg him to stop.  "Stop Daddy... please stop!"

So he is DAD - smart and strong - and yet he is really funny without trying to be.  He is a small town Utah boy transplanted to the big city.
Fast forward to Monday.  He was going to Hoag Hospital for a fairly routine outpatient procedure.  Home by noon.  Well, things didn't go as planned, and there was swelling and pain, and a mass of tissue extracted that was sent to the lab for analysis.  He ended up spending the night in the hospital, alone and (probably) scared.
I went yesterday morning with my mom to pick him up, and he was in rare form.  Barking at the nurses that he was ready to go home, and where were they - had they forgotten all about him?  He is a complete stranger to hospitals and indeed, sickness in general.  He and aspirin are not even on speaking terms.  He's had maybe 2 headaches in his life.  He has had prostate cancer for the last 20 years or so, however. His levels are still ok, but I understand they are slowly on the rise.  He stays fit by going to the gym and by staying semi-active in his company (Larry's Thunderbird & Mustang Parts!) and by reading copious amounts of books.  My mother (the fitness bulldog) makes sure his weight stays down, and that he eats healthy foods.  (And he does, except when he goes with my brother to the local Snarf and Barf smorgasbord by their work, and, away from my mother's watchful eyes, he can gorge on bad macaroni and cheese, and whatever else takes his fancy, including one of every dessert.)  He and my brother have always loved quantity more than quality - they just can't resist a "bargain."  Boys...
But back to the hospital - he was grouchy and more than ready to blast out of there.  And I understand the feeling - hospital stays are no fun at all.  You just want your own bed and a little privacy.  We got him home, and fed him a bunch of Tylenol PM tablets, followed by a sandwich.  He fell asleep right after that and I went home.
He was very worried about whether the lab was going to return a diagnosis of further cancer found in that mass of tissue, and I could feel dark fear grabbing at me.  So I prayed.  I prayed for my dad.  I prayed for my mom.  And I prayed for me.  Because I can't imagine life without my dad here.  I'm not ready for that.  (Are we ever?)  He still has more babies to love, and more children to play with and influence.  More big events to attend and be part of.

And he has a cruise to Alaska to go on, for heaven's sake!   So last night my husband and one of my brothers went down and gave him a blessing.  It's something we do in our church, and it's very special to feel our Heavenly Father's hand comforting and blessing us.  Sometimes we get what we're hoping for, sometimes not, but it's a time when we have done all that we can, and we now place it in our Father's care.  It's a bit of a private spiritual experience so I'll just say that we were assured that dad would heal from the surgery and that the mass removed would not prove to be a problem - and also that he should place confidence in his doctors and their advice.  I just talked to him, and he will go back to the doctor this afternoon for the official results.
I realize that this is all a bit personal for a lot of you, but I wanted to be able to give the account to family members who are out of state.  I'm hoping that all of them will either give Dad a personal call or write him a little message here in comments, and I'll be sure he reads it.  For those of you who are not family, but are friends and interested parties, I welcome all prayers and encouraging messages from you as well.  I think Dad would enjoy reading messages from any and all of the nice people who stop by my blog.  Even though I've not met many of you in reality, we've all traveled some real life roads together through our blogs, and it's been lovely to be able to have these little chats.  So feel free to comment and send him your encouragement.  That is your writing assignment today.
So to my Dad: Rest up, and feel better soon.  I  know it's hard for someone like you to be down - even temporarily - but mind your doctors and Mom, and you'll be a regular terror in no time.  And Happy Father's Day.  I know it's early, but there's never a wrong day to be thankful for your Dad and for the many examples of courage and unconditional love you've exhibited for me down through the years.  And Dad - when I get back from Denver we'll have a big old BBQ in your honor.  I know how you love to eat good home cooking.  Love you, Dad.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beach Bums

After last week's hectic schedule, the weekend was a welcome relief.  Saturday was a day of no appointments to keep, no schedule already in place.  A day to do exactly as we pleased.  And what I was pleased to do was to go shopping for a few things for our upcoming trip to Denver this week.  L's idea was to load the bikes and go for a ride.  He kindly brought me eggs and toast in bed, so how could I say no?  I couldn't, so we got up, got ready and off we went.  I had been having a little (actually a lot) of pain in my shoulder, and so when we started off I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.  So I was a little sulky about having to ride bikes and work up a sweat when my poor, poor shoulder hurt every time I raised my arm to do my hair or blow dry my hair, and what was I going to do, have L blow dry my hair?  Oh, the sadness of it all...  Gradually (as exercise is wont to do) I started getting thoughts to pedal harder, keep going, get the old circulation going, and maybe - must maybe - I would start to feel better.  So when L suggested stopping at about 3 1/2 miles and turning around, I said no, let's keep going.

And so we did.  We pedaled and pedaled until we'd reached the 11 mile mark (meaning 11 miles to the beach).  That was the furthest halfway point I'd ever ridden, (our starting point that day was about 3/4 mile before mile 18) and after a quick water break we started back the way we came.  When we (finally) got back to the car, L checked the mileage app on his phone, and we'd gone 15.6 miles total!  I was so stoked.  Yes, my butt hurt, and my knees were a little sore, and my dogs were barking (feet tend to get a little stiff and sore after pedaling a lot of miles) but WE DID IT!  And guess what - my shoulder didn't hurt anymore, and it hasn't really hurt since.  So I'm convinced that getting my circulation going is good for what ails me, as long as I'm not pounding on my joints.  If I do say so myself, I am impressed with ME (and with L - he was pedaling along too) and I'm more convinced than ever that I need to get myself some padded cycling pants if we're going to keep this up.  And we are.

We went back home after purchasing a celebratory Diet Coke for L and a Vitamin Water (blueberry pomegranate) for me.  We toasted each other all the way home, very full of ourselves.  Once we got home and sat down it was hard to get up again.  Really hard.  But we had to go to Target (love Target!) and get a birthday present for Matthew (our grandson that we are going to visit for his birthday at the end of the week) and I needed a couple of pairs of pants for summer weather.  It's hot in Denver now.  So off we trudged.  I also had it in my head that I wanted a new pair of sandals so after Target we went to Macy's.

Now, Macy's is a store that always confuses me.  There's just so much... STUFF.  Everywhere.  And they have a sale of some kind every ding dang day of the week and so everything is always in disarray.  I really hate shopping there.  But they do have a good shoe department.  You see my dilemma.  We walked in, and right next to the shoe department they were having some kind of event in cosmetics.  Loud music.  Very loud.  And the shoe department looked like a bomb hit it.  I'm not one of those people who can shop a sale when everything is a mess.  It just makes me want to go home.  I feel cranky and irritable.  So of course I got in a bad mood and we left.  I've discovered something about myself as I get older.  I simply don't like to shop.  I don't enjoy the hunt.  I don't get off on bargains.  I pretty much want that amazing outfit to jump into my arms.  It'd be great if it also looked fantastic on me, but at the very least I want 5 salesgirls running all over bringing me everything I want.  That never happens at Macy's and that's why I hate to shop there.  What I really need is a personal shopper, so in lieu of that I try to stick with the smaller stores like Ann Taylor, Loft, etc.

Poor L knew my mood was dark, and he was trying hard to get me to lighten up.  So I said I would like to go to Birch Street Promenade to Chico's and he sighed and turned the car in that direction.  They were having a smokin' deal on pants - buy one pair, get the second at 50% off.  I'm almost embarrassed to say that I shop sometimes at Chico's - they are definitely a store for the 40 and up crowd.  The majority are 50+.  And I know that I fit the demographic perfectly, but some of their clothes truly look like gaudy older-lady-in-Vegas clothes.  They look passably good on the tall models in the catalogs, but 5'6" middle aged figure me can't quite carry the vivid patterns and fringe and sequins and who knows what else they seem to plaster on so many of their clothes.  I just look like a very colorful block.  *sigh*

So I didn't have high hopes for the pants, although how bad could jeans be?  And here's where it gets good.  Their pants are SO COMFY.  Their "So Slimming" jeans?  SO COMFY as well!  And the best part is in their sizes I get to wear a size 1.5.  TWO THUMBS UP!!  That felt good.  Really good.  So good, in fact, that I bought jeans AND shorts!  I left that store a happy girl.  A successful shopping trip will do that to me.

Today was another absolutely gorgeous day.  Too nice to stay inside taking a nap.  The beautiful day beckoned, and we hopped in the car after church and drove down to Corona Del Mar.  The water was blue, the temperature was perfect, and L and I just walked along the beach and then up along the avenues, pointing out our favorite houses, dreaming of a lifestyle we'll never have, but it's fun to dream.
When my ankle had had enough walking we made our way back to the car and headed for dinner on Balboa Island.  Bellies full, we walked along the island perimeter and watched the boats in the bay.

The sun was just starting to go down, and there was a lovely golden light reflected on the water.  There were lots of flags flying in the breeze and we could hear the seals barking out in the water.

It was a perfect end to a pretty good weekend.  Tomorrow may be back to work and the daily grind, but it's days like these that refresh and revive you.  The coming week will be busy wrapping up loose ends, packing to go to Denver for a few days, and planning what to do when we get there.  Another busy week AND weekend, but in a good way.  It's hard to have our family spread out all over the country, but I feel fortunate that we're able to go and visit them a time or two each year, not to mention the wonderful technology like Skype and cell phones that make keeping in close touch so easy.  And at the end of the day I'm grateful to live in such a beautiful place where, just a few minutes away, I can find peace and tranquility watching the waves roll in and out as the sun sets in the horizon, the fire pits on the beach start to glow in the twilight, and the smell of woodsmoke fills the salty air.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In The Blink Of An Eye

The last four or five days have been a blur.  Between shopping and cooking and preparing for the arrival of our granddaughters, and then being caught in the maelstrom of activity two little girls can create, I'm sitting here at my desk wondering what the heck happened, and how could it all be over with so soon?  It started peacefully enough, watching my daughter, her husband, and Mia and Hayden walk into church to come sit by us.  Mia shyly waved at L and whispered "Hi Papa."  Hayden wanted to sit on my lap.  It was so nice to have them here at last!
After church Mia was ready to hit the road.  Sadly for her, Katie had a lot of people she wanted to say hello to.  She grew up in this area, and there are still a lot of families who were excited to see her and the girls.  I'm sure Zach was ready to hit the road with Mia, though, as he doesn't know anyone - but he was a good sport who knows that trying to get Katie to stop visiting is an exercise in futility.  She is a social animal.
At last we made it out to the car, much to Mia's immense relief.  We got home and got comfy, got out the toys, and of course, that meant the fairy castle.  Mia remembers all of the toys, but Hayden doesn't really have a memory of them - it was all a new treasure trove for her.  I did have one new item I'd bought: a foam hopscotch game that fits together like a puzzle.  The top square is a kitten face, and the whole game is a girly pink.  We fit the pieces together in the living room, and Mia practiced her hopscotch, which she said is her very favorite game at school.  Hayden hopped along like a little frog right behind her.

Hayden thinking what other trouble she can get into.

I was in the kitchen trying to chop and dice and stir.  After awhile I noticed that it was very quiet out in the living room.  The girls were gone, and when I asked where they were, Katie said that L had taken them up to his office.  When we went up to check, Mia was sitting at L's second desk coloring away on some Strawberry shortcake coloring pages that L/Papa had downloaded and printed out for her.  Hayden was also busy coloring pages.  Mia told us that she was an "artist of coloring" and that her Papa was an "artist of rooms" - presumably because his office is so nice.  Every so often, L would let them strum his electric guitar a little bit, and then they'd go back to coloring.  He kept them busy for a couple of hours - it was heaven!  I was able to get dinner completely finished while he kept them occupied.
My parents came over for dinner as well - it was their 60th wedding anniversary, but they never get to have the day to themselves because it is also Scott's birthday - and he and Ashley (or as Mia calls her: Aunt Ash-a-lee) also came to dinner.  It was one of the best family dinners I've ever had.  Everyone had fun, no one cried, the food was good.  It was so good to see Katie and Zach, and Scott and Ashley being able to enjoy being together.  I think that's what I miss the most with the kids all spread out -  everyone being together and having fun.  It rarely happens anymore.  Even L was having a good time.  He usually retreats to his office when we have a house full, but this time he stayed downstairs and visited with Zach and my dad.
Katie and Zach were hoping for a little "alone time" and were hoping that both of the girls would spend the night.  Wild horses couldn't have kept Mia from staying over, but Hayden was iffy.  We got her bathed and settled in watching a movie, and I thought she would settle in, but all of a sudden she started to scream that her "bum hurt."  I called Katie to ask what that means, and Katie told me she had a bad diaper rash.  I tried to check her diaper and could see she'd had a "blowout" but she wasn't about to let me do anything about it - she was screaming by this point.  Yes, yes - I know I'm the adult here, but have you ever tried to subdue a screaming 2 year old who has a bad diaper rash?  It would have taken L to hold her still while I tried to keep the crap contained - literally - to the diaper.  I just really didn't want her to go away with a memory of being held down by the two of us, so Katie turned around and came to get her.   Hayden is only 2 1/2 - and she wasn't really having the idea of spending the night.  So, sadly for Katie and Zach, off she went with them, and we settled Mia in for the night.  When I checked on her 5 minutes later, she was out cold.  It was a beautiful thing, because I really needed to put my feet up and just chill out.  Pretending, playing fairies and unicorns, and quieting screaming toddlers kind of takes it out of you when you're not used to it.
The next day Katie and Zach were taking the girls to Disneyland, and Aunt Ash-a-lee was going too.  I kept wishing I was going, but I knew I'd never last as long as they would.  And then I'd get crabby and turn into a martyr.  Better that they just go and have the best and longest day possible because Disneyland is obscenely expensive.  It's disgusting, really, what it costs to get it, but I won't go off on that tangent.
Mia got up and I made her pancakes and bacon (she doesn't like eggs, she said) and she poured her own syrup on her pancakes and dipped her bacon in syrup.  A little gourmet.  A little while later she was hungry again and had a few blueberries and a strawberry smoothie.  We went out on the porch to wait for her mom and dad.  And Aunt Ash-a-lee.

Mia contemplating meeting Disney princesses.

At last, they arrived, and everyone was off.  Quiet house.  Too quiet.  I had a hard time working, but in a sense it was good to have a little time off to recoup.  They went straight to their hotel after their big day of meeting princesses and riding Dumbo and Splash Mountain (Seriously!  Mia sat in the front seat, got soaked and LOVED it!)  Hayden's favorite thing was the carousel.  They each got to choose a toy as a souvenir.  Mia chose the new Brave princess doll, and Hayden chose a Brave playset with several little figurines.  (Brave is the new Disney animated feature due out June22nd for all of you who don't have little ones about and/or don't watch TV)
Tuesday I was lucky enough to not have a lot of work to do, so I didn't feel bad about spending the day with the gang.  We went to Huntington Beach and spent a little time just walking around, shopping, and having some lunch at Wahoo's (fish tacos!)  The girls just wanted to go to the beach so we walked across PCH and hit the sand.
Hayden headed straight for the water.  Waves kept hitting her, knocking her down, and she'd roll and tumble and come up laughing.  Tough kid, that one.  Zach finally had to drag her out and dry her off.

I stayed up on the dry sand with Mia.  We were collecting small shells, and digging in the sand.  The water was a little too cold for her liking so she was happy to stay up with me.  It struck me that she is getting her mother's long legs.  Brought me right back to when Katie was small.

Mia - our little beach baby.

After everyone was dried off we walked back to the car and drove to Balboa Island for frozen bananas.  By that time Hayden was dead to the world but Mia wanted one.  Katie and Zach got out to order them and Mia stayed in the car with me and spelled words for me.  "Cat"  "Bat" "Can" "Man" - she is getting to be quite the reader and speller.  She discovered that she loves frozen bananas with sprinkles.
From there we went back to the hotel for baths and a little rest.  Family pictures at 6:00 - we were meeting Katie's friend Michelle down in San Juan Capistrano for a little photo shoot and Katie was working very hard to make sure everyone looked perfect.  I remembered how hard it is to get a good family picture when you have a 2 year old, and I kind of felt sorry for her.  Hayden was up to no good from the very beginning.
She refused to wear the beautiful hair clip Katie had ordered for her.  She insisted on blowing raspberries, arching her back, throwing gravel - anything she could do besides pose for pictures.  Photographer Michelle was really working it, and I was feeling sorry for her as well.  In the end, Michelle being the genius she is, and Katie being just as stubborn as Hayden is, there were enough good shots to choose from.  Here's a small sample: Mia looking lovely, and Hayden with her hair in her eyes.
Mia trying to contain Hayden.  Hayden doing her best to escape.  So naughty.

At one point, Hayden started hitting Mia and when Zach told her to say she was sorry she said "No. I don't care."  So you see what we were up against.  Once 2 year olds hit the wall, there's just nowhere to go.  Michelle looked none the worse for wear, but I felt absolutely wiped out trying to make an ornery little girl wear a hair clip and/or sit still and smile.  Once back in the car, however, the sunny disposition returned and we giggled and laughed all the way back to the hotel.
L/Papa met us there to say goodbye to the girls, and we spent a little while playing with them and their new Disney toys, and loving them up.  It's always so hard for me to say goodbye to my girl Katie too.  It seems that we never quite have that girl time for just us and it always leaves us feeling that we need more.  As I walked away Mia ran to me and gave me a hug, and then Hayden ran over on her little legs yelling "Huggies!  Huggies!"
It was a sweet few days.  I haven't even begun to tell all of the sweet little things that were said and done.  I think one of my favorite things was seeing L spending time with the girls and enjoying his role as "Papa."  I love the feel of tiny hands in mine, and soft cheeks to smooch on.  I looked at the clock this morning as their plane took off, and I felt like my heart was going with them.  They're off to Arizona for a week with Zach's family, and then it's home to Worcester.  Katie said Mia told her that I'm the best grandma.  And that's just about the best thing anyone has ever said about me.

Huntington Beach Pier

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