Thursday, September 27, 2007

Maybe You Should Read It Again...

Mike is one of my best friends. I met Mike the same night I met Allen, so we've known each other a good, long time. He is considered a brother to Allen and I, an uncle to the kids. Mike calls us often, which we appreciate since we aren't so great at calling him. When I answer the phone, he usually says something like this:

"Flamerta? What's up? Anything new?"

To which I used to respond, "Nope, nothing new. Same old, same old."

Mike told me at one point that, if I was ever NOT pregnant, I could instead answer, "Well, I'm not pregnant!" And har, har, har, we'd always have a good laugh over that one.

Mike just got married this month, to the beautiful Any (pronounced like Annie). I am looking forward to calling him sometime and asking, "What's new?" and hearing the response, "Any's pregnant!" No pressure, though, Mike & Any.

And, by the way, nothing new around here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Could Hide It Under There...


Where in the world can you hide your favorite chocolate-waxy donuts in a house full of eight kids?

I used to be able to hide treats (ex: donuts, Girl Scout Cookies, Chili-Cheese Fritos, Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Muffins, Snickers, etc...) in the canning pot or ice chest in the pantry. I could just close myself in there and enjoy to my heart's delight. But, the kids are getting smarter.

"What are you doing in there, Mom? Why are you holding the door closed?"

What is a woman to do? Yes, it is purely selfish to want to enjoy an entire box (that's right, friends - not a 6-pack, an entire box) of chocolate-waxy mini donuts all by myself. But, here's the problem. I can't share, or it goes like this:

Me: "Here, HH. Have a donut with mom in the pantry. Shhh. Yum, yum, right! OK, you're done. Want to play with trains? OK, bye sweetie!"

(2 seconds later)

GA: "Um, mom? Why does HH have chocolate on his face? Because GA wants to have chocolate on her face, too. It's OK." (She refers to herself in the first person. It can be cute.)

Me: "OK, GA, here's a donut. But, don't tell anyone, OK? Alright, let's clean off the chocolate so no one else can see...great job, princess! Now go play with your dollhouse, OK honey?"

(2 seconds later)

All kids not previously mentioned: "Mom, what's going on in the pantry?"

Me: "I'm.....praying. I'll be out in a minute."

Kids: "Can we pray, too?"

Me: (partially giving up) "OK, look, here, everyone gets a donut. Sorry I lied about praying."

Random child: "Uh...didn't you already eat a donut, Mom? Did you get 2? Can I have 2?"

All kids: "YEAH! WE ALL GET 2 DONUTS!!"

And so on. Then they're all gone.


"Wow, 8 kids?! How do you stay so thin?"

Now you know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Look, Mom, No Hands!

Yes, it's true. Our cute little CD has become a regular walking member of the family! She's been walking for a couple of weeks now and she's still a couple weeks shy of her first birthday. It is the cutest thing to see this little person walking around like a big person. It's like having a full-grown kid in a teeny little body. Her personality comes out more and more each day.

She has a rivalry with HH, both vying for mom's attention, but she can hold her own.

She gets mad when I try to take her picture, because I'm talking cutesy to her and telling her what a doll she is, how smart she is, but I'm not picking her up.

She loves to play (for lack of a better word) fetch. Throw one of her stuffed bunnies and she'll retrieve it for you. It is the most adorable thing. (See, kids, I told you we didn't need a smelly dog!)

She is as in love with milk as her brother, HH. If I get it out of the fridge for any reason, she starts to squeal and bounce and walk as fast as her stubby legs can carry her to the kitchen.
She enjoys chasing our bird, Buddy, around the room. And Buddy plays along, always staying just out of reach. (I know what you're thinking, "Gerb's a softy! She got a pet!" Better than a stinky, shedding dog or a bossy, hairy cat. And, really, don't even get me started on cats. I don't care if you like them. That's fine. But I'll never change my opinion - it has been cemented even more strongly due to the fact that we live so close to a veritable cat breeding ground. But don't get me started on that, either. Seriously.)

CD also has excellent taste in music. When the good stuff is playing, she's a dancing machine.

She can change the entire atmosphere of a room with a smile or her laugh.

When those big, bright eyes look up into mine, I wonder what she knows that I don't. There is unconditional love and trust there, and wisdom beyond her years.

And that's saying a lot, since she doesn't even have one year under her belt yet.

(sigh). I love being a mom.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Getting Ready For Halloween

Allen and I have never been very festive when it comes to decorating for holidays. This is more a factor of time than anything else, I think. However, last year Allen decided we should decorate the house for Halloween. "Sure," I said. "The kids can help us make a few decorations during family home evening." We traced and cut out bats to tape on the windows. They were pretty cool. But Allen had something more in mind. He made the large witch cut-out to put over the front window, complete with green light in the background. (you can see our cool bat cut-outs, too.)
He constructed 4 tombstones from plywood, rebar, paint, and fake blood to include in our own little cemetery, right in our front yard. He cut out the sign and created the fence from posts and wire. This was still under construction as the first trick-or-treaters appeared last Halloween night.
This ghost was made from a wire frame and an old sheet. It was attached to a pulley and the string came into the bedroom, enabling us to move the ghost up and down. There was a black light shining onto the ghost to help it really stand out.
Our pumpkins were all carved with scary faces to fit the haunted house theme, and lined the stairs to the front door.
This skeleton prisoner was created from a skull and a bag of random bones, wired together. Allen built a body from boards, complete with ribs. I made the orange jumpsuit while Allen wired red Christmas lights into the eye sockets and built a gallows to hang him from over our garage.

Throw in a fog machine, some dry ice and a CD of spooky sounds, and we had quite a Halloween display!

But that was last year. Allen has had a whole year to think about other spooks and decor to add to the mix. More skeletons, coffins, a grim reaper...the possibilities are endless! We're going to have to start setting up at least a week in advance this year.

So, come Halloween, stop by for some treats...and maybe a few unexpected tricks!

We're dying to see you....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's For Lunch?

After each new school year begins, it is always fun to ask my kids how many students in their class bring a lunch from home each day. Generally the answer is one or two, themselves included. I, for one, am a HUGE fan of home-made lunches. Let me share some of my reasoning with you:

1. School lunches always have been, still are, and always will be pretty much disgusting.
2. Sack lunches from home can be catered to fit the likes and dislikes of each child.
3. Items in a lunch from home are much more valuable in the lunchtime trading game because no one else has them.
4. It is a way for kids to have a little piece of home while at school.
5. I like to decorate lunch sacks with pictures, jokes, and each kid's name.

On occasion we will send our kids with money to purchase a school lunch (like if I am having a baby that day or we all slept in or we ran out of sack-lunch staples like bread or fruit). When they return home I will ask, "How was lunch?" The answer varies. Here are some of my favorites:

"It was pizza day - I hate pizza day! They just re-heat already cooked 5 Buck Pizzas and the cheese is all mushy and the crust is like cardboard."

"I was excited because there were apples, but they were the kind that taste like they store them in vinegar. The lunch lady said they were called Red Delicious. I call them Red Disgusting."

"I think it was supposed to be macaroni and cheese, but it was just gross."

My kids tell me about their friends who get the cafeteria lunches, eat what they like (usually 1/3 or less of what they are served) and dump the rest in the garbage. Do their parents know what they are paying for? Is it really worth it? Is there something I am missing here?

I love making lunches for my kids. It is fun finding jokes that they will enjoy to write on the front and adding an unexpected treat in the bottom of the bag. They are always pleasantly surprised when the typical PB&J is replaced with a bagel and cream cheese, a tortilla roll-up, or their favorite, tuna. I always add a vegetable or fruit, depending on what I know my kids like and will eat. Apples, carrots, celery with peanut butter, pears, green pepper slices, cherry tomatoes...we even sent 'cucumber popsicles' (peel the cucumber, cut it in half and insert a stick in the bottom - it looks like a lime popsicle and is great for dipping in ranch!) for a while one year when our garden was overflowing with cucumbers.

At a time when treats are no longer allowed in classrooms and parents are not allowed to bring homemade items to share on birthdays, shouldn't someone be concerned about what's going on in the food line at the cafeteria?

Here is my suggestion:

The school principal and lunch staff should be required to eat what is being served for lunch that day. If they think it's worthy of them, it can be served to the students.

But my family will still be bringing sack lunches, and you're going to want to trade for what they've got.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Surprise Endings

I have had a few requests that I write a blog about my sweetheart, Allen. Let me say this: As much as I LOVE the spotlight, he avoids it. Unlike me, Allen is not a real showy kind of guy who likes to bare his secrets to the world. They say opposites attract, and in many cases that fits us to a T.

But I will give you a little snippet of what I know about Allen that you don't: he is great with surprises. (I, on the other hand, cannot keep a surprise a secret to save my life. I'm too excited to give it to the lucky recipient.) Like the time he got me a piano for Christmas. How do you keep that a secret? He pulled it off flawlessly. I was convinced I was getting a deep-freezer.

Allen read my last blog about the Twilight series of books and came home with a copy of Eclipse for me. What a fun surprise! (He also read the entire spoiler on the book at wikipedia and threw out little hints of what was to come...check out his comment on my last blog entry.)

I have been devouring this book as much as I did the others while attempting to keep the house above "hit by a tornado" status. This morning I finished it. On page 599, I found some writing in the binding:

...and there was another surprise, the itinerary for a trip to visit my friend Rebecca in Washington!

There's your snippet. If this doesn't embarrass him too much, there may be further installments.

Thanks Allen!
I would have just called you, but you're in that meeting. Let me know if you want me to delete this post.
Love, Gerb

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

I have read the first two books in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and I will be the first to admit that I was hooked. I read both books in 3 days and finished the second book, New Moon, the day that the third book, Eclipse, was released. I HAD to read it. However, I couldn't bring myself to buy it because I must read a book before I buy it. This usually means I find it at the library or borrow it from a friend.

I believe I am currently #3,249 on the hold list at the library for Eclipse. And Madison won't let me borrow her copy unless I let EM join Girl Scouts. (which I would be more inclined to do if they didn't have to sell a bajillion boxes of cookies every year, by the way.)

So, as I have patiently waited to acquire a copy of this book, I have had time to think about it. A lot of time. And some things don't make sense anymore. So, please, if you could help me out, here is what I want to know:

(warning: these questions will sound ridiculous to anyone who is unfamiliar with these books. And some questions may give things away if you haven't read the books yet. Just thought you'd like to know.)

1. Does Bella finally become a vampire in Eclipse? Because I'm not so sure I want to read it if she doesn't at least try.

2. If Bella is truly, irrevocably in love with Edward, why is she so disgusted with the idea of being married to him? I am a female, and I know how (some) females think. Most females, if they are so sure of their feelings and immensely in love with someone that they would put their life on the line for them, or become a vampire to be with them forever, marriage would be a welcome proposition. What's her problem?

In fact, Bella is starting to get on my nerves. What is it that Edward sees in her, besides the fact that she smells so appetizing? Is his attraction based on the fact that he can't read her thoughts? Or that she has NO self-esteem? (I guess that can be question 3.)

And now some commentary... (warning again: MAJOR SPOILERS on Book 2 here...)

New Moon held my interest at the beginning, up to the point where Bella saves Edward and they are flying home from the big vampire domain under the foreign city where unsuspecting tourists are eaten for lunch. After that point, I continued reading voraciously for one reason alone: Question #1. (Does Bella become a vampire?) Let me draw an analogy here. Reading the remainder of New Moon was like watching a soap opera. I once had to endure Days of Our Lives for a couple of weeks while my mom was visiting, and when I saw part of the show a year later, the same things were happening. The plot never moved forward. To be fair, the Twilight books have much better character development. But the plot at the end was like this: Edward is a vampire. Jacob is a werewolf. Jacob hates Edward. Edward tolerates Jacob because he loves Bella. Bella's father hates Edward, but loves Jacob. Bella doesn't understand why anyone loves her. Bella wants to become a vampire. No way, says Edward. Why not? says Edward's family. And on and on.

Please, if you have read Eclipse, could you help me out and give away the ending?

When the time comes, I'll buy a box of your Girl Scout cookies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

15th Anniversary, Day Three: The Trip Home & Star Valley

(Family barn in Afton)

Our trip home was the only plan for the last day of our weekend getaway. Just drive and enjoy the scenery. We planned to get home a different way - by driving through beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming. Star Valley, or more specifically, Afton, has always been revered in my mind as the childhood home of my mother-in-law, one of the most amazing women ever to set foot on this planet. I am always amazed when we drive through the lush green pastures and grassy hills. I wonder if she misses it all, there in the dry desert among sagebrush and Joshua trees where she has spent her entire married life.

We decided on something of a whim to stop in and visit two of Allen's uncles and their wives who still live in Afton. His uncle Lloyd and aunt Bonnie still live on the property where my mother-in-law's family ran a dairy farm. We were able to enjoy a quick visit with them before they needed to head into town.

Next we headed over to Ralph and Beth's home, where we probably overstayed our welcome but enjoyed every minute of it. We got updates on all of their children, complete with pictures. We learned all sorts of interesting things about them that we did not previously know. My favorite two were:

1: Ralph is an amazing photographer.

2: Beth is a talented painter.

When it was about time to head for home, Beth offered us some fresh produce from their garden. How can anyone resist fresh produce? So, we all went out back and picked enough to feed our family for about a month. We picked corn...
...beets, carrots, onions, squash, potatoes, zucchini, cabbage and green beans. And Beth shared with me her recipe for Milk Can Soup, which we enjoyed twice after returning home, along with yellow squash muffins. Heaven.

We also got to visit Ralph's wood shop, where he creates some fascinating candlesticks and replicas of the hay thrower his dad used when he was young, among other treasures.

I would love to have their life when Allen and I are at that stage with kids all grown and married with families of their own. Their home is beautiful, their yard is vast and well maintained, and their garden is to die for. And they have time to pursue their other interests and enter them into competitions at the County Fair. What a dream!

Here is a small portion of some of the garden fresh produce we got to bring home:
How are we supposed to top off that anniversary?

I don't think we'll try.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

15th Anniversary, Day Two: The River

On the agenda for the second day of our anniversary celebration was a trip down the Snake River. Let me mention here that I have a greater fear of water than I do of heights. My fear stems from a combination of experiences with the Mississippi River (it was a bike ride away from my childhood home in Clinton, Iowa) and swimming pools.

I have never really considered water to be my friend.

However, this was a challenge! I was going to face my fear and CONQUER THE SNAKE!
(if it didn't conquer me first)

Notice how confident I am in the above picture...arm in the air, screaming to the wind, "Bring on BIG KAHUNA!!" (Allen is 'riding the bull', on the front of the raft, and I am directly behind him.)

As we began to float down the river, all was well. The water was relatively calm, and no one was drowning. Our guide, Cristal, decided to shake things up a bit.

"I need a volunteer. Hey, you, in the front, what's your name?"

I remained quiet and looked to Melissa, sitting next to me. She was as scared as I was, but I was hoping she'd take one for the team. Peer pressure got to her and she volunteered.

Cristal thanked her and instructed, "You're going to 'ride the bull' through the first rapid. Just crawl up there onto the front of the boat, hold onto the rope, and throw one hand in the air."

Melissa declined. I think she said something like, "NO WAY." Someone else volunteered, and all was well. We made it through rapid #1, and everyone was still alive. I felt a bit safer.

"Who's riding the next one up front?" Cristal asked every time we approached a new rapid. I was egged on to volunteer every time. I told you I like a challenge, so in an act of stupidity and an attempt to be funny, I said, "I'm waiting for the Big Kahuna."

My loving husband saved me there. "I'll ride Kahuna. You ride another one."

As we made it through each rapid, I became more confident. No one fell out. No one drowned. I can do this, I told myself.

"Here comes Champagne. Gerberta, you climb up front."

So I did. And I rode like a mad woman, hand in the air, mocking the 12-foot waves as they crashed down upon me.
(12 feet may be a slight exaggeration) I yelled, "BRING IT ON!!" as we fell down the 8-foot waterfall. (There may not have been any waterfall, either.)

When we came out of the rapid, I realized with amazement that I had survived!

As I moved back into position, Allen said to me, "I never thought I would see the day that you would ride on the front of a raft."

Just what I wanted to hear. I love to surprise people, especially myself.

The 2 largest rapids on this stretch of the Snake are Lunch Counter and Big Kahuna. At Big Kahuna there are photographers perched upon a rock that take your picture and sell it to you for a mark-up of around 500%. (I'm a sucker for pictures of myself doing things I thought to be impossible, though. I guess they count on that.)

As we approached the larger rapids, I became nervous again. They looked pretty big from far away. I imagined they were only larger as we went through them. I imagined correctly.

Apparently, I had chosen the wrong place to sit (up front, in the middle) because I was completely drenched each time a new wave hit the boat. We made it through Lunch Counter. Now it was time for the photo opportunity at the Big Kahuna.

And I made it. I didn't fall out of the boat, I didn't drown or die, and the boat didn't flip. I didn't get caught in a whirlpool, sucked into an undertow, or eaten by a piranha. These fears were all unfounded!

I dare say, I had the time of my life! What an adventure. And I couldn't wait to see the pictures, to prove to any unbelievers that I did this.

The pictures were ordered online. They looked grand.

When they came in the mail and I could see them more clearly, I realized that my attempt to appear bold and fearless came across more as....well, see for yourself. Here is a close-up from the picture above:Maybe terrified is a better word? But I still made it.

Later that evening we went to the Bar J Wranglers Chuckwagon Cookout and Show, where some very talented guys play a variety of instruments and sing cowboy songs for everyone. Here is a picture of the planners of this fun trip, Ken and Vickie (at left).
Thanks, Ken and Vickie, for including us in an unforgettable adventure!

Stay tuned for Day 3: Star Valley & The Trip Home!