Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old Toys

Technology has offered us a plethora of new gadgets to play with and to entertain us. Maddison asked for and got a Nintendo DS for Christmas. She loves it. Mason inherited her Leapfrog video game. . . and he loves it too. But as far as I can tell, the best toys they got this year have been an easel with a wipe off board / chalkboard (Maddison) and a toy rifle (Mason). The easel has brought Maddison and I some very fun hours over the Christmas break. We have (with various other players) enjoyed hangman, pictionary, and a variety of word and spelling games. We use the wipe off side for a while, and then switch to the chalkboard side. It brings back vivid memories of my childhood when my sister and I would play school on the chalkboard in our room. One of the reasons that I appreciate toys like easels is that they can be used in so many different ways. And it requires very little effort or materials to use (no batteries, cartridges etc).
Masons one request for a gift was a gun. He got to hunt with his dad this year, and thus began his attachment to guns. I am not a big fan of a child playing with guns. I remember being opposed to Josh having a gun as a child. On his 4th birthday, he invited 8 friends to a party. Every one of the children brought a gun or weapon of some kind as a gift (swords, cap guns, etc). As a grandmother, I still wince a little when Mason plays with toy guns. But I also see the bond that Mason and his Dad have and the pleasure they both got from their hunting time together. With Josh being gone so much lately, Mason holds on tight to anything that reminds him of his Daddy. I have a clear vision of Mason wanting a gun so he can be like his Dad. And when you look at it like that, it is a pretty harmless toy.
All in all, it is nice to have a variety of toys for children. But, from an old fashioned point of view, the simplest classic toys are the best!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oops

In reference to Resolution # 3. . . I know it isn't 2011 yet, and I have just started "The Confession", but I was playing with my blog and since I actually got it to make this list, I didn't want to mess with it. My blog design skills are still in their infancy stage!

New Year's Resolutions

I decided this year that I would base my New Year's Resolutions on old advice to be "healthy, wealthy and wise". (Since I already manage the early to bed and early to rise part.). I have made 3 resolutions, each one falling in one of the above mentioned categories. Here goes:
1. Healthy. This resolution goes without saying. For the past two or three years I have reaffirmed my goal and desire to be in better health. Having one major bad habit in my life (overeating, under activity), this is the area I find the most need to work on. Somehow during this past year, I have lost my way on this goal. I have managed to gain back weight I worked very hard to lose, and it has to go! Putting action to words, I am going to join Weight Watchers on line (trail for 3 months, if it doesn't work, I will go back to the meetings), and march my self back to the gym.
2. Wealth. I really don't have any desire to be "wealthy", but I would like to retire without worry someday soon (7 to 10 years). My goal for this year is to pay off some annoying bills, and reach my "emergency fund" goal. I have my husband's blessing on this goal (as well as the first goal), but since I do most of the money handling in our home, the job is mostly up to me.
3. Wise. I am an avid reader. I belong to a book club and I have several family members and friends that read books similar to what I read. The problem is I have read so many books, I cannot remember what I have read and what I have to read. Case in point is a trip I made to the library today. I checked out 8 books and ended up bringing home 2 that I realized I had already read. I was a bit rushed, knowing my husband was in the car waiting for me. . . but still. So, the point of the Wise resolution, is that I will begin a journal of the books I have read during the year, with a short commentary on my opinion of them. This way, when someone asks for a recommendation, I will be able to tell them something without fumbling around saying: " I think I read this book . . . I can't remember what it was about. . . but I think I liked it. . . .".
Now that I have committed my resolutions to "paper" so to speak, I have to act on them. I review my writing occasionally, so I will revisit this post and stay motivated to achieve these resolutions. I will report in on my progress. Wish me luck!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Bald Eagle and the Airport Disappointment

This is a bald eagle that we stopped to photograph a short distance from the Columbia Airport. Little did we know that the few minutes we spent taking these rare photos would make us late for Amanda's flight, and she would not be able to fly to Memphis to meet Josh. (We actually weren't late for her flight, but missed the 30 minute advance arrival time they require by 3 minutes. If we had KNOWN she had to be there that early, we would have been.) I cannot imagine why they shut the check in down, she had no luggage, there were TSA staff just standing around, as well as other Delta employees. Not only did she miss it, but two other travelers also did. It would be nice if there was some notice that if you didn't get there 30 minutes ahead you couldn't board. Anyway. . . I am superstitious enough to think that there was some reason that she was not meant to get on that flight. I mean, this is the first time I EVER remember seeing a bald eagle so close. . . strange coincidence if you ask me. The happy ending is that Josh was able to make it home ahead of the storm and all is well that ends well. Still. . . a bald eagle, a missed flight. . . It may have been some sort of Christmas miracle. We may never know.

Talent Void

Yesterday was our extended family get together on my husband's mothers side of the family. She had 9 siblings, and most of their offspring live close to "home". We rented a Knights of Columbus Hall for the gathering. Three of the cousins brought guitars and spent a great deal of the evening picking and singing together. Oh to be talented with a music ability. None of these cousins would admit that they had any (or at least much) musical ability. But to just be able to play an instrument or carry a tune seems talented to me. If I were ever able to have a "do-over", I would insist on being gifted with an ability to write, play or sing music. It was obvious that to these men, making and sharing music brings them much joy. The music ranged from the Beatles and country rock from the 60's to modern day hard core country. The entire day was great. Games were played, children laughed and family stories were shared (some new, some tried and true (?) ). As far as I know, no cross words were spoken or feelings hurt. This is an annual event that has been going on for many, many years. Every year the men discuss building a place on the "farm" for the family to meet. This year was no exception. Maybe next year it will come to fruition. . . but maybe not. Either way, it is a great way to keep a family together and build tight bonds of love.

Its a Wonderful Life!

From our home to yours, we hope your Christmas was full of blessings, love, family, friends and faith. I am looking forward to a great 2011. I already have my resolutions made! Of course there will be more on that later!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Countdown!

I am now officially on vacation for a bit. Today has been very long and tiring for me. I am not sure if it is the emotional drain from the job, or fighting this allergy/cold thing I have had for two weeks or maybe just the extra work load this time of year.
I almost always leave my job at work. I have the kind of job that can really get to you if you "bring it home". I work in public health and we see plenty of sad situations through the year, but somehow they seem worse this time of year. There are a couple of families I have on my mind today that are worrisome. Like many other caring people that I work with, I get frustrated with some of the decisions people make. There is something about "wasted" potential that makes me crazy. I know that people have free will and all, but when they make mistakes that are sure to haunt them for a very long time, I want to intervene. But for some, all the education, support and guidance in the world will not keep them from self-destructing. But why? Why do people do things that will prevent them from being (take your pick: happy, healthy, successful etc, etc.). And I can almost understand someone taking risks and pushing the limits if they only have themselves to worry about, but these are people with children and families who love them. . . . See what I mean? It has been a hard day.
I guess it is a good thing that I have a few days off. . . I need to clear my mind and start fresh again.
Now on to the vacation plans. We are having guests for the holiday and Josh will be home for several days. It is so comforting to have your chicks back in their nest, even if it for only a short period of time. We don't have any major plans for the holidays, just family, food and fun.
I continue to reflect daily on how lucky I am. I hope to never have to say, "I didn't know how lucky I used to have it". Because I think I do know how lucky I am. God has been good to my family and me. I hope your blessings are abundant and that you feel the full gratitude of these blessings. Have a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I want to have a "label this photo" contest with this picture! Hanging out on a Sunday, watching football, a guy just has to have a recliner. Mason is making do the best way he can. Randy's foot was Mason's pillow, and his stomach was his footstool. I guess you know how we spend our fast paced weekends!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches!
I am not sure who had the most fun with this gingerbread tree.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cake decorating is almost as much fun as cake eating! Maddison had a great time decorating her and her papa's cake (with a little help from Aunt Bea).
Place settings Jessica and Scott made for our Thanksgiving table.

Gratitude in hard times

I am not sure how to feel this time of year when I know that so many people are suffering. I guess the time of year really doesn't matter, except it tends to magnify the sad situations. I heard today of the death of a cousin's father, quite unexpectedly. I saw a friend at the store who just lost her mother. I am helping collect donations for a young family that is fighting cancer. The list this year could go on and on. And that isn't even counting the depressed economic times that we are having in our country. Somehow it takes the spark out of all the Christmas shopping "buzz". The gifts I have bought this year are mostly practical and useful. The exception is for the grandchildren, but I hope to help them have a magical Christmas, so socks and clothes just didn't seem appropriate.
Last night at supper, my husband mentioned to me that he hoped that I had not gotten him any gifts for Christmas. Over the years we have rarely exchanged presents on Christmas. Many times we felt that the focus should be on others (mostly family), and we haven't really had a need for gifts. Lately, we have been in the position where we have very few wants or needs. Our lives have indeed been blessed. Anyway, back to the conversation. . . I told him that I hadn't yet gotten him anything, and he offered up a wonderful suggestion. He wants to take the money that we might have spent on each other and help someone in need. I loved his idea. How better to share our bounty this time of year than to help someone else. I have been thinking about this opportunity all day. He wanted to give the entire amount to the family struggling with cancer. I think I will suggest that we split it up between several causes. I feel challenged to be the best steward of this money that I can be. This all makes me deeply appreciate the gifts that we have in our life. Our family is healthy and close. We both have jobs with security and benefits. We have a cozy warm home and vehicles in good running condition. We live in a caring community and a country where freedom and liberty are valued. I could keep going about the blessings in our life, but you get the idea. Gratitude. . . It is not so much about what you have or don't have, it is how you view life and the gifts given to you.

Are you ready?

The countdown is continuing and I am getting nervous. I have managed to start and almost complete lots of holiday activities this year, but not finish any. There are a few gifts left to buy, a few left to wrap, some baking done, some left to do. The only thing I have completed is my Christmas cards (downscaled from previous years). It is about this time of year when I say; what is done is done, and what isn't will probably not be (done).
On a different note, yesterday I read about a teacher who began blogging about school lunches. Every day for a year, she photographed, ate, and then wrote about the school lunches where she works. I have her site marked on the blogs that I am following, if anyone would like to check it out. I have eaten lunch twice at Maddison's school this year, and breakfast once. The food certainly leaves something to be desired if you consider nutrition. I think you may be hearing more about this woman ( Mrs Q is her name, she did all this anonymously in fear of her job). I only managed to get through a few posts, but it was interesting reading to be sure!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Goofing around at a thrift store in Birmingham. The kids had fun trying on different costumes!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Love Being a Grandparent

In honor of a sweet red head that was born 6 years ago today!

The Top 10 Reasons to Love Being a Grandparent are:

10. You can play with toys again and not have to explain why.
9. You finally realize why YOUNG, not old people have children.
8. You have the money to buy the fun stuff you couldn't afford for your children.
7. 'Spoil and send home' becomes your new mantra.
6. You can color pictures and build Lego castles all day and not feel guilty.
5. You can finally say: "Back in my day. . ." and have someone actually listen.
4. You truly know that each development stage is but a brief blink of the eye.
3. You can forgive little transgressions and actually laugh at embarrassing moments.
2. You FINALLY have an excellent excuse to nap in the daytime.
And the # 1 reason to love being a grandparent is:
1. The pure, unconditional, no strings attached love you share with the most wonderful little people in the world!

More Gratitude!

Today I am grateful for quiet early morning hours. The alarm goes off at 5:15, Randy is off to work by 5:45, and I am left in a very quiet and peaceful house. Sometimes I do laundry, light cleaning or dishwasher unloading. Other times I read, catch up on recorded shows or just sit and look outside. It is my time to do whatever I choose. How often do you get the chance to just do what you want? I cherish these hours but I am also so glad that I know the day will bring an interesting combination of work and family and friends. I think unscheduled time is appreciated so much more when you have a busy and usually scheduled life. Oh, and did I mention that some mornings are spend blogging or doing some facebook stalking?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gratitude

I have recently been reading about the benefits of keeping a "Gratitude Journal". I am not sure I want to commit myself to one more daily task, but I think I will try and take some time out weekly, at least, to remember all of the things I have in my life to be grateful for. Today, I feel grateful to have a loving and close extended family. My siblings and I are separated by many miles, but we make a true effort to get together at least four times a year. My husband comes from a large family and they manage to stay close also. The majority of his family live within 30 miles of us, and they usually have get togethers at least twice a year. I have learned to appreciate the uniqueness of this. Many, many families I come across rarely, if ever get together. It certainly takes effort to plan, organize and execute these reunions. I for one, am very grateful that the effort is made. We have so much we can learn and share with each other. A recent death of a cousin, who had lost touch with his family, highlights the importance of staying close. I honestly believe that his death might have been prevented if family had been able to intervene. I guess we will never know for sure, but I have to believe that family connections go a long way in improving ones quality of life. A great first entry for my gratitude journal!

Proud Grandma



I thought I would add some fun pictures that Amanda downloaded onto my computer. Maddie was a winner of the "Terrific Kid" award. Of course we have always know that, even without a certificate!
Have you even seen such a contagious smile as Mason has? When he grins (which is often) his whole face lights up. I have so much to be thankful for, and these two happy and healthy children are high on my "gratitude" list.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

We spent a great evening recently with Aunt, Uncle and cousins. After some good food, we played a game called "Fast Track". I have never played this before and it was such fun. The game is a little like "Sorry" or "Parcheesi", but involves several decks of cards. It was a great way to spend a Saturday night. All of my immedite family (except Josh, who is still in Alabama) were there. The grandchildren were entertained by some older cousins and they had a great time too. It was so good for them to be around family that they don't know all that well. On the way home, Maddison said "I can't wait to go back to those peoples house!" A great endorsement for a child who tends to be very bashful around people she doesn't know well.
After a sad few days involving two family deaths, it was good to just visit, play and have fun. We don't take time out of our daily activities often enough to do that.
Today will be bittersweet. Maddison has a kids birthday party this afternoon (followed by a trip with lots of little girls to see Tangled), and then we are going to the funeral home for visitation.
Such is the way of life in a large family.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Somehow, Amanda manages to capture the beauty of fall in mid-Missouri. This fall has lacked a great deal of color in our area, but the red sure stands out in this picture. I love this picture because it is so simple. If there is one thing I hope Maddison and Mason have learned in their short years it is a love of outdoors. There is so much to discover when you spend time outside. Don't we all have a country road in our childhood memories?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finally, I am back to my blog. It has been quite a while since I have written, and I am not sure why. There has been lots going on to write about, but I guess I just didn't feel like commenting on those things.
We had a simple and quiet Thanksgiving with only 8 of us at the table. Missing was Josh and the traditional turkey meal. We opted for ham and sides this year, and I think I got more compliments on that meal that the more traditional one that I make. And of course we braved the early hours, the cold weather and the crowd for Black Friday shopping. Our first stop was Target, and I truly wondered why we had come. We had to wait for an extremely long line to enter, and then they had aisles blocked off, stood in line for a long time, and faced general aggravation. Our next stop was Michael's, where we got some great bargains, no lines and were able to shop at our own pace. The rest of the day went great as well. There were four shoppers this year, and we enjoyed a nice early lunch before heading toward home. The only complaint I have on the day was the beginning of a cold. When I got home, I took some cold medicine and slept for several hours.
On Saturday I got some very sad news. My first cousin, Mike, committed suicide by stepping in front of a train. My cousin, Joe called to tell me this news. Even though I have not seen or heard from Mike in over 20 years, we grew up together, and I believe shared a mutual respect. He had been struggling of late with a mental illness, and had lost touch with his family and friends. What a tragic end to a talented and wonderful human being. I have been in contact this weekend with my siblings and cousins about this. I believe that it has made all of us wonder if we could have prevented it through some sort of intervention. I guess we will never know.
On Sunday, I worked a little on putting up some holiday decorations. We didn't attempt the tree yet, but I have a few bobbles placed around. It has been somber here with the long weekend coming to a close. Randy has been on vacation for 2 weeks, so he is really sad that he returns to work tomorrow. He begins a new chapter in his life on Monday. He has accepted a new position as supervisor, so he will be leaving his Union duties and the shop where he has worked for over 17 years. He will miss all his co-workers (even though he will see them often), but he will not miss the overtime, the physical labor and braving the elements outdoors and around the plant.
I will try to post more often now. There should be lots to write about in the next few weeks.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday in November

What a gorgeous day we have had today. After a sleepless night (up at 2, then 3, and finally at 5), I went back to bed and slept for about an hour and a half. I finished a book I have been reading (The Scent of Rain and Lightening, good) and made some homemade blueberry muffins. I can't even say what else I have done today. We took a trip to town and visited with my Dad and Martha. I always enjoy visiting with them, but the visits aren't as often as they should be. Working full time, and watching the grand babies on weekends limits the free time activities we manage. Randy and I stopped by the Farm and Home store to get Josh's deer tags for him. The machine to produce the tags was not working, but we did manage to check out some John Deere toys for a certain 3 year old that I know and love. I am thinking that it is going to be a John Deere Christmas for Mason this year. I have a pork roast in the oven and plan on having Jessica and Scott, Amanda and kids for supper. The menu will be: Pork Roast and mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, broccoli and cauliflower with cheese and maybe some biscuits. No dessert planned. I have not done any housework today, and probably should have. My strategy for the house is to do a little every day. The downside to that is the house is never completely clean at once. The upside is that I don't have to block off much time for this.
A very busy week is in my immediate future. We are hosting a two day training at our agency, and we agreed to provide the food. When we decided to do this I had more time, and more staff than I do now. Fortunately, the menu is fairly simple (soup, salad and dessert). The problem is I need to go get groceries for the food, and I was hoping to do that tomorrow, but I have a very short staff, so I will most likely not get to be gone at all.
What I am really looking forward to is a short week. We get Thursday off for Veterans Day, and then I am off for a long weekend, since Josh is coming home for a few days. Life is good. . . Dear Lord may I never take the gifts in my life for granted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Windy Wednesday!

I do believe that winter is coming. For the last several days we have had some extremely strong winds in our neck of the woods. The temperature has been fair, and the days mostly sunny, but that wind has been wicked!
Our annual fall family get together was last weekend. We hosted the event, since so much of the things we like to do in the fall involve the outdoors. Having a home on 50 acres in the country qualifies us for the hosting. It was a rather sad weekend for me, since most of my immediate family was not there. By immediate, I mean my daughter, son, son in law weren't here, and most of the time my husband was working. Amanda and I sort of "held down the fort" in their absence. Jessica and Scott had the flu all weekend, and of course Josh is still away. We had lots of help from extended family, and for that I am thankful. Some got the straw for the hayride, and others helped set up the table and campfire. It turned out to be a great weekend, weather wise. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, chatted around the fire, watched the 6 young children play and then went for a short hayride. The evening ended with a TV viewing of the wonderful victory of the Mizzou Tigers over Oklahoma. These events really make me aware of the blessings of family. We are 25 + strong, and try to get together at least once a season. This commitment to convene on a regular basis has kept the family strong. I certainly missed the ones who could not make it and hope that next year we will all be together.
I guess now that we have had the fall get together, autumn can give way to winter. But the wind and the howling of the wind have really made me wish that winter was still a few months away. Happy fall!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Sure to be a best seller: Llama, Llama at the Hair-O-Rama. by Maddison Taylor.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

School Daze!

I may have mentioned before that Maddison is a kindergartener this year. It has been a long time since my children were in elementary school. I am amazed at how much more advanced the curriculum is in kg than it was when my children were there. During the first week of school, Maddie brought home "popcorn" words to study. Formerly know as "sight" words, the popcorn words were something my children were briefly exposed to during the last month of kindergarten. Reading was saved for first grade. Last weekend, Maddison surprised me by telling me the difference between fiction and non-fiction, what quotation marks meant, and how to use an exclamation point. I thought maybe this was something they were just introduced to that she happened to remember. I soon found out that she actually understood what those things meant and could use them appropriately.
Maddison wanted me to help her write a book during Mason's nap time. She stapled together 6 sheets of paper and got out two crayons. To back up a little, I have to share that Maddison, Mason and I love the "Llama, Llama" books which are picture books about the adventures of baby llama and his mama. We have all three Llama series books and really enjoy sharing them together. Well, Maddison decided that we needed to write a 4th book in the series. So we brain stormed and decided that this book would be titled; "Llama, llama at the Hair-O-Rama". (Her mother is in cosmetology school). Maddison designed the cover and wrote the title out with a little spelling help from me. Then I wrote the story, as dictated by her, about baby llama getting in trouble at the hair shop while waiting for mama to get her hair done. She told me when and why we needed to use quotation marks. Then she would insist that she punctuate the really dynamic sentences with an exclamation mark. I was truely amazed at her knowledge of a story and specific elements of writing. The book is definitely a keeper. I have to admit, that education isn't what it used to be. . . but in this case it is more!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Talk about the simple life! Mason works to "milk" a cow at the Moberly Parks and Recreation Fall Festival at Rothwell Park. He really loved this activity!!

The Simple Life

Ahhh, to have a "simple" life! I got the neatest homemade birthday card today from my sister. It touched me deeply. It was in the shape of a tea pot, with a tea bag inside with this poem by John Burroughs: To be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter, To be thrilled by the stars at night, To be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring. These are the rewards of a simple life. I really wanted to cry when I read that verse. That is what I believe and have lately been striving to obtain. Right now it is still an elusive dream, but I think I can make strides to have it become a reality.
Don't you sometimes just want to put your life on pause for a while? It seems like the more we do, the more we have to do. I like staying busy, but when "busy" gets in the way of what is really important in life, something needs to change. I have become much more relaxed about some things in the last few years. My house, for instance. . . I have lowered my standards of cleaning since the grand kids spend so much time here. They have a play area in the house, and it really does not bother me to have it messy in there. That is quite a lot different than when my kids were younger.
I have simplified my meal preparation, which seems to suit both my husband and me. Our meals are very basic, often leftovers or "make aheads" done on the weekends. I still love to cook, but I make it a labor of love when I do it. . . a "fun" event, not a "have to" activity.
And then there is the clutter matter. My kids used to make fun of my basic rule: if you buy something new, then something you have needs to go. If I bought 3 new shirts, then 3 older ones would have to be discarded (or given away). That keeps a balance in life and the closet. To me the simple life means not being loaded down with a lot of "stuff" that you don't really need or use. I have almost become utilitarian in my decorating, my wardrobe and my gadgets. I have often thought of what I would replace if I lost everything I owned. The list of must haves would be fairly short. There are a few things that I value that could not be replaced. Those would be the items that I would miss the most: a quilt from my husband's grandmother, a Victrola and antique phone from my grandmother, photos, scrapbooks (with artwork from my children) and some personal items that I received as gifts.
And what, you may ask, does all of this have to do with the "simple life" mentioned in the poem? Well, I believe that as long as we are weighed down by our stuff and the general clutter in our life, then the simple life is difficult for us to obtain. The greatest gift we have is our world, and how many of us are so busy chasing the dollar to buy the stuff that we don't need that we forget to enjoy that world?
The moon, the stars, the trees. . . now that is stuff worth keeping!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work, work, work!

Have you ever had times in your life when your work consumes you? I think this is one of those times for me. My workload has seemed to be building quite a lot lately. Now I have two staff out for an extended period of time, and I couldn't get my work done before they were gone. When times are like this at work, I just have to pace myself and remember to leave it at work when I go home. I love my job, it is full of challenges, diversity and a sense of helping others. However, when there is so much more to do than time to do it, it can be overwhelming.

On the home front, I have to say that we had a very nice visit with Josh while he was home. Of course the time went by much too quickly, and the quality was there, even if the quantity wasn't. We spent some time outdoors and enjoyed each others company. Josh will be home again for a short visit in a month, and then he will get to come home for 2 weeks at Christmas. After the first of the year, he will have to decide if he is going back for a few more months, or if he will stay in Moberly. I think the job situation here will help him make up his mind. He sure misses his family and they miss him. But, work is work, and in these hard times, you have to go where the work is.

Funny, how so much of our lives revolve around work. Working can sure give us something to complain about! However, if you have ever not been able to work, and needed to or wanted to work, that is an awful feeling. I believe I can live with the few work problems I have, and just stay thankful that I have a job!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Apple Pie

Is there anything homier than apple pie? I baked two apple pies this morning in preparation for Josh's homecoming. Apple pie is his favorite, and I wanted to have it ready for tomorrow. Everything about this food says comfort. The smell, the look, the feel of the crust between my fingers as I pinch the edges, and of course the wonderful taste! I rarely make pie, not because we don't like it, but I guess because we do! We certainly don't need the calories, but there is just something about a homemade pie that says love.
It is a beautiful fall day in Missouri. Warm temperatures, bright sunshine, soft breeze through the leaves. Scott has spent the day here cutting wood to sell to supplement their income. It is a hard way to earn extra dollars, but when jobs are scarce and dead trees are plentiful, it can work. Randy is enjoying a rare weekend off of late, the kids are napping, and I am still cooking. In addition to the pie, I made some oatmeal, raisin, nut cookies, also a favorite of Josh's. It has been quite a while since I cooked for him.
I have to admit that I love days like this. They seem to come too rarely, and end too soon, but I plan on enjoying every minute while I can! Happy October.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tales of Woe

Everywhere I have turned this week there have been tales of woe. At work, at hubby's work, some family, friends etc. It has been an exceptionally sad week at my work. I have seen co-workers struggling with life, several clients have been in tears and even my husband came home today and shared two stories about people that we know in crisis. I have always tried to be an optimist, which can sometimes have trouble co-existing with my strong realist side. But these days the outlook is definitely cloudy and gray. The two biggest concerns are financial security and health. There are literally zero jobs to be had in this area. The diminishing "middle class" is getting squeezed by un and under-employment. The majority of the help available is designed for people who have very little. But the poor working family, who based their lifestyle on both husband and wife working, has been hit hard by this economic downturn. At WIC, people who have never had to rely on any type of aid are coming in and applying for benefits. Sometimes their income is just over what is necessary to qualify. Of course these folks don't qualify for food stamps, and with the rising cost of health care, fuel and other necessities their paychecks stop short of meeting their needs. They have paid taxes all of their lives, but when they need help the most, they aren't able to get it. It is frustrating to me as I am sure it is to them.
I have always been interested in the depression era. I have wondered how people survived the struggles of that time in history. I have marveled about the intestinal fortitude it took to make it through those times, and at the lifelong impact surviving those times had on individuals. I believe that we are in a similar situation in our country. The hardship is not as widespread, but to the people who are not working, or who have had to drastically reduce their lifestyle the effects are the same. I tend to be a patient person, but I sure wish that the economy would take a turn for the better. I think we would all breathe a sigh of relief.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010

This is a picture of the morning sky that greeted me on my birthday. It had the most amazing colors and streaks that I have ever seen. I had to just stop and look at it for awhile!

Birthday!

Well, I am officially older today than I have been in a year. To celebrate, we had a family night out on Saturday at Shakespeare's pizza in Columbia. It is just the kind of place that I love; authentic home made food, very casual atmosphere and a welcoming place for small children. On Sunday we had a cooking day. Jessica and I spent the day cooking and freezing foods to have ready made meals for busy evenings. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We probably prepared 10 meals and 2 desserts in one afternoon. So, today for my birthday, I woke up to the cutest card from Randy. He got me a musical Snoopy card that played the music theme to all the Peanuts shows. Anything having to do with Peanuts is very nostalgic for me. My Mom (whose Birthday I share) loved the Peanuts characters, especially Snoopy. She always got us Peanuts cards for our birthdays. This card was extra special, and Randy wrote a sweet note (I won't get specific on what it said, but it reminded me of a famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem. . . come grow old with me. . . .) I think after 31 years of marriage, he has finally figured out how easy it is to please me. The simpler, the better! I heard from all of my loved ones today and even had the YMCA computer sing me Happy Birthday as I scanned my card in! Flowers were delivered for me from my Grand kids. . . another nice surprise! All in all, it has been a very good day. Reflecting on my life, I become acutely aware of how blessed I am to have such a loving and caring family. Not everyone shares my good fortune in terms of family. Not one day goes by that I don't give thanks for all the blessings in my life.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Friday

So, here we are. Finally the end of the week is here. It was a long, hard week, probably because I struggled with a sore throat and cold symptoms all week, I had two evening obligations and two days of training. I am absolutely opposed to wishing my life away, but I am sure glad it is Friday. It is one of those great fall days where the temperature is warm, the sun is shining, and the air is crisp. I trudged through the grocery store after work and came home to unload and put away food, fold laundry and pay bills. Now I have a few minutes to rest before I need to start supper. It will be a busy weekend I believe. I think we are going to have the children both days this weekend, since Amanda works on Saturday and has a competition for school to attend on Sunday. I hope to spend a lot of the weekend outside with the grandchildren. On Sunday Jessica and I are planning on doing some bulk cooking and freezing so we will have ready made meals for busy nights. This week, on the evenings that I worked late, we had pizza one night and fast food fish the other night. I hate it when we do that. I am about 95% dedicated to eliminating convenience and fast food from our lives. It is that 5% that sneaks up on me when I get too busy to cook. Maybe if we get some frozen meals together, we can kick my dedication up to 99%. (I have to admit that I can't commit to never having another McDonald's french fry.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have you even agreed to do something that at the time seems like a great idea and then when you get there you dread it? I seem to do that more and more. I think it is mostly because I am in a rut. After a 9 hour day at work, I just want to come home and relax. But anything extra I do in my life is usually done after work. To be perfectly honest, though, I spend more time dreading after work activities than actually doing them. Jessica and I are doing a program together tonight at a county school. While I love doing these programs, it certainly makes for a long day. And to top it off, I have an all day training at work, so it will be a lot of confined time and energy. I guess age has something to do with this feeling. We used to have activities all the time when the kids were in school. We went to hundreds of football and baseball games, wrestling meets, musicals, concerts and plays. Looking back, I wonder how we managed. I think it is the little thing I like to call "automatic pilot". I put myself in this mode when I have lots to do. I just hit go, and try not to think about it. That may be the only way I am going to get through the day today. Of course a sore throat and waking up at 3:30 a.m. will not help. But by this time tomorrow, the day will have been spent, and I will be glad to have accomplished something. So, I am now putting myself on cruise and going for it. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What I want my grandchildren to learn from me.

When you are a parent many pressures are on you to raise your child the proper way. There are manners to teach and basic educational skills, you have to educate your child about safety and how to utilize money, then there is life long lessons like staying healthy, being a friend and on and on. As a grandparent, many of those responsibilities are off your shoulders. A random thought that recently popped into my head has started me thinking about what I, as a grandmother would like to teach my grandchildren. What lessons do I think are important for them to remember as they grow? Being a list maker, I have come up with a list of the lessons that I would love to share with my grandchildren.
1. Learn how to enjoy your life. So many people go through life doing things that they think make them happy, or are designed to make others happy. How many people take the time to just think about their own life and the things that bring them enjoyment?
2. Find happiness in the simple things in life. Like a rain storm, or a bird singing. The smell of apple pie cooking or the words to a beautiful song. Enjoy the world that God has given you. . . the trees and their seasons, the water and its power, the sky and its many changes.
3. Realize that the greatest way to receive in life is to give. Practice how good it feels to help or support someone else in need. Appreciate what you have and share it with someone less fortunate.
4. Hold on to the people who love you and that you love. Find someone who makes you happy and content and keep them in your life.
5. Be grateful. Find something every day to be thankful for. It is the sad person indeed who cannot find something in their daily life to be glad about.
After all the trimmings are removed from our life, you know the "can't live without" things, it is important to be able to find happiness without them. Sure money, education and security are important, but to me the key to true living and happiness is about these lessons.
When I am gone, I hope Maddison and Mason can think back on some of the times we have spent together and remember how important it is to just be happy. Mom and Dad and the schools can teach the reading, writing and so on. But if I can help them find happiness in a book or writing in a journal, having and being a friend, or just enjoying nature then I will have done my job!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Homecoming parade 2010


What a beautiful day for a parade! Every once in a while Missouri weather smiles down on us and says: "See, this is why you stay here"! The day could not have been better if it had been painted by Norman Rockwell. It was sunny, warm (but not too hot) and the town was decked out in red, white and blue. There were floats filled with alumni, future alumni and fall athletes. The bands played and the horns sounded. Miss Maddison was selected by her teacher to be one of two students representing their class on the South Park float. We had the privilege of picking her up from school and taking her to the parade. It brought back memories of 25 or so years ago when our kids were young and we would take them to the parade. Aunt Bea and Uncle Scott picked Mason up and met us in front of Amanda's school to watch the parade. Randy even got to be there (for sad reasons, he left work to attend the visitation of his coworker who died on Monday). As we lined up to watch the parade, a friend of Mason's and her mother stood by us. The 3 years old played and ran after candy, while the adults clapped to the music and visited. The bands played the Spartan fight song and the politicians pumped hands and distributed leaflets. The football and softball players waved to the crowds. The only thing missing in the parade was horses. I don't remember a parade in Moberly without horses. There were a few dogs, but not one horse.
The event really made me appreciate living where I do. Rural communities might have some disadvantages, but they sure know how to put on a parade. The people were friendly, the drivers courteous and the crowd was well behaved. This is a memory to hold on to when people talk about eroding values in our country. They should be invited to the next small town parade.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wake up call.

One of Randy's co-workers died yesterday. He was 57 years old and a long time employee of AECI. He got sick at work, and left to get medical care. Shortly after getting to the hospital, he died of a massive heart attack. He was a fine man and a friend of Randy's. Randy had spoken with him hours before he left work. It was a sad evening at our house last night and an eye opener for us both. Randy is working 70 hours a week on outage for 6 - 10 weeks. Those extra 30 hours a week are hours that he will never get back with his family, that he will never spend doing something he enjoys. He has no choice in working this much, since it is mandatory overtime. Randy is just a few years away from being able to retire. He has choices on how long he wants to stay. . . the longer he stays the more money we will have for retirement. But who can calculate your life expectancy? It is such a gamble to make those kinds of decisions in life. Do I stay to have a better, more secure retirement, or do I go ahead and retire and enjoy the life I have left? No easy answers. I wonder what the deceased co-worker would advise us to do? Does he wish he had spent his last day anywhere but work? I guess we will never know.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Education

I just watched a new Oprah show about the state of our educational system. It was fairly negative about teachers, and although they praised effective teachers, they placed a lot of blame on teachers in general. I am not sure how I feel about the media's take on education and teachers. On the one hand, I come from a long line of educators. From my grandmother, who taught English and Latin to my mother who taught 2nd grade for 25 years, my father who retired as a high school administrator and finally my sister who very recently retired as a reading specialist, I have been immersed in education for most of my life. I know how difficult it is to be an educator, and especially a conscientious one. But from a mother and grandmother's point of view, it terrifies me to know and hear about some of the poor teachers employed in our schools. What the show did not seem to cover was the difficult task that teacher's have. By this I mean the social problems, the paperwork, the poor environment, the "be all to all" attitude and the inherent politics in education. Why blame the teachers solely for the lack of performance? Don't parents need to take some of the blame for these problems? Unlike ages past, teachers now get to be nurses, social workers, counselors, behavior specialist and moral instructors to children. They get pressure and blame from parents and administrators. Their salaries are not up to standards and they often purchase supplies with their own money and spend evenings and weekends working without pay. I wonder what quality of teachers we could get if we did hiring like the NFL? The best get picked first and get paid the most. If you can't cut the mustard, you don't get selected. The prospective football players have a great deal of motivation to be the best. . . money, lots of it, fame, recognition and glory. It is just a sad commentary that we pay entertainers, atheletes and actors large sums, while teachers and other public servants can barely make a living. I don't think it is as simple as placing the blame on the teacher's shoulders. A good teacher can excel under poor conditions. But what blame do we place on absent fathers, addicted parents, parents who prop their infants and toddlers in front of the TV so their children won't bother them? How many children come to school and have never been read to at home? There is plenty of blame to go around, but don't single out the teachers. They are doing a job most of us can't or won't do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Enjoying lunch at the Irondale (aka Whistle Stop) Cafe in Birmingham.

Sunday

Rainy days and Sundays. I have the entire day stretched out in front of me with no "to do's" on the list. I have several "want to's", but nothing pressing. Randy left for work early again this morning and as much as I would have liked to sleep in, I couldn't. You would think the sound of rain and the quiet hum of the house would have lulled me back to sleep, but no such luck. I read some chapters in the new David Baldacci book "Deliver Us From Evil", caught up on some new Oprah shows and sat on the porch swing to watch the rain. I have discovered a new blog spot "Cooking Books" from Farm Chick Kitchen. The author is a friend of mine (I use the term loosely, because although I consider her a friend, I haven't really spent any time with her in years). I am so excited to read her entries and keep up with her in this way. She writes about her love of cookbooks, and posts recipes and pictures of her kitchen magic. I can tell right now that I could live my life in front of this computer writing and reading.
The Grands are with their mom today. Even though it is nice to have some me time, I miss them so when they aren't here. Since Amanda started school, she now has Sundays off. Up until that time, we had the kids most Saturdays and Sundays, beginning when Mason was about 4 months old. It was a routine that we loved and now miss greatly.
I am counting down the days until Josh can be home with them. He will be flying in the second weekend in October and will be here for 3 days. It will be so hard for him to leave again, but he gets to return in November, and then has 2 weeks off at Christmas time. He is almost half way finished with this 6 month transfer, but may have to extend it if the work here is slow.
This economy has affected almost everyone I know in some way or the other. Even if one has a secure job (is there such a thing anymore?), there have most likely been reductions in some way. As a student of history, I know that all things cycle, and this time in our lives will change. There will be postive outcomes from this situation as well as negative. I think our country will be stronger for the changes (more fiscally responsible citizens for one), but there will be parts that we got used to that may not return (easy credit, unlimited shopping, job availability). If I live long enough, I will be reading about this time in our history and how it has affected the country. I love stories about the depression, the industrial revolution, and the World Wars. Maybe some day my grandchildren will read about this time in our country and wonder what it was like for their parents and their grandparents. I hope that they will be able to access this blog, so they will have a small idea of what it is like.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturdays!

Well, Randy went to work this morning, the first day of a long fall outage. He thinks he will be working 70 hours a week for several weeks. The kids were here bright and early for chocolate chip pancakes. Maddison brought her book bag and shared the contents with me. This is the first real peek at what and how she is doing in school. She seems to be warming up to the idea of school, and told me this morning that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Mason piped up with a "I want to be a big, huge monster when I grow up". To which Maddie replied: "Maybe you can be the principal of my school." Hmmm. . . I am not so sure Mr. Roth would see the connection there!
After breakfast and the school bag visit, we got out the playdoh ice cream factory and played. I like to get the kids started on a project like this and then sneak off to fold laundry, make the bed or do other household chores. Maddison is on to my tricks, and usually calls for me shortly after I leave. After the play doh mess was cleared, we got out the bendaroos. These are waxy sticks to use for craft type projects. They were the only thing Maddison asked for last year for Christmas. They are expensive, and designed for older, very patient people. We made some pumpkins with them, and Mason decided that he would see how many things he could pile on his pumpkin. Quite a sight when he got finished.
That mess was soon cleared and the kids helped me make some banana nut bread. Their job was to mash the bananas with a potato masher. I usually like some lumpier pieces in my bread, but by the time the kids finished mashing, it was almost a liquid. . . we will see how this turns out!
The kids are outside now, which will give me a window of opportunity to fold another load of clothes and get lunch started. I have to figure out supper tonight for Randy, since we are going to be at a family wedding when he gets home. I helped with the wedding rehearsal dinner last night. Jessica came by on her way home from work, and we worked together with some other family members to put out the spread. It is great working side by side with her. We think so much alike and have worked together doing things like this in the past, so we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. If I was braver, I would start a catering business with my good friend Sheryl, Jessica and Amanda as partners. Sheryl is very organized and has a great sense of style. She would be in charge of table decorations etc. Jessica is the idea person. She is willing to try new recipes and has a can do attitude. I am the one grounded in reality (what will work, what I am willing to do), and I love to take care of the do ahead pieces. Amanda would be the energizer bunny of the group. She also loves to decorate and is willing to work hard. It would be fun, but I am sure the work would be exhausting and most likely more that I could handle. We have talked about this sort of thing before and I think we love the planning, maybe more than the carrying out! Oh well, maybe someday!
After lunch, I think we will have to all have a nap. I had another one of those sleepless nights last night. I was awake at 2:30 and finally went to sleep about 5 a.m. The alarm went off t 5:15, so that was the end of my night!
The kids are ready to move on to the next project. . . so here we go!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

While in Birmingham, we visited the Irondale Cafe, sometimes know as the Whistle Stop Cafe, of Fried Green Tomatoes fame. It was only a few miles from our hotel, and a very familiar area to Josh, who happens to go by there almost daily on a train. It is outside of the city in a small town setting. Situated close to the tracks, like in the movie, it does not boast any ties to the book or film on the exterior of the building. The sign in one of the windows says "Fried Green Tomatoes", but that is really only stating their most popular food item. We parked behind the restaurant and took some photos by a train mural on the side of the building. Across the street is an old fashioned viewing platform where people can watch the trains change tracks or pass by on their way in or out of town. Inside the building an old fashioned cafeteria line waited for us. While standing in the modest line, I was able to view the "wall of fame" where famous people had autographed photos to display. After grabbing a tray, I noticed that the drinks were in the old fashioned small coca cola bottles (which I loved as a child) and were sitting in a bed of crushed ice. The menu featured Southern favorites like fried chicken, rice, mac and cheese, black eyed peas and of course fried green tomatoes. After selecting our food, we were shown to a table (round, checkered cloths) and were offered assistance with anything. I really felt like I was living a piece of history in that cafe. The only true mention of the Fannie Flagg book or movie was a movie poster, which was framed and hung across from the food line. It was obvious to see that the locals enjoyed this place, and did not come for the tourist appeal. I am sure there were several tourist there, but judging from some overheard conversations, there were lots of locals too. I guess good food is just plain good food. The meal was excellent, and the tomatoes were wonderful (This was my first experience with tomatoes fried, so I didn't have anything to compare them to, but there were great). I think I could have sat there all day and just soaked in the atmosphere. It was our last meal in Birmingham, so we couldn't stay long. Maddison and Mason are too young to appreciate the history, but they enjoyed the food and seemed to know it was a little different from most places they have eaten before.
After the meal, we crossed the street to watch a train or two go by. There was a photographer taking professional pictures of the train, but also a woman on her lunch break who came to enjoy some nice weather on the platform. It made me have fond memories of standing on a platform and watching trains as a little girl. I have always loved trains, and they continue to be a part of my life. My father, grandfather, many in laws, and now my son works for the Railroad. It was such an enjoyable experience!
After returning home, I rented the Fried Green Tomatoes movie and got to again relive the experience. Josh says that parts of the book and movie were based on real events (close by a young man was killed on the tracks). It was a favorite book and movie, and now has become a favorite memory. I would recommend this spot to anyone who has enjoyed the story, or who has a passion for trains. It is NOT touristy. I didn't see any back scratchers or postcards for sale (I wasn't exactly looking). The magic depended on your imagination and memory. It was just a little piece of Birmingham that we got to bring home with us that I will never forget!

Television

You know, I think television is like any other addiction. Once you get in the habit of watching it, it is hard to give up. My husband is addicted to TV. It is his way to relax and unwind. For the most part, the shows that he watches I don't like and visa versa. After supper every night, he heads to the living room to watch tv. After working for 32 years at a power plant, he has considerable hearing loss, and to be able to hear the television, he has to have the sound up quite loud. For Christmas, the family got him some wireless head phones so we could all have a break from the noise of the tv. Now I am not so sure what is worse, listening to the sound up at an ear piercing level, or having the place silent. He loves his headphones because they allow him to hear better and he doesn't have to listen to our complaining about the sound. Now when I talk to him I have to really shout and he makes a big production of taking off his headphones so he can hear me. I get a roll of the eyes, a dirty look or two and then a "what?" I mean really, how important is it that he know every commentary on the Cardinals game, or that he hears the heavy breathing on the Outdoor channel? In all fairness, he grew up in a home where the tv was on all the time. Some of his favorite memories revolve around tv shows and watching them with his older brother. For the first few months we lived in our present home, we didn't have any tv reception. It was heavenly! We actually had to find something to do in the evenings. We talked, played games and spent time outdoors (okay, we were probably painting, staining and hammering, but I can have my fantasies can't I?) Anyway, I am not sure what the point of all of this is, except to vent about Randy's love of the big screen. For several years I have wanted the tv volume lower and now I have it. But it is just so blooming quiet in here at night. Sometimes I turn the tv on in my bedroom just to have some sound. There is one really good thing about this new lifestyle. I can pretty much do whatever I want and not be heard. . . Sweating to the oldies, singing in the shower, practicing rap songs. . .

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My traveling is done for the month, and it is time to get settled in back at home. We have had some wonderful almost fall like weather these last few days. It put me in the mood to get out some fall decorations. The kids spent the night on Saturday, and they were more than willing to help me decorate. They had fun with the window stick-ons and the light up pumpkins. I am not much of a decorator and I like things plain and basic. I have to admit that putting up a few fall colors livens up the place!
We had a fun weekend of "art work", outdoor play and even a few crafts. We melted old crayons and made new ones in a muffin tin. The kids seemed to really enjoy that and were proud to show their mom the flat and round colors. A quick trip was made on Saturday to Amish country. I love to travel there in the fall. The rain had caused a few of the roads to be washed out, but we managed to find the two stores we patronize. I finally bought an angel food cake pan and a pastry blender. As much as I like to cook, I am surprised that I needed to buy those fairly simple kitchen tools. I hope to make an angel food cake soon. It used to be my favorite cake, and my grandmother would bake one every year on my birthday. I would love to have her recipe for the pink icing she drizzled on top.
This afternoon after a short nap (everyone slept but the children), we went to our big bottom field and worked on burning the weeds off. Randy likes to put in a deer food plot in the fall, so the weeds had to go. All in all it was a great weekend. Jessica and Scott were hosting his mother for supper tonight to celebrate her birthday. It seems like weekends are so busy, there is rarely time to just get bored (something I sometimes like to do!). Tomorrow it is back to the normal 5 day workweek. I don't feel very rested from this weekend, but I think that may take a week or two to accomplish.
There have been some sad life endings this week, but also some new beginnings. I pray for blessings for all families affected and going through this transition. Life really is a circle~

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The saddest part of the trip to see Josh was on the way home from the St. Louis airport, back to Moberly. Maddison fell asleep right away, but Mason had slept some on the plane, so he was awake for awhile. Funny how you don't really realize that Mason (age 3) is getting the whole being gone from Dad situation. The car was quiet, and from the back seat came a quiet little voice that said: " Mommy," Amanda answered, "yes, Mason", then "I really, really, really love my Daddy". His voice was breaking with emotion, and you could tell that he was trying so hard not to cry. That was all it took. Amanda and I had both been holding back tears. . . but they let lose with that. A few minutes later he was asleep. But it was almost like he had to get that off his chest before he could rest. Ah, and we think children don't understand life. When in fact, they have it much more figured out than the rest of us do.

Back Home (finally)

It was a sad and tearful goodbye yesterday as we left Josh at the airport. We arrived 2 hours ahead of our flight to find out that our 4 p.m flight was delayed by 45 minutes. . . not a problem, except that we had only 45 minutes to change planes in Atlanta. After a conference with the Delta clerk, we were told that our choices were: reroute to Detroit, and then back to St. Louis, or wait for a later flight, which would get us into St. Louis 2 hours later (we were already pushing the envelope with a late arrival). Neither option was good with 2 young travelers, by now exhausted as well as their mother and grandmother! After some pleading, we talked the clerk into double checking on getting us on the earlier 3p.m flight to St Louis. I think she took mercy on us as she looked at Maddie with a tear streaked face, and Mason as he was climbing around on the luggage check in station. There was a look of understanding that passed on her face as she told us that we would have to hurry because they were already boarding our flight. We RAN to security and began shucking shoes, cell phones etc. Pushing, pushing, pushing, we zipped through without any problems. . . no wait. . . the TSA employee motioned for us to see her. She needed to exam Maddie's purple bag. Again, I heard a page, Delta paging the Taylor party of 4. I told Amanda that Mason and I would head toward the gate (of course it was a long walk away) and meet her there. As Mason and I ran toward the gate, another employee was standing in the concourse saying: "Are you the Taylor group?" Yes, I shouted, and he waved us on. "We are waiting for the rest of our group, to come from security" I said. "We can't wait any longer, you will have to get on or wait for the next flight". What to do? How do I plea my case to these people? Judging from our experience, this was the only Delta flight in the history to actually be on time. Buying some time, I explained what had happened. Then I said something that I am not really proud of. . . "I guess next time we will fly Southwest". About that time Amanda and Maddison came running up to the gate. The Delta employee didn't even check our boarding passes, he just motioned us on board. Thankfully, the plane was not full and we had our choice of seats. I felt like everyone on board was cursing us under their breath. But I have to say, the Delta people did everything they could to make us relaxed and comfortable. (Which made me even more embarassed that I had threatened to take our measly business to SW). It took the entire 30 minute flight to Atlanta for me to settle down. And guess what caused the problem at security? Maddison's light up Twinkle Toes sneakers! They had to take everything out of her bag, swab her shoes, exray several items and repack before she could go. Our little 5 year old terrorist! Lessons learned: never fly anything but non stop with small children, avoid ever flying through Atlanta, and keep the Twinkle Toes at home! More on the trip home in a future post.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Birmingham

This is day 3 of our trip to Birmingham. Where we are staying (Cahaba) is a beautiful, lush area complete with trees, restaurants, shops and hotels. It is a far cry from what I imagined the area to be like. We have not see the "other side" of the city yet. I am sure there are areas where the big city life has taken its toll on the landscape and people. Yesterday we visited Vulcan Park and Museum. Vulcan is named for the Roman god of iron, which is a natural resource of the region. In the museum a display addressed the rise and fall of Birmingham in the 1900's. Iron made the area explode with industry and population. The Great Depression brought the nation's highest unemployment rate (100,000 out of 108,000 workers were said to be without jobs). Needless to say, many people suffered through that time in this region. Then the war regenerated the area with the increased need for iron and its byproducts.
Part of the display commemorated the Civil Rights movements during the 1960's. What a tumultuous time that was for the country and especially the South.
After seeing the museum, we went downtown. Sidewalk placards marked the path of the civil rights march in Birmingham. Each sign featured a famous quote from someone describing the fight for racial equality. I would have liked to have walked the entire path, but that is not something that generally interests young children. I did see enough to get a feel for the history of the march. It dawned on me just how far our nation has come in the last 50 years. It is hard to believe that about the time I was born, black citizens in the south could not drink out of the same water fountain as whites or attend school together or even exercise their constitutional rights. It makes me both proud and sad to be an American born in this century. Proud that we have changed the world, sad that people had to suffer and struggle so to accomplish equal rights.
I will not forget being here and seeing places that changed the face of our country.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Got back from Dallas on Friday about 9. Unloaded, started laundry and on Saturday evening, Amanda, Maddie, Mason and I left for St. Louis. Arrived at the hotel about 9, and were in bed by 10. AT 3 a.m. Sunday morning, the alarm went off and we got ready and boarded a shuttle for the airport and a 6 a.m. flight. I knew as soon as the flight attendant said: "We are ahead of schedule, everyone is on board and we are ready to go" that something would go wrong. Seconds later, the attendant picked up the phone beside us and paged paramedics and a clean up crew. Then she asked the travelers if anyone had any medical background. It seems a gentleman had taken sick and had thrown up. About 40 minutes later, he walked off the plane and we were on our way. Of course, we only had a 42 minute window of time between the plane landing in Atlanta, and boarding a plane for Birmingham (our final destination). We were traveling with 2 car seats, 4 carry on bags, 2 backpacks and a 3 and 5 year old. Off the plane in Atlanta, up the escalator, down a long, long hall, down the elevator, on the train to a different concourse, off the train, down another very long corridor to the gate. Whew, we had minutes to spare. Glance at the teleprompter to discover a 45 minute delay in that flight! I have worked from sunup to sun down before and not been as tired as those few hours made me. We finally load plane # 2 (even later than we were told the delay would be), to find that the 4 of us had been separated into 3 rows. Impossible with a 3 year old and a 5 year old. The wonderful attendant helped us work this out, and we were off for a 30 minute flight (all 4 of us slept the entire flight). Our faithful friend who was picking us up at the airport arrived in time for our original flight, prior to all the delays. Needless to say, she had lots of time to kill. We finally arrive at the hotel, to find our room was not ready, and the staff had not gotten the message that we could get into Josh's room. So we stored our luggage at the front desk, and walked to the nearest diner. After the meal, we set up camp at a patch of grass on the hotel lawn, and waited for our room to be ready. Of course the point of this whole trip was to see Josh, who has been in Alabama working since July 5th. And as luck would have it, his train was delayed due to mechanical difficulty, and he didn't get back to the hotel until 7! As most tales go, this one has a happy ending. The trip was worth all the hassle, headaches and delays. Maddison and Mason gave Josh the biggest hugs ever. He had tears in his eyes as he greeted his family. A nice supper followed, and a good evening was had by all. We get a few days to rest up for the return flight(s) home. We hope to be in St.Louis by 8, and be home before midnight. It might be restful to be back to work and school. These vacations are hard on a gal!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It is raining in Dallas. What a nice way to spend the day! The rain did change my plans some, but fortunately we have a room with a walk out patio, so I opened the door and have been enjoying the weather. I like to watch the rain, especially when it is not an every day occurrence.
Tomorrow morning we leave for Missouri. We are planning on making the trip in one day. On Saturday Jessica, Scott and Amanda are having a garage sale. I think I will have the kids and I plan on doing lots of laundry, and repacking my suitcase. Randy has been invited to a co-workers house for a football game in the afternoon. When I get home I have bills to pay, laundry to do and then get ready for a drive to St. Louis and an early morning flight to Birmingham. It will be hectic, but fun. Randy is not able to go on this trip, but we hope to drive somewhere south in October to meet Josh.. . I know Randy has really missed Josh. They have been best buddies for many years. The fall is when they are especially close because they share a love of that season and all it brings (football, hunting, outdoors, etc).
Enough about all of that! I am going to relax today in preparation for the next few days. Somehow I don't think there will be much time to relax once we get to Birmingham. The adventure continues.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Decided to do some shopping today. It was fun just wandering around the mall with no agenda or list of things to do or buy. I watched some children ice skate and chatted with an elderly gentleman as he watched the skaters. I contemplated going to a movie, but talked myself out of it. After Randy got home we checked out an ACADEMY store, which I had never seen before. Only one more day here. Then it is home to Mo, for a few hours, and then a drive to St. Louis and a flight to Birmingham. Wow! It should be crazy!!
The class Randy is taking has 5 people in it. This class is offered to people all over the US. ON the first day, the other students were introducing themselves, and the only woman in the group announced that she had lived a lot of places, but she considered Moberly, MO her home. She now lives in Arizona, and her grandmother (age 97) still lives in the Moberly/Huntsville area. What a small world we live in!
It has been raining here all evening. A very nice break to the 95 degree weather we have had since we have been here.

Dallas, Day 3

It has been so long since I have unscheduled myself, I hardly know what to do. I am on my own this week with a variety of options, all of my own choosing. Shop? Relax? Read? Swim? I think that I am just the kind of person who needs to have a daily plan, because even when I don't have work or family plans, I make my own plans. I guess I like being structured. Today I decided that I will get out and explore in the car. I love walking, but it is seriously in the upper 90's here with high humidity. I have the Garmin, maps etc, so I hope to not get lost. I have until about 5 to wander around. I will report in later on what I have found to do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dallas, Day

Well, we finally arrived at Dallas about 6 last night. We made excellent time until we got within 20 or so miles of our destination. There was a fender bender on the interstate and we traveled about 3 miles in 35 minutes. I have discovered that there are at least two reasons why we don't live in Dallas: traffic and temperature. As we sat in creeping traffic, the thermometer on the car said 107 degrees! I am so very thankful for air conditioning!
We were thrown for a bit of a loop when we found the hotel. We thought that we were staying in the same place we stayed in 2 years ago. But we are in a new hotel (same chain), several miles from where we had been. Even though this place is very nice, it is in an area with mostly offices, and the walking area is limited. Having said that, it is most likely too hot to walk outside anyway. Last time we were here, a nice residential area bordered the hotel and I spent a lot of time walking, but then is was also October, not August.
I did some exploring last night, and found a pool, an exercise room, and this computer! Along with my books, I think I have plenty to keep me busy. After supper last night, Randy and I visited a nearby discount store and I got some breakfast and lunch food. The hotel has a bistro, but $4 for a bowl of oatmeal, and $9 for pancakes just doesn't seem like something I need to use.
I have to admit that sometimes I criticize modern technology. However, any time I, or any of my family travel, I am thankful for the cell phones, facebook and internet. We have also really appreciated the Garmin on recent trips. It takes the guesswork out of traveling and helps keep the driver's blood pressure down. I guess I had better get my day started. The treadmill is calling my name and I can't think of one excuse to not use it!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The journey has begun! We are on our way to Dallas for work (him)/relaxing(me) week. We had a nice drive to Joplin yesterday and stopped over to see my sister and her family. She fixed a great supper last night and we got to enjoy my niece and her husband and children for awhile. It was nice to have a home cooked meal, when we have a week of eating out in front of us! Debbie fixed a big blackberry cobbler for me (my absolute favorite dessert in the world) and it was so wonderful. Blackberry cobbler transports me back to my childhood quicker than anything else I can think of. My mother always made this cobbler in the summer, and I can still see her preparing it and smell it. My mom has been dead almost 25 years now, but this image is always fresh in my mind. My sister's cobbler is just like my mom's, so it was a very special treat.
After Meg and her family left, the old folks spent a few minutes sitting around the living room and soon postures began to slump, and eyelids got heavy. We aren't exactly the life of the party anymore! We were all in bed before 10. This morning we are packing up again and heading south. I think Meg and her youngest, Ryan will meet us for breakfast before we go. We should be in Dallas before evening.
I checked facebook this morning and saw that Amanda posted that Maddie threw up last night. I can't help wishing that I could have been there to help. Being a "single mom" is certainly a tough job when no one is sick. But when a child is sick and all the responsibility falls on one parent, it can be tough. And even though no one "likes" cleaning up vomit, Amanda is especially sensitive to it. Josh told me once that Amanda and him have a deal: she cleans up the diaper messes, and he gets the vomit. I am sure that she is feeling the full weight of two young children today.
Before we left yesterday, Scott and Jessica came for a short visit. It was good to have them at our house again. Their visits have been rare since they moved out and I miss them. We talk frequently, but they have been busy with home chores, work and school. We sat around the kitchen and just talked. They brought Mason with them and he was so much fun! Amanda took Maddie shopping. She is trying to spend some 1 on 1 time with each child to make them feel special. It is also easier to keep one, since there is no sibling bickering. I think it is a great plan.
It is only a few more days until we head to Birmingham to see Josh. It will be so great to see him. I am most looking forward to seeing him hug and kiss on his wife and children. It has been 2 full months since he left. It has been a long haul for them and it will be great to have them back together again.
If I can get computer access, I plan on blogging during our Dallas stay. I packed my bag of book yesterday and am ready to relax. The weather in Dallas shows 97 each day we are there. I was hoping to explore on foot some, but I may have to change my mind in those temperatures. The place has a pool, so I may have to check that out!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I now have 5 blog followers. They are a lonely, but faithful bunch! I have yet to have a comment posted on one of my blogs, but once in awhile I will get a personal comment, or one via facebook. I am a little shy about people reading my soul, aka my blog. It is a little like having someone read your diary. But, in the end, I enjoy writing so much, if it touches anyone's life, or a passing pleasure is gained, I have done a good thing. Many moons ago I wrote for the local paper. My main subject was my then fiance, now husband, Randy. Believe me, he got more than his share of ribbing about it. He still does occassionally! I believe I wrote about his love of 4 wheel drive vehicles, his hunting obsession, his remote control use, his lack of domestic skills etc, etc. I was sort of a very amateurish Erma Bombeck. (Believe me I flatter myself with the comparison, but it was a very vague likeness). Some of my columns were not so funny. The hardest one I ever had to write was after my prospective mother-in -
laws untimely death at age 45. She died the summer we were to get married, and we ended up postponing the wedding. The odd parallels between planning a funeral and a wedding kept coming up, and I wrote about it. Just last week I had someone tell me that they still have that column that I wrote. It was my simple way to deal with the sorrow and trauma so many I loved were going through at the time.
It seems like I always have an idea in my head that I want to write about. Sometimes I manage to carry the idea out, sometimes I don't. Some people daydream about vacations, retirement, fame. I just daydream about thoughts I can develop and write about. For years I really didn't have a "medium" for this writing, until I discovered blogs. I am pretty sure that writing a blog is about as close to joy as I will get out of a "hobby". I can't sing, draw, decorate or do anything else remotely artistic. But I do like to pretend to be a wordsmith once in awhile.
The other night I had an idea in my head for the letter to Maddie (School Supply List). I came home ready to start typing. Ideas had been rolling around in my head for hours while I was out shopping. I burst in the door ready to type, and to my horror, Randy was on the computer playing video poker. I paced, I shuffled papers, I piddeled around the house. I didn't want to tell him that I needed the computer to blog, because, quite frankly, he doesn't really get "blogging". I think I finally distracted him enough to be annoying and he said, "do you want the computer?" Oh sure, I said (quite casually) if you are done. He slowly got up, and I could hardly get to the computer fast enough! I typed out my thoughts quickly, and like a smoker taking a final puff, my senses began to settle down. I wonder if there is a 12 step program for writers addiction?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dear Maddison:
As I write this, you are just two days away from beginning your formative school years. Your family has done everything they can to pave the way for you to have a successful year. A small part of me wishes you were more excited about this big experience. But, for the most part, I think I understand your reservations to go to school. You have always been a thinker and an observer. You like to assess the situation before you "dive" in. I admire those characteristics in you. Like your Daddy, you often keep your emotions and feelings to yourself. You don't feel the need to share all of your life events with the adults around you (even though we get pretty sneaky trying to pry information out of you!). Your school clothes are bought, you have picked out some new shoes, and your supplies are hanging on a hook outside your classroom. There is just one more thing I would like to give you. It probably won't mean much to you now, but I hope, as you grow, you will begin to understand the school supplies list I am about to share with you. Use this list as you see fit, share it with others if you desire, and always remember that this is offered with love.
Maddison's School Supplies for Success List:
Glue: sticks or bottled, lots and lots required. Glue is an important part of school. Commonly used to attach paper together, a broader sense of glue could represent the need to hold it all together. I have no doubt that you will be able to do this with ease. You come from good stock, and have been given lots of love and guidance in your first 5 years of life. In everyone's life there comes a time when it feels like the pieces are coming apart. Apply a little glue, give it time to stick and never lose your faith! Glue requires application and patience to work, so let it do its job, and keep your faith and hope intact.
Scissors: rounded point, safety scissors required. All around you there are strings that keep you attached to things. Some of these strings are good to have, some aren't. Strings can hold you back from making friends and taking chances. They can also keep you grounded, so you can't "float" away. It is up to you to decide which strings you will cut and which ones you will let go. The strings that tie you to people who love you cannot be permanantly cut. They may get frayed from time to time, but the attachment will always be there. Use your scissors with caution. . .
Paper: Volumes of paper are required, since mistakes will be expected. Your life is like paper. When you begin, you are a blank piece of paper, but then your experiences begin to mark your paper (like your life). Use your paper wisely, but remember, new sheets are available, and like all change, life gives you options and chances. Use them, but don't take them for granted.
Crayons: Multicolored pack, be prepared to share with others. Crayons (like people) add color and variety to our lives. They can bring pleasure, but are easily broken. Take care of your crayons, and they will bring fun and joy into your life. Please don't step on them!
Backpack: All essential supplies must fit in pack. Lots of pockets and strong handles are suggested. Your backpack is a place to store and keep your valuables. Use it wisely, but don't fill it so full that it weighs you down. Clean it out daily, and get rid of the "stuff" which you don't need. Many people get drug down by holding onto things that should not be held on to. Let go of anger, resentment and jealousy. Keep the tools you need to have a happy, successful experience close to you. Take care of your backpack and it will do a good job for you.
Maddison, your Papa and I have watched you grow and blossom for over 5 years now. We are amazed at your intelligence, your kind heart and your gentle nature. It is so hard to watch you being sent into the world. Like your parents, we would like to keep you protected in our safe circle forever. But to do that would be to keep you from growing and becoming everything that we know you can be. Stay strong and kind and remember how much you are loved.
Mimi

Monday, August 2, 2010

School shopping. . . or I should say back to school shopping. It has really been years and years since I have participated in this event. Yesterday we took Miss Maddison back to school shopping. This is a little tradition the women in the family hope to make an annual event. This year we used it as a catalyst to Maddies enthusiasm for kindergarten. She has not exactly been enthusiastic about starting school. I am really not sure why. . . it may be Matilda's fault (the movie about the little girl with mean and crazy parents, and an even meaner and crazier school principal). We have all tried to raise her level of excitement by telling her wonderful stories of our years in school, and the adventures we all had. She is not buying the propoganda we are selling. She isn't vocal about not wanting to go, but then she is not vocal about wanting to go either.
Anyway, back to the shopping story. Our first order of business was a lunch box. And boy were there alot of good choices. She immediately went for the pink box with the monkey on it. I wanted her to really get what she wanted, so I began pointing out some nice features of the other boxes (built in ice pack, insulated thermos, shoulder strap). She changed her mind about eight or nine times, before settling on a cute turquoise box with a detachable insulated thermos. Along the way she picked up some items on her required list (have you seen a school supply list lately)? It is longer than my weekly grocery list. Multiple amounts of crayons, glue, markers and scissors are just part of the requirements. She picked out an outfit for the first day and then we headed toward the shoe store. Now, quite frankly, I hate buying shoes almost as much as I hate car shopping (and almost need a loan to be able to afford the shoes!). Maddison had a shoe plan going into the store. Only one type of shoe was even on her radar. . . Like a homing pigeon, she flew directly to the section containing the "Twinkle Toes". This widely advertised shoe was not really about support, comfort or durability. It was not about how many of her outfits it would match. . . it was all about the gems on the toes, the sparkles on the body of the shoe, and most importantly, it was about the lights that flicked on and off as you put pressure on the soles. She picked out the most amazing pair of sneakers I have ever seen. They could have been popular during the sixty's and seventies. . . peace symbols, stars, hearts, bright colors. Now these shoes had personality. The price tag was almost as amazing as the shoes. . . but that shall remain our little secret. The best part was the glow in her eyes as she carried them out of the store. If it is true that you are what you wear. . . then she will be full of life and sparkle on her first day of school. Lunch box. . . $9.99, outfit $15.00. . . shoes (fill in the blank). . . joy and confidence in a 5 year old little girl. . . priceless!
I am not used to being alone. I sometimes wish for some alone time, but when I find myself by myself it is a strange feeling. Tonight is one of those rare occassions when I am at home without anyone with me. I can't say that I am especially fond of this. What did I decide to do with my quiet evening? Well, I know what I should be doing. . . cleaning, sorting, organizing. But instead I am blogging and listening to Pandora radio (back to back they played Dust in the Wind and then Blowing in the Wind. . . how odd is that?). The house is dark and comfortably cool. There is not a light or person in sight. It has given me much time to reflect on life, mine in particular. The conclusions I have made are very sweet (I am one lucky lady). Somehow knowing that several of my family are miles and miles away is a lonely feeling. I am trying not to think of the many, many people who live with this loneliness day after day. . . I am trying to stay lighthearted and happy. And even though I am happy, the lonely feelings keep creeping into my brain. I think I know now why people lose themselves in endless hours of television. . . it gives them lots of ways to occupy their brain to push out the thoughts and wanderings they may not want to let in. I am almost positive that being alone sometimes is good for the soul. It makes you really appreciate having loved ones around you. I will make it through this lonely, and quiet time. . . but I think I will appreciate the not so quiet times a little more.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Has anyone else noticed a renewed appreciation for our world as you age? I can't seem to get enough of the clouds, the moon, the sunrise and the colors of the world around us. Tonight there is a beautiful full moon in the sky. I was outside for a while this evening, and I couldn't stop staring at it. Somehow the enormity and beauty of the moon stopped me cold. It helps to put all things in perspective. How many famous events have taken place under that same old moon? How many people have risen to fame, overcome obstacles and risen from hopelessness under this planet?
I believe that this renewed appreciation for the world began last year with a trip to Divide, Colorado. The skies and the colors of the skies were so awe-inspiring, I could have spent the entire week just looking. The week we were there, there were daily storms that blew in over the mountains. Once back in Missouri, I began to notice our environment more. We have gorgeous skies with all the colors of the rainbow, too. I must have never noticed how billowy and beautiful our cloudy skies were before.
Most likely, the other reason I am more tuned into the surroundings is to help the grands appreciate our world. Children see the world so differently than we do. If I don't do anything else for Maddie and Mason, I want them to be aware of and enjoy the world in which we live. Every weekend when they are visiting, I make it a point to be with them outdoors. We cloud watch, look for bugs and talk about the weather. When Maddie spends the night, she likes to get up early with me and sit in the recliner and watch the sunrise through our front window. What a special time that is for both of us. I hope someday she remembers those special times I spent with her. I read today that children that spend more time outdoors, on average, have a higher IQ, than children who have very limited exposure. I am not sure what the connection is, but I am willing to bet my time to providing all the intelligence stimulation I can through outdoor activity. I know, anyone who knows me well will certainly scratch their head and try to figure out when I became an outdoor enthusiast. I certainly don't consider myself a rugged camper, hiker or tree hugger. But I love being outdoors, and I love sharing what little I know about our world with two special preschoolers.