Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A January Picnic

So what is a girl to do with two kids on a cold January day? Unlike the mom in The Cat and the Hat I cannot simply leave my children up to their own devices while I go to the store and hope that a feline wearing a red and white striped hat will show up to take care of them. One is too sick to leave the house, but is well enough to be rambunctious, and the other one is so bored he's lowered his standards and snuck downstairs to watch Barney. First, I gave little girl her first pedicure. She loved it! Pretty red toes that she kept saying "oooh" about, then promptly stuck them in her be-jeweled heels. The boy wasn't into such niceties so we played catch instead. All of this lasted about 2 minutes. It was time for a picnic. Oh we made quite the to do about it, drug out lots of food, picked out a blanket, special paper plates, and tossed the three legged dog outside so we could eat in peace. I even found nature sounds on YouTube to play on the iphone (which is currently my most prized possession). So we dined on the carpet and pretended to be in the woods, at the beach, and on top of a mountain. We pointed out different elephant, a parrot, a wolf, and a mountain lion. We fought hard not to fall off the boat (blanket) during a hurricane. Baby girl wandered around happily grazing off of everyone's plate but her own. This kept them entertained for almost an hour!!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Life in the Mojave

When we arrived in Las Vegas it was after two years in dreary rainy Germany. While Germany was probably the most fun I have ever had the prospect of sunlight was thrilling, plus I had never been in a casino before. We arrived in March it was in the 80s the trees where blooming, things sparkled, there was clinking of coins, flashing red lights and blue lights, dancing fountains, and it never rained. I thought I was in heaven. That lasted about a month and half. About the time we were moving into our house I feared we had made a mistake. The feeling of excitement that one feels when entering a casino was short lived. Now all I noticed was the incredible amount of cigarette smoke filling my lungs. I also had figured out there was little way to avoid entering a casino, movie theatres are in them, as well as restaurants. Seeing movies and eating was the husband and my favorite past-time. You can't even go into a freestanding resaturant, gas station, or grocery store with out seeing a slot machine and the requisite smoking. That's right, you can smoke at a gas station which seems a little counter-intuitive to me. I was determined to come up with other things to do. Mt. Charleston was a God-send. It is a mountain right outside of the city limits of Vegas, you can hike, camp, snow shoe, and even ski there. It was wonderful. While the valley was toping out at 114 degrees Mt. Charleston was a cool 85. It smelled like pine trees, there was ground cover, not free flowing dirt or worse the gravel that is one's yard in Vegas. (Rocks are better than grass in the desert, however). Valley of Fire, Red Rocks, Cottonwood, and Lake Mead all received some of our attention too. Though they were usually frequented in the winter due to extremely hot temperatures. The Strip was neglected. Unless we had visitors from out of town we avoided it like the plague. We occasionally went out to a club (it was the HOT one at the time, but like all things in Vegas lost its luster), but only because we knew a bouncer and could get in free. Plus, the amount of T&A was a little more than this feminista could handle. One place very intriguing near us was Death Valley. Mid-February we were supposed to go to Brian Head, Utah to ski. When 4 am rolled around we no longer felt like skiing we felt like sleeping. So when we finally arose we had to get out of dodge for the day no matter where to. We loaded up the car and headed West into Death Valley. We found Cafe C'est Si Bon in Shoshone, CA. A very small cafe in a town of about 5 people. We had crepes and cappucinos. It was very surreal. We saw the devil's golf course (not an actual golf course, but an evaporated salt field), visted the lowest place in the US, Badwater, and an oasis in the desert: Furnace Creek Ranch. This place is a full ranch in the middle of Death Valley with cabins, horse back riding, golf, swimming, and a Borax Museum. I was informed this is where Borax comes from and the mules too. The Desert is so weird. We hung out for a while and then drove home. It had been warm and sunny all day, but we had work the next day. While most of the time memories of Sin City are filled thoughts of thank goodness we moved, but this was one heck of a day trip.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"bark bark," said the croupy girl

We made it through almost the entire dreaded month of January without a child getting sick. That is, until Saturday when I was awoken at 5 am to the bark bark sound of a small child with croup. Ah, the fun of croup. Into the steamy bathroom we go, then promptly outside in the frigid air. It did help a bit. Saturday night was a real treat I tell ya'. Having small children under the age of two sleeping with you makes for an interesting night. Sometimes they sleep directly on you, over your head, at your feet, or they take up the entire bed. Children wiggle constantly and don't seem to care if they are awake or asleep they still wiggle. But needless to say, I wanted to monitor the breathing. This morning baby girl sounded like a 60 year old smoker, wheezing and coughing so to the doctors we went. The culprit: some nasty virus most likely RSV. Forty-five minutes later we have our inhaler and have moved onto to more pressing matters, such as lunch. The boy seems to be staying in charge of his immune system thus far. All of this is very different from last January which entailed: ear infection after ear infection after ear infection leading to shots of antibiotics because orals were no longer working. Then came RSV, an inhaler for both kids, multiple trips to the doctor and the ER for both kids (baby girl only being an infant at the time, I was not screwing around with RSV and kids were getting sicker not better), then tubes in ears, LOTS of medical bills and one mommy at the end of her rope. Plus, just for kicks, a few blizzards and artic temperatures. Having an infant = sleep deprivation. An infant of whom you are worried about proper oxygen saturation through out the night and nursing around the clock = really really sleep deprived mommy. Really sleep deprived and hormonally charged mommies are NOT a good thing. What a difference a year makes, for starters petri dish boy got tubes so he does not get an ear infection when someone sneezes next to him as before. Little girl now sleeps through the night 99% of the time, there is not three feet of snow in my yard like last was 58 degrees yesterday (that has a large affect on my psyche), I am no longer nursing and said raging post-partum hormones have returned to their normal (i.e only sometimes raging) state. Barking, hacking, wheezing children, while pathetic and needing inhalers, are not the end of the world. I am supermom, just ask my kids.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Danny Boy

This is Danny, he is my daughter's (one year old daughter mind you) horse. A 7 year old Bay Thoroughbred. Like all good presents he was a spontaneous gift from the grandparents in Texas. Being from Texas they don't seem to mind large barnyard animals and giving them away is a real treat. Now my husband is a Texas transport (shh, don't tell the locals) and understands large beasts and the type of care they require. I on the other hand LOVE all animals...especially those of the equine nature, but have never really been around farm animals except for the passing fair or stock show. Like a lot of little girls I lusted after a horse. I still do quite a bit. I frequently come up for reasons to ride them and even did so pregnant. Horses are very smart creatures though and Otto would not move an inch with a pregnant woman on top, he actually had to be led around the arena. (I was putting off very nervous vibes my Aunt explained). At first, when we were told baby girl was now a horse owner, I exclaimed that "WE CAN'T AFFORD A HORSE", figuring they must cost at least a few thousand a month. We are supposed to be financially responsible people you know, and can one really be financially responsible and own a horse in 2008?! Probably not. We also live in suburbia so the horse would have to be stabled somewhere other than our backyard. That is the big ticket item, stabling ain't cheap! But, after inquiring online about horse costs (including farriers, vets, food, stables, and tack) one can certainly afford a horse, but is it the right thing to do now??? I have "horse brain" like crazy...what used to be a passing thought on a weekly basis (although I did dream about horses last week) has turned into 24/7 horse thoughts. My husband really wants this animal too, both of us get stir crazy and start looking around at new houses and debate in town or something with land. We get fed up with the proverbial rat race at times and visions of barnyards dance in our heads. This horse came at such a time. I know that I WILL own a horse, it just may not end up being this horse this year. This was not on my list of goals, but it is such a little girl dream of mine it is very hard to let go of or even think of the other goals that I had. Having a horse has moved to the very top of the ladder, logically I am trying to move it down, but it just won't.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Peeking your head out

Waking up in a tent and first peering out at the world with the light just breaking over the horizon is an absolute treasure especially if I smell bacon. Now that I am the one cooking the bacon I hurry on out of the tent to get it going. Some of the most vivid memories I have are stepping out of a tent. 
In high school, my family and I camped across Europe one summer. The most beautiful scenery I have ever witnessed to this day is somewhere in England between London and Cantebury. Tent camping in Europe is not quite the same as it is in the states, mainly you just plop down your tent in a very large field, not like the groomed spots associated with car camping here. Anyway, back to England. It was maybe 5 am and I was really jet-lagged so I hadn't been asleep for a while. I noticed that light was breaking and decided to venture out, walked across the grass and through some trees to day's first light hitting a barley field. It was pure gold and shimmery and the most radiant view ever. Later into the trip we were in Germany and it had consistently rained for 10 days, I woke up and heard my Mom packing up and declaring get a move on kids we are heading to Italy. I stuck my head out of the tent and for the first time noticed the very very green blue water down the hill from us and was told it was a glacier lake. At the time I was so excited at the prospect of sun I didn't appreciate seeing the lake. Later still in Scotland I woke to find sheep grazing right in front of my tent. It was my 17th birthday. 
In Southern Illinois where friends and I would camp in high school I didn't have any spectacular sights to greet me, one very cold morning in February I did wake up very happy I hadn't frozen to death and disappointed at the lack of bacon.  Waking up to soaking wet clothes and having to put them on and get back on a horse to ride to your bacon is a mixed blessing. But I wouldn't trade that Colorado memory. Or waking to the start of 400+ mile bike ride across Iowa. Yet, to wake up after a night of no sleep and realize that your arms are indeed still broken, there is no bacon, but you don't have to break down camp is also a mixed blessing but one I could certainly do without. In New Mexico I stuck my head out the night after a coyote party to see paw prints right in front of my tent. My favorite: waking up to magpies jumping around on top of the family tent my son declaring "those birds are crazy", my daughter squealing, and seeing my love's face. Then having to cook the bacon.

The Land of Enchantment

 Ghost Ranch is one my favorite places on Earth, if not THE favorite. It is near the Chama river in Northern New Mexico, about an hour away from another really great place, Santa Fe. As a child we would go there in the summer while my mom worked on sorting celophysis remains. My brother and I ran around to our hearts content, hearing about all the ghosts that inhabit the place. Then as a teenager I would bring friends with me to the ranch and we would slink off to get into some sort of mischief under the cover of darkness. I haven't been since August of 02, when my husband and I met my family there for a camping trip. That was when we decided a GPS is probably a good idea to bring with you when hiking pedernal. The scenery is incredibly enchanting, especially for kids growing up in Iowa cornfields. Now that I live out west the vast openness doesn't take my breath away quite as much as it used to, but the smell of sage and yucca, of green chilis and posole cooking, and the sound of howling coyotes all do. I can't wait to take my own children there. In this age of uber-technology I even found a wikipedia blurp about the place. Talk about a juxtaposistion. While watching Comanche Moon on CBS  this week (because I should have been a pioneer woman) I kept telling the husband  they may say they are in Texas, but that is New Mexico. Sure enough rising out of the background in one scene was Cerro Pedernal, I know why Georgia stayed. 

Thursday, January 17, 2008

So an octopus walks into Costco....

edited to add (if you want to find out more about this picture please visit here)

My daughter is an octopus. Yesterday while picking up an un-Godly amount of bulk food items from the local Costco my angelic little girl grew six extra arms. The packaged items were piled up very high in the cart and I set the eggs down in hopes that they would make it to the register, they balanced delicately on top of canned tomatoes, olive oil, and a very large box of diapers. With in .00026 seconds the little girl had thrown eggs everywhere. On the floor, in between the items in the cart, on her lap. She was still holding two in her hand, crunch crunch. Now just the yolks in her hand. She twists around in her seat to grab the unbroken ones from between the Kashi bars and lettuce for a double play. Splat. I grabbed the other one from her and as fast as I could; gathering the remainder like a brooding hen trying to get them back to the nest. I think only 3 out of 18 survived. Such a shame. Taking small children out into public is such an excellent past-time.

 Interior Octopus

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My piece o'sh*t washing machine

This piece of work featured below is pretty, claims to be energy efficient, is a bit more costly than the standard  top loading washing machine but was obtained at a large box store at a reasonable price after the 12 year old machine that came in the house sale simply decided to no longer work. The first year with the machine was a breeze as was most of the second. Sometime right after Thanksgiving my once bragged about washing machine began to make towels smell moldy and a wee bit damp. Hmmm, I thinks to myself, probably due to increased work loads from Thanksgiving guests. A couple weeks pass and more guests arrive, the FL (front loader) is protesting even more the previously somewhat damp clothes are now downright wet when the cycle has finished. I walk into my laundry cave and see that the machine has "paused" itself. I peek into to see clothes swimming in water that smells rather like post-Katrina New Orleans. The FL has a drain and spin cycle which I've never used, but now was the time to try it. Day after day the FL and I are arguing about whether or not it should spin the clothes to an acceptable level of dampness. FL wins resoundingly and gains new ground; the drain and spin cycle now is pausing. How can this be it isn't even two years old, surely it isn't broken already. I look to the GE website for help, which really pushes calling a GE service man. They advice unplugging the FL and restarting it...oh, the FL is a PC and needs to be rebooted. Yet, like a PC this does not help the swamp I have in my FL drain. One load of laundry is taking all day to wash the P.O.S. is at the top of my appliance scheisse list. I look to the google universe for help and it blesses me with
Apparently I am not the only one with this issue. This very poorly made machine eats things and is not able to digest them so socks, bra wires, change, pet hair, lint, rocks, and other small items get stuck in it's filter. You must remove the front panel and pull out the filter. One man suggested a gumbo pot to catch all of the trapped water. Excellent, we have one of those. So my handy fixit man husband follows my instructions and voila' water pours out into the gumbo pot and then everywhere else. We found the very clogged filter; lots and lots of lint, $1.02 in change, a "magic bean" from the boy's preschool class, and of course dog hair. The FL works like new now, but this will need to be done on a fairly regular basis. Now, I ask you, who develops a expensive machine touting to be all green (yet I just wasted a LOT of energy/water  rewashing my clothes over and over and over and over) then doesn't provide this maintenance advice in the manual. Really, who makes a washing machine that requires the owner to clean out the filter that is behind the front panel on a regular basis??? A delightful company named ge that was hoping for a hefty service charge on a annual basis. 

Monday, January 14, 2008

at least we have our health

So I was a little late in making my New Year's Resolution this year. But I finally did! This year and most likely next year the husband and I will be running a financial marathon. We used to be quite financially savy but one thing lead to another and now we are bloated, fat, and lazy. I REALLY hope we finish the race because I want a few things that would require a strong finish.

1. A two year transfer to Europe. I want some cash to enjoy it, and I WILL NOT put it on the dreaded credit cards.

2. We really do need a larger house. We are bursting here, I want to be able to put some money down and have it be a house that I LOVE and want to stay in for a long, long time.

3. I want to actually plan and save for vacations and take 1 large one every other year and a couple of small ones the other years. 

4. Most importantly, I want a sizeable saving account so I can sleep soundly. 

We are about 5 days into this so far so good. We know what to do, the biggest challenge is to lay off my impulsive spending. I don't buy large things, just a whole lot of little ones. Perhaps if I make Monday my financial blog day I will honor this commitment. 

Here is blurp that I found on about cutting expenses: set alarm ten minutes earlier and pack own lunch (this doesn't work for me so much because I "work" at home, but works for the husband.)
Also for financial calculators try: 

Friday, January 11, 2008

if they only had them in my size

Ah, the Pink Princess Shoesprincess. She is only 17 months and yet she knows she is a girl and behaves in the most traditional girly fashion. Blonde hair and green eyes and feels most fabulous in her green Tinkerbell costume. She owns the shoes to the right and stomps around in them and some other delightful plastic bling bling shoes as much as I can tolerate.  Recently she has become a "little mama." She carries her baby doll with her everywhere. Attempts to change its diaper, takes it for a walk in the mini-stroller, then puts it to sleep. The boy never had an interest in such pastimes. I used to subscribe more to the nurture outlook on life than the nature. Gender differences are due to the environment and not some sort of innate predisposition. But since having kids I see that somethings just are the way they are and I am not sure why. Don't go telling that to the teenage/college version of myself; back when I was practically a grrrl all the time and had only a tiny inkling of princess left in me. Somedays I wake up quite perplexed at my life, while on others I am comfortable with my daily routine of managing two small angels (who sometimes have fallen). Once I had pink/black hair, a tongue ring, was in love with my thrift store clothing, the requisite docs, lots of very noisy music, and could have never pictured a wedding at Disney, a small group, a MOMS club, a terrible gas guzzling carbon dumping SUV that I truly love, or being responsible to the point of being neurotic. Funny it all is. 

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A darn good dog

 One pleasant afternoon in November when it felt as though winter would never come, the family and I were strolling through downtown Denver. We came upon Jim the owner and head chef of Biker Jim's hot dog stand. I am not one for eating from a cart nor hot dogs for that matter, but the boy and the husband are so we stopped. Jim has a wide variety of gourmet dogs; reindeer, buffalo, veal, elk, boar. You can also get the usual nathan's. That was what the boy selected and opted to have it Brazilian style, the husband and I opted for the reindeer and elk toped with onions which had been marinated in Coke. Jim splits the dogs and inserts sour cream on them and tops with said onions. Of course the dogs are grilled and not boiled or cooked on one of those metal round hot dog cooker thingys.  It was amazing. This coming from a girl who would prefer not to eat a "dog" of any sort. If you find yourself in the mile high city on 16th and Arapahoe check it out. Apparently toddlers like it too, or at least mine did.