Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear Homeowner

I thought I'd write to let you know how your house is doing. Actually, I do mean to say my house. But you built it and used to live here, so an update is in order. We've made a few changes since you left. In fact, I think we're making changes to the changes that the previous owners (less previous than you) made.

Can't tell you how thrilled we were to find 20 cans of paint (all 18 years young) in the crawl space. And jeez, how thoughtful of you to preserve some of the original rolls of wall paper. I had NO idea they made wall paper in silver, blue and purple. We're also shocked to discover the marble tile you stole from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Do you think I should ship it back to them?

Was wondering, what's with all the rolls of blue carpet? Was that somewhere in the house? Don't tell me, did you put it in the bathroom before the not-as-previous owners pulled it out and put MORE carpet in the bathroom. You clever bathroom carpeters.

We sure do hope you are well and happy and most importantly retired from building houses. Honestly, you are done building houses, right? The last thing the world needs is a little more iridescent wallpaper, no offense.

The Head Crawl Space Cleaner-Outer

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Courage Is

There's been a bit of heartache and turmoil at our house as we try to encourage our youngest son to believe in himself. Listening for his small voice is a challenge. Sometimes a particular challenge that causes him great pain. So it is with tremendous reluctance that I accepted an invitation for him to ride in the National Western Stock Show. He professed that he wanted to do it, but his intentions are always bold. It is his actions that can sometimes reflect the battle between his head and his heart.

My head knew his history and that the arena has more than 7000 seats. That's a lot of noisy people. My heart knew I must accommodate his opportunities. Then I read a quote from Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow.”

Many of the people who happen upon this blog already know that Mason pulled through. On the day he showed up for the rodeo his courage did also. But his own measure of his success is something that very few people know, so I thought I'd share. With the biggest grin I've ever seen him don he hurriedly spelled it out, "This was the best day ever!" Then he poked me right in the cheek and in escalating tones squealed, "I love you, and I love daddy, and I love Coopy, AND I LOVE MYSELF!"

I. Love. Myself.

For me, that made it the best day ever.

And here are the photos:

Our little munchkin at the front of the line!

Here his is, a good head shorter than the rest.

In every group of sheep there is one that moves really slow, Mason by luck of the draw got that sheep.

OK. Mason is the little one standing next to the clown in red and white stripes.
I'm the mother standing to the left of the ww rodeo post with the black shirt and my hands covering my eyes.
I was a little nervous.

Notice how small he is compared to the others.

The superstar with his trophy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sure Sign

You thought MLK had a dream? Turns out, he had green sunglasses. Thanks Coop!

Friday, January 13, 2012

It Was All Very Non-Traditional

I'm not sure -- even at this juncture -- if it grew from laziness or a desire to embrace some heritage, but our family left the tree up until Knut Day this year. We did it. Which is to say, we didn't do anything at all. It just sat there taking up all the space in the sitting room (te he he, I just said sitting room). We refused to touch it in the name of Knut. But today is Knut Day and I'm predicting the tree will stay right where it is until Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But damn it, it better be gone by Abraham Lincoln's birthday.

"Why," you might ask did we leave the tree in its spot for so long. First and foremost, we are procrastinators. In this house, some more so than others, and all equally in denial.

Next, the basement is finally under construction. If I wanted to put the tree away, there is no away for it to rest. This situation is only going to get worse before it gets better.

Lastly, I really have wanted to have a Knut Day celebration of my own for a few years, now.

I'm quite sick of talking about my procrastination. So let's just skip to the basement nonsense, shall we? I cannot even describe to you the disaster this phase of construction has written on the wall. It's all there, time constraints, space constraints, patience constraints. People, this will be a true test of going-through-hell-to-get-what-you-really-want.

Did I mention the unfinished basement is the former home of aforementioned Christmas tree? Oh yes. It's current home is temporary -- though my neighbors will question my grasp of the meaning of "temporary" by the time all this is finished. It's future and mostly permanent home is yet to be determined. This is the main reason I hesitate to disassemble it. Is it better to let an assembled -- though not decorated -- tree stand in your living room; opposed to an undecorated, disassembled heap of tree parts stand in your living room? Yeah, I'm not sure about that. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.

I'm feeling terribly lost in my current predicament because I had such a strong plan up until 6:30 p.m. today. Until today I was resting easy in the luxury of knowing I was -- on some level -- a little bit Swedish and could tell people I was observing Knut Day this year. (This is also a total misnomer. You don't observe it so much as mark it as the day the season of festivity is over with one last festivity.)

We invited a few friends over for a crafternoon and smorgasbord. It was a delightful plan. Now it has unfurled and I have to have a new plan to get that tree out of the house.

But let's look past my panic and talk about what a hit the photobooth at the Knut Day celebration was. Magic. In the grand scheme of my Pinterest fueled thoughts I thought the crafts would be the big hit. But the photobooth was clearly the one thing that every kid wanted to try out. Well, every kid except Mason and another guest who is a) Mason's age and b) a lot like Mason.

The photobooth was assembled half-heartedly and consisted of a cast-off piece of banana yellow broadcloth thrown in front of the T.V. to create a fearfully unironed backdrop. Then I plucked a few props from our prodigious costume closet and provided the kids with a few guidelines. Pick a prop, pose, and take a picture. Hysterical. I will have a photobooth at my next party. I will have a photobooth at the next classroom party. I will have a photobooth at the next fundraiser. Hell, I'd have a photobooth at a funeral. It is a scream. Enjoy the pictures.

We munched on Swedish meatballs from IKEA, veggies, fruits, lemon cakes, and golden raisins in boxes wrapped to look like Swedish flags. I also filled my Christmas card tree with goldfish bags and notes that proclaimed the holiday season to be o-fish-ally over. I served glogg to the adults. I decorated with undecorated smaller Christmas trees, candles shaped like Christmas trees, and even a miniature battery operated Christmas tree meant to adorn one of those creepy miniature towns (it's amazing what you can find on clearance).

The theme was really less about Swedes (because I don't know or remember much about Swedish traditions) and more about blue and yellow. I had the kids create a goat mask, a foam smores snowman, and a goody bag for the tree plundering. Once all the crafts had been crafted or had an upturned nose presented to them, and the photobooth exhausted, pandemonium broke loose. I actually had to use a whistle to get things back to order. A whistle.

Once I got over the shame of using a whistle in the house I got the kids engaged in a good 'ol fashioned game of who can do the most push ups. Then we had a pretty good face off for the most sit ups. Then, and only then, did I encourage them to plunder the tree of its gingerbread cookie ornaments and bags of popcorn.

Here's a short list of the things I was determined to do, but did not:
1. Take a picture of all the Swedish flag adorned raisin boxes.
2. Take a picture of the smorgasbord.
3. Take a picture of the Christmas tree with its edible ornaments.
4. Take a group picture of all the kids.
5. Dress like a scary goat and perform mischievous acts.


Christmas has come to an end,
And the tree must go.
But next year once again
We shall see our dear old friend,
For he has promised us so.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Buddy Venn Diagram

You know what I wish I had? I wish I had a Venn diagram from 1st grade. I'm sure you remember these from school (somewhere between kindergarten and college). Basically two parties pick a topic and then examine their differences and most importantly where their respective data intersects.

Where "favorites" is the category a Venn diagram between myself and say my best friend in kindergarten may have shown we both loved purple, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and books (30 years later we are still competing to see who can read the most books in a year). But on my side of the graph, favorite song would be something like Lady by Kenny Rogers and her side would have said something like Rock With You by Michael Jackson. She was way cooler.

My first grader recently completed his first Venn diagram. He compared his "favorites" to his book buddy "Kyle". Looking at the diagram I am pretty sure they had to make up similarities to intersect in the middle. Kyle is in 3rd grade and apparently can see rated R movies and listen to Kanye West. In common they have ice cream (mint chocolate chip), insects (praying mantis), and days (Friday).

I wish wish wish I could compare my first grade self to my first grade son. We would not have ice cream in common.

For the record here's the diagram:

And for those of us with poor enough eyesight to not be able to read Cooper's favorites:
Color: Red
Animal: Penguin
Song: Dynamite by Taio Cruze
Football Team: Saints
Ice Cream: Mint Chocolate Chip
Insect: Praying Mantis
Day: Friday
1 Grade Teacher: Toline
Show: SpongBob
Movie: Harry Potter, part 2 (he actually means the second half of the last movie)
Friend: Leighton
Dessert: Donuts

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Best Teacher Ever

When parents send their children to school we hope they will find themselves in the stewardship of able and caring teachers and coaches. Men and women who share their knowledge beyond the walls of a classroom, beyond the deadlines in a lesson plan, professionals like Coach Jones.

The Coach Jones to which I refer is still offering sage but subtle advice nearly 20 years since I last sat in his classroom. He doesn’t even teach at my old alma mater anymore, however, he continues to teach.

I had my reasons; most of them melancholy and full of anxiety, when I posted what I thought would be an innocuous status to Facebook last night. I asked, “I have about 620 weekends left with my kids before they move out. What should we do?” I received a handful of replies, all valuable in their own perspectives. And then Coach Jones weighed in.

“I would watch cartoons until noon, walk the river and teach them to skip rocks, chocolate malt at Arctic Circle, hot dogs at a ball game and then read to them before prayers. Never waste a Saturday.”

I cried.

Granted I was smiling and laughing and feeling so amazing to see and read those words. But mostly I cried.

Coach Jones spoke more to me from 1989 through 1993 than probably any other person, including my parents. He was the consistent voice of instruction, gentle guidance, and general life coaching. (Ironically enough, he probably doesn’t even know that.)

I was a teen typical in my angst, confusion, and swimming in foolish but unimpressive choices. I had no idea who I was, what I was capable of, nor what I wanted out of life. But I did make the track team. Through some incident involving fragile ankles I ended up perched opposite of Coach Jones while he taped my feet. Every day.

In fact, I suspect that at some point during the season, or seasons my ankles were healed. But he taped them anyway. While he taped he questioned me.

“Did you get your homework done?”
“Are you really dating Fillmore?”
“Where you going to go to college?
“How’s things at home?”

I had to answer because he held the business end of a roll of athletic tape dangerously close to my not-often shaved legs and could conveniently tape above where there was pre-wrap. It was precarious. More over, I wanted to answer because he was often the only person who asked me anything that really mattered all day.

I survived high school. I survived the year that followed it, even though some of my closest friends did not. And here I am a happy and healthy suburbanite who rarely sees or thinks about the people she went to school with. For a long time now I recognized I hadn’t learned all I needed to by the time graduation rolled around. Turns out, Jones knew it too. Today’s lesson was fully extraordinary.

I will not waste a Saturday.

Sewer Boots

In these parts everyone has Wellies. Now, let me just say, I don't call them Wellies, or Wellingtons, Hunters, or Rubbers. I've never met a Duke, from Wellington or otherwise. So I call them sewer boots sometimes rain boots when I'm trying to keep my origins on the down low.

At first I thought they were a fashion craze. I didn't buy into it. Mainly because we live in an arid, land-locked state and I couldn't see the point. Then I began regularly walking my children to school. The winter months in Colorado are notorious for major snow fall, followed by major sunshine. It's the runoff for which you need sewer boots. The dirt path to school becomes a mud slick after the first snowfall and stays that way until the last day of school. Now, I get it.

The boys don't get it. They wear them when they feel like it, and rarely when they are needed. You may catch Cooper in them on the way to swim practice on a cloudless, 90-degree day. But on the way home from school in mud up to his ankles? No boots. It makes for a long walk home.

Friday, January 6, 2012

There Are No Words

Watching the boys play while they wore these mustaches was only slightly more amusing than watching them try to peel them off without pain. Ha ha ha ha. (I'm sick.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


You are never going to believe this. Mason was invited to be a contestant in the Mutton Bustin' competition at the 106th National Western Stock Show. He. Said. Yes.

First of all, way big honor that our family would secure a spot in this event -- the absolute Super Bowl of livestock shows -- not once but twice.

Then miracle of miracles, Mason said YES! Actually the miracle will be if he gets on that stinky sheep. Keep your fingers crossed for him that he can be loud, and proud, and brave as can be.

Lastly, let me just say, it was the trophy that enticed him. I believe his exact words were, "Can I get a trophy like Cooper's?" Followed by a decided, "Sure, I'll do it."

Now he's all talk about the rodeo, he even listed it as one of his New Year's Resolutions. He'll be in the arena Sunday, Jan. 22. You can buy your tickets in King Soopers from Cheyenne to Pueblo.

Oh my gosh, I'm not kidding, send him good, brave thoughts.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Circle of Friends

Before the season progresses to the point that a post containing the infant baby Jesus would be ungracious, let me insert a story about the ever-changing nativity sets in my house. We're actually not church going people. I don't mean to offend anyone or make anyone mad. I especially don't intend for anyone to think less of me as a person, a mother, a wife. But it's true. So I suspect it comes as a great shock to most of my friends to see a crèche in my house, let alone two.

The two crèche I have are really works of art, Latin American folk art to be specific. One I purchased in San Miguel de Allende at a pewter shop and the other was a gift from my husband's sister who lived abroad at the time. Every year I am never quite sure where to put them. This year, I placed them side by side under the small tree that I permit my children to decorate.

In much the same way that we found Elf in a new spot each morning, I would walk past the crèches and wonder, "Where are the Jesuses?" Really. Once I found them both precariously swinging together in the garland that is strung between two balustrades at the top of my stairs. But most often I would find the Jesuses switched at birth and joined by their adoptive families in a tight little, watchful circle.

I don't know who the culprit is exactly. But I have my suspicions. His name might rhyme with Jason. Frankly I suspect him because as reflected in his interpretation of the nativity scene, when I try to arrange his life he promptly circles the wagons and gets comfortable. He, himself, is a protector who feels safest in the circling arms of his family and friends.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

That Extra 10%

I read 47 books toward my goal to finish 52 books in 52 weeks. That means I only met 90% of my goal. Not shabby, but still a little disappointing. In my defense I read longer, more challenging books. But I don't set my goal on page count, I set it on volumes. Complete stories told from beginning to end in as many pages as it takes. I read some really great stories this year.

Here I recommend a few:

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2) by Margaret Atwood
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
Inés of My Soul, by Isabel Allende
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1) by Ken Follett
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
Reading Lolita in Tehran Azar Nafisi

If I could recommend just one from the list above it would be Reading Lolita in Tehran. That is a book for readers. It's beautiful, relevant, and generally awesome. Notably it was the first book I finished in 2011 and it still stands in my mind as the best.

Here I discourage you from the following:

The Shack by William P. Young
Anarcho Grow by T.A. Sedlak
4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon by Dave Kuehls

These are all books that I started, sometimes more than once, and couldn't finish. I did finish the marathon one, however, only to discover later that some of its claims were a bit misleading.

I predict I will read these books in 2012:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes
Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

In 2012 I again hope to finish 52 books. If you are an avid reader and would like to follow what I read please sign-up at My I.D. is Denver Brunette, I think. If you are an occasional reader and just want a recommendation from time to time, send me an e-mail and ask! No other question brings me greater gladness. For reals.

PHOTO NOTE: Pictured with our New Year's Resolutions. More on this later!