Saturday, December 28, 2013

Smiling is my favorite...


We celebrated our RanHonFam Christmas on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It was the only time we could carve out a few hours for us to be in the same place at the same time, between work schedules and other responsibilities.

And it was wonderful.

We had breakfast for lunch, and late in the afternoon, we had a Chicago style pizza. I decided to treat myself to something easy – and we all love it. NOTE FOR NEXT YEAR: It’s okay to do something easy for Ma.
This also made things easy for Ma/Gram...the littles in jail. Daisie is very manageable.


My favorite part of the day was that my surprise for the kids and The Farmer was truly a surprise and a big hit!

Because we are going to Hawaii with the kids in February, I warned them that Christmas gifts would be small. Of course, they didn’t care if they got anything with Hawaii on the horizon. However, I wouldn’t enjoy it at all if I didn’t get to do SOME shopping and giving.

I went with my recent discovery (thank you, Pinterest, for this revelation) and got them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

I saved the “Read” for last…

In the bottom of their gift bags was an Amazon gift card wrapped in a square of scrapbook paper. They opened it and said, “Oh! We get to pick our own book this year!” Of course, Dillon said, “Since this is an Amazon gift card, I don’t HAVE TO buy something to read…I could buy music, or whatever I want.”

That kid…always trying to yank my chain…and my chain is so easy to yank…But anyway, I ignored him, and told them to get out the piece of paper their card was wrapped in. When all had it in hand, I instructed them to go upstairs to my bedroom and find the box that had the same kind of paper on it.

Oh! They were like little kids again! Nothing is better than knowing your gift might be too big to fit under the tree! Shades of yesteryear, when they hoped (beyond hope, ‘cause it never did happen) that a Power Wheels would be up there.

No Power Wheels again this year, but they jostled and wrestled their boxes into the right hands and thundered down the stairs.




Even though the boxes were not wrapped, and the lettering was on the outside, no one noticed what these strangely shaped boxes contained. And then Jess saw the lettering…His eyes got big and he said, “NO WAY! REALLY?” The opening became more frenzied until all realized that they were holding a Kindle in their hands!

Cheering and happiness ensued…Made my whole day, well…my whole Christmas!

I thought Kindles would be a great complement to our upcoming Hawaiian adventure as we all like to read while relaxing. This way, we won’t need an extra suitcase for all the books we would want to have on hand.

And, boy howdy, were they excited about this. For the next 20 minutes, this is what I saw:


Everyone was getting their Kindle set up, and buying a book with their gift card.

I should say that we had fun with the other gifts that were given and received that day…and just being together. My kids are such nice grown-ups…God bless them! And I must say, God is gracious! It’s not like they had perfect parents by any means…(Well, Tiffany probably did.)

So it was all good…but I just love it when I can surprise my kids, and see their faces light up…Always have, always will.

Surprised smiles? They're my favorite!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Angus & Reform School...


This little guy has been living with us for the past month. Yes – Angus has been sent to Gram’s Reform School, and it is a boarding school.

Angus has reached that age/stage where you will see in the classifieds: “Free to good home, X month old puppy. Needs fenced yard and room to run. Owners don’t have enough time for him”…

Except for the fact that we know that every pup reaches this stage, and will, someday, pass through it, this might have been written about Angus recently.

Once upon a time, Angus was potty-trained…and then that little skill lost its appeal, and he decided that, though he knew how to do it, he’d rather not bother with going outside.

That’s a problem…well, actually, it’s been a lot of problems!

He even decided that peeing in his crate, aka his bedroom, was sometimes  necessary. In the dog-training world, this is an EMERGENCY! Usually, a pup will keep his bed clean and dry, and that allows you to manipulate the circumstances to teach him to do his business outside…But when he doesn’t care if he goes in his bed…well, he doesn’t care about where he goes at all.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Angus was sent to Reform School in the hope that constant supervision from Gram would renew his interest in being house-trained.  The goal was to get him to believe that outside was the ONLY place to go. The strategy was to take watch closely, and take him out often, so that the preponderance of successful duty runs occurred outside.
After a month of concerted effort, I am well trained. Angus? Not so much.

I have learned that constant supervision is CONSTANT…2 minutes of inattention will be costly.

I have become an expert at getting stains out of carpet…All you need are pet enzymes, many paper towels, and encyclopedia volumes to press out the water after the vile stuff has been removed. Weeping and gnashing of teeth, optional.

I have learned that Angus signal to go out is to look at you…which is not exactly definitive. Thanks, Angus.

When he is not evacuating something from the back end, Angus is usually ingesting something on the front end…digestibility optional.

He ate one of my Pottery Barn German Glass glittered birds...
 
Both ends of the dog evacuate…’nuff said.

Despite my repeated expressions of exasperation, Angus adores me. He is my shadow…which means his toes have been stepped on plenty. And if I move from room to room, so does he. And when I take my own potty break, he scratches at the door until I return.

Let me just say that being adored is quite taxing…

Angus has learned a few things since being in residence here:

Drink lots of water to keep up with Gram’s potty schedule.

The water in the Christmas tree stand is much better flavor.

Eating Fir tree needles makes your gut gurgle.

The biscuits are in the second locker in the utility room. If you stand there long enough and look pathetic you will get one.

If you go outside and go potty, Gram will cheer for you and you can run right into the house and she will give you a treat from the bucket.

Any time the back door opens and closes, run to the bucket for a treat because this is probably why you get something, not for going potty.

If you don’t go poo right away, you get a longer walk.

It’s hard to find the right spot to do your duties outside. You have to sniff and sniff and look and look, but in the house, it is easy! You just find the lightest piece of carpet and go there.

The lightest piece of carpet is in the living room

If you wreck something Gram likes, then she will give you a rawhide to chew on.

If you paw on the crate in the night, you get to see Gram more often…even though she always makes you go out in the cold to pee…It’s still worth it if you are lonely.

The Boss never gets up in the night. He doesn’t care if you are lonely.

I’m starting to believe that Caitlin has chosen the wrong Reform School. There seems to be a disconnect in Angus/Gram communication.

The habits that are becoming ingrained in his little brain, are not the ones I’m trying to put there.

Case in point – our morning walks…We make our way through the oldest part of our raspberry fields, and along a row that is particularly weak, with small canes, and not a lot of them. Angus loves to run up to the row, grasp the end of a drooping cane in his mouth, and neatly incise off the last 8-10 inches of it. So proud, he then runs on to another to repeat.

This poor tired raspberry row! I hate to see it abused further in its weakened state, so when I see Angus about to shorten another cane, I sharply tell him, “NO!” and call him to come. When he leaves the cane and comes, I reward him with a treat.

He has learned this lesson well, and while at first I was proud of him, I have come to doubt this accomplishment. Now when we walk this row, he runs quickly to grab a cane and looks back to make sure that I am watching. When I reprimand, he jogs over immediately to receive his pay…And then he runs to the next cane, and does it all over again…to receive his pay.

I have created a little extortionist.

I think I am teaching him that “NO!” means stop what you are doing. Instead, Angus learned that when you do something that makes Gram yell “NO!”, you get a treat…A quarter mile of extortion every morning as Angus runs from cane to cane. “If you don’t give me a treat, I will crunch this cane…”

I’m pretty sure that Pavlov wouldn’t let me near his dogs…

Worst of all, this little guy has found his way into The Farmer’s heart. When Caitlin offered to take him home after a week, The Farmer (or The Boss, as he is known to the dogs) said Angus should stay here “because I like having him around”…

I will not state the obvious here about who cleans up the messes and who does the nighttime potty runs…as this is an old, old argument that disappeared when the human children became low-maintenance…

And I can only hope that the need for the argument disappears again… I know it will for a short time, because Gram’s Reform School is going to close for the Holidays and the boarder will be sent home.
Angus still loves his Girl...
 
And loves his sis too...in a very active way.
 

If The Farmer/Boss lets him go…
 


Oh Angus…you ARE adorable…please grow up soon! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jingle Bell Run...


On Saturday, we enjoyed our annual jaunt to the Jingle Bell Run. This year, Caitlin decided to include the dogs. Three days before the event, she decided she had better take a trial run with the two of them just to make sure they would actually run and not just wrestle and fight each other while yoked together.

Results of the dry run were manageable, so the money she had spent on outfits for them would not be in vain.


And, anyway, they looked so cute that even if they wrestled and didn’t run, it would still be worth it, in my opinion...but I'm their Gram.

Olive and Angus were so excited that I think every picture of them is blurry…Actually, almost every picture I have ever taken of the two of them is blurry…It is a way of life with those two. This morning, it looked as if they would NOT be lagging behind...but Caitlin might!

In the controlled chaos that is the start of the Jingle Bell Run, we never found Caitlin’s running companions. There are so many participants to the race that it is difficult to make connections… Especially when there are two groups each standing on a different side of the school and each group is thinking they are in the “front”. This didn’t become evident until after the race had started but then those of us who came to spectate found each other. The runners eventually found each other at the finish.

And now we all know for next year which side of the school shall be designated as The Front.

I hope we remember that.

Anyway, Olive and Angus had a great run…and Caitlin managed to keep up without falling and suffering the humiliation of being dragged by 2 small dogs through the streets of Bellingham.



 
And they looked pretty cute while doing it!
 
When all was finished, we got to see Caitlin’s friend, Heidi, with her little sweet one year old, Brooklyn…aka cutest elf ever!!! Brooklyn was celebrating her first birthday by riding in the Jingle Bell Run! She already knows how to party!!

 
We also found Joy, aka the Sugarplum Fairy. Everyone had enjoyed their run – though Olive and Angus seemed to think it was too short. They were obviously bored when all the running ceased.




Bored, but awfully cute...but then, I am their Gram...
And then things got worse for them when they had to spend the next hour in the crates in the car while we went out for breakfast. Joy, along with her parents, our dear friends Spencer and Ruby, joined us. Hot coffee, hot breakfast, good conversation and laughs…a great way to spend a Saturday morning during Christmas time.

I love this Christmas tradition!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thanksgiving Day...


I confess that I spent the first 3 days after Thanksgiving doing nothing at all, to make up for all the days before that I did a lot, and burned off that nervous energy I have when trying to make ready for a big event. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since!

All my early preparation was worth it as the day went off without a hitch. There were no food disasters. In fact, it all tasted very good, and we ate heartily, and repeatedly.

And that was awesome!

 

I tried to set a table that was somewhat festive, in a country sort of way. A nod to Pioneer Woman for the bandanas as napkins idea…



The eating was interspersed with good visiting, puzzle making, games, joking, and though we were primed for football, it took a while to get around to that. I have to say that I LOVE just hanging around with The Fam…some of my favorite people to be with. It was so relaxed, even for me! And that was a new one…I think I’m learning!

 
The dogs provided their usual manic entertainment, as evidenced by the blurry shots of the little ones. Daisie was pleased to lean against everyone, or put her paw on them to let them know she welcomed their attentions.
As the day wound down, Caitlin and I made our entry way into a photo booth for Christmas card pictures. Jess joined in by rummaging up some props, and before we knew it, it had turned into a lot of fun and laughing…Such good sports in our family! It really was not something they would have longed to do…but they did it because I asked them to.

They know how to get to my heart…

We all got so goofy that I’m not sure we can seriously put those pictures on our Christmas cards…Some are really cute, and some are...rare! All in all, it was great entertainment!












 
Most hung around into the evening…It was such an enjoyable and satisfying day.

Everyone from out of town stayed until Friday when we descended on El Ranchito. Sixteen of us went for an early lunch and had the place mostly to ourselves.

It’s so nice to have your extended family be such good friends, and good fun!

As I said last time, if making home is your calling, your vocation, Thanksgiving is just the best holiday ever!

And yes, I am thankful for that!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Mundane, and The Holiday...


It has been a long time since I’ve posted…Mainly because, after baring my soul about things of great importance to me, it seems a little silly to then write that I made a wreath by ripping pages out of an old atlas…which I did. And it was a highlight, though I must admit that pinterest projects are much more about anticipating than executing.

At least, in my case.

But someday I have to write again, and it might as well be now, and I might as well admit that most of life is pretty mundane…

And that’s just fine.

After all, God has us doing things of eternal importance in a world of time with its beginnings and endings. We are seeking everlasting good in the land of the temporal – a holy paradox. Faithfulness in the mundane prepares us for mightiness in the crisis.

So I guess the mundane is of great importance.

And there sure is a lot of it.

This week is Thanksgiving, and that is neither mundane nor silly. I quite like Thanksgiving – the history, the tradition, the family gathering, the exercise of gratefulness. It is a wonderful holiday.

This year, the dinner will be at our house. I think I’ve hosted it about 6 times in the last 12 years…and I must give thanks to Mary Vander Woude who, in the time I was on her catering committee, taught me to WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN, and JUST DO IT – DON’T FRET. I’m not sure what vision I had that caused me to join the catering committee. It was not that one day I would host a dinner for 100+ people…But, if you are on the catering committee, one day you WILL host a dinner for 100+ people. With Mary’s notes, I did it, and didn’t die.

So hosting for 25-35 people is mild compared to that. Still, I have been planning, and checking notes from previous years, while making lists and purchasing, and now preparing. Every year it gets easier, and goes better.

It must be like my Hundred Pie Principle: if you want to make great pies, you just have to make a hundred bad ones first.

I think we’re all relieved that it didn’t take 100 bad Thanksgiving Dinners, though the first few I hosted were blemished by a lot of unnecessary fussing and stressing by me. It’s hard to be thankful when you are mumble-mumbling about the mumble-mumble turkey that isn’t done, and OH NOW WHAT WILL WE DO THANKSGIVING IS RUINED!

Early preparation is key…as is a reasonable expectation of what makes a good Thanksgiving.

Today I diced celery and onions, and am still weeping a little from the experience. The bread for the stuffing is cubed. The turkeys are thawing. Tomorrow cranberry sauce will be made. Wednesday, the brussel sprouts trimmed. The dressing will be assembled. The turkey stuffed and ready for Thursday morning…

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out the best way to place the tables. It’s not like we have dining room that seats 25…We are breaking bread all over the house – but within sight of each other.

It will be a great day…and I will be exhausted afterward. But it will be worth it because we are blessed to have the family gather, for laughs, and visiting, and sharing.

If your occupation in life is to make home, Thanksgiving is the ultimate expression of your vocation. I think that is this holiday’s great appeal. I love to make home, and make people feel at home. And if they feel that way at all during the day, they won’t remember that the turkey wasn’t done on time.

At least, I hope not.

Because I may have about 94 turkeys to go…

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In which I say what I am really thinking...and damn the torpedoes!


Well, the sun has come up and gone down, so it seems that the world will go on even after the election.
I’m trying to take comfort in that.
But I must admit I was looking for this online: A Way to Make the World Go Away
And for the first time ever, I thought, “Where can we go?” I am not inclined to think such a thought. I LOVE this place. It is my HOME – and I am in love with home. I will do anything to make home, and to keep home. I firmly believe that Whatcom County is the best place on earth for me.
But I feel betrayed that we can’t get, or keep, people that represent my point of view in our county government. We are down to one (God bless you, Mr. Crawford!) who does, and I can’t imagine the frustration that is ahead for him. I fear that the progress made in the last four years, when there was fairly balanced representation on the council, will soon be erased.
The mindset that carries the elections today, is not the mindset that created this county. Loggers, miners, farmers, entrepreneurs put in the hard work and used the resources of this land to make Whatcom County. There were numerous times that it was uncertain that Bellingham or Whatcom or Fairhaven or Sehome would survive, but the use of the land secured our history.
Today, that would be impossible. The industries that make Whatcom County available to middle class working families are under attack. Agriculture, a mainstay of our economy, is sagging under the burden of regulation and water issues. Land use policies are impinging on freedoms to farm, to build, to maintain the value of property which is the middle class’ main investment.
So much of the prevailing thought is nonsensical in my opinion. The logical consequences for their policies are poor, and for some people they will be devastating. Voters are willing to choose by emotion, not by thoughtful consideration. Voters leave themselves ignorant and vulnerable to emotional manipulation. Certainly, candidates propose good motives for change, but can their plan actually accomplish it? Voters don’t know. They don’t ask questions. They don’t think.
Those of us who do the research are held hostage by their ignorance. We are punished by their self-righteousness as they equate feeling good with doing good. The majority are so busy with exploiting the advantages of our lifestyle that they have no idea how it came to be. They expect to have everything – or at least more – and expect that there should be no cost to anyone to create this land of no risk and no need.
It doesn’t work that way. There are costs to everything, and in time, the anti-growth, environmental worship, government-should-provide policies will suffocate the productive industries and economies that are the foundation that makes this county work.
I resent that my voice has been drowned out by the self-righteous and nonsensical. I resent that I will have to share in the consequences when they come. I resent that, after generations of hard work and productivity, I will not be able to see my descendants carry on the legacy my ancestors began…because too many voters are ignorant of the facts and vote by their emotion.
Today, I AM bitter…but, as I said, the sun rose again this morning. As often as we say that things are so different nowadays, it is also true that there is nothing new under the sun. I feel that we must work that much harder to inform, and I feel badly for those who have given so much to that effort and saw no reward. It’s discouraging to look forward, and believe that you must give more… How? And sometimes, the thought is Why?
But this is the process of a representative republic…It is at times ugly. It is full of disappointment, and sometimes without compromise between its ideologies. It is The Grand Experiment, this land of liberty. Perhaps we will come to its logical end in this world full of sinners…So far, it is still the best system this world of sinners has seen.
And so, I won’t give up. I’m trying to take the long view and remember that the pursuit of liberty is not a straight progression, or a settled process that is formulaic. Americans preceding our generation have been in situations just as threatening to freedom and have persevered. We need to find the will to do that again, and right here, in our lovely, blessed Whatcom County.
Ever forward, but slowly…

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On the road again...


The Farmer and I went on a little vacation. We had hoped for greater things, such as a trip to Utah to view the natural wonders there, but circumstances conspired against it. Our available time kept getting shorter and shorter, and then, the government shut down…which meant that people couldn’t go see those natural wonders that have been set aside for us. But we could still keep paying our taxes and wondering what percentage of the government actually IS essential.

Why our military and law enforcement agencies had to be deemed non-essential, I don’t know. I don’t mind paying my taxes for that! I do mind paying taxes for the National Endowment for the Arts, and for grants to study why elephants get aggressive (we have such an elephant problem here in the US!) and frankly, I think a lot of the farm subsidies have long outlived their usefulness to the country…and there are a WHOLE bunch more agencies and grants and programs that I could enumerate.

But I won’t, because the people who can do anything useful about them won’t…and because I was really going to tell you about our little vacation.

In lieu of a longer trip to Utah, we headed to the Eastern side of our fair state. But not before spending a day learning about the history of Seattle while traipsing underneath it. I highly recommend the Underground Tour. Though I knew some of the challenging beginnings of Seattle, this tour taught me so much more. What an amazing effort was put into lifting the city above the tidelands! What interesting characters and visionaries were Seattle’s founding fathers! If you have the opportunity – go! And rest assured, it was not creepy or yucky down below. Actually, you are just walking in the basement of a lot of the buildings…It’s just that the basement was once the first floor…

I’ll explain no more…Just go! It’s a great story!

Of course, I left there with books: Bleed, Blister & Purge: A History of Medicine on the American Frontier by Volney Steele. The title says it all, in a way. If you were sick in the American Frontier, you would be bled, blistered or purged…That was all they had in their arsenal against disease. In many cases, the cure was worse than the disease – and was the cause of death! Interestingly, the prevailing philosophy was that sickness must be caused by some toxins in your body that must be purged. Nowadays, they do a “cleanse” which sounds much more pleasant, and probably is, compared to the violent purges they prescribed back in the day. In fact, some of the pills given for purging purposes were called “thunderclappers”…I feel I don’t need to elaborate further. Just the kind of thing you want to go through when you don’t feel well…

Anyway, I found it interesting that the toxins concern persists to this day, and though a gentler method is used, the results are not that different either.

Lucky for you, I haven’t read the other book yet: Sons of the Profits by Bill Speidel, the founder of the Underground Tour, and preserver of local history. I can’t wait to read more about the founders of Seattle. Perhaps another time I will regale you with that information. But now that I have written so much about just the first day of our trip, I will just hit the highlights of the rest.

Because, have mercy, this could otherwise go on forever!

At our tour guide's suggestion, we went to the observation deck of the Smith Tower, the first skyscraper in Seattle, built in 1914. The observation deck on the 35th floor gave us some stunning views of the city on this beautiful day...and for a lot less money than the Space Needle. We had dinner with Jess in Bellevue that night, after killing some time by driving around Mercer Island…had never been there before.


The next day’s highlights included a beautiful drive over Cayuse and Chinook passes…Snow at the top, and vibrant fall colors on the hills! We stopped in Pasco to see Country Mercantile, and were overwhelmed by all the food products and treats you can buy there! From now on, Pasco must be an on-the-way-home stop so we can take home some of that refrigerated food (think tamales!).


We parked ourselves at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla for a couple of days, and loved the town and the accommodations! We did the downtown walk of historic buildings, and didn’t have enough time to exploit all the cute restaurants and shops that were there. We enjoyed the Fort Walla Walla Museum, and driving around the farms on the outskirts of town.

Since the Seahawks were on Thursday Night Football, we had to find a sports bar where we could watch the game. At the recommendation of the hotel staff, we ended up at Red Monkey, and made it in time to get a decent seat. We chatted with the friendly people next to us, and when some friends of theirs came later and had trouble finding seats, we offered the two empty ones at our table. Chris and Amy were lovely company, and since Amy works in her family’s winery, Randy had lots of questions to ask. We chatted all evening, and enjoyed the game, all the while ordering more appetizers, drinks and even desserts!

I’m gonna watch a game that way again!


After Walla Walla, we traveled on to southeast Washington, and more specifically to the Palouse, as I have never been there. We passed through Clarkston and up the Lewiston Hill, which has gorgeous views from the top. We had ice cream at Ferdinand’s on the WSU campus. It was tricky to get a room in Pullman so we ended up in Colfax, and had dinner at the little Mexican restaurant in town (practically the only restaurant in town!) with all the friendly locals.

The next day we drove up Steptoe Butte, at my request…even though by the time we were getting to the top, I was subconsciously leaning far to my left, away from the edge of the road, and finally had to avert my eyes from the precipice.  The narrow road wrapped around the corners, and you could not see where it went…I’ve had dreams like that, and they are never good. If I were rational about these things, I would be calmed by the fact that The Farmer does not have a desire to drive over the edge any more than I do, and he can control the truck.

But, I do not claim to be rational in these things.

Once on my feet at the top, I could gaze out on the miles and miles of beautiful Palouse. Steptoe Butte is an elevation of 3500 feet, and you can see the undulating hills until they disappear into the horizon. It was worth the irrational trauma, I can tell you that!

We had decided to get home yet that day, and once I had seen the Palouse, I told the Farmer to take any which road he wished…and a couple of them turned out to be unpaved…But the countryside was beautiful, and the farms along them, amazing. I did not complain…well, at least not until I needed a rest area stop, and there were none.

Fortunately, not long after that we came to Washtucna and were able to stop for lunch at the only place in town, Sonny’s Tavern. We had a nice visit with the owners while they cooked their chicken special, as we were the only customers in the place. Nice people, who had tried to retire, but got the tavern back after the gal who bought it foreclosed -- but not until running it into the ground. Bless their hearts they starting over at this late stage of life, and hoping to get to retire, for real, again soon. Now that they’re making their special chicken again, the locals are flocking back and the chances are better. That chicken is yummy!

We rolled into Lynden in time to have a late dinner at Bob’s, and then returned home to Daisie, who was also happy to be home again as well.

The days away were a lovely little break, with beautiful weather, and scenery…And my compliments to The Farmer who was quite solicitous of my lower-than-his tolerance for sitting in the car. He was quite careful to break up the road time with rest stops and entertainment stops, and I thought it was perfect!

Which is different than what I’ve thought some other times…

This trip made me quite hopeful that our varied interests can intersect and we can both enjoy a road trip once in a while.

Compromise…we should try that more often!
It certainly worked well for us on this vacation.

About Me

Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life (leslieisverbose.blogspot.com) and one where I can vent. (leslievents.blogspot.com)