Monday, December 29, 2008

Alright, already

Seriously, people, I know. I am finally updating the blog. But, really things have been a bit busy around here. We have had the recuperation from the Stomach Bug of '08, the Trail of Lights, quilt making extravaganza (ie. get them done before Christmas), Recipe Book for Heller Family major creative force, Christmas Eve Service, Johnson City lights, school's out for break, 38 heat packs made, and now the Kidd family visiting. Plus, I worked a couple of shifts at the hospital and promptly became violently ill after returning the last time only to re-experience that Stomach Bug of '08. Here is just a little sampling of our adventures from the last few weeks, save the puking, of course...

This was actually less of a spectacular scene that I had anticipated. Really, the armadillos in the scene below should about sum up how I felt about the Zilker Park Trail of Lights this year.

Just look at the look on Jacob's face. He was NOT happy. He was NOT having fun. And we will NOT go on opening night if we ever go again. If we didn't have such good company it would have been a total flop.

Here is the result of the quilting frenzy. Actually this is only about 1/5 of the final product turned out for Christmas. This, however, was one of my favorites - a Levi's quilt for Dear Ol' Dad (aka. my dad). He only had a minor stroke when he "just knew those jeans would be cut up." Whatever, Dad. This one's for you. I felt it fitting the eagle is made out of fabric with the pledge of allegiance written on it. Sometimes I am very clever.

Now, this place was a real treasure. Johnson City, TX - a small town beauty. The Pedernales Electric Cooperative puts over a million lights into their gorgeous oak treas and it is a sight to behold. Something about this place just made our kids run out of joy. I can't really blame them; I was quite taken as well. Brian and I marveled as we watched our co-op dividends burn up with those pretty lights. I guess the cost is worth it.

Can you stand how adorable they are? I certainly could get used to them dressing like this. I mean, cowboy boots, a belt, and a tie? It doesn't get better than that.

This year we gave the kids the gift of transportation.

And apparently as soon as he got his wheels, he was outta here.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope yours was as wonderful as mine.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A story you might only hear in TX

So, I was at work the other day in my office with a bunch of sick kids (I am a school nurse for those of you who don't know) and we had become overrun. I had three deep on one bench all waiting for parents to pick them up because they were headed home. I like to ask the kids what their parents do so I know which parent to try first or who might be easiest to reach. Two of the kids were talking about how their dads were cowboys - like real cowboys, no kidding around here. I mean they work on the ranch and do cowboy things. As they were discussing the authenticity of their cowboy dads the third child chimes in and says, "My dad wears a cowboy hat all the time, but he's not a cowboy he just sells insurance." Oh Lord, I couldn't even stiffle my laugh. Sometimes kids are so funny.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pageants and Puke

So, yesterday when I was talking about the kids catching a bug, it was figurative. Tonight, well they have a bug. This is the kind of virus that leaves loads of laundry and a gagging father in the wake. But first, there was a pageant. Be patient, I will get to the puking.

Reba and Jacob have been preparing for this year's Christmas pageant for what seems like all year. This year Reba graduated from a cow (last year) to an Angel. And Jacob was a "Cleaning Shepherd" this year. We thought that the pageant directors did a horrible job typecasting these kids, but whatever. Reba was supposed to be an Angel and Jacob was supposed to clean. HA!

Reba had been a little out of sorts right before the play though I was confident that her natural desire to be the center of everything would shine through. Not so, right before the play was to start she broke down in tears looking for "MAAAMMMAA." Oh, Lord help me. So, I took my wailing angel I felt her forehead for fever and we discussed things. When all was considered she decided that I would sit by the piano on the floor and she would go sing. Brilliant. I was only trampled once by wisemen.

Jacob performed like a star. He was a little unsure what to do with the duster he was given to clean with, but he muddled through. We can't blame him for any confusion, it's not like he's ever seen me dust... If you recall last year, we had to do major coaxing to get Jacob even on stage for the dress rehearsal! This year someone told him that next year in second grade he could be Joseph or a wiseman. He was so thrilled. I checked his temperature too.

That night after I had blogged, gone to bed, and was soundly sleeping, we were woken by the sound of a puking child. Reba had made her way to the bathroom, turned on the light, lifted both toilet seats and successfully contained it all in the toilet. Bravo, kid. No wonder she was so off at the play earlier. Mystery solved and Reba got to enjoy a day with Daddy at home.

Fast forward to this evening. Jacob is laying on the couch, the leather couch, crying that his stomach hurt. I was cleaning off the laundry on the other couch for Reba saying, "Just don't puke on my couches. It's all over if you do." Just about midway through my last sentence Jacob starts to puke and totally is just laying in it ON MY COUCH! I was very motherly and caught most of it after sitting him up, moved him to the bathroom, and gently washed him off and changed his clothes. But, the couch... Anyhow, enjoy the pictures of the pageant; I have spared you all the ones of the puke.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saturday Night Dinner

You know how smells can just hit you and bring you back to a place and time - either good or bad? It seems like Christmastime and Advent are prime time for those good aromas to come back to us. I love the smell of our family's Hot Punch on the stove, the fresh cut Christmas tree, the crisp evening night air, scotch tape and wrapping paper (oh, yes, there is a smell), and so many other things.

Last night I was outside right after dinner - probably hiding something from the kids in my trunk - and I walked back into a house of aroma. Instantly it brought me right back to Saturday night dinner. Now I don't mean dinner last Saturday night - I mean what we knew in our childhood to be the standing arrangements for every Saturday night, dinner with the whole family at Grandma and Grandpa's. This was no ordinary event. This was the weekly family tradition steeped in strong family ties, hilarity between siblings, hilarity between cousins, glass glasses that spilled when you bumped the card table, nights of "programs" put on by the third generation, dress up clothes and quilt forts, trampoline coffee tables (serious here, folks), rolls that were always forgotten in the oven, malts for desert, arms resting on top of your head (a common familial position), and usually going home so tired you pretended you were asleep just so someone would carry you in. Sigh... Those were the times.

Cardboard Box Genius

My children have clearly caught my bug. Not the hacking, coughing, earache, sinus pain bug that I can't seem to get rid of - the cardboard box creative bug! Just look at these masterpieces. Geniuses at work here, people. Jacob crafted these cameras the other day. There's a telephoto lens on that FiberOne model. I wish I had a picture of the kids with them, but alas I took these just a few minutes ago and waking kids up at 10:30pm to take pictures of their cardboard box cameras is, well, silly. So, here's some shots leftover from Thanksgiving so you get your dose of adorable.

We seem to have a plethora of cereal boxes around our house. It's not that we eat an extraordinary amount of cereal - it's just that they sit in the garage until they are bundled for recycling downtown (CA transplants - it's hard not recycle your cardboard) and it can take several months for us to get around to it. At some point my children were looking for a new medium to create in and discovered this virtually untouched source. BOXES!!

I can relate to this love for boxes. It seems like you could really make anything out of them. My all time favorite thing to do was make Halloween Costumes out of them. There was the Milk Carton costume we made for my sister Jenny complete with the face cutout for "Have you seen me?". There was the refrigerator that I won best costume for - I even had a plug coming out the back. There was the Christmas Present (I was so cute). And there was even the ET lunch box costume for Molly - I think she did this one mostly on her own. My senior prediction was even something to do with finding my fortune in cardboard box costumes. I am so proud that my children have discovered this love.

So far my kids have just stuck with some basics - a good fort now and then when we have a giant box, some mailboxes, and those cameras. I am eager to see what they will make next. We have seen some fun accessories, though. The mailboxes came complete with mail. My special delivery came with some ads and a love note. I might have to run out to Lowes and get that Brown Mulch - what a deal.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving Thanks and The Edifice

We are so very grateful this year. Though not nearly as life changing as last year this year has been especially wonderful for our family. We have been blessed many times over with friends, family, steady employment, dependable cars, good neighbors, dogs that love us, and exceptional children (usually). Could we really ask for more?

We were lucky enough to have the in-laws in town for the holiday - this has become a tradition now that we all look forward to. We spend the better part of the week on some massive home improvement undertaking and then Thanksgiving day we spend cooking, talking, and filling the house with amazing smells. Last year we were the grateful recipients of a brick lined planter in the front yard. This year the kids scored big time with a custom built fort and jungle gym complete with swing, trapeze/rings, and climbing rock wall. Their grandpa obsessed over the "fort" for probably about 200 hours and that is likely a gross understatement. The end result is an "edifice" that will withstand many years of playing and imagination.

The meal this year was just as amazing as last year. We pulled out all the Hill Country TX recipes complete with a smoked turkey and barbecue sauce. An added treat this Thanksgiving was the presence of our friends. There is something about a large gathering around my dining room table that brings warmth to my heart. This was a perfect day to spend with our friends as we are so very grateful for their friendship. Their presence also added some hilarity to the evening when their 4 year old got up from the table, confidently filled his cup with ice from the dispenser on the fridge door, then asked, "Which one does the lemonade come out of?" Brian said that just as soon as he can figure out how to install the one that beer comes out of he would put the lemonade spigot in too.

I hope your meal and your company were just as wonderful this year as ours. Here's to next year. May your cup runneth over.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meanwhile back at the Ranch...

Some things never change. I flew in for a super quick trip, just a few days in CA, and managed to make it for the epic yard sale. My parents are known for good yard sales. This one was no different. After eliminating a storage unit they discovered copious treasures that surely someone would buy. During this event I visited with neighbors, drank too much lemonade from the young entrepreneurs down the street, and managed to rescue a couple of items for myself (she was trying to pull a fast one and sell yards of wool with me right there - can you believe it?). I took some pictures of the actual sale, but who wants to look at a bunch of junk?

I had only enough time to eat dinner out with the extended family, get to church, visit with Grandma Luce, chat with my cousin match, Jessica, teach a little Sex Ed to 5th and 6th graders (the real purpose I was traveling), and eat WAY too much Mexican food. All in all, a jam packed weekend, but I wish I had time for more. So many faces I didn't get to see... Next time perhaps.

I did have to make it back to TX for my Hill Country Thanksgiving! My in-laws are here to celebrate (and build us a jungle gym). I am looking forward to a Smoked Turkey and some good old fashioned Texas treats. Stay tuned for the Turkey Day pics and some of the new edifice in our backyard.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dirty Jobs

So, yes, I know, it's been a rather long spell since I last posted. I'm here to tell you that this day job thing is cutting way into my blogging schedule. I mean what a pain, I wake up at 5:45, get dressed, get kids up and going, drop a child off at school, then I work all day, only to get home and repeat the whole nutty thing. 5 days a week of this! How do you people do this? To top this off I am working a hospital shift everyother weekend still. What kind of crazy am I. Again, how do you people do this?

Anyhow, things around here have been actually quite busy. For starters Aunt Jenny moved out to a house down the road a bit. We helped pack up our beloved Grandma and Grandpa Dentist for their move to Wisconsin and Jenny has the priveledge of a long term house sitting arrangement. I was not prepared for how emotional I would get over my sister moving out of my house. I am not ashamed to say that we both cried. Who knew? After 10+ years of not living under the same roof you would think that living together would have been tougher. Not so, living apart seems more difficult. Things have been quieter around here - especially with the added departure of Jenny's dog, Coach. Now we only have three dogs. What will we do?

I have been quilting, moving back to the dining room table for sewing central. Jenny took back her sewing cabinet, and frankly I kinda like sewing at the table. Darn that pesky Thanksgiving meal that I have to put the sewing machine away for. The family wants to eat in the diningroom - whatever. Quilt tops have been flying out of my machine. After inheriting some amazing books from the one and only Grandma Dentist I have been hot to try every one. I know, big nerd, right here. I am soaking up all the knowledge on this I can. I even called my Grandma Luce to talk about our family quilts. She and I agreed that my quilt from my great grandma was made of almost all 1930s/40s era feedsack! Only other big quilt nerds would be excited over that discovery I just realized.

In other news, our children continue to crack us up. We make no bones about the fact that Jacob is allowed to watch a somewhat questionable show as one of his two shows we actually Tivo for him. Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe is probably one of the funniest and most educational shows on the air. As a Discovery Channel show we feel it is generally ok. Unfortunately for us this has provided us with more than one occasion for a lesson on appropriate language. Just the other day Brian said in some other context, "Kick your..." and Jacob filled in, "Ass!" So proud of himself and then quickly deflated as we explained why we don't use that word in our house. "But Mike Rowe..." was his quick response. Yeah, we know, but Mike Rowe everything lately.

We just had Reba's parent conference where the teacher gushed about how brilliant our 4-year-old is. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. She can read, she can write, she can do calculus (not really, but you get the idea). When she asked us about our goals for Reba we responded with, "We'd really like her to be able to catch and throw a ball - simple gross motor stuff really." Mostly I would just like to throw Reba a ball without it boucing off of her chest. This is really just to save her all the embarrassment I suffered as a youth.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I know, I know. I forgot to take a picture of my kids but I remembered to take one of the Jack-o-Lanterns. Just so you don't think I really suck, I took these pictures the day after Halloween. Anyhow, just thought I would share how very clever we are. Brian's is the "Boo" pumpkin and mine is the "mice." I am really not that clever - I saw the mice in a magazine - I just thought mine was cuter. The kids' pumpkins were a carve by number so I didn't really feel inspired to post those. Sorry, if you are disappointed.

A visit from Grandpa

My dad paid us a visit recently on one of his semi-regular trips to TX. Jenny and I knew the instant we heard he was coming that a certain couple of puppies would get his undivided attention. We were not wrong. My soft spot for four legged terrors definitely was inherited from this man (though my mother won't admit it, she also had something to do with this). He is a sucker for a puppy and our little Coach and Bailey were no exception. We now have the most photographed puppies in TX thanks to Dad.

Incidentally the granddogs love him right back. Tut was actually the first one to give "Grandpa" a hug. I guess he missed him.

A sick day

I finally have succumbed to the Austin allergies and have developed a reactive airway disease (one step away from asthma). Ultimately I couldn't breathe and took a day off from work to get an official diagnosis and meds from the doctor (nurses are the worst about going to the doctor). My day off just happened to be Halloween and so I was able to send the kids off to school in costume without the stress of a normal morning.

The best part of my sick day was getting to observe my boy and his daddy walking home from school. This is a daily thing for them, but it struck a chord in my heart. How cute are they? By the way, Jacob was a UT Football player for Halloween (for the character book parade at school he was Buzz from the Fly Guy series and carried the football book with him as well as a fly in a jar). The costume/uniform was a very beloved hand me down from dear friends whose child wore it a year ago and is 11 now. You can see how big it was on him - he didn't care. And I am totally the horrible parent that didn't take any pictures of her fairy princess. Some other mom got a great pic of Reba and promised to email it to me later - I will post it then.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Pat's Adventure

There is a long standing argument in Philly - which cheese steak is the best? Pat's, Geno's, or Jim's? They equally give me indigestion and make me wish I had never set out to eat one in the first place. However there is one that stands out as the best. Pat's Philly Cheese steak is the choice of this group of culinary wannabes. After completely stuffing ourselves silly at the brunch after the wedding, devouring home cooked goods that could have sustained the entire army at Valley Forge for the winter, we decided a great idea would be to go downtown and get us some Pat's. Some of us had the better sense to share our cheese steaks (ahem, Brian) and some of us did not. It is rumored here at Pat's that the cheese steak line is somewhat reminiscent of the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld. I have always been too nervous to test the theory.