Monday, June 23, 2008

More Stuff About Julie

Julie will stand between me and a live bear commanding me to "BE QUIET!" and shove me to get back.

Julie has never seen a live bear except at the zoo. I have.

Julie forgets to take her blood sugar levels.

Julie knows how to change the time on my son's digital watch and knows how to tell me to program my cell phone. Julie is tech savvy.

Julie doesn't get hot and sweaty like I do.

Julie doesn't get hungry as often as I do.

Julie will criticize you if you break out in Karen Carpenter tunes while on the trail.

Julie doesn't complain.

When in doubt, Julie prays!

Julie doesn't grumble while hanging on the side of a cliff waiting to get the top of Half Dome. I do.

Julie wants to go to the edge of a cliff and look over. Crazy woman.

Julie walks faster during the second part of the day. I, however, walk slower during the second part of the day.

Julie refrains from making the sick jokes I am thinking of when we see the naked guy at the river pulling on his swim trunks.

Julie doesn't say, "Hi," to the naked guy. I do.

Julie has never seen a naked guy pulling on his swim trunks at the side of a river.

I admit, neither had I, until yesterday.

A memorable day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Stuff About Julie

This is just stuff about my friend Julie who is Hiking Half Dome with Me, Sunday, June 22, 2008.

She scares me. She’ll probably kick my butt to the top of that rock. She can do at least one perfect push-up and probably more but she’s too humble. She won’t show off. I like that Julie won’t show off. No one needs an inferiority complex, at least not when they are combating cellulite and wrinkles.

Maybe you want to know why I know she can do a perfect push-up? She teaches our homeschool PE class. She actually teaches kids how to do at least one perfect push-up. That's one subject I can't teach.

Julie smiles and laughs but the wheels behind her sparkly eyes are turning. One of these days I plan to catch her in an all out belly laugh. I know she is capable. She is really funny.

She has a great blog and way too much time on her hands to be that creative. Perhaps she doesn’t sleep at night?

She takes great pictures. The picture of me and my family in front of bamboo at the zoo; she took that. As I got a closer look at her blog, I realized those weren’t borrowed pictures from some nebula of the world wide galaxy, no! SHE takes those pictures.

Julie knows everyone and has been everywhere... except the top of Half Dome. I’ve been there. She hasn’t. It’s the only thing I can hold over her head.

Julie’s 3 children are nearly the same ages as my 3 children. They are the only other children I know who enjoy playing chess.

Julie homeschools like me. We both use Saxon Math. We both use Institute for Excellence in Writing. We both like Apologia. We both wonder if we’ll come out alive on the other end of homeschooling.

Julie sings. I don’t know how good she is, but when I look at every other aspect of her life, I’m thinking she’s probably pretty good and since I sing too, maybe one day we’ll do a duet! As I think about it, I wonder if she’s good at dancing. Maybe we’ll do the Happy Dance on top of Half Dome!

Julie wears a cool leather jacket in the winter. I need a cool black leather jacket. Doesn’t everyone?

One thing everyone needs, is a friend like Julie they can hike 8 miles with... or 10 miles... or be crazy enough to hike 16 miles or 20 miles to the top of some stupid rock that most people only see in postcards. Pray for us on June 22.

You can check out Julie’s blog. She has a tracker so you can go on a virtual hike with us!

Since you can’t actually hike with us, I wanted to share the one perfect view of the infamous cables which most represents what I saw last year when I hiked in September. Climbing the cables defies logic, yet it can be done. The fact that it seems impossible and yet is possible is a metaphor for my spiritual life, but I’ll save that blog for another day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Road Trip Survival Kit

I thought I’d blog about road tripping and attempt to give advice, not that anyone in their right mind is going anywhere this summer with the price of gas hitting an all time outer-space high, yet in the spirit of summer, I decided to impart wisdom for anyone with any aged children who have the courage to strap them into a vehicle for hours and hours and hours. One of my friends whose child-rearing advice has kept me on the straight and narrow, asked ME what I thought about road trips to add to her own kit of survival techniques. So, here it is: advice from 2 moms who’ve survived road trips with children in the back seat of the car and have lived to write about it.

Mom One Wrote: Just like at home, we have a car routine.

There are.......
* music times
* quiet times (for I-pods and DS)
* talking times
* singing times which always turn into joke telling time
* snack times
* story times (always always always have books on cd to listen to! - library has a great selection) Most recent treasure: The BFG by Roald Dahl

When the kids were littler, we would say something like, "Okay, after the next stop we'll be having an hour of quiet time." Or, if the kids were asking for music we'd reply with, "Talking time will be over in 20 minutes and then we'll turn on something for us all to listen to." It is helpful for each child to have a watch.

Before hand, I had the kid's make their own "car boxes"... a shoebox, decorated at will and stuffed with all the little things they like to play with. Often I would throw in little surprises like a new pen, small notebook, candy that takes a long time to eat, stickers, even chenille stems or paper clips keep the oldest kids busy. Also - if it doesn't fit in the box, it doesn't join us (except pillows and blankies)

Another "ahead of time" thing is to make maps (off of google).... I simply print them out and put them in the report folders so the kids can following along as we get to certain cities, etc. It helps them get a sense of how far we have come and where we're going. You can do a lot with this, naming hotels, making a travel journal, etc, but I never got that fancy.

At each stop (bathroom breaks, gassing up, arrival), we always do a "garbage check"... this seems to keep the car clean of coloring pages, juice bags and gum wrappers. Everyone is supposed to grab as much garbage as they can carry.

One punitive form of control we use is the "sit on the hands" time out. If they are touching each other or otherwise causing mischief, they have to sit on their hands.

Mom Two Wrote: Stuff we figured out the hard way, that saved our sanity on road trips:

Problem: Kids fighting over who gets to choose the bed at the hotel or push the button on the elevator or choose the fast food place for lunch or which side of the car to sit on, etc.
Solution: For families with two kids, one is assigned even days and the other odd days. Throughout the trip, whenever a conflict arises, ask whose day it is.*

Problem: Bickering in the car or otherwise getting on each others' nerves
Solution: Before leaving, discuss the rules (below) that apply to car trips. Explain that these are needed because when we have no choice but to be strapped into the car with each other, we need extra boundaries to protect personal space and peace of mind.

Problem: It takes time to get used to the new rules; everybody is going to accidentally break them some time.
Solution: Start the trip by giving each child a roll of coins (obviously, this isn't for very young children who might choke on them). Whenever they break a rule, they have to give one coin to a parent.** However much money they have left upon arrival at your destination, they get to spend.***
*We assigned the younger child the odd days, because every once in a while, there are two days in a row (May 31st followed by June 1, etc.) and that sort of makes up for the fact that the older child got to choose first for several years, up until the younger one got old enough to speak up for himself!

**Forfeited coins can be earned back by asking, 'What can I do to help?' whenever the family is loading or unloading the car each night/morning at the hotel, or by getting 'caught' following the rules further down the road.

***Ideas for variations include a roll of fifty pennies, reused each day, can be redeemed with the parent for silver change to buy one snack from the vending machine that night (quick payoff for younger or more impatient kids). A roll of nickels, dimes, or quarters, based on your budget and the length of your trip, can be souvenir money used at a specified destination. (The older the child, the longer you can delay the gratification.)
For anyone who thinks all this mumbo-jumbo is a bunch-a-hooey ought to read my friend Jill’s Blog on the topic. Let’s just say, she is otherwise the ideal mother, however in her Road Trip Survival Kit there is a lot of sugar involved! Sanity can come at any price and she is not beyond bribery to get from point A to point B. Honestly, are any of us?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mushroom Shaped Wooden Garlic Masher

I’m not much of a cook. Eating is merely a necessary evil in my house. I admit there are a few things I make that are out-of- this-world tasty. The creamy chicken recipe I found off the internet and the salmon with thyme seasoning and tangy sauce I pulled out of magazine make my mouth water. Otherwise I douse things with butter and garlic. My food is edible at least. Joe doesn’t complain. He is a peanut butter and jelly kind a guy which probably explains why he married me.

When I was visiting in Texas a few months ago my “gourmet” friend... the one who won’t eat at my house and shows up with groceries in hand so she can do the cooking....put me to work in her kitchen making the same old delicious “chicken thingy” I’ve eaten at her hand for the last 20 years. When we were cooking I learned that I had been using the wrong cheese all these years. “Not THAT WHITE cheese... the OTHER WHITE cheese!” Geez! I thought it was me. Then in her motherly way she reassured me that her sister, too, calls each and every time she makes the “chicken thingy” to find out WHICH WHITE cheese is it again? Now, at least, I know why mine never turns out as good as hers. This, however, is all besides the point because what I really want to talk about is the fact that they don’t love it like I do.

What is it? You ask. What don’t they love like you do?

The mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher.

The mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher was inspiration. I’m guessing my gourmet friend has owned hers for years. I may have even used it before while under her tutelage or direction, but it was on this recent occasion that it made an impression. I was in charge of the garlic mashing on the night we cooked in Texas and I got to use the mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher. My life will never be the same.

You grab this mushroom shaped wooden thingy and whamo! It’s great. The skin of the garlic falls off. With your fingers you can successfully peel the skin and with a few finishing slices, you have “pressed” garlic. You can entertain with confidence knowing your guests won’t fall prey to unwanted chunks of this biting bulb as they savor the gentle aroma of sweet and spicy garlic. It’s so fine. It’s pureed. It’s beautiful.

Please don’t try to sell me on any other garlic gadget. I’m not interested. I’ve tried a few. The tools I invariably choose are my faithful henckel knife and my very own fingertips. It saves me the trouble of scraping out papery garlic leftovers from hopelessly ineffective gadgets. No, the mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher is what I want. It is what I need.

In my hunt to find the mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher, which my gourmet friend seems to have owned for years, I hit a lot of googley dead-ends. Eventually, I found it mentioned in blogs among the “useless” tools in the recesses of many cook’s kitchen drawers. The audacity! Can you imagine? I want this thing! They must not be able to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher.. They are short-sighted and they are really missing out. They just don’t love it like I do. Do you think someone would mail theirs to me? Should I send a note to someone I don’t know and ask them for their tool? Maybe they’ll trade me for my useless plastic egg poacher or my useless cheese slicer or better yet, my very useless garlic press whose packaging promised “no more tedious peeling”? Maybe we should have a Bloggers Garage Sale? Would that work?

In case it doesn’t, I have found one source for my mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher but it’s in Britain somewhere. I’m sure I can work my way through the red tape of currency systems, but it would be a lot easier to buy one on this side of the world. Does anyone know where I might find one of these? Does someone have one stuck in their drawer they’d be willing to donate to a cook who doesn’t like to cook except when cooking garlic? Will someone help me find a way to own the one cooking utensil I really want? The mushroom shaped wooden garlic masher will surely make me happy and if it doesn’t, at least I will be one person who is sure to use it and will love it!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

And They Lived.....

The Happily Ever After isn’t all done yet, but for the moment we are exercising our “attitude of gratitude” muscle. The “attitude of gratitude” muscle gets stronger with each passing year and with each obstacle overcome.

Many years ago a friend challenged us to write down our dreams, to not just talk about them ambiguously but to put them down on paper. She generously took our kids overnight so we could focus on just us. It was the inspiration birthed on that occasion which eventually gave us the courage to move away from everything we’ve ever known and move to Colorado. It was a dream come true in many respects and an incredible opportunity to grow as individuals. We are here now, however, and we can only look back and reflect with an “attitude of gratitude” at all that God did in us during our Colorado Season and in all the seasons before that one. Others may look at the outside and not see much difference, but we can see that each season has refined our hearts and fortified the backbone of our marriage.

One night at dinner Joe said, “What would you list as our greatest accomplishments?” Wow! What a question! We had fun evaluating our history and coming to the conclusion that at every turn, God has done immeasurably more than we could have asked or imagined. Joe then told me to pull out the handy dandy notebook so we could, once again, write down our hopes and dreams..... We titled it, The Next Twenty Years.

Rest assured California friends, “moving to Colorado” isn’t on the list as it once was. However, this list, like the last one, was filled with the hopes and dreams of who we might become and how we might live for others. This new list has words on it like “good health” and “grandkids,” things we didn’t think much about before. This new list will hopefully set the stage for another similar list 20 years from now.

Our job for the time being is to simply Live Happily as long as God sees fit to give us each other and days on this earth. I pray that we are faithful to each and every day and that our children and grandchildren will someday say that we did, indeed, “Live Happily Ever After.”