Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is it Fall?

I have a sweatshirt on.  Tonight there was a certain chill in the air as we watched the kids kick the soccer ball around the field.  Jay had his sweatshirt on.  Mac had his sweatshirt that has been passed down from Aiden who received from Salem who got it from Justice (that thing is indestructible, ok, it is a little faded, but it’s a blue hoodie, I just couldn’t get rid of it).  Aiden just spent the time running up and down the field kicking the soccer ball the whole time.  Jay even mentioned he thought Aiden was the best dribbler of the boys at that age so far.  The thing is....there are some things this week that have felt like fall, in a legitimate way.  I bought 2 cans of pumpkin at the grocery store this week.  I have corn hanging over the doorway, drying out.  We are wearing sweatshirts because we are cold, not because we are supposed to.  I have homework, and so does Jay and so do our elementary aged children, and if they don’t have homework then I give them some (I am really hardcore making Salem count ice cream scoops while secretly doing math :)).  Jay is eating sourdough pretzels with hummus and that seems strangely fallish in some weird way.  There are no pumpkins hanging around.  The trees are not changing color and I would not say that the air is crisp, but this is more than we have had in the past and we are relishing it.  We even had some good flavored coffee the other day.  It was amazing and made it feel like the fall!  
To Autumn and all its flavors, smells, feels, foods and lovebursts!

Here is a link to the highlights of our summer!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010



I love being able to bring back some things my husband loves (and consequently most of my kids and usually myself) from America. He loves electronics and photography equipment but the cost and sometimes cumbersome packaging keeps me from making these purchases for atrip back to the Middle East. As a result, the "things" I love to bring back often results in some sort of prepackaged, very well preserved food that our family misses or just discovered.This time I brought back Brach's Candy Corn so we could pretend to enjoy the autumn here and nearly all of it has since been devoured. Slim Jims became our iconic road trip snack food (even for my two year old whose whole body stiffens up nearly threatening to go into convulsions when spotting the well known packaging). I also brought some Jolly Ranchers for my hubby's desk, so he can enjoy the sweetness of his favorite flavor, watermelon!
Now, for me personally, this awesome girl gave me a peanut butter jar filled with a divine mixture of rich, dark chocolate and creamy peanut butter. it looks like the concoctions from those old Recess Peanut Butter Cup commercials in the 80's. I treat it like gold!
Does anyone really know what this word actually means? I know I can look it up as I am writing this right now, but I think it might be more fun to give you an example.

Cadillac Ranch.You ever heard of it? In the great Lone Star State there is a "town" where we were sure Hank Hill actually resided as we peaked around every neighborhood corner watching for a group of men standing outside their backyard fence drinking their beers together. Amarillo is stereotype western desert city. Cadillac Ranch is just the icing on this cake. Think large corn field (no trees, not Midwest) with 10 Cadillac hoods buried in the ground and their tails flying in the air. Various social groups come and paint them for any reason they deem worthy and sometimes they are all painted the same color for a nationwide cause like breast cancer awareness. We stopped, took some pictures and even had a free tour guide who visits the ranch regularly and somehow knows the whole history of this event. It was a fun 10 minute stop leaving enough time for the kids to hope to find some leftover paint. They found it, then they left their own marks. This act seems suddenly so animalistic, like a dog marking his territory.
Learning to Fly
I love that my son really likes adventure and isn't really afraid of a lot of things, but at the same time, it makes me wonder what kind of adventures he will need when he is a teenager....

The ropes course at camp was a very attractive sight to my kids, especially my big one. He learned to fly...

He took a leap of faith...

and this mom hopes he is always ready to fly and watching for that next leap.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Grass and Geese

I have always taken grass for granted. Grass is amazing! It is outdoor carpet! The softest most refreshing place to sit or lie down and simply enjoy. Kids instinctively know that grass is great to play and run and get my point. I know that sometimes it gets dried up and sometimes there are living creatures in it, but come on. This stuff is awesome! Why do I think that? Because where we live, grass is pretty much non existent and if you do happen to see it is usually in some sort of formal garden that never gets played in by anyone! So, I got really excited about go

ing to camp this summer. We were going to see so many birds, bugs and other creepy crawlies that belonged to the animal kingdom, experience some awesome midwest thunderstorms, and just be out in the great outdoors. When we arrived, the first thing I did was grab my 2 oldest boys and take them to the water hole to check out the swimming opportunities. It seemed there would be a bit of a shortcut on the grass so, of course, I want

ed to feel the grass tickle my feet while my shoes flipped and flopped! Upon arriving to the luscious green we immediately spotted random droppings placing a massive amount of obstacles to our shortcut! No matter, we were in the grass, we can work around it, besides the alternate route is now too far out of the way. Needless to say, what started out as a great memory of grass gently brushing our feet turned into a high anxiety drama of narrowly escaping geese droppings.

Hot Holiday

If you are ever in Indiana during the summer months and need a place for cooling off fun, I highly recommend going to Santa Claus, Indiana. That's right, there is a town called Santa Claus and yes it is decorated for Christmas year round, and I'm pretty sure the mayor is actually Santa Claus himself. They have an amusement park, called Holiday World divided into holiday lands (would you expect anything less), and a great water park! We enjoyed the slippery slides on the hottest summer day while the baby slept the heat away in the rental wagon (in the shade).


To Ian Warren Manbeck, the cousin of my children. We love you and we miss all your crazy antics and you are just an awesome kid! We love you!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Johnson City New York has some unique history in their town. There was a man during the depression that wanted the children to enjoy some things that they wouldn't need to spend a lot of money on so, at every park in the city there stands a carousel for anyone who wants to enjoy a ride. We went with our friends to the park specifically to ride the carousel, but upon arriving we were completely enamored with this fiddler who seemed to hold the secret powers to get your feet tapping and your hands clapping! We stomped our feet on the carousel, we clapped our hand going down the slide, we bobbed our heads on the swings, it was infectious. Suddenly, my husband's face appeared in front of mine grasping for air while he asks, "Hey, do you have ten bucks on you?" I promptly pulled out the 10 dollar bill that I had placed in my pocket "just in case" and gave it to him asking, "What is this for?" but he had already disappeared into the crowd. He returned with a CD. The name on the cover, "Driftwood". "That's the group that just got done playing on stage." Jay says. "The one with the fiddle?" I say. "The one with the fiddle." Awesome, we just went another step in acquiring some new music. I highly recommend listening to Walking Into the Sun and Talkin' Walmart, but if you really need to hear that fiddle you will need to listen to "Cigarette Addiction".


A great conflict has risen in this nation that has affected all of our futures. But as I consider the implications of what many are saying is the only solution, I am left with a significant dilema. If all the illegal immigrants in Southwest America are actually driven back over the border, what will happen to all the food they make so well?

While we were in Phoenix the headlines were filled with news about the crackdown on illegal immigrants. Everyone was saying that it is only going to get worse, and as I contemplated these events, I could only envision them being chased back across the border as we beg them to toss back their freshly made tortillas while they dive onto Mexican soil.

Many of us have to admit that we thoroughly love their food. The more authentic you can get, the better. We were privileged to experience two places that we felt fit this category. So, if you ever happen to be in Newport Beach, there is a great place in town called El Ranchito. We happened upon their $5 Taco Tuesday Bar which was fabulous and all you can eat. Great taquitos, great guacamole. and great tacos too!

In Phoenix there is a family owned restaurant called Garcia's. It is a great restaurant to take pictures if you are just passing through and love to do that sort of thing. However, one must not believe that just because one orders a Fajita Quesadilla that it will closely resemble the Fajita Quesadilla from the ever so popular (name of casual American dining restaurant here). Garcia's Fajita Quesadilla defiantly blasts the chain restaurant version into the subzero temperatures of the arctic where food is scarce and flavor is of minute concern. If you find yourself in Phoenix needing some down home salsafying satisfaction, it will happen at Garcia's.

After little girls' dreams have come true and their wedding day is over, they look forward to spending romantic evenings and weekends being whisked away by their knights. Any girl turned woman loves being treated like royalty and anytime that royal treatment takes place- a date, a weekend away, returning to your honeymoon suite- it can only be plus points for the guy who is taking the gal. Well, my guy charged himself up in the plus point ranking for our anniversary. Although we had a whirlwind schedule for the summer, he took some time, a little extra money, and pleaded for some help for childcare to make sure we had a night out.
I bought a new dress (and of course, "needed" hehe, new shoes to go along), Jay slipped on a dress jacket...

and we headed out for dinner and a show at Beef and Boards. Fancy dinner and dessert followed by Broadway's Musical "Camelot".

We showed up early for dinner and recognized our lack of salt and pepper hair while we were still in the parking lot. So the questions began. Would we enjoy the show? Did we arrive too early? Are we overdressed? As we continued observing, a little tiny spark of a giggle was born way down deep within me. As we were seated at our table we noticed another couple had already been sat, and naturally we introduced ourselves.

"Hello. I'm J and this is my wife, K."
"Hello. This is my wife Lou and I am Hghgh(garble,garble)"
Is this your first time here?
...Are you celebrating something special?
...What are you celebrating?
Our anniversary...
...Oh, so how long have you all been married? (while looking at the husband)
Oh you are supposed to ask the wife that question!
Oh? Why is that?
So the husband doesn't get in trouble!
Ok. Good to know. So, how long have you been married, Lou?
27 years.
Wow. That's quite a feat these days. What's the secret to staying married for so long?
Husband leans over and in a fake whisper says, "You forget really quickly"...... (Crickets chirping uncomfortably).....
...So, do you have any kids?
...How many?
Girls, then.
2 girls and 1 boy.
How old are they?

Are you all catching on here? The giggle that was born in the parking lot was growing rapidly. I was having lovely daydreams about being a dentist and my assistant handing me the pliers, but the tooth just was not going to come. We would have to resort to drastic measures if dinner was going to be very much longer or my giggler was going to be released inappropriately. I was wondering how a couple like that got together in the first place if they are completely unwilling to allow you to know them.

Younger couples did arrive.....later. Dinner was served and the show was great. My giggler? It was appropriately released on the ride home as my husband replayed the evening. It was great exercise for my abs.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ABCs of Our Summer

Amphibian Atrocity

Going out west has so many charms and notions of wonder in my mind that I often forget about the little adventures involved in achieving the grander goal of "A Road Trip out West". You have the big sky, the vast plains, the ability to see for miles and miles. We were charging out there with 250 horses (or the equivalent thereof) and breathing in the Nebraska plains after our family dinner at Perkins. We could see an entire thunderhead leading the approaching cold-front covering the sky like a mom shaking a blanket out over her child and allowing it to softly nestle into every nook of her child's curled up body. We began to see light flashing in the massive cloud at varying intervals. The herds of Black Angus were being led away from their grazing to shelter. As the sky grew more ominous we began to hear thunder coursing through our ears and overtaking the senses. The sun was setting behind the storm and rain pellets pummeled our van adding to the orchestra. Then we felt these bumps in the road and upon closer inspection we could see thousands of white spots on the road all caught up in their very own game of Frogger!!!!! We were witnessing the last split seconds of thousands of froggy lives!!! My hand instinctively covered my dropped jaw while the smell of death arrived. Death had replaced freshness. Horror had replaced awe. And we still had 2 more hours to think about the little creatures we had just sent to heaven. :)

I have noticed something about cows. They don't exercise very much. They don't seem to be the kind of animal that is just looking for some excitement while working on their grazing duties. They can be fun to look at the first couple times you drive by them, but then it just becomes another juicy steak in preparation. I only came upon these observations when we recently spent a couple of days observing Bison in Yellowstone. Bison move! They not only walk a lot more often, but they spontaneously break out running with or without reason. The herd is in constant motion and during mating season, when we saw them, males will frequently charge other males as they compete for territory and/or a partner. It is amazing to observe this behavior at those very convenient pull offs and they the herd is half a mile away. There is something about a single log barrier placed around only ten parking spaces that provides an enormous sense of security. We discovered, however, that Bison do not necessarily feel the need to remain only on green pastures, and a black road is no barrier in their eyes. We were stopped on the Yellowstone loop as a small herd of Bison decided to cross the street and do some of their bickering at the same time. We watched a full grown male flip over on his back (as if he was a feather) and ferociously rub his back on the ground kicking up a sand storm that can only compete with sand storms I have seen in the Middle East. Then he flipped back to his feet with the grace of a ballerina and started stomping the ground with his front hoof while looking through his brow at the road. There was a wide camper in front of us. My imagination was running. What could a Bison do to a vehicle? What should I do if someone gets hurt? How fast could our car get out of here? This mass of muscle was easily as tall as my six foot four inch husband. Did you know that a full grown Bison can run up to 30 miles per hour! Those things are athletic beasts! When we saw another full grown male running away on the other side of the road we were able to come to the conclusion that there was some territory protection happening. Just as we were catching our breath from that event, another male was walking beside our vehicle, a younger male. His head was still as wide as a standard front door. He had a "little" lady friend with him and decided to try to impress her about 6 inches from the back row of our van, where I was sitting. He started throwing his head around like a rock star on his guitar solo and got so excited he bucked his hind feet in the air. I could see he was about to throw his back to the ground or charge at any given moment and could only stand up in the van and yell at my husband to get this car out of here right now! It was either yell at my husband or somehow use that van to fight that bison! Mama Bear was about to be loosed!


I have very fond memories of climbing into the back of my grandfather's 1940 Chevrolet for a ride. I remember how bouncy the seat was and thinking it would be an awesome bed to jump on. I remember the rush of fear I would feel at the fact that there were no seat belts in the car. I remember the sound of the engine cranking over as he turned the key and how he shifted the gears from the steering column. The old smell and the perfectly waxed paint. The round headlights and never ending curvatures, and yes, the suicide doors.

My grandfather still has this car, and it is still in awesome condition. While we visited I asked him to take my boys and Jay and I for a ride. He rolled out of his garage, pushed his aruuga horn, opened his suicide doors and and we rode simply for the sake of enjoyment.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

That's So Weird!

When I was a child, there were certain words and phrases that set my red headed temperament exploding.  One of the times this was most evident was on the grassy fields during recess.   It was on these fields that I heard from the lips of those testosterone filled boys bombs like, “fireball”, “Annie”, and the most hated, “red headed Woody Woodpecker”.  These words pushed the buttons those ornery boys so desired to push and my reactions to these emotional charges were felt all the way down into my skinny white, freckled legs with energy that could possibly rival that of the atomic bomb.  I was on a mission.  It did not waver.  Chase the boy whose mouth uttered the detestable vile and reply with some sort of unplanned physical force.  The so desired reaction had been achieved.

Other phrases and scenarios made me respond more implosively, like when some kid told me my belt was a boy’s belt and the fact that I was wearing it somehow made me want to be a boy.  Another time would be when my mom made me a great sandwich for lunch that was stacked with fresh deli meat, a slice of cheese, lettuce and a slice of juicy tomato complete with mustard and mayo.  Some joker kid sitting next to me spied my unusually large sandwich.   He was only able, or so it seemed, to announce to all the students at the other 10 lunch tables how gross and disgusting my sandwich appeared.  I was a little hungrier for dinner that night.

The words that were probably the most difficult for me to handle were the words, “How weird!” and “You are so weird!”  That would send me to the office in tears for sure and there was a definite plan to be out of hearing distance from the person who spoke them.  I think that weird was repeated the most to my ears for whatever thing it was.  My clothes were weird, my hair was weird, my food was weird, I walked weird.  You know how it goes.  You hear something enough and you start believing it is true of your being.  Weird still does not resonate well with me, though I am thankful I can be confident in Christ and the truth of God’s Word.

Fast forward about 25 years, and I find myself watching my son as he goes to school.  I think often about how different his life is.  He rides to school with mom.  I walked from the babysitter.  He’s learning a foreign language in hardcore emersion style plus another class for French, and, oh yeah, he speaks English at home.  Only English for me!   He has a tutor and a decent amount of homework, and I had none.  He carries a whole book bag filled with textbooks, workbooks, notebooks, art supplies, lunch and his jacket.  I just needed lunch.  There are a myriad of differences between his childhood and mine. 

One difference that I am thankful for is the opportunities for us to get out of town.  We have been able to find some affordable places to stay that provide ample opportunity to go snorkeling, build sand castles and swim around in the pool.  We have also recently discovered the several areas available for camping within a four hours drive.  We took this one opportunity to go camping at the beginning of October with a couple of other families and their kids.  My son just so happens to have a crush on one of the girls that came along.  He took every opportunity he could to be with her (which meant there was a lot of great rock climbing involved).  One evening after dinner we were getting our s’mores supplies out.  Judge was wearing his ultra cool “camping” pants that zipped off to turn into shorts.  The girl that he played with all week had not recalled seeing anything like this before to which she promptly retorted, “That’s so weird!” which sent me directly back to elementary school and the pain was beginning to form in my heart until I heard from Judge, “They’re not weird.   They’re AWESOME.  THEY’RE CAMPING PANTS!”  And a smile radiated across his face as he ran off with the girl to the bonfire to get warm.  I could hear him laughing like the weird statement was the silliest thing he’s heard yet.  And my memories were suddenly forgotten.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

So What! of the Environment

I go grocery shopping every week.  It’s a basic and common chore of the mother figure in the house and I accept it and expected to have this role in my family.  So, when you are the one with this role, you start thinking a lot about food and a lot about trash and a lot about cleaning.  Typically the one who is buying the food is also the one cooking the food and for very small children also the one cleaning up the food.  I see the amount of trash I put outside my door everyday.  A full garbage bag…everyday.  Now, granted they are 10-13 gallon size bags, but that is still 10-13 gallons of trash everyday from my own family.  When I noticed my neighbors put one grocery bag of trash outside their door, I started wondering, why do I have so much trash?  How do they have so little trash?  And suddenly I became embarrassed at my American consumerism and pretending like my life has no effect on this earth.  Then I looked around some more and started realizing…I hardly see any public trash barrels….there is trash scattered all over the streets and in every empty lot of land that could one day be an apartment building…it’s a mini land fill and all the surrounding garbage finds its home there until the construction crew arrives.  I’ve watched kids in neighboring buildings look around to see if anyone is looking before they drop their soda can 2 stories down to the ground and turn around and close the window.  I have friends who had a great porch right outside their basement apartment living room, only to have it become the building’s refuse heap.  I have witnessed more soda cans, cigarette butts, tissues, wrappers, grocery bags, etc., being accidently “dropped” out of the car window it’s enough to make the worst foe of the tree huggers become a team with them because of the common enemy…careless wastefulness.   Us folks over yonder make jokes about the white and the black national birds on any occasion that might present the opportunity….the black grocery bag and the white grocery bag.  My trash bags are bigger because I throw a lot more stuff away but also because my trash actually goes in the garbage can.

I am generally a foe to the aforementioned tree huggers and all their groupies.  Mostly because it seems to be more about fame, influence and power rather than taking care of the earth.  I also feel like these people place more significance on the importance of the earth than we have the power to control, and  the people of the earth are not always but generally forgotten, those beings whom God made in His own image and likeness.  I do believe in keeping things clean, in order and not being wasteful.  I am a strong believer in recycling those bottles, cans and paper goods.  But, I believe people are more important, so that takes priority as I trust God to sustain this earth (Check out Colossians 1).  But, he also made man to have dominion over the earth (Genesis 2), so there is that responsibility to care for it.  Since I’ve moved over the ocean, environmental care has become more important to me as I continue to see such careless behavior being demonstrated. I have also found myself being thankful for the work of those environmentalists who have put a lot of work into educating us about recycling, cleaning up after yourself and responsibly inhabiting this planet.

One of our local grocery stores is from France and has several markets all over Europe and now in the Middle East.  I frequently visit it as the prices are great and my needs are often adequately supplied here.  They are even environmentally sensitive!  I was on their website and discovered that all their own packaging and materials have what is good and great for the environment in mind.  They also encourage reusable shopping bags.  They partnered with a bank to give away reusable bags to every costumer for a whole week (of which I took part).  I have recently purchased 3 more of these bags realizing it would normally hold most of my groceries and keep those pesky plastic bags from circulating the winds of the city at a later date.  I brought these bags back to the store, knowing I would encounter many stares and “What in the world is she doing?” looks.  I did my shopping and at the checkout I put those bags in front of all my groceries so it would be easier for the boy to pack them up.  After I got everything on the belt and paid for my purchases I looked at my cart.  It was filled with plastic shopping bags!  What?  Where were my very responsible reusable shopping bags that I specifically purchased to use at this grocery store?  I asked the bag boy where they were.  He said he didn’t know….that’s what he said.  I found them, all folded up nicely and sitting inside one of their own pesky plastic grocery bags!!!!!!!!!!  Oh, the irony of trying to be a responsible citizen!  Does this employee even know what these bags are for? I highly doubt it!