Sunday, December 12, 2010

Backwards Birthday!

When I was a young tyke my parents had a backwards party for me. I distinctly remember the clothes feeling funny, and laughing at all my friends with their backwards clothes.

Fast Forward 25ish years: The Monkey's very own backwards party!
(the clothes still felt funny... just in case you were wondering)

all the kids wore their clothes backwards and we did everything backwards at the party. We started with cake, we sang "You to Birthday, Happy," played "Obmil" (that's "Limbo" backwards, where the kids had to see how high they could go") and played "goose, goose, duck."

The "cake" was actually cupcakes, frosted and stuck upside down on a plate with a candle stuck through the bottom.

The backwards birthday sign stayed hanging up for more than week after the party.

We also had a small family party where The Monkey opened his gifts (at his backwards party, his friends brought snacks to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in town--We asked him where he would like to make a birthday donation this year and he came up with the RMH all on his own. He also casually suggested that maybe next year he could get presents at his party. )

The Monkey likes presents.

And so does the little bruiser.

Thanks for the Tractor book, Nana and Papa.
Can't believe he's already four.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lubbock or Leave it....(scroll all the way to the last picture..It's worth it!

Lincoln, NM... walking in Billy the kid's boot prints...
we've decided it's a good family plan to visit the old haunts of all major sociopaths in US history.

(Don't mention "sociopath" to the locals though...they've got a good thing going here)

For an early thirtieth birthday present, the QB surprised me and the boys a few weeks ago with news that we’d be spending the weekend in Ruidoso, New Mexico (pronounced, ree-yoh doso), a small skiing town in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca Mountains (think Park City, UT but fewer platinum blonds and more rusty pick-ups).

Why Ruidoso? At just over four and a half hours from Lubbock, it’s the closest forested mountain country around (that’s right—even four hours away and your still in Llano Estacado scrub brush and dry grass for as far as the eye can see), and includes two large lakes, miles and miles of hiking trails, and several historical and cultural sites of interest, including the forest where the real Smokey Bear was rescued from the licking flames of a raging forest fire, a horse track that hosts the All-American Futurity (which boasts the largest quarter horse purse in the country—topping out at $2 million dollars), and about 30 minutes up the road, the sleepy town of Lincoln, New Mexico, which clings to either side of highway 380 and was once home to William H. Bonney, AKA Billy the Kid.

(a little like Charlie Chaplin meats Charles Manson, don't you think?)

After Mr. Baseball and I got in a half-day of school, We all piled into the van and headed west through Levelland, and on into cattle and pump-jack country that sprawled out in all directions, power lines tracing off like the steady graphic beat of a cardiometer.

In fact, the Llano Estacado is surprisingly rhythmic---the bobbing heads of the pumpjacks that the QB says look like bizarre metallic creatures sucking out the oil in long slow drags; the corduroy lines of cotton that flash brown and white and brown and white as you drive past them on the freeway; the ticka-ticka-ticka of the tires on the asphalt; the lazy-lipped country music drawling on nearly every station.

This has got to be one of the little bruiser's first swing shots.

And his first hiking pack shot.

In some places the road was so long, so straight, and so empty that I was tempted to lock the steering wheel with my knee and pull out a book, or take a nap. But as we got closer to New Mexico, the contour of the land began to ripple and the road became more curvaceous. But still, the south plains resisted, and they didn’t really give way to genuine hill country until we’d made it well past Roswell. We pulled into Ruidoso at about 6pm, just in time to make some dinner and jump in the hot tub with the boys.

(statues outside the big horse museum)

Saturday we visited Lincoln, toured the museum and the spattering of historical buildings along the highway that played a significant role in the Lincoln County War of 1878 (the merchant's "war" that made Billy the Kid infamous). We saw the rival stores owned by the rival merchants that were the source of contention during the "war" and we bought souvenirs at the current stores and joked with the proprietors about starting their own merchant war (one woman laughed, kind of nervously, and brushed at the air with her hand--"Oh no," she said. "We all get along..." and the she added, "we all try to do our own little thing.")

The QB and her three boys...they're lucky to have her.
The Student and his three boys...They've all spent some time on my shoulders ducking branches down a wooded trail. But that's how its supposed to be I think.

We hiked in bear country (evidenced by all the bear scat on the ground), went to church (and made instant friends with the small congregation--all of whom invited us to move to Riudoso after I graduate), we played Frisbee golf on a course built just this side of a large dam, and we ate the full spectrum of food. During the day we ate like paupers--simple sandwiches, granola bars, refills on our water bottles--but at night we cooked the way we really like to...with all the ingredients and no time-constraints. We ate grilled chicken sandwiches with watermelon, chicken Korma and Cucumber salad, monkey bread french toast, cherry chocolate cake, and gourmet hot cocoa.
We took a Sunday drive after Church and found Bonito Lake...judging by the signs posted, the Lake's upkeep is handled by the local chapter of OCD anonymous. Watch might get nature on you!

This lovely bear was a complete and total surprise. We stopped in at the Riudoso "Billy the Kid" visitors center to check things out, and when the boys and I went into the bathroom, whamo, there he was. Apparently the bear has been standing there for years.

All in all, a fine way to turn thirty, even if my actual birthday is still a few weeks away. And, I'm working on an essay about Billy the Kid to boot.

Thanks QB. You're the best.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mr. Baseball's (TOP SECRET) Spy Birthday

Last month a super secret organization held a super secret meeting of super secret spies in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Texas Pan handle...

We don't know much about the gathering, but a team of crack detectives has assembled some evidence, including the results of some photo recon by an inside man:

This is our mole...code name: The Monkey...

And here is our target...a super secret spy code named Mr. Baseball, who allegedly organized the meeting of super secret spies...

The location of the meeting was discretely labeled with this sign, and all super secret spies in attendance had to use the password "Mango" to gain entrance.

We believe the FIA may be funding the organization.

The woman in the picture above may be French, or perhaps Russian, but regardless of her native country, she should, like all Femme Fetale, be considered armed and dangerous. her sidekick-n-arms is also known to slobber on unsuspecting victims, rendering them sopping wet and subdued.

As you can see from these photos, the meeting was highly organized, with each secret agent receiving gear, training, and secret information vital to maintaining an underground presence (magnifying glass, note book and pen, secret agent ID card, and one emergency-use-only explosive disguised as a Hershey Bar).

The spy's meeting included rigorous physical agility tests and sharp shooting practice, as well as a lesson in bomb diffusion.
All bombs were dismantled and though our mole tried to bring back a sample of the explosives, he was only able to recover a few blurry photos.

Our mole's most important finding was this explosive device--perhaps the FIAs secret weapon... cleverly disguised as a birthday cake, such a device could be smuggled into any number of unsuspecting holiday homes.

We don't know what these super secret spies were planning, or if they planned anything at all, but we do know they consumed excessive amounts of ice cream and cake, and left the premises in full disguise.

Luckily our mole was able to escape undetected by changing into this nondescript outfit and blending into the crowd of spies as they left.

If you see this super secret spy, please contact your local FBI (Franklin Bureau of Investigation).

And in other news...

In addition to the Spy party on Saturday the 25th, we had a small family celebration on the night of Mr. Baseball's actual birthday.

We got him a new baseball glove and a Nerf bow 'n arrow.We also came to school and ate lunch with the birthday boy. The monkey really likes to feel big and eat in the cafeteria, and Mr. Baseball really likes visitors.

Happy Birthday Mr. Baseball. You're seven. I can't believe it. He is now older than the QBs youngest sister was when the QB and I met back in 2001. I am officially flabbergasted at how fast time flies, how old we are all getting, and how quickly life rolls forward whether you stop to take a few photos or not.

Another Reason I love the Japanese People...

In Japan, we lived down the road from the country's Square Watermelon epicenter...though I never saw a guy do this:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yes, we have no bananas!

The other day we were sitting in the kitchen eating Trader Joe's flattened bananas, the QB holding the package and peeling off small strips for each of us, and Mr. Baseball said,
"Why are dried banana's so yummy?"

"Because," I said, "Bananas are one of the sweetest fruits and when you dry them you concentrate the sweetness."

At that moment, the Monkey walked by licking his fingers and said, "Yeah, and you concentrate the sticky!"
That's why he's the monkey.

P.S. We currently have bananas in three stages at our house. Green and waiting to be eaten. Yellow and ready to be eaten, and black, too late to be eaten. Time for Banana Bread, you think? This is our favorite recipe. add chocolate chips and walnuts, too!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heard a prophet's voice, lately?

The apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf, on patience and that famous study about marshmallows and four-year-olds and why I always want what I want when I want it (and a few simple things that might help.)

General Conference this weekend. Check. it. out!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More from our trip....

They say that timeliness is everything about a blog, but then, who listens to "they" anyway....
Here's a little more from our trip to Vegas last month:

If you’d only looked at the weather, I don’t think you could have known for sure we were in Las Vegas for nearly a week. Our first night there it rained enough to flood the gutters, and it was even cool enough to go hiking.

That’s right. Hiking. In Las Vegas. In August.

We took State Route 159 out to Red Rock Canyon Wilderness area in the foothills of the craggy mountains west of Las Vegas. We arrived at the scenic loop about 9:30 a.m., and promptly turned around to find an ATM because the park doesn’t take debit cards.

We could see the red rock from the valley floor, but at that distance, the mountains look more like a blurry Maynard Dixon painting than anything else, so were surprised at the intricacy of the rock formations as we got closer.

Violence. That’s the word I used to describe the mountains. The jilted sandstone wears a history of violence, not so much like a bruise, but more the brooding look of someone who has seen trouble. Giant slabs of sandstone, stacked layer by layer over millions of years now tilt on an unnatural angle (but, is it really unnatural, if nature caused it?), great flat strata tricked by nature into the mountain peaks before us.

On the first bend of the scenic loop, we drove past a bulbous sandstone reef that rises out of the sandy hillside like some red, hot wave—the curvaceous cliffs completely at odds with its angled and stratified neighbors. Mr. Baseball and I got out to take a closer look (The monkey fell asleep in the car, so he didn’t get out until the hike).

Our last stop was the Children’s Discovery Trail, which took us on a one-mile loop up lost creek canyon, past Native American petroglyphs, prickly pear, and even the tiniest trickle of a waterfall. The sun had lifted the temperature to around 95 degrees by the time we made it to the waterfall, but the breeze and the drip drip drip of the sometimes water made for easy going.

Mr. Baseball kept filling his hat at the drip and then flipping the hat on his head. We all took turns soaking our selves (well, maybe “soaking” is too generous a word, but you get the idea) and then headed back down the mountain. The dual shade provided by the boulders and the juniper made for easy hiking, and everyone made it the entire mile without any trouble.

Other things we did in Vegas:

Visited with Grandma Milly, the 87-year-old mother of my father who almost died last year when impacted bowels landed her in the hospital. She’s up and moving now and as fit as I could ever hope to be at 87. I interviewed her to find out a little about her family history and she enjoyed holding the Cannon Ball.

four generations all together. That doesn't happen very often.

My oldest brother, Josh, came over for dinner one night and we made sushi and okonomiyaki. Grandma came too and we all ate ourselves silly. Josh upgraded the RAM on my “new” garage sale laptop and now it runs like a dream (okay, maybe like the description of someone else's cool dream that they tell you over breakfast and they can only remember bits and pieces, but they swear it was the coolest dream ever--yeah, kind of like that).

And later that night we went down to the strip to see the Bellagio fountain and take in a little bit of the spectacle that is the Las Vegas strip.

We also spent a killer week in Utah with the other side of our family, and pictures and details of that are coming soon, too.