Thursday, July 24, 2008

After 2,000 Years, It's Still a Classic

Is it me, or does every state have the same collection of terrible jokes about the weather?

To my knowledge, none of them are humorous, funny, or remotely hysterical. In fact, they all make me want to cry out of sheer lameness.

But even worse than the poorly-delivered weather joke, is the all-out Weather Special on your local news station. 

Y'all, I have no idea what demographic watches those, other than the Other Local Newses, who then make their own exponentially dull specials to "compete."

In Chicago, there used to be one special in particular called "It Sounded Like a Freight Train." Clearly, that is a documentary on the tornado and it's loudness.


And I'm not kidding, I bet it was on a couple of times each week. Who says there is no quality programming at the local level?!

Since I have adequately mocked all serious and educated Weather Persons, I will now become the object of my ridicule.


After a heat-induced trip to Costco for $1.35 ice cream, we walked outside, and sensing the water rushing over our ankles, noted it had rained.

But look what God left for us:

After we drove around a little and headed home, that beauty was still in the sky. 

Come with me to stage right: Do you see all of the nothingness?! That is right by our house and one of my favorite running paths. Because of all The Nothing. Except some times there are horses and cows/bison/buffalo (not sure which) and I love to look at them. And if I had not been hanging out the window pursuing journalistic excellence (YET AGAIN!) and had been facing the exact opposite direction, you would've seen a smallish mountain range affectionately called "The Rockies."

Even though weather-talk generally doesn't bristle the hair on my spine, there is something about a full, lasting, exquisite rainbow that stirs the soul.

The above photo was taken from the house. Not sure if you can tell, but did you notice how the end of the rainbow is just resting on someone's home? Oh, to be that girl.

One reason that I have a tough time with weather is that I don't enjoy many variations on the theme of Hot, Sunny, and Dry. 

I'll take the 100 degree days anytime over the sub-arctic, bone-chilling, 50's and 60's. 

And yes, I am totally a wimp.

Another bummer about weather is that it causes me to look stupid.

About sixish years ago, when we had recently moved to Denver and were busy begging the grocery clerk to be our friend, Brad and I joined a dinner group.

Gathered around the table for our first meeting, we chatted away about a variety of light topics.

For some reason (which I will never know), I decided to bring out my highly opinionated diatribe against the nightly weather segment on the news.

Warning: This gets ugly.

Nicole: "Seriously. Does anyone actually care about high pressure, low pressure, or barometers? There is no way anyone watching the news is sitting on the edge of their chair wondering if the blue arrows will point up or down as they swoop across the country.

All people want (I imagine my voice was getting louder) is a five-day forecast. 

Give me the highs and the lows, people. Highs and lows. What could possibly be so fascinating to dedicate an entire five-minute segment to the weather?!"

Rest of Table: (polite fake laughter)

Nicole: "So "Ron," what do you do?"

"Ron": I'm a meteorologist. I studied at {Prestigious Large School} and it is my passion."

Nicole: "Well, see you all later!"

Luckily, "Ron" has a great sense of humor and laughed it off. Despite the first impression, we became friends chased storms together.

Oh, I jest. (About the storms. We did, in fact, become friends.)

But Brad and I are still happily married and I'm positive I embarrassed him to death.

(Which is a theme in our marriage.)

Alrighty, here's one last look at the rainbow for the road.

I got out my telephoto lens for this one.

Or pushed on the zoom button until the camera nearly broke. 


Monday, July 21, 2008

A Lot of Pictures In No Particular Order

Thanks to some incredibly generous friends, Josh and Karen, and their even-generouser family, we spent the weekend in the beautiful mountains of La Veta.

I'll be honest: Before this weekend, the free-association words that went with Southern Colorado were the same words I'd use to describe truck stops and uninhabited deserts.

Not that I've really toured the fine towns of the area, but I have been to every single rest stop and gas-station restroom along the I-25 corridor heading south to New Mexico. And of course, that is not really a fair way to judge a region.

Heck, that's not even a fair way to judge my house.

Anyway, we had a great time just hanging out with friends, enjoying the mountains and their many recreational offerings, and looking for bears.

(I know!)

Who ever knew I would get such a thrill out of a bear hunt? But oh yes, I did.

I wish these pictures were in some special order that allowed me to blog a lovely narrative to the weekend, but alas, they are totally random.

We drove a very long ways up the mountain, then hiked a very short distance to the top. However, it still qualified as a hike because based on the comments about the heat and tiredness, you would've thought we were summitting Everest with heat lamps singeing our skin.

But the hikers? They were cute.

Oh look! Now we're on 4-wheelers!

I remember as a kid marveling at the skill and precision that it took my dad to drive waverunners and quads. 

Now I realize that playing the Wii is ten times as complicated as pushing the little throttle button, but I've led the kids to believe that Quad Piloting is a sacred art form and they will not be ready to take the reigns until their 30th birthday.

Is it me or does Jackson look 17 in that picture?

Jackson and Lilly are both into fishing. I, of course, am into taking pictures and drinking Diet Dr. Pepper while they throw the line into the lake and catch nothing.

I also like to work on my photography "skills." Notice the white light of heaven coming off the lake?

I could probably tell people that is the Angel Gabriel and sell the photo on ebay for thousands of dollars. 

Ok, look at this next picture and tell me the first word that pops into your head:

Want to know mine? 


I think we look like a bunch of 21st century cultists who are all more related than we should be, carting our kids around rural America in the back of a pickup, waiting for Their Father to come home from swindling the locals out of millions of dollars.

I don't blame you if you never look at me the same again.

Moving on...
Payton & Jackson.

I just have to put in my two cents about the sweetness of this little friendship. I agree with Harry Burns and Sally Albright that men and women can't be friends.


These two are just about as adorable together as can be. I have no idea how long this innocent companionship will continue before things get boring or complicated or both. 

But for now, their ability to wrestle, tease each other, and ride bikes together just lays me flat out. And when they play house, they are "Mom" and "Dad." 

I know things will change someday...probably sooner rather than later. But for now, I am just loving the two of them. Together.

These two, however...

...are a handful on a good day. They love each other to pieces, but spend a ton of time tattling on each other. They find messes and trouble like nobody's business, but do it in such a hilarious way that it's hard to get mad.

I take that back.

It's easy to get absolutely irate, but it's also easy to run into the next room so they don't see me crack up in between Very Stern Glances.

(Which have no effect whatsoever on their behavior. As you already imagined.)

This has to be on of my favorite pictures from the weekend:

I love how Reese is getting in on the face-making action. 

And here we are at the ice cream shop where amazing ice cream costs a dollar. That is good eating. I should know, because I downed the almond praline before I could get pictures.

Remember her?
There is my girl.



Atta babe!

And we have Lilly...

...moments before she waded in much farther than we told her to and soaked her shorts.

Shockingly Predictable!

And lastly, the peeps hanging out in front of the Not Fake Mountains.

But aren't they beautiful? I wish you could've heard when Karen and I belted out a few bars from "TSOM" while twirling around on top. 

I think the elk were ducking for cover.

Or maybe that was just Brad.


Friday, July 18, 2008

I Do Prefer the "Buying" to the "Shopping"

Today I opened the mail and found a precious letter from some very dear friends.

I've been very loyal to them, through thick and thin.

And I've been rewarded for my loyalty.

And I love that they love me for who I am.

Not just my bank account.

Our relationship is deep, long-standing, and based on mutual fondness.

I, in no way, have to work for their affection.

I'm still trying to decide if this is good news or bad news.

Um, good news. 


Just do NOT, in the name of all that's sacred about shopping, ask Brad.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

File Under: "I Know I'm Old Because..." I'm Posting About Blueberries

I'm not going to lie.

It's hot.

For those of you in the South, I realize that my use of the word "heat" is relative. But when the car thermometer says it's over 100, that is pretty universally toasty.

I'm having flashbacks of the first summer Brad and I moved to Texas.

That would be the same summer that set the record for most consecutive days over 100 degrees.

Brad worked OUTSIDE.



Being a teacher, I was gainfully unemployed for the summer months and whiled away the days from the comfort of my Super Floatie in the apartment complex pool.

Um, Brad wasn't exactly ecstatic about that arrangement.

Which (obviously) leads me to berries.

I think one of my favorite things about surviving summer heat invovles devouring fruit at every opportunity. 

(Except the melon family, which I loathe. It's been pointed out to me that my dislike of watermelons--and almost paralyzing inability to even type the words cantaloupe and honeydew--makes me simultaneously un-American and lame. But I don't care.)

So yesterday I bought two amazingly luscious pounds of blueberries for all of $4.99.

It would be very Eco Fabulous to say I found them at a sweet little roadside stand where a precious elderly lady grew them in her Mother Earth Organic Garden and then I carried them home cradled in my shirt as so not to waste any paper or plastic products.

But I bought them at Costco. Where I drove in my SUV that holds 34 gallons of $4 gas. At which time I also bought 50 pounds of sugar. Hate me.

Anywho, for weeks Lilly persistently asked me to make blueberry muffins.

So I did.

This is embarrassing, but until this morning at 8:30 a.m., I had forgotten how perfect homemade blueberry muffins are.

Because the ones in the box--which I, too, have been guilty of buying--are more like cake mix with dehydrated Blue No. 9 pellets.

They might seem good in your very foggy memory, but until you've eaten the Real Deal, you are respectfully mistaken.

The blueberries in these babies got all bubbly and gooey. And the muffin wasn't super-fakey-cakey spongy like the boxed ones.

The texture was that ideal combination of dense and slightly sweet (this isn't cake, people) with a little bonus of warm, oozing REAL LIVE blueberries in every bite.

(Hold on...I am having a moment.)

(NOW cue the elderly lady sequence which will warm your heart that cooled slightly while I snubbed local farmers in lieu of mass-merchandising and $1.50 pizza.)

I got the recipe from my Gran, which does make them taste even better.

Would you like it?

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Mix the following in a large bowl:

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated (white) sugar

Beat together:
2 eggs
5 T vegetable oil
3/4 c. milk

Stir egg mixture into flour just until moistened. Stir 2 c. fresh (or frozen) blueberries.

Bake in greased muffin tins (or use paper cups) at 375 for about 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

And be sure to add a nice lump of butter and watch it gracefully melt.

For the record, I didn't wait ten minutes for the cooling.

Heck. No.

All that I tucked Lilly in tonight, I assured her that more delicious blueberry muffins awaited her tomorrow.

"But Mommy, I didn't really like them."

"What?! Why not?"

"The blueberries were warm and melty. I like the little, tiny blueberries in those white muffins."

"But Lilly, those are gross."

"No way. The ones you made were."

Even though it was dark, I'm sure she saw me roll my eyes.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Remind me when I lost all control?

So I have a question: During the summer, how many times a day do your kids change clothes?




As many times as they can while leaving a trail of everything they've worn and/or contemplated wearing from the garage door (and occasionally the garage itself) up to their bedrooms being careful to leave underwear in places the neighbors will immediately see when they stop by to locate their own children amidst the vast Sea of Wardrobe?

That's what I thought.

I love summer more than all of the other seasons combined, but this constant state of Clothing Dissatisfaction must end or I will singlehandedly pioneer a nudist colony that will likely offend our neighbors but save me gobs of money on detergent.

Oldest Type A child must be wearing the "proper" attire for any given activity. If there is a water fight, he wants to be in his bathing suit.

Whatever happened to water fighting in your clothes?

That would be waaaayyy too out of the box.

Instead, he heads upstairs and misses half the water fight until he comes downstairs ready to go in what he perceives as the proper Super Soaker Melee Attire.


What about if the cul-de-sac peeps decide to play Star Wars?

Well, heck! 

J better get home and put on full Jedi-wear, including cloak and tunic.


Quick! Run home and put on jersey and shorts!

And then there is The Crazy Girl. She pushes me closer to insanity because she is obsessed with socks.


I can't say it strongly enough. 

She wants to wear them all the time, but changes pairs constantly.

The other day I found 6 odd socks in her bed that had apparently been kicked off during some wild dreams about surfing.

I've tried to convince the Divine Miss L that it is quicker, easier, and much less work for mom if she would just join the rest of America and WEAR SOME FREAKING FLIP-FLOPS.

But no. She wants to wear full socks and tennis shoes all day, every day.

And she's recently taken to another accessory.

The belt.

I have not yet forgiven Grammy for purchasing it.

For starters, Lilly looks a twinge on the nerdy side because in case you haven't noticed, no one is wearing belts with their shirt tightly tucked in these days while their pants hover around their armpits.

(Hello? 1987? Is that you?)

Secondly, my assistance is now required in the 72 costume changes each day.


It feels like I am the incredibly reluctant owner of a Full-Service Dry Cleaners meets Pool Cabana.

Because did I mention the towels?

They are everywhere.

In my best estimate, we go through about infinity towels each day.

Between trips to the pool, slip n' slides, water wars, watering the plants, and actual bathing, we are rivaling The Ritz Carlton for most towels used in 24 hours.

My greatest victory in taming the unruly laundry beast came as an unexpected bonus to my laziness.

(Which is why I'm always careful never to work too hard.)

A few weeks ago, I had folded several loads of laundry while watching TV in the family room. I got distracted doing something incredibly important (read: eating ice cream) and the clothes never made it up to the kids' bedrooms.

This non-movement of the clothes went on for about...a week.


So what I'm saying is that almost everything the kids own was conveniently folded and resting in the family room! At my very fingertips.

Instead of constantly sending them upstairs to search for whatever Wardrobe Necessity beckoned, I just gestured over to the laundry baskets and let them just have at it.


Is it tacky to have laundry baskets in the family room?


Is it worse to have a fashion fiesta parading shamelessly through the house without end in sight.

Of course.

So in conclusion, I need a few more full-time employees at my house. I am way too busy blogging and going to Sonic Happy Hour to do all this laundry.


So really, how many times a day do your kids change clothes?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stayin' Classy

Dear High School English Teacher,

Remember when you said that youth was fleeting and you guaranteed me that when I was old I would no longer want to jump off the diving board?

Well, today I did.

In fact, I did some cannonballs. And the "splits." (It was ugly. Really ugly.)

And I'm pretty sure the lifeguard saw more of my body than he wanted to thanks to a displaced bathing suit upon water impact.

But it was just as much fun as I remembered.

Except the running take-off on the diving board was a bit more jiggly than my misty, water-colored memories.

And my cannonballs?

They made Ron Burgundy look graceful and agile.

Luckily, Jackson and Lilly are young enough that they found this entertaining instead of The Ultimate Ruiner to All Social Status. That day will come..I'm sure of it.

But at least I jumped.

Maybe you should try it sometime.

Miss you!



There's A Bathroom on the Right

So we were in the car, driving home from my sweatiest encounter with California Pizza Kitchen to date. 

Being avid al fresco diners, we decided to sit on the patio despite the fact that all other patrons were tucked comfortably indoors.


Turns out the mercury was just shy of 100 (even at 7:00 p.m.) and the lettuce wilted almost on cue. Not to mention the fact that for the first time in the history of earth, I think I sunburned my calves.

It was like a laser beam of sunshine was so intent on shooting through to my bones that it sizzled the outer skin.

Halfway through dinner--after two very refreshing trips to the indoor restroom--we realized we weren't actually eating anything.

It was more of a drinking contest than a suppertime meal and I was downing the mango iced tea at record pace. Lilly somehow sucked down two entire chocolate milks (which in my opinion, is the antithesis of a great hot weather drink) and J focused on white milk. 

My mom worked on a water with so many lemons that I am just puckering while I type.

So we boxed up an entire dinner and ran over to the mall where we promptly froze while the sweat dried.

Segue to actual post topic...

So we were comfortably air-conditioned in our car that holds enough fuel to power a small plane (and support a small nation) and I began flipping through radio stations.

Jackson's choice is always rock. The other day he asked me which band I liked better--Guns n' Roses or Aerosmith?


I guess all of the hours of Guitar Hero have tempered his tastes away from The Wiggles and more into Tom Petty. I'm definitely not complaining because The Wiggles phase--although short--was PAINFUL.

Painful like my sunburned calves or Steven Tyler's pants. Painful.

So I'm glad we're into rock, but a little sad there's no in-between. What musical tastes is a first grader supposed to like right now? 

Hannah Montana?

Too girly.

Jonas Brothers?

I'm fearful of him wanting to start his own boy bad. (Which apparently, along with a few other cul-de-sac hombres, he has, but I'm hoping it will pass.)

Show tunes?

Of course, I would love if he shared my passion for "The Sound of Music" but I think it would be decidedly uncool if he was talking about Friedrich's contribution to "Doe-A-Deer" on the playground.

So we are back to Axl Rose and Jon Bon Jovi. 

Lilly, on the other hand, is more of a David Crowder fan.

She is down with worship songs that are (not coincidentally) my least favorite ones.

A commercial on a local Christian station was spotlighting some of their upcoming playlists for the next hour.

And then I heard shouting.

"MOM! Turn it back."


"That's my favorite song and you switched the station!"

"Which one? It's just a commercial. RE. LAX."

(she starts singing)

"Recipe The Name of the Lord."

Which leads me to a great chorus by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "There's a bathroom on the right."

Or, as CCR originally performed it, "There's a bad moon on the rise."

So make that "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord."

Or recipe. Close enough.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Our Theme Colors Were Red, White, & Blue

Even though the Fourth of July doesn't adequately focus on chocolate like some other holidays I adore, it still earns extra points for being in the summer.

I also love that for whatever reason, the Grand Blaster of Fireworks decided that all of the really good fireworks displays should be on July 3rd, thus making a one day holiday into a Two Day Shock and Awe Extraordinaire. 

Originally that decision had to do with safety or something, but seriously?

With the organized chaos out of the way on the 3rd, now we can all try to singe and/or violently burn ourselves when our sons and men try to light the neighborhood ablaze on the 4th. That seems a lot safer than thousands of people seeing fireworks together and driving home.

For sure.

Another thing I love about the Fourth is our church picnic.

I know!

Doesn't that sound dorky? I mean, can you just picture us eating cold side dishes and curdling potato salad off styrofoam plates with an elderly brass quartet playing patriotic songs?

You are so off base because we've upgraded to Chinet.

There are sack races for the kids:

Honk if that's the cutest sack racer you've ever seen!

And there are sack races for the adults:

Brad is representing in the red hat. I love that he doesn't look alarmed that the guy on the left is 6'7" and that his hip bones come up to Brad's armpits.

Brad is just going to hop his little heart out and try to trip everyone as opposed to actually winning the race based on superior quadricep muscles.

That is why they call it "strategery."

And there's cotton candy for the kids: 

Nevermind that the only power source at the park is next to the restrooms, where the cotton candy was stationed. I believe if cotton candy was served in a manure patch by a herd of mutilated elephants, kids would still come running.

And eat it with their hands.

(Excuse me while I go shower.)

Brad's Female Mini-Me and your humble blog author:

Brad's Male Mini-Me...(and why does he get TWO?!)

Also, doesn't it kind of hurt your stomach and your swallowing reflex to think about eating a hot dog while lying down?

Just thinking about it kind of gets a lumpy, hot dog-sized knot in my throat and my breathing slows.

In other news, we had a third baby!

Just kidding...remember her? I just love to hold her and get lost in the plentiful folds of her thighs from time to time. She also enjoys a hearty open-mouth kiss and referring to me as "Da-da."

Anytime she comes for a sleepover, I get my baby fix. Then she goes home and acts all ornery for her parents. 


Question: If you can't suck your thumb at the Fourth of July picnic, where can you?

While riding your bike?

While watching TV?

In between loud, shouting outbursts at your brother?

Yes, of course. 

Now here we have the J-Man working on the 3-Legged Race.

I have to be honest. It was a little ugly and the timing was off. But he laughed the whole way down the field anyway.

Loved it.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

As If Being Brad's Clone Isn't Enough

So last night there was a large-ish block party on the cul-de-sac.

Beyond all the eating and merriment, we had our own fireworks display. According to some calculations, about $500 of very exotic and low-rent fireworks shot into the night "sky" (if that's the right term for fifteen feet above the pavement.)

Why go to fireworks for free when you can have a super-expensive show in your own front yard and risk death and burn injury?

My sentiments exactly.

If you've ever participated in a DIY Fireworks Display, you know that noise is two-thirds of the fun. At least for the guys and kids. 

The girls happily ate peanut butter brownie bars between sonic booms.

Because eating is two-thirds of the fun.

Or maybe even three-fourths.


The men-folk and boy bear cubs felt led to name each of the "unbelievable" explosions that rattled ear drums and sent small fires flying.

"The Perfect Storm" was my favorite, although it looked exactly like "Bombs Away."

So with tons of kids narrowly escaping a trip to the ER, dads carrying around lighters, and boys wanting to ride bikes through the sparks, things were a little crazy.

I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly where Jackson and Lilly were during this orderly show of patriotism.

Um, it takes a village. 

So around 11:30, things wrapped up and this is what I found in a neighbor's front yard:

Y'all, he is not a party animal.

Just like his dad, there is not one thing that can come between him and sleep when the tiredness calls.

Or perhaps he is just practicing for college.

He will only rock and roll all night in his dreams.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

I'm Just Not Sure What to do With Her

Another sunny morning finds us safely back home, enjoying the lazy days of summer with long trips to the pool, lemonade, and a rock collection on the stairs of the garage that trips us up as we enter the house.

Lilly created this masterpiece with rocks from the front "landscaping" and declared that we can't move it until Easter because the stones symbolize Jesus' empty tomb.


For those of you wondering, we just returned from Ohio after the funeral of Brad's precious grandpa. Although it was incredibly sad to realize he is no longer living on earth, there was lots of rejoicing at a life enjoyed to the fullest, brimming with love, joy, humor, and Christ-likeness.

We were humbled at thinking about what a legacy of character Grandpa leaves for his many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His love for the Lord and family was evident in everything he did. 

One time I asked Grandpa which he preferred: being a father, grandfather, or great-grandfather. And you know what he said? 

He loved being a great-grandpa and seeing the joy of his kids and grandkids as those little "greats" ran around all wild and crazy. His happiness multiplied when those around him were happy and blessed. Just amazing.

Thankfully, Jackson and Lilly have been shielded from dealings with death thus far. In fact, I soon realized that they'd never even seen a cemetery before this trip.

Rural America is crowded with cemeteries of all shapes and sizes, but somehow our corner of suburbia has NONE.

Brad and I even googled cemeteries in our area to confirm this fact and the closest one is about 10 miles away and a few towns over. Crazy, eh?

When we drove by one (of several) in Ohio, the kids were all, "What are all those signs for in the grass?!"

Oh boy.

So I did my best to explain all the mechanics of death's proceedings: funerals, burials, cemeteries, visitations, etc.

However, I quickly learned that all of my lengthy and detailed explanations fell on deaf ears.

This was evidenced during the visitation at the funeral home.

Lilly saddled up in a chair right next to the casket, looked around for a few minutes, and came back over to whisper something in my ear.



"Why is Grandpa taking a nap in that cute little bed?"

Have mercy.