Saturday, July 29, 2006

Birthday Celebrations

We have impeccable timing in Odd. Three of our five children are born within one week of each other and Christmas (12/23, 12/27, 12/30), and the other two are separated by a mere three weeks, being born 13 months apart (6/10 and 7/26). So we tend to do group birthdays, and get the celebratin' done with a bang. Add to this Christopher's bday on 7/23 and mine of 8/15 and you can see the need for a collaborative event. So a huge BBQ was the plan a couple years back - encompassing both parents, two children, and satisfying our urge for a party for the other three, when Christmas functions make them hard to come by. But alas, our inaugural Randall BBQ was cancelled due to a plague-like sickness sweeping our entire family. Nothing like a little vomit to ruin your plans. This year was to be different. We secured the park months ago and settled in to wait for Saturday, July 22nd. But with the death of our grandmother the desire to plan, carry off, and enjoy an epic sized to-do was not in me. I cancelled the reservation, never sent invitations, and called it a year.

But we still had two little people with birthday #3 and #2 worth noticing. Not to mention my poor hubby *wink* at #34. So, we had Nana and Papa over for a dinner of fresh fish (a family favorite) and presents. What a great time! Leah received a pair of her very own dress-up shoes and a baby doll. What more could she ask for? She immediately put on her shoes, undressed the baby and strutted around like a miniature mama with attitude.

Caleb got a full fireman's outfit, complete with hat. We are taking him to the firehouse this weekend for the finale to this gift. He was SO excited about his uniform, but after getting the whole thing buckled he had a case of the jitters, and insisted we remove it immediately. He doesn't want to have anything to do with the outfit (even though he slept with the hat that first night). We will see how things change after we get to see the real engines tomorrow (along with a REAL firefighter)

Christopher received items off his wish list and some greenbacks for buying hiking paraphernalia. He showed me his purchases last night (pants, gaiters, ambient weather gauges, parkas...). He is extremely excited! And then we also surprised him a few nights later (on his actual birthday) with a cheesecake topped with blue frosting! The girls came to me several weeks before and told me they thought a blue cheesecake would be a perfect gift for Daddy. Perfect? I couldn't use a better word to describe their inspiration. Christopher LOVES cheesecake, and blue is his favorite color. What a great idea! But making the cheesecake became a challenge so store bought came to the rescue. However, I couldn't leave out the blue part. White frosting and blue food coloring worked wonders, and thanks to our friends the Proctors, and Hannah's keen memory for the food coloring, we still pulled it together. Christopher was delighted, and amazed, at the work we all put in to making this year special.

So, we have another year under our belt. I wonder what the next 365 days will bring. Stuff I can't even imagine, I am sure!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Treatski Kapoopski

We have a rather hilarious ritual in Odd of making up names, prefixes, and suffixes and sticking them onto existing words, so as to underline their meaning even more. Case in point: loves.

This handy little add-on enhances the not-so-pleasant aspect of certain duties. Example,
"Christopher, Leah has a dirty diaper and I can't get to it."
"Yuck, that's not loves."
"Sure it is, it is DDLs... dirty-diaper loves."

By making the loves into an acronym it especially points out the value of the experience. We have SLs (spank loves), TLs (tickle loves), PLs (pinch loves), DDLs (as you saw above), SULs (spit-up loves) and so on. The list is quite endless. Even the kids get into it now and we hear them say to one another, "It's okay, it was just wet-hug-loves".

Then we have, "not so much". This simple phrase can sufficiently sum up our feelings about certain activities, events or emotions without a huge explanation. Example,
"Do you like this movie?"
"Mmm, not so much."

It is best done with a slight rhythm through the phase, so as to add a cadence of underlying humor while still carrying its original intention.

Lately we have taken to adding, "-ski kapoopski" to the end of nouns for added embellishment. Example,
"I have a special treatski kapoopski for us after dinner."

We are getting some incredibly original versions of this from our children! Last night we took the kids to Dennis the Menace Park for a softball game that our dear friend Jill was playing, and to have fun in the park. Afterwards, we went to Baskin Robins for the final topper of the evening. On the way home this is what we heard,
"Thanks Mama for the treats pooky" - Bethany
"Those were great treepoopy ski" - Hannah
"I wike keepskoo keys" - Caleb
"sakoopee" - Leah
drool - Mary (but what can you expect?)

Ahh, the invigorating uses of the English language! Try a new version of our beloved vernacular today.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A World of Taste & Texture

Well, we officially introduced Mary to baby food. She has nursed up to this point and been quite content with it. In fact, she often refuses the bottle when I am out and can't get home in time for a feeding. But after her allergy testing, and results, we felt confident in opening her world to the value of taste!

We began with bananas. We won't be buying them again for some time. Besides the hilarious "raspberry" action of blowing the food off the spoon, she generally pursed her little lips closed and simply refused to eat them. If the closed-mouth version of "no" isn't quite clear enough for you she also offered us this charming rendition:

So we moved on from bananas and next tried squash. What a winner! She also likes applesauce, pears, and sweet potatoes. She eats like a champ, and happily gums the spoon while learning the swallow technique necessary for taking food from a source other than Mama. Her tongue sometimes gets in the way, and we all laugh as she tries to figure out exactly where she should put the dern thing during a bite. See Figure B:

But I think the following picture shows her agreeable nature and joy at the new found world of texture and taste (if you can use those words to describe some of the blandest, and smoothest foods in the universe). She is bulking up and no longer seems like a peanut. She has settled into two jars of baby food at dinner and still nurses four times a day. Hannah and Bethany are eager to begin feeding her themselves, and I imagine in the not-to-distant future that will become a reality. But for now I thoroughly enjoy this new adventure with my baby and am not ready to hand it off to anyone. Life is sweet.

4th of July

Our family celebrates the 4th of July! And what better way than sitting on our beach in Monterey, CA, soaking up some sun (or fog) and watching an AWESOME fireworks show right in front of you. We love it. And it is an event our children look forward to all year long. Our church gets together and marks off a large square of prime real estate early in the morning, (Christopher and our pastor, Nate, were down there before 7am) and everyone else comes when they can. I usually pull in with the kids around 11am. We eat picnic lunches, sit in folding chairs with our feet in the sand, and talk, play games, run after each others' kids and laugh heartily. We have some good discussions and sometimes even friendly debates. This year it was even more special since my family had been so consumed with the expected death of my grandmother. The lightheartedness and just plain fun were a tremendous stress-relief for myself.

But as you can imagine, spending a day at the beach doesn't just happen in our family. And since we are the family we are, I can't just have us go without making a full check-list of all the items needed to keep our family running smoothly while in the great outdoors for some 13 hours straight. So you can have some giggles at me, I have put the packing list from this year's trip below:

FOOD (ice chest)
Lunch meat, Juice boxes, Soda, Condiments (mustard, mayo), Mac Salad, Watermelon

FOOD (box)
Crackers, Cookies, Bread, Bananas, Water, Bars

Play pen, Tent, Ice chest & food box, Blankets/Towels, Personal bags (C,T,H,B,C,L), Table, Fence/yard, Porta-potty, Chairs (C&T +1Green), Umbrella, Sundry Bag, First Aid Kit, Stakes/Caution tape

3 garbage bags, Sunscreen, Camera Battery & flash card, Toilet paper, Duck bags, Head lamp, Flashlight, Walkie Talkies, Thermos of hot water, Plastic wear (plates, forks, cups), Paper Towel roll

5 big diapers/ 6 small diapers, Wipes (stocked), M’s clothing, SNS/cord/tape, Bottle, formula, Nuk

Shorts, t-shirt, Akubra, Book, Tevas, Bathing suit, Coffee thermos, Sunglasses

Sweatshirt, Jacket, Jeans, Socks, Tennies

Jeans, Long-sleeve shirt, Hooded Sweatshirt, Jacket, Panties, Socks, Tennies

Long-sleeve shirt, Jeans, Jacket, Hooded Sweatshirt, Socks, Panties, Tennies

Sweats, Long-sleeve shirt, Hooded sweat shirt, Underpants, Socks, Tennies, Jacket

Jeans, Long-sleeve onesie, Socks, Tennies, Jacket, Sweatshirt

Union Suit, Onesie, Blankie sleeper, Blanket

Now, after you have stopped laughing I will have you know that - we didn't have to walk three miles to a garbage can... dread using the public cesspool which ran out of toilet paper at noon... change wet clothing using a hybrid towel/blanket as a make-shift cover... hold a sleeping child for 2 hours for a much needed nap... take a small potty-training child to the porta-potties and stand in a ten-mile line while they wet themselves... get lost finding the First Aid tent for a small bandage... or run out of food (for us and the entire beach). I like to be prepared. I am already fine-tuning the packing list for next year's adventure!

We LOVE tradition *smile*

Friday, July 07, 2006


The obituary read:

Olive Lucile (Dean) Hyler began her life on June 12th, 1922 in Pacific Grove, CA. She passed peacefully into eternal life on July 5th, 2006 in her Pebble Beach home, surrounded by her beloved family. A recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer tested her resolve and fortitude but even in her dying moments she met her trials with grace and courage, as she had for the previous 84 years. She lived a full and glorious life on this Monterey Peninsula and will be missed by many...

It went on to say how much she sacrificed for her friends and family; the time and effort she put into making people feel special through her cooking and knitting. It talked about her achievements as members of prominent organizations within our community and how much she enjoyed her recreational activities. It listed a full page of family members she left behind, each with their own story of how this magnificent woman touched their lives. But this is my story. And I simply called this triumph of the human spirit, Granny.

I remember the clink of ice in her heavy crystal glass as she sipped a Johnny Walker Red label, over with a twist and fixed whatever creation we would later drool over at the dinner table. She had a purpose in her movement and didn't fret in the kitchen like some women are prone to. She knew what she was doing in every sense of that phrase. She carried a confidence about her as she stirred steaming sauces and poked roasting meats. I loved to watch her cook. I would stand at her counter and gaze in wonder at how well she orchestrated each meal. Sometimes she would ask me to help, and even the simplest job (mashing potatoes) carried a significance that made me want to do my very best. I wanted her approval.

She taught me to crochet when I was small and I showed her my meager work often for praise and critique. She always had a graciousness about her when she was looking over my shoulder. I never felt condemned or ridiculed, even when she unravelled 2 rows of stitches to get back to a problem needing fixin'. I think the paragon standards she held herself to showed me that excellence is worth the trouble. And I could hear her mutter, "Oh fiddle" when she located a botch in her own work. She humbly pointed it out to me so I could see what she had done wrong and then watched her unravel several rows of her own work. It taught me that I can't expect people to push any further than the expectations I set for myself.

Granny loved to shop! I can see clearly the many trips to San Juan Bautista for a particularly fun garage sale cum antique bazaar that transformed the whole town. We ate Mexican in one of her favorite restaurants and shopped for treasures and junk alike. Whatever she deemed "garbage" was - and whatever was seen as "invaluable" immediately received the same judgement from me. I loved just being around her.

Now, this is not to say that she didn't anger me at times because she certainly did. There were health issues that began percolating in the early 90's and carried through until her death. She became caught up in always answering the question, "How are you," with a slight sigh that could wear on the nerves. Her concerns for money matters were irritating at times and the way she and my grandfather played on each other's triggers ranged from comical to downright maddening. There are some things I learned from Granny by reverse, seeing the fruition of patterns and decisions I don't want played out in my own life. But they are far and few between the good character of a woman who loved her family dearly.

I have a few trinkets that I will treasure from her. Just recently Christopher and I were praying about getting a large dinner table to fit our increasing family's needs. A nice wood 10-seater is no small amount of pocket change. My mom and Granny talked about the possibility of trading my current table (which was my grandparent's also) with theirs. Only a couple of weeks before she passed away I got the word that I could have the solid oak rectangle table that seats 10... easily. The memories I have of sitting at that table and eating her food are precious and now she has given me the opportunity to see them every day in my own home. That was just her way.

Other family members have other stories to tell about her, and they are all beautiful pictures in their own right. Mine is special to me and includes our conversations, drives, holidays and such. I am so blessed to have the heritage of a woman who loved her family and sacrificed for them. It doesn't change the fact that I miss her dearly.

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.