Thursday, August 23, 2007

BLOG CHALLENGE: Senior Moments 1987

Thanks, Nesa, for this fun quiz. I stole it from your blog. :)
The Challenge, for those playing at home: In honor of the new school year, think back to your senior year of high school, and answer these questions accordingly:

1. Who was your best friend?
Brent G. Truly, he was the single best friend I had in high school, and when I think back to those days, I realize how lucky I was to have him. I had a huge circle of friends, and some of them were very close, but Brent was special. He'd have done ANYthing for me, at any time, and did. We lost touch somewhere along the way, after I got married and moved further away.... I regret that. I've googled him several times, with no luck.

2. Did you play any sports? nope!

3. What kind of car did you drive? My first car was a light blue 1977 Lincoln Versailles that Dad bought from my Grandpa. I was horribly embarrassed of that car, because it looked like something an old lady would drive. HUGE LONG front end, with pointy fenders. Its redeeming quality? I could cram 12 other kids in it: 4 of us in the front seat, 4 in the back, one person laying in the back window, and three kids sitting in each of the windows, with their legs and feet inside the car. If there was anyone hood surfing (and there often WAS, on my huge expanse of hood), the number went up another 1 or 2. This is why I don't allow Dani to ride with her driving friends yet. I remember how STOOPID we were! lol

4. It’s Friday night. Where were you? During football season, at the games... and afterwards, at my church for "5th Quarter". The rest of the year, I was cruising Wesley Street, vying for the front parking spot at Sonic.

5. Were you a party animal? My senior year? No. I'd gotten that out of my system by then. ;)

6. Were you considered a flirt? I dated the same guy for 8 months of my senior year. One of my biggest regrets, actually. So no... I guess I really wasn't a flirt that year. Although... my nature IS to be a big flirt. :D

7. Were you in the band, orchestra or choir? A Cappella Choir. My best friends (except for Brent) were in choir with me, and that made it SO much fun. Our choir was incredible - we took 1s in every competition that year. Funny story: when I did UIL Solo and Ensemble, my solo piece was in German. I didn't practice very much, and went into the audition poorly prepared. I knew the music, but I didn't know the words for verses 2 and 3. So i sang verse 1 and the chorus with the correct German words. For verse 2, I made up something that sounded German. For verse 3, I repeated verse 1. I knew I'd bombed. But when the scores were posted, I had a ONE! I couldn't believe it. The notes from the judge said, "Very musical. Beautiful job. CLEAN UP THAT GERMAN!" bwahahahahahaha

8. Were you a nerd? no. But I had friends who were. LOL!

9. Were you ever suspended or expelled? I was a rule follower, so no.

10. Can you sing the fight song? The fight song? Wow. I can't remember it. I'm singing the school song in my head now, though. "We hail from GHS, she is the best....."

11. Who was your favorite teacher? My Senior year, I didn't really have a favorite teacher, although Mrs. Fincher, our choir director, was awesome. My favorite teacher of my whole high school career, though, was Ms. Brown, my sophomore English teacher. Here's why: my freshman English teacher realllly disliked me for some reason. When it came time to make recommendations for the next school year, she refused to recommend me for Honors English, even though my grades in her class (an honors class itself) had been good. I was DEVASTATED to be in regular English my sophomore year. DEVASATED. Ms. Brown recognized my potential immediately, and she single-handedly restored my faith in my own ability and creativity, and she cultivated my love for writing at the same time. She'd give me special assignments. She entered me in college writing contests without my knowing. (I won 1st place for a poem I wrote at ETSU that year!) And more importantly, she made sure I was placed back in Honors for my Junior year. I loved Ms. Brown!

12. What was your school mascot? Lion

13. Did you go to the Prom? Yes! I finally broke up with Jeff about 4 weeks before Prom, and I knew it'd be too late to get a date at that point. But Brent, the hero of SO many of my high school stories, took me. He helped pick out my dress and we double dated with Clayton and Sonja to Dallas before Prom.... ate at The French Room, the first time I'd ever KNOWN that restaurants that nice even existed. I remember that there were no prices on the menu. That scared me to death. LOL!

14. If you could go back, would you? Hmm. I have regrets about that year, and I often wonder how my life would have been different had I not made those mistakes. At the same time, I LOVED high school. Seriously. I did. Even so, no. I wouldn't go back.

15. What do you remember most about graduation? It's the afterward that I remember. A group of us went to Dallas to go dancing. Except that I was still 17 and the clubs wouldn't let me in. That SUCKED. I stayed up watching cheerleading competition videos at Yufen's parents' house while everyone else went out dancing. Miserable night.

16. Where were you on Senior Skip Day? Um.... at school. LOL! (Told ya I was a rule follower!) They threatened us that anyone who skipped that day wouldn't get to walk the stage for graduation, and I actually believed them.

17. Did you have a job your senior year? Yep. I worked at National Video, our town's first video store.

18. Where did you go most often for lunch? the salad bar. We had a closed campus, and couldn't leave for lunch.

19. Have you gained weight since then? uh. Yah.

20. What did you do after high school? I lived at home and went to ETSU for a semester and hated it... transferred to UNT, moved to Denton, and LOVED it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dirty Politicians

Hello! Dani here, filling in for my mother.
*Cue Hallelujah Chorus*
Listen to that sweet sound of, oh, WHAT'S THAT, nothing?!?! Yes, the house is perfectly quiet at the moment, save my stupid cat prancing about. My mom and brothers have gone to East Texas for the next three days with Cara, and possibly Kristi, and their boys, which leaves my dad and me with the house until Wednesday afternoon. No cries of "Ian, give it back!" or "Boys, no more screaming!" or "But he started it!". No tattling or whining or too-loud TV. No sharing the computer. This is the first time in my recent memory that both my mom and my brothers have been gone simultaneously, so to celebrate this strange but gladly welcomed phenomenon my mom has asked me to blog in her stead.


My junior year is approaching quickly, and I'm ready to welcome it warmly. This has been an abnormally long summer. The school year ended at its usual time, - around the later side of the middle of May - but the school year is starting about two weeks later than usual, and will now run slightly into June. I'm not exactly complaining. Who wouldn't be grateful for an extra two weeks of vacation? But I'm also anticipating seeing my friends again, going out to lunch, having a reason to get dressed every day, and, *gasp*, starting my new classes.

I went to get my schedule this past week, only to find that for the second consecutive year, the school counselors had succeeded in giving me several classes I definitely didn't ask for. This year's conflicts weren't nearly as hellish as last year's, though, and I was able to resolve them over the phone. My correct schedule now consists of: Honors Pre-Cal B/Calculus A, AP (Advanced Placement, or the equivelent of a college level course) Chemistry, A Capella Choir, PE, AP Psychology (the latter two are semester courses), AP Latin 4, AP Us History, and AP English 4. Whew. Full schedule. But, being the nerd that I am, I'm looking forward to it. I'm only worried that I'm going to be juggling five AP classes...that includes studying for them all at the end of the year so I can pass the AP tests and get actual college credit. 0.0

I think the reason I'm looking forward to this year so much is because I can finally see how the next six years of my life are shaping up, and I'm ready to begin them. Since last year's spring semester, I have taken an interest in politics, and am planning on pursuing that as a career, whether as a politician or simply in some sort of field where I can affect the way things are done. I've been shaping my own opinions, but I remain fairly moderate on most issues.

I've begun reading Barak Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, mostly because many of my friends support him, but don't really know why. I like what he says in his book, and he's unquestionably an excellent writer, but I can't help but notice an enormous amount of hypocrisy in what he says. Being moderate myself, I can see where he, as a Democrat, is constantly bashing his opposing party and making his own party out as the poor, downtrodden do-gooders. Obama doesn't stand alone in this political standard of name calling and negativity. There was an article today on FoxNews about the other Democratic candidates bashing Obama himself.

But that's politics, I suppose. There's been a few times when I've watched the news or read an article on the presidential hopefuls, and thought to myself, "What on earth am I volunteering myself up for?" But being somewhat naive about most of today's issues, I still plan on changing the world and being a peacemaker. That's something I hope I don't lose with my naivety.

Inspired by all these recent happenings, I wrote a song about the downfall of politics as I view it. Although somewhat satirical, I genuinely believe that these lyrics have some truth in them.

Beauty is irrelevant
In this world that's going blind
You know the so-called love you seek
Is the one you'll never find
We put our faith in TV ads
But remove "In God We Trust"
Who cares about the problems?
Let's just satisfy our lust

I say we kiss and make up
We should all just get along
If nothing else, we can all agree
That the other party's wrong

Freedom's just for crackheads
And those sitting on their throne
You cry independence,
But you don't dare to stand alone
We elect the dirty politicians
To lead this dirty nation
We've all just stopped caring
And tuned in to our own station

I say we kiss and make up
We should all just get along
If nothing else, we all can agree
That the other party's wrong

Good morning, America
You've all slept in
Haven't you heard,
It's not World War III we're in
It's the civil war all over again
And we can't win

So I say we kiss and make up
Why can't we all just get along?
There's nothing we can seem to agree on
Except that the other party's wrong

© Dani Kocur 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

end of summer - GO GO GO!!

School starts one week from Monday.

Yesterday, we braved the crowds and went school clothes shopping on the first day of Tax Free Weekend. (Here in Texas, school clothes, shoes and backpacks are tax free for three days prior to the first day of school.) I'm just not so sure that saving 8.25% is enough incentive to do that again next year. I swear, the picked over racks and the crowds were worse than Christmas shopping!

Last night I spent 6 hours with 3 of my best friends at Recollections, our favorite scrapbook store. It's so much fun to scrap there, because you can just walk out into the store with your photos, find the perfect paper, and go back to your table to use it. It's dangerous, though. I went with a budget of $25 in mind, and totally blew that when my total came to $45. Fifteen of that was on a book that I didn't think they had in stock, though, so I hadn't planned on spending that. It's a book I've been looking for and waiting on! It was $15 well spent, I can already tell.

Darren was busy around the house today. After his morning run, he came home all energized to get some projects done. He cut the shelves I've been wanting for my scraproom, replaced the garbage disposal that broke on Thursday, figured out how to hook up the ice maker (had to cut some pipe and add a piece or two to make it work), and changed the air conditioner filters. I was so hot and bothered by all of his hard work that I insisted he take me out on a date tonight. Bwahahaha! We went and saw The Bourne Ultimatum and ate at a new restaurant downtown that has become my new favorite.... "Cantina Laredo". I had the Enchiladas Veracruz and Darren had the Shrimp Poblano Chimichanga. Yum yum and more yum!

We didn't have reservations, and had to wait almost an hour for a table, but managed to have a lot of fun people-watching. It's definitely the hip, happening place to be these days, and I'll admit that I felt old and frumpy in the midst of it all. There were many, many wobbly stick legs in too-high heels, WAY too much back-combed and shellacked hair, and a bit too much cleavage, even for me, who's generally not bothered by cleavage at all. I even had the displeasure of seeing one girls' black panties when a breeze caught the hem of her shirt-dress and lifted it a hair. Yah. It was that short. In fact, I'm sure it was a baby doll SHIRT, and not meant to be a dress at all. It was like living inside, but without the hilarious commentary.

It cracked me UP being able to tell which girls were there to be seen. They'd fluff and preen and constantly look around to see if they were being seen. HILARIOUS. The two couples at the table next to us at dinner provided more entertainment. The two women were completely TOASTED, and got louder and louder as the meal went on, to the point that everything they said came out as a shout. When they went to the restroom ('cause you know, girls can NEVER go alone to the restroom , their dates ordered them more drinks. Methinks a couple of guys are gettin' lucky tonight.

Which reminds me. My newly-working ice machine just dumped a load of ice.
Homina homina.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Binding. And letting go. Or something.

Someone once said that Motherhood is the hardest job in the world, and the most rewarding. Amen, sister.

It's been a week of...

  • Immense heartache on Friday.
  • An episode of "Monster Mom.... Save Yourself! Hide in the Hamper!" on Saturday.
  • Some measure of silliness on Sunday.
  • Annoyance and snarkiness on Monday.
  • Oooshy-gooshy cutesy-wutesy mushy wuv and kisses on Tuesday.
  • Unspeakable joy on Wednesday.

    • ...all at the hands of these three:

      Too smart for her britches, unfathomably intelligent, and yet completely and utterly BRAINLESS at the same time. Brilliantly talented. Passionate, faithful, beautiful, authentic. Brutally honest. Wacky. Whacked. Defensive, argumentitive, beligerent. Spoiled and self-centered. So much like me it thrills me and terrifies me at the same time. And yet.... so different from me that it amazes and mezmerizes me. And terrifies me. lol

      This daughter of mine... such a gift.

      She writes more eloquently at 16 than I do at 38.
      She's more comfortable in her skin than I've EVER been in mine.
      She's got my buttons memorized... knows which ones to push and when to push 'em, and she's a persistent button pusher, too.
      She trusts me.
      She enjoys me, likes being with me,
      and what's more,
      I enjoy her, too.
      Although, there are days when I contemplate leaving her bags on the curb with a note that says, "Stick a fork in me, I'm done. Good luck. I hear that Chili's is hiring. With affection, your Mother."

      She once wrote on her own blog, about me:
      "She's made me laugh harder than anyone, and cry more often than anyone."
      It hasn't escaped me that I can write the same about her now.

      She knows herself - knows her limitations, knows her heart, knows how to balance it all, but also knows how to fool herself into thinking she's got a better handle on life than she really does.

      She's not afraid to ask for help, not afraid to tell someone else when they need it, not afraid to say she's sorry, not afraid to end a toxic friendship, not afraid of your opinion, not afraid to piss you off, not afraid to say she loves you.

      She's been dating Brian for 1 year.

      I, like every Mom, have dreams for my daughter. I, like every Mom, know that one bad choice can lead to another bad choice, to another and another, until those dreams become vapors on the wind. I can't make Dani's rules for her anymore. I mean, I can. But she's sixteen. She knows how to break rules and how to hide that she did it. I wasn't such a good kid as most people thought, see. I was just The Master of knowing how to fool Mom and Dad. I want so much more for - and from - Dani. And so she's had to come to understand that my guidelines and rules are meaningless until she buys into them herself. Wait. Maybe it's ME who had to come to that understanding.

      Whatever. What matters is, I think we've reached that point. I asked her and Brian to come up with their own rules.... rules that no one can enforce but them. Rules that they're ready to buy into. Rules that matter to THEM as much, or more, as they matter to me.

      What matters more is this: She's God's. I used to tell her as she left the house, "Don't just be good. Be God's." (Heard that from Rich Mullins, the late singer/songwriter.) Tonight, I'm singing a song on her behalf.... "She's Yours, Lord. Everything she is, and everything she's not. She's Yours, Lord, try her now and see. See if she can be completely Yours." It takes a lot of faith to raise a teenager. My faith stores have been depleted as of late. But it's been raining all week; the drought is over.

      Oh - about those rules. Here they are, posted with Dani's permission.
      Crack me UP. I love that kid, Dani.
      Love her, love her, love her!

      By the legal and binding power bestowed upon me by no one in particular, but
      rather by self-declaration, I do hereby forbid the following activities as
      specified by the Parental Units and by God Almighty, as dictated by his
      servant Paul in the decree of I Corinthians, section 7, lines 12-20:

      I. No below the belt. If there is no belt present, the belly button shall be
      the deciding factor.
      II. No under the clothing.
      III. No off with the clothing, unless, in a gentlemanly manner, the male subject offeres to take the female's jacket.
      IV. No horizontal kissing. ('Nuf said.)
      V. No horizontal ANYthing. In case of any question, a protractor will be procured to
      ensure any angle of togetherness is well above 45°.
      VI. No touching of any articles covered by undergarments. These are specified as the following:
      a. the "hoo-ha"
      b. the "tallywhacker"
      c. the "ta-tas"
      VII. No sex. Duh.

      On the 16th day of August in the year of our Lord, 2007, the following
      signatures do hereby confirm this document as legally binding and signify
      their acceptance of any consequences that should come in the case of the
      breaking of this oath.

      X Dani
      X Brian

      Here's hoping for no immense pain this week, and a little less Monster Mom. (Bring on the hugs and kisses, and a little more random silliness, please!)

      Tuesday, August 14, 2007

      Dinner In

      I'm playing a game with myself... planning meals and figuring out what each one costs to put on the table, and then comparing it to what it would've cost for us to eat the same thing out.

      Last week, we had fettucine alfredo with chicken and broccoli, cheesy bread, and salad. The whole meal cost me $14 for 5 of us, with leftovers. Tell me where you can eat the same thing at a restaurant and get out for less for ONE. At our Italian standby down the street, Macaroni Grill, Fettucine Alfredo will cost you $9.99 for the entree. Without chicken. Salad extra.

      Tonight, we had pork chops, german potatoes, green beans and crescent rolls. $12. SIX of us ate. Yum!!

      German Potatoes are Dani's favorite side dish in the world. We got the recipe from our dear friend Michelle, aka Grammy. I don't measure anything when I make it, but tonight we sorta paid attention to what we used and how much, 'cause I was teaching Dani how to make it herself.

      Here ya go:

      German Potatoes

      • 6-8 small red potatoes, cut in 4ths and boiled for 15 minutes
      • Several thick slices of onion, cooked in butter until clear
      • To cooked onions, add 1/2 cup brown sugar,
      • 1/4 cup bacon pieces (the real kind, not Bac-Os),
      • and 1/4 or so of cider vinegar. (I've also used rice vinegar and salad vinegar.)
      Add potatoes and stir until potatoes are all coated. Let simmer until all liquid is evaporated. The potatoes should be coated in a glaze. Add more vinegar if needed. Serve warm. YUM!!

      One of our favorite house rules is this: whoever cooks doesn't have to clean up! Dani joined the cooking rotation a couple of years ago. Last night she made Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Fiesta Rice (a Lipton mix), and refried beans. Six of us ate for next to nothin'.... definitely cheaper than we could've eaten at Taco Bell.

      Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Casserole

      • 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped (I usually brown 2 boneless chicken breasts, then boil in low water until done, then cut them into bite-sized chunks)
      • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
      • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1 cup grated cheddar jack cheese
      • 1/2 cup sour cream
      • 1 can chopped green chilies
      • 1 dozen corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
      Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Put in a greased 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

      I'm starting to love home-cooking again, after being on a lazy meal/fast food kick all summer. Except when it's my turn to clean the kitchen. ;)

      Friday, August 10, 2007

      the switch

      A lot has been happening around here this week.

      To start with, one of our summer house guests, Nathan, has decided to stay on for the fall semester as a full-time volunteer at Fortress. That's great news for Fortress, because an extra set of hands and eyes, and the extra heart for loving kids is always a great blessing. It's good for Nathan, too, because he feels really called to this ministry right now, and there's nothing quite as fulfilling as knowing you're where you're supposed to be, doing what you're supposed to be doing. And it's good for our family, because Nathan asked to live here with us again!

      It was sorta a hard decision - not that we don't love Nathan, but because we've had various people living with us now for over a year without a break. (Summer interns last year, then my sister and her daughters, then a spring Fortress intern, then THIS summer's interns.) But when it came down to it, we remembered that we've always felt that God gave us this house, and we've always wanted to use it for His service. Truly. He gave it to us! There's no reason on the earth that we should've been able to afford it 3 years ago, but here we are. So we told Nathan that he was welcome to live here for the fall semester.

      The boys have always shared one of the bedrooms, and the larger upstairs den has always been used as a play room/guest room. This week, Dani and I totally cleaned out both rooms and switched all the furniture around, giving the boys a much bigger space. They've always disliked their bunk beds (what boys don't like bunk beds, I ask??), and now there's enough floor space to unstack the bunks and give each brother a floor-level bed. They're pretty excited about their new digs! Maybe I'll post photos tomorrow.

      Other than that, we've spent this week gearing down from vacation, catching up laundry, and getting back in the swing of things. In the mountains, we played games every night, and we managed to tear ourselves away from the computers and TVs one night this week to play a rousing game of Uno Attack at the kitchen table. The boys are whizzes at both Uno and Phase 10. So much fun! I hope we make it a more regular activity around here.

      Have a great weekend! Do things that make you happy!

      Thursday, August 09, 2007

      Terrible Mountain

      On our last day in Colorado, I asked each of the kids what their favorite memories of this year's trip were. Without a pause, all three of them said "the 4-wheelers"! We are so fortunate to have friends who trust us not only with their mountain cabin, but also with their toys while we're up there!

      We 4-wheeled every time the sun peeked from behind the clouds. Most days, we just hit the mountain roads around the cabin, enjoying the cool air, watching for wildlife, stopping to photograph the wildflowers, splashing through the mud puddles.
      Darren, Dani and I each drove one. Since Darren drove the beast with the foot gears, making it near impossible to have anyone sitting in front of him, it was often up to Dani and I to transport the boys. Ian rode with Dani, and Aidan rode with me. It worked out GREAT. The 4-wheeler I rode idled too low, and would die if I let off the gas. For that reason, I couldn't take photos while we were riding (the gas "pedal" is operated with your thumb), so I left my camera in the (turns out very capable!) hands of my 6-year old, who wore it around his neck and snapped away. He took almost all of the photos that we have on the 4-wheelers, including this one:

      But not this one.

      We were heading up to the top of Terrible Mountain, elevation 12,105. We were almost to the summit, preparing to go around a tight, steep curve. Darren was in the lead, Dani and Ian were behind him, and Aidan and I were bringing up the rear. There was a big mound of rock right in the middle of the road. Darren had gingerly ridden over the top of it, but doing so made his 4-wheeler tilt to the left, toward the drop-off. Seeing that terrified Dani, and she came to a complete stop, screaming, "DAD!!!! DAAAAAAAAAD!! What do I do????" But Darren was already around the corner and didn't hear her. She turned to look at me, and I was struck by the terror I saw on her face.

      The truth is, the drop off isn't as steep as it looks in this picture. I mean, you wouldn't want to go rolling down it. It'd be a long roll! But it's not like you'd fall to your instant death or anything. Even so, it's very intimidating, being up there. I urged Dani to just take it slow and trust herself. She's actually a more conscientious, careful driver than I am; I wasn't too worried. She took a good breath, carefully hit the gas, and made her way oh-so-carefully around the bend, avoiding the rock altogether. Since we were completely stopped, I was able to snap the photo, which turned out to be one of our favorites.

      Something happened to ME, though, as she and Ian worked their way around the mountain. I realized, as if I hadn't noticed this fine detail BEFORE, that two of my precious children were on ONE 4-wheeler. I prayed then and there. Not kidding. I literally prayed, out loud. "God, be with them. Keep them safe."

      He did. Once we all made it to the summit, we hiked around a bit, explored some mine ruins, set up the camera to take our only family picture for the trip, marvelled at the adventurers who climbed Fairview Peak on THEIR 4-wheelers (most people park at the base of the summit and hike up), and watched a storm move in from the west.

      We decided to head back down rather than try for Fairview Peak, just a few more minutes up the trail. We knew we needed to get to treeline before the storm hit. We made it, but barely. Just as we arrived at the first trees, I felt the first raindrops. Within seconds, they were no longer raindrops, but ICE drops! Aidan snapped this photo on our way down.

      Darren and I didn't notice that the rain was so close, because we were watching the road and not the sky at that point. When we saw this photo, it was cool to see the rain RIGHT there. See the "fog" on the left of the photo? (you can click to enlarge) That's rain. ACTUALLY, it's sleet. Or small hail. Whichever.

      It sleeted on us all the way back to the cabin. At one point, Aidan and I had to stop, remove his sweatshirt, tuck the camera down over his t-shirt, and put his sweatshirt back on over the camera to keep it dry. Aidan had a hoodie on, and kept his head down, so he was largely protected from the pelting ice. I, on the other hand, was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and nothing else. Everytime the sleet would zing my face, I'd yelp, "OW!!" Let me tell ya. Sleet, while flying down a mountain road, even at only 22 mph, HURTS. A LOT! "Ow! Ow! Ow!" I yelled, between fits of laughter. Here, you can see the red marks,still visible long after we'd changed into dry clothes.

      We arrived back at the cabin safely, cold to the bones, rubbing our stinging welts from the pelting, and dripping wet. And LAUGHING. We were ALL laughing. Hooting, even. What an exhilarating ride! It's one my kids will never forget. Someday, when they all have kids of their own, and we're all sitting around at Christmas talking about the good ol' days, I KNOW this is a story we'll retell. Makes me happy just thinkin' about it.

      Wednesday, August 08, 2007

      It's peeing in my SHOE!

      My Croc, to be exact. Thankfully, there are holes in the bottom for drainage. BLECH!

      We stopped at the Royal Gorge on the way up to the cabin. First of all... if you've never visited the Royal Gorge, it's something you MUST see. It features the world's highest suspension bridge, spanning the Colorado river 1,053 feet below. You can either drive across or walk; we walked. (This was Darren's and my 3rd trip, Dani's 2nd, and the boys' 1st.)

      So cool. Amazing, beautiful scenery! We also took the incline train down to river-level, as well as the aerial tram across the gorge. I couldn't believe my boys weren't afraid on either ride!

      On the other side of the bridge is a wildlife park and a petting zoo. Aidan and Ian were very excited about riding a donkey, so we did our parently duty and obliged them. The rules are this: two parents must accompany each child. (What do single-parented children do??) One parent leads the donkey, and the other parent walks alongside.

      "Now, when you get to the hill back there, the donkey's liable to stop," said the crusty old cowlady at the gate. "You just nudge him in the behind and he'll start back up. He's just lazy and doesn't wanna walk up the hill."

      So off we moseyed, with Aidan donkeyback, Darren leading, and me walking alongside. Sure enough, when we arrived at the base of the hill, the donkey stopped cold. I nudged his behind, but he didn't budge. Knowing that donkeys can be stubborn, stupid creatures, I decided to put a little more oomph into my nudge. I moved further back, planted my feet, and just as I started to really push, two things happened. One, I felt the splash. And two, Darren said, "HE'S PEEING!"

      I jumped back in time to miss the worst of it. Aidan howled with laughter. After all, there was a donkey peeing on Mom's foot! I looked down the hill to where the old cow-woman stood, watching us as if to say, "What's yer problem, city slicker?" I hollered, "It peed in my SHOE!"

      Donkey finally finished his business, and we made our way back to the gate, where the woman said, "I forgot to tell you that if he won't move when you nudge him, it's either because he has to go #1 or #2. I guess on your next trip around, he'll go #2."

      "That's good to know," I sneered, eyeing Ian as he made his way through the gate for his ride.

      "I'm teasing," said the old woman.

      "Oh," said I.

      Aidan still howls with laughter at the memory.

      In the thin, dry Colorado air, the urine evaporated before I could even find water with which to clean it off. G.R.O.S.S.

      The things we do for our kids, eh?

      Tuesday, August 07, 2007

      The Saga of Wolfie

      Last year, Ian left his beloved Wolfie at the cabin. We didn't realize it until we'd been back home for several days. Suddenly, he came to us crying his little head off. "Wolfie got left! We have to go get him. Poor Wolfie!"

      Uh, no. We didn't drive 900 miles back to the cabin to get him. But, our neighbor went up a month or so later, and didn't find Wolfie. I was convinced that Ian had left him in a restaurant along the way, or that he'd fallen out of the car at one of our stops. I knew he wasn't in the cabin, 'cause Mecca reorganized the whole place and didn't see him.

      From time to time throughout the year, Ian would ask us, "Do you think Wolfie is lonely? Do you think he's cold? Do Wolfies get scared? Do you think he found his family?"

      We figured out (when he finally TOLD us), that Ian had left Wolfie on purpose, because, you see, Wolfie missed his wolf family and wanted to stay in the mountains to find them. Okay then. The kid has a brilliant imagination. But then Ian realized how far away we'd be, and how long it would be before we made it back to the cabin, and he was devesated. He missed that silly stuffed animal. MOURNED for it.

      "Are we going to Colorado?" he asked again and again. We dared NOT return this year. Ian would've never forgiven us. I still was convinced that Wolfie was NOT at the cabin, and I invested some heart and soul into preparing Ian for that eventuality.

      He didn't mention Wolfie all the way to Colorado. I thought he'd accepted that the toy was gone. I would be wrong.

      While Darren, Dani and I unloaded the car, Aidan and Ian bounded upstairs. Silly me, I thought they were just exploring. But they were on a mission. Within seconds, we heard the whoops and squeals of delight. WOLFIE!!! He was THERE!!! Hidden in a cupboard. Safe and sound. Not sad, not cold, not scared.

      I've never seen my Ian more joyful. Wolfie is now safe and sound at home. I wonder if he's missing the mountains?

      Is that OUR tire??

      We were 150 miles from home, headed for Colorado. All was well. Dani and the boys were watching a movie in the backseat. I was snoozing shotgun, and Darren was driving. In the CD player was a mix called "Stuff Darren Likes", and Aaron Neville's "Crazy Love" was playing. For the rest of my life, when I hear the strains of "She gives me love, love, love, love, crazy love" in that beautiful tenor vibrato, I'll see the image of our tire bouncing down the highway.

      I was sleeping pretty hard. All of a sudden, I heard a grinding sound, and the car was slowing down FAST. I opened my eyes, and as Aaron Neville's voice filled my head, my eyes immediately saw a tire - nay, a whole wheel - bouncing down the highway in front of me, 70 mph. It crossed the grassy median, continued down the oncoming lanes, and eventually came to rest several hundred yards away in the ditch on the other side. As it bounced along, I shook my head, trying to loosen the cobwebs that cluttered my sleepy mind.

      "Is that OUR tire???" I asked.
      I couldn't make sense of it. There had been no blow-out. I hadn't felt it, and besides... the tire rolling down the highway was obviously intact.

      "Yes," was all Darren said.

      Then we were stopped. He jumped out of the car, crossed the highway and jogged to where the wheel had come to rest. By then, the song had ended, and there was an eerie silence in the car. The boys were oblivious, engrossed in their movie. Dani and I wondered aloud what had happened. We watched Darren roll the wheel back toward us, jogging the whole way in 96 degree heat.

      When he arrived at the car, he leaned the wheel against the car, and sat in the driver's seat. He was shaking, and I couldn't immediately tell if it was because he was winded, or because he was upset.

      "What on earth?" I asked.

      "The whole [front driver's side] wheel came off," he answered. "The lug nuts are gone."

      At that point, we all piled out of the car. The boys and Dani sat up on a hill away from the highway. I helped Darren unload the back of the Xterra so he could access the jack.

      As we came to a stop after the tire broke away, the grinding sound that woke me was the brake rotor scraping against the pavement. It was destroyed. We were only a couple of miles from a small town, though, and decided to take our chances. Darren borrowed a lug nut from each of the other three wheels, and used them to secure the lost wheel back to the car. We limped into town.

      On the way, I called our friend Luke, who Googled and found the number of the only car mechanic in town... a tire and alignment shop. We went there.

      "Huh," said the owner. "A 2002 Xterra. It might be hard to find parts for that."
      I figured in the small town, it'd be next to impossible. I had visions of having to call friends to come pick us up, and spending our first days of vacation with the car in the shop.

      We went to eat lunch at a nearby cafe while the mechanic looked at the car. When we returned, he'd not only located the parts - correct lugnuts AND brake rotor, IN TOWN - but he'd also managed to find and buy a new size of allen wrench with which to remove our 4-wheel drive thingy. (There's a fancy word for that, I'm sure.)

      Amazingly, we were back on the road in just over 2 hours.

      How'd it happen? Well, it seems that the (darned smart and good-lookin' to boot) guy (who I happen to be married to) who replaced our brake pads before we left failed to tighten the lug nuts all the way when he put the tire back on. He was shaking because he was FURIOUS with himself, and because he realized that we were so lucky to be safe. He didn't lose control of the car at all. He carefully brought it to a graceful stop on three wheels. I didn't know what to say, so I touched his shoulder and said, "You did a great job controlling the car." I don't think he acknowledged me.

      Here's the deal. There were a lot of little things that went RIGHT with what could have been very bad.

      1. First, because we were driving the Xterra, which is made for off-roading and flexibility, Darren was easily able to control it. Any other car wouldn't have faired as well. I hate to think of what COULD have happened when losing an entire wheel while traveling at 72 mph.
      2. Because the Xterra has such a high clearance, Darren was able to get the jack underneath the car, even with the car was resting on its brake rotor.
      3. There were no other cars around us when it happened.
      4. Because the Xterra's wheels use 6 lugnuts and not 4 or 5, we could afford to borrow one from each wheel and limp into town...
      5. which was only 2 miles away.
      6. There was a mechanic in town who was fair and gracious and very fast.
      7. The parts for our car, uncommon, were found immediately.

      Some would say (and have said) that God protected us that day... that He orchestrated the events in such a way that everything fell into place. But I don't know. I mean.... if God was involved at all, wouldn't He have made sure the lug nuts were tightened in the first place? Wouldn't He have ensured that the wheel miraculously stay put even when the lugnuts were loose?

      I believe that God is alive and working in our lives, but I also believe that life HAPPENS, and that every single thing that transpires isn't necessarily the direct hand of God. I have no way of knowing which is which. Maybe it was dumb luck that we didn't lose control of the car. Maybe it was pure coincidence that it happened within a couple of miles of the only mechanic around who could help us. Maybe it WAS God. I don't know. All I can do it praise Him NOW, and always, and hug my kids a little tighter tonight. And stick around outside next time my brake-pad changing hubby is working on the car, to swat the pesky mosquitos that distracted him in the first place and sent him rushing inside after the job was done.

      Monday, August 06, 2007


      Something funny happens when you wind down a vacation.
      First, there's a bit of sadness that it's coming to an end.
      Then there's the clean-up and pack-up. Somewhere in there, you start to get excited about sleeping in your own bed, even with its broken down mattress that you've complained about for 6 months.

      You make all kinds of noise about not wanting to drive the whole 15 hours in one day, 'cause you know.... you get car sick and what a way to end the trip, eh? But once you hit the road, you decide that.... to HECK with it. We're not stopping until we see the lights of downtown Fort Worth!

      We pulled away from the cabin at 8:06 a.m. and began the bumpy, bouncy, curvy decsent towards Texas. Two hours later, somewhere in Big Horn Sheep Canyon, Ian shouted, "I DON'T FEEL GOOD!"

      "Do you need to throw up?" I asked. He said yes, and Darren immediately pulled off the road. Just as the car came to a stop, he hurled. I jumped out and raced around the front of the car, grabbed him out of his seat, and got him to the back of the car before he hurled again. Poor kid. Lesson learned: DON'T FEED IAN OATMEAL IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO HITTING THE MOUNTAIN ROADS!

      Darren and Dani were the amazing ones who cleaned up the whole mess. We ended up trashing the towel and Ian's shorts rather than have them stink up the car all the way back to Texas.

      Amazingly, we only made four more stops: lunch and gas in Pueblo, bathroom stop in Walsenburg, gas and dinner in Amarillo, and gas in north Fort Worth, a mere 10 miles from home. We arrived home at 1:45 Sunday morning.

      Miles traveled: 2200
      Gas mileage averaged: 18 mpg
      Money spent on gas: $500
      CDs listened to: countless
      Movies the boys watched on the road: Teen Titans (TV episodes), GI Joe: Venom and Valor, Herbie Fully Loaded, Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)
      Sonic stops: ONE! Only one!
      Emergency Car Repairs: one. But that's another blog.

      Here we are, at the top of Terrible Mountain, less than a week ago.

      More stories and photos in the days to come.
      It's good to be home!