Here we are!

Here we are!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

October Top Ten

10. Tim's dad successfully made it through heart surgery and is recovering well.
9. Community Carnival at church
8. Daniel's birthday (my baby is SEVEN!!)
7. Tracy's birthday (29. AGAIN.)
6. Yummy chocolate cake with strawberries (thanks, John)
5. Taking a quick trip to North Carolina
4. Seeing U2 in North Carolina
3. Seeing Muse in North Carolina
2. Seeing U2 in Pasadena
1. October is finally over! That was a little too wild for me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Event Staff Woman Goes Berserk at U2 Concert!

This one lady spent the majority of the concert making chop-your-head-off motions with her hands. She encouraged the males to her right to use their flashlights to shine in the crowd's eyes. She was concerned that people were videoing the concert. She was going after us one by one, hoping to get through all of us, I suppose. I noticed that she was the only event staff doing this. She also confiscated a beach ball. I can hardly write this without laughing. She. confiscated. a. beach. ball. She was so busy running around trying to stop people from doing things, she reminded me of Data in that Star Trek movie where his emotions make him crazy. She also reminded me of my neurotic dog running from window to window, back and forth, barking like crazy. It was so fascinating watching the other CALM event staff compared to her, that I had to attempt to catch her in action. (I just pretended I was videoing the concert.) Can you see the otherwise splendid view of Bono and Edge? Ugh, just ruined by this one crazy lady!

Dear Carter-Finley Stadium: I really enjoyed the Muse/U2 concert in October. I thought your stadium was clean and had lots of toilets (unconventional placement, but plentiful nonetheless). I wish you had vendors selling food outside for those of us in the GA line. You could have made a killing off us! And thanks for holding off the rain that day. We didn't have any parking trouble at 3:00 p.m., although I'm sure you've gotten your fill of complaints from people who missed the concert because of the terrible situation. I wasn't too thrilled to spend an hour and a half sitting in the parking lot after the concert. But could you please remove someone from their job, because they are a seriously negative spot on your otherwise passable venue. Thank you.

Monday, November 09, 2009

U2/Muse Concert

The actual concert was amazing! It is so neat to look back to this concert and notice the differences between NC and Pasadena. When we walked into the stadium, we were handed paper masks of Aung San Suu Kyi with eyeholes that pop out. Anyone that is a fan of U2 or even braves the GA crowd KNOWS who this person is. Anyone, that is, except the pretty boy with designer clothing standing next to us. He could not figure out why they were handing him a mask of Clay Aiken. Anyway, the mask was supposed to come out when U2 sang Walk On so we could all be the face of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Muse came out and did several songs from different albums. They had so much energy and Matt is extremely talented on the guitar. There was a U2 fan on the other side of me (not the pretty boy) who had never heard of Muse. After they played, he was ready to get some of their music! I'm sad they didn't play "Knights of Cydonia" and "United States of Eurasia." But we'll have to wait for them to come back out next summer. Please come to California!!

U2 came out and did an amazing job! You can read about their concerts and set lists anywhere, so I won't bore you. We stood right in front of Edge and watched him, like, right there! And after a few songs, the brilliantly bright full moon was just hanging out in the sky like he was there to see the concert as well. (That was the only day it didn't rain while Tim was there.) And a funny note about the field: On the actual grass field (covered by flooring) were 30 port-a-potties all lined up in a row. All these toilets were right there in the back half of the GA field! I feel sorry for those folks who had to stand next to them all night; phew!

And one more note about the concert. This one deserves a separate post just for the full effect. Coming up... Event Staff Woman Goes Berserk at U2 Concert!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

U2/Muse Concert Trip, Day 2

We finally made the decision. You remember we had to decide whether I would go stand in the GA line at 7:30 a.m. while Tim went to the conference, or both of us go together at 3:00 after the conference session and be further back in line. We took a risk by getting in line later that day and maybe being at the back of the floor at the concert. (Or, we could get lucky and be close enough to the front.)

Tim needed to be at the U2 conference by 9:00 and we had one rental car. The hotel is in the middle of nothing. Do I sleep in and have a leisurely day at a decent hotel without a car, or go explore? Explore, of course! After Tim got dropped off, my first thought was to find a Starbucks and then check out Duke University. So I punched Starbucks into the GPS and she took me to some sort of stadium with a business center across the street. Everything looked pretty deserted and the business center was closed on a Saturday. So I kept driving and dead-ended at the Durham Farmers' Market.

There was a booth selling baked goods, so I got a chocolate donut muffin and a buttermilk donut muffin. There were lots of greens to purchase and many of them were "simmering greens." (What are simmering greens?) There were lots of potatoes, but no fruit anywhere. After browsing, I took my donut muffins back to the car and tried to find Duke. It was pretty deserted on a Saturday morning, so I asked Ms. GPS to take me to the mall (there's got to be a Starbucks at a mall, right?). Ms. GPS had me turning and merging and exiting at all the correct locations, but when she said "take the motorway," I was stumped. Nothing said "motorway" on the road signs and there were two freeways dividing up ahead.

"Take the motorway," again.

I needed a translater. Which way was I supposed to go? Can't you just say "take the I62 north" or "exit right?"

"Take the motorway." Seriously, which one is the motorway?

Well, at least she can redirect me if I take the wrong freeway.

Whew, made it. Found the mall, found Starbucks, even found a gas station. Now, I needed to find some lunch before getting Tim and heading to the concert. Hey! Cracker Barrel is out here! Ms. GPS, please take me to a Cracker Barrel!

After half of a chocolate and half of a buttermilk donut muffin and coffee for breakfast, I found some more hearty (read "high caloric") food at Cracker Barrel. (I am telling you the truth, that meal lasted through dinner and on into midnight.) Then I went to get Tim, and wouldn't you know Ms. GPS took me on a gravel road at a different university? She knew exactly where she was, but it wasn't where I wanted to be. After arguing with her a bit, she grudgingly took me to Tim's location and then we headed to the stadium.

The GA Line: We got in line around 3:30 and found out they would open the gates at 5:00. Lots of people were tailgating in the parking lot and in the GA line, people were camped out with chairs and coolers. As it got closer to 5:00, most people stashed their belongings as we could hear U2 doing a sound check. Around 5:30 they opened the gates and we made a mad dash for the floor. We managed to get to the center stage about 4 or 5 people back. Yay! (On the floor, they don't have any seats. It is "standing room only" and everyone rushes to get a spot. Once there, you have to hold your spot until the concert starts.) Had there been an "elipse" on this tour, we would have been in it! One good thing about going this early was that so many cars were trying to get in the stadium, a lot of people missed half the concert. After the concert, it took us about an hour and a half to get out of the parking lot.

Coming up: The Muse/U2 Concert!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

U2/Muse Concert Trip, Day 1

Friday, October 2: I am so excited to go see my favorite two bands, U2 and Muse, playing in North Carolina. Tim and I got GA tickets (!) and we are debating our attack to get to the floor. Drop me off at the stadium early (conference is 30 minutes away) to get a spot, or take our chances and show up at 3:00 in the afternoon? We are still undecided.

Tim left on Wednesday for his academic conference on U2. He and a student are presenting a “paper” at this conference (which is a big deal). Unfortunately, at FPU all budgets have been cut for faculty to do this sort of thing, but the expectation for faculty to do this sort of thing was not cut. To raise money for expenses associated with presenting a paper at an academic conference in North Carolina, the Bible department sold zwiebach. I baked lots of zwiebach. I raised a lot of dough. And I baked. And I pinched. And I greased. And I bagged. Repeat. Repeat again. You get the idea.

So back to Friday. Tim’s dad had triple bypass on Tuesday, which necessitated that his sister come out from Ohio. We were so relieved she was here! When he came through with flying colors, Tim proceeded with going on his trip. When recovery kept improving, I proceeded with my trip.

Flying from Fresno to the east coast is never an easy thing to do. Heck, flying from Fresno to anywhere is never an easy thing to do, unless you’re just going somewhere like San Francisco or L.A. (which, in that case, you would drive your car). Leg one: Fresno to SFO was uneventful. I’m not particularly fond of heights, but my love of looking out the window at the “miniature” cities usually wins out. (This is why I also love the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland.) Leg two: SFO to Dulles was long. I grabbed a sourdough bowl and clam chowder from Boudin Bakery (yum!) and talked with Tim until it was time to board. We are still undecided about the GA line and what to do. I watched The Terminal with Tom Hanks on my ipod during the flight. (I highly recommend this movie while flying. You will crack up when you land and walk into the airport.) At Dulles, I grabbed a salad before my flight and called the boys. Leg three: Dulles to Raleigh/Durham was short, but on that horrible Airbus 320, it felt like forever. I really really don’t like the Airbus 320; if I wanted to ride Tower of Terror, I would go to Disneyland.

Raleigh/Durham airport: Made it! Tim is at a screening for a movie associated with the conference, so I told him to take his time. While waiting for him, I noticed that my skin started feeling rather sticky. I also started smelling my hair products melting in the humidity. Nice. Tim soon pulled up in the smallest Hyundai ever made and we were off to the hotel via the GPS lady (more on her later). We are still undecided about the GA line but leaning towards an afternoon arrival.

Monday, October 05, 2009

September Top Ten

10. Michael started running in cross country at school.

9. Daniel started playing on the soccer team.

8. Michael is learning how to play the trombone in beginning band.

7. Daniel is learning how to play the piano.

6. U2/Muse tickets arrived in the mail and flights booked for October 3 Raleigh concert.

5. Saw Peter Frampton in concert at the Madera fair with Tim and Dave.

4. Saw Phil Keaggy in concert at the Hume Country Fair with Tim, boys, and my parents.

3. The Resistance by Muse is released in the U.S.

2. Tim’s sister comes for a visit from Ohio because…

1. …Tim’s dad had a triple bypass and came through it beautifully.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

August Top Ten

Whew! August flew by so fast that I'm not sure I can come up with ten things to write about. But, here goes...
10. The tooth fairy visited Daniel again.
9. The tooth fairy visited Michael again.
8. The Fresno Library saw a high volume of transactions on our account.
7. Highly recommend the "Gregor" series for kids by Suzanne Collins (even I enjoyed them).
6. Barbecued trout!
5. Greek Festival feta cheese and olives.
4. This makes the list for Daniel: Going to Chuck E. Cheese with Mom while Dad and Michael were gone. Tracy's statement to the Chuck E. Cheese host while standing in "line" at an empty register: "Seriously, I've been standing here for 10 minutes waiting to give you my money and no one is in line in front of me. Can you call someone??"
3. Time at the cabin!
2. Michael started 5th grade.
1. Daniel started 1st grade. ("Mom, they made me stay at school the WHOLE day!")

Monday, August 03, 2009

Peaches, Camping and Tomatoes

Every summer, I await the ripening of O'Henry peaches. They are such a bright, pretty color, and during the grey days of January, I pull out a quart jar of canned peaches and remember the warmth and sunshine of August. (By January, the sweaty memories of Fresno in summer have faded a bit.) So each summer I wait, knowing that sooner or later, the sunshiny goodness will arrive. It is a countdown that is more based on weather than calendar.

Will it be the last week of July or the first week of August?

Will it be a good crop?

"Dad, can you save me three boxes?"

This year, we have exploding pits. (That sort of sounds like a Harry Potter item, like "Blast Ended Skrewts" or "Decoy Detonators.") Not that the peaches explode or anything, but the pits have popped open inside the peaches. Mostly we get "split pits" in the culls, but this year a lot of the peaches were starting to get rotten in the middle. So it took a bit longer to do the "peach thing" this year. But my pantry and freezer are cheerfully swaddling my sunshine babies for a gloomy day. Bring on the rain.

Er... Never mind.

The boys went camping with Tim. They packed up their sleeping bags, tent, food, entertainment, firewood, clothing, first aid kit, tarp, chairs, water jug, blankets, bug repellent, lantern, flashlights, and pillows and headed off to the Sunset Campground. Tim actually went "Motorcycle" camping there last week and said it was quieter than Azalea (but now don't you go camping at Sunset because that would ruin it). Motorcycle camping is where you put everything you need to camp in all the little bags on your motorcycle. That is actually going a bit too far for me. So this week, Tim took the truck and the boys and the big 18-person tent. That's how I like to camp. Not to mention flush toilets. And a camp stove. I am awaiting their return with stories of adventure and dirty laundry.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, by which I mean our house, I finally have "grandma tomatoes" this year. My grandma and grandpa grow the absolute best eat-them-or-lose-your-eternal-salvation tomatoes on the planet. I have tried to grow good tomatoes each year, and have failed miserably. One year, I got quite a few tomatoes, but they had bad taste and texture. So this year, I asked the grandparents to buy me a 6-pack (of tomatoes, shame on you!) when they bought theirs. I planted at the same time, watered the same way, and fertilized on schedule. Now I too have big, red, juicy tomatoes that beg to be eaten sliced, with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, EVOO, and a splash of balsamic. Mmmm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

July's Top Ten List

10. Air Conditioning
9. Air Conditioning with solar panels
8. O-Henry peaches are here this week
7. Getting the house painted
6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
5. Homemade ice cream
4. Spending time with family
3. Selling the 1997 CR-V
2. Purchasing the 2006 Honda Pilot
1. Visiting the urgent care and subsequently the ER to rehydrate Michael after he was sick for 3 days, and spending the night prior to that imagining the worst like pancreatic cancer or e-coli, and praying that is was "only" the stomach flu but wondering why the vomiting won't stop if it was "only" the stomach flu, hence the pancreatic cancer self-diagnosis. (It was only the stomach flu... Really, that's what Dr. Bryan said.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Big Bad Wolf by Daniel Neufeld


One day, three little pigs were walking down the road when they saw the Big Bad Wolf. "Aaah," they cried! Then they ran away.

The End.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quirky Cabin

So I think that when Tim's grandpa was building the cabin 40 years ago, he hired a giant and a dwarf to design the bathroom.

The giant was hired to install the robe hook on the bathroom door. This giant is seven feet tall and he wanted someplace to hang his overalls so they would not drag on the floor while he took his shower. Seriously, why is there a need to have a hook placed so high off the ground? The mice can't jump that high. At least we have a step-stool in the bathroom so I can reach it.

The dwarf was hired to install the sink. Can you see the height relative to my leg? Standard counters are about a foot higher than this. If you want to wash your face or brush your teeth, not only do you have to crouch down for the water, but the spigot only comes out about an inch. So once you have your face all lathered up (while crouching down), you hope that the water will be caught with your fingertips and puddle up in your cupped hands to splash water on your face. But wait, there's more. The hot water faucet will slowly decrease in pressure until there is no water coming out. You can keep turning the faucet and the water will keep slowing down. And all this is happening while you are crouched down with soap in your eyes.

Now off to ponder why the staircase is made of steps so narrow that you have to walk sideways...


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hume Vacation

We got to spend eight nights at the cabin recently. The boys did some fishing, swam in the lake, and played outside. I did lots of reading and caught up on sleep after a busy week of VBS. Tim got his fishing poles restrung (is that what you do?) and played his mandolin. We were able to relax and have fun as a family. The only problem with that much relaxing and sleeping is that you get your internal schedule all out of whack. The first morning, you sleep in. Then that evening you stay up to watch a movie. Then the next morning you sleep in even later. Then that evening, you're not tired and stay up even later. It's a vicious cycle, I know. At least the boys are sleeping in also... they used to wake up bright and early in their early years.

We had some visitors during our vacation. My mom brought up my grandparents for the day Tuesday. They had some lunch and then enjoyed the outdoors on our deck. We had some ice cream at the store and then it was time for dinner. All that relaxing works up an appetite. When Friday rolled around, Tim's parents joined us for the weekend. And we worked hard relaxing with them. We drove to Cherry Gap to watch the fireworks on July 4. They look like tiny colored Q-tips from that elevation. We could see at least a dozen different shows in the valley cities.

We had some other visitors as well. A few weeks ago, we went to the cabin for just a couple of nights and noticed mouse evidence. We knew Tim's cousin and her family were going to the cabin after us, so we warned them to bring mousetraps. The final count from their stay was 14 mice! Yuck! The week we were up there, we only caught six. But it gets better...

Here is the lovely Fire King oven. This bad boy has been known to bake cakes, cobblers, and roasts, all without breaking a sweat.

Here is the back of the oven with the panel removed. We took off the panel to investigate why the oven smelled bad when we used it. Look close, can you see it?


The boys helped stack firewood further away from the cabin to comply with fire safety. They stacked it so it would resemble a fort, complete with "Keep Out" signs barring the entrance.

And what made the return home even better was a cool 95 degrees to unload the truck in. Usually it is 108 and 4:00 in the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June's Top Ten List

10. Strawberries
9. School summer vacation
8. Tree fruit
7. First day of summer
6. Longer daylight
5. Going to the cabin
4. Summer blockbusters
3. Solar panel "true up" for the year
2. Time spent with family
1. VBS!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sleepy Boys

I can't help it. I really can't. When I see this at night, I have to capture it. I have so many pictures of them sleeping, I don't know what to do with them. So I'll share them with you.

My sister-in-law used to say that kids could be naughty all day, but when they sleep they look so innocent. Not that my kids are EVER naughty, nope not mine. These little angels are perfect!


At the Mountains

We went to the cabin a couple of weekends ago and met some friends at Grant Grove for dinner one night. It was COLD and cloudy, but the boys had a blast with their friends. Tim brought his mandolin for sitting by the campfire. We all brought an ingredient for taco salad and had a yummy dinner. Lots of dessert and even s'mores to follow that!

Friday, April 17, 2009


The weekend of Palm Sunday, we headed to Pismo.

We managed to get one of the last rooms at the Kon Tiki and it was conveniently on the ground floor. We had a sliding door out to the pool and beach stairway. It is 110 steps down to the beach, just in case you were wondering. The boys had a blast building sand castles and finding sand dollars. They swam in the heated pool numerous times and sat in the spa with us. The first night, we got there too late for the sunset, but the second night we ordered in a pizza and sat on our patio to watch the sunset. Now, I'm not usually a sentimental type of person, but one of my favorite things to do is watch the sunset on the edge of the west coast. There is just something about being on the end of the continent and watching the sun descend on the horizon. I wonder if I would enjoy the sunrise on the edge of the east coast? That is something I've never done before. And since I'm not a morning person, something I'm not eager to do.

Then we played a game of Monopoly (Pixar version) and sat in the spa before bed. The last day, we hiked down to Dinosaur Caves and looked at some tidepools. Then we had great taqueria food at Tio Alberto's right next door to Old West Cinnamon Rolls.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with some friends, Irish food (corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread, Irish cream cake) and Irish music (U2). Daniel had lots of fun at kindergarten because they have been seeing little green footprints in the week leading up to St. Patrick's Day. On the actual day, the class went on a hunt around school to find the leprechaun, but when they got back to their classroom, the room was "all messed up." Daniel said his heart was beating fast because he was just a little bit worried. The floor rug was turned crooked and the room was messy. There was a pot of gold chocolate coins waiting for them (but no leprechaun). Michael made sure to wear green and his luck that day was a rolling backpack that finally fell apart beyond use. His old backpack was in shambles and yet he refused a new one because of the sentimental feelings he had for it. Yay, he doesn't look like he has a bad mom anymore!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Out of the Mouth of... Daniel

Tonight we saw that the neighbor boys were practicing their batting in the front yard. They finally got some wiffle balls instead of using baseballs! (The neighborhood was starting to get nervous... ) So Tim said something out loud like, "they got some wiffle balls." Then Daniel walked up to me and quietly asked if he could have some for his snack tonight. I asked, "some what?" He answered, "some waffle balls." Ha, leggo my eggo!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dear God, I am requesting a ponytail like I Dream of Jeannie...

...because it's going to take a lot of magic to clean my living room!

Do not be anxious about anything (like dust and Legos), but in everything... prayer and petition, present your requests to God. (Did you see that one little request up there at the top?)

And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding (and 6 & 10 year old boys), will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Semi-Annual Walmart Shopping Trip

This might sound blasphemous to some of you, but I seriously do not like shopping at Walmart (gasp!). In fact, I go out of my way to avoid shopping there. If you remember from an earlier post, I calculated that my savings had to be at least $6 over what I would pay elsewhere for the same thing. And I am really starting to think that $6 is well spent elsewhere. What prompted me to shop somewhere I can't stand? I was taking a risk. You see, I had a shopping list that required things from a grocery store, fabric store, hardware store, office store and drug store. So I took a risk that Walmart might actually have these things in stock. I know they have shelves and price tags in the store for the things on my list, but the gamble here is whether or not they actually have the product. Besides, so many people rave about their savings and love of the store. I don't think the California stores are anything like the midwest stores. Someone told me the stores in the midwest are all clean and nice (kind of like our Targets) and not at all trashy and dirty like these.

It is mid-morning, the boys are in school, and I am BY MYSELF! This should be easy! First up, a USB drive for Michael's school project. The USB drives are located in a locked glass cabinet. The electronics counter is vacant, so I visit the photo counter. The guy walks to the aisle and says, "oh it is locked." Like I didn't tell him that when I said "Can someone please open a cabinet for me?" So he gets his keys and then realizes that he doesn't have the keys to that particular cabinet. He tells me to wait a moment while he finds the electronics guy, and then they both come back to unlock the cabinet. USB drive... check! Next up, some denim iron-on patches. Almost all my boys' jeans have holes in the knees. The patches will hold us through until shorts season. Yay, Walmart has the "other" denim color, but not the faded denim color. Just an empty hangar on the wall. Patches... half a check! Next up, Legos for a birthday gift. Do you know that Walmart does not sell Legos?!? At least, last week they did not. Seriously, no Legos?? Even the Walgreens down the block sells Legos!! Ugh! Next up, hair gel. I walked up and down the hair product aisle about 5 times. Where is the hair gel? Where are half the hair products for that matter? I asked the girl stocking the aisle (and blocking about 2/3's of all the product with her cart and not offering to move or even taking a hint for that matter) where all their hair products were. She said they were restructuring the layout and would have more in about two weeks. Seriously? No hair gel? In Walmart? Sigh... I am starting to really hate Walmart. Next up, some flour. YES! They have flour in stock! Next up, I look for an outlet plate. Score! 24 cents! Finally on the list, some Sudaphed... no score. Just an empty display.

So I still had to go to Target after all.

After I got home, I grabbed all the bags and just set them on the floor in my bedroom. It was lunch time and Daniel and I were hungry. After a while, Daniel said, "Mom, Mickey is chewing on something." I couldn't find anything so I told him it was probably something stuck on his paw. After a while longer, Daniel said again, "Mom, Mickey looks like he is trying to eat something, but I can't see anything." Mickey's snout was all white and pasty looking. He had white paste over his mouth, and his chest and paws were covered in something sticky. I went to the kitchen and the trash cans were all secure. I went to the boys' bedrooms and nothing was chewed up there (other than the pencil remnants from last week). I went to my bedroom. There on the floor was a chewed open white plastic Walmart bag. Beside that, there was the flour bag laying on its side with the front torn off and flour spilling out. Did anyone expect dogs to eat flour? Do I really need one more thing to clean up? Can I find a way to blame this on Walmart?


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

The boys like riding the schoolbus to and from school every day. At our bus stop, there are around 10 to 15 students that ride the bus. The bus driver this year likes to bring treats for the kids on Fridays like Tootsie Pops. Today he brought donuts for the kids on the way TO school (hello sugar!). Daniel took a maple bar, which is his favorite (mine too). When he got home at noon, he told me that he had a donut he wanted to eat (I thought he got one on the way home, but I didn't see it anywhere). So I told him to wash his hands first.

Me: "Where was your donut?"

D: "In my backpack."

Me: "Did you put it in your lunch box?"

D: "No, it's too hard to explain."

Me: "Did you wrap it in something?"

D: "No, I just put it in my backpack." (Imagine me with a frozen smile.)

Me: "What else is in your backpack?"

D: "Oh, just my folder." (Whew!)

Fortunately his backpack is fairly new, so there's nothing too ugly at the bottom yet. His backpack got a nice wipe-down today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tour of California at Shepherd and Minnewawa The boys and I headed out to watch the Tour of California go past. How can you NOT go see it when they are just a couple of miles away from our house? So we drove on Minnewawa as close as we could get and then parked and walked up a block to Shepherd. Front row view! Here is the front of the group. We missed getting a picture of the first 3 guys because they zipped by so fast.

The Amgen website has fantastic streaming coverage, so when they got close to Millerton, we left home to go watch it live and we only waited about 10 minutes. The whole time we were waiting, there were all the vans and video motorcycles zooming past. I think every CHP and police car in California was also having fun on the route. And then after about 5 seconds, it was over. So the boys didn't even have time to get bored. Well, Daniel said he was bored, but it may be "opposite day" today, so I don't know if he was bored or entertained. Anyway, I got to see Lance Armstrong up close (it was a blur, so I'm just telling you I saw him, really).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Taco Tuesday
Every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday at the Neufeld house. We LOVE tacos! Most of the time it is ground beef tacos, but we also do chicken tacos, fish tacos, and tonight we had carnitas tacos. Yum! Here is what I did:

Yesterday we had slow-cooker pulled pork barbecue sandwiches. When you get a pork shoulder roast on sale, it is quite economical.

Put a big pork shoulder roast (or pork butt roast, great name BTW) in a slow cooker.
Quarter one onion and put in pot.
Add 5 or 6 peeled garlic cloves.
Add 1 cup beef stock (or make with boullion cube).
Season with salt/pepper.
Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred with fork and serve on your favorite bun with favorite barbecue sauce. Melts in your mouth! This goes well with coleslaw, too.

For carnitas, take remaining meat and save for the next day. Strain liquid from slow-cooker and save. The next day: Place shredded pork in a baking pan and pour 1/2 cup milk over. (I know, sounds weird). Bake at 325 for 1 hour. Stir/scrape meat off pan and pour 1/2 cup of reserved meat broth over. Every 15 minutes, repeat the scrape/pour process until meat is crispy to your liking. Season to taste and serve in tacos! Muy bien!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day Aren't spur-of-the-moment, last-minute plans sometimes the best? We usually don't do anything special for Valentine's Day because we can't stand the crowds or cheesy romantic meals at restaurants. So when Karen Ray called to see if we wanted to come over for dinner, it worked out great! She made yummy chicken parmesan and for dessert we had chocolate mousse with vanilla sauce and rich coffee machiattos. Then Tim got out his mandolin and Dan got out his harmonicas and they goofed off a little before it was time to head home.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Stubborn Son
Last night I made soup for dinner. It was good soup if I do say so myself, as did Tim and Michael. Daniel is our picky eater and wasn't interested in the soup. He is probably better described as a stubborn eater rather than a picky eater. It's all in the motivation. We usually have to hold off giving him a 2nd serving of things like bread or pilaf or corn (his favorites) until he finishes the "real" food first. So last night he wanted another biscuit with honey and we told him to eat more soup first. Actually, we have to tell him in more specific terms, like "eat 5 more bites first." And he usually tries to bargain his way down: "how about 4 more bites?" So we play this game just about every day ("if you don't eat 5 bites, then it's going to be 6"). He knows that if he doesn't eat his dinner, we will save it and heat it up for him when he wants a snack later. He even acts like a martyr when he finally eats his dinner (at 8:00): "Fine, I'll EAT it... (sigh)." So back to the soup. Last night, he had about half his soup left. By half of it left, I mean like 5 green beans and 2 bites of ham. We don't give him very much because we know what he does. And we also don't force our kids to lick their plates clean. But we do make them eat enough to get nourishment. Have you seen our skinny kids? They COULD use a little meat on their bones. But I digress. So Daniel really doesn't want to eat any more soup. I know he is not full; I know he is not sick; I know he is being stubborn. So we clean up dinner and leave him sitting at the table. He knows he can quickly gobble up a handful of bites and be done with it, but he doesn't. After an hour (!!) I heat up his soup again and he takes 2 bites of ham. He still doesn't want to finish it. So Michael starts practicing his guitar and I pick up a book to read. Daniel just sits at the table.
Me: "Daniel, all you have to do is eat those green beans and you can be excused."
Daniel: "How about just one green bean?"
Me: "No, all the green beans, and if you can eat more than one bean in a bite, it will be just 4 bites."
Daniel: "But there is a tomato in my bowl."
Me: "You don't have to eat the tomato."
Daniel: "How about one bite?"
Me: "If you can eat all the green beans in one bite, then that's fine."
Daniel: "Oh, all right."
So after TWO hours, he finished his soup. We even had fresh brownies waiting for him, but that wasn't a good enough motivation. How can this kid be so stubborn that he would choose to sit at the table for 2 hours rather than just go "gulp, gulp, gulp" and be excused??

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dental Implants
Yesterday I had my 2nd implant "installed." Or do you say "implanted?" It was a lot easier than 3 months ago when I had my tooth surgically extracted with a bone graft. They have to wait 3 months for the bone graft to turn into real bone and then they can do the implant. So, like I said, this is easier; my cheek is swollen (picture a cartoon monkey) but at least all my teeth don't hurt like before. I can chew pretty normal on the opposite side. Yesterday, for some reason, I was not as doped up when I came home and my mouth did not stay numb all day as before. This alertness was nice, but had to be sacrificed for the Tylenol/Codeine pain relief. Today, ibuprofen is the drug of choice, but I think I'm secretly looking forward to tonight's codeine-induced sleep.

In my previous post, I mentioned my aversion to needles. Here's my IV story from yesterday: I get to the surgeon's office a few minutes early and try to stay calm while waiting. I have complete confidence in the surgeon and trust him totally. The assistant calls me in to the room and starts checking my blood pressure and heart rate. Calm, stay calm. Then she gives me the release form to sign, which says that I'm going to have my #6 tooth extracted, a bone graft, and a dental implant while under IV sedation. I correct her and say that obviously I have already had my #6 tooth extracted and also a bone graft. I'm trying not to get nervous. She leaves for a few minutes and then comes back with a corrected form. I sign the form. Then I'm waiting and waiting and trying to stay calm. Finally the dr. comes in and gets my arm ready for the IV. I do really good when I don't watch and ignore the "pinch" of the needle. (They always say "small pinch" right before they stick you; why is that?) Because I was trying to ignore the whole needle thing, I forgot to remind him that my right arm always has trouble with the veins (I have agonizingly learned this during the past 10 years). So after 3 or 4 "small pinches," I'm trying not to pass out and manage to mumble "you did my left arm last time." He feels really terrible about this and says that most people would be screaming at him by then. So I try to look away as he moves to my left arm (which took about half a second for the IV) and I see the blood on my right arm and the assistant getting a needle ready. And that is the last I remember.

Now during my needle-distraction, I asked lots of questions while the dr.'s hands were busy. I found out that about 90% of wisdom teeth extractions are done under IV sedation and about 50% of dental implants are done under IV sedation. The reason most people don't do the IV sedation is because they either have a severe aversion or they physically can't be sedated. At my appointment 3 months ago, the dr. tried to distract me with questions about the election. Did I think there were going to be any surprises? Did I vote? etc. I asked him if he liked his job. And he gave me the best answer. He stopped and said "I love my job. If I had the choice to do it again, I would absolutely do the same thing." Whew! What a relief. And then I was asleep.

I can't wait to see my x-rays next month. The implants show up bright white on x-rays and it's interesting to see how deep they really go. I'll try to bring my camera and see if I can get a picture. Almost makes me feel like the Terminator or something. Cool!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Catching Up
Michael: Michael recently ran for student body office for the position of Safety Commissioner. I still don't have a good idea of what this all entailed, but since there were 5 students running for the position, I knew there was a good chance that a defeat wouldn't bother him too much. It was a great experience for him; making posters, writing a speech, and then giving a speech to his school. The girl that won is such a neat girl, so Michael was happy for her. Michael also turned 10 last month and had a Wii birthday party. He had some friends over to play video games and our house has never emitted that level of volume before (I even asked our neighbor about it). I had no idea 5 boys could make that much noise. We gave Michael a guitar for his birthday and he is already learning so much. The guitar comes much easier for him than piano does. Can you guess who he takes after?

Daniel: Daniel is new territory for a 6 year old. He is so funny and frustrating; such a constant contradiction. He wants to be so independent because that is what they teach in kindergarten, but he doesn't understand that he has to obey when he gets home. "I'm gonna get some marshmallows." (His favorite food.) "No, Daniel, it's almost dinnertime." "Well, I'm just going to have a few." "No, Daniel, you need to obey." "But it's just a few... waaaaaaaa." Sigh... And then he can be so funny. This morning we were lounging around in our jammies (no school today) and he said "MOM, why do you still have your jammies on?!" "Well, Daniel, YOU still have YOUR jammies on..." and then he just laughed and laughed at that. Saturday, Tim and I went to the $3 movie theater and Daniel asked why they were going to Nana's house. So I teasingly told him that we wanted to go have fun without him. Any other day, he would have laughed and joked right back, but yesterday he started to cry. Sigh... Like I said, constant contradiction. And it doesn't help that he is so cute without his two front teeth; try not to laugh at a 6 year old when he is trying to be serious. Today he wanted to wear shorts so bad, and when he asked if he could wear short pants, I told him sure. Fifty two degrees is plenty warm for shorts!

Tim: You can catch updates on Tim's blog, but the most recent family news is his truck. It has a hole in the radiator. And while his truck is not exactly family, it does put a strain on our hectic life with one car. If it was nice and sunny, this predicament would not be an issue, but who wants to ride a motorcycle in the rain?

Tracy: After Thursday, I will have implants. Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun... I already have one implant and the next one this week will make it two. My #6 tooth (or lack of) will be getting a nice titanium post pounded into my upper jaw. Three months ago, I had that #6 tooth surgically removed and a bone graft put in. But the worst is over and hopefully this will be nothing more than an inconvenience. I actually heal pretty fast and my tolerance for pain is surprisingly (shockingly) high. Except that I don't handle needles very well. Did you know that in high school I actually half-way fainted in Biology when we had to do blood typing? I had to dive for the girls' restroom to heave. And I had to drive an old truck to my tiny country high school? And I just don't dance or do well in sports? And I would prefer jeans or sweats to fashion? Hmm, who does that sound like? Yes, Cindy, I am in fact a Bella! Go to Cindy's blog to see who she is. By the way, if you are considering the vampire movie, just say no! They should have paid ME to sit through that. Stick with the books.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

International Food

Prior to a couple of years ago, I had never really ventured into the Indian food arena. Our previous pastor traveled to India and came back with stories about food and eating with your hands. The recipes didn't seem to appeal to me. The most I had ventured out was traditional Thai and, later, fusion Thai and was intrigued by the counter-balance of flavor: the sweet vs. sour, spicy vs. cool, texture differences in the same dish. Then, after our current pastor suggested Indian food for a staff meal, I was on a quest to try out these recipes. I made a dish for our family, but the boys did not like the spicy and complex taste. There were so many new and exciting recipes to try: butter chicken, chicken korma, curry a million different ways!

I volunteered to make a dish once a month for InterVarsity's International Student Fellowship, a group of international college students that meets every Friday night. The guidelines for making the meal suggested that spicy dishes that could be served over rice were popular. Cool! Automatic guinea pigs for my cooking! After trying several recipes from my favorite cooking site,, I moved to uncharted territory. I quizzed my Indian friends and bounced ideas off them. They gave me suggestions and instructions. After a few tries, the best dishes that turned out were the ones that balanced the texture, the spiciness, and the flavors. Here is the recipe I made yesterday for the World Welcome Party:

Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry

4-5 lbs chicken
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
whole bulb (head) of garlic, finely chopped
2 cans (28 oz each) crushed or diced tomatoes
1 lb carrots, chopped or sliced
1 lb red potatoes, cubed
2 cans coconut milk
Bag of frozen peas
Fry Gosht spices (or use garam masala, turmeric, curry, chili powder, etc.)
Salt to taste

In large crockpot, place chicken, onions, ginger, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and spices. Cook on low for 8 hours. Stir in coconut milk. If sauce is too thin, uncover and switch to high (I had to transfer to a stockpot to cook it down). When consistency is good, add the frozen peas (do not add sooner or peas will be mush). Serve over rice. You can also make this on the stove top.

A few notes: in this recipe, it worked good to coarsely chop the onion and finely chop the ginger and garlic. Minced garlic would be okay, but the "balance" of chopped ginger and garlic worked better. You could also puree the onion and canned tomatoes in a blender. I've done this when I serve to my boys, but otherwise the larger size onion pieces add a nice "bite." My Indian friends told me about this Fry Gosht spice mix you can get in the store; add more or less to taste (I thought it was a mild-to-medium spiciness, but that is highly subjective.) I have also successfully thickened a dish like this with instant potato flakes; add 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency. You can make a different dish by omitting the coconut milk and adding 1/2 cup of butter instead.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The tooth finally came out!

Here is what it looked like when only one tooth was missing.
This is still before that tooth could be pushed almost horizontal with his tongue.

And here is what it looks like after the tooth came out.

Daniel is saying "5" with each hand because he has lost his 5th tooth!

Compared to Michael, he is virtually a whole year earlier than Michael in losing those 2 front teeth.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Just a clarification on the previous post that I do NOT play the Wii Fit with a fritter in one hand and the Wiimote in the other! But, thanks John, that is a mighty fine idea! I've got some stashed away in the freezer and I hear that you can reheat them but they aren't quite as good as fresh. (The fritters, not the Wiimote!) I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I think I've recovered from the fritters. I lost count after eating about "four" and decided that I didn't need to eat anything for a few days. Well, at least not for dinner anyway. Our family has been having fun on the Wii Fit. It is so stinking hilarious! Blocking soccer balls with your head while avoiding the cleats being thrown at you is really fun. And the tightrope walking is fun, too! I have become a Yoga Master and I've only done two days of it. Jogging is the easiest form of exercise as well; you just shake the wii-mote and it thinks you're running! The boys found out that if you run faster than your guide, your mii will fall down. Funny! Tim likes the ski jump but I can't seem to get very much distance. I'm sure in 10 years The Simpsons will be mocking this fine gem of electronic gaming, but for now it's brought our family closer!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!
I made New Year's Cookies (Raisin Fritters) for the first time today. Mmmm. Just like the MCC Sale! I found out that there are as many different recipes for these as there are Mennonite women. The one I chose was a good one, and I didn't even have to call Grandma Betty for advice. Here's the one I used, but make sure you have lots of neighbors, friends and family close by!

2 packages yeast
1 C. warm water
3 tsp. sugar
2 C. milk
1/2 C. butter
2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
2 C. raisins
8 C. flour
Oil for frying
Sugar for rolling

And here's a translated poem about it:


I saw your chimney smoking,
I knew what you were making,
You were baking New Year's cookies.
Give me one, I stand still.
Give me two, I start walking.
Give me three, four, five at once,
Then I wish you the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christmas Day

Christmas Day was pretty relaxing. The boys didn't get up early (considering they were up past midnight the night before). I warned them that I got them new pajamas that they had to wear. Michael was eager to and loved his pajamas. Daniel was very reluctant and only wore them because I told him he had to long in advance. Of course the next day he wanted to wear his "soft" jammies again. After opening presents, we went to Reedley in the afternoon. We always have green pancakes made by "Grandpa" for Christmas, and this year was no exception. We had so much food! Green crepes with fruit and whipped cream, baked omelet, cinnamon rolls, jello salad, green salad, fruit salad, and pie for dessert. Good thing I got a Wii Fit for Christmas!

We were at Disneyland before Christmas and had lots of fun. On the way down, we had to stop at Ikea to get some more shelves to complete our office. Plus it was dinner time so we had to get some meatballs while we were there. We stayed at Desert Palm and Suites this time. We had trouble finding any hotels with vacancy even back in November, so I called Ares Travel since they are recommended by Mouse Savers. They got us some great rates and were easy to work with since we needed four rooms. Daniel's "new" rides were Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Mulholland Madness. Michael's "new" rides were California Screamin and Matterhorn. Day 1 was raining. Like raining all morning. We braved the storm with ponchos brought from home. The parks were really empty and even when the rain stopped in the afternoon, people stayed away. Day 2 was beautiful weather and crowded parks. Day 3 was forecast to be stormy, but it never rained and the parks were empty. Tim and Michael rode Space Mountain four times in an hour. We drove home on Christmas Eve and it took us six hours to get home. It was bumper to bumper all the way from Anaheim to the Grapevine. Then it rained on the Grapevine. It's a good thing we got a dual screen DVD player for the car! The boys watched three movies on the way home.