Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jonathan's Terrible, No Good 7th Birthday

It's birthday time in the Hambly household. At the end of July we have Rick's birthday, followed the next day by Jonathan's. Usually I bake 2 separate cakes, one for each day. This year however, Rick's birthday cake was so rich and delish that the thought of another cake the next day just made our tummies ache. I had made a dozen cupcakes the day of Rick's birthday and asked Jonathan if we could just do a cupcake tree on his. How cool would that be. He was very reluctant, but agreed. Amanda, being the little Happy Homemaker, helped with the cupcake project and put her spin on things, too.

And here's how it went down:

Jonathan: Yes! It's my birthday.
(He was so excited about his birthday that he picked out that shirt the day before to wear to the cake and present celebration)

Amanda: Yes! That's a very fine cupcake tree if I say so myself.

Amanda: As a matter of fact Jonathan, I put those pink candles on right there. See them?
Jonathan: Did you just say PINK candles?

Amanda: I am just so clever and so cute and so princessy!
Jonathan: Um, wait, there are pink candles on there?
Timothy: Sooo, when are we eating cupcakes?

Amanda: No wait Jonathan, pink candles HAD to be on there. See they match my pajamas and everything. It will look better for the picture if we all match. Here, turn around and see.
Jonathan: I have pink candles on my cupcake tree!!

Derick: This is taking much too long, I'm just going to reach in here and spear a cupcake right now.
Austin: Must. Not. Destroy. Cupcake. Tree.
Timothy: Uh, I'm outa here.
Jonathan: I can't believe how lame this is.
Amanda: I think that went well.

Amanda: We must X out bad attitudes. See, look, X. Like this.
Derick & Austin: Yes, X out bad attitude. Be happy, like us.
Timothy: Cool dudes, but can we just get on with it.
Jonathan: I can't believe this is MY BIRTHDAY! Can we just turn out the lights?

Finally, it's all about me. And you can't tell that the candles are pink in this light.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wuzz N. T'Me

I have read stories and watched creepy movies where kids "see" things that adults don't. Now I didn't really buy into that too much, but kept an open mind just in case. Once my kids were able to speak they kept talking about this little mischievous little one that would just come around and try to stir up all kinds of trouble. My kids named him, Wuzz N. T'Me (must be French). Anytime something came up missing, or broken, or spilled or eaten or anything else that my kids would NEVER do, Little Wuzz N. T'Me somehow became involved. I would give the kids the stink eye when they mentioned that name, but they wouldn't back down on who the real culprit was. "No!" they cried, "It Wuzz N. T'Me! Promise!"

But then we went on vacation to the Smokey Mountains and I think this picture finally captured Wuzz N. T'Me. He was on his way to dump french fries and a soda in our brand new van while my perfect kids slept.

Little Stinker!!

Ok, ok, I was trying to take a picture of fireflies and Jonathan was running around in front of my camera. But really, how else can one explain those fries and soda in my BRAND NEW van? Just 'cause we went through the drive-thru 8 times in 4 days doesn't mean anything. At least not with my perfect children.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Barefoot Summer

There's just something about being a kid and going barefoot in the summer. As a young 'un I used to start out summers with a nice pair of sandals. But only one pair. As the summer progressed either I could never find the lost sandal-mate or just couldn't be bothered to put the things on, so more often than not, I was outside barefoot.

A kid learns a lot of lessons going barefoot in the summer. If you're a suburban type child you find that black asphalt gets really hot, but the painted white lines don't. When your feet are hot gutter water feels great. If it's slimy with algae that makes it even better. The real linoleum floors in the Green Frog Market in Bakersfield feel much better on those bare feet than the concrete floor of the K-Mart on Bernard Ave.

If you're a country kid you learn that dry dirt gets quite hot and sometimes even tumbleweeds feel better that dirt. Pastures look great from a distance but once in them cow pies make softer stepping stones. Irrigation ditches full of water are a reason to celebrate, but even those that ran a week prior still have their saving graces and are to be greatly appreciated.

As I grew up, so did the need for shoes. Unless I was at the beach, to be seen without shoes was about as Ragamuffin as one could get. In So. CA my kids hardly knew a day without shoes. If they ever were without shoes I sure wasn't going to tell anyone about it!

And then I moved to the south. Here I see little ones run amuck without shoes all summer long. There is just something so refreshing to see little girls in sun dresses running barefoot in the grasses. Little bare footed boys wearing shorts and clutching a soda in the local Walgreen's.

The biggest plus is that it sure makes life MUCH easier for me to yell to the little ones, "I've got to run to the store, who wants to come with me? No, don't worry about your shoes, just get in the car." Divine freedom for me and wonderful life lessons for my kids.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

CA Girl Meets Fireflies

I love Disneyland. In CA we had season passes and would go random Sundays after church just to spend an afternoon. Of course, each and every time, we had to ride on the Pirates of the Caribbean. As far as I was concerned, the whole ride could have consisted of gently gliding through the Bayou Swamp listening to ol' Uncle Bubba strum his banjo and watch the fireflies dance in that night sky. THAT was the south. THOSE were fireflies. My whole life. Until I got to Tennessee.

The sighting of fireflies was a very much anticipated event when we first arrived in TN. It was the end of July/early August and figured the fireflies would be just be everywhere. Little did we know that fireflies like tall grass and dampness. Our lot was freshly graded and the creek had been cleared out, so any fireflies that had been around were long gone. However, we just figured that we must be in a fire fly free area of the state. Sigh.

Come early September I was picking up oldest son a couple days a week after school in the late afternoon. One time after a long day as I was driving home with the sun just sinking below the horizon, the shadows getting long and the mist starting to settle in the holler my headlights caught the reflection of an animal's eye near the creek along the side of the road. He had turned back suddenly right before he was going to cross in front of my car. I figured probably a raccoon. Then near the creek again, another animal lurking in the darkness. Hmm. Must have been a opossum. Driving along I see eyes of another animal, this time much taller. A deer maybe? I had seen them before right there get a drink then bound out of the creek bed and across the pavement. My eyes are now glued to the over grown vegetation in the stream bed next to the road as I drive along. I see more eyes! But what where those animals?? I couldn't see! They moved so fast. I began to get nervous, feeling like Snow White lost in her darkened forest with eyes tormenting her forcing her further and further and further into blackness. I had only been in Tennessee for a month. WHAT kind of freakiness lives out here anyhow?

Finally a little flash of light appeared out in the open, no sign of an animal anywhere. Then my brain blinked like a light bulb (ha ha) and said, "Firefly!! Did you see the firefly?? Look!! There's some fireflies!!" My kids thought I had lost my mind, but when they finally saw some blinks of lights they just sorta said, "Cool. Hey mom, do you know what's for dinner?"

However, the magic of fireflies are contagious. Our lot is now properly over grown and we have many fireflies visit on summer evenings. We love to watch those Twinkle Bells play. Sometimes we turn up the music from the speakers on our front porch and watch the fireflies "dance." Yes, they actually dance! They pulse with the beat. It's like a Redneck disco. Drink a couple of glasses of wine and watch those little guys for a while and we should be charging admission.

Who needs Disneyland anyhow?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Country Home

I think as parents we always wonder if we are doing what's best for the kids. I mean that I think that living out of town is fun and pretty and peaceful. The kids probably think is boring and boring and boring. But when we lived in California, take a look at what they did to my garden. To me that shows that they crave adventure and outdoorsy things. Right?

So now that I have a garden in TN, we decided on a pre-emptive strike and got the back hoe over and dug them out a big swimming hole. It's not deep, but neither was the one they had in CA. And this one they get to share with fish, tadpoles, a couple of snakes and at least one turtle.

Boogie boarding TN style!!

Spring fed water right there!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Because It's Easier To Be Yourself

The Poser:

The Reality:

Now tell me, which one looks more fun to you? I'm taking door #2 and calling it good.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Long Trip Home

Cades Cove, TN now part of the Smokey Mountain National Park.

I have always had a love for the mountains, particularly the Sierra Nevada range. When I was a little girl my Dad and siblings would camp near Red's Meadow for weeks at a time. See my parents were divorced and custody mandated that my Dad get visitation in the summer. He was a Professor of Geology and had class field trips during the summer, which left him not a lot of choice but to bring we kids with him. Anyway, we would fish and swim in the San Joaquin River. Red's Meadow was where I discovered the joy of pumice....rocks that would float. We kids would jump off high ledges to land into piles of pumice and sink down as in a pile of leaves. I would hike passed Devil's Postpile and on to Rainbow Falls with my Dad and then on to various points along the John Muir and Pacific Coast Trails. I had the advantage of my Dad being a Geologist, so I would learn all about how the mountains were formed and looked on in amazement as we discovered granite that had been gouged and polished by the ancient glaciers that had once been. As we hiked the trails I always hated to turn back, I always wanted to know what lay ahead. One of my friends from High School must have shared that same feeling and trekked the entire Pacific Trail. You can check out his journals here and be green with envy as I am: http://delnorteresort.com/.

But every summer, the camping came to an end and it was back to the San Joaquin Valley. Which wasn't so bad as it was surrounded by my favorite mountain ranges. Later, from the age of 12 through 15, I would live in the Southern Sierras. Some of the most magical times of my life.

As always life changes and I was brought to live with my Dad full time. He lived in the shadow of the another smaller mountain range, but I was no longer in them. I would look up at them and yearn for the pine breezes that I knew were there, but was stuck in the dust and flatlands of our horse ranch. I truly felt like Heidi who longed for her mountains, who felt that she could only be herself THERE. That love for mountains had to have come from somewhere.

My Great great Grandma was born in Cades Cove. She was the 7th of 10 children born to her parents and the first one to be born in Cades Cove. She lived her life there, meeting her husband and bearing children. Life in Cades Cove was one of much self preservation. She and her husband were farmers. They owned about 180 acres, which wasn't enough to sustain the family, but even in the 1880's, all the land in the Cove had been taken, leaving my GGGrandparents no other choice but to leave in order to own a bigger farm. My GGGrandma had never been out of the Cove until she packed up her family and by wagon headed out of the mountain valley. My Grandparents would later settle in Texas. There are not a lot of mountains in Texas. Although the Smokey Mountains are not a grand mountain range like the Sierra Nevadas or the Rockies, they are the mountains that Tennessee and North Carolina have to offer. I can only imagine that my Grandma would oft times think wistfully of her mountain valley home and long to be back there.

So here's to my Grandma Feezell....I made the journey back to where you lived. After many generations I made it back "home" for you. Thank you for the love of the mountains that I know you must have somehow instilled in me.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tennessee is Not for Girls

What I thought Tennessee would be like:

How it actually is:

I've grown up all over. Born on the Bayou, raised in the San Joaquin Valley, the Southern Sierra's, the Inland Empire, Dallas TX. I am no city girl who cringes at the sight of a June Bug. I have had rats run across my feet, dealt with scorpions, chased off coyotes and my horse and I have walked right over a rattlesnake in the grass (my horse, dog & I encountered a mountain lion once, too.) I've caught gopher snakes in pillow cases, cared for caterpillars until they were butterflies and have milked horses and goats. But I'm here to tell you, very little of that has prepared me to what I would find, and what will be found, in this fine area of the United States called the south. These are not ordinary bugs, spiders and snakes. These are Confederate Crawly things.

Once, in the wee hours of the morning, around 1:30 am, I heard a small commotion coming down the hallway toward our bedroom doorway. We have cats and kids so small commotions are not uncommon and didn't think a whole lot of it. A few seconds later, I hear something that sounds somewhat like a helicopter and it's coming closer. I open my eyes just in time to see a huge insect dive toward my hair. In an act of desperation I throw the bedsheet over my head and let out a yell. This rouses my husband and asks what the heck is going on. When I tell him and turn on the light, he is dubious. We look for the giant insect, but it is no where to be found. I think I heard the husband mumble, "Women." as he rolled over to get some more sleep. I lay in the darkness wide awake. A few minutes pass and suddenly husband lets out a yell and a direct order to turn on the light. The thing had made a reappearance and was trying to take husband as its hostage. We finally spy it on the ground, the thing is huge, and ugly. I trap it in a towel and throw towel and all out into the darkness of the night.

With these things as their allies, I have no doubt that the South will, indeed, rise again.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Yard Work Tennessee Style

Once upon a time we lived in a little house, with a little yard with a little lawn and little trees, with a little baby and a lot of time to enjoy weekends. As the story goes the little baby was no longer a little baby and several other little babies came onto the scene so we decided that maybe a little more would be a little better and we moved to a half an acre. The little family had a lot of fun on the bigger little half acre. The little boys played with Tonka trucks in the dirt. The little girl helped me in the garden. The little birds chirped in the trees and gardner came every week.

If a little more was a little better the last time around, then even more would be even better for the next chapter in the 10-OC. We moved in, stood in bigger awe of the bigger yard we had, but we never knew what bigger work was. Alas little garden tools laugh at us. We bought bigger electric weed whackers and chain saws. Those are now "women's tools", because even bigger gas power is the only way to go around here. Bigger tractor mowers are needed to cut the bigger lawn. Now the bigger boys play with bigger Tonka trucks, renamed John Deere (but they're still painted yellow so to me they're still just Tonka trucks). In the summer a weekend is not enough to keep up with the bigness of it all. What to do? Well, take a backhoe, dig a bigger swimming hole in the creek and splash around until the little fireflies come out.

That's yardwork.

And the moral of the story; The grass is always greener over the septic tank.