Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Brothers

What do a "broken" arm, climbing, blue foods , family and Easter all have in common?  Nothing really, except for this past weekend.  That is about as good as I can do right now, I'm hoping that as I get going these will all come together and make sense.

I'll start at the beginning.  The "broken" arm.  It happened in yoga class of all places.  One too many reverse planks or maybe it was the 2 minute reverse plank, but the once broken left forearm became useless with shooting pain from my wrist to my elbow.

Do not try this at home, could result in injury!
 So much pain that I, of all people, went to not one but 2 doctors.  It was not broken ( I did not think it was), just a strained tendon or something that rendered my left arm useless.  A few medications for inflamation that have made me sleepless and puffy but in less pain were perscribed.  No yoga for a bit, sad face, but getting better every day.  One problem was that picking up grandkids was near impossible for the first few days and there was that one night I was reduced to a blithering mess because of the excruciating pain or the lack of sleep but other than that things are gradually improving.  It did make playing with the grandsons a bit challenging though.

On to the important stuff!  The grandsons!

Christopher is a climbing machine.  He is a tiny, powerful climbing monkey!  When he walks up to something his first reaction is to lift his leg and hurl himself up onto whatever is in front of him.  I have evidence.....check this out.....

Christopher hanging out in the grocery cart

on the bench at the playground

hey mom!  Do you think I can get on top of the car?

I really prefer playing on top of the table instead of next to it

He is possibly one of the cutest and best natured little boys around, not that I am biased or anything.  If only I had his metabolism, I too could eat twice my weight in a day and remain tiny....or become tiny.  It was great fun seeing the change from Christmas, he is talking and does just about anything his older brother does, which causes the older brother great distress at times.  Welcome to sibling rivalry.

As for Daniel, he is quite the 3 year old boy!  I think I remember the 3's being what the terrible 2's were advertised to be.  That whole free will thing flares it's ugly head.  Testing the boundries at every turn, I am convinced it is a sign of great intellegence!  I love being with him and being able to do more and more every time we visit, he is sooo much fun, he just "gets it" and is never at a loss for enthusiasm.  He is starting to understand things like the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg hunt and we get to enjoy those childhood thrills all over again.

Daniel doing a great job of coloring those Easter eggs!

Daniel and Grampy planting Rachel's garden

Daniel taking the capital by storm, that same one that was the focus of the massive protests only a few weeks ago

The Wisconsin State capital building

Yes, you are in Wisconsin....cheese capital. At the Saturday morning Farmer's Market!

Farmer's Market is a Saturday morning tradition at the Lee house.  Just love the flowers!

We were at the Farmer's Market when I discovered Daniel's love of blue foods.  Are there any blue foods you ask?  Aside from blueberries.  Well, there is every child's favorite.... blue ice cream!  Then there is blue popcorn.  ICK!  Daniel is in the process of toilet training and with that process comes a few rewards here and there for "performing".  For his first reward he got an ice cream, blue of course.  He is working on his second reward.  We were buying some yummy popcorn at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and it was all we could do to convince Daniel that we were not going to buy the blue popcorn, please...don't make me buy the blue popcorn; carmel corn, cheese popcorn, herbed popcorn, anything but the blue raspberry popcorn.  All he could talk about all day was the popcorn, specifically the blue popcorn.  As a compromise and a little motivation, Daniel's next reward will be that delicious blue popcorn at the Farmer's market.  The power of blue food coloring!

Sunday was Easter and we were all up bright and early for the great Easter egg hunt.  The boys were ready to roll!  They were good egg hunters.  Christopher was at a distinct disadvantage from the beginning.  His parents put him in yellow rubber boots that were at least a size too big for him and kept falling off him every other step.  Find an egg, fall down, lose a boot, put the boot back on, pull yourself back up and stumble on to the next egg while brother Daniel charged ahead and found egg after egg.  Christopher did not seem to mind the hardships and both boys had a great time. 

And they are off....

there is one, cleverly hidden in the daffodils

This picture cracks me up!  Look at how many eggs are in Daniel's basket and look at his face, then check out Christopher's basket and his face!
In his defense, Christopher decided to hide his eggs under the grass in his basket!

Finally, here are a few more moments from Easter Sunday.
Time to finger our church clothes....such a great idea!

Don't let these droopy eyes fool you, I am not tired, Daniel is painting and I am going to paint too!

He has a rake and I am going to get a rake too! 
This special moment came at the end of the day.  The boys were having dinner on the deck and Daniel proceeded to feed Christopher, and he let him.  It was priceless!

Our weekend ended and everyone went back to their regular lives.  TJ and I drove down to Chicago for our flight and had one last special treat.  I love traveling with him, we always seem to find interesting places.  We wanted to have a nice lunch in Chicago before our flight and searched around and found this delightful little area in Lincoln Park.  The food was delicious, the street was so cute and it was very convenient.  We get lucky sometimes.

A little treat at the end of the trip

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring and Easter

Today is a celebration of new life!  It is Easter! 
We are in Madison visiting our daughter and her family.  Spring is budding all around us here.  We left summer in Houston and have been treated to spring again.  Daffodils are in bloom as well as crocus and the  trees just popping their leaves.  The grass is getting green and the weather is very cool, comparatively speaking.  I think I will be lucky enough to see three springs this year.  First in Houston, now in Madison and by the end of May when we go to Nova Scotia it will be spring once again.  I love spring!

Perfect for our Easter celebration.  He is risen and there is life all around.

We are also doing a lot of playing with grandkids.  It is so great to see how much they have changed since Christmas.  I will be sure to post interesting stories and pictures when I get home and get to my own computer.  Until then....Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weird Weekend

The first weird thing about this weekend is the lack of blog traffic.  I admit it, I check to see how many visitors I have on a regular basis.  Where has everyone gone?  Did everyone give my blog up for Lent? Not even a "next blog" cruiser this weekend.  It is a conspiracy.  I am trying not to take this personally but am completely baffled, I think my blog has evaporated into thin air in the blogsphere.  Don't tell me everyone is out enjoying their own lives and just don't have time to spend on the computer reading my attempt to write something curiously enjoyable.  I am not buying it!  Maybe my stat counter is broken, is anybody there?

Austin, TX

The slogan says, "Keep Austin Weird".  I had the pleasure of going to Austin this weekend and did my best to enjoy the weirdness that is Austin.   Daughter #2 accompanied me on this trip.  We were on a mission to pick up my husband after he finished the MS150.  A two day bike ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for MS.  This is his 5th time to finish this ride and he really loves all 180 miles....why?  I have no idea, maybe it is spending 2 days on a bike, maybe it is sleeping outside under a huge tent with hundreds of other people, maybe it is using portable toilets for 2 days, maybe it is all the conditioning it takes to be able to finish in one piece or maybe it is one way he can do a little good and get a lot of exercise.  My contribution is minimal,  my job is to show up on Sunday afternoon and drive what is left of him back to Houston.  After a couple of years of driving to Austin and back on Sunday I got smart and decided to go to Austin on Saturday, spend the night and enjoy the city and be well rested on Sunday for my drive back to Houston.

TJ at the finish line!

Finish line with a view of the state Capital

While TJ was outside at the halfway point on Saturday night at the world's biggest campout, enjoying a few beers and sleeping on a cot, freezing his tushie off (yes, it was a bit chilly at night this year), daughter #2 and I were exploring Austin.  Our first order of business was to trek a mile and a half, uphill, to a yarn shop.  I don't knit, but my daughter does, so I humored her and hiked up to the shop.  It was only 17 blocks!  I noticed on our walk that Austin is a young city.  Must be that little school they have there, University of Texas.  I felt like I upped the average age everywhere we went by a factor of at least 2.  The other observation was that there are more tatoos per capita than any other place I've ever been!  I felt so out of pure and unadorned... uninked.  Weird. 

Austin is a great city!  So many great places to shop, eat, drink and listen to music and it is pedestrian friendly.  It also just so happened to be one of the most beautiful days of the year on Saturday!  Chamber of Commerce weather.  After our walk uphill, we were parched.  We made the rest of the evening and night our own personal progressive dinner.  We had appetizer and drinks at one place, dinner at another, after-dinner drinks at another place and finally the cheese course and more wine at another place.  It was a great night.  It is so nice to have grown children to go out with and have interesting conversations with while exploring new places!  At least I had fun, hopefully daughter #2 was having fun too.  What do you think?

wine tasting at Cru

It was nice to visit a city that has a vibrant and interesting downtown.  Houston is not one of those cities.  Austin is!  So for the low price of FREE, I encourage everyone to visit Austin if you are looking for a weird and wonderful weekend.  Austin can thank me next year when I go back to pick up what is left of TJ after next year's MS150!

As an aside, Texas is in the middle of a severe drought.  Usually our drive to Austin is blessed with fields of bluebonnets.  This year the fields were all brown.  There are wildfires all over the state.  TJ said that the dust was so bad at the halfway stop that they all felt like their noses were full of dust.  I truly enjoy dry weather, not a big fan of humidity but even I have to admit that we need some rain.  I snapped this photo with my phone last week on a bike ride.  Usually this lake is full to the grass but if you notice all the exposed dirt, we are very low on water!  Let it rain!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Madame Trés chic and The Absent Minded Professor

I have a new French teacher.  She is about as different from my last teacher as possible.  My last teacher, Monsieur George, (now read that again and this time with a French accent!) was from Romania.  He has a PhD in Philosophy, il est tres intellegent.  He is what I would refer to as an absent minded professor.  Brilliant!  Scattered!  Slightly awkward.  He was a good teacher for me because I think linearly.  Is that a word?  I could follow him in the book! He focused a lot on grammar and conjugations and wrote everything on the board for us to note if we wanted.  He was covered with chalk dust by the end of the class and occasionally got frazzled because he  had so much in his head that he wanted to get out.  I enjoyed his class and hopefully I learned some French.

My new French teacher, Madame José,  (again, with a French accent) is the epitome of a French woman.  She is petite, elegant, animated (ok, that might not be typical), and trés chic!  She is always dressed impeccably.  Heels, skirts, lovely blouses and sweaters, lipstick....always. Her hair is pulled up in a slightly messy yet elegant chignon, with matching jewelry and the occasional scarf tied to perfection, the way only French women can tie a scarf!  Is it genetic?  How do they do it?  I feel so large and pedestrian sitting next to her!  Maybe it is my blue jeans! She sweeps into class with a cheerful, "Bonjour!"  From the minute she enters the class until the class is over she is chattering in French.  She rarely writes anything on the chalkboard.  Mechanics are not the emphasis yet, maybe she assumes we already know it. The conversations in class are personal....  "Describe your dream house, what did you do last weekend, have you been to Paris, what did you do there, tell me about your family....all in French and in the correct tense!" The textbook is a secondary tool used for reference as opposed to the class guide.  She has a real French accent, not a Romanian French accent.  She is merciless when it comes to pronunciation!  Yikes!  I am sooo in trouble here.  She definitely has everyone speaking which I am thinking is a good thing.

I think between Madame Trés Chic and Monsieur Absent Minded Professor I  might just learn some French.  If I'm lucky maybe I'll learn how to dress too!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Where is My Invisibility Cloak When I Need It?

Yesterday I went into the mall and was reminded why I am beginning to hate the mall.  I remember when I could freely stroll through the mall and window shop or daydream in peace.  Now it is like an obstacle course of kiosks and their aggressive hawkers. When did it become OK to attack innocent shoppers weilding hair straighteners and hand lotion? I now have to go to the mall armed with my "leave me alone" face. NO, I don't want to sit in one of those back rubbing chairs....stop looking at me with that face, I don't need a new phone or a new phone plan, or revolutionary hand cream that I am sure will make my hands look 10 years younger,  I don't want a hair straightener (can't you tell I already have one....NO?  darn!) ,  those nuts smell good but if I want some I will ask you!  I go through the gauntlet of kiosks looking everywhere but in the eyes of the hawkers. I look at the floor, I look the opposite way, I have even pretended to be talking on my phone, apparently the only way they will not come up to me and ask, "can I show you something?". I want to walk with one hand up, shaking my head "no" and using my "leave me alone" glare.  I am sure these kiosks are bad for business for the adjacent stores, who wants to dodge and weave their way through the aggressive kiosk hawkers just to get to a store? Where is my invisibility cloak when I need it? 

I actually visited one of these kiosks on my last mall visit....I was looking for sunglasses and they do have a good selection for a good price.  I probably would have bought the 2 pair for a ridiculously low price except for the kiosk worker who ended up creaping me out.  There I was, trying on sunglasses and this is how the conversation went...

KW:  (in a slight german or northern european accent)  you look very serious
Me: not really.... (ignoring him, just trying on glasses)
KW:  so, you are not a big talker, you are very quiet
Me: uh huh  (wow, this guy is so perceptive)
KW:  I bet you are a mother
Me: yup   (what gave it away?  my age, my wedding ring, my ability to ignore 20somthing annoying boys?)
KW:  I'll bet you are a stict mother
Me:  ?
KW:  Yes, you are a strict mother, are you German?
Me: No
KW:  Really, no German, not even a little bit?
Me: Nope, no German  (can I just try on glasses?)
KW:  Hmmmm, where did you get the strictness from?  My mother is German but she was not very strict...just look at me!  (working in a mall kiosk selling sunglasses?) 
Me:  From my father, he was the strict one.  Well, thanks, but no glasses today....bye  (those ones with the white frames were soo cute, ugh)

I am surprised he did not try to tell me my life story!  Invisibility cloak please!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

State of Life Address, One Year Later

Life is a bed of roses!

So I have spent my entire day thinking profound thoughts, how about you? 

A year ago I was coming back to the life I knew a couple of years earlier.  Can you go back?  The age old question.  I wondered myself.  The answer, yes, but it won't be exactly the same and if you are lucky it might just be a bed of roses.  After moving for the fifth time I am glad we moved somewhere we had a history.  I was getting tired of starting all over.  I did not go back the the same old life but there are certainly advantages to having old friends.  I have even made new friends!

So as lovely as these roses are and as sweet as they smell they also have thorns.  An analogy for life?  You betcha!  Life is good and looks all pretty and perfect from a distance but if you get close there are thorns.   You can all attest that maybe my biggest thorn living here is.....the weather.  Big surprise!  No, I can't complain now, April is spectacular!  I have the luxury of leaving for most of the horrible time anyway so it is not such a big thorn.  I would rather focus on the flowers for now.

Family is a huge full flower here.  We get to see two of our kids on a regular basis.  We get to live near my sister and her family!  We are close enough to drive to Baton Rouge and see our parents and even more of our siblings and their families.  That is a huge fragrant flower in our life here.  We were somewhat isolated in Toronto, at least from our immediate family.  We did have some awesome cousins and friends who adopted us as surrogate families and we will always be thankful for them.  Good news is that we see them every summer.  But there is no substitute for your immediate family.

Church here is an inspiration to me.  I missed this church when we lived in Canada and am so happy to be back.  I have this church to thank for getting me involved in the Learn English Ministry.  What would I do without my Monday and Wednesday morning classes?  I had no idea how much I would enjoy teaching and how special these people have become to me.  They are fertilizer in my bed of roses.  They make me grow.

One main reason for us moving down here was TJ's mother.  I have avoided mentioning her in my blog because....well....I was not sure if it was the right place.  But here I go, jumping in with both feet.  His mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  Last year she was in an assisted living facility.  She was not a happy camper there and her husband was not a happy camper with her living there either.  While she has Alzheimer's she still knows us and knew where she was and basically hated living there.  TJ is a good guy, one of the best.  He just felt it was better for her that we live closer to her and it would be much easier for him to help care for her from here.  He is a smart guy sometimes....well, most of the time.  She is now living at home, with in home care, and both she and her husband are much happier. This makes everyone in the family much happier too!  We are able to visit them every 4-6 weeks.  We would not have been able to do this from Toronto.  I love her attitude, she sees the roses and not the thorns, even though she has Alzheimer's. She is looking through rose colored glasses and always has.  Her family is perfect in her eyes and we could all learn a lesson from her.

Just another day in the rose garden

 The State of Life is good.  I am sure that if I had written this on a dreary, cloudy, hot, humid day where I had nothing to do and nowhere to go that the State of Life would be a little less rosy.  That is just me.  But today was lovely, I was busier than busy, and loved every minute of it.  If you had asked me a year ago if this is what I anticipated, my answer would have been a bit hesitant.  Shows you what I know! 

Stop and smell the roses. 
Tired of rose analogies?
I can go all day....

Happy Anniversary

One year ago, today, I drove from St. Louis to Sugar Land, TX for our big move back south.  You know what that means?  It means it is time for the State of Life Address.  Time for serious, and not so serious, reflection and pondering on whether things are better than they were a year ago.  Exhausting....let me think about it for a while and I'll get back to you this afternoon.  Right now it is time to go teach English and then play a round of golf in the beautiful, not too hot or muggy, sunshine.  I promise to think profound thoughts all day and maybe take a few pictures to post along with this State of Life Address!  Pressing "save" until this afternoon.  It could be a two post day, lucky you!

Friday, April 1, 2011


Go to fullsize image
I thought in honor of April Fool's Day I would post a little amusement for everyone.

This hilarity comes from my ESL class.  Our class meets in a community center and shares a space with a group of senior citizens.  We sit on one side of the room around one or two tables and they sit on the other side of the room and use 3 or 4 tables, think small cafeteria.  We all gather around 9 a.m. and go about our business for about the first half hour, they play donimos and we teach English. 

Some  days we are quiet and some days we are a little more lively depending on how many people show up and what the mood is in the group.  The seniors are the same, sometimes loud and sometimes a little louder depending on how many of them can hear I guess.  Anyway, we use them as an example in our lessons sometimes like when we are teaching superlatives, we are loud and they are louder!  They are the loudest ones in the room.  See?  Everyone in our class gets the idea.  The seniors usually start playing Bingo around 9:45, after dominos and exercises.  I think they love Bingo and as a bonus they win food when they Bingo!  It is a great program for them as this may be the only decent food they have all day. 

Meanwhile, we are trying to teach English on the other side of the room.  Competing for air space amidst B-5, O-52, N-24....called out in a very LOUD voice with a serious southern drawl.  One of our students, I'll call her Porque, because (porque)she says that word between every phrase!  Like some people use the word "like", she uses porque.  She is a funny lady and the class clown, she cracks me up regularly, she is infectious with her twinkling eyes and occasional scattered brain-ness.  She is always sincere though and we all love having her in class. day we were minding our own business and doing our lessons.  The 9:45 Bingo game was going along and the louder the caller called the letters and numbers the louder we had to talk.  It sometimes becomes a competition, she is loud and then we are loud because we can't hear anything if we aren't louder and then she is even louder...  Still working on the loud, louder, loudest lesson?   Bingo caller lady shouts B-4, then maybe O-50 and so it goes, and out of the blue....from our side of the room, Porque shouts...."BINGO"!   Our entire class cracked up, we were trying to hide the fact that we were howling with laughter from Bingo Caller Lady but I know she heard us!  Porque sat there just snickering with that little twinkle in her eyes!  I think  most of the seniors had no idea what was going on but I'm sure Bingo Caller Lady heard and was unamused.   Maybe the reason she shouts the letters and numbers is because most of the seniors are hard of hearing, but then again it could be because we are loud too.  Now, Porque only whispers "Bingo"  to our group, and we all get to have a little private snicker amongst ourselves.  Hope you snickered too, Happy April Fool's Day!
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