Saturday, September 28, 2013

Oklahoma Sky

I sure love the sky here. It's wide, open and always changing--from dark, brooding clouds to brilliant sunsets.
                  Rain moving in
Watching the sun set from my front porch
   Wispy white clouds on the drive home
   The sun breaking through after a storm
         A cool front over the lake

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Growing Up

I may have shed a few tears just now. 

Because when did this little girl?

Hannah Fall 2008

Become this little girl?
Hannah this morning before school

And when did this little girl?
Leah, summer 2007

Turn into this little girl?
Leah, this morning

Time, could you please slow down just a little? Because I swear, I just blinked and these beautiful daughters of mine went from toddlers to young girls.

Oh Lord, let me mother them with wisdom. Let me teach them respect, kindness, generosity, and strength. Help me to be a good example-- not of perfection, but of love in action. What incredibly precious gifts they are.

"Children are not casual guests in our home. They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built."
--Dr. James Dobson

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

State Fair

For two weeks every September, Oklahoma City hosts the "Great State Fair of Oklahoma." When I was growing up, we got a day off of school and a free ticket for "Fair Day." Sadly, kids these days don't get out of school for the Fair anymore. So we decided to remedy this situation. We checked the girls out an hour early, and off we went to check it out.

I absolutely love the Fair. Yes, I know it has it's downsides: The Midway, obnoxious carnies yelling at you, crowded streets, the smell of manure and beer mixed together, and an array of interesting outfit choices. However, if you avoid going on a busy weekend and try to be there during daylight hours, it's not so bad. In fact, it's pretty darn fun! We hit up my favorite building first: the Creative Arts Building. This is where all the classic fair competitions are like blue ribbon pies, cake decorating, sewing, jams, jellies, kids' art contests, 4H projects, etc. There's also a kids area where they can paint, build, and play games.  All three of ours made "spin art" while we were there.
 Leah and Hannah showing off the enormous pumpkins. I'm ready for fall, but I don't think this would fit on our front porch!
Watching the blacksmith
 Next we headed across the street to Centennial Village where we saw a group of older women doing a clogging performance to various country music songs. They were really into it, and the kids wanted to stop and watch for awhile. We also watched a blacksmith at work and saw a soap making demonstration. 
 My Frontier Family
Mike is riding that horse like a boss.
Me and my two favorite 8 year olds.
Next we wandered around and found a "fire safety show" complete with real firetrucks and firemen talking about what to do in an emergency. The kids begged to stop and watch, so we did. At the end, they got to crawl through a "smoke house" where they learned to get low and crawl to find their way out. They crawled through that house approximately 100 times before we moved on.

Lucas narrowly making his escape
What to do next? Head to the rides of course! Unfortunately to get to the ride area, you have to walk through the Midway. The Midway is the area where all the "lovely" games are. You can choose to pay $5 for three tries at throwing a ring on some coke bottles in order to win an over sized stuffed Tweety Bird. No thank you. But of course, all the Midway workers yell at you as you walk by, and my kids begged to play every single game. It was a long walk through, but we made it to the rides. We gave each child a set amount of tickets and told them they could choose which rides they wanted to do. They were in heaven.

Hannah and Leah chose to ride this one called The Himalaya. It went around at lightning speed blaring a few fist-pumping club songs. Hannah loved it. Leah thought it was just "ok."
In this photo, the ride was just starting out. It sped up so much I couldn't get another picture of them. 

A view of the classic skyline ride. It's been there forever. 

Leah and Lucas went through this fun house complete with a maze of mirrors. 

This picture cracks me up. The girls are just people watching and Hannah's expression says it all. "What exactly am I looking at?" 
On this particular day we saw:
A man with a long, braided rat tail
Many ladies with bedazzled cowboy boots
Too many t-shirts with the arms cut off to count
A few cut off jean shorts that were a little too short, exposing some cheek
What can I say but it's all classic state fair wear.

Hannah and me waiting on the rest of our fam at the fun house. Hannah didn't want to waste her tickets on things like that. She likes the thrill rides.

Like this one! She rode it all by herself. She looked so small, but she was brave and she loved it.
She's on the fifth row from the top on the left end.

This is what happened when Lucas ran out of tickets. 
Temper tantrum on the dirty fair street. 

Leah used her last tickets to go down this slide. I wanted to do this one too, but no adults allowed. Boo!

After we were done with the rides, our next mission was FOOD. When you ask most people why they go to the fair, the answer is mostly "for the food." It's one time a year to indulge on junk food. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, roasted corn on the cob, cinnamon rolls and just about anything deep fried on a stick. This year, in addition to chocolate covered fried bacon and deep fried butter (now that's gross), the new fried item was deep fried watermelon bites. They were everywhere. Personally, I think that sounds terrible, so we didn't partake. But it is certainly fun to look around and oh my...the smells. I actually opted to skip fair food this year because....drum roll....I got to judge a crock pot cooking competition! For a mere $2 I went through the line of 21 crock pot contestants who dished me up 21 bowls of their tasty creations. That breaks down to 7 soups, 7 main dishes, and 7 desserts. The ones I liked, I licked the bowl clean. The ones I didn't, I took a few bites and moved on to the next. Mike and the kids also helped me taste test and we ended up choosing our favorite for each category. It was a lot of fun. 

Our night ended with walking through the car show. The kids loved getting in and out of all the fancy new cars. They were blown away that some SUV's have TVs in them! Haha! I drive an 11 year old minivan, so they are not privy to new technology. From there, we made it out to our car just after the sun slipped down below the horizon. Lucas conked out in his car seat and the girls were quiet on the drive home. I suppose we'll do it all again next year. 

Hannah declaring, "This is the one I want when I'm 16!"
Start saving, kid.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

While You Cook Dinner

Please tell me I am not the only one whose kids turn into crazy hooligans right as I am trying to cook dinner? It never fails that when I sneak into the kitchen at 5 o'clock the whining, fighting, and complaining begin. In order to keep the peace and ensure our food gets cooked, I have to be creative in how I manage the chaos. Yesterday, I pulled out an old favorite: potato peel soup. 

Here's how it worked. After I peeled a few potatoes (which I had peeled for mashed potatoes) I put all the leftover peels in a bowl. Then I poured water into my biggest stock pot, grabbed a spoon and the salt and pepper shakers and called the kids in. They were in charge of making potato peel soup. Let me just say, they loved it! It was cute seeing them put on their aprons and work together to create a delicious soup. I ended up sacrificing a perfectly good carrot for the cause as well as an older looking lemon found at the bottom of the fruit drawer. They "cooked" and I cooked and dinner was done in no time. And no one ended up in time-out. 
                   Getting started
Hannah got involved and yes, Lucas is wearing a pink apron. The boy is confidant enough to cook and wear pink. Boo-yah!
A few wrinkly grape tomatoes got thrown in as well. It was quite delicious soup y'all. They served me some and smiled big smiles as I acted like it was the best thing I had ever eaten. 

Next time you have some scraps, before they go to the compost pile, let your little ones "cook" with them and they will dub you the coolest mom ever!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where We Were

August 1998

I know it is typical to say where we were on days when history changed. I know my parents always talked about where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated or when they watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. For our generation, 9/11/01 was one of those days. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at where I was. And I'd love to hear where you were and what you were doing in the comments as well!

On September 11, 2001, I was at school, in my classroom. I was about four weeks into my third year of teaching sixth grade language arts at Piedmont Middle School. Piedmont is a desirable little bedroom community about 15 miles west of Oklahoma City. It's where people live who want land, but still close access to city life. The morning was sunny, calm and bright. A typical September morning in Oklahoma. I remember that week was Spirit Week. Piedmont High School had a big football game coming up on Friday night, so we were dressing up each day leading up to Friday night's event. Monday had been pajama day, my favorite day because I got to wear pajama pants to work!  Tuesday, September 11th, was camo day. Most of the kids in my class were wearing camouflage pants or vests or hats (allowed for Spirit Week only). Me, not owning a lick of camo anything, wore my gray "Army" t-shirt that I had purchased at the Army Surplus store years ago (along with a hideous pair of black combat boots that I thought looked cool at the time. was the mid-1990's) and a pair of olive green cargo pants I had from Old Navy. It was the best I could do.

Anyway, the day was moving along as any normal day would have. My first hour class came and went and as the kids were at their lockers during the 5 minute "passing time" my friend who taught directly across the hall from me told me her husband had called her saying a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. My first thought was that it had been a small plane, perhaps a touristy type of "see New York from the sky" kind of deal. However, it must have been a big deal because her husband wouldn't have called otherwise. Without much else to go on, it was time to start my second hour class. Once I had taught the lesson and the kids were in their seats working, I quietly called Mike to see what he knew. And that was when I found out. And I just couldn't fathom it. I was in a portable building that held six classrooms just beside the main middle school building. We had no TV's in our rooms and no one had a "smart phone" yet. Even the computer in my room wasn't hooked up to the Internet. It was that old school out there.

Mike was not only devastated by the horrific news, but he was concerned about his family. Mike's parents, sister, brother, grandmother, nieces and nephews all live in either New Jersey or Long Island. They all work in New York City. Mike's dad was supposed to be flying out of the Newark airport on a trip to Ethiopia. He had tried calling all of them, but no one was answering. The lines were overwhelmed and we were in the dark. That was a very helpless feeling.

Finally, at lunch time, we rolled an old television, circa 1984, over from the library and used the ancient antennae to find one channel to watch. And we saw the planes. And the chaos. And the destruction. And the hate. Our mouths were all hanging open. There were no words, just interjections like "Oh my God!" and "No!" The next two hours of classes were brutal. The kids had heard whispers of what had happened and had questions for which we had no answers. No one could concentrate on anything. Finally, school was let out an hour early. I drove home in a daze. Mike still hadn't heard from his family. I pulled into my driveway at the same time as my neighbor who was home early from work. She and I waved to each other as we stood by our cars. Normally we would have chatted awhile, but that was not a day for idle chit-chat. We just quietly walked up to our front doors and into the safety and comfort of our own homes.

For the rest of the night, I did what a lot of people did--eyes transfixed on the television reports. Mike came home early and finally we heard from his family. All were safe. We thanked God for that. Mike's dad's flight had been canceled. His trip to Ethiopia moved back a few weeks. I checked in with my mom and dad. Even though I knew they were in Oklahoma City and not New York, I needed to hear their voices. My mom's voice was always a comfort. 2001 was three years before we had our girls, so thankfully we had no kids to console. It was just the two of us. We spent a lot of time talking about it, then turned the TV off and went to bed. It was just too much.

Today, over a decade later, I still remember the little details of 9/11. Where were you that day?