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Christmas found us with a cedar tree from the pasture. Since Husband decided we were going primitive with the tree, I decided to go primitive with the decorations. We put up lights, popcorn/cranberry strings and paper chains. I had forgotten how frustrating it is to string popcorn. Husband wanted to hang ornaments, but I decided since I get to take the tree down by myself, I was not going to do any more than I had to. Frankly, I think it looks pretty nice. I was opposed to the whole cedar idea, but we “aged” the tree two weeks in the garage, and most of the smell had dissipated by Dec. 23, when we brought it in. Pine has a nice scent. Cedar smells like you could make vodka from it.

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Jane got the fish she asked Santa for. A close look at the aquarium will reveal what genetic modification can do. Unless they came up with a fish tattoo… Regardless, we overheard something about “fwopping on my bwankie” from the other room. A quick count revealed all four were back in the tank, but one still looked pretty nervous. We had made the mistake of leaving the net beside the aquarium, and the temptation was too much for Jane. Remember this is the kid who likes to experiment. I guess we will keep the aquarium in the kitchen. I could put it behind the computer and use the light for a desk lamp, it does get a little romantic in this corner. I am a little afraid that Leo will be tempted. He is a climber.

Fish with heart

Leo was completely enthralled with his Little People Gas Station. He is a fan of anything on wheels these days. I took everything out of the boxes and constructed it several days ago. It took me 30 minutes to get the garage out of the box and about 20 to put it all together. Altogether, I came out nearly 30 twist ties ahead, but I lost nearly an hour of my life. Toy packaging has gone from obnoxious to plain old evil.

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Santa got each kid a toy, and we bought each kid a toy, so we didn’t accumulate too much. Mae was a little lost, I think she was hoping for something more, but she didn’t know just what. She got her train and a doll with clothes. We got the ladies Groovy Girls dolls. Mae fell in love with Laila Ali this last spring while she was on Dancing With the Stars. We even wrote her a fan letter, but she didn’t reply. I got Mae a darker skinned doll and a sparkly gown.

The biggest hit was the flashlights. We play safari sometimes before bedtime. I take a bunch of stuffed animals and hide them around the living room. I then turn off the light and let them look for the animals with flashlights. This is huge fun, but the best part is our grownup flashlights will still be operational should the power go off.

My favorite gift was the one from the person who had the least understanding of Christmas. Paul slept from 11:00 until 5:30, and in his bassinet! Husband got me something I really didn’t need, or have room for, but he did put thought and effort into it, so I won’t complain. He got me plates, about seven or so. My dishes were premiums at grocery stores or gas stations in the 1940s or 1950s. They are nothing special, you can find them in antique stores all over. They usually run about $7 each. I have 12 plates already. This means I can go a looong time between washing dishes! He was looking for a butter dish, but didn’t find one. I would rather have a teapot, but they are maybe $100 or so, and pretty rare.

I got Husband a cordless drill. That is what he asked for, and in that many words. When he opened it, he cautiously mentioned that it didn’t have certain features he wanted, like being ½ inch and having more volts or whatever. I showed him where the receipt was attached and explained that I had about 30 to choose from and knew he would be taking it back. No harm no foul.

My sister-in-law and her friend came over for dinner. It was a nice meal, but not too big. The friend ran interference with the kids so we could get the meal put together. I made a homemade sour cherry pie. MMMmmm. She brought leftovers from her meal last night. After dinner, we loaded the dishwasher and looked at the pile still towering on the counter. I told her it wouldn’t bother me a bit to let them sit until the dishwasher was empty again. She was ok with that, so now I have to get them washed.

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Sledding in Nebraska.  We live in a river valley, so we don’t have hills, although Nebraska does have lots of hills.

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Paul’s birth announcement picture.



Here are my answers to a questionnaire  I saw posted.  Most of my answers would have been pedestrian, so I edited some.  Ok, a lot.  It also involves some plagiarism, hope you don’t mind…

1. If your doctor told you TODAY that you were pregnant, what would you say?

I would leap off of the exam table, and bludgeon the Dr. with the knee thumper thing and then grab him by his tie and choke him to death. I would do this in the flimsy tissue paper gowns they give you for what they refer to as privacy, not even stopping to clothe myself. I would then shut myself up in the exam room, turn out the lights and cry.

12. What did the last text message you sent say?

Am I a grandmother?

15. What is a goal you would like to accomplish in the near future?

Getting Paul to sleep in his crib or bassinet, rather than in my bed.

35. Do you wear contact lenses or glasses?

Both, every day, but not at the same time.

42. What do you like to listen to before you go to bed?
Nothing, I read.

43. What is the last movie you watched?
“Jerry Maguire”. Loved it.

44. What does your iPod have in it right now?
I don’t have an iPod

45. How many close friends do you have?
Not many. One or two

46. Are your nails painted?
No, I usually only polish my toenails and only in the summer.

47. Do you wear a lot of jewelry?
No, I wear my wedding ring everyday. That’s about it.

48. What are you drinking right now?

49. Do you get a full eight hours of sleep a night?
Are you kidding me?? HA!

50. How’s life treating you?
So far so good.

Questions they should have on the questionnaire.

51.  What weird quirk do you have?

I like to clean out my toothpaste lid a couple of times during the lifespan of a tube with a Q-tip. It makes it feel like a new tube again.  Funny, you would think the rest of my house would be clean…

52.  What fictional character would you like to be?

Anne Shirley

 53.  What makes you proud?

I learned to text message, a little.

Not in the Christmas Spirit


Bah Humbug. I have hardly put out any Christmas stuff, not even the pretty lighted tree for the front yard. We have the stockings up, a wreath on the door, the manger set up and a quilted wall hanging in the dining room. That is it. I don’t dare put the village up, since Leo is into everything. The tree is actually in the garage, for just that reason. I guess that isn’t very fair to the kids, but I just am not up to it this year. I think we’ll bring the tree in this weekend, otherwise Jane’s goldfish will get cold when Santa drops them off. I am thinking we’ll do the old fashioned thing and just use popcorn, cranberries and paper chains to decorate the tree. I did get my cards out. I do a newspaper looking thing, in third person. Hopefully it’s not too offensive, I would rather read a Xeroxed letter than look at nothing more than somebody’s signature at the bottom of a card.

I got everything sorted out among our six kids, and put together Leo’s car/ramp thing. I can’t wait to play with it! Still need to do all the wrapping. Janine, a senior in High School is getting a tool box with tools. I got a floral handled screwdriver for Christmas last year, and Husband has been coveting it. It was made like a tool for a man, not a cheap “girly” tool, so I got one for her, and some other tools, including a 7oz hammer, just the right size for a woman. I also got her the Daring Book for Girls. It looked like it had some practical advice for the college freshman. Don’t know what to get James. Might wait until after Christmas, if he is not coming anyway.

Betcha didn’t know that I am a grandmother. Yeah, neither did I until last week. Step-son James and his girlfriend had a little girl this summer. We really like the girlfriend, and we are the last people to judge someone for an unexpected baby, as two of ours were just that (although we were married), but James has been reluctant to tell us, actually he hasn’t yet. The girlfriend sent us a Christmas card with her and her daughter’s names and a photo.     I have since spoken with her on the phone. Husband last spoke to James November 9, after Paul was born (and Husb’s birthday), but he had not been in contact much for several months, and it is worse now. The kids live in different towns, about two hours apart, but they are dating again. They broke it off for a while, and got back together after the baby was born. I hope they can make it work. Babies need Daddies, and when James grows up some, he will be a super father! He was great with our kids when he lived here last fall. He didn’t do diapers, but maybe on his own kid it would be different. {an aside…The sexiest thing I have ever seen a man do is change somebody else’s baby’s diaper, seriously.} James is currently selling vacuum cleaners door to door. That can’t be an easy life. She works at a gas station and as a nanny and is completing an associate’s degree online from a local college. Just writing that makes me tired.

I guess I will try to see the baby as I will go through their town on my way to see my folks, who live two hours beyond. Maybe I could see my step-daughter as well. I miss her. I did find out that although she won’t answer her cell phone, or return calls, she does return texts. Immediately. I told Husband that is was worth 10 cents a pop to me to be able to communicate with her. I actually texted her when I opened the card from the girlfriend. She called as soon as she got out of school and did some explaining. It is a long story, and there is no need to repeat it, as that horse is out of the barn and over the hill.

My mother is excited to make a quilt for the baby. We need to make one for Paul too. I guess I will go visit back home after Christmas.

OurFamily, Inc.


My children are very different from each other. We think of Mae as the Manager of the crew. Jane is in Research and Development and Leo currently serves as the Beta Tester.  Mae will decide what they should do, Jane will figgure out how to accomplish it, and Leo is the guinea pig.  So far, at 5 weeks, Paul has shown little interest in interacting with his siblings.

The oldest, Mae, lives up to what you expect an older child to be, a leader. Once we went to the library for story time, but the volunteer did not show up, so there were two moms and four kids. Mae organized the children into a semi circle around her then she “read” a couple of books to her audience. When she was done with the books, she took the kids over to another area for a “craft” project then she had them sit in front of the TV (which was off) so they could “watch” a video. The children were happy to mind her and follow instructions. Mae was 3 at the time, Jane was 2, and the other children were 3 and 1 years of age. My husband says Mae will be the first woman president of our country. I hope this is not so, not necessarily because of the current candidate, but in the next 30 years, surely some woman will be elected president!

Jane is as independent as they come.  She wants to do it herself, by inventing a new way, and in her own sweet time.  She does not like to conform, and plays dress up every single day of the year. Two stories illustrate her personality. We went to an ice cream shop to order sundaes when Jane was 3. She listened carefully to everyone else then confidently ordered an “I cweam Tuesday.” She is mechanically inclined, at 3 Jane figured out how to buckle herself into her carseat. I am not convinced that at age 5 Mae could operate the latch, I know my mother can’t.

Even the names my girls give their dolls illustrates their differences. Mae, the girly girl, has dolls named Emily, Billie, Denise and Abdul. No nonsense Jane is more interested in animals, and has Zebra, and Sad Baby the polar bear. Sad Baby gets his name from the little bear mouth sewn into his face. Her dolls really don’t have names except for Pink Doll, who is, yes you guessed it, pink.

Leo, at 17 months, is too young to have solidified his specific aspirations. He spends a lot of time defending himself and his rights with his sisters (non-verbal tattling). It will be fun to see where he fits into our “company”. Advertising?  Marketing?  Finance?

If you go to a Chinese restaurant and read the paper placemats, you will find that Mae and I are dogs, Husband and Leo are horses, Paul is a pig, and Jane, well she is a monkey.

I made gingersnaps today and we invited our neighbors over for cocoa (which they gave us for Christmas) and cookies.  It was nice to visit with them.  She was a teacher, and she asked if I had made a school decision.  Mae will be in Kindergarten next year.  Boy is that hard to believe!  We are in one school district, school #1, but we are on the far edge of it.  We are just as far from two other schools.  School #2 is in the community to which we belong, where we have friends and neighbors.  School #3 is a parochial school with 25 kids, where we also know people.  School #2 has a bus stop down the road a ways, saving me driving 7 miles to drop off a kid at school #1.  Actually it would be 9, since I would probably take the highway.  Husband and I both attended public schools the same size as school #3, and Mae went to pre-school there last year.  I wonder if they have a sibling discount, tuition would kill us!  I am not opposed to public school, nor do I feel strongly about parochial school, heck it isn’t even our religion.  It is actually the size which appeals to me, and their lunch always smelled so good!  I need to do some investigation, and I need to ask questions, but which ones?  Two babysitters from school #2 told me that it is really clique-y, and they were happy to transfer to school #4 for high school.  Neighbor taught in school #1 and worked as the computer guru in school #2.  Of course, their granddaughter attended school #3. 


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We went to church today.  They had a pageant, Mae was Mary and Jane was the angel.  They were the only two girls in our little church old enough to participate in the pageant.  Jane is so little, and she was so intent on her role of walking up the aisle, it was cute.  Paul seems to have no intention of sleeping tonight.  He wore his tuxedo to church, and the little girl his age wore a beautiful dress, it looked like baby prom.

When we got home, Husband and I performed open door surgery on the dishwasher.  He was the surgeon, and I handed him instruments and cleaned the gunk out of the parts he removed.  It was nearly as gross as real surgery.  I run vinegar or koolaid through on a regular basis too.  He put it all together, ran a rinse, took it apart again and recleaned the thing and put it together again.  My glasses are transparent now!  You know, I don’t remember my parents doing this sort of thing, did we buy a cheap diswasher or are they making them cheaper these days?  This is the second time we have done this since 9 years ago when our old one went out over Thanksgiving and we bought this one new.  Maybe I should look into changing soaps, but I am not good at changing these types of things.  I still wear Levis, because I wore them in grade school. 

The only other excitement around here is that I am going with some friends to a larger town to shop tomorrow.  I hope to find myself some clothes. I have either been pregnant or trying to loose pregnancy weight since 2002, and my wardrobe looks like pre 2000.  I am not much of a group shopper, but I think I need advice on what is in style since it is no longer the 1980s.  I also need to pick up some gifts for my step kids.  I haven’t seen them much in the last 24 months, so it will be hard to find something appropriate.

I guess Tuesday I will try to decorate for Christmas.  If I keep putting it off, it will be unnecessary!  I did take down the last of the Autumn stuff today.   Well, Paul is not happy, I better see what I can do about that.

My secret vice

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I made a mistake a few months back and bought a cheese grater from Williams-Sonoma on the internet. Now they have my address and have been shipping me catalogs. I am about to go nuts. We have a modest amount of discretionary money, certainly not enough to peruse their catalog with credit card in hand. It is like putting Imelda Marcos in charge of the shoe department in Saks. I would love to get my hands on one of their knives…just one, not even a whole $3000 set.

I love to eat and cook as well, not so much the cleaning up though. I will try most anything once, even rattlesnake. When we went on our cruise in Feb, the waiter knew that when he wanted to push something weird, to ask me first. I have an adventurous palate, although I draw the line at organ meat.

I just read Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I came away thinking that most New Yorkers eat liver and sweetbreads and brains on a regular basis. Otherwise I believe I would eat anywhere with her. She liked to eat in dives, and I have found some of the best food in dives, in fact, Andy’s Shrimp in Hawaii was basically a take out stand made from a decommissioned delivery van, and that was the best meal I have ever had. I was sad because we really weren’t hungry, and it only cost about $5 or $10. I actually found a friend who had eaten there, but another friend tried to find it recently, and it seems to have closed. What a loss.

On a recent trip to Colorado, someone took me to Whole Foods. I am considering moving closer, so I can shop there. The cheese selection alone boggles the mind. Once again, it is probably just as well. By the way, Williams-Sonoma has a cheese of the month club…Now I am not pregnant any more and I can enjoy it with wine too!

So now I get a catalog tempting me with all sorts of wonderful (and for Nebraska, unusual) things to taste, and cook with. I keep the catalog between the mattress and box springs on my side of the bed. It seems like the most appropriate place to store it.

All I want for Christmas is a…

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This looks to be a long night, Baby Paul is wanting to be loved, and definitely not wanting to sleep.

Today we went to a party where Santa made an appearance.  Mae told me it was a guy in a costume, not the real Santa.  I told her not to spoil it for anyone else.  All three of ’em sat on his lap and enjoyed it.  Paul slept, looking back on it, maybe I should have got him up for the occasion.  Since we don’t get Nickelodeon or Disney or anything like that, my kids are at a loss as for what they “should” want for Christmas.  Mae asked for a train engine to pull her Daisy train car around, and her own set of tracks, the second part is not likely to happen, but maybe we can add to what we already have.  Jane asked for, get this, a goldfish.  I am thinking we can swing a goldfish, not sure where to hide him though.  I really should get a satellite dish.  Santa had a gift for each child, we got Connect 4, Chutes and Ladders, and Memory. 

Three new games inspired me to clean out the game closet.  We have a zillion games, and didn’t have any of those we received.  I found all sorts of things, the hat from our Monopoly game and the missing piece from the Barbie puzzle which has been lost since Janine put it together 10 years ago.  I got rid of some games that the step kids have received.  I moved them to a less accessible closet.  The games fit in their two shelves like one of those puzzles where you have to put the tiles in the right order by sliding them around.  Only I can get anything out of the closet.  I did leave the Jenga and Dominoes towards the front, because those are favorites to use as blocks.

My husband did a lousy job of shopping for my birthday present this year.  I am not a huge snob about getting gifts, but when someone says, “I need ideas, and it has to be something I can get between 9 and 10 on Sunday morning” you know you are in for something special.  Especially when your birthday is Tuesday.  I made him go though, because I made a big deal about gift shopping for him with the kids.  His b-day was Friday of the same week mine was.  I got a notepad with flowers on it.  I had asked for stationery, like what I could use for thank yous and such, but I guess I will just use a plain envelope.  Today I looked through my Williams-Sonoma catalog, and circled a few things, (I am hoping for the knife) and wrote “Christmas Ideas” on the cover with a magic marker then left it on his dresser.  If they have overnight shipping, I guess I could come out ok this Christmas.  I still don’t know what to get him though.  At least I am thinking about it now.

Branding calves

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Although we don’t live in an area which requires livestock to be branded, my husband brands ours, to make it more difficult for others to steal them. In 2005, he managed to brand himself while trying to brand a calf single handedly. He was taking care of the few calves that were not yet born when he had help that spring with the older calves. Apparently he was holding the 100 lb calf down with a foot and his left hand, while trying to use his right hand to brand the calf. A swift kick from the calf sent the hot iron into my husband’s tricep, leaving a blotched version of our brand. I say if he was going to brand himself, the least he could have done was make a nice readable brand.

Husband takes care of upwards of 80 cattle by himself, with no horse and usually no help. The only way you can make that work is by being calm and quiet when working the cattle. Although my husband and I were both raised on cattle ranches, we did not learn this particular handling method from our fathers, it came later in life, with experience. After the branding episode, Husband invested in what is called a calf cradle, which is a smaller version of the cattle chute used for mature cattle. It restrains the calf so you can work with it safely. The calf version also has the added option of flipping the calf on his side, so you can work with it from a more ergonomical angle.

I was six months pregnant with my son, Leo, when Husband asked me to help him work the remaining six calves in the calf cradle. He assured me that it would be safe, and I would not be in any danger of having my stomach kicked. I was running the headgate and he was pushing them in from behind. All I had to do was wait for the critter to push his head through the catch and then pull a lever, to tighten the headgate. Now, Husband grew up using one of these contraptions, but I was only familiar in theory with how they worked on calves. I grew up with horses and ropes to work calves, while my husband’s family was one of the very first to use three-wheelers to move their herd. The first calf through found a “hole” in between the alley way and the cradle to escape through. Husband said, “no biggie, that was the heifer, I can remember that.” The second calf climbed out of the top of the alley way and escaped, still not my fault at this point. I said, “that was number 22, I can remember that.” The third one went right through the headgate, because I wasn’t expecting him to make it all the way though to me, and I didn’t get him caught fast enough. By that time we were laughing pretty hard. We managed to get the other three branded, then rounded up the first three and worked them too. Husband made the alley way a little tighter and taller before he worked the rest of the herd. What a pleasure to work cattle with someone who expects things to go wrong, and doesn’t yell when they do.