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By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, May 15, 2014
I saw Robin a while ago and I started apologizing for being such a bad blogess.
My excuse it that our family has fallen into this really comfortable routine. There's breakfast, school, lunch, after-school, homework and some kind of sport a few days a week. Not much is new. The boys are either doing swimming or baseball. The school is the same and there aren't any surprises in the way of homework or disipline or even what's packed in the lunch. And thats' fine. We're busy living and growing some kids who need lots and lots of practice at attaining life skills.
Robin said she didn't care. Everything doesn't have to be new to be interesting. "I want to see pictures of Kip and Cletus and the kids."
Okay then ...
Here's Kip: He's 2 1/2 now. He's all trained up and doesn't kill chickens. He can roll over, play dead, and listens pretty well most of the time. His job is to take the kids to school. He's spoiled and gets spooned nightly. He also smiles.
And here's Cletus. Cletus and Kip are best friends. He likes to cuddle. He's getting older and grumpy. Soren has been trying very hard to make friends with him, but he mostly prefers adults and Kip.
And, here's Soren and Jonas: award recipients as they exit kindergarten and second grade.
So, there ya go, Robin. I'm going to take your advice and just keep posting pics of life as it passes us by and hope that's good enough for our readers.
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, May 15, 2014
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Better late than never has been the theme of our presidential birthday celebrations lately. Last night we finally got around to celebrating James Buchanan and Harry Truman.
Buchanan wasn’t that interesting either in food or politics according the Ashcrafts. I guess the most interesting things about him was that he was the only bachelor president. He appointed his niece as the First Lady. I didn’t know you could “appoint” someone to that position.
Soren didn’t like him that much because no matter how many times I told him, he could not say the name Buchanan. He called him Boochanman. As we sat down to dinner he read the one sentence he had written about Buchanan in his notebook out loud. “Boochanman was in the Civil War and people called him ‘Doughface’.” That cracked his brothers up. Marty was like “What? Who’s Boochanman? What president are we on?”
Despite his best efforts, Marty could not get Soren interested in Buchanan.
Then it came my turn to explain the food. According to the Food Timeline, Buchanan liked to eat “Calf's Head Dressed as Terrapin,” Apees & Muscadine (grape) Pie, and “Confederate Pudding.”
I told the family that I thought calf’s head sounded pretty good. It probably tastes like chicken nuggets. They disagreed wholeheartedly. I don’t have a clue what an Apees is, and Confederate pudding is too politically incorrect for my dinner table. There is a recipe HERE though if you’re interested.
We moved on to Harry Truman. I explained that Martha Truman’s recipe cards have been uploaded to the Natioanal Archives website. I chose this one:
I tried my best to stick to the recipe. I'm not sure if Chili Sauce is the kind of ketchup-type condiment I had in my fridge, but that's what I used. I also don't know what Kitchen Bouquet is so I used Italian Seasoning. Eh — whatevs. I love how she used to use a layer of bacon, then scratched it out. Why would you ever scratch out bacon?
Soren liked Truman's picture. "He looked like a good guy." And, he liked that he got to read more about WWI and WWII.
And the conversation at the dinner table turned into the swapping of war stories from there.
Soren asked for Mrs. Truman's leftover meatloaf for lunch this morning ... nice work Mrs. Truman.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, May 12, 2014
Confession: There are some days when I can SO relate to Homer Simpson when he does this:
Fer reals. Homer nails parenthood right there.
You know how you hear stories about boys breaking windows ... and everyone chuckles .... yeah ... I'm not laughing.
First there was a window in the breakfast nook that suddenly developed a strange crack. Of course, nobody knows where this crack came from. We ignored it. Until winter weather made the crack CRACK. One day, Soren took after a fly with a dish towel and that crack turned into a shatter. Replacement of window No. 1.
We live in a older house which means it's been remodeled a number of times leaving one particular bathroom window in a vulnerable place, the landing of outside stairs. BAM — suddenly another shatter appeared that looked an awfully lot like a foot may have kicked it in. Again ... nobody knows. Replacement of window No. 2.
This next one I'm fully prepared to hear some blame for. You'all are going to raise your eyebrows and whisper stuff like "well, if she would have been watching them better ..." Fair enough.
Marek grabbed a BB gun and took a direct shot at our patio door. When it shattered, it sounded like water was being poured off our balcony. Marek ran into the house and screamed "I'M GOING TO MY ROOOOOMMMM!!!!" If he could have spanked himself, he would have. Replace of window No. 3 was postponed because .....
the next day a neighbor came to report there was a small hole, most likely from a BB gun, (hmmm, who could that be?) in his window. It was followed by a very polite lecture about not letting my boys play with guns, balls, baseball bats, and whole number of things that he'd apparently witnessed going on at my house. Replacement of window No. 4.
If I have to replace another window this summer, I swear I'm going to go Homer on one of these boys.
Sure, someday we'll sit around the Christmas table and laugh about that summer the boys broke out all the windows. But, it won't be anytime soon.
By Randee Bergen
Friday, May 9, 2014
It was with a heavy heart and some trepidation about sharing such a personal topic that I wrote about my daughter's depression.The blogging community, my family, local friends, and other online readers responded–overwhelmingly–with support, cyber hugs, words of wisdom, analogous feelings and struggles, and names of books, articles, and blogs that we should read. Haute Mama Robin commented with “Depression Lies” and pointed us toward The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson.
I couldn’t believe the response. Not just the support, but the fact that no one seemed to think it was weird that my daughter and I wanted to share what she’s going through. So, thank you, everyone–you da bomb.
On top of her depression, my daughter was physically sick. I listened to her cough all night long, though I was sure she was sleeping through it. She emerged from her bedroom every morning for more than a week with her hand cupped below her mouth, wakened each morning by coughing up phlegm. She slept a lot and said she didn’t feel well and stay bundled up in a blanket, even on warm afternoons. She didn’t talk much at all. Of course, I thought all the latter–sleeping, bundling, silence–were related to the depression, which they were, but there was more. As it turned out, she had strep throat.
More mom guilt. First, I don’t understand her depression as well as I want to and I don’t know exactly how to help her. Worse, she was quite sick for more than a week before I took her to the doctor. And the only reason I took her was because she said to me (finally), “Hey, mom, wanna see what I’ve been dealing with for the past week?” and opened her mouth in my face, shining her cell phone on the back of her throat.
It was the most disgusting throat I’ve ever seen. Hugely swollen, bright red, coated in pus, sides almost touching, just a tiny opening.
Wow, I remember thinking, she really is sick. It’s not just a fantastic notion of her depressed imagination.
Anyway, the transformation I saw in my baby was amazing as an increased dosage of Zoloft kicked in right about the same time the Amoxicillin did. Mentally and physically healed all at once. Her vibrant self returned.
I was taking an art class after work when my phone rang. I picked up because it was her. “Mama, whatever you do, don’t eat. I’m cooking dinner.”
More like whatever else I had planned for the evening, just cancel it. Cooking dinner? Out of her bedroom? Moving around? Planning and following through with something? Inviting me, ahead of time? There was no way I was going to miss this.
I hurried home after class and found both daughters and the family dog on the couch, starting a movie, waiting for me. It just happened to be one of my favorite movies–What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? I dropped my things and sat right down. Addy said that we were having dinner in the living room. The dinner that she had made was layered dip and chips. Perfect!
I watched Addy just as much as I watched the movie. She was the happiest I’d seen her in weeks. Carefree, playing with the dog, able to sit through the entire movie without retreating to her room. My daughter is healthy and happy, I kept thinking to myself.
By the time the movie ended, it was dark. The girls were tired and said good night. “That was a fun family night,” said Amy, who I know has been concerned about her sister.
Once alone, the floodgates opened. Tears streamed down my cheeks. No wailing, no sobbing. Just silent tears. Not tears of fear or pain or frustration. Tears of relief. And they just kept coming.
I guess I was carting around a bit of stress these past few weeks. I don’t recognize it at the time. I just keep pressing on. Do what needs to be done. But then, when there’s a break in the action, it all comes out. This time, luckily, it came out as relief. Relief that my daughter is healing. Healing before things got worse, healing before something terrible happened.
In the morning, I told Addy about my tears, about how relieved I was to see her acting like her old self again, to see her happy.
“Mom, I just want to do things now. Before, I had to try to talk myself into doing the most basic things–getting up, washing a load of laundry, talking to people. It would take like a half hour to talk myself into something and I’d be exhausted before I even did it.”
I didn’t say anything. Just listened. I need to learn. Learn to understand how this disorder operates, how it affects my daughter. By understanding, perhaps I can be a better support system for her.
“There were, like, several days in there where I was convinced you and Amy hated me. I knew you didn’t. You wouldn’t do everything you do if you didn’t care about me. But, still. I had to put so much energy into telling myself that it wasn’t true.”
This comment made me remember something. “Oh! I made you something in my class.” I went and got the oil craypas water-color relief on fabric. Depression Lies, it said.
“Ha! Good one, Mom! I’ll hang it my dorm room.” She paused and I’m pretty sure she was thinking about the same thing I was: Yep, you’re going to make it to that dorm room.
“Man, I didn’t realize how sick I was. I don’t really get it until I come out of it. I feel so liberated! I feel happier than I’ve felt in a long time!”
“Well, if wanting to cook dinner is a measure of happiness, then you’re way ahead of me,” I told her, laughing.
“Oh, Mom,” she said, “you da bomb. Dot com.”
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
We are coming up on the end of the semester. To add to the end of the year craziness, I decided I wanted to get all of our home improvement projects done before summer starts. I'm not exactly sure why; probably so I can spend the bulk of the summer lying around.
For the last week, Bill and I have been working in the yard, getting the sprinkler system up and going and rebuilding a portion of our main deck. I also found some great metal chairs at Goodwill that I repainted. I'll have before and after pictures when those projects are complete.
In the meantime, here are some random pictures because it's Wednesday and Wednesdays need more randomness:
This is painting done by one of my very talented students for his research project in my History of Graphic Design class. After it was graded and I gushed over how much I love Alphonse Mucha, he gave it to me. We are very excited to get this framed and hung in our house. This painting makes me so happy.
Here is Quincy wearing my band's t-shirt. I think Riveter needs to start a line of pet wear.
And because I already started with the pet pictures, here is one of my kitten (who is not much of a kitten anymore), being her normal, naughty self:
We have a pet door that the dog and older cat use to come and go as they please, but Dali is too a-scared, so she pretends to hunt birds from inside ... hanging from the screen door.
Happy hump day!
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, May 2, 2014
I had the house to myself at lunch which means I had the rare opportunity to enjoy some quiet and let my mind just wander around.
I started thinking about Marek and Jonas' upcoming summer birthdays. I've promised Marek that it is finally his turn to have a big birthday, with friends, and balloons and presents. He'll turn five this year and I plan on planning something to mark the occasion.
And, I started thinking of all the possibilities like Kidz Plex, Chucky Cheese, Bananas, Math and Science Center, parks, bump 'n jumps, etc, etc.
It led me to revisiting some of the past birthdays for the boys that we've had in these places and I'll say that all of them were great. I'm pro every single one of these places as birthday party destinations.
I thought "Wow, how lucky are we to have all these cool kid-friendly places."
Then that naturally led to thinking about all the other great things about raising kids in Grand Junction. The outdoor opportunties, the consignment shopping, the baseball and soccer leagues, Powderhorn, the schools.
I can't really think of anything that my boys might be missing out on. As a matter of a fact, I think Grand Junction is spoiling them rotten and someday they'll realize how lucky they were/are to live here.
There's a lot of people out there making this a great community for families so today I just wanted to acknowledge that and say thanks to everybody who makes this a great place for my kids to live.
Happy Friday everybody — hope you take advantage of all there is out there this weekend.
By Randee Bergen
Friday, May 2, 2014
If I were as overly dramatic as my teenage daughters I’d be saying “Worst night ever!” or “That was a literal shit storm!” or “I’d rather be dead!”
But instead I’ll say that our night of camping in Death Valley was astounding. And I’ll laugh and marvel at it always, just as I found myself doing when I finally stepped out of the tent at the first glimpse of daylight.
Not during the night. At no time during that long, long, painfully long night did I feel astounded. Well, actually I probably did, but that feeling would have been buried far beneath my frustration and exhaustion. And I surely wasn’t laughing. No, no laughing that night. Not til morning could I laugh.
We entered Death Valley National Park from the west, coming from a little California town called Lone Pine, in the early evening hours. That morning, we had been clear on the other side of the Sierra Nevadas in search of a giant sequoia.
As we entered the park, the evening light was incredibly beautiful, as was the landscape. I had no idea there were so many mountain ranges in and around Death Valley. And what really amazed me was the variety of colors, especially the chili powder rock that was so different from anything I’d ever seen in any other red rock country.
We climbed and descended several times as we drove east and it was dark by the time we reached sea level. And we still had another 50 or so miles to our destination–Furnace Creek Campground, which is near the Visitor’s Center.
It was well past dark when we turned into the campground. I had made reservations online months before not knowing anything about the campground and having long forgotten what I may have read about it at the time. So we didn’t know what to expect. There was no one in the booth, of course, but there was a list of about 20 late arrival names and to which site they had been assigned. Our name was not on the list.
“I’m so tired,” I told the girls, as we drove around the campground. It was hard to tell how big the place was and how many people were there, but there was a lot of activity going on–campfires, people walking around, kids still outside playing–and I didn’t see any empty spots. “Maybe we should just sleep in the car.”
“Wait, mom,” said Amy, “you probably got a confirmation email when you made the reservation. Maybe it has our site number.”
“I doubt it. Plus, I don’t know if I would have saved it.” I didn’t keep too many emails in my inbox, but I did have a lot of email folders and Vacation was one of them. Sure enough, there was the email. Furnace Creek, Site No. 143.
We drove around the place a couple more times and didn’t see any numbers close to 143. So back to the booth we went, hoping to find a map. Ah ha, site 143 was in an area that looked like a tent village. We found the area and found our parking spot (clearly marked with a 143 sign), but we couldn’t determine where our actual camp spot was. Right in front of where we parked were two parties, a group of four older guys enjoying a campfire in a fire ring labeled as 144 and a group of girl scouts in spot number 142. The girl scout leaders had a map and together we figured that our site was just beyond these two sites, behind a clump of trees (Russian olives? hard to tell in the dark).
With headlamps, we tromped around, trying not to bother too many people with our voices or our bright lights as we searched for our spot. There sure seemed to be a lot of people tightly packed into this area. Once we found our spot, we had to turn around and find our vehicle again so we could start to unload. We were thinking necessities only–tent, bags, pillows, water, phones, book for me–because it was so late, it was a trek between car and tent spot, the wind was really starting to blow, and we were so tired that we were just planning on crashing right away anyway.
Despite the wind, we had our tent up in no time. We were a week into our Spring Break road trip by this point and we knew how to work as a team with the tent. Plus, we decided against the rain fly. It was 85 degrees at 9:00 at night and we wanted to feel the breeze blow through our tent.
Feel the breeze, we did. After a long day of hiking and driving and plenty of beautiful country, we finally laid our weary heads down, but within minutes we understood that sleep would be hard to come by. The wind continued to strengthen and with each push of wind came a wall of fine dirt.
The dirt blew through the mesh of the tent and became trapped within it. We could feel, as well as hear, it settle on the sleeping bags, pillows, tent floor, and our skin, particularly with the strongest gusts. I slipped into my sleeping bag for protection, but I couldn’t stay there long; it was just too warm.
I’ve had a few nights in the tent where real sleep was out of the question, due to cold temperatures, rain seeping in, noise in the area, not feeling safe, or antsy dogs. Those nights always seemed to last forever and most of the time was spent “praying” that it could just be morning already.
This was one of those nights but worse. Worse because I couldn’t open my eyes. At first because the blowing dirt hurt them too much. After a few hours because my eyelids were stuck shut, like when my eyes get goopy with conjunctivitis. I couldn’t play around on my phone and couldn’t read. The only comfortable position was laying on my left side, but that was where the wind was coming from and I couldn’t take the beating for long. So I’d flip back to my right side, which was the nonzipper side of the sleeping bag, which meant that it was too hot. Back and forth, back and forth, all night long. In between I would listen to and marvel at the wind and this blowing dirt phenomenon.
Focusing on the wind was interesting. There were times when it would seem to be dying down. It would get eerily quiet for a minute or two. But then I would hear it. Not feel it; hear it. Each gust started far away on my right side. I could hear it enter that area or start over there. Then it circled around in the direction of my feet, still far off. From there, it grew louder and louder as it circled back toward me on my left. As the noise climaxed, the dirt blew, pelting the tent, our bedding, any exposed skin.
This happened dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times.
I imagined a semi-circle of a mountain range, to the right, foot-side, and left of me, whatever those directions were, and the wind racing along them, like a skateboarder on the curve of a bowl.
The sound of the wind as it finally reached me and the dirt it carried reminded me of the instant burst that comes from the burner of a hot air balloon. Just as that flame turns off suddenly, so would the wind. And the newest arrival of dirt would settle with little sprinkling sounds.
I brushed my hand across my pillow and it was coated in dirt. I touched my face, but did not make contact with my skin. Just dirt.
I wasn’t sure if the girls were awake. I didn’t speak to them, not wanting to wake them if by some miracle they had figured out how to sleep through this. At one point, Addy said, “Mom, I’m going to the car.”
I panicked, and responded with, “No, you’re not! I already thought of that but we all need to stay here and hold the tent down. If one of us leaves, the corners are going to start coming up.”
I wasn’t scared, but being mom, I had the need to keep us all together.
Of course, I had to pee. And I had no idea where the nearest bathroom was since we pulled in in the dark and the layout of the place was so disorienting. I really was concerned about exiting the tent, fearing that my half would lift up and fold over onto the girls.
Finally, I went outside and peed just five feet from the tent. Downwind. Mostly so that I could catch the tent if it decided to take off. I had no idea who was around us, how close, whether anyone could see or hear me. But that’s the way it had to be done.
I checked the time on my phone twice (12:23, 2:12), but then no more because of the amount of dirt that had built up on the screen, this with it being hidden in my sleeping bag. Perhaps I drifted off for an hour, maybe two.
I do know that I was awake when the first wisps of pastel light blew into the tent along with the dirt. Hallelujah! It was morning!
I fumbled with the zipper, my eyes nearly pasted shut, and stumbled out, alive, into Death Valley. I hooked my fingers into the collar of my t-shirt, turned it inside out, hoping to find some clean cloth, and wiped it gently across my eyes.
Better. I could see and I surveyed my surroundings.
There was the clump of trees. An orange tent had blown into them, and rested, tangled, about 15 feet off the ground. Between the trunks, I could see another tent completely flat on the ground, as if an elephant had sat on it and left just seconds ago.
There were two tents to the right. I turned in the other direction. Not far away at all, maybe 20 feet, was a man. There was a tent and a camper at his site.
Our eyes met. I wasn’t sure how I looked, but I knew how I felt. I felt filthy. My hair was heavy with dirt. My mouth was dry, teeth and tongue gritty. I imagined myself a movie character, a lost person stumbling back into civilization, unsure of where she is or how long she’s been gone, wondering if everyone is seeing things the way I am.
The man smiled. I smiled, too. And then I laughed. I literally laughed out loud.
“Well, that was quite a night!” I wasn’t speaking to my neighbor, necessarily, more to the powers that be.
A shower. I couldn’t wait to take a shower. I ambled around until I found the nearest bathroom. Inside, there were toilets, but no showers. But, there was a sink. With running water. Water to rinse away the dirt.
It wasn’t easy scrubbing away the grime that had been forced into the pores of my skin all night long. But it was okay that it took so long because it felt good. And a change of clothes felt pretty darn good, too.
When I returned to the tent and started removing my bedding to shake it out, I found a quarter-inch of dirt in some places. The wind, still blowing, made the shaking out process a bit easier. As the girls emerged from the tent, they didn’t look around in wonder as I had. And they certainly didn’t laugh. Instead, what I heard was, “Worst night ever!” and “What a shit storm that was.”
Soon, we were on our way to see the rest of Death Valley, particularly Badwater Basin, which is 282 feet below sea level and reaches temperatures of 117 degrees in the summer months.
Death Valley – a beautiful place. But rumor has it that you shouldn’t visit in the summer. And I certainly don’t recommend tent camping on a windy night.
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Last evening, I was lying in bed grading research projects and watching hockey play-offs when I got a call from Margaret. She was crying hysterically. She hurt her ankle jumping on her friend's trampoline.
Bill and I raced to fetch her. A drive that normally took less than 10 minutes seems to take an hour.
By the time we arrived, Mar's right ankle looked like it swallowed a grapefruit. Her friend's quick-thinking mom already had the ankle iced and elevated and had given Mar Ibuprophen. I felt bad for the mom, having a kid get hurt on your watch is the worst. But kids will be kids, no?
We hurried to the emergency room to find it packed full. Sick people everywhere. A little boy had just been brought in via ambulance. Our daughter's swollen ankle didn't seem too bad.
Even though Mar was in considerable pain, she was very polite to all who attended her. Of course, a trip to the ER required a selfie posted to Facebook:
Despite the packed waiting room, she got taken back very quickly. A couple x-rays revealed no broken bones, thank goodness. The attending PA diagnosed her with a bad sprain and ligament damage. The nurse fitted her with an aircast. After a lesson using the crutches, we were out of there.
I'm very proud of how well she reacted to the whole situation. I'm terrible when I'm sick or in pain, Mar was pretty dang awesome over the whole thing.
Luckily, school is out today and tomorrow, so she has some time to recuperate before she has to go back to school.
But since she was just making plans with her friends for the next couple of days, it doesn't seem like a bum ankel is going to keep her down.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, April 30, 2014