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Wordless Wednesday: Learning to tend bar

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, January 1, 2014

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A few scenes of Christmas

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, December 30, 2013

The Ashcraft's had a great Christmas with all the traditional festivities.

We continued our annual tradition of swimming in Glenwood Springs on Christmas eve, followed by dinner No. 1 with family. Marty's family always serves oyster stew and it's something looked forward to all year long. The boys were allowed to open their one present, new pajamas and stuffed animals. The anticipation of Christmas of course keeps them up until they can't anymore.

Santa, being so kind and generous and able to look the other way this time of the year, gave the boys new bikes! They were intimidated and were happy to set those aside until the sun came up to focus on things wrapped in shiny paper.

Miles of paper and packaging later, the boys spread their new stuff out all over the house and promptly broke it all.

Oh well, we know they love us and were rewarded greatly with hugs and kisses and little boy tenderness.

I'm pretty sure we didn't leave anything out. There were cookies, food, prayer, and crazy aunts. (That's you Joanne!)

I watched the boys run by on Christmas day and I hoped that their memories of childhood Christmas' past were going to be enough to last them a lifetime! It's what makes all the effort worthwhile.

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OPEN IT!

By Randee Bergen
Monday, December 23, 2013

They said we’d know by December 17th or 18th. They said the letter would come by mail. U.S. mail. In the mailbox.

December 17th came and went. No letter.

December 18th came and went. No letter.

And so I was awake in the wee hours of the 19th, not realizing at first that it was the day, the day the letter would arrive, that had me awake, feeling anxious.

Please, I prayed, let it say yes. Let it say she’s been selected.RYE

Please, I prayed, let it say no. Let it say that she won’t be going away, that she won’t be leaving me.

How could I want it to say anything but yes? This is what my daughter wants. This is her dream. To be chosen as a Rotary Youth Exchange student for her junior year in high school. What an incredible opportunity. Why would I want the letter to say anything but yes?

How could I want it to say anything but no? This is my baby. My friend. My roommate. My daily joy. How could I send her away for ten months?

But December 19th came and went. No letter.

That left the 20th. Friday the 20th. Surely they wouldn’t make us wonder all through the weekend. Yes, the 20th had to be the day.

But the 20th was problematic. Amy was leaving school early with her swim team for an out-of-town two-day swim meet. She wouldn’t be coming home on the 20th, wouldn’t be home until late afternoon the following day.

“What if the letter comes, Amy? What should I do?”

“What do you mean, what should you do?”

“Should I open it?” How could I not?

“No! Wait for me!” Of course. Of course, I knew I should wait for her. It was her letter. It would be addressed to her. But how could I wait?

And then, there it was. The letter in the mailbox.

I brought it inside. It was well sealed. I held it up to the light. No luck. I texted Amy. Your letter came.

I wasn’t expecting a return text right away. She was at a swim meet, after all. But, she responded within seconds.

OPEN IT!

My older daughter was there, home, on the couch. “She wants me to open it!” I told her.

“Well, do it, Mom. What are you waiting for?”

“I don’t know.” Yes, I did. “I guess it seems like she should be here.”

“She said open it, didn’t she?”

“Okay.” I slipped one finger under the flap on the back and lifted it carefully, a few millimeters at a time.

“Mom, hurry up! Just tear it open!”

“I can’t.” I sped up a little though until the flap was entirely unsealed and the letter was visible.

I removed the letter from the envelope and held it to my chest.

“Mom.”

“It’s too exciting. I’m scared. I’ve never been this scared to open anything before.”

I unfolded the top third and scanned for those crucial first few words. There they were. It is with great pleasure…

Relief. Relief, relief, relief. Relief that my daughter won’t experience the disappointment of not being selected.

I read those five words aloud then, and, once again, put the letter to my heart.

“Come on, mom! Where’s she going?”

It would be in the next paragraph. I folded the bottom third down and there, in capital letters, was…

FRANCE. Her original choice, the country she wanted to go to in the first place, when she started this process two months ago, back when she thought she could choose a country and they’d say okay and that was all there would be to it.

“FRANCE!” I told her sister. Her sister who will be off to college next year. Her sister who knows, as I do, that the time for them to separate after all these years of growing up together will be much easier if they leave home at the same time.

And then I cried. I laughed and I cried. I went into the kitchen and came back to the living room. I sat down. I stood back up.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said.

“Mom, let her go. She’ll be fine.” My daughter looked at me as if I was crazy, as if surely I had to have agreed to letting her go long before this point, this moment of getting the letter.

“No,” I explained. “I mean right now. I don’t know what to do with myself.” I was too thrilled–too needing to talk to Amy, to hug her, to celebrate with her–to do anything else.

FRANCE!

The months of preparation begin now.

FRANCE!

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Wordless Wednesday: Woot — Raise The Roof!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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Our fake Christmas

By Robin Dearing
Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday, we had our 3rd annual fake Christmas/Festivus. It's a lot like Christmas only the day we celebrate is randomly chosen to accommodate our travel/school/band schedules and it is much more casual. I let Margaret open a gift or two whenever she wants before fake Christmas. Since Santa no longer comes to our house, I don't have to worry about hiding presents or getting the stockings stuffed before anyone wakes up.

Yes, it doesn't have the magic of a traditional Christmas with kids eager for the Santa experience. But it's so relaxed and easy, I really quite love it.

Since I finished my holiday shopping, wrapping, shipping and baking last week, this weekend was filled with luxurious down time. Plus, having a teenager means that fake Christmas morning comes with some sleeping in. Bonus.

The morning started with the traditional opening of the presents which is always fun. Margaret loved her gifts and was kind and gracious about recieving them. After gifts, we made a yummy brunch of potato-and-egg casserole and fruit salad with crecent rolls. Bill's son and his wife joined us for brunch followed by more present opening. Then some much-needed sitting around. 

Because fake Christmas has no rules, we decided to take Margaret to a horribly inappropriate movie followed by pizza. It's a new family tradition.

I love our quirky family celebration and am so happy to avoid all the stress and strain that can come with the holiday season. 

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A Sheep Drive

By Randee Bergen
Monday, December 16, 2013

On my trail from home to my hometown, I pass through the picturesque town of Meeker, Colorado, population 2,500, home of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials. On two different occasions now, as I’ve driven through, there has been a sheep drive going on. The ranchers are moving their sheep to winter pasture.

I don’t know what it is, why seeing a bunch of woolies trotting down the highway moves me so. But it does. Both times that it has happened it’s been the highlight of my trip, a real treat.

We were just north of Meeker, on our way to Wyoming for Thanksgiving, when I came upon a vehicle on the side of the road. On the back of the truck was a large sign: LIVESTOCK ON ROAD. Just past the truck was a cowboy on horseback. He was bringing up the rear, watching for any stragglers that managed to get past the dogs.

And then, there they were, the first of about five hundred sheep I’d see over the next two or so miles. I was grateful for the LIVESTOCK ON ROAD warning sign because, in November, oatmeal-colored sheep blend right in with the gray-brown high desert landscape.

As I inched my way along, I realized I was a part of the machine. I was helping to move the sheep on down the road to their winter pasture.

It wasn’t long before I saw the first of many, about 20, Great Pyrenees dogs. They all looked the same–same size, same short white coat, clean, calm, focused, talented–and were just magnificent.

The dogs were evenly spaced throughout the herd and taking on different tasks. Some trotted along behind a group, just keeping the throng moving. I saw some on the other side of the fence lining the highway, chasing back any hostages who tried to escape. Occasionally there were tufts of green grass, each with a pile of sheep grabbing bites while they could. A dog would be there, executing small charges and pounces, to get them moving again. And, as in the photo above, some dogs hung out on the road, moving sheep along, but also, it seemed, managing traffic simultaneously.

As I neared the end of the herd of sheep, or, actually, it was the beginning as it was those who were leading the way, there were fewer dogs and the sheep thickened, like food along the hot sides of a pan. Their wooly backs, so close together now, made it seem as if they were one, one giant undulating organism of oatmeal.

I passed the last of the sheep, one more cowboy on horseback, and another vehicle that was part of the operation.

Wow! I thought. 500 sheep being moved to winter pasture by 20 dogs and just two cowboys. Pretty impressive!

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Holiday home improvement

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, December 12, 2013

I don't know what it is about the holidays that makes people decide they need to launch a huge home improvement project two weeks before Christmas. Mostly, I guess, it's because at some point you look around and think "OMG, how can people possibly come over and see this dump we live in." At least, that's what happened to me this year. I'm not alone in this crazed pre-Christmas madness either ... I know at least three coworkers who have launched their own household insanity.

Everybody knows how have hated my white carpet since the day we moved in to our new house three years ago. I complain about it all the time.  It's been a struggle to keep it clean with three kids, a puppy, and a cat. And, it's not just their faults. My tendency to spill red wine at times doesn't help. So, two weeks ago, I decided that the time had come to bite the bullet and have new hardwood installed. My living room was moved into the kitchen. The furnace and gas stove is off. Why did I wait until December, who knows. Who cares because I have actual real oak hardwood with mahogony accents. I'll even get to walk on it soon.

I'm embarrassed by this "before" picture but am including it for dramatic purposes. So ...

BEFORE:

MIDDLE:

AFTER:

 

MY VERY FAVORITE PART: DETAIL AROUND THE FIREPLACE

 

 

Heck yeah! How's that for dramatic effect? Is is wrong to want to stay home, open a bottle of wine, and gaze at your hardwood all day? No, not at all and you know what I'll be doing this weekend.

Now, on to the Christmas tree, the stockings, and the cookies. Merry Christmas everybody!

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Wordless Wednesday: Hey — no tears!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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Lead Yourself Not into Homelessness

By Randee Bergen
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My daughter, the senior, spent the snow day doing homework. It’s an activity I rarely see her engaged in. In fact, seeing her on the couch, laptop on lap, books and papers spread about her… it almost threw me for a loop.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to pass my classes, one essay at a time.”

“Oh. Awesome. I’m proud of you.”

“Yeah, and mama, do you want to help me with some extra credit?”

“Sure. Love to.”

“Okay, read this and do it.” She handed me a letter on goldenrod.

Dear Precious Parents of AP Literature Students,

As you doubtless realize from all the weeping and wailing about the house, we are reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Hmmm, I haven’t heard any weeping and wailing. At least not about Shakespeare. I wondered if my daughter was aware that her class was reading Hamlet.

As the mother of three former seniors, I know how desperately you want your senior to graduate and get out into that wide world out there.

God, I love this woman, I thought. She’s reading my mind! My daughter liked her, too. She even made a ceramic whistle of her persona in art class.

So, here’s the deal. In Act I, scene iii, Polonius provides advice to his son Laertes as Laertes is about to leave for France. Here, there was a paragraph of advice in Shakespearean, a paragraph that I started reading, happily, thinking that now that I was 47, I might get Shakespeare, I might like it. After a few sentences, I was withering, no, cringing. I finished reading it, then summarized to myself: okay, so that was some advice. Yeah. Moving on.

Emulate Polonius by giving your student the benefit of your parental wisdom in one of the approved forms below.

There were several options, the most appealing, to me, being to email the advice I have for my daughter to this teacher, to let her know that my daughter I did the assignment.

I am providing you a platform to dispense advice about life, college, reality, the wide world out there, or whatever you see fit. The burden of this assignment rests upon the shoulders of your offspring who should make an appointment to interview you, asking advice about a major decision.

Yes! This will force her to listen to me. I believed this assignment was God’s answer to my prayers of the last several months. Prayers about that fine line, the fine line of holding your child’s hand and making sure everything gets completed, correctly, and turned in, and just leaving it all up to her. Though I am concerned about whether she’s going to get all of her credits, whether she’s going to complete her service learning hours, and that she is not working up to her potential, I concluded, after much praying, that I must go with the latter. I must leave her to her own devices and let her learn from her mistakes, her struggles, and her many successes as well.

And that is where we’re at. Where we’ve been for the past six weeks. And now there are only three weeks left in this semester.

The advice may be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. You may provide advice from personal experience, family precedents, or literature. By doing so, you may earn up to 50 test points for your student in AP Lit.

This sounded fun, so I got on it right away, and this is what I came up with.

 

My daughter who art in your senior year,

Hallowed be my advice.

Your future comes,

Your childhood be done,

On Earth as in my mind.

Give us today your best effort.

Forgive me my high expectations

As I forgive you your mediocrity these past few years.

Lead yourself not into homelessness

But deliver yourself into prosperity.

For your grades,

Your graduation and your future are yours

Now and forever.

 

A mom

I don’t know why I went with The Lord’s Prayer format. Maybe because God’s been involved with this whole thing, because the assignment is a gift from him. I hope no one finds it offensive. My daughter listened to it and laughed. And, I pray, she’ll do something with it.

I’ll keep you posted on that graduation thing…

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Yuletide traditions

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last week, I had a horrible day full of fruitless work and frustration. Instead of retreating to the warmth of my bed and sulking over episodes of "Justified," I asked Bill to help me get out the Christmas decorations.

I was in a terrible mood and taking on a big project was the last thing I wanted to do, but I knew getting the tree up and our decorations out would allow me to cross something off my to-do list and make an otherwise wasted day better.

As we took the ornaments out of their boxes, we talked about where the ornaments came from, who gave them to us or where we bought them. Our tree is full of memories from our 14-plus years together. And now we have ornaments from my parents' collection, too. 

I don't know why I'm surprised. Every year, I love having our Christmas tree up. Every year I try to figure out a way that I can keep it up all year. I've thought about just changing the ornaments with the seasons. In Februrary, it could become a Valentine tree. In March, an Easter tree ... Yeah, no one else thinks it's a good idea either.

I spent several hours Sunday wrapping presents while watching "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Napoleon Dynamite." Bizarre movie choices, I know, but it seemed fitting since the gifts I wrapped will be opened on our fake Christmas/Festivus celebration this Sunday. 

As beautiful as the snow is, these bitter cold winters we've starting having here on the Western Slope make all the argument we need to continue our new family tradition of flying south for the winter. Some may think we are not festive people. I say we are festive in a sandy beach kind of way. 

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