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By Robin Dearing
Monday, October 27, 2014
It's Monday. That means I'm at my desk upstairs writing lectures for my art history classes surrounded by piles of books, a dog and a cat or two.
I was startled by the doorbell when it rang about 10 minutes ago. I trotted downstairs thinking that we hadn't ordered anything and wasn't expecting anyone. I was muttering about being bothered while I was working as I approached the front door.
I noticed a man and a woman looking toward the street standing on my porch. They were nicely dressed and carrying pamphlets and a thick book.
Church people, or at least, religious people of some sort.
They hadn't seen me yet, so I quickly crouched down on the tile floor next to the door.
I heard them talking. I waited.
I considered taking a nap. But the tile is cold and hard.
I waited a bit longer. While I didn't want to talk to them, I also didn't want to hurt their feelings. I'm sure they were lovely folks only trying to offer some form of salvation or atonement. But I just wasn't in the mood to: A. Disappoint them. They must get so much negative feedback. B. Listen to what they had to say. It's Monday, not a day I want to take time from writing my lecture on Islamic Art to discuss whichever religion they were touting.
I started to laugh. I didn't owe them anything. I didn't ask them to ring my bell. But there I was a fully grown, middle-aged woman scrabbling around on the hard, tile floor because I didn't want to have a conversation with strangers at my door.
Finally, I picked myself up and got back to work.
I do some strange things sometimes and I'm glad I don't have coworkers around when I do.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Yup, talking about Pinterest again. What can I say? It has become an encyclopedia of sorts for homemaking. Or cooking. Or party planning. So of course I went there first when I started planning Melinda's baby shower. You can read about it here!
I started a board called "Melinda's Baby Shower" and I started looking around at baby shower things. I fell in love with this orange and pink picture:
I love the orange and pink baby shower and decided it was the perfect thing for an October baby shower for a little girl. I spent a long time, and I mean a looooong time, amusing myself with orange and pink pinning. I had so many ideas for the perfect shower from candy buffets to cheesecakes to favors.
I had done so much pinning that when it came time to shop I found myself a bit overwhelmed. As much as I'd love to throw the perfect shower, (like the kinds of very extravagent parties that are shown on Pinterest — wow — have you seen some of these parties?) I also knew that I'd better get a little more realistic. I had to talk myself out of the world of Pinterest and back into the reality of Big Lots.
The reality was it is really hard to buy things that are orange and pink. I know it sounds so easy but not so much. Most the orange this time of year is a fallish type hue or a Halloween-type hue, both of which aren't exactly what I was looking for. And pinks this time of year tend to be more maroon rather than fuchsia. I ended up with some orange candle holders that I filled with bright pink carnation.
I found pink fans and white laterns to hang from the roof over my patio area. The game prizes were simple manicure and nail polish sets.
The food table was covered in white with a decorative jar filled with pink candy, a subway art sign, orange plates and napkins. We forgot to take a picture of it. Maybe because the end was filled with wine and champagne.
Was it Pinterest perfect? Nope. But we did have a good time on a beautiful day in my backyard. And most importantly, we showered Melinda with love and support and gifts for her new baby. That's all that really matters.
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Last Friday was my mom's 71st birthday. We decided to celebrate by taking an impromtu trip to Denver.
Saturday, we visited the Denver Botanical Gardens to see the Dale Chihuly blown-glass exhibit. It's really something beautiful. If you are going to be in Denver before the end of November, go see it, you won't regret it.
Because it was her birthday weekend, Shirley got to decide where we had dinner. She loves crab and had heard about Joe's Crab Shack, so, off we went. We were met by my Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Rich. Also, my stepson, Sean, was in Aurora for the weekend drilling with the Air National Guard, so he joined us, too. Lookit Sean and his dad in their crab-eatin' bibs:
At dinner, all I wanted to talk about was the impending arrival of Sean's baby girl. Yep, Sean and his lovely wife, Lacie, are expecting their first child in just a few weeks.
I'm going to be a grandmother, people.
And I couldn't be happier. I've been known to cradle baby outfits in my arms and get teary-eyed thinking about holding my grandbaby.
It's been such a delight watching Sean and Lacie through this pregnancy. They've been married two years and have been trying for a baby. It didn't happen as easily as they had hoped, but this pregnancy has gone smoothly. Thank goodness for that.
Seeing Sean light up when talking about the arrival of his baby girl is really touching. Watching Lacie take meticulous care of herself has been quite inspiring. She's one of those beautiful pregnant women that you see in baby magazines. Here, take a look:
What a gorgeous baby they'll have, eh?
With all the illness and death we've suffered in the recent years, it's so wonderful to be able to focus on the joy of watching Sean and Lacie embark on the incredibly journey of parenthood. I'm excited for all of us grandparents of this baby, not to mention the aunts and uncles. She will be so loved.
So, yeah, Margaret will become an aunt at 14 and I will become a grandmother at 44. I relish the role and can't wait to hold that baby in my arms.
Really, the only thing I didn't immediately love about becoming a grandmother was the idea of being called, "Gramma."
I started looking through lists of grandmother names and coudn't find anything that I thought suited me. Then, while camping over the summer, my dear friend, Pam, came up with "Birdy," a nod to my name, but still distinctly gramma-ish.
So next month, I'll be taking on a new role and yes, you can call me Birdy.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
We don't go to the movies much, frankly because it is really expensive to take a family of five to the movies. We're pretty picky about what we're going to see on the big screen and what we can wait to see on Apple TV or Netfix.
The boys wanted to see "The Boxtrolls" for months. We relented and went as a family to see it on opening weekend.
Jonas in particular loves these dark looking cartoons like "Coraline" and "The Corpse Bride."
This one did not disappoint. It had enough action and sophisticated jokery to keep Marty and I entertained as well as the kids.
But, this villian:
He gets weirder and scarier as the movie goes along. Marek edged closer and closer to me, until he finally ended up in my lap whispering "what's wrong with that guy?"
Even the good guys, the trolls, have bugs crawling on them. As a matter of a fact, pretty much every character is bit scary, as is the scenery, and so is the overall premise of an orphaned boy being raised by trolls in the sewer. It's because of this that I'd not recommend this movie to young children or those easily scared.
My boys loved it though and Jonas, in particular, declared it "the best." It has a greatly happy ending and if you stick around after the credits it pays tribute to the stop-action animators.
It gets a two thumbs up from the Ashcraft boys, well, maybe one thumb from Marek, but still — it's worth the box office prices.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, October 13, 2014
Robin was talking about lunches last week and my comment to her was that I struggle with the exact same thing every single morning.
I'd like to think I'm not too bad at the lunch thing. I always vary it from day to day, include utensils and a napkin. I've also been trying some new things, like chicken nuggets in the Thermos. (Eh, on that the boys said.)
This morning I packed Healthy Choice chicken and noodle soup, saltines, pineapple tidbits, and a cake pop. It was Marek's snack day at school so made sure to include a cake pop for each of the boys.
I saw Soren just after lunch and asked him "How was lunch?" He gave me an embarrasses slash horrfied look. "What?" I asked.
"Mom, no boys eat cake pops," he whispered. "I'm not eating it. "
Apparently cake pops are not manly enough for third grade boys.
Got it. No cake pops.
It reminded me of the time Marty came home from work and said "Richie, I really like your lunches but please don't put butterfly crackers in them. I had to hide in my truck and eat my lunch by myself."
Apparently butterfly crackers with a light egg salad are not something men like eat in public on a construction site.
Time for me to manly up the lunches I guess.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I was telling a friend of mine the other day that I felt guilty for not feeling as bittersweet about my kids growing up as I should. Sure I look back on pictures like this:
And, I think, "oooh, he wuz so cute!"
But, we went on a 12 mile bike ride Sunday. 12 Miles! Glorious miles through Glenwood Canyon with three little boys who don't need diaper changes and can lift their own forks.
My legs burned and I was smiling. I love having kids because it means that I can get back to doing some of the things I used to enjoy, like riding bikes and reading books. I get to do them now with my kids! And I do miss them little, sniff, but I am so enjoying them big! It was the first time in a long time that I rode my bike by myself without dragging a 30 pound Burley behind me.
Of course, I was still a total hover mother, making sure they made the corners, brushing off tears from bonked knees, and fending off moments of panic when they went out of eyesight. I mean, the river is right there. Mother I'll always be but this new phase of life for us is turning out pretty awesome.
By Randee Bergen
Monday, October 6, 2014
I haven't been writing much lately. Haven't had the urge. Maybe I've been too busy. Perhaps the blogging was just a short-lived phase in my life. But then today, it hit me. My dad's death. I needed to write about that before I would feel the desire to write about anything else in life. So here it is:
I suppose I knew at the time that my dad would never go home. In order to do so, he had to learn to walk again after having his toes amputated due to infection. He didn’t have the strength or balance to sit up, couldn’t hold the phone or even twist his upper body to answer it, and needed help eating. He hadn’t made much progress at the physical rehab place. Yes, I’m sure I knew he wouldn’t be going home.
Still, when my daughters and I visited him in Bullhead City, Arizona – where he had chosen to move many years earlier, distancing himself some 600 miles from any family – I encouraged him to keep trying. He had been back and forth between the hospital and rehab several times. He had endured three back-to-back surgeries, the doctors trying to save his toes, his feet, his legs from a staph infection. “Work on your upper body strength so you can get yourself in and out of a wheelchair. Then you’ll graduate to a walker and you’ll be able to go home.” I knew this would take months. I was pretty sure he didn’t have months.
During all this time in the hospital, my dad went through major alcohol withdrawal. He was an alcoholic for nearly 60 years. My entire life.
All those years of drinking, the surgeries, the alcohol withdrawal, the various medications – dementia was setting in and he was suddenly looking very old. His face was ashen compared to the usual state of robust red I’d always known him to have, his always broad and muscular shoulders so narrow now beneath the clean navy t-shirt he wore, his legs shrunken with atrophy from being in bed for three months. His left leg was in a brace, his right foot heavily bandaged, the amputation beneath not healing well.
It was his hair though that kept getting my attention. At age 78, it was still blonde, as were his whiskers and the hair on his chest and arms. He hadn’t had a haircut in a while and, at about an inch and a half, the freshly shampooed, fine strands were longer than I had ever seen them. Except for the occasional bed head – and it was a short bed head – my dad’s hair had always been neatly parted on the left side and combed down while wet. I chuckled that day at his longer, slightly unruly hair.
The day we visited, my dad was mostly coherent, mostly making sense. We asked about his care, caught him up on our trip to Arizona, commented repeatedly about his hair, joked around. That’s what he was good at, joking around. He was in a good mood. I asked if I could take some pictures of him and he said, “Oh, yes,” and perked up even more. I took a few shots and then the girls asked if I wanted a picture of him and me together. Of course, I did.
He smiled for that picture. Something he hasn’t done in years.
Yes, I suppose I knew that my dad wasn’t going home. And that this was probably the last time I would see him. Though he was slightly confused and a little paranoid and, I’m sure, albeit being discreet, sad and scared, I was enjoying him in a way I never had before. He was, for the first time in my life, completely sober.
He wanted us to rub his legs. I got on one side, Addy on another, and we massaged his withered thighs. I knew Addy was a little uncomfortable with this. Admittedly, I was, too. I thought back to my girlhood, when my dad was always looking for one of us kids to give him a back rub. I would intentionally do a poor job, hoping he would choose my brother or sister the next time. But this time I gladly did it. And I regretted having not touched this man enough times in my life. In his life.
Amy, my youngest, sneaked away to a chair in the corner of the room. When I looked at her, she gave me a barely noticeable yet loud and clear shake of her head. No. Do not ask me to take a turn rubbing his legs.
I understood. And I didn’t ask her.
As my dad got sleepy and we three began to feel the emotional strain of the day, I started mentioning that we would have to go soon. After a while, the girls said goodbye to their grandpa, a man they hardly knew, and left the room.
Then it was just him and me. And yes, I’m sure I knew that he would not learn to walk again. That he would not be going home. That this would probably be my last trip to Arizona.
“Well, dad, I’ve got to go…,” I said. I wasn’t at all sure how to leave the room.
He immediately started in with some story. I smiled, shaking my head, thinking of all the times over the years when I’d rolled my eyes at this same scenario. It was usually when I was on the phone with him. I’d have to get going and I’d say so and he’d ignore me and just keep talking, not wanting the phone call to end.
I took one backward step toward the door. Then another. I had to get out of there. Why, I’m not sure. Why couldn’t I stay longer? Why didn’t I stay until he fell asleep? Why didn’t I rub his legs some more, his hair? I could have rubbed his hair and put him to sleep, like I had so many times with my children.
Tears pooled. I had to go before he saw them. Had to go while I was thinking positively about his sobriety, his hair, the notion that he might get stronger and go home and I could come back to Arizona and visit him again.
“I love you, Dad,” I said and quickly turned and walked out the door.
“Come back!” he yelled, with more vigor than I expected him to have. Then, a few seconds later, and sounding more resigned, “In here.”
Blurry eyed, I went as fast as I could down the hall, pass the nurses’ station, through the lobby, to my girls.
They looked at me, crying and running to get out of there, and I could see the concern, nearly horror, on their faces.
“Oh, mom,” Addy said, and they each took one of my arms and hustled me outside.
My dad’s health steadily declined and I did not return to Arizona before he passed away. When he was close to going, when he could no longer speak but the nurses were sure he could still hear and understand, I called and said what I needed to say and what I thought he needed to hear.
I’ve looked at the picture of him and me together, several times a day since then, and though it was taken at a sad time during his most unhealthy days, it makes me laugh and feel good. In this photo, he is alive and sober and smiling and I’m clearly enjoying those last minutes with my dad.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, September 29, 2014
Marek learned to ride a bike a couple of weeks ago, and by learn, I mean he just hopped on it and rode away. Marty and I just stood in the road for a second staring in awe.
Soren and Jonas' bike lessons took effort. Running up and down the street, brushing off torn jeans and knees, wiping away tears of frustration ...
Not this time.
I guess Marek was just sick and tired of sitting on the porch watching as his brothers ride away without him day after day. He just decided he was going to ride a bike and that was that. When he couldn't find an adult to remove his training wheels (uh, football was on), he coaxed Jonas into helping him find a wrench in the garage. They worked for some time but finally were successful in prying off the extra wheels. Then, when that was done, he walked his little self back into the house and announced to Marty and I that it was time, drop everything, "get up and help me learn to ride my bike."
And he did.
He needed some pointers, like not to watch the front tire and look at where he was going. Within a half hour, he had learned how start and stop by himself. Within an hour, he had the braking system mastered.
Then, he went for his very first bike ride with his dad and brothers to the end of the cul-de-sac and beyond. The smile on a child's face when they finally learn to ride a bike is priceless. Such a special day.
And now he can't get enough. He rides his bike around the driveway morning, noon and night. Last weekend we rode some of the new portion of the River Trail from Walker Wildlife toward Fruita. He rode a couple of miles in, then really had to push himself to finish the couple of miles back. His plump little legs pumping up and down in front of me were just about the cutest thing ever. He went down a hill and screamed "the wind is blowing my sweat!!!"
Bike riding has been one of my favorite milestones as I watch the boys grow. Watching him ride his bike makes me so happy!
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Every morning it's the same thing: Alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I throw on my sweatpants and stumble downstairs.
Margaret is already up getting herself ready for school. I put on the water and start breakfast for Bill and Mar. Bill gets some sort of egg-white omelete. Mar gets whatever she will actually eat, usually fruit and granola.
After breakfast, I have to start the process of packing lunches. Everyday, I've got to figure out how I can fill up their lunchboxes. What will they eat? What will get thrown away?
Bill is the easiest, so long as I don't send him too many leftovers. He wishes I would I would give him fat, roast-beef sandwiches with a side of dressing. Instead, he gets tukey pastrami with a side of carrots. He's been using the nice Fitmark lunch bag I reviewed a while ago. It easily fits a sandwich, veg and fruit along with a drink. He's so fancy.
Mar is not so easy. She doesn't eat meat and doesn't want a sandwich. So, I end up doing a lot of what I call "snack lunch." It looks like this:
Crackers, cheese, carrots, fruit, some lemonade and even a few lemon drops on this day.
The problem is that we're all getting bored of the same old thing every day.
What's in your lunchbox?
By Robin Dearing
Monday, September 15, 2014
During my first excursion on my first morning, my umbrella was sacrificed to the notorious Chicago wind. I was a stereotypical tourist trying to fight the formidable gusts and rain with my tiny, inside-out umbrella. Within minutes, the fabric was torn from the ribs and the handle with in two pieces. Later in the trip, an entire bottle of water drenched the inside of my purse. Everything in my wallet is still damp.
But I'd sacrifice any number of umbrellas and purses to go back to Chicago. Damp money works just as well as dry.
I had never been to Chicago before, so when Bill announced that he would be attending a conference in the Windy City, I immediately invited myself to tag along. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see some of the works of art and architecture that I've been teaching for years.
Bill was to spend a week attending International Manufacturing Technology Show. I traveled on Tuesday after my classes. When I got off the airport shuttle after midnight, Bill was waiting. I dragged my suitcases past him to get my first look at Daniel Burnham and John Root's 1888 Rookery Building.
I spent every moment I could seeking out Chicago's late-19th-century skyscrapers. Look at the Reliance Building by John Root and Charles Atwood.
When this building was completed in 1895, people were freaked out by the giant, plate-glass windows. They had never seen anything like it. Now we take giant, glass buildings for granted, such buildings like Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower). When it was completed in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world. As if 108 floors of glass and steel isn't enough, they have added Skydecks which project out from the 103rd viewing floor. Here is Bill enjoying one of the Skydeck:
I couldn't even get close to the edge. I was happy to watch him through the window.
I'm lucky that Bill was able to spend some time seeing a few buildings with me. One morning, he was able to accompany me on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House.
Like so many of Wright's prairie-style architecture, this building has no bad side, gorgeously photogenic.
But Chicago isn't just about architecture; it's chockful of world-class art as well. I spent hours at the Art Institute of Chicago, walking from gallery to gallery viewing some of the most important works in art history.
Here is me with Gustav Caillebotte's Rainy Day in Paris:
I discussed this work in my Art Appreciation class on Tuesday and found myself standing in front of the monumental work on Wednesday. It was magical. When I saw the room full of John Singer Sergant paintings, I even got a little misty. So much beauty and talent.
I walked by this stabile created by Alexander Calder (who invented the mobile ... babies everywhere thank him) numerous times as I walked more than 20 miles in three days trying to take in as much as I could:
It was a delight every time.
Actually, I was delighted by my entire visit to the Windy City. I may have ended up with a wallet full of wet cash, blisters on my toes and no umbrella, but it was just what I needed. This trip reinvigorated my excitment of discovery and stoked my passion for art and especially architecture. Thank you, Chicago. I needed that.