Saturday, January 27, 2007

Gold Rush Competition

I've been told by many folks here that you need to get out in the snow in order to appreciate it and enjoy winter. "They say" that if you don't, you just end up despising it and hating winter all winter long. That isn't hard with my family, all of the boys (including M) love the snow and winter sports. Last weekend was a big one which included a Cub Scout outing called Gold Rush.
This is an all-council activity in which the scouts form dog-sled teams to pretend to go into the Yukon during the gold rush. Each team has 4-8 boys, with one being the musher and the others being the "huskies." The boys had been studying for this for a month and M had his den take a test to see who would be the musher. R was the only one in the den to get 100%, so he was the musher. It's a very important job because only the musher can speak to the judges. The musher is the leader and the scoring includes leadership points. R did great! They had 5 different activities: first aid, where they had to make a stretcher out of a blanket and poles; "cooperative skiing' where all six of the kids were on these long wooden skis and they had to travel 20 feet: tree and animal track identification; trading post purchases where they had to make smart decisions on what to buy; and they had to save a wooden "man" who fell in the ice. What a fun day it was! R was amazing. The trading post judge said that he showed the most leadership of all the teams he saw that day. He listened to his teammates and then made great decisions. We don't know who won yet, but we're very proud of his den!
R poses with his team before the first competition. He's holding the clipboard (in a plastic bag) which he had to give to the judges at each station. No adults were allowed to coach or even talk to the boys once the competition started.

R tries to regain his balance while leading his team on the cooporative skis. This was the hardest event for the boys. They had some ups and downs, but did make it!

Another view of the team on the coop skis.

Transporting the "victim" on the home-made stretcher. Evidently, it was quite funny.

R and his team pulling the sled to the next station. The sled is full of the provisions they'd need in the Yukon, including a first aid kit, water, blankets, and so on.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ice Storm Redux

You may have heard that the Midwest was hit by a huge ice storm this week. It was actually on Monday, which was a holiday so there weren't tons of accidents on the highway. (You can tell that I'm adjusting to this midwesterner thing 'cause I said "highway" an not "freeway.") Anyway, we saw on the news that this crazy, slow-moving storm that started in Texas was working its way up towards us. People in the Plaines States had been without electricity for days. (This is the same storm that caused freezing weather in 'ole sunny California too.) At about 11:00 pm on Sunday night, M was worried that we'd lose our electricity too and freeze right inside our house. We had highs of 17 degrees for three days. We have a gas heater, but it's triggered by electricity to kick on. So, M took off to find a heater. He went to get an oil heater, but ended up getting a butane one because there was no one selling oil at midnight. Meanwhile, I got some flashlights and candles together and put them in strategic places. When he got back, we discussed our plan for heating the house if we were without power for days. (We decided that we'd hole up in the kitchen because the oven could help keep us warm and it has low ceilings (easier to keep the heat where we need it.) Then we went to sleep.

We woke up at 4:30 AM to the clicking sound of our clock going on and off. We also noticed that the nightlight outside our room kept glowing on and off, which was kind of eerie. It had happened as we thought -- the electricity was dead. I pulled up the covers, rolled over and went back to sleep. M tried to for a few minutes, then said "I'm going to Walgreens to get batteries and cash." I woke up right away because I was nervous about him driving. Remember, this is an ICE STORM, which meant that there was ICE everywhere, including the streets. He said that he needed to go, just in case the electricity stayed out for days -- we'd need the batteries and cash. So, I said a little prayer and watched him pull away ever so slowly on the ice-covered streets. By the way, did you know that 4-wheel drive does squat on ice? You just slip and slide. For this reason, he took our car that has manual-transmission so that he could just down shift to stop instead of applying the brakes.

He came back about an hour later and soon the boys woke up. They were very excited to have the lights out because they got to play in the playroom with flashlights. Their excitement did wear off five hours later when they realized that the TV, video game, and computer all need electricity! I was terribly disappointed to realize that our gas oven wouldn't work without electricity because it has a computerized temperature control thingy. I was really bummed! I had planned on baking cookies, bread, and all sorts of things all day long -- I was really looking forward to it. Anyway, after reading books and playing board games, we got our electricity back on by about 1:00. We're calling it an adventure! Here are some pictures that we took. They don't do the beauty justice, but it gives you an idea of the wonderland that we had in our back yard for a few days.

You can see the mini ice cicles hanging off of the crabapples on our tree below:

I tried to get a close-up so that you folks on the West Coast could see something that you've never seen before: ice frozen all over these branches. They completely cover them -- like the branches have little ice socks on them.

Look at the ice "fringe" on this patio chair.

A winter wonderland in my backyard.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

All Dressed Up with A Place To Go

Boy, did my boys look good -- and I mean ALL of my boys (M, R, and T.) They were all in Uncle Dan's wedding last week and they all wore tuxedos! M was a groomsman, R was the ring bearer, and T was a greeter, passing out programs.
First, was the rehearsal on Friday night. The boys (R and T) wore matching sweaters that Gramma gave them (she gave them to my boys and to her other grandsons). We brought in the boys Leapsters (educational handheld video games) and headphones so that they could be quiet and occupied in the church when they weren't needed. This is how they looked for the half hour that they had to wait before R's turn to practice. (T never had to practice, so he happily played the whole time.)

Then R was called to practice walking in with H, his cousin and the flower girl. They took their jobs very seriously and walked as calmly as they could down the aisle after all of the bridesmaides walked down. They also had to stand up with the wedding party during the whole wedding. Here they are waiting to practice. (H is holding the "practice bouquet" that we made at the bridal shower.)
After the rehearsal, we dropped the boys off at M's cousin's house so she could babysit them (and get them to sleep) while M and I went to the rehearsal dinner. It started at their bedtime and we wanted them to not be too tired for the wedding the next day.

On the wedding day, M had to leave with the other groomsmen bright and early at 8:00 AM. I'm not sure why they had to get together so early, the wedding wasn't until 2:30. My boys had to be at the church at 1:45, so we had a nice morning together. First we had a great breakfast at the hotel buffet (made to order omlettes, waffles, plus more.) Then we read four chapters of a book that R got for Christmas. After that, it was an hour swimming in the pool. After swimming, the boys took a quick shower and I bought them a crazy-expensive hotel-movie ($11.99) so that they'd have something to occupy them while I showered, dried my hair, curled my hair, and put my make up on -- all in peace. Somewhere between drying and curling my hair, I fixed the boys some lunch -- a floor picnic of a banana, apple slices, cheese and crackers, and chocolate milk. (The fruit and milk was snuck up from the breakfast buffet. Shhhh.)

I took the boys to church in their street clothes, bringing the tuxes along to put on when we got there. (Who knows what dirtiness could happen on the 30 minute drive!). We joined the groomsmen in the church basement, which the boys loved because it had a pool table, air hockey, and foosball game.
The wedding went without a hitch. I forgot to mention that I was also in the wedding. I read a poem and successfully got through it without crying. Though, I did cry plenty later on in the wedding. How is it that I forgot to pack kleenix in my purse??? Anyway, everybody did their job wonderfully. T was a hit in his handsom tux passing out programs; R didn't trip or run as he walked down the aisle; and M looked great standing up with the groomsmen.

After the wedding, there were pictures at the church and pictures at the reception. The two-hour dinner was four courses, with sorbet before the main course to cleanse the pallate. (T was excited because he thought it was dessert and the dinner was over.) It was pretty late by the time dancing started (9:00, our time) so the boys were bushed. R could have dance all night, but T got pretty tired. R danced with the flower girl all night -- they were so cute. T danced with whoever would dance with him, getting a bit crazy when he did. Here are some great dancing pictures.

The ring bearer and the flower girl, dancing the night away:

The mother of the groom (gramma) and T doing the swing:

R and H looking pretty darn proud, cute, and adorable:

At 10:30 I took them back to the hotel so they could crash. They were pretty proud for staying up until 12:00 EST like big boys!

Monday, January 01, 2007


Last year I got really sick on Christmas night and was sick for a week. This year I got really sick on the Thursday before Christmas and was sick for a week. I hate this trend! On the Wednesday before Christmas, I was up with T from 12-3 while he proceeded to throw up on every bed he laid on (specifically, his bed on the very-hard-to-reach-top-bunk, and the guest bed). When I went into his room the first time he got sick, he was kneeling over this mound of barf (sorry for the details, but if I had suffer through it, I'm gonna make you suffer through it!). So, he was kneeling over this mound, and he looked up and said, "I got sick, but I didn't get it on any of my stuffed animals!) He was right, he didn't. Amazing. I got him out, cleaned him up, and got him settled in the guest bed -- with a big bowl next to him. I also gave him some good 'ole Pepto Bismol. After he fell asleep two hours later, I went down to bed. A half an hour after that, he came down and said, "I did it again and it's really pink!" ARghhh! After getting him cleaned up and settled down again, I went back to bed feeling a bit queasy. Sympathy nausea, I thought. I was wrong! I called in sick on Thursday and thought I was better on Friday, so I got a bunch of stuff done. By Saturday I knew I was not better and on Christmas day I thought I was going to die! I managed to take enough Imodium (we should be stock!) to make it through the three and a half hour car ride to M's folks' house, where I crawled up to bed and slept for three hours. M felt crappy too -- he had it too, but thankfully not as bad as I did. And, even more thankfully, nobody in the Smith house caught it!

Enough about me, now here's Christmas.

We each picked a present to open on Christmas Eve morning. I opened a present from my boys, which was researched and purchased by M. It's a new digital camera. I'm so lucky!! My old one frustrated me to no end because it didn't take good pictures indoors and I always missed the good pictures because I had to wait so long for it to take a picture after pressing the button. Here's the very first picture I took -- it's through a dirty window in the house. Yep, those are wild turkeys in our back yard!

The boys made cookies for Santa and got a carrot for Rudolph. (I'm still learning that I have to manually turn on the flash on my new camera, so some of the pictures are dark, but you get the idea.)

Here are the boys on Christmas morning -- seeing the wonder that Santa left them below.

M and I gave R a new bike. It's red and has really cool pin striping on it. He loves it and can't wait to ride it.

M designed and built an awesome art work bench for T. I had the joy of stocking it full of fun supplies. T loves it!
On the 27th we went with the cousins to the King Tut exhibit at the museum. All of the kids really love it. Here are all five cousins doing their best "King Tut impression." (R is pretending his hands are the cobra on the head-dress.)
It was a fun time with the cousins!