Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shades Of Natalee

After being a mom for the past 27+ years, the times to get away "kid-free" have been  few and far between. Since becoming "empty-nesters" my husband and I have had more opportunities to have "adult" get-aways and have some let-loose, let your hair down fun!

In 2010, we were presented with one such opportunity with a trip to Vegas staying at  the Luxor! We normally stay at Stateline or somewhere that fits our budgetary restraints and have never found ourselves in the position to stay on the strip. So, Luxor demanded that we pack accordingly for some fun...and I did !!!

BUT.....before we can take advantage of the room and all of it's incredible amenities, I wanted to take some time to visit with my cousin,  Liz. Liz is six months my junior and I just don't get to see her enough; maybe once or twice a year, at best. So, Liz had met up with us and had accompanied us to dinner and came back to our room afterwards to chat. Jim watched some TV, crawled under the covers while my cousin and I got caught up on life, kids, work, etc.

At some point way past midnight, after laughing until we cried, she reluctantly said she had to go home as she had an early morning union meeting she absolutely had to attend. I let Jim know that I was going to walk Liz to the parking garage and I'd be right back. He grunted, half asleep, and rolled over . He was probably pretty certain that there was no excitement for him at the ol' Luxor that night...

Liz and I laughed all the way to the entrance to the parking garage, I hugged her good-bye and promised to stand by and wait for a call from her informing me that she had made it to her vehicle okay.

While I was waiting for her call, I took in all the activity around me; which was a lot! What we didn't realize when we booked this vacation, was that it coincided  with Spring Break 2010! There were college-aged students everywhere; drinking, partying, laughing...everyone was really having a great time.

Except for one girl. A young girl, perhaps 19 years of age. A pretty girl, with blond hair. She had certainly dressed to party, yet was strikingly modest compared to the other college girls that had partied on the strip that night. This girl was far past the party stage of inebriation, she was devoting every ounce of energy into just standing and not falling flat on her face. She had propped herself up against the end of the staircase and  simply looked lost.

While I waited to hear from my cousin, I watched this girl out of the corner of my eye and was quick to notice that I was not the only one watching her. Minute after minute she was approached by groups of two to three college boys (and sometimes grown, older men) wanting her to go with them to a party, or just upstairs, or to their friend's room. While her legs would buckle and her world was spinning, she would decline, but they were persistent, trying to wear her down. And it almost worked.

I already knew I wouldn't have let her go off with a group of men; not in the state she was in. If she had accepted any offer, I would have intervened.  I watched her fight off the advances just a bit longer until I received that phone call and then I took action. I approached her and let her know that I wanted to help her. It took a while for her to trust me, but she began speaking with me and opened up. I learned that she had a room at the Luxor with some friends from her college in Colorado.

Friends. I use the term loosely. Her friends had taken her to another casino, assisted her in getting drunk, and left her; abandoned her. She had no purse, no money, no phone, no room key; nothing. She had no way to get back to the Luxor, so she had accepted a ride from s stranger. When I found her she had just been dropped off in the parking structure by "some man" that told her he'd give her a ride. And this is when she started to lose her composure.

Oh, hell. I can only imagine what happened to her on that ride from the other casino with a strange man. I didn't know what he'd possibly given her, or possibly done to her against her will. And what was worse, she honestly didn't know either.

With a bit of motherly persuasion, I convinced the girl to follow me to the front desk to see if we could get her a room key so I could put her to bed and get her away from the still swarming college asshats who saw nothing but an easy lay awaiting them if they could just get her to their "parties".

She knew her room number and even knew the names of her room mates. But, her name wasn't on the reservation, so she was not permitted to be issued a room key or entry to the room. No room, no phone numbers of anyone to call, no family, 600 miles from home...nothing. She was informed that she couldn't sleep in the hallway or public areas or she would be arrested. She was barely hanging on and had nowhere to go; desperation hung in the air.

And this is where I had one of my greatest, or arguably my stupidest, moments.

I boldly informed the front desk to leave a message on her room phone notifying her "friends" that this girl would be in my room recovering. I then instructed  them to have housekeeping bring up extra blankets and pillows for the girl; that I'd make her a bed on the floor. I could see the concern in the desk clerk's face. I was really putting myself out on a limb here and he knew it.

But as I looked into that young girl's glossed-over eyes, and listened to her tell me how she had no family, no friends, how she's basically trapped in an apartment in Denver with room mates who expected "things from her" in exchange for rent, but it's her only hope of getting through school,  I realized that this truly was a lost girl in need of help. I could have left her in the registration area to fend for herself, but the wolves were waiting to strike. I couldn't leave her. If I would have woken up the next morning to learn of a girl being raped / murdered / left for dead in the parking garage knowing that I could have prevented it, I would never have been able to forgive myself. So parenting took over; fun adult time would have to wait for another day.

In my absence, Jim had prepared the room for our sin-city encounter, and was waiting for me when I returned. He was completely sans clothing and was donning merely a sheet.  I'm sure you can imagine the look of utter shock on my husband's face when I walked in the room with a drunken coed. He had that look that said, "what. the. frick. are. you. doing? Have. you. lost. your. mind?" A few stern looks and a brief, hushed explanation and Jim was in instant father mode, completely concerned for this girl and the situation she was in.

While my husband managed to get dressed, I made the girl a bed on the floor. I placed the trash can near her head in case she felt like getting rid of all of that alcohol, and a box of tissue. She curled up in her blanket and assured me that she wasn't going to throw up. Instead, she asked for permission to cry. That broke my heart. All she wanted was permission to cry. I told her she could cry all she needed and that she was safe now.  I know something bad had really happened to her on that ride back to the hotel.

She cried herself to sleep; soft sobs coming from under her blanket in the corner. Jim and I took turns keeping watch all night long. Parenting. Caring. Worried... both for her and for the situation we were now in. We watched to make sure she was still breathing. We watched to make sure she didn't end up suffocating in her own vomit. We watched to make sure we weren't being set up to be robbed. Jim slept under the covers, while I slept on top of the covers. We didn't want to give her any reason to feel uncomfortable, or any reason to point an accusing finger of wrong-doing in our direction.

It was a long, sleepless night. Not once did her "friends" call to check on her.

When she woke up in the morning, she was a bit disoriented, confused and scared. The presence of Jim in the room alarmed her.  When Jim assured to her that she was safe and we were glad she was okay, she blankly looked him in the face and said that she was just glad to be alive. That was all she said. There was silence, sadness, defeat. Her statement left us speechless. She was just happy to be alive. Wow.

She slowly pulled herself together, quietly thanked us and went back to her room where her "friends" had long forgotten her. I guess they didn't get the message..or they just didn't care where she was. I lean towards the latter of the two.

I called to check on her before checking out of the hotel. According to the girl that answered, she was asleep. I worried about her for a long time after we left. In hindsight, I realize I should have asked for her contact information so i could have keep in touch with her; make sure she's okay. But, I hadn't thought of that at the time.

When we returned home and back to our regular lives,  I shared the details of my Vegas get-away with some of my friends. At first, this was one of those stories that make your co-workers raise an eyebrow when you tell them that your trip to sin-city ended up with a drunken co-ed in your room. You want to go for the shock factor, right? But when the shock wears off as you tell the story, you get a little laugh out of the initial details, but then everyone let's out a sigh of relief that all ended well; not only for the girl, but for us.

After sharing the story for the umpteenth time, one coworker was quick to let me know that my actions meant a lot to that girl's mother; whether that mother realized it or not.  I really had to think about that one.  "I suppose so", I said, shrugging my shoulders. But after giving it some thought, I really sobered up to the fact that this was not a story that deserved to have a comedic spin placed on it like so many of my stories often do.

Missing - May 30, 2005
"Imagine", she said, "if someone would have done that for Natalee Holloway."

"Imagine how grateful her mother would have been if someone would have intervened the way you did.  Imagine how differently that story would have ended".

Wow. Talk about putting things into perspective.

Imagine if we all stepped out of our comfort zone, just once, to offer help to someone in need, someone crying silently for help, someone unable to ask for help, someone who needs a shoulder, or protection, or a simple intervention.


If you've read this, I hope you take the time to recognize when you can make a difference... and I hope you act on it. You can make a difference.....

RIP Natalee. I wish someone had been there for you.

*** Post Script: After much thought, I realized that the better thing to do that night would have been to call the police to assist this young girl. They would have been able to care for her; providing her medical attention, if needed, and a place to "sleep it off." If she had been a victim of a sexual crime, they would have been able to conduct an investigation. Often times, people such as myself, place themselves in danger when attempting to help another. My husband and I could have been accused of wrong-doing, or we could have been robbed or murdered. It happens in Vegas, as well as other large cities crawling with tourists. If I ever find myself in this situation again, I will do things differently. However, I do not regret assisting this girl. I just realize there are other ways to assist one in need.I just have to learn to use my brain as much as I use my heart.***

We'll Leave The Light On For You

The years of raising four boys flew by fast and furious. Having quality one-on-one mommy/son time with the boys didn't happen very often, but I do remember some key moments of special times with the boys.

One year, as opposed to celebrating  New Year's Eve in a festive fashion, I had the privilege of escorting my 3rd son, Jacob to yet another visit to the emergency room. Another holiday in the ER; a Thomson tradition. Seems like Jacob and I spend a lot of time together in this ritual. Too many trips to the ER with this little one, but that's another story.

On this crisp, cool evening, we had about a 30 mile drive ahead of us to the hospital. Jacob was quietly sitting in the passenger seat, probably wondering why he was always the one who got hurt. If you were to add up the injuries from the other three boys, it wouldn't even compare to the injuries Jacob has sustained in his young life.

Tonight's visit was compliments of a bicycle crash. The crash wasn't so bad, but as Jacob fell, his hand somehow get pulled into the chain and gears. He had a severely broken finger; it wouldn't be his first...certainly not his last.

As we drove through the countryside, the full moon shone down on the fields, illuminating the grazing cows and a windmill. Everything was peaceful in the van, despite his injury.

I'm not quite sure what prompted Jacob's thought processes that night, but while looking out at the silvery pastures, Jacob asked me what Heaven was like. It was a deep question, especially for a young boy about 9 years of age.

I thought about my answer for a moment and replied with the universal interpretation of Heaven. I told him about the pearly gates, the streets of gold. How we would be greeted by our loved ones. How we would never hurt, never be hungry, never want for anything.

Jacob thought about my explanation long and hard..turned to me and said,

"Oh, kinda like a Motel 6"

"Yes, Jacob." I said smiling. "kinda like a Motel 6."

It seems those cross country trips DID make an impression on you, didn't they son? Isn't it wonderful how children see such wonder in things we adults find mundane and ordinary?

After I shared that story with my parents, they would save anything and everything from their trips abroad, and would intentionally stay at Motel 6 just to get the right offerings for a child so impressed with the motel chain.

Billy Mays had just passed away when I first decided to write this post. I imagine that right now, he is up in Heaven keeping all those angel's gowns sparkling white with his Oxyclean. But, move over, Billy! When Tom Bodette comes to Heaven, there'll be a new spokesperson...

"Heaven, just like Motel 6 ... and we'll leave the light on for you  :o)

(oh, Jonathan)
...inside joke between me and Jacob xoxo .. love you, son.

Can I get an "AMEN" ???

As a child, I remember the friendships and camaraderie found and felt at church functions. Fellowship can be a wonderful thing.

 I wanted to provide that foundation for our boys growing up. So when we found ourselves relocated into a new community, again, and  the boys were little we attended a small church in the middle of town. I prefer small churches; it's not so easy to get lost in the shuffle.

This wasn't your traditional church setting. The church was located in what appeared to be a converted old, two-story home on a four lane thoroughfare in the center of town. The floors were creaky and the little spaces that were designated for youth Sunday school were cramped and musty. After service, the kids played in the parking lot between the cars while the adults shared discussions over their cups of coffee. . Translation: It's a small enough church that everybody knows everybody...and their business.

I must admit that the pastor spoke far above my understanding the majority of the time, but the people, and the fellowship were good, and that's what kept us coming back week after week. We developed life-long friendships while attending this little church. Individuals who are now part of our "family" (whether they like it or not) and will always remain family despite the long distance of time and space that weaves it's way into our everyday rat race lives.

Now, if the church doors were open for one event or another, we were always  there, without fail  !!! One particular summer, a back yard baptism/potluck service had been planned. The men put things into action to strategically set up the tables, chairs, and  the Pastor's pulpit under the trees throughout the backyard. The women set up the food and potluck supplies the instant a table was made available. The kids were all running a muck; knocking down the chairs while playing tag in the yard; they only received minor chastising while the men set the chairs back in place.

We all worked as a productive, cohesive group.We were a family, of sorts. I miss those days.

Anyways, once the set-up/potluck details had been completed, the Pastor took his place at the pulpit; a sign for the parents to gather up their children, take a seat, and listen up to some "seriousness" before the baptism in the pool and the potluck. Everyone promptly found seats and, as usual, it was taking me some time to gather up all my little angels ( I use this term loosely ). So, needless to say, we were near the back of the pack by  the time we settled in.

Any of you who have ever had to sit through anything church-related with a handful of toddlers know that it's more than just a minor challenge. It's a full-on wrangling event !!! But, with the boys placed between Jim and I, we got settled and sent the Pastor a visual acknowledgment that we were ready for him to begin...ahem, I mean continue.

He welcomed us, graced us with some scripture regarding the importance of baptism and fellowship. It was a very somber, and LOOOONG 10 to 15 minutes. But, I was pretty impressed at how all my little ones had settled down and were behaving themselves. As we neared the end of the little mini-sermon, the Pastor had asked us all to bow our heads, not only for a moment of prayer, but for some personal reflection to give us that last minute opportunity to participate in the baptism ritual (even if one hadn't brought the appropriate attire).

Well, we weren't but 45 seconds into the deafening silence of personal reflection when one of my boys just couldn't contain himself anymore as apparently someone sitting in our immediate vicinity couldn't contain themselves anymore and let out a SBD. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, a SBD is a Silent But Deadly... a fart with deadly sensory consequences.

One of the church Elders in front of us was apparently REALLY MOVED by his personal reflection, and perhaps by the prunes he had for breakfast.

..and in the midst of that spiritual moment, my 4-year-old son Joshua, spoke up, rather loudly I might add !


It's one of those moments where you freeze in terror. You don't move, but your eyes flash open in disbelief when you realize that those words flew uninhibited from the mouth of YOUR child !!!

 I remember quickly placing my hand on Joshua's leg and squeezing it just enough to silence him into submission while I looked around at those surrounding us. I fully expected to find a sea of glaring eyeballs staring me down in shame. But, instead I saw every head still bowed in prayer...

 but every set of shoulders were were quaking in uncontrollable, muffled laughter !!!

Well, you can ALWAYS count on the Thomson family  for livening things up one way or another !!!

As a Pastor, where do you go from here? I mean, you've totally lost the reverence of the more souls shall be saved today. He merely shot me "that look" that I had seen many times prior to that moment, and will see many times more in the future, and said "Can I get an AMEN?"

AMEN ....let's eat !!!

I don't remember if Joshua was baptized or not that day...I'm pretty sure he wasn't or he'd have asked the Pastor, "HEY, WHO PEE'D IN THE POOL" ???

Put on your Sunday best, kids, we're going to Kmart !!!

Five years ago, Jim, Justin and I took a road trip to Santa Barbara to visit Joshua and Katie. The trip was a "dry run" to clock the time and distance of the trip so we could plan accordingly for our grandson's arrival.

While there, we had to make an impromptu run to Kmart for some Benedryl. While we were walking the aisles, I noticed a large over-sized platform ladder in our path. It's the kind of ladder that associates use to stock the upper shelves in the shoe dept. This particular ladder was rickety and old, and beaten and had paint drops on the runners. It was an eye-sore !!! But what I noticed more than anything else was the UPC price sticker that someone had slapped on the handle.

I proposed to my son, Joshua, that we attempt to purchase said ladder! He thought I was completely out of my mind !!!
I explained to him that I try to never pass on an opportunity to make a moment memorable...anybody can go to Kmart any day of the week, but do you ever really remember the experience???

With silly grins on our faces, we pushed the ladder all the way to the check out. Stood in line just as serious as the next person. Jim, Katie, and Justin tucked tails and headed for the door to watch from the sidelines. When it was our turn at the register, the associate grabbed her scan gun and attempted to scan the price code...once, twice, three luck. She then began manually punching in the number code on the UPC. At this point, I let a giggle escape. I really couldn't believe she was trying to sell us this piece of crap excuse for a ladder !!! She had a perplexed look on her face and she turned to Joshua and said, "Sir, I don't think I can sell you this ladder."
"WHAT" Joshua said..."How am I supposed to wash my monster truck? I really need this ladder. I've looked everywhere for a ladder like this" !!!
By now, I'm full on laughing and the gig is up...we walked to the front door, laughing all the way, leaving the ladder behind.
As we left Kmart, Joshua asked me what we would have done if they would have sold us the ladder? I told him I would have pushed it right over to the return line and ask for refund. Oh, wouldn't that have been rich !!!???!!!

A normal Sunday afternoon that probably would have been long forgotten ... but we will never forget that day now !!! Never pass up an opportunity to make a moment the time I crashed a family luncheon....did I mention that I was the only white person there??? Memorable !!!

Canning Peaches ~ The Thomson Way

When the boys were little, there were moments when I would actually play little Miss Susie Homemaker. I would sew, cook, bake, decorate. There was a time when I would make homemade jams and preserves for my boys...cherry preserves, apricot-pineapple preserves, strawberry preserves. I would can dozens of jars and keep them in the pantry.

One year, a friend of mine let me know that her peach tree was heavy with fruit and I could come help myself to all the peaches I could carry. So, the boys and I stopped by one day and filled two or three grocery bags with beautiful yellow cling peaches. We took the fruit home and I placed the bags by the door inside the garage... I figured I'd get the large tubs to wash the peaches in and then take them into the kitchen.

Well, sometimes when you have four boys, life gets in the way and you don't always get to those little well-meant projects. Those peach preserves would have been so good, but I had waited too long and they had begun to spoil. The bottom of the bags were damp and I couldn't carry them to the dumptser by myself; Jim would have to help me.

One day turned into two, two into three and.....well, I don't know how long those peaches sat there, but one day  I was delayed in getting home and the older boys were home alone. I don't know how it started, but while in the garage, they decided to have a rotton peach fight! There were rotton peaches splattered EVERYWHERE !!! And you know that one boy got the upper hand in the fight and a truce was not to be had, so someone had to retreat into the house where one would think the food fight would end, right? WRONG ... there were peaches splattered on the door, splattered on the walls, splattered on the ceiling, even splattered peaches dripping from the blades of the ceiling fan !!!

The blinds were still swinging in the sliding glass door when I walked in the front door and the boys bolted out the back door !!!
I think we pretty much got all the rotton peaches cleaned up after I had my meltdown and threatened them all within an inch of their lives. I'll admit that there was one peach splatter left on the garage door when we sold our was kind of left there as a momento.

That was the last time I considered home canning...I sold all my canning supplies at a garage sale and pledged my allegiance to Smuckers.

Every Day Is A Day To Be Thankful...& Another Day For More Gray Hairs

Joshua has always been my quiet boy...often taking back seat to the constant needs of his older brother that demanded so much time from us when the boys were growing up.

More than once, Joshua would do something that would just stop me in my tracks and make me take a deep breath and just say, "WOW, that's my kid"

A little over 5 years ago, Joshua approached us with his latest adventure - he would be going to Alaska as he had been offered a job commercial fishing.Have you ever seen "Deadliest Catch"? Yeah, that show...My kid did that !!!

As a mother, I was terrified !!! I mean, who in their right mind would do that ??? But, seeing that Joshua was expecting his first child and the promise of good money was looming in the air, I could see where it seemed like a promising proposal. Our parental voices of concern were met with cool vidoes from Joshua's girlfriend's brother, who was working on the same ship where Joshua was destined to work, and well thought-out we had no choice but to relent and accept that Joshua was an adult and could make his own decisions...

Reluctantly, we went to Sears and bought Joshua the warmest, most expensive sleeping bag we could find and we wished him well as he shipped off...he almost didn't make it to Alaska and it seemed  that his trip was doomed  from the get-go. Post 9/11 was not a good time to be flying out of the continental USA with a one-way ticket; especially when you are a bit dark complected and are sporting a beard !!! Poor Joshua was detained and interrogated at every opportunity; missing connecting flights and jeopardizing the job...the boat's not going to sit at port and wait for him !!!

Joshua worked several weeks on the Bountiful, a processing ship in the Bearing Sea, before he was sent home with an injury. He came home with stories of nearly being washed overboard, bodies of the less fortunate being stored in the bait freezers, the challenges of living on a ship that tosses you around like rag-dolls 24/7 (utilizing the toilet was quite the experience from what we hear) and that expensive sleeping bag we bought him??? with the nylon outer shell??? Not the best selection - it turned out to be very slippery in the upper bunk. Josh would be dead to the world when a wave would hit the ship...he'd wake up mid-air on his way to the floor when that sleeping bag would slip right out of the bunk !!! He shared videos of Alaska, videos of processing cod (beheading and gutting in 3 seconds, flat) and more stories...although exhausting, I think he really enjoyed the adventure.

That kid is tough as nails...and he told us that if he could survive that job, he could do anything !!! And he can !!! It was just a few short months following his return that he joined the United States Army !!!

I'm a proud mom !!! I love you, Josh.

Joshua in the Bearing Sea ...Deadliest Catch ...he worked 23 hours shift in the freezing cold !!!

Joshua in Alaska 2005
Deadliest Catch 
Aboard the Bountiful
Bountiful...Deadliest Catch
Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Monkey Snot ...

Monkey Snot

by Alicia Tucksen Thomson on Saturday, November 27, 2010 at 7:09pm

When my boys were little, they were into EVERYTHING !!! Nothing was off-limits; sacred.

As most brothers tend to do throughout their childhood, the boys would have their daily scuffles that, over time, I skillfully learned to tune out. I would go insane if I hadn't done so!

One day, while tending to a baby or a chore of one type or another, it occured to me that the two older boys (James and Joshua) were exceptionally quiet in their bedroom after a little scuffle. In fact, it was errily quiet.

I remember walking down the little, narrow hallway to the boy's bedroom only to find James happily "finger painting" on his solid wood bedroom door! Further investigation revealed that he was perched atop of his brother's head!  Joshua was in a complete state of submission; he had given up the fight and was just waiting to be rescued.

As I was removing James from his artwork (and his brother), I noticed an empty tube of fluorescent green,  heavy-duty epoxy glue, or Monkey Snot as my husband called it. Not only was James using this Monkey Snot as finger paint, but he had sucessfully glued Joshua to the carpet with a fair-sized dollop of the quick-drying, super-strength adhesive.

Yes, you read that correctly! My baby had been glued to the floor!
Joshua's hair was a mangled epoxy meld with the 1960's goldenrod shag carpet of the rental we were living in !!!

Not only could I not remove the monkey snot from the bedroom door, I could not remove my child from the carpet without the aid of my sewing scissors!

After delivering a lecture, spanking, time out, and hugs, it's safe to say we were all traumatized by the day's events; we were all too tired for any more shenanigans.  Jim came home after a trying day of work to be barraged with the stories of how his child had to be cut from the carpet!

I wonder if there were days he even questioned coming home; he never knew what kind of mine field he was walking into when he would open that front door every evening...

That evening it was monkey snot !!!

My Boys 

The Last Time I Went Shooting ....

A friend of mine recently posted about how he was going out shooting. I used to enjoy going to the shooting range with Jim and the boys... We used to go quite often, teaching the boys about gun safety, proper handling, and enjoying watching them hit their paper targets. The last time I went shooting was over 19 years ago in the late summer of 1991...Jim had his .38 Smith & Wesson Stubnose that had belonged to his grandfather. At the range, there are raised dirt bunkers at about every 25 yards where you can set up targets to shoot at. Jim walked part way out to the first bunker. He set up a bowling pin about 20 feet in front of where we had been standing. He was going to show me the power of that gun and how he was going to obliterate that pin ... he shoots, "plink" ...the pin falls over; I am not impressed.
I roll my eyes, giggle a little, and look over to my right to let him know that he did NOT obliterate that pin and he wasn't there ... hmmmm...where did he go??? and so quickly??? ... I turn a little more and see over my right shoulder that  he is standing about 10 feet behind me clutching his chest !!! The bullet ricocheted and hit him right above his left nipple...Oh My God !!! He'd been hit !!! He removes his hand and thankfully there's no blood; only a big black mark on his shirt indicating that the bullet didn't penetrate. He lifted his shirt and had an instant  bruise the size of a grapefruit !!! We were both speechless !!! I turned around, started walking,hightailed it back to the car and sat my 5-month pregnant ass in that car and refused to get out !!! Never went shooting again !!!

Official Member Of The Order Of The Brotherhood Of The Squirrels

When I was eight years of age, I grew up in the Cleveland National Forest. There were many adventures to be had in the wilderness; swimming, hiking, horseback riding, treasure hunting, etc. Far above the ranch where I lived was Tahquitz Peak where you could see Lily Rock, the mountain's crown jewel, from miles and miles away.

While vising the little hamlet town of Idyllwild, which is just below Lily Rock, I remember being told that if you ever dared to hike to the top of Tahquitz Peak, you would be greeted by a Forest Ranger that would provide you with a certificate acknowledging your accomplishment of the the hike.

Well, year after year I vowed to make that climb. But, there was high school ,dating, eloping, the onslaught of babies to be born, bills, pre-school, more bills, visits to the principals office ( you get the idea) and I never put much effort into obtaining that goal I had set for myself as a child.

In the Fall of 2007, our son Justin was attending a progressive high school program where he could chose an activity of his liking for PE credits. And wouldnt' you know it! He wanted to go hiking !!! Right then and there I knew we could accomplish his scholastic needs and my desires to complete this lifelong goal in one fail swoop !

The following weekend, Justin, Jim, and I set out for Idyllwild to make history !!! We had our trusty tennies and a bottle of water and off we trekked! We were completely oblivious to the fact that the trail head was named "Devil's Slide" ...perhaps we should have taken heed. About 30 minutes in, I started in on a terrible headache. So bad that I had to sit every few feet and would almost pass out upon rising. Despite my desire and the encouragement of fellow hikers telling me that I was "almost 1/4 of the way there" , I threw in the towel; admitting that we had not been properly acclimated to the altitude, it was already too warm, and I was not hydrated well and perhaps having some blood pressure issues. We turned back for the truck; defeated.

A few weeks later, we made a second attempt. This time we were armed with honest-to-goodness hiking boots, hydration packs, energy gel, hats,an inhaler, and a blood pressure cuff... I was determined to get that certificate !!! I'm to frame it and display it in all of it's glory, dammit !!!We started earlier in the day and the morning hike was invigorating. I remember how pleased I was with myself as I passed the spot where I had been defeated by my own body the last time...I think I even sprinted past!
Slow and Steady wins the race, so I was sure to pace myself. A little background here: Tahquitz Peak is at an elevation of 8,828 ft with an elevation gain of 2,500. It is a moderate, 9 mile hike usually taking several hours to complete ( this info did NOT phase me as I am invincible ... I mean, I've birthed four babies, right?)

As I "pace" myself, Justin asks if he can go ahead to the next turn in the switchback trail ...which we allow him to do for the majority of the hike. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the "saddle" of the ridge and now needed to traverse the ridge to the south to reach the Ranger's station and on to V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!!! I just needed to rest a tic.

Justin went ahead, as he had been, and we were separated by a group of 50 or so girl scouts who weren't even phased by the difficulty of the hike !!! ( oh how I hated those smug little smiles as they passed by my huffing, puffing carcass perched on a rock). The final Girl Scout "groupie" to pass us was one of the leaders who asked if we were looking for our kid. We nod, I was breathless, and he says that Justin is just ahead, right around the bend.

When we get "just ahead, right around the bend", there's a fork in the trail and NO sign of Justin !!! OK, stay calm...I'm sure he's chosen the fork to the south which is the obvious route to the ranger's station. We begin down that trial which is VERY narrow with VERY steep drop offs...I'm experiencing moments of vertigo and wonder if Justin had felt the same...
Justin is NOWHERE in site and he's not answering our calls and the conditions getting more precarious. So we decide to turn around and head back to the fork in the trail. At this point, I begin to share my sick sense of "worry-wart mommy" with Jim:

"What if fell down one of those steep cliffs and he's lying there with a broken neck and he can hear us calling him back he can't answer?"

"What if a bear got him ...or a mountain lion got him and drug him away and they're eating him alive?"

"What if he met up with a pedophile and he was lured down the wrong path to be violated and murdered?"

"Maybe, just maybe, he took another trail and is back at the truck?" (NAH)

Each passing moment lended itself to my mind-effs. Poor Jim, I don't know how he endured it.

While I waited at the fork in the trails, Jim took the trail to the north to look for Justin...and I was alone....ALL ALONE on a trail with the potential of bears, mountain lions, and pedophiles in my midst. I panicked and started after Jim to the north. Jim followed the trail (The original Pacific Crest Trail) until there were no more footprints to follow ... OK, NOW, we're REALLY scared!!! We head back to the fork and begin calling out for Justin, frantically. Thank GOD I learned the signal for S-O-S on my whistle, because I was chirping S-O-S every 15 seconds or so, and then screeching his name til my til I was hoarse ... each time just waiting long enough to listen for a response, any response.....nothing.

We had searched for an hour; no Justin... He was out of water, wasn't dressed for the freezing night temps, we were running out of daylight, and we had no cell service. I start to cry...Jim tried the south trail again and had gone all the way to the Ranger Station to see if Justin was there..He came back to me mid-trail to say there was no sign of life anywhere. Not even a Ranger to summon for assistance.

At 5pm, defeated, Jim found a location that provided one bar of cell service - just enough to call 911 for help. (He wouldn't want me to tell you that he was choked up and weepy ... so I won't). He provided just enough detail; location, Justin's physical description, our location, . and the call was dropped; never got another signal. We felt doomed.

Since we were running out of daylight, we determined that Jim would run ahead to the saddle ridge to get help while I tweedle-dee'd myself back reluctantly blowing S-O-S on my whistle...I didn't want to leave my baby if he was still there. Within 10 minutes, a Search and Rescue helicopter flew over my head. Thank God they knew we were seriously in need of help and they were looking !!! With that elation came disappointment, though, because I realized that Justin had not gone back to the truck.

SO, Justin is alone, Jim is alone, I am alone...#1 Hiking Rule...never hike alone !!!

The helicopter passes by every few moments...I smile and wave out as if to tell them, "YES, you're looking for MY kid ...THANK YOU" !!!

As I get to the saddle and begin heading down the "Devil's Slide" I am reunited with Jim who informs me that he has some experienced hikers looking for Justin...Jim runs on ahead. I wave again to the helicopter, feeling a bit shocky as the realization sets in that we are in some real trouble here...

I am then passed by a young father and his children out for a "leisurely hike"; one of his kids perched on his shoulders ( how in the HELL are these people NOT out of breath????) The dad asks me if I'm looking for Justin. YES, I did you know ???
"Oh, all of Idyllwild knows. From Lily Rock, your voice carries down into the valley and we ALL hear you screaming and blowing your whistle.The whole town's been looking for him", he says."The Sheriffs found Justin waiting for you at the truck; he's safe. When they found Justin,and he said you might be sick, they sent the rescue helicopter out looking for you and your husband so you wouldn't get lost up on the mountain. Didn't you see it? Oh, and the Sheriffs are waiting for you at the bottom of the trail."

Oh, holy hell. Thank God, my baby is alive. When I get my hands on him I'm gonna KILL HIM !!!!

Long story short, when we zigged, he zagged. He had been to the Ranger's station...and waited... thought I had fallen ill and ran all the way back to the truck ( 4.5 miles ) ...must have missed him while we were on the north trail. Jim had hiked/ran over 14 miles of trails that day; including a visit to the Ranger Station. I hiked ALMOST 9 miles...I NEVER made it the to the Ranger Station !!! HEY, this is my goal, here, people !!! Well, at least we got our kid back safe & sound and managed to leave the scene before the Sheriffs took all of our personal information with which they could charge us the 10K for the helicopter search and rescue effort !! (whew...Shhhh)


Spring 2008: We attempted this hike one last time, taking a different trail head. The hike was beautiful, and sometimes treacherous. Justin was a real trooper that last 1/4 mile, encouraging me every step of the way...telling me that I could do it and he could see the Ranger Station just up ahead ( liar ) ...
But when I finally saw that Ranger station I felt such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment !! I had done it !!! 32 years after setting that goal, I had done it !!!
I was laughing and crying at the same time as I wearily climbed the steps to be met by an honest-to-god Dept. of Forestry Ranger. It would end up being a 9-hour ordeal that day, but by-golly, I had done it !!!


I shared the story of my 32-year goal with the Ranger and told him just how much I was looking forward to getting my certificate. I signed a book to verify my identity and shortly thereafter the Ranger handed me my certificate....a green business card verifying my hike to the station and welcoming me to my Lifelong Membership Of The Order Of The Brotherhood of the Squirrels..."Conveniently sized to keep in my wallet." he says. WHAT???? 32 years for a 2"x3" business card !!! Where's my certificate to frame????

If you know me, you know that I've been as nutty as a squirrel for years and didn't need a card to tell me that !!! But, all-in-all, despite 3 attempts, this was a good day...a memorable that I don't need a certificate to validate. I'm thankful to Jim and Justin ( and the Riverside County Sheriff Dept/ Dept. of Forestry Search & Rescue Team) for helping me reach this goal ...

The Ranger Station at the top of Tahquitz Peak. Switchbacking over that rough terrain the last half mile or so was the worst!!!
Lily Rock and Tahquitz Peak as viewed from Idyllwild

The Space Shuttle

When my boys were little, we would often pass by the Superior Ready-Mix Concrete Company as we would go about our chores around our little home town of Hemet in California. We had never paid much attention to the Redi-Mix location as we drove by other than noticing the occasional 18-wheeler pulling out of the yard.

One day, while watching a space shuttle prepare for launch on the news, my boys were entranced; glued to the TV.. I'm not sure how it started, really, but they came to believe that the Space Shuttle was at Redi-Mix! Did they think the high steel structures at the concrete company was the launch pad? or did I see an opportunity to put a little magic into something that I knew they would probably never have the opportunity to witness?

Regardless of how it started, the story of how the Space Shuttled was always launched from our town was a little piece of fiction that lasted for YEARS! Everytime we would see the preparation for a space shuttle lift off, the boys would scream at the top of their lungs alerting me that the space shuttle was in town !

Oh, the excitement !!! We would all grab our shoes, I'd grab the keys and pile all those little bodies into the mini van and head out towards the Redi-Mix concrete yard. Heaven help us if we hit a red light...they would wriggle in their seats begging for the light to turn green! The anticipation nearly killed them !!!
We would always, and I mean, "ALWAYS", arrive just a little too late. "We JUST missed it", I would say to the boys with a tone of disappointment and a frown. The boys would check the skies and find a con-trail from a jet overhead and were convinced that it was from the space shuttle...

We would always follow up our "near-sighting" with a trip to McDonald's or Dairy Queen for a treat and would head on back home. The boys couldn't wait to tell their dad when he'd get home from work. They would pounce on him the moment he'd walk through the door, telling him how we almost saw the space shuttle...again..."Missed it by that much !!!"

At the time, these little adventures proved to be a happy memory for the me and the boys... the adventures were always met with fun and excitement. But, now that the boys are grown, they unfortunately see the adventures as a cruel joke.

None-the-less, I know that as they become parents themselves, they will see the joy that these little adventures can bring to thier children. Much like going Snipe hunting in the dark, looking across the Wyoming prairies for Jack-A-Lopes, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy...

I'd be willing to bet that years from now, as they drive past the old cement plant, they tell their kids that was where the space shuttle launched from when they were a kid...

If this grandma were to confess, she'd admit to already planting that seed ...

The Redi-Mix plant where my boys believed the Space Shuttle launched from

Cape Canaveral - Where the Space Shuttle actually launched from

Raising Boys

Several years ago, I received an email that was making the rounds across the country. The email was all about raising boys. I decided to put my own personal spin on this email and shared it with a few of my friends.

I recently remembered this email, and miraculously found it when I did an email search. What I find amusing is that there are a few points that I have already written stories about here on my blog and my facebook page. Just goes to show that over the years, the stories live on...and still make me laugh and shake my head.

I'm sure all of the points this mother makes are true....I assure you that all of my additions are true...
Sometimes, I don't know how I survived...or how my kids survived !!! But we did.
Thanks, boys, for making life interesting...

 Raising Boys - 24 Key Points To Ponder

The following came from an anonymous Mother in Austin, Texas...

***and amended by a not-so-anonymous mother in California ( my answers are BOLD and noted with ***)

Things I've learned from my Boys (honest and not kidding)

1. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 4  inches deep.

***It is also the perfect place to hide all those weekly  progress reports you never want mom to find….they are only discovered after the waterbed ruptures when you hide your brother's Star Wars action figures from under there...

2. If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.

***If you spray hair spray on any flying insect, it renders them flightless just long enough to attach your mother’s sewing thread as a “leash” for a unique pet that will fly in circles for hours amaze all the neighborhood children….I much prefer the hamsters, bunnies, and puppies over the large Japanese Beetles my boys would bring home

3. A 3-year old Boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

***Preferred over the 3-year old boy’s voice that boisterously questions “who farted???” while the pastor is praying at a baptism.

4. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound Boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape.

***It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint  on all four walls, ceiling, and carpet of a 20 x 20 ft. room.  This works well with syrup, too! Although, this provides much more enjoyment for finger painting and clean-up is a tasty event!

5. You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.  When  using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times  before you get a hit.  A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.

*** More importantly, do not allow your husband to think it is a good idea to show off the youngest member of the family to guests by tossing the infant into the air…especially if you are in a low-clearance room equipped with a ceiling fan! The child will not giggle as you had anticipated and it will take a few times for your brain to register what that thumping noise is.

6.The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by  a ceiling fan.

***Same goes for rotten peaches…apparently; my boy’s mischievous acts revolve primarily around food!

7. When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh", it's already too  late.

***I would have rather heard those words than, “I dunno what happened...I only put him in the oven for a few minutes”… 

8. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.

***A Bunsen burner and a few choice ingredients in a 2-liter bottle make a very nice homemade bomb with a  loud explosion and enough long-lasting smoke for the authorities to easily locate the origin of the explosion!  Not all responding officers have a sense of humor.

9. A six-year old Boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.

***No argument there… lit birthday candles are also more intriguing when you're crammed into the coat closet with all of your siblings!

10. Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old  boy.

***As well as coins of all value…and plastic insects!

11. Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.

*** Microwave and anything to do with boys are never a good match….especially when attempting to make hard boiled eggs….have we discussed explosions and smoke???

12. Super glue is forever.

***A heavy-duty epoxy WILL enable you to glue your little brother’s head to the carpet!

13. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.

***Snapping those photos of your 3-year old sitting for hours with the fishing pole line in the pool waiting for a bite is unforgettable….

14. Pool filters do not like Jell-O.

***Pool filters do not like 50 pound test fishing line, either…..but the Jell-O sounds like more fun ;-)

 15. VCR's do not eject "PB &J" sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.

***Same goes for mom’s lo-cal hot pockets….again, another poorly though of hiding location when you’ve been caught eating in the TV room. Under the couch cushions is equally as bad.

16.Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

***Agreed…but at least your children tried to use an anti-gravity device….mine just stuck their finger in the bunkbed post and went for it !!!  Fingers  snap in two, but my kid never hit the floor!!!….if you’re lucky, your kid still has his  finger! You also hope the officer investigating the injuries at the emergency room has a good sense of humor and a vivid imagination! 

17. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.

***Sugar in the assistant principal’s gas tank will not allow him to get more than a block from school at the end of the day….unfortunately, he drives in the same direction as you walk home….and is very observant! This mother would have preferred marbles!

18. You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.

***I ask myself that question on a daily basis!

19. Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not  like ovens.

***Ovens do not provide appropriate heat for cold-blooded reptiles and Japanese Beetles! Yes, always look!  Moments like this are usually followed by a flushing toilet.

20. The fire department in Austin, TX has a 5-minute response time.

8**The fire dept. in Hemet, CA also averages about 5 minutes….Dad running all the stop signs from work can make it in about 4 minutes…Being home when the paramedics put your son with a severed toe into the ambulance…priceless! PS - unsafe driving citations in Hemet will run you about $1295-/2 yrs. Driving probation/2 days in custody, and 7 points on your driving record!

21. The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.

***The clothes drier will only fit one sibling at a time.

22. It will, however, make cats dizzy.

***This will make your sibling dizzy and nauseated ... and make Mom very upset when she finds out years later!!!

23. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

***So do boys…I finally discovered the origin of that mystery odor!

24. 80% of Men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid.

***Why do you think I didn’t include the ingredients for the 2-liter explosive device?

Those who pass this on to almost all of their friends, "with or without  boys", do it because:
a) for those with no children - this is totally hysterical!
*** Just wait…no matter what you think, your time of reckoning will come!
b) For those who already have children past this age, this is hilarious.
***I do laugh, even though I’m still paying off the fines and the juvenile hall bills. As I said earlier, not all officers have a  sense of humor.
c) For those who have children this age, this is not funny.
***Reality sucks, huh?
d) For those who have children nearing this age, this is a warning.
***No one is immune… 
e) for those who have not yet had children, this is birth control.
***My boys are the poster children for abstinence!
Disclaimer: These are not my children... these children are far too angelic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Waiting On A Wish


As we near the holiday season, we are reminded of the simple childhood innocence of believing. It is really amazing to look into the face of a child who believes, whole-heartedly, in something that, as adults, we no longer do.

I was reminded of this child-like faith while spending the day with my granddaughter, Aurora.

It seems like it was only yesterday when our first grandchild was welcomed into this world. My husband and I have been fortunate to be involved in every milestone of her young life...from her birth, first smile, first steps, first day of school.

And now she is going to be 9 years old ! The time is flying by, and with every passing year, she loses a  little bit more of that childhood innocence that I love.

But one day, I had the privilege of watching her faith wane and then be restored .The day Aurora had to wait on a wish.

When trying to determine what to do with little Miss Aurora for her big "7" birthday, we decided to cash in on some Whale Watching tickets I had purchased online and treat Aurora, and her Uncle Justin, with a day on the Pacific.

We  had picked Aurora up the night before her birthday. We had decided to keep the birthday event a secret; something that just drove Aurora to the brink !!!  During dinner that evening, she had constantly begged  for  clues about what we would be doing for her birthday. So,  I caved in and gave her a clue:

This "something" was something that none of us had EVER done before !!!

After some thought, Aurora asked me if we were all going skydiving!!!

I corkscrewed my face into a look of disbelief and said, "Aurora, do you really think Grandpa would make you jump out of a plane? That would be dangerous!"

"Of course not" she said. "Besides, I'd wear a PARACHUTE !!! Really, do I look stupid????" this point, I wonder, do I laugh or threaten to wash that little mouth out with soap for addressing her grandma like that! Counting to ten...I laugh at three...and decide to let her parents do the disciplining.

Another clue..

Justin's glass of water...

Another clue...

The shaker of salt on the table...

NO! We are not taking our granddaughter to Margaritaville

All through dinner, she attempted several guesses as to her surprise. The entire drive home that night and even after we tucked her in for bed she was begging for more clues. But, she was just going to have to wait for morning.

Aurora was up early the next morning, and we all dressed and headed out the door for our destination; the Pacific Ocean. Two hours and several clue requests later, we arrived at Dana Point Harbor with plenty of time to spare before our tour, and although Aurora still had no clue as to what the day held for her, she was so excited to see all of the beautiful boats in the marina.

As we parked and strolled the boardwalk, she repeatedly let us know how badly she wanted to go on a boat. I downplayed the idea as we walked the storefronts. We window shopped, stopped to pet the dogs out for a walk with their masters, we watched a sea lion play in the water...and every few minutes, Aurora would sigh and hint about going on a boat.

As we were leaning on the boardwalk railing watching the sea lion play, I asked Aurora, "If you could pick ANY BOAT from all these pretty boats, which one would you want to go on?"  She thought for a moment and I watched her size up all the boats in the harbor. There were million dollar yachts, the random aluminum dingy, fishing vessels, sail boats, open bow and cabin cuddy runabouts.

After a moment, she had reached her decision. "There, that one" she said, thoughtfully pointing to a large, average-looking  white boat with blue trim. There was nothing striking or eye-catching about this boat. I was shocked that she had picked this one, truthfully, considering her choices. The name on the back said  Dana Pride.

"Well", I told her, " I don't know who that boat belongs to, but if we meet the skipper,  we'll have to ask him if we can ride on his boat." Every man that walked down the dock ramp was a potential skipper and I would encourage her to ask him if the Dana Pride was his boat. I figured this would serve as a distraction as the minutes ticked away and we neared our tour time. She only asked a few potential skippers before turning her attention back to the frolicking sea lion.

While she was watching the sea lion play, I left her with Grandpa and Justin to walk a few doors down to the storefront where I was to pick up the whale watching tickets. I gave the clerk my name and voucher for the online purchase, and was so surprised when the clerk handed me four purple tickets to board none other than the Dana Pride! Of all the boats in the marina that day, Aurora  had picked the very boat we were ticketed for !

I returned to the family perched on the railing  to find Aurora  longingly staring at the boat she wanted to go on. As I joined her, she noticed some pennies in the water and pointed them out to me, thinking  it was funny that people had dropped  their money there in the water.

As the men of the family relocated to a nearby bench, I  explained to Aurora that the pennies were in the water because people had made wishes with them;  kind of like when you blow out your birthday candles or wish upon a star. I sent her over to Grandpa to get a penny and then encouraged Aurora to make a wish to go on the boat she had picked. That's an easy move towards a "grandma greatness" moment, especially since I knew what the outcome would be.

Aurora got a penny and returned to the railing. "I really, really want to go on that boat!" she said. And down went the penny. "What now, Grandma?"
"Now we wait"

And wait, and wait, and wait we did while we watched the Dana Pride deckhands clean every inch of  her. And then,  to Aurora's dismay the boat pulled out of the dock and left. After a few panicked moments, I realized that the boat was merely going to the fuel dock across the marina and would return. But Aurora was heartbroken.

As another attempt at distraction, we passed the next several minutes walking along more storefronts, watching other boats dock and leave. After we made full circle and returned to the dock railing, we even teased Aurora that her birthday surprise was a trip to the fish market where all of the fresh catches of the day were taken and we were going to gut fish! Hooray!

Needless to say, that birthday prospect didn't go over well, and Aurora distanced herself from Jim & I on the boardwalk railing. She pouted and stared down at her penny.

Unbeknownst to me, an older woman had been observing our interaction with Aurora. The woman had a sweet disposition and a deep southern accent had become interested in our little family moment.

Have you ever seen Nanny McPhee? An odd character that just shows up from out of nowhere and seems to be out of place?

That's how this woman was with her big floppy hat; looking like she was better suited for the front porch of a southern plantation while sipping on a mint julep. The woman shared that she had been listening to our conversation and just knew something was in store for that little girl, but she sure hoped it wasn't cleaning fish guts! She wouldn't want to clean fish guts either, she said. I laughed with her and told her the real plans for the day; whale watching. I also shared with the woman about how Aurora wanted to go on the boat that had gone away and about the tickets in my hand.

The woman joined Aurora and started talking to her while they stood along the railing; looking straight out at the water. Before long they were actively chatting about the day and how Aurora wanted to go on a boat and how she had waited so long for her wish and now the boat was gone.

As I listened to them talk, an idea came to me, and I suggested that maybe what we needed for her wish, a wish SO big, was a NICKEL !!! Maybe a penny just wasn't enough!

"Grandpa, give me a nickel, give me a nickel ! Please!" Aurora cried.

Jim came to the railing, and knelt alongside Aurora. He pulled the change from his pocket and he had one nickel left for her wish. While she plucked the nickel from the palm of Jim's hand, I slipped the purple whale watching tickets into Jim's shirt pocket.

Aurora took that shiney nickel and held it so tight and closed her eyes for that wish. I then told her to take the nickel to the lady and ask her to wish on it too! Maybe it would help.

The woman happily agreed to wish on the nickel with her. She took that nickel and blew on it for luck and started wishing on that nickel with such ferver I thought I was at a Southern Baptist Revival !! The woman said, out loud, that if she could wish for anything in the world that day, it would be for this little girl to go on the boat she had wished for! And together,  they threw that nickel in the water and we all watched  as it flickered in the sunlight all the way to the bottom, landing in the sand.

"Now, child, you wait" said the woman.

And wait we did, the woman, Aurora, and I.
Aurora crossed her fingers...and waited.

Aurora crossed her fingers on both hands...and waited.

And before long, the boat started back towards us! You could feel the excitement as Aurora was beginning to believe in the power of her wish !!!

She asked her grandpa if he had noticed the boat coming back. I asked Jim if he believed in her wish and if he felt the wish coming true and he said that he did !!! I asked Jim what was poking out of the top of his pocket?  Jim reached into his pocket, pulled out four slips of purple paper, and  handed them to Aurora.

Aurora took the pieces of paper from Jim, turned the tickets over and over in her hand, not knowing what she had.  I asked her to read the words on the front of the pieces of paper.

"Dana Pride", she said without a change of expression . Hmmm, she didn't get it yet.
" Dana Pride" ... still nothing.

"Aurora, what's the name of the boat you wished for?" I asked her.


When the realization hit her, she was grinning from ear to ear and so excited! She was going to go on the boat she had wished for!

When Aurora turned around to show the lady who had helped her with the wish, she shared in the excitement with a wink and a smile and then she was gone! It was like she had simply vanished ! No kidding...I never even saw her leave.

We boarded the boat and went whale watching, having a wonderful time (until the Dramamine wore off).
No whales were seen that day, but there were plenty of dolphin and an endless supply of smiles and memories.

It was a birthday ( and a wish day ) to remember for a long time to come. We're going to have a hard time out-doing that day!

Aurora will always believe in that nickel wish...even if I had to help her find her faith in believing a little bit along the way. She will believe until she gets older and starts dealing with the harsh realities of life...she'll stop believing in wishes, and shooting stars, and yes, Virginia, even Santa Claus.
But until then, I'm going to enjoy every little bit of magic I can share with her.

Grandma loves you, baby girl.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Love My Christmas Tree....A Latte

My husband and I have gone through a lot of changes this past year. A change in jobs, a change in address, empty nesters...a lot of changes.

Last night we got a little holiday spirit cursing through our veins and went in search of a Christmas tree. This is no easy feat because, as I mentioned, we moved this last year....into our 5th wheel trailer!!! Now there's plenty of room for just my husband and I, but not much space availability for decorating. After a brief discussion, it was determined that the dining room table would be sacrificed for the sake of Christmas spirit.

So, we set off in search of the perfect tree; not too big, not too small, nothing that would render memories of a Charlie Brown Christmas.

We had every intention of selecting a nice little live spruce, but we both were drawn to a beautiful lighted, flocked artificial tree with cones and sprays of berries.It was comparably priced to the live tree considering we wouldn't need to fuss with lights; in the cart it goes!!!

Now, for decorations .... there's not a lot you can place on a 3.5 ft tree. Every bulb seemed too be too large, too tchotche-esque...

                                  (where does she store these???...I mean, really!!!)

Everything detracted from the natural beauty of this artificial tree. And ornaments are just so darned expensive!!! SO we decided to just display the tree, as is.

We paid for our tree, grabbed a couple poinsettias and headed back into the chill of the evening. While leaving the parking lot I convinced Jim that we were in need of a post-shopping Starbucks run. and much to my chilled delight, he agreed. Look out red cup, here we come !!!

                                                (mmmm....Gingerbread Spice Latte)

While waiting for our holiday treats, I perused through the holiday gift certificates at the counter; all pretty and red. They always have something different and unique to offer in the way of their gift certificate cards. While engrossed in looking through the little swipers, Jim held up a Starbucks Coffee Cup Christmas tree ornament. He asked me if I thought we could place this yule jewel on our new tree...and of course I said yes.
I mean, how can you say no to such a cute little token of warm Peppermint White Mocha memory goodness!!!

( I think we may need to collect one new Starbucks ornament each and every year...
A new tradition !!!)

As I reloaded my rewards card and my bill was tallied, I had a stroke of  creative genius...

                                (Bright idea commencing in five...four...three...two..ONE!!!)

I grabbed a little handful of each style of the gift certificates and tucked them in my pocket, paid my bill and stood in line to wait for my order.

My hot seasonal Ventis were passed across the counter to me.. a bit too hot (which is a good thing where coffee is concerned) and I grabbed two "sleeves" to place on my cups. The light bulb went off yet again, so I grabbed a few extra sleeves which promptly joined the cards in my coat pocket.

A quick stop to Wallyworld for a hole punch and some curling ribbon and I was in full decorating combat mode. I will admit to having a few more light bulb moments while in Wallyworld, and by the time we left, my pockets were fairly weighted down with holiday gift certificates....I think I got a little carried away, and will admit to having a little anxiety attack as I left the store as I feared being chased down by security for putting the gift certificates in my pocket.

With my trusty hole punch, I set forth on my path to decorating bliss.

A little red curling ribbon here...

a little more there ...

add our new little red cup ornament...

and I think we ended up with a perfectly decorated tree...

Now, if only those gift cards could actually BUY coffee everything would be Grande'  ....