Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm Party-Pooped

A week of successful partying has come to an end. I survived four gatherings in five days, three of which were held here, and everything went as planned. Well, there was the occasional minor glitch - a river of water rushing through my basement and under the newly-finished laminate floor on Friday afternoon, a near divorce from my husband (don't worry - it was a mutual thing), and about six thousand flies that decided to take up residence in my house and wake us all too early this morning by buzzing our heads come sunrise - but all-in-all it was a delightful time.

Note to self: Never, ever, have four parties in five days ever again. Amen.

The thing that's great about entertaining is having all the big jobs done all at the same time. I do clean my basement once in a while. I do weed the garden and flower beds (some more than others, I found out the hard way). I do clean the shed and brush the spiders off the ceiling and walls of the garage and mow the lawn and scrub lawn chairs and sort yard game equipment and do laundry and clean the house from top to bottom and mow the ditches along the roadside (wait - I never do that) and make flower arrangements and... and... where was I?!? I just never have all those jobs done at the same time. It's exhausting, and yet nothing but a slew of parties (or even just one big yard party) would ever inspire me to work that hard in a matter of days. In between gift wrapping and playing bean-bag games in the yard with Jonathan, I'd haul out party decorations or serving platters. In between driving the boys to practices and track meets, I'd weed one more flower bed. I've never slept so little and gotten so much accomplished in one week. The woodpile never did get cleaned up and stacked, and the former chicken coop would've made a great playhouse for the kids had I gotten it cleaned out and sanitized, but those jobs'll just have to wait for something bigger like a graduation party or engagement party or baby shower, not that I'm wishing for those events to come any sooner than necessary.

This morning, trained by the week's rigorous schedule, I rose early. But this time, rather than donning garden gloves or work boots or a bucket of bathroom cleaning supplies, I made a pot of coffee, sliced some homemade cherry pie, and took pie and coffee to everyone in their beds, in celebration of a day of rest.

Miraculously, the weather held out for our party yesterday. It rained all night long Friday night, causing me to wake up every hour and mumble, "Well, there goes our party." But it stopped by Saturday morning. I hung my deck cushions on the line to dry (oops) and started obsessing over the weather satellite radar on a slick website I found. Every time a pregnant-looking cloud passed over, I politely asked it to hang on to its bounty and pass on by. And they did. We sent an email - "Party's ON, baby!" - and continued with our prep.

The party started at 3:00 and by 2:00, my living room was in order...

And my dining area was ready to receive dishes to pass... The garden was weeded (well, mostly) and the lawn was mowed...And the deck had been pimped out with flowers and candles and some stolen borrowed seating...And the yard was adorned with tables and canopies...And even though I'm sure I could've found something else to dust, vacuum, scrub, or fill....I spent a good long time gathering flowers for jars. I have to entertain in July because that's when my flower beds are all bursting with color. If I time it just right, I have lilies and larkspur, black-eyed susans and coneflowers, oregano and bachelor's buttons, cleomi and even bleeding hearts. And I had to look up the name 'bleeding hearts' on my recently-foraged ziploc of seeds because I'm so darn tired my brain isn't firing properly.Everything was set. I could rest and await guests. And I went into the kitchen to get a glass of sun tea and found this: And then I breathed into a paper bag for a while and gnashed my teeth. And then I asked the boys to please clean up their mess. And then I made homemade salsa. And then I looked for the tortilla chips to set out and found the boys had eaten them. All of them. For lunch. And then I breathed into another paper bag. And then I remembered that it's no big deal and I got over myself.

And, finally, after Jonathan paced the end of the driveway for 2 straight hours, the guests began to arrive. But when, two hours into the party, only 7 people of an expected 60 had arrived, I started force-feeding Italian beef sandwiches to those poor 7, wondering if people had forgotten about our party or were simply taking "fashionably late" to the extreme. But by 5:00 people were rolling in one after another and I slapped the hands of the original 7 and told them to save some food for the others, for Pete's sake. Not really. And who's Pete anyway?
That's Brady's new grrrl, by the way. Lovely Carissa, with the lovely Emily beside her. And Carissa is the new-old grrlfriend. This is take-2 of their blossoming relationship. Carissa's mom (and Emily's too) is one of my best friends, so we're fine with any possible marriage in the future. The FAR future, I mean! Ahem.

We had 3 acts for Open Mic. Sisters Carissa and Maria sang a lovely duet about peace...

Mother and son duo, Sonia and Colin, sang a hilarious politically-charged song about SUVs.... And Jonathan and Colin did some improv based upon topics called out by the audience.

And then it was time for JUST MAYBE. They played well despite the occasional feedback that screamed from the new PA system. There were no sound engineers, amateur or otherwise, in the crowd, so we all ignored the feedback, enjoyed the music, and tended to our bleeding eardrums later.

A yard full of good friends is a wonderful thing.

And maybe, JUST MAYBE, we'll do it all again next summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Birthday Bliss

It isn't quite Jonathan's birthday yet but that doesn't stop us from celebrating! He's the one primarily responsible for all this partying we're doing (and all the hosting I'm doing) this week. Well, the big shebang on Saturday is Brady's fault, but the rest of the blame lies with Jonathan. His first party - of 3 this week, and 4 in all - was yesterday with his boy friends. That's an important distinction to make because Jonathan takes after his mama in one very important respect - he doesn't like mixing his groups. My sister laughed when she found out about our big bash we're having on Saturday and teased, "Laura... are you mixing your groups?" in that way little sisters do when they think they've gotcha. Why yes, I am mixing groups - hence my need for frequent naps and deep breathing every day between now and then. But I digress...

Jonathan always knows exactly how he wants to celebrate his birthday. He makes his birthday outline months in advance, elaborate notes with sections for whom to invite, what food to have, the where, when and how of it all, and what he'd like for gifts. He'll work and rework his notes until he has it just right.

But one thing's for certain - he won't mix certain groups. "What about so-and-so?" I'll inquire. "She'll have to be added to the family party - I don't think she'll enjoy the boy-party," he'll conclude after thinking on it for a few seconds.

"Ok, and how about this family? And that family? And the other one?" I'll continue. "I think we're going to need another party just for them. How about on Friday?" he'll muse as he shakes his head in a yeah-that'll-work sort of way.

And now you know why I've submitted my application for party-mom-of-the-year and why I've got my 3rd sun tea jug in 2 days brewing on the deck and and why I've got my 8th dishwasher load running before tonight's guests - family plus one neighbor - arrive at 5:30.

But the highlight of yesterday's party - well, besides being with most of his favorite boys of all time - was the addition of this to our family:

Ever since Jonathan's last turtle, Rocky, escaped from the lovely, humane, turtle-eden enclosure I'd built for him in my garden, Jonathan's been begging for another. All week he kept saying, "I've got a good feeling about this, Mom. I told EVERYONE I want a turtle." So when Jonathan's friend Colin called and asked if he could indeed give Jonathan a turtle for his birthday (nice of them to ask!), I smiled to myself. Party #1 of 4 was going to be a good, good time...

And it was! Thanks Colin!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No Crises Allowed, Please

When you have a schedule that looks like this....

  • Monday - prepare for onslaught of parties
  • Tuesday - Jonathan's kid birthday party; Cousins' Ladies Night Out
  • Wednesday - Jonathan's family birthday party my side
  • Thursday - prepare for continued onslaught; hopefully nap; probably not; Jonathan's track meet
  • Friday - get manic about Saturday; Jonathan's family-friends birthday party; practice deep breathing
  • Saturday - big Open Mic & Live Music (JUST MAYBE) bash in our yard
  • Sunday - clean-up; pack for vacation; leave for vacation? crawl into fetal position and suck my thumb

One does NOT want to hear the following words wafting from upstairs...

"Honey, I just bled all over the comforter."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And They Rocked

The festival went just fine! The boys are glad to have the first official gig under their belt and were totally pumped afterward. Here are some scenes from the event.
Brady carries some gear from the van. That part was cool!
Jonathan got put to work hauling t-shirts to sell. They sold several! That was very cool.
No, Jonathan is not in the band - but here he goofs around during sound check. Doesn't he look cool?
The boys tune their guitars. Cool, huh?

Brady was nervous, but he kept his cool.

And here they are performing! Everything about the day was cool! Very very cool. I like using the word cool. It makes me feel.... cool.

Oh wait.... Um, boys? Boys? Don't you want to hang with your mom after your gig? Boys? Boys?!?
Oh man. Maybe this cool thang ain't gonna work out for me after all.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Rock

In less than 3 hours, JUST MAYBE will take the stage at a nearby festival!

Rob's so nervous he ironed his JUST MAYBE t-shirt. I didn't know he knew how to operate our iron. (Kidding)

And Brady just walked into the kitchen and announced, "I don't have all the lyrics to '922' memorized. I can't remember them." (Not kidding)

And Jonathan is waiting at the front window, keeping look-out for the caravan of bandmates.

As for me? I'm gonna dance right in front of the stage. :-)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Same Week, Radically Different Experience

Some of you may remember that this time last year, I got to spend 3 Days Solo. Yes, you heard me right - 3 days. And ah, what fine days they were. I did yoga, I hiked, I spent an afternoon with friends. I even sat in our local pizza joint by myself, with a laptop and a book and an obnoxiously large "sampler platter" from the menu. It was divine.

I got that gift of 3 days solo because, last year, my husband and boys went to a
Christian Rock Festival and had themselves a grand ol' time (despite the fact that we're not Christians - there, I said it. Again).

But this year... well, this year was a little different. I didn't get me some 3 days solo. Oh, no sirree bob, I did not. This year, I got me some of this:
Is that what you think it is? Why, yes. That, my friends, is one big-*ss Christian rock venue. And guess who was there? Uh huh - Moi.

After a year of begging, I succumbed to the pressure. "You'll love it, Mom! Seriously!" "No one will get up in your stuff about converting, I promise." "It's not that bad!" "You have to go with us. Please?!" These were the refrains I heard over and over and over. I admit I got pretty passive-aggressive about the whole thing, waiting until just a few days before the festival to mutter, "Oh, I guess so... but not for all six days! I can only handle three!" while still surfing for reasonable airfare to Denver, where my entire extended family (and then some) were headed for a different sort of gathering. One with water. And a roof. And with 24,985 fewer people than the Cornerstone Festival.

Turns out there wasn't water in Colorado - my aunt and uncle live up in the foothills and their well ran dry for most of the time everyone was there. And something tells me it's a bit more psychologically challenging to be without water in a house than in a campsite, where you go in with that expectation.

So - here I am to tell my story as a non-Christian at a Christian Rock Festival.

Here is our van before we left. Believe it or not, we fit 5 people in there. Brady and his best pal and bandmate, Ben, were squished into the back seat and practically on top of each other, and Jonathan was wedged into the only remaining middle seat. I'd show pictures but they begged me not to - they couldn't see out the back, sides, or front. It was pretty funny. They harrassed me the entire way there with complaints of "we didn't have this much stuff LAST year," to which I replied, "You invited me. Now be sure not to block your brother's only oxygen hole."

I hadn't camped for YEARS. And you know what I rediscovered? I like camping! We grew up camping in Colorado but the few times I'd done it in the midwest, as an adult, it was too hot, too buggy, and too tiring to hear the kids whine after only 1/4 mile into our hike, "Can't we go back yet? I'm so tired!!!" But the kids have grown up, and there was a lot to do, and I don't want to know why but there weren't any mosquitos to be found.

All day, every day, there were bands to listen to. Folk, gospel, screamo (egads), heavy metal, rock... you name it, someone sang it. There were several small tents for music and a main stage where the big names played. Here, we listened to a singer/guitarist named Josh Garrels - nice and mellow, just my style. Go have yourself a listen, why don't you?

When we first pulled in, my mouth fell open... as far as the eye could see there was tent after tent after tent - no shade, no room, nothing but gravel. It would be like camping on the midway at the county fair with thousands of people, and while my mind fired "Retreat! Hotel! Hotel!" Rob laughed not to worry, we camp somewhere else. "Ok...." I said, hoping beyond hope that he really meant it. Cuz I don't want to be high maintenance or anything, but, um, Ya - I'm not doing that.

25,000 people attend this festival. 25-freakin-thousand. So really, when I say it's like camping at the county fair, I mean it. There's a midway, carnival-like food stands, and big-top tents everywhere containing vendor booths, musical acts, and seminars. There's also a lake, though, and that's where we camped, thank the higherpowerwhogoesbymanynames!

I didn't know how to take pictures of people without seeming intrusive or offensive, so I took a picture of this van to depict the sort of folks who were at Cornerstone. As homeschoolers, we're all too familiar with the denim skirt-wearing, long braid-sporting, obedience-loving Christians. But here? Punk, Goth, and Hippie were all the rage, and I saw more tattoos and piercings there than in all the county fairs I've ever been to put together.
There were men dressed like Jack Sparrow and men dressed like Spiderman. There were lots of Emos. There were motorcycle dudes and hippie chicks and more dreadlocks than you could shake a stick at. And there was an entire photo tent devoted to people who wanted to dress up like monsters - theatrical make-up and all - and get their pictures taken, and I haven't a clue what that was all about. There was one fellow who sported one of those thick nose rings that remind me of tethering a steer to a fence post during my 4-H days, and I found it difficult to listen to what he was saying when my mind kept firing things like, "But doesn't that d*mn thing HURT?!?" and "Yo, one's gettin' away - hand me that there lasso."

One of the guys I talked with sounded high the whole time, but there were no drugs and alcohol allowed. I know, I know, but seriously - he wasn't HIGH-high, he was high for Jesus, man... and I enjoyed listening to him talk since he was rather socially-liberal even while being religiously-conservative. And yes, there is such a thing - I saw thousands of examples. There were lots of "save the children" charities, I was pleased to see, and I'd have supported them if I wasn't worried there'd be the whole "we'll save them first" stipulation attached. (I give elsewhere, rest assured.)

The highlight for Jonathan and his cousin Trevor was - get this - chasing golf carts. You could rent golf carts there, much to my chagrin, as they kicked up dust like all get-out as they zipped by all day long. But on day one they discovered the fine sport of golf cart chasing and they didn't stop until we broke camp and left for home. Here, the boys stretch out in preparation of hours of running.

And they're off!
Go Trevor Go!

Occasionally the boys took a break to play cards or a board game, eat, or swim.
And then it was back at it! They became quite a novelty, known throughout the festival, and people took to circling past our campsite, over and over again, just to see the golf cart-chasing show. Some folks awarded them free t-shirts and glow-in-the-dark souvenirs and they got lots of high-fives and "You guys Rock!" from their admirers. And if the boys were resting or distracted, you'd see carts go by very slowly, the riders searching eagerly for the cart-chasers. It was definitely one of the most amusing parts of the week.

Here is the lone photo I consented to take, and it didn't turn out half-bad considering it was day 4 and I'd all but forgotten what a real shower felt like. And I was wearing a button that read BE THE PEACE YOU SEEK. Right on, sistah.

There was a mass on Friday night at the main stage. It was lovely to see an entire hillside lit by candles, touching to see thousands reach out to their neighbor with the sign of peace, and a bit curious, in a voyeuristic sort of way, to watch people sway and get weepy while they turned their faces upward toward God. But not as curious as the lyrics that caught us by surprise in the middle of a song. When I first heard the man sing, "And it's smelling a little funky in my house, like a monkey in a zoo" or something similar, I sat up straight, cocked my head to the side, and started looking around to see if that was indeed what I heard or it was just my wandering imagination.... Nope, others definitely noticed and our mouths turned up as we stifled our giggles. Verse two... and the refrain.... Yep, it was definitely "And it's smelling a little funky like a monkey in a zoo"... *snort* That is a HOOT. During MASS! Ah, sweet levity...

The boys might've teased me about how much food I packed, but there were no empty-belly complaints. With our group came roasted vegetables, tamales, and meatballs, cheese-and-fruit-filled crepes, tacos, and pork tenderloin. We feasted. Is it just me or does food taste better when prepared under the open sky?
Even washing dishes is more fun outdoors. And we laughed how we'd wipe a swarm of gnats off our cast iron skillet or scoop an ant or eight out of our water jugs and not think a thing about it, whereas if a single fly lands on our food at home, we're disgusted or appalled. Reality check.
Here, our camp neighbor. He sat and strummed his guitar under this tree for hours. It was lovely background music.
And here, a full-immersion baptism in the lake that I happened upon. That was fascinating.

I'm pleased to say it was an interesting experience and I very much enjoyed myself. While I'm 'not there' on the Christian faith, I'm grateful for the chance to have fellowship with a great many people. Music, food, fellowship and fun... Life is indeed good. Very, very good.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Grrrl's Gotta Eat

A few years ago I started a yahoo e-group called "Healthy Chow." It's a discussion forum for all-things-food and consists of mostly personal IRL friends of mine. I started it for mostly selfish reasons - I wanted to steal all my friends' killer recipes. Not killer in the get-food-poisoning-and-die sort of way; killer in the oh-my-goddess-this-is-beyond-good sort of way. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I know some of THE most amazing cooks. My friends can take the simplest combination of ingredients and turn it into something spectacular. But also, they can concoct recipes that use ingredients that I've neither seen in stores nor even heard of. I might make a mean canned-good judge at the county fair, but otherwise my culinary skills are just average.
Those who've been part of the group since the beginning will be shocked to hear that I started it back in 2003. I know! Could it possibly be that long ago? I remember the list was busy in the early days and I still have a pile of recipes I got from the members. I remember getting answers to any food-related questions I tossed out. I remember sending out "prompts" to get the discussion going. I remember another funny story...

Once upon a time my sister made fun of the name 'Healthy Chow.' One day she handed me a farm business card that read "Jackie's Happy Hens." The End.

I've been meaning to beg my blog readers reader to join Healthy Chow, because while I love the recipes I've gleaned from its members, it's grown quiet. Too quiet. I sent a request for a good marinara sauce to the list today and I heard it echo across cyber-space. "Hello? Hello-hello-hello...." I think I mined them for everything they've got and I need a fresh crop of folks to suck dry learn from.

So, who's game? Go HERE to join us! And be sure to gather all your favorite recipes, your mother's favorite recipes, your neighbor's favorite recipes, and your 3rd cousin twice removed's favorite recipes. Cuz folks? I'm hungry for some healthy chow.