Monday, September 22, 2008

The Mike Tyson of the Animal World

This past Saturday, we went for a quick trip to Castlewood Canyon again (hiked different trail than last time) and then couldn't resist heading up into the mountains, at least a little. So, we make the quick drive up to Evergreen to our favorite park. We normally stop at the first part of it where there are these great rock formations that are fun for climbing. There are difficult parts, which challenge Mary and Sam, as well as Clay even, although less and less, since he goes rock climbing almost every day at our rec center. There are easy enough parts though for Annie and Ellie, who love to go rock climbing, and fancy themselves as being quite adept!

This trip, we decided to head a little further back into the park, just to see if there were any other neat areas or rocks for climbing. We got just a little further in, and came upon a huge herd of elk. There were tons of female elk (cows) and one bull elk (the male.) He was HUGE!!! There were other bulls, but they couldn't get too near the harem. (Yes, that's really what it's called in the elk world.) They were in the woods right next to the road, as well as on the road, and the hill above us. We saw a biker, who wisely stayed tucked behind a bush till the big daddy bull went running after another bull who was trying to get next to one of his *ladies.* We kept hearing this high pitched yelling, and I thought a child had surely gotten away from her parents and was terrified by all the large elk she was surely surrounded by. I'm feverishly looking for this little girl, when Bo busts up laughing. It's the big guy himself...

That HUGE bull with his 7 point on each side antlers screaming like a little girl! The kids were dying laughing at the howling this guy was doing. Annie would imitate it, as well, and then just bust up laughing.

We sat and watched this herd for about 45 minutes. It was hilarious seeing the big guy go running after the other males who were skirting his harem, howling all the way. He'd then come back to the harem and squeal at them, and make them come in closer, I imagine so he could keep tabs on them. We later spoke with the wildlife rangers who came driving through, and they shared how the other males were trying to enter the herd, but the bull was not yet letting them. We took plenty of pictures, but I'll just share a few.

Bawling at the cows...gotta keep 'em in line (Big bully!)

Had to share this picture of my little ladies. (This was earlier at Castlewood Canyons.)

My baby is sixteen & I lost my job!

September 16th....My oldest baby turns 16! We officially celebrated Clay's birthday the weekend before by going climbing and hiking at Castlewood Canyon, then going out for pizza, but celebrated with cake and ice cream on his actual birthday. Oh, and speaking of position has been downsized, outsourced, I've been let go. Clay asked Mary to make his birthday cake this year. (WoooHOOOO!) And not just any cake. He wanted a checkerboard cake. Think Vans Old Schools. She is one messy baker, but she got the job done. Clay loved his cake (and I loved not having to bake it!)

The checkerboard cake is taking shape

Clay being a 16 year old goob

The finished product

Obligatory picture of the blowing out of the candles :)

One of our new favorite places

As homesick as I have been, I cannot deny that Colorado is amazingly beautiful. One of the things our family has really enjoyed since moving to Colorado is hiking and climbing, each at their own level. One of our new favorite places is Castlewood Canyon. After a short hike, you come to a beautiful waterfall, and there's plenty of fresh, cold water to splash around in.

P.S. In case you didn't know this (I didn't!) you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.

Mary Bakes!

That's right! Here's Mary, showing off the Red Waldorf cake she made, which just happens to be my favorite.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over

I finally have some pears!!!! Look how beautiful they are. We had some sliced pears with lunch, and then the girls and I went and collected a couple more pears that were close to being ripe. (A lot more fell off the tree when we were picking them, so I brought them in, in the hopes that I could get them to ripen soon.) There were enough that were close enough to being ripe...not to be eaten fresh, but they cooked up beautifully into a cobbler.

Country Pear Cobbler


3/4 C firmly packed brown sugar

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Dash cloves

2 Tbsp lemon juice

6 to 8 medium pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced


1 C flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 C buttermilk

3 Tbsp margarine or butter, melted (Who am I kidding? BUTTER!)

1 Tbsp sugar, if desired (and do desire)

Light cream, if desired (and yes, I did desire, but not enough to run to the grocery store)

Combine all of the filling ingredients, except pears, in a large skillet. Stir in sliced pears. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, stirring gently. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make topping. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and soda in bowl and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add buttermilk and melted butter. Continue to mix on low for another 30 seconds, or until blended. (Don't overblend.)

Pour hot filling into 8 or 9 inch baking pan. Spoon topping over filling and sprinkle with that extra 1 Tbsp sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until pears are tender and bubbly and topping is done...all nice and golden brown. Serve warm and top with light cream, if desired, or a la mode.

I also had a sweet surprise from one of my "new, old" friends. I'll explain that first. I've known Erin for 2 years online. We're both members of a China adoption group, and we both brought our girls home within a couple months of eachother. Now that we live in Colorado, we only live about 20 minutes away and were able to get together one day this summer before she had to go back to school (she is a teacher here in our local school district.) Well, she dropped in to congratulate us on receiving PA, and she brought me flowers! How sweet is that?

I am one blessed gal!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Doing the Snoopy Dance

Snoopy Dog Peanuts Comic Animated Avatars

That's right, folks! We got PA! That means China has given us to go-ahead to proceed with our adoption!

Here is our timeline so far:
8-28-08 Letter of Intent
9-8-08 PA

Now, please pray that everything on the US side starts flooding my social worker's mail box so we can really get rolling. Seriously, though. We do covet your prayers. This adoption is going to be quite different than Ellie's, I'm sure, but we look forward to what God has in store for us.

Mom's New Hairbrush. Take One.

The Cast of Characters

One ratty, 1.5+ year old hairbrush that had a "comfort" gel handle that mysteriously began to get squished out after the first week of being owned. (Through no fault of its own...simply that it's Stretch Armstrong-like feel proved too tempting for a two year old.) It has since been bandaged with toilet paper, Dora bandaids, surgical bandaids, tape, and now is currently wrapped in bandaging tape.

One fabulously put together and perfectly coiffed Mom

Annie: a spunky, sassy, 3.5 year old with lots of dramatic flair
and a messy mop of blonde hair

One shiny new hairbrush

Annie: Mom, why did you get a new hair brush?

Mom: Because somebody squeezed all the squishy stuff out of my old brush.

Annie: Oh, I'm sorry. (Big smile) But didn't you know there was a monster in it? I squeezed all the monster out.

Mom: Really? I had no idea there was a monster in my brush! Thank you so much, Annie.

Annie: No problem, Mom. You're welcome. (Begins to head out of the room, but turns back around to say...) Glad I could be of help!

P.S. Just have to add that after I took Annie's picture she said, "That's a good one!" Good grief, that girl is cute!

Speaking of homeschooling....

Thought I'd give you a heads up about a really cool site. It combines two of some of my favorite things, homeschooling and freebies!

Each week they send out an email containing what that week's freebies are going to be, and all you have to do is go to their site and download them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I honestly cannot remember.....

The last time I had a whole afternoon to myself. I'm trying to think back to a time...surely there's been a day in the last year, right? For the life of me, I cannot remember one though. Anyways, this past Saturday, Bo took the kids to the zoo, and I got to stay home...ALONE! Now, normally, I'm all about getting out of the house and being with the family, but I had a ton of work to do that just wasn't happening with all the kids home (or should I be honest and say with two 3 year olds at home?)

See, I somehow managed to get myself into a brand spankin' new homeschool co-op. Teaching two classes. Me. I know I've homeschooled for 9 years, but I am no teacher. There's a world of difference between schooling your own children on your couch and around your kitchen table and standing up and teaching a lesson to a group of someone else's children. I've done the preschool VBS thing, but that only requires a weeklong commitment, so of difference. And believe me when I tell you, preschool is my ultimate comfort zone. It's the only age group with which I am fairly competant I can appear more knowledgeable than my students.

Fortunately, one of my classes *is* preschool. We'll be doing Before Five in a Row/Five in a Row, which should really be a lot of fun. We'll basically read a different book each week, and do a couple activities which tie in to the story. The only real challenge here is to have enough activities so that each one is *rilly* short and *rilly* sweet, cause kids that age have *rilly* short attention spans.

My other class will be a little more challenging. It's for K-4th graders (BIG age difference--non-readers & readers, spellers & non-spellers) so that alone presents a challenge. I'm basing my lessons on Galloping the Globe, which is a basic geography course. We will be covering the continents and the larger countries within them, as well as the major bodies of water. I hope to have quite a bit of activities and different foods to keep it interesting. (I will hate if it I find out the kids hate my class....and I'm realizing that I may have issues if I feel the desparate need to be liked by 2nd graders!)

Anyways, it was a nice change of pace to have a quiet house for the whole afternoon. I sat and lesson planned and drank several cups of coffee. I think I could get used to this teaching thing if it means I can request more of these planning days!

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Beautiful Torment

Look at this amazingly beautiful pear. It, and many others just like it are growing in my back yard. I wake up disappointed each day though when I see so many of them laying on the ground. I feel them on the tree, and they just aren't ripe. I've googled the tar out of "growing pear trees" and other searches like that to try to figure out how we can enjoy this blessing right from the yard. I've read that the pears don't ripen on the tree, but that once it begins to feel soft by the stem is the perfect time to pull it off. Then, to speed the ripening, you can place it in a paper bag. I assure you...I am out there checking these pears everyday. They still don't feel soft AT ALL. Still, I pick some, and try the paper bag trick, but edible pears.
Oh, wait...I did happen upon one pear that seemed to have softened enough to cut up. Unfortunately, that suspicious brown spot on the skin was exactly what I was hoping against hope that it wasn't...a worm. The inside was....YUCK! The cold weather is coming, and I fear I'm going to lose all the pears to either dropping on the ground, or not being ripe before the frost sets in and does them all in.
I had such vision for these pears. Pears with chocolate dripped over them, pear cobbler, pear salad, pear muffins. *sigh* Anybody know anything about pears?

Forever Family

This week we celebrated Forever Family Day. One year ago, this past Tuesday, Ellie was placed in our arms for the first time. Just like the births of Clay, Mary, Sam, and Annie, I will never forget the moment Ellie was handed to me. The following day, she officially became our daughter, but just as the child you carry inside of you is a part of you much sooner than their birth date, so is the child that you carry in your heart for so long before an official document declares she is yours. We cannot fathom our family without her in it.

I had planned to post pictures from last year as well as Tuesday's pictures, but I can't yet bear to post them again. Her pain and fear was so raw. I don't want to make light of it. Please feel free to follow the link to our adoption Journey To Me site if you'd like to see those, but I just can't post them here. I will share some pictures though from Tuesday, which also happened to be our first day of school (since Sam was fighting a virus last week when I had planned to start.) Annie and Ellie are doing "preschool" with me (using Before Five in a Row, for any other homeschoolers who might be checking this out.) This week we're reading The Runaway Bunny. We were talking about some of the pictures we saw in the book, and Annie said she saw the Mommy Rabbit. When I asked Ellie if she knew what a baby rabbit was called, she thought for just a moment, and then answered, "Tiny, lil rabbit!" Brilliant, huh? We made scarecrows and put them in the garden, or should I say the spot where one day I hope to have a garden.

To celebrate our Forever Family Day, we went out to PF Chang's and then back home for cake.

And now, just to see if anyone's paying attention...we'd like to share that we've started paperchasing again; this time for our son. More details to come!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Who's afraid of heights?

Another Colorado "must see" is the Royal Gorge." This is absolutely spectacular! You enter the park on one side of the gorge, and you can walk or drive across the suspension bridge. There are things to do on both sides, like an incline railway, petting zoo, an aerial tram, and whooo boy...the sky coaster! Bo didn't think I would even walk across the bridge, what with my fear of heights, but I really shocked him by saying that I would *love* to ride the skycoaster.

Enjoy the pics!

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

One of the great things about moving to a new area is getting to check out all kinds of new places. Last weekend, we headed down to Manitou Springs to see the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Here's some background information I took from their website to give you some background:

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a rare historical treasure. Preserved under a protective red sandstone overhang, authentic Anasazi cliff dwellings, built more than 700 years ago, await you here. There are no "Do Not Touch" signs. You are free to touch and even go inside these fascinating architectural remnants of an American Indian culture that roamed the Four Corners area of the Southwest from 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1300.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings is located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, at the foot of Pikes Peak, the mountain that provided the inspiration for the writing of, America the Beautiful. The dwellings are open seven days a week, year round, except for Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. During the summer months, Native American Indians - descendants of the Ancient Ones - demonstrate their living culture through traditional dances handed down from generation to generation.

Next to the cliff dwellings is a three-story Pueblo-style building that houses the Anasazi museum and a Southwestern gift shop. This structure was faithfully designed and constructed in the architectural style of the Pueblo Indians, descendants of the Anasazi.

It was really neat to go to a dwelling as old as this, and yet be allowed to climb up into it and see the rooms where people actually lived.

After our time there, we started to drive up into the mountains a little, but were dissuaded from going any further by the tornado warnings that cropped up for our immediate area :) Nothing came of it, but there was a good bit of rain, so we didn't even get out and walk around the quaint town of Manitou Springs, but I know it's a place we'll head back to again.