Friday, August 29, 2008

The craziest, freakiest storm ever!

video

Last night at 9:15, I was on the computer when I noticed that the rain was pounding the side of the house. I walked out to the front door and could hardly open it because of all the rain. But the craziest thing was the lightning and the thunder, they never stopped. The thunder just kept rolling and the sky was continually lit from the lightning, it was almost as if a strob light was going. In Arizona, we get some pretty intense storms but they come as quick as they go, most lasting 10 or 15 minutes at the most. Well, we had thunder and lightning for over an hour and ended up with .6" of rain and the rain only lasted about half that time. It was a little scary but I loved it and ended up getting an umbrella and heading outside to get a better look at the sky (not sure what that says about me - electrical storm and I head out with an umbrella). Of course an umbrella doesn't do much good when you look straight up!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Projects

Usually at the beginning of the summer I have a list of projects I want to get done before the heat gets the best of me and like the rest of Phoenix, I turn into a lump that doesn't want to move. Well, maybe because I was gone for the month of July, I still had energy in August. I'm quite sure that has never happened before in the 26 years I've lived here.

So this week has been all about projects I hadn't done at the beginning of the summer. I started subbing again this week and I worked for a teacher who was gone all week taking her daughter to school in Texas (I know that drive!) and she only has afternoon classes. So every morning I spent working on projects around my house.

This first project I'd been putting off for quite some time. I want to put molding around our window and hopefully give it a finished look. I had all the wood but just didn't have it cut, which I got done this week. The harder thing has been to get the correct stain color to match the rest of the wood in the family room. I finally figured that out yesterday but the wood still isn't stained or varnished yet. Next week!
Other projects were Christmas and baby gifts. Of course I can't show you those because some of you reading this may be the recipients of those projects. So here is a picture of Raquel and Dave from last Christmas. Aren't they cute even if they were sick?
My next project was to bottle 26 jars of blackberry freezer jam. Preston did help with the smashing and straining of the berries. I had never done this before and it is a mess!
Preston's project was to work on homework all week. He has done a fine job on that - I think that Jason's ipod helps him concentrate better, or so he says. Personally, I think it is a way to not hear me ask him questions.
One project that really took the whole day (I had just a little break while I went to school) was bottling chili sauce. Our family can't eat roast without it, so I peeled and cut up tomatoes for two hours, then added onions and everything else and let it cook half the day. Nothing smells better while it is cooking than chili sauce.
About 8:00 at night, I had 18 bottles of it!
Yesterday, I had two projects. The first was helping at the Humanitarian Aid Center pinning and trimming quilts. Like my boys, I love working there with the old people that can work circles around me. I help them get the hundreds of quilts that are tied ready to be bound.
It is an endless job because as soon as it looks like you are making head way, someone comes and delivers 20 more quilts that need to be bound and they are just added to the five shelves that are already waiting to be trimmed and pinned.
The second was making Olympic rings for Pack Meeting. I help with the wolf den and our theme this month was "Go For the Gold." The hardest part of this project was going to the pack meeting and helping the new cub master try and keep 35 cub scouts engaged!
Oh what will I do next week? Oh yeah, finish the molding and maybe start my 2007 photo album.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oh, the things that can happen in just one week!

It is amazing how things can change in just a few short days. School got off to a good start, Preston liked all of his classes but one and thought this year would be pretty good. He was loving his new freedom that four wheels can provide. One more look at his preferred means of transportation.
But after just four days of driving to school, things drastically changed. Due to some very poor decision making on his part, his new means of transportation just has two wheels.
Needless to say, someone is having to pay the consequences of hitting a parked car in the Mountain View parking lot and not having the good sense to stop, assess the damage and leave personal information. He was leaving one hour before school got out so there wasn't even the excuse that he was in heavy traffic.

While the damage was minimal to the other car and to our truck, Garth and I have deemed Preston not ready to drive because of inadequate decision making ability. Garth has declared that Preston won't drive for a year but I'll bet that will change. We are reassured about our decision to have teenagers drive old cars; teen drivers are just accidents waiting to happen. This poor old truck has really been through it, this is the second time this side of the front end has been hit and the other side has been hit once. Although this is the least amount of damage either side has ever incurred.
We didn't think anyone could beat Lonica's record of hitting a parked car after just having her license for just one week but her younger brother managed to do so.

The other car needs to have a bumper replaced and as soon as Preston got home yesterday, he was on the phone looking for work to pay for a new bumper. We already paid $700 for the rhino he wrecked last April, so this one is all on him. If you know anyone who needs some work done, I know a teenager who can bike over and help them out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The end of summer but not the heat

After returning home from our once-in-a-life-time trip, Preston and I had to get busy to get ready for school which started yesterday. Since he had to start running for cross country the first morning we got back at 5:15 am, he did take a day off one day to play games with his friends and get over the jet lag.
Then we had four days to get all the jobs done we had planned or started at the beginning of the summer but hadn't finished. So we shopped for food (the house was empty), cleaned the barbecue grill, cleaned out cupboards, vacuumed and dusted baseboards, filed old papers, cleaned bedrooms and
Preston had to finish painting the trim on the house. He had crashed a friend's rhino last spring and did $700 worth of damage. As a result, Preston painted all the trim and anything else Garth could find for him to do. There is nothing like painting when it is 108 degrees with humidity!
We also had to get the truck (our 15 year old Nissan one) ready for him to drive; we don't want to be driving him to school at 5:15 am like we did last year and since we made all the other kids drive old vehicles why would we get a new one for him? The shop had it all week and were baffled as to why it won't start after it has been running for awhile. So we told Preston, "you'll be OK because you just drive it to and from school so just don't stall it."

The other important thing we had to do was get his driver's license, which we did last Saturday. Of course, no driver's license photos are ones you want to hang on your wall but Preston's looks like a mug shot. He is thrilled with the freedom he now has and it is easy to say Garth and I aren't nearly as thrilled. Driving a stick in Phoenix traffic is difficult for experienced drivers, but for inexperienced ones - it makes a mother nervous!Then Sunday, Garth ordained him to the office of a priest during priesthood. As Garth and I walked out of the Bishop's office we commented how weird and sad it was to being doing all these things for Preston. He was always the baby but he definitely isn't anymore. And I'm quite certain I'm not ready to have all our kids gone in a couple of years.

Yesterday, he took off in our old, salvage value truck for his first day of 11th grade. I was so thrilled to see him arrive home safely after school and his drive to his piano lesson and back. I don't have to be a chauffeur more, what will I do with all my free time?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reflections

Well, Preston and I have been home for four days now and it has given me some time to reflect on our wonderful trip this summer. I had a friend ask me the other day how I had changed as a result of our trip. I don't know if I have figured that out yet but I have learned to appreciate differences more. It was wonderful to see another part of the world and the way other people live. And to notice the small things that they take for granted but our "new" for us. For instance, don't you love this exit sign with the guy running?
Or this crosswalk button where you are shown how to push the button?
We came to love the creamy ijs (ice) and you could always find an ice cream store because of the display out front. Plus they usually had tables out front where you could sit, visit and enjoy the delectable treat.
We were amazed how many French fry stores there were and of course they couldn't be out done by the ice cream shops, so they too had a display out front. We came to realize that a large order of fries constitutes a meal and naturally they will be served with mayonnaise which we now prefer to ketchup.
One of the most interesting events was taking place while we were there. The Dutch were going on holiday. The country is divided into three areas and each area goes on vacation at a different time during July (all the European countries have months when it's their turn to vacation). Most go for two to three weeks and a huge number go camping in trailers. For the entire month we were there we saw small (and I mean small) cars pulling trailers. Some of the trailers were very small too, but they have canopies in the front that almost double the livable space. I tried in vain to get a picture of a very small car pulling a very small trailer. But it is hard to take a picture of a moving vehicle while you are in a moving vehicle, I found this one at a rest area where we stopped..
The other thing that surprised me was that if you owned a small business, you just closed your doors for three weeks while you went on vacation. This notice was on the baker's door and says that they will be closed from July 21 to August 11. Plus, consumers expect and accept the closures. It isn't just the bakeries that close down but doctor's and dentist's offices, the cheese stores or Chinese restaurants and just about any privately owned business. I guess making money isn't the most important thing in their lives. What a novel idea!
This was one difference Garth and I just couldn't accept. We were in a very small Dutch village and there was a Mexican restaurant named El Paso. That was just too much. Since we are very picky about our Mexican food, we really didn't want to give it a try in the Netherlands ; we won't even eat it in Texas.
Coming from an area of the country where houses tend to be all the same, it was such a treat to see colorful, unique and wonderful buildings and homes. That also have beautiful, well tended gardens.
Naturally, food was one of the best differences. I will miss the sour yogurt, the wonderful cheeses and of course the desserts and pastries. The pastries really could be the means of doing Garth in if he lived there a long time. They are so light, creamy and scrumptious! We loved taking a break in the morning and afternoon to sit, have a drink and a little treat. Preston noticed that Europeans are much more social, and friendly to strangers than we are.
I had another friend ask me what was the best thing of my trip. I had to stop and think a minute. While we saw world famous paintings, statues, churches, landscapes and buildings, it was the people that really made the trip so special. Tante Anni, Oom Wim, Truus, Paul, Joost and the countless other people we were introduced to plus the very special ones we lived with.

I loved Jeske and her beautiful smile, her bravery in trying to speak a new language and her patience in trying to teach me Dutch with correct pronunciation.
Wouter and his curly hair delighted me as he explained and showed and guided me through his country. Plus he was awfully fun to race up escalators with.
Maxim was quite the game player and was a joy to play with, even if the game was just trying to see where the subway door would open. He was always there to help with his winning smile and twinkling eyes.I owe a special gratitude to Jip because he gave up most of his summer to spend with his mother's friend and her son that he had only met twice. I love Jip for his wonderful attitude, charming ways and just being so fun to be around. I appreciate how good he was to Preston and the friendship they have developed.
Anita truly found someone special when she married Rob. I am so grateful that he let me borrow his wife for a month and shared his home, food, gas and time with Garth and Preston and I. I love his sense of humor and the fact that he does laundry! Sorry the men in my family lost so many of your golf balls.
Of course the person that made my trip the most meaningful was my friend of 30 years, Anita. We are amazed each time we are together how much we are a like, from liking the same color of roses to saying the exact same thing at as the same time when instructing our children. She was the perfect hostess and the best of friends. We can never get enough of each other, I love her dearly!
I am also thankful for a 16 year old boy who tried to smile through an endless number of pictures taken by me even when he really didn't want to and
his willingness to hang out all summer with just his mom, to race up to castles, to climb endless stairs, and to indulge all of my crazy whims. I love his sense of humor and it made the trip even more fun. What 16 year old would appease his mother and let her take a picture of him like this?
But most of my gratitude has to go to Garth and his never ending limit of what he will do to make me happy. I'm very blessed to have spent the last 28 years with a man who is my best friend and who I never grow tired of being with. Sometimes it is a challenge to deal with his ego but then he has to deal with my crying, so I guess we are even.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Our last day

Since it was our last day in the Netherlands, I decided to take my camera with me as I took my morning walk. Here are just a few things that I will miss when I go home. One, being able to walk at 9:00 in the morning down tree covered roads like this. You wouldn't dare venture out to walk at 9:00 in Mesa and you would be lucky to find any shade at all.
I will miss all the corn fields
and the potato fields
and the Christmas tree farm.
I will miss watching the work horse and her colt
and Anita and Rob's house. Here is a view of the front with the car Anita took us over in.
Here you can see where our room was. There is a door on the top of the house on the right, that was our door.
This is a view of it from the backyard.
And here are the stairs I had to learn to navigate in the rain, sun and dark.
We will miss our pink, sunny room,
and the bathroom with the shower that we loved.
One last look at our room.
Anita asked me what I wanted to do the last day and I told her I wanted to go for a bike ride (another thing I wouldn't be doing this time of year in Mesa). So Anita and I headed for the Belgium boarder again and passed this huge field of flowers.
One of our first stops was at the chocolate shop. Everyone knows that Belgium has the best chocolates right? Anita had to get some for Rob and I got some for Garth hoping they wouldn't melt before I got to Mesa the next day.
We did a little shopping then found this bench to try out some of our chocolates. We asked a guy to take our picture and after several tries we let him go. I just couldn't keep my eyes open. Our next solution was to set the timer on the camera and precariously balance it on a garbage can. After a couple of tries we got a pretty good one.
The town we biked to is called Baarle Nassau on the Dutch side and Baarle Hertog on the Belgium side. The boarders of the two countries zig zag through the town. We found this little diorama that displayed where the boarder was. It was crazy because some buildings had the boarder run right through them.
All over the town you could see these marks showing where the boarder was.
Anita said that Rob had some clients whose homes were divided with their front door in Belgium and their back door in the Netherlands. We found a little place to have a drink and do a little people watching.

Later that afternoon Jeske, Wouter and I made caramel apples. Jeske had been wanting to make them and it took Anita and I days of shopping to find caramels that I thought would work. They were thicker than the Kraft caramels we usually use.
So we couldn't really dip the apples in the caramel, we more or less had to spread it on the apples. The thing that mattered most was that they tasted good. Rob was the only one to declare that caramel apples weren't something he would want to eat every day.
After dinner we headed to Goirle to drive some go carts. You can see we got to wear attractive head ware under our helmets; Rob is looking especially styling!
Then everyone belted up and prepared to start. Here are Jip and Rob.
Next up was Wouter, Preston and Jeske. Maxim and I were the last in line.
We had a good time racing around the track and Preston, Jeske and I all got "stuck" for a few minutes that didn't help our lap times. When we finished and checked our times, Jip ended up with the fastest times and Rob was second with Preston in third. Everyone wanted to go one more time, especially Rob - he didn't like loosing to Jip.
After the second go round Jip won again with Preston coming in second and Rob came in third. But everyone had improved their times and had had fun.
When we got home (about 11:30) I made pancakes for everyone. I had told Jeske and Wouter about the "bear" pancakes I made for my kids and Garth had brought over some pancake flour with him when he came. Anita and I had shopped and shopped for some corn syrup to make syrup with but our efforts were in vain. So I just made fresh strawberry syrup which is one of my families favorites anyway.
At about midnight we all sat down for "dessert." Everyone liked them and I told them I would make them more if they came to visit me in the US.
Finally, Preston and I had to go and finish packing and see if we could keep our bags from weighing over 50 pounds. We were so sad to be leaving our room and especially Anita and Rob and their family and the cool weather.
I didn't get to bed until about 1:30 but I figured I had over 15 hours in airplanes the next day to sleep. I just couldn't believe that a month was already over. Vacation time always seem to go fast even if your gone a month. When I looked back on all we had done and everywhere we had gone I realized we had been gone a long time, but time always flies when you are having fun!