Thursday, December 31, 2015

Good-bye 2015, Here We Come 2016

Five years ago I was in CA for the Rose Parade, while at home tornados hit my community.

Three years ago it snowed. 

Two years ago I was in my swimsuit soaking up Caribbean sunshine in the middle of the ocean. 

Last year I was among family and friends shaking chocolate martinis and playing the Racing Horse game. 

This. Year. 

This year our sump pump is running on overtime and my community is affected by massive flooding . We have cousins trapped in their house that sits high on a hill, but surrounded by a moat. We have friends and co-workers held hostage in their homes by roads closed in every direction they turn.The water company has asked us to conserve water...and there's a stench of *^~+ in the air thanks to ten Olympic size pools worth of sewage that spilled into the river. My city is a large toilet bowl! Despite the most herendous traffic this city has experienced--road closures that weren't even an impact in the Flood of 93' matter how long it took us to drive a block or 5 miles, we feel blessed. 

Our festivities to ring in 2016 have been canceled by Mother Nature. We will cheer the New Year with a quiet at-home-celebration of Redbox movies, party hats and champagne, while feeling thankful for all we have. 

This year's resolution: be thankful. Simply, be thankful. An attainable resolution. Stop. Take a breath. Look around. Absord the smallest and biggest of blessings that touch life. Not to let closed roads blind the moments of thankfulness. 

Happy 2016!! 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Merry Christmas!

This year Christmas got new perspective. The tone at times needed a spirit injection, but overall it filled hearts with love and happiness. 

The girls spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve building a gingerbread house. The house wasn't one of those off the shelf at a hobby shop kit. Princess A whipped up a batch of gingerbread dough and I had a ceramic stone baking mold that had never been used--for about 20 years. It was a "learning experience," but I think it turned out pretty darn good! 

M took it upon herself to be the one to tend to the Christmas count down....

Christmas Eve evening we went to church, as we always do. Sat in the fifth pew pulpit side, as we always do. Sang Silent Night to a sanctuary aglow with candles, just like we always do. It was peaceful and faith filling. 
Before we left to celebrate Jesus's birthday we took a selfie snap family picture. 

D sang Ave Maria as the prelude to the 6pm service. It was beautiful. Anytime we get to hear D sing it's a gift that fills our hearts. 

When we returned home from church, Princess A's Prince Charming joined us for a feast of surf-n-turf and champagne. Then I asked Prince Charming to place the wisemen into the nativity. It's our tradition that they travel around the house till Christmas Eve, and after church are placed by baby Jesus in their place of laud and honor. 

Princess A, the family's principle baker, whipped up some Bailey's chocolate mousse for dessert. It doesn't get much better than a boozy chocolate treat to top off a night's already high caloric meal.

Once the (grown) children were tucked all snug in their beds...Santa came. He filled stockings and placed three gifts for each of us under the tree. Jesus got three gifts, we get three gifts. 

When morning came the gifts were divided up, opening tree space for the search of the pickle ornament. It's always a friendly, sisterly race.
Our tradition is the sister that finds the pickle gets an extra gift (this year it was a $10 Cane's gift card and an R2-D2 Pez, and gets to open the first gift. D was the winner. Again! 

After our gifts were all unwrapped revealing hiking and snow boots, leather purse, new bedding, professional grade standing mixer and waffle maker, cast iron Dutch oven, perfumes....  We had a champagne breakfast while Uli had a tin of doggie prime rib.

It was time to prepare for the next round of festivities. We loaded the car with gifts, ten pounds of mashed potato casserole and a triple batch of the-always-requested "Lucy Corn," then we headed to the cousin's house. We gathered twenty-six strong...we only had a few missing family members.
Of course we digitally captured our silliness.

D master mind and orchestrated this adorable Brady Bunch-esque style cousin picture. It even included the girls' significant others...and even man's best friend. 

We feasted on too much good food. Shook lots of martinis, played rob-your-neighbor and Heads Up. Just what Santa and Jesus ordered up for us.

So when the night of great fun family togetherness ended, all we had left to say to December 25, 2015 was...


Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's The Reason for the Season

May your days be filled with love, peace and joy. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Lights Are Dimmed This Season

Vunerability. It's that verb that's difficult to define until it's awakened. 

Last evening as M, D and I copped a squat tree-side to play a game of Clue and share laughs, D received a phone call she will forever remember. Tears shed that stained her heart. 

While many mourn and try to make sense and reason of young life lost...this Christmas heaven's choir has a beautiful new operaretic voice. While the lights dimmed on the university's school of music. 

Please give new perspective to your Christmas. Don't stress the trivial things. I'm about to hold my child's hand as she experiences what will be, to date, the hardest day in her life. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Stuff That Memories Are Made Of

Don't you love it when stuff happens at family gatherings that will keep you talking for years? Stuff that breaks you out in laughter just thinking about it? Well friends, those kind of memories were made last night at The Avery Family (early) Christmas. 

My bachelor nephew who lives in a gorgeous too-big-for-one-person-house hosted. Apparently he hasn't done much large scale hosting as he had no paper plates or plastic forks for the meal. This was discovered just as the food was about to hit the buffet table. His father ran to Dierbergs, our local grocery store and returned saying, "I'm on a first name basis with the bell ringer now." My nephew's best college and Air Force buddy, we'll call him Cooter, was there to celebrate with us for the first time. Cooter is married so he gets the whole hosting thing. He and I worked the hosting in the kitchen--cooking, washing dishes, etc. While we worked the kitchen, my nephew worked the crowd...but only after changing into his "sweatsedo." Yes people, those stylish velour sweatsuits of the 70's that mafia bosses wore are stylish again...just renamed. I'm now going to bring a hosting item to my nephew every time I visit his house (serving platters, martini shaker....). 

Cooter and I finally had all the food laid out, called the crowd to feast, when my father-in-law decides we should gather in a circle for a prayer, where he proceeds to be rout with emotion and profess his joy at our gathering . Kevin's aunt's eyes rolled in her head as she mouths "OMG." Only a little sister can get away with that!  I'm still trying to recover from the moment! What we are all now referring to as the "Whoville" move. King Ralph was wearing his Grinch t-shirt and the only thing to make that experience better would have been if D became Cindy Lou and we all would have started swaying while singing Welcome, welcome! Fah who rahmus! Welcome, welcome! Dah who dahmus Christmas Day is in our grasp! Priness A turned to her Prince Charming (first family Christmas with us nuts) and says "we never do this." Honestly when my father-in-law got emotional we all thought he was going to tell us he was dying. He's good, he's going to keep on living!

We did however fail to capture a whole family picture. I somehow think this will suffice. 

Next was the traditional gifting of people's random crap, guised as treasured to play the white elephant game. Hot ticket items this year: Three Stooges framed photo, decked out flamingo, dehumidifier, 1976 Republican Convention special edition bottle of whiskey, and the lunch box containing five one dollar bills. 

Then it was off for our annual bowling tournament. The alley selected near my nephew's house was a little ceedy. The Four Lanes Bar on the upper level was hopping like Soul Train. The slot machines in Trixie's Gaming Parlor weren't exactly making noise (behind the multi colored shear drapes). What left much to the imagination was the VIP Lounge. It's secret below ground access left the mind wondering what Trixie's may be up too? We all thought--if only we knew the speakeasy-esque secret knock we too could be VIPs. Despite all the ceediness we had a good time. I present to you this year's winning team 
and since there really is nothing normal about this bunch, they turned it into a photo shoot 

The crazy fun had us all flopping in our beds around 2am with tired weakened sounded voices saying: Happy Christmas!  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Main Street Happy Christmas Fun

While Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I do love Christmas! I can do without the stresses that come with--shopping, wrapping, baking. However, who doesn't love bright lights strung everywhere, pine scent filling the air, and carols? I love it all! 

D got home Thursday evening, a day later than originally planned, making Friday an evening of much needed fun for her. King Ralph, D and I headed into St. Charles for the Christmas Festival--a holiday tradition we've never enjoyed. Our weather had a break in the unseasonably warm temperatures, offering a winteresque chill in the air that was just the perfect touch to setting the mood. The three of us unearthed our winter coats for the first time of the season (score! I had $10 hiding in my pocket), wrapped scarves around our necks and boots on our feet. We strolled the cobblestone streets and sidewalks while groups of carolers could be heard up and down Main Street. 
All the adorable boutiques, restaurants and pubs were dressed in pine garlands and strings of white lights. Even the trash recepticals were topped with pine decoration. It was hard not to feel the spirit of Christmas. 

Along Main Street you will find folk in'll find Santas from around the world.
D's good college friend, now a high school music teacher, is spending her winter break reprising her role as St. Lucia...or St. Lucy, as her character said Nebraskans refer to her .
(poor St. Lucy's candle crown was one candle up strong that night)

We partook in the fun eliminate that has youngsters scrambling from character to character--collecting trading cards.
"Hey" says King Ralph, when we got home, "that's really a picture of Vicky!"

We had to stop for a photo opt at those usual wood boards promoting the moment.
There's a Gingerbread Village where you can cast your vote for the "People Choice" award. This is the gingerbread house that got our votes.
There are also carriages filling the streets. Rides are only $5 a person.

Then we made way into an Irish pub for some fish n chips, shepard's pie and winter ales. We toasted to Christmas and commented that we'd return next year. 

Then we headed home and bid all a Happy Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

There's A Dragon Living At My House

Casa de Reynosa seems to be all about M moving home and not so much about keeping our abode tidy. Well, I'm about tidy! No one else is. Frustrating! 

So imagine how dragon-ous I become when I leave for work with not a dish in the sink, but return home to a sink full of dishes. Or when I wake to a sink of dishes. I'm a fire breathing dragon! I've long given up on trying to convince King Ralph the bathtub's edge is not a place to hang his clothes. Instead I'm left not only picking up his clothes, but the girls sweatshirts and blankets off the couch. I tell myself, self wait till D gets home tomorrow! There a chance I could burn our house down if I can't control my dragon. I just want the dragon in me to be strung with a strand of Christmas lights and feel all cheery and merry. 

I'm tired! Physically tired. King Ralph has caught the bug that had me checked out last week. Difference between man and woman is--woman takes herself to the couch to not sleep, while man coughs and moans all night--in bed. My sleep is below minimum requirement. I've slicked my hair back into a ponytail for work today because I'm too tired to care (and because I was doing dishes at 5:55am). The outfit of all black may be a sign I feel slightly like the walking dead too. Don't worry though, I promised myself I'll smile at the trouble that graces my desk today. 

This my friends is what you can call hump day! Sigh. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Taking Flight

How does it happen, our babies grow to adults--in what seems like a blink of the eye? How?! 

It seems like yesterday that King Ralph stood in our "Red Room" staring at a pile of college dorm room goods, wondering how it was all going to fit in the truck. While M's been gone getting all learned up in the fields of business, education and history; she's accumulated more stuff than I fathom to imagine. 


I can imagine! 

Yesterday morning King Ralph and I headed out on the highway, into a thick morning fog that grasped the atmosphere so tight it didn't want to lift, to bring our M home. All we could feel was this sense of calm that this chapter in our baby's life was preparing to turn page. While there was sense of peace, there was also the dread of how to pack an apartment into Casa de Reynosa. Let me just ask--do you really need a trailer, truck bed and car full of stuff (I was going to say crap but that would be harsh and not necessarily true)? 

So here we are, preparing to learn again to live full time with our own child. Here we are preparing to encourage her while she navigates change and the fears that come along with the final stage of perfecting the skills for a classroom. Truth be, it's scary facing fact you've become an adult. I remember the fears. I also remember the satisfaction of tackling the fear with sense of pride and accomplishment. 

M you are no longer a catapillar. You are a butterfly! Spread your wings, take flight with courage and let the teenagers show you how to teach, while you show them how to learn. You've got this! Fly! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

March of The Penguins

I try, when possible, to support the student organizations of the school that employees me. I'm known to be found strolling about the office in my pajamas for the cost of whatever is jingling in my purse and pockets. A favorite day of mine is hat day. I can't complain when it costs a dollar to not have to fix my hair. Today was all about holiday spirit... thanks to the Student Council it was
I found this gem in Princess A's room. I dare anyone who wants to dispute the sweater's ugly factor. Not only is the sweater tacky, but it smelled like a granny's cellar. I ditched the dab of perfume and went with a full body spray of Febreeze with Tide. 

While I rocked the penguins for my many Friday "fans" that marched to my desk today, I really need to rock some sleep! 
Tomorrow is moving day. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Fight the Good Fight

Sometimes one can fight the good fight with all they've got, and still lose. 

Yesterday I threw in towel. I've lost the fight! 

You will find me and seal bark of a cough tucked in bed, sipping hot tea, eating chicken soup with wild rice and watching Christmas movies...waiting for the doctor to answer her phone. 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

It's All About the Fa-La-La-La

I've been fighting off the common cold since Black Friday. I'm doing a pretty darn good job, but my body doesn't lie--it's there still, trying to catch me with all its might. I continue, and will continue, to fight it off like a mad warrior! 

In the mean time my calendar is full. Tuesday was a road trip to SEMO for D's Christmas concert. This year's bonus is King Ralph's youngest sister road trips with us to hear her daughter sing too. With the cousins's university only 90 miles from home it affords us the luxury of being able to enjoy these moments. The moment this year was Handal's Messiah. 
Princess A ordered our tickets, and unbeknownst to us she ordered box seats. For just a brief moment we felt like royalty. That was until we sat down and realized we couldn't see a darn thing. So much for feeling royal.
Sometimes college kids don't give a hoot what they look like.  Take for instance: exhibit D. She performed with her hair swept back in a ponytail, and a head band. Maybe being the section leader means you've got nothing to prove when it comes to your hair? 

The thing I dread most about these musical road trips is getting home at midnight, and waking at 530am for work. I feel off all week, but in the end my child is worth the drag! 

Wednesday and Thursday was about fulfilling those Christmas lists. I shopped alone. With Princess A. Even King Ralph shopped with me--more like followed me around. 

Saturday was a good day! I felt accomplished. I did the usual laundry, dishes, vacuum, before heading into the city. Princess A has a project for the class she's taking, which required her to tour the Saint Louis Basilica (aka the New Cathedral). 
It is unbelievably georgous. We were strolling about the sactuary when the children's choir began to practice. Their voices were a choir of angels, and through the beauty of those voices you could feel the presence of God among us.

It's funny how you can live in a city for so long and never visit glad I finally ventured in beyond the sidewalks. Our guide, Larry was knowledgeable, thorough and had an incredible dry sense of humor. I'll spare you the details of the tour, leaving a yern inside you to want to visit. 

After the tour we headed to The Hill to a favorite sandwich shop--Gioia's (pronounced Joy-A's) for hot salami and roast beef. The day's weather had been kissed by God, allowing us to eat our lunch al fresco in December. Next we headed down the street to the Missouri Baking Co. for sweet treats.  We ended our afternoon in the city to return home to a yard that needed raking and Christmas lights to hang on the house. King Rslph and I rocked these chores like heavy metal rock stars.

Then it was off to the movies. 

Every year on the first Saturday in December you will find King Ralph and I at the movies for the "Canned Film Festival." It was almost ironic the we toured the Basilica and then saw the movie "Spotlight." The good German Lutheran in me was getting all up in the Catholic business--good and not so good. I think it's the stuff of "Spotlight" that has turned so many people away from organized religion. I do think this movie will get some statue nominations. 

Sunday was about annual holiday girl fun! We girls started our day with a champagne brunch at Casa de Reynosa, before heading out on a holiday house tour. We left all our men behind for the day, feeling zero guilt! Beware when we tour houses we give equal treatment to expressing our disgust and awe. Of the six houses we toured one left us all pondering how the hell the house made it on the tour. Someone forgot to tell that family that house tour equals clean house. 

There it is,another week of holiday fun for the books. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

No Rest Required

It's suddenly quiet at Casa de Reynosa. M headed back to school for her last 11 days of course work. D headed back to school, with her cousin in tow, a few hours later. It's just King Ralph, the dog (soon to fall into her usual bout of sister separation depression) and we are typically placed in our respective relaxation spots. Before we were left empty nesters again, we had had some more family fun. 

Friday we spent the day transforming the house in Christmas. 
And Friday night we took the girls to STL Symphony 
for a performance of Peter and the Wolf. The two selections the preceded Peter and the Wolf were absolutely amazing. On the way home we sang Christmas carols playing on the radio. Our Winter Wonderland was absolutely fantastic...probably could be our go to party trick. (I miss us all in the car singing together!) 

Saturday was about unloading M's childhood bedroom furniture from her room, to make space for her "big girl bed" to come home from her college apartment. Her childhood set hit Craigslist and sold in a matter of hours. She boxed up, trashed and gave away a plethora of treasures that lay hibernating in her closests. Then we headed out for Mexican food and margaritas. We crossed the road to the movie theater to see Mocking Jay Part Two; to round out the Thanksgiving holiday break. 

As one week ends the coming week is set to bring holiday festivities...and I say bring it on! 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Stop To Breath. Reflect. Be Thankful.

The last weeks have been jam packed with fun. It's in the fun that I can pause and be thankful for all God has blessed me with. 

I'm always thankful that I'm a mom to girls.  Daughter dates fill my heart. Not all of the girls are always around, but when they are.... Princess A and I always enjoy going to theater, midweek, to take in a stage production that I can almost guarantee King Ralph would likely not select. 
I do know he'd select the symphony, but sometimes a mom and her baby just need a date. So that's exactly what my D and I did! 
The bonus for King Ralph is that the STL Symphony's production of Musical Flight will air on our PBS station in January. 

It's been over a decade since one of the cousin's got married. Our entire family had a fantastic time being a part of K & R's ceremony.  D and Alyssa (the non-Catholics of the family) sang the entire mass and I did the second reading.  I think it's just the likely choice to ask D and Alysaa to sing, being they are vocal music majors in college. You know they did good when the bride is moved to tears while at the alter and at the reception (while thanking D). As for my reading...printed in 24 font guaranteed I could leave my reading glasses in my purse and wowwed everyone. 

It's easy to be thankful for love and marriage...a beautiful reception and a good gene pool of pretty girls. Wink,wink.
You know it's a good wedding when there are fresh, hot, mini donuts being created right on the spot (this is the mini donut guy from Soulard Market).
Only in our family would an arm wrestle go down at a family wedding reception, but why? Could it be the winner gets Princess A? Sister vs. her guy.  
In a moment of reflection I must pause and wonder how time passes so quickly. 

As one week of joy ends, another begins. 

While there was lots of cleaning and Thanksgiving prep going down, I still had to work. Wednesday left just two of us in the office, no principals and no students. It was the perfect day for "bring your dog to work day." Uli took in her first day at middle school by strolling the halls
and resting by my desk 

Finally it's Thursday. Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday. A weather perfect day! Sun shining, blue skies and 61*. 
We are a family of all "big" people, with just a few under age, making the bar options in full shake and stir 
(rum or bourbon and Coke, cosmos, wine or beer)

We ate and ate. It is a year to reevaluate the amount of "Lucy Corn" prepared and served now that we are a family of all adults. Although we had enough turkey we no longer have the volume of leftovers we once did. 

Something we did have was four of the five senior sisters of the family together for the first time in eons. 

For a second week in a row all the cousins were together. 
This a miracle of mammoth proportion! Not since before my nephew enlisted in the Air Force could a feat of such togetherness have happened. These young people warm my heart! These young people are the future of the family. 

What are the other measures of a successful day of Thanksgiving? 
My "out law" and making gravy partner in the family,
mini derby pies, 
Princess A's sugar cookies and pumpkin pie martinis, 
when the turkey gets passed around from head to head, 
And last but not least my nephew's French Bulldog puppy: Sherman (named for Gen. Sherman of the Civil War). 

This is why my cornucopia runneth over.