Thursday, November 1, 2012

And the Golden Glue Gun goes to...

My plethora of glue guns sit in a drawer all year long until Halloween.  There is not a single cutesie craft that will lure them out before then.  I'm allergic to cutesie crafts.  They make me itchy and squish my face up in contempt.

But a week before Halloween, the glue guns resurface and Mark goes into hyper-drive.  He's trained our kids to be repulsed by all those off-the-hanger costumes and go for something more original.  But original to me means scalding hot glue burns.  My fingers clench just thinking about it.  Thankfully Mark's largely the costume builder and I just do the finish work like painting them or sewing stuff.  I leave the injury provoking work to him.

That's all well and good except for the fact that this year Mark had business meetings in Texas.  That left me home alone with my scorned collection of glue guns and Halloween looming just days away.  No thanks to Pinterest, Chloe and her cousins had already made grandiose costume plans and were alarmed when they heard that Dad/Uncle Mark would be out of town.  What's a craft-repulsed mother to do?  My first thought was to ban them from surfing Pinterst.  My second thought...

I decided to show Mark that I could get "Project Runway" on without him and summon my inner costume curator...

 Chloe, Janelle, & Madi
turned into a bunch of suds-ur-duds...

And for baby Kendra,
I dusted off my sewing machine
and turned her into Boo...

Without his dad around, even Connor fended for himself 
and made his own glue-gun creation... 
 I caught him peeking out of his ginormous box mask.

But just when I thought I was doing pretty good fending for myself I catch sight of this little beauty at our church Halloween carnival...
This is my friend Angela's MASTERPIECE.  This year the costume craze caught hold of her and she said she decided to give the Skillman's a run for their money. So she turned her daughter into a freaking Christmas Tree!  There are even wrapped gifts under the tree!!  How Spectacular is that?!  Angela spanked us at our own game of Project Runway!  There's no question Angela definitely wins the golden glue gun award for that trick-or-treating treasure!

Luckily my kids are growing and soon they'll be tired of costumes (they will won't they??) and we won't have to do many more of these costume contraptions anymore.  But until then, I'm gonna make sure Mark isn't scheduled to leave town around Halloween anymore--My fingers would rather take their chances carving pumpkins with a sharp knife than risk 1st degree hot glue gun burns any Halloween.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Frisky Business

We recently flew our friends the Sharps up to Portland for date night.  Deanne was a little nervous about flying in such a small plane so I decided to help her feel really safe by offering a spontaneous safety checkpoint so she could be fully assured there was not be any 16oz. bottles of lotion or nail clippers aboard the aircraft.

Heaven knows I've had plenty of pat-downs at the airport and I'm a real pro at these sort of things.  

This bit of pat-down awkwardness made Deanne forget completely that her life was in the hands of the Mark and his trusty auto-pilot feature in a teensy weensy little airplane for the next hour.  

Thanks Sharps for an AWESOME date night!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Only One Likes it Hot

I'm a big fan of spicy and hot.  Trouble is, no one else in the house seems to have my peculiar penchant for the pungent.  And since I'm the one who also does all the cooking around here, I seem to cook to my taste.  I just can't stand bland food.  But for years now my family keeps telling me to kick it DOWN a notch.

We have some friends who sometimes invite us over for a taco fest.  I love taco fest at their place for two reasons:  One, my friend makes a mean taco-- but two, and even more important, is that her husband is somewhat of a hot sauce aficionado.  He's got an uncountable collection of bottles of the hard stuff.  And for a gal like me that feels like her kitchen has become somewhat of a hostage situation, taco fest delivers me from the doldrums.

I grew up on hot sauce, liberal amounts of the stuff--which may explain a lot of things--now that I think about it.  I like it to be hot enough to make the back of your neck sweat but not so much that your eyes involuntary shut and refuse to reopen, though I eat that stuff too.  But no matter how hot the sauce is, its gotta have a really good taste that lingers on your tongue--should there be anything left of your tongue after the scalding heat dissipates.

After an extensive taste test of all my friend's hot sauces I found one that was better than all the others.  I had tasted them all without looking at the labels and to my horror I realized my newly prized hot sauce was called...

How horrifying is that?  How do you go to your local grocer, and with a strait face, inquire as to whether they carry "Sphincter Shrinker"?  Even the sauce named "Colon Cleaner" sounds a bit more up market.  So scouring the town looking for this new favorite sauce puts one in a bit of a pickle.  I've settled for just using it at my friend's house at taco fest rather than enduring the untold mockery and humiliation that would come from having to inquire the whereabouts of the sauce.

Back in my own kitchen, sans the 'Shrinker Sauce' that I was too embarrassed to ask around for, I had a craving for my dad's enchiladas.  My dad was a great cook and made an awesome stacked enchilada--as opposed to the rolled and baked kind.
He always used a canned sauce that was really good and kinda spicy.  Whenever I make them I always make sure to go and buy the sauce in its wimpier milder version so as not to kill my off my little clan of cowards.

These stacked enchiladas are made one by one so as I served them up, one at a time my kids started saying how spicy they were.  I just shook my head at my puny progeny and told them they were all weak. But they kept insisting it was REALLY SPICY.  This is when I explained to them the difference between spicy and hot.  But still they kept belly aching.

I picked up the can of hot sauce and showed it to them to prove that it was honesty and truly mild and that they were being cowards.
After I finished my discourse on spice vs. heat I went to put the can back down and discovered something odd about the second can right behind it...
Yep, apparently I'd assumed all the cans I grabbed were mild.

I hate having to apologize.  Absolutely hate it.

I didn't feel too bad though.  As my family all ran for ice water, I sat down at the empty table and enjoyed an amazing stacked enchilada that would have made my father proud.

And as for "Sphincter Shrinker", If anyone out there is brave enough to seek out and find me a bottle of this hot mess, send me some please. I'm too embarrassed to look for some myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Mischievous Handiwork


Monday, October 8, 2012

Pickleball Elbow

I seem to involve myself frequently in activities that garner little sympathy should I get hurt or sore while doing them.

Marathon spectating for one.  And now, my latest sport of choice seems even more unlikely to earn any compassion should it debilitate me temporarily to any degree.

My new love is Pickleball.

[“Yes, pickleball” I mutter.]  You read that right.  And I’m not ashamed…of the sport anyway.  However, the name of said sport, yes.  Who invents a challenging game and then intentionally gives it the most ridiculous name ever?  My spell check doesn’t even recognize the word “pickleball” as legitimate unless I type it as two separate words.  While I write, my computer is rudely underscoring it in red every time I type the name, just to oppose the nonsensical nature of such a malignantly titled sport even further.  Humph.

Photos on the internet like this don't help the matter much...

But there you have it.  I’ve gone and found an ideal sport with an absurd name.  And what’s more, I’ve swapped it in for a legitimately named one.

Let me explain. I love the game of tennis.  Love it so much that I even watch a fair amount of tennis finals on TV.  I have for years.  I don’t live and breathe the sport but I really enjoy playing and watching it when I can.

The only problem is; no one in my family will play tennis with me.  Playing tennis requires a considerable amount of skill and if you don’t have it, you’re not gonna wanna play tennis at all.  Clumsy tennis players end up running around for two hours fetching the ball and rarely hitting it.  Ball fetching is not an entertaining sport.  Consequently there’s a lack of willing tennis opponents around my house, which, has inevitably caused my game to suffer.  I have gotten so rusty that now I should in all reality be classified as a “ball fetcher” than as an actual tennis player.

Then last year, while waiting for my macho husband at the finish line of a marathon, the solution to my tennis quandary presented itself.  There, while standing for three hours at a barricade, I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a tennis tournament underway at some courts that were adjacent to finish line.  My eyes narrowed and focused intently until I realized they were pickleball courts!  It was a pickleball tournament! [yes that deserves TWO separate exclamation points thankyouverymuch.]

I had long forgotten about my days in high school gym class when I was a reigning doubles pickleball champ in my P.E. class--two years in a row no less.  Yes, prestigious, I know.  I’m a gym class record holder.  I can feel your adoration—or is that mortification?  What’s even grander, (yep, I’m continuing my highly misguided boasting as if I didn’t pick up on this being ridiculously embarrassing) is that my fantastical show of expertise and agility on the P.E. pickleball scene, runs in the family.  My son Mitchell mastered the same coup in his P.E. class some twenty years later. Yes indeed, were a family of remarkable champions aren’t we?  So there I was, caught in a flashback--in the swirl of distinguishing under-achievements and tender nostalgia for those P.E. days long gone by--that I almost presently missed Mark’s grand marathon finish.  So while Mark crossed the finish line, my mind was made up. I crossed over to the dark side of geriatric tennis...Pickleball.

At this point I must tell you that not only does pickleball have a lame name, but it’s also got a bad wrap.  You see, it’s known to be a sport for blue-hairs.  Yes, an old peoples game.  When you’re too elderly for tennis and lack the stamina to play the real game, apparently one converts to pickleball.  It’s where every exasperated “ball fetcher” turns when they’re ready to admit Tennis is outta their league.  They trade in their racquets for a paddle.

It was that day, when I should have been concentrating on Mark’s marathon but was really preoccupied with the blue-haired pickleball tournament, that an idea stirred. I went home and ordered: 
  • 8 paddles
  • 24 pickleballs, and
  • 2 official Pickleball nets
I was all in. This was something I could convince my family to do!  Not to mention it would put me back on a court, albeit a smaller and more geriatric one, playing a condensed version of my beloved tennis.  And guess what?!  It worked! 

Once I had them hooked, it was time to widen the “senior circle”.  But it’s not easy to convince a tennis player to step onto a pickleball court.  I only succeeded once.  I had to swear on oath, that I would not tell ANYBODY that a certain male acquaintance (a bonafide tennis enthusiast) and his wife came and played pickleball with us.  ANYBODY.  See how bad the stigma is?  However after one game he and his wife were hooked.  Do you know how you hook a tennis player on a cheesier version of their beloved racquet sport?  You convince them to place a bet on the game, say, like dinner out, for instance, and then you annihilate them on the court and then talk trash about how easily they lost over dinner they have to pay for!  Sweet success. 

The second route to recruiting new players is to find people who’ve never heard of the game before.  On this wise, you don’t have to look far.  You sucker people in with the likelihood of going out for ice cream afterwards.  In life, most people are in it for the ice cream.  You can pretty much talk people into anything if you lure them in with a trip to an ice cream parlor afterwards.

I knew exactly which family to profile.  The Sharps.  They’re our dune buddies and you can count on them to always be up for anything, especially if it’s a friendly competition.  It only took one game and they morphed into pickleball purists.  It brought tears to my eyes when they went out and ordered their own net and paddles.  We now have regular tournaments, which puts me back on the court again!  Mini court yes, but court nonetheless.

The first time we played them our family showed up in 80's sweatbands and dorky clothes just to set the right mood...that we were absurdly serious about playing the lamest named sport on the planet.

Over the course of our informal tournaments, Deanne and I paired up as a doubles team and we’ve started taking it pretty seriously.  We like to win.  Or at least we hate to lose to certain opponents.  We recently stepped up our game and Deanne and I decided we needed our own custom uniforms.  Yes, I’m being serious here.  We didn’t tell anyone about this ahead of time, and we decided to unveil our unified look at our most recent family tournament.  We call ourselves “Queens of the Court” complete with a custom designed logo by yours truly.  

Please note though, that this is the one and only time you’ll ever catch me purposefully matchy-matchy with another human or even non-human for that matter; coordinated shirts, shorts, and socks and pink tiaras to top it all off.  It was a wise move, these things all successfully throw your competitors off their game.  We looked absolutely ridiculous and the great Sun-Zsu himself, the foremost authority on annihilating one’s opponent, even he would have been proud of this tactical matchy move. 

Here’s the trouble though.  I get so serious about not wanting to lose (which is waaay more important than the winning part), that I give the sport my all.  Barbaric grunts, wild gestures at my opponents, mocking commentaries directed across the net, and yes, even cutesy high-fives with my doubles partner.  I do it all. Indeed, tactics which are embarrassingly cheesy yet victoriously you see here...
Yep, that's Deanne and Me at the top of the podium with our cheesy plastic FIRST PLACE trophies!  Which I have proudly displayed on my bedroom mantel:

The result of trying to win so bad?  Besides a shiny plastic trophy... Pickleball elbow.  No joke.  It's like being disabled from tennis elbow only far more senior sounding and embarrassing.  My freaking elbow is sore.  And if I move it in any way that makes it appear as though my arm feels uncomfortable, then people are sure to ask what the heck is wrong.  Telling people you’re sore from pickleball is sure to elicit more ridicule than sympathy.  Even your neighbor the bowling champion will disdainfully laugh at you.

I tell you with all seriousness, pickleball elbow is no laughing matter.  Nor is recuperating from spectating a marathon. However, it seems there both matters to get you laughed at.  

Note to self: Need to find a reckless hobby.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Follow the Flannel

On our flight home from the Marathon I realized I’ve unconsciously developed a handy system for finding my gate at the airport.  After Mark and I make it though security-- he through the detectors, and me usually enjoying a soothing pat down--we then pause long enough to see what gate our flight is departing from.  A quick scan overhead for the signs that will lead us in the direction we need to go, officially begins our hunt for the right gate.  This is the one and only time we tend to use a posted airport sign to find our way.  From then on we just go by instinct.

This system only works when you’re flying home.  We always use signs to direct us to the gates flying to somewhere. But when we're returning home, I’ve noticed all you have to do once you’re initially headed in the general direction of your gate is to simply... 
“follow the flannel.” 

After a long trip away, we are always surprised just how easy our fellow Oregonians are clearly and somewhat stereotypically easy to spot no matter what airport we're in. Oregonians, quite frankly, have an uncanny knack for sticking out in a crowd.

Here’s how my fail-proof system works:

First you scan the people headed in your gate’s direction and look for folks wearing discounted t-shirts with a vacation destination emblazoned across the front.  Bright Chartreuse colors seem be the favored shade.

These shirts are easy to spot since the people wearing them usually look excruciatingly bright pink from being scalded by the unexpectedly blistering tropical sun that native Oregonians are largely unfamiliar with.  Nicely bronzed travellers from places like Arizona and California are always prepared for vacation sun exposer and never get caught off guard.  They will look robustly tan and not fried.  But Oregonians, those sun-blistered souvenir-shirt wearing folks, walking around the airport, they are all headed to gates that lead to the general vicinity of the great Northwest.  Follow them.

Now it’s time to narrow down and pinpoint the Oregon gates.  Simply scan for classic labels which all Oregonians seem to favor.  The stiff fancy wheeled luggage will begin to dissipate and give way to North Face backpacks, Cabela windbreakers, flannel jackets, or the indicative Duck and Beaver fan shirt.   

Sensible shoes are also your tip-off.  Oregonians have a weakness for the sensible shoe.

To further isolate southern Oregon from the rest of the gates, you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction when the high-priced haircuts have dissipated into “easy care” styles like dreadlocks and mullets, with a literal bowl-cut and even a handful of 'Dorothy Hammil's' interspersed. 

About that time the realization you’ve arrived at the right gate will all fall into place.  An harmonious hodgepodge of camouflaged baseball caps, a few 'Members Only' jackets, and a sprinkling of hairy legs burrowed effortlessly into Birkenstocks will be your clue.   
A curious swirl of patchouli oil, organic snacks, and chewing tobacco wafting though the terminal confirms you’ve made it to your destination.

Now don’t get me wrong, Oregonians are a fine blend of humanity. I love Oregon!  In fact, I often reassure myself that if my plane goes down in some crazed accident on my return flight home, these are the folks I would want to survive such horrific events with.  Passengers on a downed flight from a big city would not persevere very long stranded.  Deserted with a bunch of Oregonians would be your best bet. The naturalists among an Oregon bound flight could forage for organic berries and weave hammocks and blankets for the rest of us while the guys in the cammo hats would hunt for game and keep us well fed.  The avid hikers would certainly trek us back to civilization.  Yes, these are the people I’d prefer to crash with any ol' terrifying day.  What good are the perfectly manicured nails and matching handbags of big city folk in a dire situation such as this?  Yes indeed, I’d stick with my people, 
the Oregonians!

My new airport system really works.  Without ever looking at sign, I can always easily find my gate to Oregon...

Just follow the flannel!

Monday, October 1, 2012

No Sympathy

Mark and I recently flew down to Utah for a marathon.  Not a marathon for me to run in mind you, Mark’s the insane runner in our coupledom.  He went to race and I went to spectate.

Now before you think Mark is the more robust of us two for such daring athletic prowess, let me appraise you on the subject of being a spectator.   To be clear, this is no easy task.  In fact, after my little soliloquy here, perhaps I will have convinced you that spectating should involve shiny metals like the marathoners get--a personal cause which heretofore has fallen on deaf ears.

First off, to spectate a marathon properly one must be in peak condition.  It is important to practice polite-but-firm shoving skills and a few sets of light elbow jabbing to get yourself in prime conditioning for the clash that occurs when trying to get a glimpse at the runners coming toward the finish line.  Most importantly you’ve got to condition your calves by doing copious amounts of leg raises so you’re fit enough to repeatedly lift yourself taller so you can see over the mishmash of heads in order to spot that runner you came to cheer for.  Next comes larynx conditioning.  Even with a voice like mine, well known for its legendary and admittedly obnoxious volume capacity, it will certainly be tested to its limits. Spending a few weeks before a race hollering at random people will strengthen the voice muscles and get your lungs at their peak performance.  Finally there’s the palm conditioning.  Palm preparation is also vital. Liberal amounts of clapping can wreak havoc on ones hands, as I will demonstrate later.

No doubt I’ve blogged about my unusually loud clapping skills.  I was cursed with a loud clap (which you can be certain I all too often use to my advantage in immature and impish ways).  It's an undisputed fact that my skills are so good that if clapping were an Olympic sport, I’d be the Nadia Comaneci of clapping, elevated to that esteemed spot on the tallest podium bungling the words to my national anthem under the weight of a dozen gold metals.  My clapping is so inexplicably extraordinary Olympic officials would get suspicious and have me tested for doping.

Speaking of gymnasts, Peter Vidmar happened to be one of the runners there at this latest marathon.  Mark was all excited because people kept coming up and asking him if he was Peter.  He was pretty proud that people were mistaking him for a world-class athlete but I pointed out that there was a high probability that all they were really doing was indirectly calling him “short”, or worse, perhaps an ‘aging athlete that looked pretty good for his age’.

But I digress….

Lastly, any experienced spectator knows you must strengthen your arms.  You risk great peril if you hold up a sign overhead too long, there is a real jeopardy of putting your arms to sleep.  This is a large tactical error--prematurely weakening your arms-- which will be needed towards the end of the race in order to position your hands for the all-important finish-line clapping phase.

Over the past few years I’ve spectated at many a race.  A handful of marathons, a couple triathlons, and a few 10 mile “quickies”.  So this latest marathon was definitely not my first rodeo.  I was in prime spectating condition…or so I thought.

This time I would be cheering on three racers--far more of a challenge than I surmised. Little did I know this sort of spectating should have required me to do more extensive cross-training beforehand to adequately prepare...and perhaps I could have had on hand a little bottle of 5-hour energy…just in case.

These races always begin in the wee hours of the morning, long before it gets light outside.  This is why you’ll likely never see me enter an event such as this.  The copious amounts of cussing I do in regular life are wholly exacerbated before dawn—or really anytime before 9am.  Add that to the fact that I hate to run and you’ve created a situation prolific with profanities.  Therefore I avoid marathon running like the plague.

So at 3:15am Mark and I, and my niece and nephew Danielle and Andrea, all piled into the car and headed to the race.  I dropped the three off at the appointed spot where they would be driven by bus to the starting point.  

Not even my iphone's flash wanted to wake that early in the morning...

This marked the start of my marathon spectatorship… 

First you have to stake out a parking spot.  Some races this can be an uphill battle, despite the absurd hour you find yourself doing it.  Popular races are a nightmare to find parking even at 3am.  You need to keep a vigilant eye out for a space.  Sometimes you have to hunt really hard which requires periodic rehydration using ice cold diet cokes just to keep you in the best condition for skimming and scanning parking lots.  Once you claim a space it's imperative you get a little shut-eye and rest up for the viewing obstacles you're about to surmount.  But this is no cozy nap mind you.  You find yourself cramped in the back seat praying sleep will come despite the frigid conditions you find yourself surrendering to. You're now about to toss and turn for a hour...

About ten minutes after you finally fall asleep, it's time to wake and scope out the finish line.  You see how early the crowd is amassing and whether you need to stake your claim to a small spot at the barrier.  Really jam-packed finish lines mean you won’t be able to camp yourself out in a comfy folding chair.  Often it’s standing room only for three to four hours.  But this is why you condition so hard for these epic ordeals.  Marathoners just don’t appreciate the stamina it takes to conquer the hellish conditions we onlookers are entrenched in at the finish line.

Fortunately for me, this marathon was a brand new first time ever race.  An inaugural run.  And because of this I was surprised at how easy it was to park and how sparse the onlookers were.  I got so excited I ran back to the car to get my cozy camp chair and envisioned an easy day at the races.  But boy was I wrong.

I arrived back at the finish and had my pick of the place and set out my chair.  But no sooner had I unfolded it and set it in just the right spot to shade me from the rising sun when the first finisher of the half marathon rounded the corner and headed for the finish.  The first few finishers always merit a lot of hoopla from everybody so I refrained from sitting and commenced clapping and cheering, and rooting for the first runner’s big finish.  No sooner was he gotten through when the second and third place runners rounded the corner and began their final push.  Gotta keep clapping for them too.  Soon I realized all these runners were coming in and I was the only one clapping for them.  The few people standing there were obviously being miserly and only there to clap for their runner and absolutely positively NO one else.  What the??  It is customary that runners all finish to a chorus of claps and cheers.  The sheer size of typical finish line crowd often insures that everyone there just part-time claps and somehow the roar of the crowd never stops for four or five solid hours until the last man or he-woman is through. 

Nobody at this race seemed to have read the ‘Spectating for Dummies’ book, which, clearly states that people crossing the finish deserve applause.

So there I was, epic applauder, with a major dilemma.  Do I let people finish, tears in their eyes, clinging to the last thread of life, headed for a silent finish?  It just all seemed wrong.  So I commenced clapping and never stopped for three hours strait!  Do you know what that does to your hands? Seriously. I’m not sure many people actually know the pain and suffering it can cause the palms of your poor hands.  Combine that feat with two hours of cheering stragglers on and rising up on my tippy-toes (up and down, up and down) so I could see over the selfish non-clapping people obscuring my field of vision--and you’ve got a recipe for serious palm chaffing, voice losing, calf crippling injuries.

Thankfully, Danielle successfully finished her first-ever half marathon and then both Mark and Andrea finished their marathons before I was blistered and bloody--all three finished to the single solitary applause and cheers of yours truly.  It seems there was an embargo on ebullience and I was the only one who didn’t get the memo.

Here's Andrea headed for his big finish.  Do you see anyone clapping for him out in that sparse crowd of onlookers?  Ba-humbug!

Again notice no clappers to be found in the background of this shot either... That poor guy crossing the finish did so in utter silence as I was the only clapper and I was using my hands to operate a camera to take this shot.

After the runners had a brief recovery at the finish line, I gently loaded three tired, sore, and sweaty passengers into the car and drove them strait to a burger joint so they could recover over butter burgers and icy cokes.   
Then it was time to get home to recuperate.  This R&R is strictly for the runners and hardly for the spectator.  That’s because there would be aching athletes to help up stairs, to tuck in beds, and to supply ice packs and aspirin to.  The finish line marks the end for the runners but not the spectators.  Spectators, I’m afraid, have a few more hours of service in which they will have to draw upon heretofore unknown tapped resources of courage and stamina, “dig deep” as Mark calls it, to provide after care to the tired blister laden athletes.  No one realizes the spectator has been doing calf raises and sign curls for three hours strait and that you may be in need of your own nap and ice pack.

They don’t notice until the next morning when you seem to be walking stiffly from sore calf muscles and see that you can barely hold onto things with your chaffed hand-clapping palms.  Then they’ll curiously inquire why you’re getting around so awkwardly.  This is when you tell them with your hoarse and weakened crowd-cheering voice, that you're actually sore from waiting at the finish line for their grand finale.

At which point, said runners will squish up their face in total repugnance and say, “How does that make you sore??”

Absolutely no sympathy.

Danielle's First Half Marathon:

Andrea's First Full Marathon, clearly re-thinking the whole idea:

Mark coming in for a strong finish. 3rd in his age division:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

At the start of summer, one of Chloe's friends was feverishly scribbling stuff down in a notebook.  I wondered why a girl, freshly liberated from school, was spending her first days of freedom doing something that looked an awful lot like homework. When I asked her about it she said,  "I'm writing down my summer bucket list."  She explained that every fall she lamented the fact that she didn't get to do everything she wanted to do before summer was all over.  So this time around she had a plan: A Summer Bucket List.

Chloe and I decided that's exactly what our summer needed too!  So we each made up our own ambitious list of stuff we had to do before summer slipped away.  Chloe's was all fun stuff and mine was a mix of adventures and a fearless list of warm weather projects.

So while I was derelict in blogging over the summer, I was off trying to check off all the things on my list.  Here's how it went...

#1  Get My Motorcycle Endorsement
Ever since I heard the first rumble of a Harley when I was a little girl, I knew I wanted one of my own.  My Uncle (the one we talk about in hushed whispers) was a bona-fide member of a notorious biker gang with a knack for amassing tattoos, parole officers, and ex-wives.  It was his Harley that I heard for the first time--I was probably no more than six or seven--but the sound of my uncle's bike cast a spell over me that I've never been able to shake.

All these years later, even after riding quads at the dunes for over a decade, I still have never gotten a motorcycle or even an endorsement to ride on the open road. (Kinda hard to drive four kids around on a bike...)

So this summer I decided no more excuses and put it at the top of my bucket list.  It was time get that teensy tiny little "M" added to my driver's license.  How hard could that be?  [insert foreboding music.]

I downloaded the DMV's motorcycle handbook on my ipad, read it, went down that same afternoon and took the test.  Several hours later after waiting in a momentous line, I left with a motorcycle permit (which only allows me to ride while being accompanied by another motorcyclist) and an appointment for a ride-on skills test scheduled for the first open test time TWO MONTHS LATER

Two looooong months.  What's a girl to do?

In the meantime I bought myself my first motorcycle.  Something small and easy to ride.  The Harley would have to wait...for a little more cash and courage than I happen to have at the present moment.

Finally, after waiting impatiently while most of the good riding weather to slipped painfully away, it was time at last to ride to the neighboring town and take the ride-on skills test at the DMV. 

Drum-roll please...

This is the part where I have to tell you I failed the test.  Seriously.  Failed it.

Needless to say I cussed all the way home.  My Uncle (may he rest in peace) would have been proud of the foul mutterings echoing inside my helmet that barbaric day.

The truth is...I had been bamboozled.  The skills test isn't all that difficult.  You turn, you swerve, you weave, you stop.  That's it.  Most people have trouble on the weave, or the turn or swerve, but me?  I had trouble on the stop.  The freeeeeaking stop.

My "unsatisfactory" test-failing stop came just after I pulled off a perfect cone weave. Everyone dreads the cone weave but I mastered it like a pro.  But the instructions from Mr. Test Guy was that I weave through the cones, make a u-turn, go strait and then make one more tighter u-turn, then I was to stop where he was standing (he even pointed to his feet which I noted were right on a certain line).  So I head out, weave the cones, made two u-turns then stopped right on the line he was standing on when he gave me the instructions.  Big mistake.  While I was cone-weaving he moved back and stood in another spot.  I happened to make my stop--a nice smoooooth stop mind you, right on the line where he had previously pointed that his feet were on and NOT where he was presently standing.  He had moved back five feet after I rode off.  Ten points were deducted for each erroneous foot I put down when I stopped at the "wrong" line, then Mr. Test Man failed me. As if to poor salt on my open wound he added, "excellent cone weave I've seen all year."

I could have actually driven over all five cones and passed the test.  They are only two deductions each.  But a foot--each one is worth ten! Apparently hitting things you shouldn't isn't as catastrophic as mistakenly stopping safely on the wrong line.  Imagine my frustration when I discovered that the DMV was so booked up I'd have to wait for another
 TWO MONTHS for an open test date!  The end of October!

I went home and got online and lucked out enough to find one open spot in a 3-day motorcycle class that, if you pass the class, you automatically get that coveted little "M" put on your driver's license.  No more Mr. DMV and his wayward test instructions (or my lackadaisical listening skills).  Long story short, bright and early the next morning I was the only girl in a 3-day motorcycle class.  I was rather grouchy about the whole thing since it cost me almost $200 and three full days of my life.  But when the three days were over, not only did I get my motorcycle endorsement but they offered me a job to come back and teach the class as an instructor!  Take that Mr. DMV man!

Motorcycle Endorsement, check!

#2 Build Water Balloon Launchers

Ever since our friends the Petersens taught us how to play 'Human Battleship' we've been trying to figure out how to liven things up a bit by launching our water balloons with a little more gusto.  It seems that if there's no possibility of anyone getting injured, we just aren't interested in playing the game for very long.

Building a water balloon launcher sounds easy but it ain't so.  Like the Wright Brothers, our first few launches were, well, a bit disappointing and slightly dangerous.  That's because I cheaped out on the project when I discovered that rubber tubing now costs $3.70 a foot and I needed twenty feet!  Naturally I tried to go with ten feet of tubing on the first go since spending over seventy bucks on a ridiculous summer gadget sounded like a waste.  But take it from me, you're gonna need all twenty feet of tubing if you want to avoid the balloon backfiring.

 This definitely amped up our human battleship games!  But one little safety're gonna wanna shoot the balloon up and not directly out.  A direct blow instead of a high lofty arch results in an awkward triage situation with massive casualty.

Not to mention the embarrassment that comes from an injury where you have to tell people it involved a water balloon.

#3 Make an Epic Slip-N-Slide
We made one a few summers back and it was a ton of summer fun.  They have one at the Playboy Mansion, but don't ask me how I know that.  I figured it was time to build another one out on the lawn only this time even more epic than our last. Unfortunately, items #4, #7 and #8 distracted me from the project and it never happened.  Next summer it'll be top of the list.

#4 Paint Headboard
I've had this headboard that I've honestly never liked.  I've been meaning to take the thing apart, beef it up by making the headboard higher, and give it some new life.  I thought about buying a new one but I decided on a motorcycle instead, a much better choice wouldn't you say?  I was going to paint it darker but at the last minute I decided on a whim to go with a distressed white and lighten my room up a bit.

I didn't take this pic but I found one that shows what it looked like before:

 and here's after...

#5 Wakeboard Five Days in a Row
I think I'm at my happiest when I'm on a wakeboard.  It's nirvana.  So this one is the one I'm most sad about not achieving.  Although we made it out to the lake quite a bit this summer, I think I only made it to 3 consecutive days.  That said, Mark didn't even get out on the water once.  He took one for the team this summer, so to speak, and did all the boat driving.

What we did do was get Connor and Chloe and all their friends up on wakeboards this year.  Chloe randomly decided all of a sudden that she wanted to get on a board-- and when Chloe decides something, she makes it happen.  She got up on her first try and boarded for quite a ways.  I was so excited I didn't even take pictures.  I was too busy jumping up and down.  We got a few cousins and Connors friends up too. 

I was too busy enjoying the water to take many pics at all but here's one of my favorites...
You can barely see the boarder going down for the count in the wake just past the dancing handle.

And while I may not have reached my five-days-in-a-row, it was a blast getting all the kids out on the lake and improving their skills.  Music to my ears is when the kids beg all day to go out to the lake.

The weather's still forecasted to be warm so perhaps I'll get this checked off even though summer's officially over...never say never.  We're hoping to eeeek as much summer out as we can.

#6 Go Cart Races
This will have to be put on our Fall Bucket List.  It just never happened.  But probably for the best as someone was sure to get hurt and put on the injured list for the rest of the summer.

#7 Ride the Bike Path More
A few years ago Mark bought me a really nice road bike.  Mark is an avid cyclist and he figured he could motivate me to get out and ride by getting me an impressive bike.  Sadly I've used it all too infrequently since then.  He likes to climb steep mountain roads on his bike and I'm afraid the only way I'm gonna ever volunteer to do that is if I'm riding a motorcycle--not a bi-cycle.

But this year I decided to dust the poor thing off and ride our local bike path which winds through five towns for 21 miles.  However, we recently had a horrific unsolved murder happen on said bike path so I was happy when my friend Kathy wanted to meet up and ride with me. 

Kathy is in really great shape and when we first started riding I thought it was strange that she couldn't keep up with me.  She was a serious slow poke.  Soon I realized her bike wasn't as light or built as well as mine so I thought maybe we should switch bikes so she should try mine out.  Big mistake.  This time, with me on her bike, I could barely keep up with her.  I was huffing and puffing and thought I was gonna die.  Meanwhile Kathy barely broke a sweat.  Needless to say I wanted my bike back and Kathy went out that day and bought herself a new one.

This is Kathy on my bike.  Her bike, at the time we swapped, looked like a granny bike, which is fine for her cause she's got like ten grandkids (although you would never ever guess it), but I declined to be photographed on it.  I may be a grandparent but I certainly don't have to be photographed riding a granny bike.  (I did like her cheesy bell though!)

#8 Clean Barn...Ugh!
You know you've got a problem when it takes a skid-steer to help you clean out your barn.  Luckily, somewhere in our messy barn was just such a thing to help us get the job done, a job which sorely needed to happen.

Barn ownership ain't all it's cracked up to be.  Seriously, I think when you close the barn doors your stuff mates and multiplies in there while you're away.  Forget what you've heard about rabbits, it's really barn junk that propagates so perniciously.

This summer it was time to take back the barn.  Lucky for me Connor is getting older and can muscle up on things more these days.  Also lucky for me he's got two buddies and the three of them never spent more than a day apart from each other the entire summer.  The Three Amigos just roamed from one house to another all summer long linked permanently together.  I took total advantage of this and enticed them to the house by offering them a whole week of kneeboarding and wakeboarding.  Little did they know when they eagerly appeared on my doorstep that I'd be working them to death by day only to tug their exhausted bodies around the lake by evening for just an hour or two behind the boat. 

I convinced them to ride in the bucket of the skid-steer so I could lift them up to the upper deck of the barn to organize things up there.  I tried not to transport them up and down too fast, though once I admittedly hit the pedal a little too roughly and they experienced a little "Tower of Terror" moment.  And since there was no waiting in line for such a thrill ride, I sheepishly explained that it was better than Disneyland. 

For the most part they hauled things back and forth between the garage and the barn and the dump trailer with the riding lawn mower and its mini-trailer.  They always made sure to drive the long way back to the barn so they could endanger each other's lives--as if my skid-steer antics weren't thrilling enough.

Ian, Severin, & Connor

I think they messed around so much it took me an entire week to get the job done.  It could have reasonably taken three days but they seemed happy as long as they were together and the possibility of heading to the lake loomed in their future.

I didn't get a lot of lake time but I got myself a very clean barn.  Yay!

#9 Clean the Secret Room
Our secret room is the worst kept secret ever, everyone knows about it and which closet contains its hidden door.  It's also in serious need of a summer clean, but I just didn't have the heart to organize it this summer.  Might have to be a fall project.  The barn cleaning was epic enough.

#10 Fix Ceiling Fans

It got pretty hot this summer and two of our ceiling fans needed new switches.  They're both really nice fans so I don't need to replace them, but the crazed children that live around here like to swing from the pull chains and two of them have nothing to pull anymore.  One is stuck on slow speed and the other is stuck with the light always on.  It's been that way for a couple of years but this summer, I decided it's time to fix it!

Thank goodness for Youtube.  I watched two videos and then rode off to the hardware store on my motorcycle to buy a couple of new switches...

I pulled the first fan apart, wired in a new light pull-switch and voila--no more unscrewing light bulbs to turn off the lights!  Next I wired in a new speed pull-switch in the second fan and now we could get it whirling at faster speeds! Yay! But the darn thing was now out of balance.  One more Youtube video, four nickles, and some duct tape later our fan troubles were over (thank goodness you can't see the tops of the blades).  We were back to enjoying cool air moving throughout the house.  Ta Da!

#11 Big Screen Lawn Movies
Didn't happen.  Mitchell, our resident audio-video specialist was still away at college and we forgot how to set the whole thing up.  Life without Mitchell is bleak.  We may have to go back to the etch-a-sketch for our entertainment gadget.  It doesn't need a wi-fi password or charging.

#12 Take the Train
Our kids have never traveled by train.  So when we learned that G-Ma just moved to a town with a really cool train station we decided to put this on our summer bucket list.  Must ride train.

 Here's the cool train station at G-Ma's.
It's almost as fun as traveling Italy by rail, but without the gelato.

#13 Go Camping
I was hoping for something more woodsy than the Dunes, with pines and fresh mountain air, but alas, the Dunes will have to do.  It's the only camping we managed to squeeze always a blast, so no complaints. I didn't actually camp in the dirt, or make that gigantic slip-n-slide, or a few other things, but my barn is clean and I've got a teensy tiny little "M" on my driver's license--what more could a girl want?

Thanks for the summer bucket list inspiration Scarlett! 
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