Sunday, December 27, 2009

book club

I love going to book club every month. I have to admit, I haven't even been a very good reader these past 2 or 3 months, I'm having a hard time getting the books read. I really had good intentions in December. I knew it would be an especially busy month so I got the book on audio so I could listen to it as I was out and about, and still failed to get it finished. (well, I confess, I hardly got it started). Nevertheless, that is not really the point. The point is - I still love going to book club. We had our holiday meeting last week at Chris and Mason's house. Besides the book discussion, we all brought mouth-watering appetizers and desserts and we had a white elephant book exchange. Look at these amazing little penguins - olives, cream cheese and carrots. Have you ever seen anything cuter? Melanie and I tried to copy this idea for our Christmas eve dinner. We copied them, they were pretty cute, but not cute enough to post the pictures of the ones we made, so I'll post Mason's.
We also enjoyed the decorations all over this house. Perfect centerpiece, amazing Christmas village (hand-made, not purchased!) and a Christmas tree in the fish bowl.
Our book club is coming up on it's 22nd anniversary in February (although I've only been attending about 17 years). Suzanne was one of the original members and was late arriving this week. Suzanne, it's just not the same without you. I think if I ran 30 minutes late, the event would proceed as normal, but without you . . . well, it was a little weird. You are our glue.

missionary week

Although I knew this week was coming, I am now coming to grips with the fact that it has actually arrived. Not only is Brady heading out next week, but we have had several missionaries coming and going. On Wednesday, Brady's cousin Dusty arrived home from his mission in Indiana. I love this kid. Don't you just love that smile? These are the three cousins closest in age - Brady, Dusty and Landon.
Besides Dusty coming home, Kelsie is leaving. She is heading to the Florida Tallahassee Mission. She gave an incredible talk in church a couple weeks ago and came to be with Brady today and then their family was heading to Utah this afternoon. She and Brady will overlap their time in the MTC by a week or so. Brady has instructions to keep an eye out for her. She should be easy to find. Although she is short, I think her cool bright colors will be easy to spot in a sea of dark suits. Kelsie is going to be an awesome missionary.
How's this for a proud papa?
We had a great sacrament meeting today. Another young man in our ward just came home from his mission in Baltimore a couple of days ago. Daniel grew up with Brady and went through scouting with him. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of him today. Anyway Daniel and Brady were the speakers in our meeting today and both did an excellent job. Another young man in our ward, Codi, is also leaving for Anchorage Alaska later in January. Lots of missionaries right now.
All these missionaries coming and going are keeping Grandma and Grandpa Watkins on the road keeping up with everyone. They are so wonderfully supportive.
It was a fun time for cousins to get together. Here is Rachel, Onya and Collette. We got to see different cousins at different events through the week. I love cousin relationships. I love that our kids have such good friends in their cousins.
Here are 11 of the 35 cousins. Ben, Trevor, Shaw, Niels, Brady, Michael, Kelsie, Rachel, Roni, Roxanne and Melanie.

There was a strange phenomenon that happened right after this picture was taken. The Whipple cousins bring a certain energy level with them everywhere they go. If you've ever been around this family, you can verify this fact. The level of talking and laughing and general conversation is usually a higher volume than normal and funnier than you can imagine. When they said their goodbyes after this picture was snapped, they walked out into the parking lot and the rest of us looked around as if the party had just ended and we had no option than to quietly disperse and go our separate ways.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

overheard while unwrapping presents:

From Meloonie
From Melanizzle
From B-dizzle
To Mama-cita
To Foxy Roxie
To Blady
To Cindy Lou
To Daddy-O
Rooooooxxxxaaannnne (sung at the top of our voices)
"I really like these" "wow, . . . you sound surprised!"
Peeking into a card "I see 'Borders' "
"Wow, you wrapped this yourself?"
"I was jealous of all he people that had this. Now the jealousy is gone."
"It's the book I wanted" "What is it?" "It's a dorky book, but it's the one I wanted."
"Is this really true? Is this happening? Am I seeing Nikes?"
"And it comes with a hot Safety Vest" (roadside safety kit)
"You can always count on mom to get us underwear."
Opening a huge box: "I'm guessing a pogo stick" "a candy bar" "a rifle" "a lifesize barbie"
"Doggie candy canes for Lexie!"
Dave opened an ENORMOUS candy bar - Cynthia:"who gave that to you?" Dave: "me!"
"It's double wrapped, for good luck"
Pulling a dress out of a box with a belt cinched tight. "Is your waist really that small?"
"Jerk!" unwrapping a box that was sealed shut with yards and yards of packing tape.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

if you ask for a dove, you might get a pigeon

I haven't posted for a while and Shannon complained about it today. The problem is that most of my days have been uneventful.
For instance today I:
  • Fed breakfast to some stressed out teenagers at the end of the semester.
  • Had an e-mail argument with a school teacher.
  • Drove to the seminary building twice through the day, 3 times including class this morning. I kept forgetting papers to complete some reports to finish up the semester.
  • Filled up the gas tank in the van.
  • Caught up on some business paperwork.
  • Carpooled kids home from school.
  • Warmed up leftovers for dinner. This is the third night with the same pot of soup. I have a very tolerant family.
  • Walked with Melanie to visit a neighbor this evening.
  • Right now I'm watching the finale of "So You Think You Can Dance". So far, it's the highlight of my day.
  • Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

There have been some events happening around here, though. We did have Thanksgiving, and we did give thanks.

There were three other people at our table, but I snapped a horrible picture of all three of them. And of course we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
I painted a few Christmas windows. It was not nearly as fun as it should have been. Shannon couldn't paint with me this year. It was all utility painting . . . all alone . . . no fun, no gossiping, no catching up on family news, no laughing at crazy clients and/or people passing by. Just lonely, lonely painting. Shannon - imagine the weird silence of the dirt testing lab, and multiply that by 5 days. Don't let it happen again, k?
One client asked me for a full Christmas message "Nothing washed down. No 'happy holidays' or 'seasons greetings'. I want a full Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth! . . . with a dove!"
I don't really know what characteristics differentiate a dove and a pigeon, but there is a white bird of some sort on the door.

I did a little bit of hiking with some friends at South Mountain.
I took on some hosting duties for an evening out at the temple lights, celebrated our neice's missionary farewell, went to the temple with Dave and Brady, cheered Dave on in the Electric Light Parade, put up our tree, and sent out a few Christmas cards. All in all, it has been a good month, but it was mostly full of busy, but boring tasks - cleaning closets, collection calls, sorting tax receipts etc. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks still being full of busy-ness, but hopefully less boring.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pumpkin weigh-in

Brady harvested his gargantuan pumpkins this week. He cut off the largest one and bent over to pick it up and just about herniated himself. It didn't budge. He and Dave both had to man-handle it over to the front porch and it weighed in at 128 pounds!! A second pumpkin weighed 77 pounds. Then before he started dismantling the plant, we measured one of the plant stems - 45 feet long. It was massive and was winding all over our front yard. I was seriously worried it would start creeping in our front door.
This morning I learned what the sole purpose of the giant pumpkin growing experience was. Apparently, these pumpkins have been planted, watered, fertilized, loved and cared for, so that Brady and his friends could take them out to the desert and blow them up and use them for target practice. Who knew?! This afternoon they loaded up about 8 pumpkins and headed out for a afternoon of pumpkin destruction.
Dave and Brady recently returned from a week long hunting trip with Joe Wagner up in Wyoming. I will not post pictures because well, they are gross hunting pictures. But they had a great time together. Well, I guess there are a couple of pictures I can post that have no dead animals in them. It was dry and clear most of their week: Then a wee bit of snow came blowing in before they started home:I got a text message from Joe's wife, Madeline, a few days after they got back :
Madeline: I heard a rumor that during the hunt there was a threat to revoke Dave's "man card" . . . did you hear anything about that???
Me: Yes, and he is sitting here watching "So You Think You Can Dance" again at this very moment.
Madeline: That's it . . . he tried to blame watching it on you I heard, so I guess they will have to cut the corners off his man card!!
Me: But Dave said the next night they were all watching the results show together!
Madeline: Joe said being in the same room isn't the same as watching.
Immediately our phone began ringing. Joe had to redeem himself and clear the air that he really wasn't watching. (Just admit it Joe - that show sucks you right in regardless of whether or not you own a "man card" !)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

big news for brady

Well, it took 2 painfully long weeks of waiting for the mailman at exactly 12:15 every day, but a big white envelope finally came for Brady. He submitted the papers for a church mission and the wait for the return mail was excruciating (well, for me it was anyway). His mission call came early afternoon on Friday and I had to wait almost 5 hours until Brady got home from work. FIVE HOURS!! He finally got home and then we had to wait another hour for Roxanne to get off work and get home so we could all be together for the big moment. We put in a few destination guesses prior to opening up the envelope. We each guessed one place in the states, and one foreign location. My guess was an island. I hoped I could make that very broad to include not only the islands of the Pacific, but also Madagascar, Japan, and perhaps even Australia. In-state guesses included Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Oklahoma, Idaho and Michigan. Melanie, I suppose, won the game by coming the closest geographically (she guessed Michigan), because when he finally opened the envelope, his call was for the Illinois, Peoria Mission. His mission covers central Illinois, and parts of Iowa, Missouri, and a sliver of Indiana. One of his good friends, Jacob, is in Indiana. I suppose they will be sort of next door neighbors for the next couple of years. He heads out on January 6th and he is one excited boy. His time in the mission training center will overlap for a few days with his cousin, Kelsie being up there. Hopefully they will get to see each other.

Although I knew he was ready and willing to serve anywhere in the world, and almost hoping to be working in an impoverished country, I realized I was feeling a little relieved at the end of the day to know he will be right here in our country, where there is the security of safe water to drink and modern medical facilities. I hadn't even been aware of those feelings until after the fact. He is truly happy with the assignment and anxious to go. We are so very proud of him.

In other Brady related news, his pumpkin patch is literally taking over our property. Neighbors far and wide stop and look to see what is growing so enormously in our front yard. His largest pumpkin on the vine is about a 18" high and easily over 50 pounds and there are several other pumpkins on the vines that are much larger than any we bought and carved at Halloween this year.Dave thought he would be funny and put a very ripe and bright orange pumpkin out in the vines in the yard. Brady immediately called the bluff . . . "Who put the fake pumpkin in my patch??" He is a good little pumpkin shepherd. He knows his "sheep".

This weekend Brady was the best man at Brian's wedding. Doesn't he look handsome in his tuxedo? He says it's pretty weird to have a married friend. Brian and Megan had a very lovely wedding reception and we enjoyed our evening.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

melanie-isms IV

Conversations overheard around the house:

Dave asked Melanie if she would ever go to Japan with him to see the Ice Festival.
"I don't know Dad, I don't know the culture or any language"
"Well, I know the language and I could help you"
"Actually, all I need to know is food, bathroom and boys, and I'd be good"

Rachel: Is the stove on? I feel something hot.
Melanie: Oh that's just me. It's been on since I was born.

Melanie: I'm like the Grand Canyon, and boys are like the Colorado River . . . they just naturally flow to me.

Texts from Melanie are always entertaining:

Text sent in the early morning to the other side of our house:
Me: are you up?
Melanie: Unfortunately. Don't feel good at all. Head hurts, feet feel raw, pinky infected, inside of mouth has been feeling scratched up lately, etc.
Me: I'm sorry, Maybe we can find some medicine to help you out before we leave this morning.
Melanie: What medicine can repair a broken heart? and raw feet?
Me: All you need is love (la la la la la)
Melanie: Could it beeee? I found somebody to love.
Me: sounds like you've caught a bug, (maybe a Beatle!)

I get texts like these regularly:

How do you spell garunteed? guarunteed? garunteid?
How do you spell "in-cell-a-tion" ????

roger roger 2-4
(um Mel, I think you mean 10-4)

Me: where are you?
Melanie: We're tanning on the roof. No flash photography please.

I sent Melanie into a store and I waited for her in the car. I got this text from her:
I have a wedgie I can't get 'cause there's cameras in here . . . .

Melanie borrowed my phone for a couple of hours, then I got this message when she returned it: uh, hey . . . if you get a text from a 928 number, can you tell the nice man to text me on my phone? :)

And these are my favorites from her:

Night pumpkin!

You're the bomb-diggity!

Monday, October 26, 2009

random thoughts

1. I went for a hike this morning. Two hours and 34 minutes. The weather is perfect (finally), and it felt great. Except at about the 2 hour mark, I decided to hike one more loop around the next set of hills. That extra 34 minutes just about did me in, especially since I forgot that it ended with a nice steep climb over the last ridge and back down into the parking lot. My legs were shaking by the time I climbed into the car.

2. I taught a lesson in seminary this morning that had an emphasis on "pondering". We talked about what that meant in our lives -- meditating, thinking, finding time to slow and quiet your life down and pondering on things of spiritual importance. We especially talked about remembering to turn off electronics and phones and stepping away from the computer to occasionally create that quiet time in their lives. Then I excused the kids at the end of the hour, changed my clothes, headed for the desert trails, turned on my MP3 and listened to music at pretty high volume for 2 1/2 hours. Surprisingly, that made me feel mentally refreshed. But I think that should worry me that I can't even take my own advice.

3. I have an odd collection of music on my MP3, including but not limited to: Village People, Fall Out Boy, Shiny Toy Guns, and the musical genius that is the 1968 classic music of the Monkees.

4. I just now got a disturbing text from Roxanne "There was just a suicide in my building at school and we all got evacuated". What heartbreak and sadness for a family today. I'm feeling upset and I don't even know anything more about it.

5. I went to my High School Reunion last month. A completely new high school has been built in recent years and along with getting to tour the new facilities, we were also able to walk through the old main school building. I wish I had taken a picture of the building. It is a 3 story concrete and brick old-style school. If it had been Phoenix, the public probably wouldn't have been allowed to walk through it without a hard had on. It has been abandoned, unable to be sold or renovated and is in extreme disrepair. But it was kind of cool to poke around with my old classmates and remember where we used to take Geometry and World History. A lot of the classrooms were filled with misc. storage and debris. There were snow blowers and filing cabinets in the little kitchenettes of the Home Ec room. I still remember sitting in on the mystical microwave demonstration of 1976. How you could cook something and take it out of an oven with your bare hands and not get burned - absolute magic!

6. Somehow, it is always fun to be back in Winslow. I lived there from age 7 until age 17. Dave was very patient while we drove around town as I was strolling down memory lane. For some reason it is important to tell him where I used to ride my Sting Ray bicycle, and where we played arcade games, and to go have lunch at the old Root Beer Stand. The house we grew up in it still beautiful. I loved that house. I wish I could share those memories with our kids. They would have loved that house and that yard too. My parents moved from Winslow before our kids were even born. They live in the beautiful community of Heber and we love to visit there, but it's not the same as taking your kids back to your home town. There is a little bit of sadness about that for me.

7. We got to hang out with our friends Terri and Blake. They are the kind of people we can be separated from for months, then sit down and start up conversations as if we hadn't been apart for a day. I love them. They are a gorgeous couple and have 4 very handsome kids too. Their "baby" is almost out of high school. I can't believe we're all getting that old.

8. We went to the homecoming football game while we were in Winslow. I was glad we were sitting by Terri. She was able to point out everyone that I should have been able to remember, but couldn't. She fed me everyone's names before they walked by. A perfect system. The evening was all the fun and enthusiasm that a solid small town sports program brings to a community. I wish our inner city schools in our neighborhoods here would get the vision of what successful extra curricular programs could do for the kids, the school and the community.

9. I have a friend that is pretty darn cool. Her family is cool, and her house is cool. My level of coolness goes up whenever I am in her house. Her house is up for a vote on a cool and popular design site. Go to this site , there is a quick and painless registration, then vote for Lezlee! (you've got to vote for her today!)

10. I don't have 10 things on my mind today, but it seemed silly to end on #9.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

quiet day

What a perfect day today. I cleared my calendar. I had the house to myself, it was quiet all day long. I curled up on the couch for hours and hours with a pile of movies. No one asked anything of me all day long. Perfect!
(Well, except for the searing pain of kidney stones coursing through my body. My family piled the prescriptions, water, juice, heating pad, and remote control around me and just steered clear.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the good, the bad and the funny

Suzanne and I could write about our vacation and it would be exactly the same. We went to the same places and pointed our cameras at the same points of interest. If you ever want to stay in the most beautiful bed and breakfast and be treated better than you've ever been treated and fed better than you've ever been fed, read Suzanne's post about the Ferry Point House .

Here is an overall summary of our trip:

Good things about the New England States:
#1 It is gorgeous. #2 So many things for tourists to do, you just cant get to it all. #3 Light rains and wisps of fog were beautiful.
#4 The lakes were breathtaking. This picture was taken just outside our hotel room. I could have just enjoyed the week from right here:
Or maybe just lounged in bed and enjoyed this view from the window:
#5 I learned a lot of our country's history that took place in this area. Fort Ticonderoga , Old Sturgridge Village , and the Canterbury Shaker Village . #6 Interesting local restaurants and markets .
#7 There are a lot of old, quaint church steeples, covered bridges, and barns.
#8 Very clean states, no litter or weeds along the roads or anywhere really.
#9 Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Necco (New England Confection Co), and King Arthur Flour are based in this area.

#10 Fudge is sold at every counter and at every cash register in every store, gift shop and restaurant.
Bad things about the New England States:
#1 Fudge is sold everywhere!
#2 There were no garbage cans. Seriously, New Hampshire is devoid of garbage cans. Where do the people of this very clean state throw away their garbage? All I wanted to do was toss my milk carton and banana peel and it took all day to find a single garbage can. It really is a "Pack it in, Pack it out" state.
#3 Very few chain stores, chain restaurants or fast food stores in the rural towns. It took all day to spot a Walgreen's which you can find on any corner in AZ.
#4 Fog. It blocked our view from the top of Prospect Mountain where on a clear day, you should be able to see 5 states.
#6 The mileage information signs and speed limit signs were few and far between. (yet the mile markers were posted every 2/10ths of a mile. I have no idea why.)
#7 Numbered highways merge and overlap quite often making navigating from a map difficult.
#8 The Appalachian Trail is pretty darned tricky.
Funny things about New England:
#1 There are signs to warn drivers about moose and bears.
#2 Funny names:
#3 There are dead people EVERYWHERE! These old little cemeteries are along every road. #4 Specialized yogurt flavors. #5 Fall visitors are referred to as "Leaf Peepers" #6 Favorite saying on a T-shirt:
What happens in Vermont, stays in Vermont.
(But nothing ever really happens here.)
The worst thing about our vacation, it had to end . . . goodbye Boston. It was a great week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

we hiked the appalachian trail! (well, sort of . . . but not really)

Suzanne and I went on a fantastic trip to the New England states. It started with a conversation (while hiking in the Arizona desert) about how cool it would be to hike on the Appalachian trail. The trip evolved into much, much more because Suzanne is such an awesome trip planner.
Among the many activities, we planned two day hikes on the Appalachian trail. In case you don't know (because I didn't) the trail is 2025 miles long and stretches from Maine to Georgia. So we researched some day hikes in Vermont and New Hampshire. We parked the car and had to document the event with photos so here we are at the trailhead sign.We walked about 20 steps into the woods and there were 3 options to take. There was the north/south option and there was a path going west, but it was gated. The guide book we referenced said the trail headed in a southern direction and would lead us to a great swimming hole at a little over 2 miles down the trail. Obviously we weren't planning to swim in October, but that would be our turning around point. So we headed south down a very wide and smooth and well maintained path. Suzanne even mentioned how nice it was that the trail was so wide because we could walk side by side instead of one ahead of the other like we normally hike on most trails. Isn't it gorgeous?
We were down the trail a good 30 minutes before we had a small inkling that maybe we were not on the right path. We were not seeing the features we had read about. Finally after we had been hiking for well over an hour, we ran into another hiker. We asked if this was actually the right trail. "Oh no, the trail is WAY back by the parking lot and it is a small, thin trail that heads out diagonally and immediately uphill." (Well, . . . . . alrighty then.)
So . . . we walked several miles back to the car. Looked at the trail we had obviously missed, had a good laugh and decided we'd try again tomorrow.
DAY 2: New state, new trailhead. We again followed the directions in the guidebook and walked from the parking lot 1/10th of a mile to a footbridge over an absolutely beautiful gorge. Again we had to document ourselves on the trail because we knew FOR SURE that we were on the right path and the footbridge was absolutely part of the official trail. YAY! We were on our way! So we followed the path off the end of the bridge and along the river. Beautiful trees, beautiful river, beautiful trail, beautiful weather, beautiful everything. We hiked down the trail for over an hour and then it merged onto a service road which led into a hunting camp area, which lead to a dead end. What the heck?? Did we miss a turn??? It still had been a nice hike so we followed the trail back to the bridge and asked the next hiker we saw where the trail went. He showed us that the trail took a sharp right turn at the end of the bridge and up over the nearby hill. Then he said "I don't mean to be demeaning to you or anything, but the trail is marked quite clearly with these blazing marks in the trees." (Well, . . . . alrighty then.) We look up and there they are, clear white marks in the trees. Who would have thought? We had spent a year hiking in the desert where you get your clues from the ground. No trees for miles around. Who would have thought to look up in the trees?
As we were leaving we ran into this adorable girl. She looks like a serious hiker don't you think? She was hiking the entire 2025 mile trail! She told us she was covering about 9 to 15 miles a day. It was amazing visiting with her. We told her we needed to post our pictures side by side with hers - with our $19.99 discount tennis shoes, and our 16 oz. bottles of water.
So anyway - here's what we ended up with: two days, two states, five hours of hiking, and we were actually on the Appalachian trail for maybe all of 300 yards!