Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Talk to Me Tuesday: Socks with Sandals?

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See above official Nana bus work uniform when riding the rail between late summer and early fall. Near freezing temps in the morning, lovely 70’s in the afternoon. This is my AM solution, a perfect solution in my mind.

I know, I know. Wearing socks with sandals? A fashion faux pas on so many levels. We used to tease my daddy about wearing socks (white KNEE socks) with his sandals, a haute couture nod to blindingly pale flesh-colored knees and leg skin.

But sometimes, the toes just get too cold. The tennis shoes reside in the trunk, ever ready for a walk when out running errands, the air felt too cold to stop outside in the pre-dawn and put on sneakers, and I must quickly be on my way to perform Nana bus duties.

Socks with sandals won.

So. What’s your vote? YES for socks, NO for no socks. Bonus points if you admit to wearing socks with your sandals.

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Monday Mouthfuls: Cast Iron Skillet Breakfast Casserole

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Compliments of my cousin, Melissa, we enjoyed her cast iron skillet breakfast casserole. So mouth-watering, fragrant, and tasty! I can’t wait to play with the recipe when I get home.

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Cast Iron Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:

1 package tater tots

1 dozen eggs

1 cup diced turkey ham (or your ham choice)

1 cup grated cheese

salt and pepper

butter

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Generously butter inside of seasoned cast iron skillet.

3. Line bottom and edges with tater tots.

4. Sprinkle ham over tater tot crust.

5. In separate bowl, whisk eggs until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix. Pour over ham and crust. (Cayenne would be great, too!).

6. Sprinkle cheese on top.

7. Bake in oven. Start checking at 45 minutes by jiggling pan for movement or sticking fork in center for doneness. We like a crispy crust, so ours cooked for about 1 hour.

8. Remove from oven. It will continue to cook for a bit more. Slice and serve while warm. Delish!

Optional toppings: salsa or ketchup (for the youngers, not me), chopped green onions, sour cream, Tabasco. I’d like to experiment with green peppers, green chilis, spinach, broccoli, kale, and cherry tomatoes, though not all at once. Mmm.

Thanks, Melissa! I am inspired to re-season my cast iron skillet and whip up some breakfast casserole!

 


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The Stage of WHY: Preschoolers Rock

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As a preschool educator, I would like to suggest two new developmental stages.

  1. The Stage of Why.
  2. The Stage of “Actually”

1. The Stage of Why. My 3-year-old grandson is solidly in this stage, as evidenced by lengthy ‘why’ infested conversations during our daily commutes. Today, after being unable to even count HOW MANY whys were tossed willy-nilly towards me from the back seat, I turned the tables and rephrased his questions into ‘whys’ for him. To which he replied with the actual answers to some of my lobs.

Why? Why? Why? I love answering questions and explaining things we see and do (teacher!), but sometimes, I may be close to my limit of whys. Gage is on the verge of being out of this stage, but since we are taking a pit stop in the WHY questioning period, my game of counting whys and popping the questions back to him might just keep me sane.

2. The Stage of Actually. This word, used correctly in context by the younger preschool crowd, cracks me up. It usually shows up when preschoolers are able to grasp the abstractness of this word and how they’ve heard others use it. AND they can get out that many syllables, be understood, and make sense. Actually has been visiting this 3-year-old and his conversations. Waiting for the 2-year-old to pick up on it.

Preschoolers. They ROCK. Life is enriched with their preschool-ness.

What other new developmental stages would you like to add?

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40 Years of Labor Days

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A 40 year friendship! You can see Crystal Lake but not Mt. Rainier, which is glowing in the background. Selfies are not my strong suit…

We first met 40 years ago today, Labor Day, at the Wapato Harvest Festival parade.

Newly arrived from Arizona, I didn’t know many people. He had lived in Wapato for nearly all his life. We came face to face in front of the pastor’s house on the “Ave” where church members and assorted tag-a-longs gathered to watch the parade before heading to the city park for rides, games, and food.

Tall, thin, curly-haired; my impression was of a ‘cool’ guy who couldn’t be bothered to chat with a short, sun-kissed non-native. By his report, he was cool but thought I was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen.

We made slow progress at first. His mom suggested he take me to the homecoming dance. “Nope.” So I went with my cousin from Seattle who was immediately the hottie everybody wanted.

Come spring, our relationship was growing in earnest and we became a couple. At least for a few months. Then I took a year off during our junior year. But like bees to honey, we were back together for senior year.

Off I went to Western Washington University, with the claim that, “If we can survive 4 years apart for college, we can survive anything.” My guy burned the road up between Wapato and Bellingham (4 1/2 hour drive one way), coming to see me every other weekend. Sometimes I traveled back home but then he had to share me with everyone. Back before cell phones and computers (I KNOW! Gasp!) we had a code phone call ring. To avoid the charges of our dorm phone, he would call, let it ring twice, then hang up. That was our good-night check-in. We did talk on the phone, but not much. We spent much of our time writing letters back and forth. Boxes of notes, cards, and creative tomes of love…if I had spent that much time studying…

In June of 1985, we became Mr. and Mrs. This was just a new beginning to our life of adventure, starting right off by driving to So Cal and Disneyland (giving our parents a heart-attack). Our honeymoon was the first of many on-the-road journeys Mr. and Mrs. enjoyed and plan to enjoy.

Two babies, five grandchildren, furry pets, revolving jobs, and numerous trips, houses, and escapades, we are still best friends and more in love each day. Sure there have been struggles and explosive moments, but we’ve stayed committed to each other. It’s wonderful to have a best friend and partner standing beside you on the journey, one who knows all your faults and fears and how you look in the morning (or after childbirth or surgery or the stomach flu) and who still loves you and takes you on dates and hiking in the mountains and on motorcycle rides and finishes your sentences or phrases cloned from favorite movies.

40 years of labor (of a different sort) and here we are today. Best friends, lovers, partners in crime. God knew what He was doing when He hooked us up. And we’ve kept Him busy taking care of us ever since.

To my best friend.

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Throwback Thursday: Mobile Home in the Desert

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Circa 1970, November

Meet my Arizona, mobile-home dwelling, sun-squinting family. No one wants to look at the photographer (my grandparents on my dad’s side who had come for a visit).

My daddy is the tallest in the back (of course), mommy is holding baby James, Tracy Jo is holding something over her eyes, Mark David is totally looking away AND covering his face, and I’m standing in the middle with my gorgeous poncho, making an avoiding-the-glare grimace. Family photos at their finest!

I’m 7 or just turned 8 (my birthday is in November), second grade. The beast of our mobile home towers over us, the desert landscape (dirt and weeds) lends atmosphere, and the white station wagon waits as our trusty steed. This 3 bedroom, 2 bath deluxe model was truly mobile. In this picture, we are living on Hamel Road. But we moved to Presidential Estates further from town and on that property we moved one more time. Then we loaded up again and moved north to the White Mountains. Four total moves and she still held together! Alas, when we finally moved back to Washington state in 1978, the beast stayed south.

I loved living on Hamel Road! Two of my best friends lived on my street. I use the term ‘street’ loosely. Dusty dirt road. We rode our horses all over that area, creating dramas, rescuing invisible persons-in-distress, escaping from the bad guys, setting up picnic lunches, and camping out in the horse pasture.

This Throwback Thursday is sponsored by “Way Back When.”

What “Way Back When” memories do you have? Anyone else wear plaid or ponchos? Or both? (Yes, I once had a warm winter cape that was both plaid and poncho!)

 


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Throwback Thursday: The Horse

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This is me with my third horse, Blaze. Royal Blaze.

Actually you can count her as my first horse, since the other two, Sissy and Lady, were more like family horses. Sissy and Blaze were both quite happy to dump me somewhere along the road and run home like horses on fire. And sometimes Blaze ran home to the fancy barn at the neighbor’s house, just for spite.

Maybe I spent more time walking than actually riding, but I did get better at holding on to the reins for dear life, forcing Blaze to stop so I could get back on. Spooking at ANY little thing. Like a rock, or a leaf, or maybe a butterfly. That was Blaze. Sissy just bucked you off and took off running if your heel came within 12 inches of her ticklish flank.

Though, as I think back, some sounds were spook-worthy. Maybe the giant crashing sounds in the shrubs along the road (bear, cow, mountain lion, elk?). Snake in the road? Check. Barking dog. Check. Shadow. Check.

Perhaps I took my life in my hands each time I headed out riding through the forest and range lands, but God looked out for me and kept me safe. Yes, He did.

This photo was taken sometime between 1976-78. I was probably 14 or 15 and we lived out in the middle of NOWHERE in the White Mountains of Arizona. Going to school was a 35 minute (or so) ride to Springerville/Eager on a mini-bus over a mountain pass. Yes! If snow was in the forecast, we got out of school early and headed home before the pass got bad. No sirree, the school did not want to have us spending the night! Going shopping or to work (Dad) was another 30-40 minute drive in the opposite direction to Show Low. Our mailing address was actually in Vernon, about 6 miles away, and our property ran up against fencing for forest land.

Blaze. How much I loved thee, knothead that you were. Mom and Dad bought her for me when she was about 4 months old. You can’t tell from this photo, but she was a roan Appaloosa. When we picked up ‘Fancy’ from the previous owners, she was the cutest thing! Spots were noticeable along her rump, but only if you looked hard. A sparse tail was the only other clue to her breeding. Her daddy’s name was Royal something (this was a LONG time ago, folks) and she had a blaze down her forehead, so Royal Blaze she became.

This horse provided me with hours and hours of adventures and companionship. Every day I’d head outside with our collie, Jody, tell her to get the horse, and whistle. Within minutes, thundering hooves and joyful barks raced towards me from the nearly 8 acre cedar-covered pasture. If if was a good day (for the dog) the three of us would head out for a couple of hours, exploring and playing. If it was really a good day, the dog would find something dead to roll in and stink to high heaven. If it was a bad day for the dog, I would try to sneak outside without her. This never worked, but sometimes I knew other dogs would be an issue, so she had to stay home. These days always crushed our girl.

Some fun things to remember:

-a broken off piece of salt block in my pocket to lick as we went for rides

-making up adventure stories involving cute boys and big events

-freezing my toes and fingers off (not literally) while riding in the deep snow

-cleaning out the horse tank and taking the first drinks of clean water

-climbing, circling, admiring Timber Knoll

-the cool deserted cabin behind Timber Knoll

-dead stuff

-forgetting I had on my dirty old cowboy boots and wearing them to school

-Poky, the cat, riding atop the horse, playing catch with branches trailing along Blaze’s back as we walked through the pasture

-snakes, lizards, tarantulas. Oh, my!

-surviving exit (of me) attempts by the horse brushing as close to the trunks of trees and shrubs as possible, hoping I would come off

We really did have loads of good times together. One just needed to be prepared for her to pull a trick! Good old Blaze!

What’s a favorite memory of adventures you have?

 

P.S. See the tree on the right side of the photo? That’s the spot the cougar/mountain lion spent the night! In. Our. Front. Yard. The dog was having a fit, but we didn’t let her out.

Middle of nowhere, folks. Middle of nowhere.

 


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Talk to Me Tuesday: Is RV Living Genetic?

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The Wheetley sisters had a weekend get-together a few weeks ago, hosted by my cousin and me. Ranging from 73 to 90, the four siblings are getting to the age where each trip just might be the last.

But persist, we did. Now I’m not going to mention age-related issues, but let’s just toss out a few things to consider if you are planning a cabin-in-the-woods adventure for the mature crowd.

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Steps. There will be steps. Unfortunately our cabin had NO handrails for the stairs climbing to the deck and front door. Gorgeous building, plenty of room, majestic pine trees, amusing chipmunks (squirrels? we could never decide) living in the roof of the cabin next door. But NO handrails.

The rule of thumb became: No one goes UP or DOWN the stairs unless Melissa or Angie is offering arm support (and perhaps humming the bridal march). I won’t mention names, but one of us did not follow the rules. And fell down the stairs. So there is that to consider.

Stubborn independence. We Wheetley’s are an independent lot. I think this character trait strengthens with age. Maybe even quadruples. Just be forewarned.

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Food. The two of us planned excellent meals, if I don’t say so myself. But we planned way TOO much. I went to the cabin with an ice chest full of food. I came home with an ice chest full of food. Not the same food, but most of the leftovers. I think smaller meals and lots of tasty snacks (zucchini bread, blueberries, fudge, fresh fruit, and cheese seemed to be the favorites). Keep that in mind. And always ALWAYS check the lid on new fresh pepper grinders before adding pepper to a pan of quiche that’s ready to go in the oven. Ah-hem.

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Hot tub. We enjoyed the in-deck hot tub surrounded by towering trees and blue skies. And neighbors going to and fro on the nearby road, but who’s worried about an audience? The STEPS rule came into play at the hot tub, with the added element of danger due to the slippery water. I’m convinced we could have videotaped us trying to maneuver all of us into and out of the water and won big money on American’s Funniest Home Videos. But the only one who fell in was Melissa, I mean, a younger person who was in charge of keeping everybody else safe.

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Games. Puzzles. Crafts. Oh, my! Surprisingly, these were not the hit. Socializing, grazing, and sipping before meal drinks were the favored activities. Three of us enjoyed working two puzzles. I colored in an adult coloring book (and later turned that paper into stamped cards, thank you very much). So I wouldn’t worry too much about planning extra activities. Family stories and funny incidents made up most of our adventure. And toting along a few chick flicks is a good idea. We enjoyed movies after dinner.

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Giggling. This will happen. At any time of day or night. And certain somebody’s might sneak into the sisters’ bed to warm up and giggle some more. Can we say adorable?

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We did make 2 short outings. One day we hit the thrift store and fudge shop, bringing back probably 2 million calories in a variety of fudgy flavors. A different day we took a drive to see the lake. No getting out, just a scenic tour.

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Where does the RV genetic link come in? My husband and I have been living in an RV two years this month. This is temporary (I hope) as we figure out the building a small home process, but still, we are living in an RV. During our many trips down memory lane, I realized that three of the four sisters spent at least two years living in RVs! Let me say that in no way have I ever wanted to live long-term in an RV, yet here I am. Genetically predisposed? Or environmentally influenced?

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Either way, I love my Wheetleys, whether it’s their fault I’m in the RV or not. Wink, wink. And we had a great time and made new memories.

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SURVEY TIME: Are there any other Wheetleys who live (or lived) in an RV? How about the Hill side of the family?

 


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Writing for Preschoolers: It All Began When My Babies Were -Preschoolers #ThrowbackThursday

When did I begin writing for preschoolers? WAY back when.

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I’m so glad my honey took this photo. This was my first trip to Birmingham, Alabama, to attend a writer’s conference and begin writing curriculum and products for Mission Friends (preschool missions education materials).

Chelsie was three, Taylor was five, and I had dark hair (and hair, period). Judging by how old they are now, I’ve been writing for Woman’s Missionary Union for about 28 years. Time flies when preschoolers are having fun and this writer is loving every minute of the journey.

What a blessing it is to remember this opportunity from the Lord! I so love preschoolers. You know, that age is one of the funnest ever! (I know, I know. There are other ages that are also super fun. Okay, you caught me. I adore them all.)

Sweet babies, fantastic supporting husband, and dreams for endless learning activities. Now my babies have given me five grands, with three going to school this fall and only two still at home.

Enjoy those moments, mama and daddy! Those babies are gonna grow up too fast and before you know it, you’ll have a lap full of your own grands.

How about sharing a Throwback Thursday moment of your own?


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Seize the Moment ~ #ThrowbackThursday

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Now, mamas, I’m not going to tell you, “Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” but I will say, “Seize those moments!” I’d love to go back to this moment and enjoy that face-smashing hug a few more times!

Circa 1992, this photo shows my (our) daughter, Chelsie, loving her mama, right there in the middle of the floor. Sometimes you have to just be on the floor. Or the couch, the bed, the dirt, the tub, even, eh-hem, the potty. Wherever and whenever the moments present themselves, go for it! Abandon the to-do’s and not-right-now’s and seize the moment.

Lesson to me, the Nana. I need to remember this when my grands are all over the place. They are growing up so fast! Nothing is more important than those sweet hugs and kisses. I’d pass on the germs they share, but that goes with the territory of young children building up their immunities.

Seize a moment today.

P.S. Comment below and let me know which moment you captured!


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A Tub Can Be . . . Creative Uses for Everyday Items

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Taylor and Chelsie enjoy a sticky treat while lounging in a plastic baby bathtub.

A tub can be . . .

Actually, a child’s plastic bathtub can be:

  • a snacking spot
  • a boat
  • a water table
  • a push car
  • a chair
  • a sink for washing
  • an actual bathtub
  • a container for small animals
  • a storage unit
  • a reading nook
  • a garden box
  • an art project
  • a doll bed
  • a watering tub (for animals or kids)
  • a pond
  • a fairy garden
  • a mud pie factory
  • sand box
  • a cat box (if one is not careful)

Taylor and Chelsie (circa @1992) are enjoying some good old sticky lollipops as they sit in the baby bathtub. It was no longer a bathtub at this point, but instead became the object of many imaginative games.

How about you? What other uses have you found for a plastic baby bathtub?