Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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My First Birthday without Mom

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This birthday is bittersweet.

I’m thankful and so happy to complete yet another year of life on Planet Earth. But this marks the first year since I was born that I will not have my mommy calling me as early as she could to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. She loved to re-live and tell me all about my day 1 of being a human. My parents were so happy to bring home a baby girl, as my mom had miscarried my 5-month old brother before she became pregnant with me.

Ok. Logically, she did not call me when I was a baby or still living at home. But she celebrated my special day for 56 years before she joined daddy in Heaven.

AND, I can’t find the photos I scanned of my first birthday. That is the oddest thing. I KNOW I scanned them. Some day, some place, I will find them.

Must be because the number (of years) is creeping ever higher . . . I did find a photo of my daddy holding me. His little Angelina Popalina.

Giving thanks for another birthday and the good health I’ve been granted by God. Such blessings. This aging 57 year-old body is hanging in there, even though creaks and groans litter early morning adventures.

Happy birthday to all of my birthday buddies. If you celebrate November 20th, or any day in my favorite 11th month, have a fabulous day! May the LORD bless you!

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Throwback Thursday: Mama’s Cooking

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my mom lately, especially in the car, which usually leads to driving through the tears. I truly miss all those phone calls, hugs, and visits since she passed away in May. She is happy. I will be fine. But I do miss her.

Which is not the main focus of my thoughts. For some reason, perhaps the upcoming season of feasts and gatherings, my inner foodie is on high alert. Mama was an excellent cook. Sure my dad usually had smart comments about biscuits being hard like hockey pucks or gravy being thick enough to plaster walls, but that was just dad. He loved to tease. That was how he showed love.

I know mama worked hard to keep us fed. She also worked as cheaply as possible, cutting costs, stretching meals, and making most meals from scratch. Even without much in the pantry, Mama was so creative, we still had filling meals. She might have been short on stature, but she was a giant in love and resourcefulness.

Not every meal did I LOVE. I avoided fried grit pancakes with syrup if possible and cornbread milk toast. Eggplant, no matter how much she battered and fried it, did not agree with my taste buds. But she was famous for so many of my favorite foods. I’m going to do a quick brainstorm list and see how many I can remember. Just consider that each dish was made from scratch…

Grits and eggs

Sausage gravy and homemade biscuits

Hash browns and gravy

Tortillas and refried beans

Burritos

Homemade bread, butter, and jam

Spaghetti (my go-to birthday request favorite meal)

The Gasser (her noteworthy casserole, aptly named, which included beans, onions, green chilies, corn, hash browns, corn tortillas, and enchilada sauce)

Chicken and dumplings

Pancakes

Homemade syrup

Jam

Fried bologna and cheese sandwiches

Sliced hotdogs baked with ketchup

Fresh corn (either frozen or on the ear)

Macaroni and milk, the first meal after stomach flu

Homemade noodles

 

Mama was always purchasing, harvesting, preserving, and storing food. I still remember the 50-pound bags of dried pinto beans, onions, and corn on the cob. We had goats, cows, chickens, and ducks. Eggs were plentiful and the milk was sold for extra cash. Nobody can drink that much milk! I was not a fan of the bits of cream lingering in the whole milk, regardless of how much we carefully skimmed it off the top. Unpasteurized to boot! It’s amazing that we survived.

How about you? Did you have favorite home-cooked meals? If you know my family, do you remember any other special foods my mama made?

 

 


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Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten in the 60s

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I remember living in Cle Elum the same year I attended kindergarten, 1966-67.

Kindergarten. This monumental first year of school was so much different in the 60s than in the here and now. In fact, many students didn’t even attend kinder, but started school when they were old enough for first grade.

Kindergarten in Cle Elum? Mandatory dresses for girls, must be able to tie shoe laces, and had to be 5 before school started. I must have been fine for tying my laces, since I remember wearing saddle ox shoes. Which (I just googled) was the common name for saddle oxford shoes quite popular at the time. I always thought they were called saddle LOCKS. Haha. Celebrating my birthday in November placed me among the oldest in my class.

I loved kindergarten. We had art, easel painting, music, recess, lunch, NAP time, stories, play time, and so many other fun activities. I remember my mother telling me that my teacher put me at a table full of noisy boys, hoping that I would calm them down. What she probably meant was that I was bossy and would tell them to be quiet. I’m sure I did. Tell them to be quiet. My oldest kid personality came out shining.

If you are familiar with Cle Elum, you know that it is a small town near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state. We had winter. The type of winter where snow fell, temps were frigid, and everyone knew winter had arrived. We used to live in a two story home. I distinctly remember the year when so much snow fell, we had snow mountains piled high around our house. It became a game to jump out a second story window, land in the snow, follow the tunnel back to the door, run up the steps, and jump out again. Never fear, adults were involved in this seasonal sport. Honestly. I am not making this stuff up.

Also. The “girls must wear dresses” rule. My mom finally got so tired of me standing at the bus stop shivering and freezing that she sent me to school wearing, hold on tight now, pants! She was really stepping out and being rebellious. But she also wasn’t about to let her little girl get frostbite while wearing a cute dress with tights.

I’m pretty sure the above picture was taken in our backyard in Cle Elum. That is me on the left and my brother on the right. We loved playing on that swing set. Our family did so many fun activities when we lived in the mountains. We camped, explored, visited family and friends, climbed mountains, and spent time beside rivers. The northwest became our big backyard.

I remember another funny story about our time in Cle Elum. Mom could hear my brother and I giggling and the toilet flushing repeatedly. She quickly ran into the bathroom and we were entertaining a guest raccoon. Apparently we had let it in, or it had invited itself in. I have no idea how we discovered its love of running water, but the flushing toilet was a perfect play area. My poor mother!

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Learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels also happened during my Cle Elum and kindergarten years. I was so proud! Good thing there wasn’t a car parked in front of me when my dad was taking this picture!

What do you remember about kindergarten? Were you a paste taster? I still remember the smell and the urge to sample, though I don’t remember eating any. Share a favorite kinder memory. Let’s compare notes.


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Throwback Thursday: Flowers and Me

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I was pleased to find this little gem of a photo in my baby book. After losing mom in May, every treasure I uncover has become much more precious. My mama loved her little Angie.

I don’t remember seeing this photo before, though I know I’ve had it for years. Mom despaired of my hair growing and I was often seen sporting a comb-over wave to give the appearance of ample hair. Curly and fine, just like it is today. Though with much more gray.

These irises bloomed in front of my Grandma Wheetley’s house in Sunnyside, Washington. We visited often, I imagine, and this is also the town where my mother and father met and started the journey of lifelong marriage.

Little Angie, as I was nicknamed by grandparents on both sides, is nearly as tall as the gorgeous irises. What I love, besides seeing a much younger, cuter me, is that I obviously love flowers. Just like I do now. These days finds me planting more sunflowers, wildflowers, and blooming bushes, but the beginning of my love affair with gardening sprouted right there with me playing in the irises.

My mama was an excellent seamstress. I can’t ask now, but I think she or my grandmother probably made this dress. I so wish I could sit and pour over these childhood photos with her one more time. My siblings and I were blessed to have a mother who loved us unconditionally. Not that we didn’t get called on the carpet, but good mothers have to do that to straighten out our stubborn bits.

What special memories do you have of your parents or grandparents?


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Overwhelmed

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Curlers and all, love my mom! 

It’s been a while.

Life is sometimes overwhelming. After Mama died in May, days became chaotic, stressful, and anxiety-filled. Nights were often sleepless, filled with memories of 56 years with Mama or constantly making to-do lists. Grieving took a back seat to facing and surviving each day.

How was I to know that cooking beets would remind me of canning beets with my mom? I was always the beet peeler. Or that walking on the stepping stones she and dad made years ago with our names on top would take me right back to our Wapato home?  Or how my wedding anniversary would bring me to tears because my mama always remembered our big day? She painstakingly made my wedding dress and several bridesmaid dresses. I didn’t realize that, now, every time I drive to the apartment of my grands, I would have to pass the Cottage where she passed away. The memories keep her close to my heart, but that heart is full of aches and pains.

Each day is new to the process. All four of our parents have passed on to Heaven. They are having a great time. But that doesn’t stop me from missing them. We are now the oldest and the NEXT to go (in the natural order of things, not counting for surprises). And we both have the hope and faith that we will see them again when it’s our time to go.

“Any-who.” As my mother-in-law always said. “That’s life.”

But life takes it out of you sometimes.

I’m back. Slowly and steadily, taking one day at a time. Still missing Mama.

Life altering circumstances or situations do, well, alter your life. Have you had any life events that deeply impacted your life? How did you survive and continue on living your life?


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Circle Time Preschool Puzzles: The Nesting Syndrome

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What to do when there is only 1 child?

Make a puzzle circle! Miss Autumn (2) was quite content to sit inside the puzzle circle and work puzzles. Simone was happy to supervise. A cozy nearby fireplace added ambiance and warmth for this cold winter day activity.

There is something about the NEST format of play. Are you a nest person? I am. I’ve always loved playing inside a circle formed by things-toys, books, supplies, whatever I’m working on-spread in a circle which surrounds me.

I really need to research this nest phenomenon. Does it point to a specific need, like security? Is nesting organizational in nature? Am I completely OCD and this is how it manifested itself when I was a child? Am I a circle person? Is this a form of marking my territory, albeit the creation of play boundaries and personal space instead of doggy pee trails? What does that mean?

Not nesting, as in I’m pregnant and preparing for the imminent birth of my child, though I also experienced that type of nesting. I clearly remember nesting the entire Memorial Day weekend. I thought I was just making things tidy, cleaning house, and putting baby things away. Lo and behold, our first baby came 3 weeks early and arrived before lunch on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Surprise! I was baby nesting.

There is also the type of nesting performed by birds. I am not a bird. But I am amazed at the intricate, sturdy, vastly creative and unique types of nests these little bird brains build. With that in mind, I’m sure bird brain is a complement.

Back to play nesting. I have memories of Barbie nests, toy box nests (where the toy box is empty and I am surrounded by the toys), and fabric nests. The fabric nests lets you know this nesting trait carried over to my adult years. I remember a specific photo of my two preschoolers, complete with a circle of toys and nearly empty toy box. Donavyn and Autumn (grands) love sitting inside blanket nests. Is nesting hereditary?

Any ideas? Do you nest? Have you seen young children exhibit nesting? I’d love to know more about the nesting syndrome.

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Monday Moments: Family Photo Chaos Company

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20 eyes

20 hands and feet

100 fingers and toes

10 mouths (equals 10 voices!)

10 different ideas

20 legs and arms

4 cameras

4 purses

2 pair improper shoes

4 pair glinting glasses

3 mommies, 2 daddies, 5 cousins

Plus: mud, crowds, drippy leaves, slick straw bales, tilting maze, sparse pumpkins, traffic, no hay rides (rain)

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Today’s Monday Moments are brought to you by the Family Photo Chaos Company.

The above stats equal 5 adults and 5 children from 2-55 years old. A list of emotions, attitudes, and energy levels: shy, humorous, pre-teen, grumpy, hungry, tired, excited, crazy, silly, bossy, happy, ready to be done with it all.

This was THE fastest photo shoot. Ever.

Still, I’m smiling. Memories made, images captured, perfection avoided. The Christmas photo shall be selected and enjoyed.

How do you manage your family photo shoots?

 


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Throwback Thursday: Colors of Desert Sun

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The opposite of sun-bleached, we were sun-drenched.

Long shadows, blinded eyes, rich dense colors.

Yes, this was us in the early 1970’s. I was most likely in 2nd grade, dressed for Arizona heat. My brother was in kindergarten, already pursuing his unique personality and sense of humor. Little sister must have been preschool-age, but back then going to preschool was not a thing families did.

Yes. That was how our yard was landscaped. Gravel, dust, scrappy weeds. The interesting parts were the critters and wildlife we discovered as we played and explored the desert environments. In this location alone, I remember collecting gallons of tadpoles after desert storms, and hunting horned toads, tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, spiders, jack rabbits, and those scary spider wasps. We also rescued a tortoise from the middle of the road and let him burrow around in the back yard. Thaddeus Humperdinck. That was his name. No idea why.

Yes. Windows open. The weather must not have been too drastically hot, and judging from the distant clouds, we might have recently enjoyed rain. We had a swamp cooler on top of the trailer and I remember lying on the floor beneath it during the hottest part of summer days with my coloring book and crayons, cooling off in the damp wind it created. But in this photo, the time of day was when the desert sun was kissing the horizon, ready to give us well-deserved shade and respite.

Yes. This was a very cool station wagon. Not only a wagon, but a magic vehicle capable of transporting us on weekend family treks to historical, dusty, engaging, scary, crowded, isolated, or deserted Arizona hot spots. Haha, “hot” spots. Soda pop bottles, white bread, bologna, and we were ready to roll. Up hill, down hill, across stretching southwest landscapes, stopping for rare shade trees and dusty gullies, drips of streams and gorges filled with flash floods. Life was an adventure. Include: dogs, kids, play pen, stroller, and avid interest.

Yes. A home on wheels. And we used those wheels to move the trailer several times over our life within the metal, possibly uninsulated, walls. We survived desert thunderstorms, lighting shows, freezing temperatures, snow storms, and heat hot enough to cook (insert your favorite food). Home it was. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room-kitchen, and utility room. Kids lived on the right end, parents on the left. We six (plus critters) crammed a magnificent amount of life into that gorgeous tenement on wheels.

I loved living in the desert, back when heat didn’t bother me and I spent all my days outside, digging in the dirt, catching insects and reptiles, chasing kids in the ‘neighborhood,’ and making up daring adventure stories while riding horseback with my similarly minded friends. The nostalgia of childhood paints beautiful masterpieces in my mind, blotting the difficult times (were there any?) and adding exquisite details to enhance my thankfulness to God for a good, excellent, childhood.

What about you? Which photo takes you back to your childhood?


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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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The Station Wagon #ThrowbackThursday

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The Hill kids, Mark (blue suit), me (tallest), Tracy (white knee socks), and James (bib), next to the family roadster!

Station wagons and me, we go way back.

In the late 80s, my husband accepted employment with a new company, one benefit being a company car. “Anything would be cool, but please don’t come home with a station wagon. And especially not one with fake wood details.”

Ahem. Yes. He came with a station wagon. Adornment of imitation wood panels? Whew. Dodged that faux grained bullet.

Even earlier than the 80s & 90s version of the station wagon work vehicle was the early 70s family models owned by my parents. We had at least 2 different family touring vehicles, blue and white. Those wagons could really hold people and belongings. And pets, groceries, camping equipment, children, toys. Nothing like the little trunks in modern cars.

 

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The family station wagon, mid-trip exploring the Arizona desert.

Some of my fondest memories are the days we spent exploring the southwest. We’d load up 2 parents, 4 kids, and 1 collie dog. The first mandatory stop would be a mini-mart so we could purchase the required bologna, cheese, white bread, and soda for our snacking pleasure. Sometimes we ate hot dogs (always cold) instead of bologna, but either one was a treat. Then we would hit the road.

The Arizona desert is a wondrous place for questing. Forests, rivers, desert lands, mountains, ghost towns, dirt roads, historical sites. My parents loved to haul us around seeing what we could see. I have vivid pictures in my mind of those trips, but I can’t help but wonder if we didn’t drive mom and dad the slightest bit crazy. 4 kids and a dog in a station wagon? Even if we did use the fold-up seats in the way back to separate us.

Horned toads, tarantulas, snakes, spiders, scorpions, cacti, sagebrush, thorns, stickers, heat mirages, dust. Treasure is all in the eyes and heart of the explorer.

What about you? What memories do you have about a vehicle or early days with your family? I’d love to hear your tales on this #ThrowbackThursday.