Sunday, October 31, 2010


Liv had a ton of fun trick-or-treating tonight!

She got a lot of loot, and she wasn't even afraid of the "Spooky Red House"! But she did get a little startled by the guy at the red house because he came out in a skeleton mask. But she said she wasn't scared!

She decided to be a spider again, just like last year. Good thing, too. Because it was really chilly, and the spider costume was toasty warm.

Here are a few photos:

Heading to the "Spooky Red House"!

Here she is, posing after getting candy from the "Spooky Red House"!

One more pose, for good measure, with the "Spooky Red House" in the background.
She wanted to do a silly pose!

Check out this house!!

This place was awesome! They had a cotton candy maker, sodas, candy, scary music, creepy crawly things, you name it . . .
Liv got some orange cotton candy here, and Andrew got a soda! It was too much fun!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - Halloween, Part II

This week's Memory Lane Topic is Halloween, Part II!

Halloween is fun, isn't it?!

Anyway, I'll write about Livie's Halloween experiences this week.

Last week, I posted a photo of Livie in her very first Halloween costume, a red chile pepper. Here's a different photo of her in that costume. It was taken a couple days before Halloween, just so we could see how cute she'd be:

Cute, huh?! And being a chile pepper is PERFECT for a New Mexico baby!!

Anyway, we didn't take her trick-or-treating because she was only 8-months-old at the time. We did, however, hold her as we answered the door and passed out candy. It was funny (and fun!) . . . we kept getting lots of comments, like, "Aww, look at the baby dressed like a chile!"

Here she is, just before trick-or-treating started. I'd wanted to get a photo of her next to the bowl of candy. Yes, Andrew has a surprised face.  Because she was so curious about the bowl of candy (due to the brightly colored wrappers and the fun-looking bowl, I guess) - she apparently kept leaning forward, trying to reach it! He was momentarily having a hard time keeping his grip on her!

See her little outstretched hand? "If I could just get a little closer . . . "

The next year, we were in Iowa at my parents' house. By this time, she was a year and 8 months. And she LOVED cows.

So she was a cow for Halloween!

(FYI: she has Aquaphor smeared all over her mouth and nose because of chapped skin.)

Since my parents' house isn't in a very trick-or-treating friendly neighborhood, we trick-or-treated at the local mall. Like I said, she LOVED cows, and had to take her stuffed animal cow with her.

 Since this was her first time trick-or-treating, she really wasn't sure what was going on.

Abuelita has just given Livie one of her treats after we returned.

The following year, she was a pumpkin. And boy, did she LOVE being a pumpkin! While she sorta-kinda understood the concept of trick-or-treating, she had just as much fun showing everyone her costume and her ghosty treat bag, which is what she's doing in the photo below.

This was our first Halloween in our new house. I stayed home handing out candy, while Livie went out trick-or-treating with Daddy.

Now here's a funny story. There's a house just down the street whose owners change the outdoor light bulbs to red ones at Halloween, giving a creepy glow to the house.

Well, Andrew and Livie got to this "red" house, and as they walked up to the front door, they noticed a "spooky statue" sitting in the corner of the front porch. As Livie went to ring the door bell, the "statue" moved, standing up.

Needless to say, it startled her!

It was just the guy who lived at the house, not even in costume, just waiting to hand out candy. But in the darkness, with the Halloween ornaments all around and the red glow coming from the Halloween light bulbs, she hadn't noticed that he was real.

Andrew and the guy chuckled about it, due to the cuteness of the incident.

Later on when they got back, Livie kept going on and on about the spooky red house! It was REALLY SPOOKY!!

Here she is after their return, with all her loot. She has her "I'm not sharing" face, doesn't she?!

She has her ghosty treat bag and her jack-o'-lantern at her feet.

Last year, she was a spider.

She wanted both Mommy and Daddy to go trick-or-treating with her this time, so she could show me the spooky red house. While it had startled her the year before, she was absolutely ready to go there last year! She even decided it would be the first house we went to . . . and in the photo below, you can see we've just trick-or-treated at "The Red House"! 

And I'll end this post with last year's kitty pumpkin. Livie was very proud of it.

Please click on the button below to read this week's post by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs (who hosts "Memory Lane Friday" every week):
Come back next week to read "No Theme" posts!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Arachnid's Spooky and Sweet Adventure

Our town's public library has "Story Time" for 3-5 year-olds every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 AM - 11:00 AM.

Since Liv doesn't go to Pre-K on Tuesdays and Thursdays these days, I'm trying to get into the habit of taking advantage of our library's programs for kids, like "Story Time." 

This week, the "Story Time" theme is all about trick-or-treating, because Halloween is just days away. Last week, at the end of "Story Time," (apple orchard-themed), the librarian mentioned that kids should come in their Halloween costumes for this week's "Story Time."

Liv was immediately excited about getting to wear a costume to "Story Time."

Now, Liv has two costumes from years past that still fit (they just fit, but not for much longer) - a pumpkin costume and a spider costume. They're both nice and warm. And considering that today is pretty chilly, feeling even colder with the 28º F windchill, I was glad we have two warm costume options (the third and final one, an Ariel mermaid option, just wouldn't work for anything other than dress-up playtime at home).

Well, she'd been going back and forth about which one she wanted to wear: the pumpkin or the spider . . . the pumpkin or the spider. Finally, she decided on the spider.

Then off we went to the library.

And somehow I hadn't even thought to bring my camera. Really? D'oh!

Well, I did get a very poor quality photo with my cell phone:

Just so you know, here's what she looks like in the costume, as seen in a good photo (taken last year when she went trick-or-treating, along with her ghosty goody bag):

Anyway, she had a blast at "Story Time"! As soon as we got to the library's conference room, she went into "spider" mode - acting creepy and making supposedly "spider-like" noises, all to the delight of the kids' librarian and other kids who'd already arrived and were waiting for "Story Time" to begin. (That's what she was doing in the first photo, above.)

Then after hearing about 25 minutes of Halloween-related kids' books, the kids' librarian took them on a Halloween Parade all throughout the library. They stopped at the children's desk and got some orange sunglasses, then stopped at other desks (circulation, info, etc) and got other treats, like Halloween-themed coloring sheets, plastic spider rings, and some candy treats.

Afterward, I'd promised I'd take her to this awesome chocolate store in town, just down the street from the library.

She had insisted on wearing her costume, even though I'd wanted to slip it off over her head, so she could wear her winter coat (the windchill WAS 28º F, after all).

So when we got to the chocolate store, she was in costume. I think she was expecting that she'd be able to "trick-or-treat," even though I'd said we'd each pick one thing out so I could buy it for an after-lunch treat.

When we got in there, she immediately knew what she wanted. A "lollipop" made out of white chocolate (colored yellow) in the shape of an ear of corn!

 Only in Iowa, right?

Oh, and because she was so cute in costume (and funny when "in character"), the lady gave her a free packet of chocolate, with two pieces in it. She'd asked me if it was okay to give it to Liv, and I said yes. At that point she hinted that Liv eat one and give me the other one, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen! 

Anyway . . what did I pick out for myself?

A caramel apple covered in chopped pecans and drizzled chocolate. Yum-o!!

But first . . . lunch. We both had PB&J. I was going to eat something else, but when I'd finished making hers, it looked so good, I made one for myself.

Here's Liv's sandwich on one of her Halloween plates. I thought the spider one was fitting, because she was a spider today.

So . . . I'll bet you never knew a spider could have such a morning of adventure, did you?!

Please come back tomorrow for Memory Lane Friday. The topic is "Halloween, Part II" ("Halloween, Part I" and "A Spooky Story" were the past two weeks' topics).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Additions to the Bucket List

Livie doesn't go to Pre-K on Tuesdays. So this morning, after playing, eating breakfast, and watching one program on The Travel Channel, I've come up with some additions to my bucket list (you can find that post by clicking here). I'm adding them now, while Livie's busy playing.

43. Go to New York and visit the High Line Park (it's a park built on an elevated train structure).
44. Spend a week at Watervale with Livie and Andrew. Watervale, by the way, has been made famous by fellow LFC alumna, Jessica, through her Little Merry Sunshine blog - just go to her blog and do a search for Watervale; then you'll understand why I'd love to spend some time there. For example, her Watervale Withdrawal Disorder post says it all.
45. Take Livie and Andrew on a drive on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago at night. This is an awesome drive, with the bright, twinkling lights (looking like bling) on the west, and the dark lake on the east.
46. Take Livie skiing out west, in one of the big, square states.
47. Eat a delicious dinner with Livie and Andrew at the Great American Land and Cattle Company on Alabama Street in El Paso, TX. This is down the street from where my grandparents lived. It'll bring a sense of saudade, because I've been to that restaurant with them and they no longer live near there, but it has a beautiful view, and awesome food.
48. Eat another perfect, heavenly filet mignon at Ruth's Chris in Chicago.
49. Take Livie and Andrew for tapas at La Tasca in Arlington Heights, IL. Jessica, you'll need to join us for this one!
50. Of course, since we're talking about tapas, I'd love to take Livie and Andrew to another of my favorite tapas places in the Chicagoland area: Cafe Ba Ba Reeba in Lincoln Park.

Okay, those are the latest additions. I must be hungrier than I realized, since a lot of this is about food. Or maybe I made myself hungry by thinking and writing about lots of great food places.

Additions as of 29 Jan 2011:
51. Take Livie to see an opera in the theater.
52. In New York with Livie and Andrew, I want to see Times Square, as well as a Broadway show, and go to the Statue of Liberty. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sir Rafa liked butterscotch

So I found some old photos from the mid-'80s and early-'90s.

Here's a photo of Sir Rafa and a bunny named Butterscotch, taken on 26 Apr 1990. This was at the house on Casady Drive, in the "Blue Room."

Joe and Alex each had a bunny. Alex's bunny was this one, Butterscotch. And Joe's bunny was a white one named Snowball.

And the "Blue Room"? Well, it used to have blue carpet. Then my mom re-did it with this teal carpet and new wallpaper.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Spooky Story

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is "A Spooky Story." I enjoy this time of year, so the multiple Halloween-themed Memory Lane Friday topics are fun . . . even thinking of a spooky story to relate was fun!

So . . . while I was a student at Lake Forest College (LFC), I was very involved in the theater, mostly as an extracurricular activity (props crews, lights operator, sound operator, stage manager, playwright). I did take a couple theater classes for credit (a "history of the theater" type of class, as well as a joint English-Theater Arts "play/screenplay writing" class), but a big part of my theater experience was just for fun.

Then in mid-May, just a couple weeks after I graduated from LFC in 1993, one of my Culver friends and I headed to the historic town of Gettysburg, PA; we were going to do Summer Theater at Gettysburg College. She has asked for a pseudonym, so in this post, I shall call her "Geena." Geena, by the way, had actually attended and graduated from Gettysburg College, and had been heavily into the theater.

My summer theater experience would actually include acting (mainly children's theater) as well as behind-the-scenes work for both children's theater and main stage production.

Now, as you may know, it's been said that Gettysburg is one of the most haunted places in the U.S. because of the large number of casualties occurring during this Civil War battle.

Needless to say, on our road trip to Gettysburg, Geena told me plenty of "ghost" stories about Gettysburg (both the college and the town).

I wasn't sure what to think, not really believing in ghosts, but hearing all these . . . coincidences and sightings that Geena was telling me about? It got me really curious, and just a teeny bit nervous about what kinds of "ghostly" encounters I'd experience while there, especially since Gettysburg College has so much paranormal activity.

See, Gettysburg College existed during the Civil War (though it was known as Pennsylvania College at the time). So it's natural for spooky things to happen there nowadays.

For instance, Geena told me a story about Pennsylvania Hall ("Penn Hall").  This was one of the College's administration buildings. I'm not sure what it housed before. Maybe it was a dorm?

I haven't heard this story for a while, so the details are a bit fuzzy. But here goes . . .

During the Civil War, though, it was taken over by the Confederate Army and used as a hospital and morgue. You can just imagine what it was like, considering the state of battlefield hospitals in the 1860s.

Well, during the 1980s (if I remember the story correctly), after the building had become the administration building, a couple administrators had been there, working late. Finally, they'd wrapped up and headed for home. They took the elevator, pressing the button for the 1st floor. The elevator started going down from the 4th floor . . . to the 1st, right?

Wrong! As the story goes, the elevator mysteriously bypassed the 1st floor and went directly to the basement. Unexpected, but no big deal. When the elevator doors opened, they'd be in a storage space. Right?

Think again! 

Now here comes the part not for the squeamish.

As the doors opened, the two administrators witnessed a horrific, bloody scene - an 1863 battlefield hospital setting! 

Injured, dying (or dead) men all about . . . red-stained doctors and orderlies rushing about, doing what they could to save as many lives as possible.  

These two administrators were understandably FREAKED OUT!! They tried pushing the buttons, frantic. Just as the doors closed, a doctor looked directly at them, silently beckoning them, as if wanting them to  help.

Ugh, too creepy!!

Okay, so that story would be enough to creep anybody out, right?!

Well, there are many other ghost "encounters" that happened at the College and in the town itself. Geena, of course, had relayed some of them to me as we drove to Gettysburg. Most weren't quite as creepy as the Civil War hospital scene, but they were jolting nonetheless.

Here's one more example.

Since we were going to Gettysburg College to participate in summer theater, Geena told me about the "resident" ghost of the College's theater, simply known as "The General." Seems no one knows who he is, but he apparently enjoys watching stage productions from a seat in the house, or sometimes from a catwalk above the stage. 

Well, early in the season (having been there a few days, maybe a week), another summer theater participant (we'll call her "Sue") and I were in the theater one afternoon. I don't remember what we were doing. I think Sue had given me a quick tour (filling me in on stuff Geena hadn't shown me yet). Then we went to the green room, to work on a project.

Since it was warm out, we had opened the door leading outside, propping it open with . . . a door stopper? Something heavy? A cinder block?

You know what? I seriously can't remember what it was, but since the door was kinda heavy, it must've been either a door stopper (you know, one of those wedge things you stick underneath it) or something heavy enough to keep it propped open.

We also had the door to the costume shop opened at the other end of the hall, just to get a breeze going through.

Now Sue had really been apprehensive about being in the theater alone, because everybody knew about "The General," and Sue didn't want to be there by herself because of "The General."

Actually, now that I think about it, I think she'd originally asked me to go with her to keep her company as she worked on a project. I was up for it, partly because I didn't really believe in ghosts, partly because I wanted something to do, and partly because I was curious. I mean, come on . . . was there a "General" haunting the theater? Really?!

Well, I think Sue and a number of other people had had unexplained events happen while at the theater. Maybe "The General" or maybe something else. I dunno, since I hadn't been there. But like I said she wanted company, just in case . . . she didn't want to be there alone.

So, we'd been there for a bit . . . maybe an hour or so. We had some music playing. She was working on the project, and after I wandered around, checking out the place, getting a feel for it, I was sitting in the green room, reading. A nice, quiet afternoon.

Well, it had been a nice, quiet afternoon.

BOOM!! The doors slammed shut! Both doors - the costume shop door at one end AND the door leading outside at the other.

The noise startled me, so I'd jumped. Plus Sue had let out an excited utterance. She was sure it was "The General."

I was sure I had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. I hadn't seen anything, but then again, I hadn't been looking for anything.

We investigated, together. Couldn't figure out how both doors slammed shut - the heavy outer door was held open securely. At least we thought it was secure.

Now I can't say for sure that this event was caused by "The General." Maybe the doors weren't as secure as we thought they were.

But then again, I can't say that it hadn't been caused by "The General."

Ooooooooh! Spooky, huh?

 Okay, here's a Children's Theater group shot with a bit of  Penn Hall in the background.
I'm the "bunny" in the lower right hand side of the photo. 

Here I am as "Missy Mouse," again with a bit of Penn Hall in the background.

Here's Little Round Top. Fighting took place here. 
Downhill to the left is "Devil's Den" (for those of you history buffs).

Memory Lane Friday is hosted by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs. Please click on the button below to read her Memory Lane Friday post, as well as other bloggers' entries.
Come back next week when theme is Halloween, Part II.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Will lights-out be early tonight?

We spent some time this afternoon at the park with the HUGE playground. We were there about 45 minutes.

Next, we headed out for a walk down the running trail. There are a lot of running trails (made of crushed limestone) all around town.

We didn't actually run, but we did walk a little bit (just about 1.26 miles).

Okay, so Liv did a combination of running/skipping/walking for about 2/3 of a mile before getting a ride in the BOB for the rest of the way.

It took us just about 30 minutes, because we had to stop and explore every couple minutes.

After one last stop at the park (for about 10-15 minutes), we headed home.

I hope all the playing will mean an easy and early bedtime.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - Halloween, Part I

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is "Halloween, Part I." I'm going to relay a very early memory of mine. I can't believe I can remember this!

Back in 1972, when my parents and I lived in El Paso (where my grandparents spent nearly their whole lives), I vaguely remember a Halloween dressed up as a clown. This was the first Halloween memory that I have. I just remember snippets, though, just a few hazy "snapshots" of that evening's adventure.

But first, the costume. Apparently, my grandmother, Oma, made the costume herself.

 Here I am (with Oma in the background), in the costume she made for me:
"Halloween 1972" (in Oma's handwriting) is on the back of the photo. That means I was less than two weeks away from my second birthday.

I vaguely remember going out trick-or-treating with my cousin Monica, who was also dressed up as a clown. She was a number of years (4-5?) older than me. I'm not sure if Oma made Monica's costume, as well. But she might have.

Now, this particular Halloween evening, I really wasn't sure what was going on - especially since both Monica and I were dressed up in clown outfits. Do very young children really understand the concept of Halloween? I do remember feeling the festive atmosphere, though - that this was a fun adventure we were going on - even though I didn't quite understand the whole trick-or treat concept, yet.

Recently, I was talking to Oma and Naná about that long-ago Halloween. Naná was actually reminding me that Oma had made that costume, not knowing if I already knew this tidbit.

Also, Naná, who is  Monica's mother, recalled that I was so amazed at what was going on. She said I kept stealing glances at Monica, a very surprised look on my face: my eyes wide, my jaw practically hitting the ground. While Naná was recalling this memory to me, she had a huge smile on her face, and she kept chuckling. Must've been such a funny and cute thing for an adult to watch.

I'm assuming that Halloween 1972 was my first time trick-or-treating, but I'm not sure about this. I'll have to see if my mom remembers. 

And now, just because it's so incredibly cute, I'm going to finish this post with a photo of Livie's first Halloween costume (she was just about 8 months old):
Aww, Baby Liv as a Red Chile Pepper!
First, I thought this costume was SO cute for a baby. Second, I thought it was very appropriate, since we lived in New Mexico at the time.

Memory Lane Friday is hosted weekly by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs. Please click on the button below to view her Memory Lane Friday post. While you're there, please take a moment to read other bloggers who may have linked up their Memory Lane Friday posts.
Next week's theme is "A Spooky Story."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Since Halloween is on the way . . .

Here are a couple appropriate photos for the Halloween season:

Yes, it's a tarantula! We found it one June afternoon on our house in Alamogordo, New Mexico!! It was nearly as big as my hand!

When I went in to get my camera, I asked Andrew to keep an eye on it (and more importantly, keep Livie away from it).

I, of course, had to take photos of it. But after I snapped a few shots of it, I had Andrew go in to get . . . well, something to squish it.

We weren't sure if it would get into the house, and were worried that it would crawl into Livie's crib.

But somehow it disappeared before Andrew came out with whatever it was he decided to grab. We were on our toes for the rest of the day, wondering if that hairy thing would get inside.

I don't think either of us slept very well that night, just because we wanted to check on Livie every so often, you know - making sure it hadn't gotten inside and anywhere near her.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


There are so many things that make my Oma a great grandmother (aside from and in addition to her great grandchildren). I want to write about some of them now because Oma's been ill lately, and definitely not herself. I'm not sure how much longer we'll get to enjoy her company, so I want to share these memories now.

First, I always love to think of her kitchen. When she lived in El Paso, TX, her kitchen was always the best place to be because of all the delicious meals she prepared. Check out a Memory Lane Friday post I wrote in March, when the topic was "A Room." Click here: Memory Lane Friday - A Room to read about Oma's kitchen. Check out another Memory Lane Friday post from May, when I describe Oma's cooking: Memory Lane Friday - The Foods I Loved.

Her tacos, beans, rice, banana bread, these caramel-like, "lacy" cookies I used to refer to as "lacies," huevos con chorizo, her lemon meringue pie (the one without the coconut shavings in the lemon part) . . . the list could go on. I'm not sure what it is about her food, but it was always awesome. She said it's because she "made it with a lot of love." That's gotta be it. A grandmother's magic.

Second, I always think of the fun things we did together. Our fun adventures go way back to the early '70s.

Check us out at Western Playland (when it was still located in El Paso):
Oma's actually in the helicopter ride with me! I must've been about 2.5 years old here. 

Oma especially loved Western Playland's haunted house (I'm not sure they still have this ride now that Western Playland's in New Mexico). I didn't particularly like this ride because I got scared (though I never (!) admitted it to anyone). But I always went on it with Oma because she always laughed hysterically when we rode it. I always made sure I sat right next to Oma, as close to her as I could. I remember a part of this ride where a bus rounded the corner, headlights blazing, horn blaring loudly, like it was about to run us over. It always startled me, but like I said, it made Oma laugh uncontrollably.

There was another ride at Western Playland that I loved going on with Oma when I was very young - and later, I enjoyed going on it by myself. It was a car-driving one. You actually got to steer the car (which was on a metal rail) and it looked like you were driving through a town, past a Chevron gas station (yes, I specifically remember this part), among other things. It was like I was actually taking Oma for a drive. It was a lot of fun for a young kid.

I also remember my grandparents' neighbors on Blue Ridge Circle. They (the neighbors) grew grapes in their backyard, and every so often, they'd share a bunch or two with us. 

Once, I was out on a warm afternoon/early evening, the summer sun setting, casting long shadows in it's golden light. The neighbor (Jerry, I think) called me over and asked where my grandmother was. I stated she was in the kitchen. He then gave me a big ol' bunch of green grapes, asking me to ensure she got them so she could rinse them off before we enjoyed them.

I also remember how she and Sir Rafa would, on occasion, take me to the McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater to watch Viva! El Paso under the summer stars. This is an elaborate musical show with beautiful costumes, music, and dancing, all depicting the long history of El Paso.

One summer night, while my grandparents and I were watching the show, I looked up and saw a shooting star zip across the night sky. It was too cool. By the time I saw it, it had disappeared, so I didn't get a chance to say, "Hey, look at the shooting star." There must've been a meteor shower visible that evening, because a little later, someone near us saw another one. I spent the rest of the evening dividing my time between watching the amazing show, and looking up for more shooting star sightings. 

Another time (early '90s, maybe), I remember going to see a play with Oma at the Chamizal National Memorial - in its theater. The play was a comedy, and if I remember correctly, it was called Mi Amiga La Gorda (I think it was based on the English language play called My Fat Friend by Charles Laurence). The play was about an overweight woman, who, with the help of her friends, loses a lot of weight in hopes of keeping the attention of a potential suitor. 

Oma laughed SO hard during that play. I'm not sure she ever stopped laughing the entire time. I'm not sure what was funnier to me - the play, or her laughing. Probably a mixture of both. 

For days after seeing the play, I could get her to laugh when I imitated the silly walk of one of the characters. It was fun and so easy getting her to laugh about it.

Oh, another adventure we went on was to an El Paso Diablos baseball game one late afternoon (early '90s, maybe?). The Diablos play at Cohen Stadium, not too far from my grandparents' Mountain Walk Drive home. My Uncle Ralph went with us. 

 My Uncle Ralph is on the left, posing with my grandparents.

I remember having peanuts, and throwing empty peanut shells at our feet. Oma, always one to worry abut cleanliness and neatness, never said a word about the peanut shells littering the ground.

I also remember seeing the crowds at the other end of the stadium start the wave, at one point. I watched as the wave came around the stadium, getting closer to us. 

As the wave got closer, I pointed it out to Oma, and explained what they were doing. Then I told her that when the people next to her stood and threw their arms up in the air, that it would be our turn to do the same. And she actually did it along with me! It was hilarious and so much fun! I think that was the best part of that baseball game.

There was another time I remember being in her kitchen (must've been the mid-'90s) after dinner; this time I actually got her to do the Macarena! I showed her how it was done, and then she did it along with me! Funny!

There are so many other memories, but I think I'll save them for later since this post is now fairly long. 

 In the meantime, I'll end this post with a photo of an autumn tree in the late afternoon sun. I went out and took a photo of it after a phone conversation with my mother yesterday. She and I talked about Oma and how she (my mom) thinks we might only have days or weeks left with her. Of course, no one can possibly know how much time anyone has left. But I figured a photo of autumn leaves would be an appropriate way to symbolize Oma these days.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Who knew "eggplant purple" was so vibrant?!

I took this photo earlier this summer at a farmers' market in town.

Ahhh, I love farmers' markets!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Coffee with Ompi and Chino

My grandfather, whom I called "Sir Rafa," was a well-known storyteller.

It didn't matter what kind of story he told, whether it was an autobiographical account of his boyhood in El Paso, Texas with his brother, nicknamed Chino (supposedly because he had curly hair), or his experiences as a young man, Army recollections . . . or even something made up to entertain me and/or the rest of his grandchildren.

Here's a little background: I'm the only one who called him "Sir Rafa." I started calling him that because 1.) his name was Rafael, and 2.) I'd long ago made up a story about my family and he was a knight called "Sir Rafa" and the nickname stuck. 

Typically, the rest of his grandchildren called him "Ompa" based on the German word Opa meaning grandpa. My grandmother, Oma, was called that because it's German for grandma. I don't know how the German words for grandma and grandpa came about in our family. But they stuck. Well, aside from some of my cousins who often called him "Hijo" (meaning "son" in Spanish).

Okay, so back to his being a storyteller . . .

One day, when my siblings and I were visiting our grandparents in El Paso, he was telling us a story about a friendly little spider who liked to perch on his earlobe and keep him company. The spider's name? Ompi.

Ompi kept Sir Rafa company during many adventures throughout his life. They were always cute companion stories that kept us entertained. 

Now fast forward to the present. A number of months ago, Livie saw a spider in the garage as we were getting into the car. She got scared. So I told her, "Don't worry, it's just Ompi."

Of course, she had to ask "Who's Ompi?"

And I briefly told her about Ompi, which seemed to ease her mind about the spider in the garage.

Occasionally, she'd see a spider here or there, always remembering my story about Ompi, nervously asking me, "That's Ompi, right?"

"Yes, that's Ompi," was my usual reply.

Until one day when she saw TWO spiders. Only one could be Ompi, right?

Right. So who was the other spider?! Well, to keep her from getting worried, I spontaneously said, "Oh, that's Ompi's brother, Chino! Don't worry, he's as nice as Ompi!"

She was a little wary of me at first, not sure if she should believe me. But she finally did.

Now, every time we see a spider, it's usually "Ompi" or "Chino." If we're at Abuelita's house, it's usually Chino, because for some reason, Chino likes to travel a lot! Ompi's usually at home, keeping the house safe, and occasionally drinking hot chocolate or coffee.

Like today. Ompi is drinking coffee with me, as you can see in the photo below.

I'd gotten this mug, oh, about 3 years ago in Des Moines. Andrew and I had gone into a coffee shop early one October morning, because Andrew's a huge fan of their autumn "pumpkin spice lattes." And I saw the cup. I thought it was SO cute, I had to get it.

Ever since, I've used it all autumn long, starting around the end of September.

Since Livie and I started talking about Ompi and Chino, the "nice" spiders, she now gets excited when I use this cup. This morning, she exclaimed that Ompi is helping me drink my coffee this morning. I agreed, explaining that while he likes my coffee (with a couple Splendas and some hazelnut creamer), he prefers it "black" without sweetener or flavorings, just like Sir Rafa.

And that is how I ended up having coffee with Ompi and Chino.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Memory Lane Friday

This week's Memory Lane Friday is another "No Theme." For a few days, I tried to narrow down a topic.

But a Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs post (A Rattle You DON'T Want to Hear) on Tuesday made the light-bulb turn on over my head.

That means I'm going to write about a time I lived in Tucson, AZ and had an Appendix Quarter Horse named "Wild Stride."

"Wild Stride" in Tucson, circa May 2001.

"Wild Stride" in Tucson, circa May 2001.

"Cotton," as we called him, was a lot of fun. He was a Palomino, obviously, and I would joke that sometimes he acted like a blonde. Little fuzzy bunnies would occasionally scare him out of his wits. Same with fluffy clouds, a cool breeze and . . . well, you get the idea. (Please . . . no offense to you blondes.)

But if I worked him in the ring at least 3 days a week, and turned him out to run around the other days, he'd be mellow enough for me to take him on a trail ride, bareback.

Or maybe I'd have a lesson with my trainer one of those days. Or she'd ride him one or two of those days. Didn't matter what the combination was, just so long as he got worked at least 3 days.

Well, one early Saturday morning, I decided that I'd take him out on a trail ride (saddled, this time, and not a leisurely bareback trail ride). We'd do a lot of walking and trotting (part of which would be in the sandy wash), which would be a good "cardio workout" for him.

Plus, I was looking forward to getting to a particular part of our trail ride. There was this part where we'd leave the bottom of the sandy wash and head up to this dirt road where we could look down a drop on one side and see the wash below, and down the drop on the other side, where we could see some sort of quarry.

Both Cotton and I looked forward to this spot. I'd usually get into a two-point (making sure all my weight was in my heels, keeping my rear out of the saddle, and grabbing a bit of mane for safety). And then I'd squeeze my legs and say "Okay . . . go!" And we'd head off in a hand-gallop. 

After our hand-gallop and a little breather for Cotton, we'd be back to our walking and trotting in the wash before turning around and heading home.

Well . . .that was the plan, anyway.

I'd groomed him, got his bell boots on his front ankles, and tacked him up. (Bell boots or "overreach" boots protect a horse's front heels if he accidentally overreaches/steps on his front heels with his hind hooves, causing injury or shoe loss.) All the while I was daydreaming, looking forward to our trail ride. 

After mounting up, we headed out, thankfully before it got really hot (must've been in the upper 70s/low 80s). It was early summer in Tucson, and while humidity was low, temps could easily rise over 110 degrees, with little to no shade.

We'd only been out for . . . oh . . . about 10 - 15 minutes or so. At this point as we're walking along, while I was enjoying the southwestern landscape, Cotton suddenly slammed on the brakes. It startled me.

What the heck?!  I urged him forward. He swished his tail hard (I could hear the quick swish-swish-swish), while he threw his head around. But he would NOT budge.

I urged him forward again. He reared ever so slightly, just barely lifting his front hooves off the ground, but just enough that I got the message - he didn't want to go forward.

I looked around wondering what the problem was, while he was still acting weird, then felt him backing up.

At this point, I noticed that one of his bell boots was on the ground (it was one that opened/closed with velcro, making it easier to put on/take off, compared to the all-rubber ones). It must've come off as he was "acting up."

I decided to dismount and grab the boot so I could put it back on and continue with our ride.

But when he felt my weight shift on his back, he countered with his body, like he wasn't going to let me get off. I turned him and walked him a few feet toward home, then tried again to dismount.

Still, he wouldn't let me, so I dismounted from the right. Boy did that feel unnatural.

Then I took the reins over his head, holding them in my right hand as I walked toward the bell boot, ready to reach for it with my left hand.

He pulled back, snorting, reins going taut. I looked at him. His eyes were wide, showing lots of white.

And then I heard it.

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I felt goosebumps all over my body, regardless of the rising temps of the day.

It was that scary, unwelcome sound of a rattlesnake's tail

I hadn't even seen it, because it was so well camouflaged against the sandy wash floor. But Cotton had sensed it/heard it/seen it long before I realized it was there.

When I realized it was there, I backed away slowly. Upon getting back to Cotton's side, we turned and walked away. Finally, when it seemed like we were a safe distance away I mounted up again, and we headed home, the lone bell boot left where it had fallen.

The adrenaline rush had finally dissipated by the time we got back to the stables.

Poor Cotton. He insisted on turning around as soon as he realized it was there, but I wasn't paying attention. Nevertheless, I am so grateful for him and his "acting up," because he saved me from a poisonous, deadly bite.

Memory Lane Friday is hosted by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs. Please click on the button below to read her Memory Lane Friday post, as well as any other entries.
Please check back next Friday, when the topic is Halloween, Part I.
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