Thursday, November 29, 2007

Barn Stormin'

We had quite the adventure around here this afternoon. Occasionally we'll see a small plane flying in low figure-8's right at the edge of the undeveloped property next to and across the street from us. There has always been an element of wonder as we watch the aerial acrobatics that seem reminiscent of crop-dusting days, yet we never have had an answer as to why the planes would be crop-dusting undeveloped land.

This particular afternoon began like many others, with a little yellow plane circling and diving for at least half an hour after I got home with the kids. It was pretty cool to see it storming the tree line over yonder above the neighbor's property. I was thinking I should have gotten out my camera to show how close to the ground that plane seemed to be.

About 30 minutes later, the performance moved a little closer as the crop duster (as we have come to call it) suddenly buzzed right over the house. What the heck?!

We piled back outside to see what was happening. Sure enough, he came back as if on a repeating loop, and he passed not very far over the house at all. I ran inside for the camera, and came back out in time to catch at least two more passes directly over the house.

By this time, Dawn had called the sheriff. As cool as the idea of barn storming sounds, it somehow loses its glamour when you are the one on the ground, and your children are right there in the yard with you. Not to mention your house. Well the sheriff called back and confirmed that this was indeed a crop dusting plane, being used by A&M students to practice crop dusting maneuvers, over the property next to us.

About half an hour later, the barn stormer returned. Mom called the sheriff again, bless her soul. I think the pilot believed we were simply enjoying the show, and never considered we were calling the police and recording him for evidence. He actually did a loop-de-loop right over the pool after he had buzzed the house four more times.

This was a really cool experience in some ways. I got good pictures, and nobody got hurt. It provided almost an hour of entertainment, and the kids loved it.

And yet, it was also so very NOT cool.

I find myself hating the spoil-sport-ism I feel, cringing at the fact of how uptight we must all seem to someone on the other end of this experience, getting chewed out by an instructor for a little flashy performance.

But common sense says that flying at such a low altitude leaves very little room for error. These may be ace pilots, but an unexpected sputter, a slight misjudment, and suddenly there could be an ace pilot planting a crop duster in the roof of our house, or worse, in the swing set with my babies inside. And if something did happen, I am pretty sure there would have to be significant inconvenience on our part even if someone else paid for all the damages. No, it's just not as cool when you consider the reason for the thrill is because of the implied danger, and moms are in the business of keeping their cubs away from danger.

So Mr. Hot Shot Crop Duster, thanks for the memories. It really was a thrill. But I have the photos for my album now, so please keep your future airspace antics over terrain that is only inhabited by longhorns and deer. I will be watching, and I will be just as impressed, I promise.

Mother Bear

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Report

This morning I had my first turkey sandwich of the season. Which is reasonable, since this is the Monday after Thanksgiving. What is amazing about my turkey sandwich is that there has been so much food in this house all weekend that I just haven't gotten time to look into reinvented turkey. I did snack on plates of leftover Thanksgiving dinner for three days, but am now pretty much done with potatoes and stuffing for awhile. I just hope the desserts are still tasty by the time I get around to those.

Anyway. This page is hardly big enough to contain everything I would like to say about food from this weekend. When I get a chance I will post my food thoughts on my food site, you may visit them there. Let it suffice to say that there was a plenitude of good food all around us this weekend. I was also glad to hear that my friend Jeanette was able to put together a Thanksgiving feast in the Philippines, together with her fellow World Racers.

This weekend was everything we could have wanted in a holiday weekend, other than the lack of a complete family quorum. I personally kicked off the weekend Tuesday night by parking my car and myself here on the property for what turned out to be until Sunday. And I didn't miss the trek down the long winding road one bit. Maren was off school starting Wednesday, and Dad Burdine didn't go into the office that day, so it was actually a five day weekend for him, the kids and myself. There was lots of food prep on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then it kicked into high gear on Thursday.

Maren and I began Thursday by watching the Macy's Parade. Then we turned on the Lions' game in honor of my Papa who always had that on at his house when I was a kid. He passed away 13 months ago, and I think I missed him more during that game than I have yet. Later I turned on the Cowboys' game (with much more satisfying results) just to have it on in the house, while the indoor dwellers moved to another room for a viewing of Elf. Oh, I probably should not have had Maren watch that yet, but she did find many things to giggle over.

The outdoor family members worked at rearranging the garage into its new life as a music studio. Earlier in the day they had made a trip to Lowe's only to find it closed, but undaunted they put in several hours of organizational work anyway. It's looking better all the time!

Late in the day we set up the craft tables in the living room to create the platform for the family feast. Whitney oversaw the decorating while Mom Burdine orchestrated getting the food all hot at the target moment, and the kids just tried to stay out from underfoot.

I don't even remember what happened after supper. Too much food in my brain, I guess.

Friday was the big A&M annual matchup with the Texas Longhorns. For the first time in at least half the season, the players showed up for the game. They made a variety of plays, completed passes, converted third downs into first downs, and actually found the end zone several times. They entertained the crowd with at least three trick plays, some of which worked beautifully. They dominated the game, giving Aggie fans something to cheer about after an embarrassing season, and capped off the whole experience by holding on to their lead until the end of the game.

What apparently came as a surprise and a letdown to the players but was fully expected by everyone else was that the coach announced his resignation at the end of the game. Even a win against Texas could not make up for a season marked by scandal, multiple blowout losses on a national stage, and an obvious lack of direction that characterized most of the games. And what do I care? I don't know, but I love to watch well-played football, and watching the Aggies this season has been anything but that. Along with many frustrated Aggie fans, I sincerely hope to see more of the purposeful team that played Friday, next season.

We were so jazzed about A&M's win that we built our own token bonfire out back and toasted marshmallows before putting the kids to bed. Totally awesome.

Saturday the rain came. The lights never went up outside the house, as the cold and wet were too much for the thin-skinned natives. We focused on “out with the old” as the guys continued organizing the garage, and Dawn organized the living room closet. Most of what came out of the closet went into the garage. When the dust settled, we were ready to decorate the Christmas tree. We played Christmas music, burned the Christmas candle, and got out the Christmas treats (more about those in the food blog).

Sunday was still pretty full. We had brunch after church; Dawn makes amazing stuffed french toast. In the afternoon we decorated gingerbread houses. And for the rest of the day, we played video games. Just before bedtime, we created a slideshow of our weekend adventure and agreed that it was a pretty perfect time.

To see some of the pictures from our weekend, visit my Thanksgiving photo album. Hope you enjoy this glimpse!

This morning was quite a shocker. Oh holy cow, 6:30 came early this morning. I am still recovering, and here it is time to go pick up Maren from school already. I'll get to that food post later, I promise.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fluffing out the Dander

I found a cat brush in the garage a few weeks ago and found out that Gwigsy loves to be brushed! He will warmly allow even Jesse the Manhandler to brush him to his heart's content. This morning I decided to try to get ahead of the cat's hair loss a little, so I brought him outside and began brushing vigorously. I brushed against the grain, I grabbed clumps of hair and pulled, I even took my hands and ruffled his fur to fluff out the dander... He kept on purring and the fur just kept on flying. I never did get to the end of it, but I have to believe that it made a difference in how much fur he will leave behind on the sofas and beds for the next day or so.

As I did this, I felt the wind fluffing out the dander in the trees around me. The leaves are still green, but there are fewer of them all the time as the days get shorter and the weather gets (a little) cooler. And the wind is blowing briskly today, flapping the flag and raining brittle brown oak leaves onto the patio. The winds of change are blowing!

It actually feels like a perfect day for cleaning out the dander in the house, as well. Wednesday is my official cleaning day. Last week on cleaning day, I got inspired to pull out all the furniture and vacuum behind and underneath. I pounded the dust out of the pillows and cushions, tumbled all the throws, and let the fresh air in. Today, I have opened the windows to change out the air. If time allows, I will vacuum up another week's worth of tracked-in dirt, and shake out the doormats. Otherwise I may have to do it tomorrow.

As I see (and cause) this fluffing out all around me, I naturally start to wonder where else there is dander that needs to be fluffed out. I do feel a bit of stale air in my soul, a lingering heaviness resulting from being in limbo for so long. We have been living with family in Texas for three months now, and while life is very good and I have no right to complain in light of people all over the world with more difficult situations, I still feel out of control. I am dependent on the good grace of others, and I am still anchored to a vacant house and 10 years worth of debt. There are a lot of days when I really struggle with overcoming that heaviness, when any attempt to verbalize my feelings only ends in tears. So I keep it to myself, quietly escaping into my TV shows, my Internet projects, and my daily tasks.

Last night was a surprising chance to fluff out a little of my own dander. I had the chance to hear a bestselling author share her story. Several years ago, she was a young mom very much like me, who had an idea she wanted to share with other moms. She turned her idea into a book, which eventually led to an improbable career as bestselling author and public speaker. Well to make a long story short, her story intrigues me and is even now percolating through the thought-analyzer in my brain.

After the talk, I found myself shaking her hand and sharing just a wee bit of myself with her, and walked away with a gift copy of one of her books, entitled “The Power of a Positive Mom.” Now I don't know about you, but I can definitely use more positive in my life. And that encounter was a great start! This particular book was a great gift because I intend to use it as part of a small group for at-home moms at my church in the spring. But now it also represents another mom's successful attempt to share her thoughts with a larger audience, which is an inspiration for me at this time in my life.

To cement the positive effect of the evening even more, I also found myself walking out the door of this event with an armful of gifts and door prizes. For some silly reason little gifts are very meaningful to me right now. I think it's because so much of who I define myself as, that being the material goods I surround myself with, is either in storage or given away because it didn't fit in the moving truck. And on this night, I was ridiculously gifted, between having my dinner paid for, winning the table prize, receiving a door prize (everyone receives one at this dinner), and completely undeservingly receiving a second door prize. All before I was given the book I inquired about.

So I received, among other things, a new coffee mug. I am a girl in need of a new coffee mug, since mine are all in storage and when I did get one out it got broken by the dog (see my entry from September 21 for that story). But lo and behold, when I looked closer at the mug, I read the caption and have since seized upon it as my mantra for this season in my life. I am fairly certain that this mug was sent directly from God himself, to little ol' me. It is now my new best friend. Check out the photo below:

Yes, it's time to clear out the old air in my soul. It's time to tackle the tasks I have been avoiding, make a plan for moving forward, and seize the power of a positive mom. Oh, did I tell you her secret? The power isn't really from the mom at all. It's the power of God. I know that, I just don't use it. I keep looking to a future time for the solution for my lack of equilibrium. Time for that to change.

I promise that I do not have some surprising spurt of energy that is going to catapult me into change. I am still planning to invest time into my favorite TV shows, as well as my Internet projects. But it is time to fluff out a little of the dust and dander that have settled in my heart. Today, I choose to put my limbo into God's hands and start my "happily ever after" now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nature Walk

Sunday afternoon was a balmy 80 degrees and sunny, the kind of weather Texans are fond of bragging about: “This is why we love Texas!” We were all out doing yard work, clearing out the flower beds and preparing for cold weather. From what I understand, we may have about two weeks of this perfect weather left before the colder weather is upon us.

After our work was done, a few of us sat out on the veranda sipping sodas. I grabbed this month's copy of Texas Co-op Power, a publication of the local energy company. Every month they publish winning photos from a theme-specific contest. This month's pictures were of regional wildlife: a fawn, a horned toad, and a frog were among the winners. Suddenly I experienced an irresistible urge to grab my own camera and walk the property, to see what I could see through the lens.

Sure enough, I found flowers, insects, reptiles, and mammals, all in one walk! I was struck by my own success, by the sheer population of Life out in the country. Tell you what, I may just be spoiled for living in town.

Good news for my spider-phobic friends, the big garden spiders seem to be dying off. I haven't seen a scorpion in two months, either. Obviously they have a season, and apparently we are moving out of it. So you may come visit me for the next few months with little fear of arachnid encounter. Oh, yes, lizards and grasshoppers still abound, but they are completely benign, I promise!

Last night there was a sliver of new moon. I tried to capture it, but may have to try again later with a tripod. But the crescent shape setting in the purple evening sky is absolutely breathtaking.

To see more than a dozen other pictures from my nature walk, follow the link to my Facebook album: Wildlife

Fall Festival

Last weekend we officially felt like parents of school-age children, as we hiked the family over to Forest Ridge Elementary School on a Saturday to participate in the PTO's biggest fundraiser of the year, a carnival for all ages.

The very first thing Jesse spotted was the train ride. He was in hog heaven as he and Maren rode in their little train cars around the running track.

Jesse then tried his hand at throwing the football, and managed to get it in one of the holes in the target board. Later he checked out the basketball hoop. We got a little video of that, but I haven't yet figured out how to post those. Jesse (and Maren) also loved the apple basket toss and fishing game.

Maren was quite the expert at the tricycle obstacle course. She had one of the fastest times for her age group. She also joined the bigger boys and girls on the inflatable climbing wall.

Maren also got to do sand art, make a bracelet, and have a grasshopper painted on her face. She ran into Flash the Falcon, school mascot, along the way. Both kids loved winning prizes, including airplanes, tops, whistles, balls, and a few bits of candy.

We all enjoyed a lunch of Texas BBQ in the cafeteria. Surprisingly, we ran out of energy before we ran out of being interested in the carnival. We ended up coming home and playing Carnival on the Wii for the rest of the afternoon. I am already looking forward to next year!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Adventures in Ambien

I am happy to announce that this weekend, I did not do anything worthwhile! We didn't go anywhere, I didn't work on any big projects. I stayed up too late, ate too much, and yesterday, I watched 3 movies in a row! Woo hoo!

The only drawback is that I also had a headache for most of the weekend. Not the hiding in my room under the covers kind, just the pain in the neck won't let me concentrate on anything kind. And by Sunday there literally was a pain in my neck from all the massaging I did to it on Saturday, so I also had a stiff neck. So I watched movies, since my head didn't hurt as long as I kept it perfectly still.

I say all this, not to collect sympathy votes, because I am lucky enough to get sympathy for the headaches whenever I ask for it. I am saying this to explain why, after two days of doing pretty much nothing, I felt the need to take a sleeping pill last night.

I don't use sleep aids much, but I got prescribed Ambien 2 years ago on the occasion of Jesse's birth. I took one each of my first two nights home from the hospital, since I couldn't bring Jesse home until the third day. I took one a year ago for some reason. From my previous experience, I learned that the appropriate time to take Ambien is when I have exactly 7 1/2 hours to sleep, because it doesn't take long to fall asleep and it wakes me up better than an alarm clock after 7 1/2 hours.

Last night I took the 4th pill of the 5 I was prescribed, hoping that a solid night of sleep might relieve the stiff neck and dull headache. I know from the package not to take one until I am ready to fall asleep. So I did all my goodnight rituals, got in bed, and looked at the clock. 9:57 pm. Guess I'll take it and lay down. Oh, you know, I saw something on TV today about the crazy things people might do when taking sleeping pills. Better move the Ambien bottle out of my own reach in case I decide to take another one during the night.

After snuggling into my pillow, I started thinking of things I might like to do today, mentally sorting out my task list as if on a large worktable. Not so strangely, the worktable dissolved into green fields, and my to-do's became birds and started to float away. Time began to stretch and thin...

Suddenly what was left of my mind panicked and shot adrenaline into my bloodstream. My arms and legs were going numb. I shot straight up in bed. What was happening to me? I wanted to call out to Justin, but my tongue felt like cotton! I felt so hot. Why hadn't I turned on the fan? I could feel the drug taking effect, not just lulling me into slumber but seizing me in its irresistible tractor beam and drowning me. I had a sudden irrational conviction that if I gave in to the drug I might never wake up.

Drunkenly, I threw off the covers and staggered to the door, then the top of the stairs to call to Justin for help. I have no idea what I said but all he did was come help me back into bed and reassure me that it was okay to give in, to fall asleep. I tried to speak coherently with him, to explain my fears, but he just laughed and told me to stop moving my mouth.

The last thing I was able to say as he sat there with me in my waning moments, was to ask the time. 10:07. Whoever suggested "do not take this until you are ready to fall asleep" should have gotten the gold star. Why do my headache pills never work in 10 minutes?!

Justin tells me this morning that I lasted about 30 more seconds after he tucked me in.

This morning I have two new appreciations: First, I would make a bad drug addict, I hate letting go too much. And second, next time I will wait until I am a lot more desperate before taking that 5th Ambien.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Ah, yes it's that time of year again. When the frost is on the pumpkin and the fodder's in the shock, as the president of my alma mater used to say, quoting Robert Frost or some other distinguished American poet. It's been a crazy busy week of pumpkin traditions, and while I'm tired we also have some great photos and memories.

We don't have frost here, but we've got pumpkins, and we carved one in honor of the Great Pumpkin's holiday. Maren scooped out the seeds and is determined to plant them. I also saved several for roasting. Perhaps I'll finally get to that tonight.

I made Dinner-in-a-Pumpkin, which was probably more of a visual feast than a culinary one. Justin re-christened it Dumpkin. Which is not really an appealing name, but it stuck! While the squash itself had too many strings for my taste, the filling was tasty and hot. I've got several ideas for how to better improve the dinner, such as by adding an edible pumpkin side dish, a salad, and crusty bread. I'll give it another try next October.

Everyone had fun dressing up for trick-or-treating. Justin dressed up for work, and the whole company put on a party for kids of employees. After helping out at Maren's Pumpkin Party at school, I rushed her home, got on their costumes (with Whit's help), and raced up to the K2Share offices. It was a real fun event enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Maren was a cheetah, Jesse was the Incredible Hulk, and Justin strutted his stuff as Lethargios the overweight elf.

After the office party, we took the kids to the park for awhile to burn off a little sugar before dinner and trick-or-treating in a friend's neighborhood. By the end of the day I ended up with a stomach ache, suddenly realizing I had eaten little more than toast, broth, and cookies in the course of the day.

This morning I am taking it very easy, and loving that Halloween is nothing more than a memory for another year.