The Chocolate Lady

Friday, February 29, 2008

**Contest Time**

Ok, I spent a lot of time talking about our "Vacation" and I use the word "vacation" quite loosely, as it actually was more like our time on "work detail".....and it has prompted me to wonder about YOUR vacation experiences.

So, please, share with me your most memorable vacation. It can be your most enjoyable, most romantic, most wild, most disasterous, any vacation you want to share.

Entries should include a little story about the vacation, not just, "I went to the desert"....

Everyone that enters a "little story" about their trip will be entered into a drawing, and one of my kids will pick the winner...and, hold on to your seats, -and I dont mean in the airplane-seat-as-a-life-preserver-kind-of-holding-on-to-your-seat, but in a WHHOOOOO WEEEE, this is going to be GREAT, kind of "hold on to your seat"......

The winner will receive a $10 gift card to Starbucks.

I found a few Starbucks cards in my "gift card" pile, and since the only things I get at Starbucks are hot chocolate and frappucinos, and since both of those have more calories than a Big Mac, and Im trying to reduce the size of my rear so that it might one day FIT in an airline seat, Ive decided I shouldnt go there anymore, so Im giving one of my gift cards to the winner.

So, please join in.......everyone has until midnight Pacific Standard Time, and the winner will be announced in the next day or two.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

commercial break

Now, for a word from our sponsors...

Oh, I dont really have sponsors. To have sponsors, you have to have more than 4 readers, so, that kinda leaves me out. Although, I do have those ads at the bottom that have been clicked on ZERO times, but they dont really count since 0+0=0.

But, bossy just had a contest, and Im in a copying kind of mood, and besides this saga of our Winter Wonderland needs a breather, so, Ill be searching my house for a prize item and tomorrow will have a fun contest.

And, by searching my house, dont worry, Im not giving away my unmatched socks, Im gonna look through my gift cards and pick one to give away.

A disclaimer, it's not going to be worth $500 or anything, Im not Pioneer Woman as Grandma J so kindly pointed out to me when I had my last contest...but, it will be something, and it will be fun, so hurry back tomorrow!

and....we are still waiting for the response from the LANDLORD.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter Wonderland, Part 6

Yesterday I sent the landlord a letter.

I purposely didnt send it immediately after our stay, because I knew that the cabin was going to be used this past weekend. I wasnt sure if he and his family (he has 3 children, according to the pictures in the cabin) would be using the cabin, or if it was being rented out to a vacationing family, but either way, I felt it best to wait until after this weekend to send my letter.

You see, I got a feeling, that T thought I was just being "high maintenance." The remark to just wear a sweater, or telling me that, "it isn't going to get HOT", seemed to imply that I just couldnt handle mountain life.

I am certain, that if he and his family went up for this past weekend, he would see first hand the conditions we faced. And Im pretty sure his wife and kids wouldnt be satisfied with a "sweater" in the 55 degree cabin ...(and, by the way, there was a little more snow that fell the week after we left, so no chance that the snow had melted away.)

If, the cabin was rented out by another family, I highly doubt that would have been as patient and understanding as we were, regarding a freezing cabin and snowed in entrance. Im sure he got an earfull from whomever stayed there this past weekend.

And, let's not forget, that the tenants all got to enjoy hot water, compliments of My Honey!

So, I thought it best to wait, so that the landlord had more information, before sending my letter regarding our stay.

I sent this yesterday, here it is.....

Hi T,

I wanted to give you some feedback re: our rental of your cabin.

It's a great cabin, and I can tell you have put a lot of work into it. It
looked very nice and had everything we needed for a great stay.

The location was also nice. The area to the left made a great sled run, and we
enjoyed taking a walk above the stream.

I would encourage you to look into a service to clear the area before other
tenants arrive. We had many friends renting cabins over the holiday weekend,
and they all reported that a service had been hired to clear the snow so that
they could park and enter their cabins safely.

(My Honey) and I spent 4.5 hours, just trying to clear enough of a path to get the
kids inside safely. The 2.5 feet of snow had packed into ice and was very
difficult to remove. The kids had to wait in the car while we did this, and as
you can imagine, when you are only there for a weekend, it's not much fun to
spend the first day just trying to get inside.

Additionally, I think it would be helpful for you to have a local handyman that
you trust to take care of issues such as the heating and water. The heat never
rose above 58 degrees, which was pretty miserable. The pilot to the hot water
heater was out, and it took (My Honey) a couple of hours to get it lit, since it was
electric and couldnt be done with a match. I know if he was going to be
putting in hours doing fix it work, he would have rather done it at home, rather
than on our vacation. As it was, we didnt have hot water for half of our stay.

I am including some pictures, so that you can see just how much snow we had to
contend with. As you can see, the snow on the stairs, which had turned to ice,
and impossible to clear with the snow shovel (by the way, it took almost an hour
just to unbury the snow shovel which was under two feet of snow on the back
porch.) it was up to (My Honey's) knees, and we had to chip away at it with a hammer
and wrench.

I can tell by the upkeep and condition of the cabin that you are consciencious,
and wanted to pass along this feedback so that you can ensure that your future
tenants are able to enjoy their vacation.

best regards,

Here are the pictures I attached, hopefully he gets a good sense of things and realizes that this is not acceptable to rent out a cabin and leave the vacationers to try to clear their entries themselves. I will say, it probably doesnt help that My Honey looked so happy clearing the stairs, but at least he knows we try to make the most of things. the way, I didnt put "My Honey" in the real letter...

It's been less than 24 hours since the letter was sent...let's see if I hear any reply.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Winter Wonderland, Part 5

I must have gotten some sleep, eventually, because I was awoken (or awakened, or woken up, or whatever the grammatically correct way of saying THEY WOKE ME UP) by the children giggling and running upstairs. The last thing I wanted to do was get out of the bed, which had achieved some level of warmth.

I eventually dragged myself upstairs to the family room. It was 6:30. Beneath the down comforter wrapped around my body, was a sweat outfit, on top of wool thermals. And I. WAS. STILL. COLD.

It was an understatement to say that My Honey and I were a bit peeved. We grumbled a bit about how horrible it was that the landlord never called us back. We reminded each other that we needed to keep our happy faces on for the kids, who were having a great time in spite of the chilly temperature. He decided to go down to "tinker" with the heaters again, only coming back up to announce that, "they arent working." (grand revelation!)

I peaked at the thermostat, which was now at a whopping 58 degrees.

My Honey and I couldnt wait to call the landlord, and My Honey even said he would tell the landlord he would need to come up and fix these things right away! We decided we would wait until 8am, so as not to be rude.

The time never ticked so slowly! I couldnt wait to call him and get these matters resolved.

It was at this time, I called to commiserate with Grandma J. (she gets up at 5am, so there was no harm in calling her early.) Of course, instead of an understanding ear, Grandma J. reported that it was only 45 degrees in her house, and she felt just fine in her robe. She was lying, and had no sympathy, so I hung up.

8am arrived, and we called the landlord. and left another message.

Long story short (in an effort to protect you from my utter frustration)....the landlord called back at around 10am. He talked to My Honey, and I could tell by the depressed look on his face, that the landlord had no plans to fix things.

So, I took the phone and it went something like this:

Me: Hey T, yeah, the cabin never heated up last night, it's 58 degrees.

T: Well, you are in the mountains, it's not going to get HOT.

Me: Oh sure, I know, but it's pretty cold.

T: We usually wear our sweaters
when we are in the cabin.

Me: we all have 3-4 layers on, and are still shivering. We arent people that need to have a lot of heat, I mean, the 60's would be fine, but it was only 55 when we went to bed.

T: I dont know how reliable that thermostat is, they are notorious for being unreliable, so, that might not be the actual temperature.

Me: I dont know, but I know we are freezing. Havent any other tenants had a problem with the heat? If this is how it usually is, I would think you would have heard before, so maybe something isnt hooked up correctly.

T: nobody has ever complained. I mean, it's not hot, we keep a sweater on, but that's how it is in the mountains.

Me: (resigned re: the air temp) OK, well, what about the water? The water is ice cold too, the water heater isnt on.

T: I dont know about that, Ive never had it go out. I told your husband to see if he can figure it out and call me back.

Me: Ok. He has already spent a lot of time trying to warm things up, I know he doesnt want to spend our entire weekend VACATION on home repairs. He'll give it one last try.

When I hung up, I was fuming. Not enough to emit any steam to warm the place up, but I was really mad.

After another hour of tinkering, My Honey did get the water heater lit, no help from the landlord.

Im pretty sure if we wanted to have a "home improvement" weekend, we would have stayed home and done some jobs on our own house. It was ridiculous that so much of our time was being spent on things that, come to find out from everyone we talked to, should have been taken care of before our arrival.

We finally decided that the best plan for our day would be to get out of the icebox, er, I mean cabin.

We forced ourselves out from under the comforters and blankets and got dressed to go into town.

The kids had a great time, looking at shops, and a little patriotic show for the Presidents Day Weekend. Beauty was excited to see Uncle Sam and she and Pooper talked about him much of the rest of the weekend. They wanted to know who he was, how old he was, and was he everyone's uncle? how could that be?

We bought some bird food to feed the pigeons on the some candy from the homemade candy shop, cause it's a vacation after all, and by golly, we were going to have some good times, even if I gained 8 pounds!

The second night was much like the first.....loaded up the fireplace with logs...ate a bunch of our ding dongs and popcorn.... went to bed pretty early because it was the only place that would eventually get warm.

On the final morning, we couldnt pack up fast enough! The sun was shining and we wanted to get out into the warmth and enjoy our last day. We took the kids to a large innertubing area on the way out of town, and we all had a blast! On the way home we listened to our folk music.

I cant say it was the vacation we had planned for, or hoped for, or needed....but it wasnt short on memories, no, we will always have lots of memories of living the mountain life.

Stay tuned to read my letter to the Landlord!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Winter Wonderfland, Part 4

We were all in good spirits as we drove away from our cabin. We went down the path, over the damn and soon were out on larger streets, and on to the main highway.

The Lake Arrowhead Village was just 2 miles away. I was careful to drive without swerving, as Pooper was still feeling nauseated a bit. Actually, more than a bit, because within a mile, he needed to throw up again, and again, and again.

Thankfully, we found the world's greatest restaurant (I guess that's how most restaurants would seem in our situation, but this truly was delicious) and there was no waiting time (a miracle on this holiday weekend!) Our table had a lake view, and, with the exception of Pooper's frequent trips to the bathroom, we really enjoyed our time.

We were joking with the hostess and waitress, that we had really worked up an appetite chipping away at our packed snow for the past few hours. They looked puzzled, and asked a few questions. When they had figured out that we had rented this cabin for the weekend, and had spent the better part of the afternoon trying to remove enough snow to get inside, they looked disgusted.

"When people rent out their cabins, they are supposed to have all the clearing done before you arrive." Said the cute gal, rolling her eyes.

"Yeah, there are services that do that for the rentals, it's pretty standard." echoed the waitress assuredly.

Hmmm....I guess that would have been nice, but, oh well, maybe they dont rent it out much or something.

After dinner, we stopped at the supermarket and still feeling optimistic about the grand weekend we were about to have, I let every kid pick their own snack item....

"Whatever you want, this is vacation, and having whatever yummy snacks you want is what vacations are all about!" the kids looked surprised, that the mom that rarely even lets them have juice (high sugar content) would let them have open reign on snacks.

Pooper went off the deep end (sarcasm) and picked microwave popcorn (clearly a Grandma J influence)...I mean, can you imagine, being able to have ANYTHING and picking popcorn? I dont really care much for popcorn myself, not that I dont like it, and Ill certainly eat it out of boredom, but, at least to me, it's sort of like chewing on cardboard, or rice cakes, not my first choice.

Beauty was fickle, so I helped direct her to the Hostess aisle, and then went on and on about how scrumptious Ding Dongs are...and she took the bait! Ding Dongs in the house!

My Honey got some peanut butter crunch bar thingys....and myself, well, in an unconscious act of foreshadowing, I selected some ice cream bon-bons. That's right, my snack was FREEZING!

We got some basics for the weekend, cereal, fruit, milk, and firewood, because, it's mountain living, where we burn real wood in our fireplaces.

We journeyed back home, and everyone was excited to get inside the warm cabin.
I dont need to rehash the rigomoral it took to get us all into the cabin...but eventually we did it.

We got inside, took off our icey shoes and I noticed that, it was still pretty chilly, and as I marched on over to the thermostat, I was perplexed to see that it read 55 degrees. Fifty Five, as in 5-5, as in VERY DANG COLD.

Just as the frigid conditions were registering in my mind, My Honey hollered out,

"Hey, we dont have any hot water, something wrong with the water heater because the water is ice cold."

I pulled out the detailed email from the cabin owner, and went over (and over and over) his instructions re: the thermostat, the water, etc. We were to turn on the thermostat (check) and (I quote) "it should take about an hour to warm up" (NOT CHECK). Turn the water on, using the wrench a 90 degree turn (check), turn on the downstairs bathroom to make sure the water is on (check).

There was no mention of a water heater.

I decided to give the trusty landlord a call. It was 7:30pm, not too late, and perhaps he had some helpful hints re: getting the water to warm up, and oh , yeah, how to get the heater to work!

I left him an upbeat message, and waited for him to call back.

I helped the kids get into their PJ's, which ended up being layers upon layers of thermals, leggings, sweats, etc.

My Honey and I tried to keep the mood positive, for the kids.....we all wrapped up in blankets and comforters, hoping they would warm us up - in addition to our layered jammies, and ate our snacks, with a great big blazing fire in the fireplace (which, by the way, did nothing to ease the chill)....and within the hour, the kids were asleep.

We werent sure that Little One would even be safe sleeping in this cold. I had brought a pack N play for her to sleep in, and My Honey and I found some blankets on an extra bed, and wrapped them around the sides of the pack N play, hoping to cut down on the chill, insulate her a bit, without causing SIDS or something......

And then My Honey and I continued to shiver, our moods turning to frustration and annoyance....but still hopeful that things would work out, once the landlord called to tell us how to correct these issues, but perturbed that he hadnt bother to call us back.

As time passed, we tried to distract ourselves watching television, but it didnt work, we were still unbearably cold. So, we decided to go try ONE LAST TIME to see if we could warm the place up.

My Honey and I could hear the "blower" of the heater, but there was no air coming through the vents. With a flash light in hand, we hunted around for the water heater and air system. Both were located in a closet area, located off the bathroom.

Now, My Honey has a lot of strengths, but, to be perfectly honest, being a Handy Man isnt at the top of his "strengths list"....Im not sure if it's even on that list at all, but if it is, it's at the bottom, right next to "great disco dancer" and "creative scrapbooker"'s just not his thing. In his defense, it probably COULD be his thing, I mean, he is smart enough, but he apparently has never been interested enough to make being Mr. Fix-It a part of his portfolio.

We are both staring at the water heater, looking for the pilot light, which we cant see, because it isnt lit. The system has an "electric ignition" so, it couldnt be lit with a match. We each read and reread and read to each other and read to ourselves, the directions on lighting the water heater. We tried to ignite it, and it just wouldnt work. HMPH!

The other heating system, as in the system that is SUPPOSED TO blow hot air into the house, sounded like it was blowing, but we couldnt feel any air coming out of the vents. We poked around the heater, and really had no clue...nothing was obvious to us, so we had to wait for the landlord to call and give us some direction on how to get it working.

As we retired to our room, I thought it best to close the bedroom door, because;

1. maybe our breath (and My Honey's gas) would get trapped in and help keep us warm.
2. every door and window seemed to have a 1/2 inch gap, and I didnt want to let any more cold air draft into the room.

My Honey, on the other hand, was not comfortable with the door closed, as he wanted to be able to hear the kids. They were all in the room right across the hall, and we kept their door closed (for the reasons I mentioned above) but he wasnt certain we could hear them in the middle of the night if both doors were closed.

As we slid into the sheets, we both gasped, as it was like sliding across a frosty, frozen, pond. As we huddled under the covers, moving our legs to try to create some warmth against the sheets, My Honey began to worry aloud;

"If the heating system is blowing, but there is no air coming in, THAT WE KNOW OF, I wonder what is blowing and if it's carbon monoxide, because you cant smell Carbon Monoxide and Im wondering if that is blowing into the rooms."

Great...that's all I need, is paranoia!

I tried to counter his fears;

"We've been here for a few hours now, wouldnt we be dead, or at least a bit woozy by now? And, what creates carbon monoxide? Does it come from regular heaters? Doesnt it have to be some old fashioned heater?"

He was serious, worried, "I dont know."

Well, there was just no way either one of us was going to sleep. If the freezing air didnt keep us awake all night, the thoughts of our kids suffocating from the noxious gases that might be leaking from the heater would keep our minds from getting any rest.

So, I decided we should call the Fire Dept. to allay our fears. But, I had no phone number for the Fire Dept, and was too cold to search the house for a phone book, I could barely move!!

I called 911, and quickly let them no this was NOT AN EMERGENCY, but I needed the NON-Emergency number to the Fire Dept.

They switched me to the EMERGENCY number of the Fire Dept....which made me nervous, because I feel as if I need to talk real fast, or I might be tying up the line when someone else had a real emergency (I know, they probably have more than one line, but anyways...)

I explained our plight, and the Fireman gave me told me I would have to call a different number, which he gave me. I began repeating it in my head, as I hung up the phone, and began to dial the number...AND THEN THE PHONE RANG.....AND THEN THE PERSON THAT CALLED HUNG UP.

I was certain it was the landlord, finally calling (near midnight now) because he felt awful that we were freezing and feared the liability of frozen people in his, I dialed *69 to see who had called. And it was nobody, and in the meantime, I forgot the NON EMERGENCY number to the fire dept.

GREAT! Now what?

My only option was to call 911 again, and risk being in big trouble for abusing the emergency service, and also feel like a dork for not writing down the number (no pen handy, and I wasnt about to leave the bed to go find one.) So, I called again.

Embarassed, I got the number a second time, and called. And, guess what, the same guy that answered the emergency number, is the guy that answers the non-emergency number.

I pretended I didnt notice, and gave him the whole story again; renting a cabin, we can hear the heater blowing, but no hot air, is there a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning?

his answer: I dont know.

my response: Well, does a heater emit carbon monoxide? would that be possible?

his answer: I dont know.

my response: what types of appliances pose a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning?

his answer: it depends. We would need to look at the unit.

My response: ok, thanks.

I would almost rather freeze to death than have fire engines come roaring down this narrow road, lights a'flashing, up the icey stairs to check out the heater (not really, but...)... I mean, this had all gone too far.

So, I convinced myself that if there were a danger, we would have already died, and if not, and we were all dead in the morning, at least it would be peaceful and we would all be together, and the stupid landlord would be in big trouble and have to live with the guilt of freezing us to death for the rest of his life!

Winter Wonderland, Part 3

So, since pulling up to the cabin at noon, we have spent a good few hours chipping away at the snow, trying to clear enough to get the kids into the cabin safely. The shovel was of no help, so My Honey and I broke up the ice with a hammer and wrench. Sort of like a chain-gang, just hitting it, removing the blocks, bit by bit.

As the kids grew restless to get into the snow, I decided to take a break and change them into their snow clothes. Since the original plan (which was pretty much out the window, although I dont know if I knew it yet) was to have some snow play, I had kept their snow clothes, hats and mittens in a separate bag, and had dressed them in clothes that would be appropriate to go under the snow, it was easy to get them out, dressed and into the snow to have some fun.

Pooper had been itching to build an "igloo", in fact, the day before, he was on the phone with one of the little girls from school, who was also going up to the mountains. We had talked about meeting up to let the kids play together, and this is the conversation I heard from Pooper on the phone:

P: Hey, me and you can make an igloo

P: (looking puzzled) yeah, they are easy.

P: No, I can totally make one, you just make a bunch of snow bricks.

P: It's easy, Ill show you.

Then when he got off the phone, he said, "mom, it's easy to make snow bricks, right?"

I told him that while the snow can be tricky, I was pretty sure he would be able to do it.

So, while dad slaved and sweated away on our "vacation", Pooper got to building his igloo, which eventually was downgraded to a "fort"

Beauty enjoyed sledding, and started out on the "driveway" eventually graduating to the perfect sledding area next to the cabin. That sled run is actually a dirt road, the same dirt road that the landlord suggested that we park on, if we werent able to clear the "driveway".

Little One, also my fiesty one, wanted to go sledding too, and she didnt want anyone touching her or helping her, no siree, she was gonna do it all by herself, and she did!

Before we knew it, the sun had ceased to temper the chilling air. It was after 4:30pm, and we knew we needed to get some food (nobody had eaten since breakfast! Hello!), get to the store, and get back to the cabin to settle in before dark.

The driveway was still packed with snow, as was the front of the stairs....we determined that the kids would be just fine, and we could get them up to the cleared section of stairs safely.

Once at the top of the stairs, there was a large area that was covered in icey-packed snow.

My Honey and I carefully got over the snow, while holding on to the side of the house, it was tricky, but we could do it. It wouldnt be safe for the kids, so the two of us worked together to get the kids to the top of the stairs, and then help lift them over to the door. Sounds simple, but with 3 kids and 2 adults, it became a bit tricky every time we came and went, to help one child down, leave them at the car, come up to get another, etc. etc. But we did it, because, it's mountain life, and it's a good life.

We got all of our bags inside, and let the kids take a look around. It was a nice cabin. They had obviously done a lot of recent work, as everything seemed new. There was a great kitchen and family room above, and down below were 3 bedrooms. This was fantastic, we'll have to come again and invite some friends....really a great cabin in an awesome location.

My Honey finished one remaining task, that had been in our outline from the owner; he turned on the water. We were now ready to roll, we couldnt wait to get into a warm restaurant and stuff our faces. Mountain life really builds up the appetite!

Before leaving, I glanced at the thermostat. We had turned the heat on about 5 hours prior, yet it had only moved a few was now 53 degrees. Hmmm.... I was hopeful that things would be warmer by the time we came home later on that night.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Winter Wonderland, Part 2

As we turned off the main, mountain highway, we were consumed with the snowy forest. We winded down little side streets, carefully following the directions that the cabin owner had emailed to us, and found our cabin on a narrow path. The road was just barely wide enough for the car, lined with 2 feet of snow that had been cleared by a plow.

The kids were bubbling with glee, and even Pooper was shrieking in between his barfing.

As we pulled up, and doubled checked the address with the numbers on the cabin, we soon realized that we would not be able to pull into the "driveway" as directed in our notes. The "driveway" was packed in with snow, and we could see no other place to park. The road was narrow, so we couldnt just leave our car there, blocking the road. The only place that we could possibly park, would be about a mile or two up the road, across a damn, and that didnt seem feasible with the kids and luggage.

I made my first of several calls to the cabin owner:

Me: Hi T, we arrived at the cabin, but are unable to park in the driveway because of the snow. Is there another place nearby to park?

Cabin Owner: If you dont want to park on the snow, there is a shovel on the back patio of the cabin.

Me: Oh, ok. There is about 2 feet of snow on the drive way, so it wouldnt be possible to park there, we'll go up and get the shovel.

Cabin Owner: Really, Im surprised that there is still snow. Is there any on the stairs?

Me: Yes, the stairs have a lot of snow too.

Cabin Owner: The temperature has been warm during the day, Im surprised any snow is left. Well, be careful going up the stairs, just kick off any snow so that it doesnt get icey.

Me: Ok (still excited and totally ignorant to the impossibility of shoveling the drive.)

Now, for the record, we have had a lot of rain and snow in the past month. This past week, the daily highs were in the mid 50's and the nightly lows were about 30. So, that equates to a little melting of the snow pack during the day (although the cabin faces NW, and gets little sunshine in the front)...and that slushing snow just refreezes each night. So, just to be clear, this was not fluffy, was hard, packed, ice.

We leave the kids in the car, which is parked in the road, in front of the cabin. We figure they can hang out in the comfort and warmth for a bit, until we can clear things enough to get inside.

Thankfully, Pooper is well versed in throwing up, and can tend to himself without any assistance from My Honey or I.

My Honey and I then begin our journey to shovel off the drive.

Soon we realize, that it is quite a feat just to get up the stairs. They are slick and hard as a rock. They are solidly frozen, and dont give in at all to your foot. We both hold on to the side railing (which I worried would collapse against my weight) and managed to climb up the ice pack on the stairs. Whew!

Using the secret code given to us, we go into the cabin. I immediately turn on the heater, while My Honey heads out to the back patio to get the coveted snow shovel.

Unfortunately, he could not find the snow shovel anywhere! The back patio was also covered in a couple feet of snow, and I could see the handle of a stepping stool poking out of the ice. As I looked around, I could also see just a hint of grey plastic, from the snow shovel. It was buried beneath the snow, but was angled so that the edge of the shovel was up against the cabin, sticking out, as if waving at us, "help, get me out of here!"

Luckily, there were two tools on the kitchen counter; a hammer, and a wrench. My Honey got started with the hammer, and began pecking away at the frozen tundra, to rescue the shovel.

I journey back to the stairs, with the wrench, and tried to make some headway on the mountainous snow piles. We would not be able to get the kids up to the cabin without first clearing the stairs. My Honey and I barely made it up to the cabin ourselves, and it would be unsafe to attempt to bring the kids up and over that ice.

As Im chipping away at the stairs, the kids and the car in my sights, I holler out to them often, "This is it guys, mountain living, isnt it fun?!!" I would say with a chuckle and a smile. I was still delusional about getting this all cleared out and continuing on with our vacation.

We had arrived at the cabin around noon. We were hungry, but had planned to bring in our bags (and start the heater) before venturing back out to eat. We figured that after lunch, we could enjoy some snow play, and then head over to the supermarket to buy some food, paper products and firewood. We wanted to be back to the cabin to cook dinner before darkness set in, as the cabin would be tough to find in the dark, as we were not acquainted with the neighborhood.

Noon soon turned to 1, and 2:00pm was fast approaching. I had cleared a few steps, and My Honey finally got the shovel from beneath the snow.

It took him an hour just to get the shovel. That's when we realized that this project was a lot harder than it looked!

We assessed the situation, and decided that it would be impossible to clear the driveway. The stairs were a must, as we couldnt get the kids into the cabin without some clearance on the stairs.

While I had cleared a few stairs, there were still over 20 to go. My Honey decided that he would clear just a 1' foot path on the stairs, just enough to walk up. To try and do anymore would be a waste of time, as it was, we would be lucky to get the task done before it got dark. Here he is, working away, this picture was taken when he was almost done.

He did it all with the hammer, as the snow shovel was made of plastic, and was completely worthless on the hardened ice. Everytime we tried, at best, the shovel would bend, it was impossible to use it to clear anything. Here is another photo after My Honey had cleared our path.

The kids were still in the car, whining occasionally, but generally being pretty good. Now that I think about it, their best behavior of the whole trip might have been when they were in the car...hmmm.....something to note for the future!

While My Honey chipped away at the icey mounds on the stairs, I went and got the kids into their snow clothes, so that they could play in the "front yard" while daddy worked.

Yessirree...this was mountain living, sledding in the snow while daddy worked on the yard....just normal mountain living, and boy was it fun!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Winter Wonderland, Part 1

Things around our house can get kind of hectic. Hectic in the sense that we sometimes want to strangle each other, or we threaten to trade people to other families, not really, well, ok, really, but, not because we dont love each other, just because we need a vacation.

One day, a few weeks ago, we were all sitting around trying to think of our last vacation, and we came up with Andrew's "Make a Wish" trip to Florida to see Spider Man. That was November of 2005, and while it was a wonderful trip in many ways, it was also hectic. Without going into all of the details, the journey there took 17 hours and 2 plane changes....and that about sets the mood.....

So, a few weeks ago, I decided to take a hallucinegic drug, er, I mean, use my imagination, and pretend that our wealthy Aunt Julianne bought us a tropical vacation on the Home Shopping Club. Im not sure if they sell trips on the HSN, but, it was a dream....

I then went online, and browsed all of the vacations that I would like to take....The Beaches Resort, with Sesame Street characters in the Bahamas was my trip of choice, but since Aunt Julianne is on restriction from making purchases from the TV, I decided to look into some get-away ideas at a more reasonable rate.

I remembered President's Day 1998, when My Honey and I went skiing in Durango, CO. It was an amazing trip (also the trip where the kids we chaperoned smuggled in drugs, and we had to call the cops, and the other chaperones called the cops back and told them not to come....which is another saga all-together....) But, I remember the snow, and how fun that was.

Then, I remembered when we took Pooper and Beauty up to the snow for a day, a few years ago, and how much fun that was.

Then, I considered that the kids had a 4 day weekend for the Presidents Day holiday, there was snow on our local mountains, the weather forecast was for mild temperatures....local+snow+mild forecast=perfect opportunity for a trip to the snow.

Perusing cabin rentals online, I found one that looked perfect, and was also the only thing available, as everything was booked....which made it worth looking into.

Super long story short, we rented the cabin for 2 nights, and made plans to go on a road trip.

The kids were so excited. I went to the local second-hand-kids-clothes-store and got some snow pants and boots, and we were good to go.

Once packed, we were on the road.

We journeyed 90 miles over the next 2 hours. The second half of the trip was mostly winding, mountain roads.

We listened to The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and eventually, the "Freedom Rock" CD made it's way into the car stereo.

I dont know where I got this CD, most likely it was a bonus when I joined the, "Sounds of the 70's" CD club back in the 90's. It was full of peace-loving songs, and the kids just loved it.

Pooper's favorite, was, The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down. We played it about 10 ten times, with me stopping the song periodically to explain that it was "folk music" and give accounting to him of the meaning and history of the song.

Beauty's favorite was, One Tin Soldier. Again, I stopped the song often so that the kids were clear about the "treasure" that was buried on the hill, and how it was really just a loving message of "peace on earth" and how the greedy people of the Valley wanted something that wasnt theirs, and killed people because their materialism overtook them and caused them to value riches more than people. Ok, maybe a bit too deep for Beauty, but an important lesson, none the less.

And, both kids got a kick out of, "War, HUH, What is it good for?"......although Doug and I were sure to point out, that while the man said, "absolutely nothing".....we were able to live in a country that was free, safe and full of hope, because soldiers were protecting that freedom for us!

So, as you can see, the ride up was rich in culture, thanks to our "folk music" lessons.

As we made our way through the snowy, forest, Pooper's car sickness got the best of him. We were close to the cabin, and were anxious to get the kids inside, especially Pooper, so that he could throw-up in a real toilet, rather than a fast food bag.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, we saw this.

That's right, that's a cabin, with the drive way covered in snow. And the stairs that go up two flights to the front door, are also packed in with a good 2+ feet of icey, snow. (at the time I took this, My Honey had already cleared some of the stairs at the top, but trust me, when we pulled in, the stairs were covered, and My Honey and I had to climb through it to get inside the cabin.)

Stay tuned for the further adventures of our Winter Wonderland.....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Greetings from Antarctica

Ill write more later, oh boy will I write more later.......but in the meantime, I really need you to take my newests will help me determine if my brain is freezing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Times they are a changin'

Valentine's Day #1

My Honey and I had just started dating, after many months of friendship. He had recently moved to Arizona, and I was still settled in Southern California. I became a regular on the Southwest flight from John Wayne to Phoenix, the first time being for Valentines Day, 1997.

I was greeted with roses, a gift bag full of lotions and sprays in my favorite fragrance; Sun-ripened Rasberry.

My Honey and I left the airport and headed to a wine shop, for a night of wine tasting. It seemed very fancy, and although I dont drink, I was looking forward to the event. You see, we wouldnt actually be drinking, we would be "tasting."

Little did I know, that "tasting" 16 different 1/2 glass of wine, is the same as DRINKING 8 glass of wine. Which is the same as being super drunk!

I thought I was so cute in my size 4, Ann Taylor skort and brown clogs. I tried to act refined and SOBER while we were at the shop, so as not to let My Honey know that I couldnt handle "tastings." Although, Im pretty sure he got the message on the way home, when we spotted a car accident on the side of the road. I opened up the car door, wanting to get out and help, however, the fact that our car was driving past the scene (and not stopping) caused My Honey to reach over, pull me inside, shut the door, and realize that he had a completely bombed date.

Whatever plans he had after that, I dont remember, because instead he stopped at the first Chinese restaurant for take out, so as to get some food in my empty stomach that hadnt eaten since before my flight.

Im pretty sure I passed out after I shovelled a carton of Orange Peel Chicken into my face. How romantic.

Valentines Day #12

Little One was screaming and crying, wanting to be held, as I helped Beauty out of her swimsuit. Pooper was still in the pool, finishing up his last 100 yards of freestyle. Through the chaos it hit me, "Oh no, I dont have anything to make for dinner, and it's Valentine's Day!"

I managed to get Beauty into some borrowed sweats, since I forgot her clothes, and Little One settled into my lap, with a free hand, I grabbed my cell phone to call My Honey.

"What should we do for dinner?" I asked

"I was thinking we could go to some place that doesnt take reservations. If we get there early, we can beat the crowd" He assured me.

"Sounds good. Pooper will be done at 5:15, and we will leave as soon as I can get him changed into some dry clothes." I said, feeling good that we had a plan.

Unfortunately, My Honey arrived at the restaurant at 5:30, only to find out they had a 2 hour wait. We figured that any other place would be the same, and decided on meeting at our favorite taco joint.

Albertacos. It's cheap, greasy, authentic, delicious, and the most unromantic joint in town.

By 6pm, we were gathered around our table, enjoying the guacamole, and commenting on how the busy hole-in-the-wall was empty because everyone else was waiting 2 hours for their dinner.

By 7pm we were home, and by 7:15 I was fishing poop out of the bathtub.

While I doubt that 12 years ago I could ever have imagined spending Cupid's holiday this way, I have to say, that in many ways, this Valentine's Day was just as romantic as the first, maybe even more so.

How did you spend your Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bossy, please dont be afraid!

I dont want to scare any of you, especially Bossy , because I am (hopefully) on her corporately sponsored, "Bossy's Exellent Road Trip", but California is a hot bed of earthquakes.

The other night, while doing my "night owl" routine of catching up on all the news-junkie-political-goings-on, I got a bit dizzy. It was as if I was swaying, ever so slightly. I quickly glanced at my glass of water, sitting on the desk, trying to catch any minor ripples or swishing, and there were none. But I didnt give up that easily, you see, I'm a native Californian, felt my first earthquake at the age of 5.... was February, 1971, and I was sleeping, dreaming of kindergarten, which I loved, or maybe dreaming of my new snow cone maker or Suzy bake oven, but undoubtedly dreaming of something when my mother came into my room, in the middle of the night's darkness, to wake me up. (now, wouldnt you just let your sleeping child sleep? but anyways....)

Grandma J: "We are having an earthquake!"

Me: still groggy, "No we arent"

GJ: insisting, "Yes we are!"

Me: "I dont feel anything."

GJ: "Look, the lamp is moving" with her hand, suspiciously close to the fancy 1970's lamp, dangling from the ceiling by a clunky chain, at which she was pointing.

Me: "You pushed the lamp."

GJ: "Ok, wait til tomorrow, you'll see."

And that was my recollection of the 6.7 Sylmar quake.

but, back to the other night....I knew that dizzy sensation, it had a rolling effect, the same feeling that you get when you are a adrift in a boat on a quiet lake.

So, fingertips already on the keyboard, I clicked over to the US Geological website to check out our earthquake map, to see if there had been any slight tremblers.

Lo and behold, there had just been a decent sized (5.4 on the Richter scale) shaker near the California-Mexico (wide open come cross me!) border.

The really fun thing about the website, is you can submit your own experience...did you feel it? was there damage? etc.....all of which you rate on a scale. Soon, you can see who felt it, via maps or zip codes...and how strong it was across the area. I was suprised to see that even though we are 250 miles away, at that late hour, in my little zip code, 6 other people had reported feeling the effects. Kind of cool in a "surfing the web" kinda way.

As I was clicking through the website that night, suddenly, but unfelt by me, a second earthquake was recorded at same site!! When I woke up in the morning I checked again, and there had been several more.

That was a few days ago, and just look what the map looks like now

I told my honey, "If I were a betting wife, and just be lucky Im not, Id put some big dollars on a big quake around this part of the globe, and soon!"

And then, this morning, I saw that further south in Mexico there was a big quake. Glad the continent shifted to the south and not the north....but by the looks of the map, things have not yet settled down.

I dont want any of you to go and get worried....we get quakes here, and almost always they are harmless. It's not half as scary as living along the south-eastern shores, that get hurricanes cruising through each year....or the tornadoes or ice storms, or even snow storms that cause destruction across the rest of the country. No, our quakes are not too bad, and considering we get to live in near-perfect weather conditions, year round, (a balmy mid 70's)'s not a bad deal.

But, I did just want to throw it out there, sort of as a pre-"I told you so" sort of way...that we may be getting ready for a bit of a shake up around these parts.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My night at the discotheque

In an effort to "keep it real"...and because Im a hard-core "night owl"....I'm going to share some fun with all of you, even if it is nearly midnight.

In a nutshell, my kids have been sick this week. They all have something a little different...sort of like everyone has 1.5 different bugs, and they are sort of on rotation, just to keep me on my toes, wondering who might vomit next....and I hate vomit.

In fact, Ill share with you just how selfish I am as a mom....while I should be thinking, "oh, my poor dear doesnt feel good, how can I make them feel better?"...really what I think, is, "OH CRAP! What can I do to make sure the vomit doesnt get on anything? Ill get the kid a bowl, and they better make sure they keep their barf in the bowl and not go throwing up on the carpet or furniture!" Yeah, I know, nobody is going to be writing in to any "My Mother is the best because...." contests over that, but it's the sad truth.

Anyways. Little One has pneumonia. On Tuesday, our very astute doctor thought she heard it when listening to her lungs, but wasnt sure. An x-ray was not obviously definitive either, until the radiologist looked at it, and said it was indeed pneumonia. Also, she really didnt have "symptoms" of pneumonia....per se, I mean, that wasnt why I brought her to the doctor....

So, to me, the lame-o, un-medically-educated mom, that spells, "early stages" or "slight" pneumonia, right?

Our doctor is great, and she gave all the kids plenty of meds for their prospective bugs....Little One got steroids, an inhaler, and an antibiotic....a strong one! (zithromax). In fact, I came away from the pharmacy (after almost an hour of negotiating the incompetencies at the drive thru window..which is yet ANOTHER blog for another day)..with $200 worth of drugs. Can you say "poorhouse"?

So, after 2 days of the stuff, Little One seemed to be getting worse. Now she clearly is struggling to breathe, coughing a lot, feverish and lethargic. It seemed to my untrained brain, that her "slight" pneumonia had become "full blown."

I wondered if the meds were going to kick in or not. Should I wait it out another day or not? And while pondering these deep thoughts, I remembered that our doctor doesnt work on Fridays, and I didnt want to get stuck with Little One getting worse over the weekend, and forced to deal with the ineptness that is our "walk in clinic".

It was 5pm when I had that conversation with myself, so I hurried and called the doctor's office. DANG IT! She had left, but our nurse was there...whom I also love ( I love them because they HEAR me, and they give my kids the strong meds they need...I dont get the brush off, which only drives me insane.)

I told the nurse, "should I wait another day for these meds to work? Should I get a different antibiotic? At what point do I decide this isnt working?"

Dear Nurse M., who feels the same way about the walk in clinic as I do, said, "Just be safe and take her to the ER."

And then I cussed under my breath, and over my breath, and told her I was sick of spending all my time at doctors offices and hospitals....but realized she was was the only real choice.

So, I PACKED UP ALL THE KIDS AND CALLED MY HUSBAND WHO WAS ON HIS WAY HOME FROM WORK, and we went for a little vacation to our TIME SHARE, which is a room at the ER.

We met in the parking lot, and Little One and I checked in, while daddy took the others and went and got dinner.

The ER was flooded with people. It was 6pm, and it looked like a nightclub. A cheap nightclub in a foriegn part of town. Sorry, but if you live in Southern California, you might know JUST WHAT IM TALKING those without insurance and doctors, get free health care at our emergency rooms, and they all seemed to be there on the same night, tonight.

We were only there for 4.5 hours, thanks to Little One being a baby with breathing issues. heck, if she didnt have them, I might have come up with a quick case of Munchausen by Proxy, just to cut to the front of the line....

She got more x-rays, which this time clearly showed pneumonia. They recongized her labored breathing and gave her a shot of a strong antibiotic, and a breathing treatment, and a popsicle.....and the nurse was a little annoying, in treating me like I dont know a thing about kids and illnesses and medicines...but that would be another post that I dont have time for now.

Little One was quiet and lethargic.....and while I starved and had a throbbing migraine....she sat and sucked her fingers, while cuddling in my lap. The only part of the night that was not painfully "hospitalish", was when the Celebrity Apprentice came gave me something to focus on, besides the argument in the hall, re: why a nurse sent a pregnant, bleeding woman straight to ultrasound, without her first being triaged, because now she is there without an IV and if she CRASHES, they may be in trouble.

So, no sooner do I get into the show, does the child life gal come and say, "oh, would she like to watch an Elmo video?"....Uh, no, I say.....she's probably not interested, it's past her bedtime and I think she just wants to rest.....

Which was much nicer than throwing a syringe at her hand and telling her to BACK OFF the remote!

But she insisted, eagerly trying to make my little one feel better.... I then got my migraine boosted by that creeepy Mr. Noodle.....and missed the "assignment".....and Little One didnt even watch the video.

But, we eventually made it home, after her breathing treatment.

And now, Im sitting here, with everyone in bed, praying for Spring to arrive so we can get on with life, and I dont mean CHICKENPOX or some other spring illness....just regular life, where we dont visit doctors.

AND, when I left the hospital, they want me to make sure to have Little One seen in the next 24 hours, by a doctor. ARE THEY KIDDING? It's like I should just hire our own family physician to move in with us or something. If she gets worse, naturally, Ill go back to the Copacabana, er, I mean the ER....if she is feeling better...we arent going anywhere near the place, unless they are providing happy hour, with free hors d'ouevres and drinks, then, maybe Ill consider it.


For those of you saying the Rosary for our songwriter/sociopath, you can breathe a big sigh of relief.

When his dad got home last night, I secretly showed him the "hit song" THE THIRST FOR BLOOD. He was even more alarmed than I, wondering if we should padlock the kid in his room, for our own safety.

I assured him (with my fingers crossed behind my back) that such gorish ramblings were "normal for boys"

Then, this morning, Dad happily says, "hey pooper, tell mommy where you got the idea for your song."

and Pooper says, "Remember that (describes some plastic, monster-like figurine) that Grandma J got me?" (should we not have guessed that GJ had something to do with this? This is the woman that gave me kids marshmallows for breakfast and sugared cereal for dinner on their overnight slumber parties....)

I lie and say, "sure, oh yeah, that thing, yeah."

"Well," he tells me, "it came with a card that described the [whatever it's called] and it said he thirsts for blood."

And daddy, with a huge grin on his face, clearly relieved that he can sleep at night without a butcher knife under the pillow, says, "see, he read it from that character's info wasnt his idea."....and "isnt that awesome that he could just read that, and then take that little info and write an entire song about it?"

Yeah, great.....I think.


Im going to try and get some sleep now, and dream of a tomorrow filled with unicorns and butterflies, with happy, well-adjusted, healthy children.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

the crazy things that occupy my time

When Im not thinking about taking up drinking, Im pretty busy, with things like; fishing poop out of bath tubs, making a princess cake for a birthday party, making "penguin" cupcakes for a "classroom" party, and making coffee cake for another child - who was "star of the week", or obsessing over my child's "song" - a song he wrote by himself, which is actually very good and impressive, if it werent titled, "The thirst for blood", (now you see why Im obsessing? wondering if this is regular "boy stuff" or left over fascination from his life as a medical guinea pig (with blood as a central topic) or accepting that I'm raising a future homocidal maniac), taking kids to the doctor, only to find out that the kid with the horrible cough is "fine" and the kid with the ear ache (who, otherwise seems fine) actually has pneumonia, planning and giving a "doll party" - complete with 'pin the bow on the doll', making photo collages for 2 kids, doing laundry - enough to keep kids in matching, clean clothes, washing my hair when it gets so greasy that it looks like I have gel in it, did I mention fishing poop out of the bathtub?

Anyways, busy here.

And then, if I werent questioning my mothering skills enough, I read this And, while I dont have AIDS, I DO chew my kids food up when they are babies.....and this report mentions that this "practice" is unusual and is only seen in poor, underdeveloped countries.

Just because my kids poop any time their rear ends hit warm water, and my laundry has become a science fiction monster, and my son is writting songs about wearwolves, doesnt mean that I engage in unusual behaviors re: feeding my kids. I just happen to feed my kids FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES, ie. not canned baby food (although there is nothing wrong with that at all....) and rather than boil or mash or puree everything, sometimes, it's just easier to put a handful of carrots in your mouth and chew them, and then give them to your baby (who is new to solids)....that's all...not such a bizarre concept, I think.

BTW, Ive been given strict instructions to have the "thirst for blood" song handed over to an agent, so that a video can be made and put on, and nobody is allowed to hear or see the song, without paying for it, so, get your checkbooks ready.