Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013!

I can't believe that 2013 will be gone in a matter of minutes.  Sixty-four of them, to be precise.  I know that people say that the older you get the faster time goes by, but enough already!  

So, probably last year I made an unofficial resolution to be a better blogger.  Unofficial, because I didn't write them down in my journal like I usually do.  Normally I make 10 resolutions (which, if I am bound by the statistics I read in the Parade yesterday means I keep approximately one a year.)  This post is my last ditch effort to keep that resolution.  If you look back at my blog, you'll see posts each January that "catch up" the last year's activities.  I figure that if I get them in the next 64, oops, down to 60 minutes, it counts as being current for the year, right?  So, let's catch up. . . 

In November the girls went camping with their Girl Scout troop at a nearby state park.  I subbed when I could, managing to hit Journalism, English, Algebra, Spanish, and (yea!) Media Specialist.  I also managed to get some coveted "Professional Development" hours - (27 down, 152 still to go!)  As I still don't have a regular job, I decided that the most economical way to get these hours would be to take some education courses at the local college in our town, so I am once again heading back to college.  I will start a "Technology for Teachers" class in January that is two credit hours - or 30 PD hours.  Hopefully this will help me compensate for my lack of teaching experience on my resume. 

November also brought our first bout of freezing rain, but it fell on a weekend.  Gracie was so disappointed that school did not get cancelled.  Not as disappointed as Jerry, I think, who was counting on a bad-weather day so much that he stayed up until 3:00 AM.  When we woke up and there was no nasty ice on the road, guess who had to get up and go to work anyway!  I was glad I had made the girls go to bed as usual!  We made a whirlwind trip to the Metroplex for Thanksgiving, but it was very rushed.  The girls got to take part my small hometown's parade of lights and ride on a float for Grandma's church. 

It was cold, but they had a great time.  We also used this opportunity to take family  pictures for our Christmas card.  It's amazing how many we have to take just to get one that everyone is happy with, even though the girls aren't little anymore.  Here's our final pic: 

After the pictures were taken, we had a little fun helping rake the leaves at Nana and Granddad's: 

The three littlest cousins were ready helpers, but grown-up Maggie stayed inside, far away from itchy leaves.  

They seemed to be having so much fun, I couldn't resist getting in on the action:

Yeah, those leaves are not as soft as they looked when the kids were jumping in them.  Luckily, my knight in shining armor was there to help me de-leaf.  

Isn't he so handsome!  

Then it was December!  (Good thing too, I'm down to 32 minutes, and I've gotta have time to spell-check!)  

The first week of December we got about five inches of snow - which I didn't take a single picture of.  I did have the urge to take a picture of our neighbor's yard guys mowing in the snow.  Oh well - no mowing, no payment, I guess!  

We had lots of festive going-ons, but the snowy weather meant that we had five days of doing nothing, followed by two weeks of frantic activity trying to get everything in before Christmas.  The girls and I did make our gingerbread houses while we were snowed in (another thing that had gotten pushed to January last year!)  We managed to get in our yearly outing to the Nutcracker:   

After the performance we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  Maggie was very excited to go back there, and then when we ordered she got. . . a cheese pizza!  Really?  a 30-odd page menu, and she gets cheese pizza?   We asked her if the pizza was great, and she said, "Meh."  Why then, we quizzed her, was she so excited to come to the Cheesecake Factory?  She looked at us with an exasperated look and said, "The CHEESECAKE!"  Well, duh!  

The girls had their winter concert in December - Gracie's first concert playing her cello, and Maggie's last winter concert of middle school.  

Gracie is in the center of the photograph - she's got a smile on her face!

Maggie is in the front row, third seat.  She is first chair, second violin, and section leader.  

The kids had worked really hard, and sounded fantastic.  (I'd post a video, but I'm down to 17 minutes, and I don't think it will load that fast!)

And then boom!  Christmas was upon us!  We headed down to the Metroplex a day early, because they were predicting another ice storm, so we left the day after the concert.  I hadn't had a chance to do my holiday baking, but I had already bought the ingredients, so I took them with me and made 10 batches of cookies at my mom's house.  We spent 10 days with family in Texas, and had a great time with everyone.  Ten days is a long time to be away from home for a homebody like me though, and I was glad to be back home and in my own bed last night.  

Maggie wanted Fruits Basket Manga - She got a fruit basket of Mangos!

The Simciks!  Love Will's face!

The girls listen to a custom storybook about Princess Weekend, featuring them!

Favorite gifts from Santa Claus

Me and my family tree frame.

Foster Family, original.

Foster Family, expanded!

And thus wraps up our December, and our 2013.  And there's nine minutes to spare - guess I'll go find a noisemaker and my fella to kiss.  Happy New Year!!!  May you and yours have a blessed 2014!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween Happenings

This year we bought our pumpkins early.  Jerry and Gracie went to the store and picked out some excellent pumpkins - plenty big for carving.  Gracie wanted to try one of the pattern books that you can buy at the store.  We had always just carved freehand before, but you never know if you'll like something until you try it, so we got a pattern book.  Of course, no matter what, the first step is to clean out the pumpkins! 

As usual, Gracie reveled in the gunky-ness of the pumpkin innards, while Maggie kept up a constant stream of, "EEEWW!".  

We all initially decided to try a pattern, but Maggie changed her mind once she tried to tape it on her pumpkin.  She decided to free-hand it after all. 

Jerry decided on a cyclops pattern, 

Gracie did a pumpkin-faced witch,

And I did the cat.  Maggie's didn't quite turn out the way she had intended, and she was not happy about that, but I think it gave our lineup some much needed character.

With the carving out of the way and the girls off to bed, I tackled the next aspect of Halloween - a costume.  We had recently introduced the girls to the original Star Wars trilogy, and Gracie had expressed a desire to be Princess Leia for Halloween - although she did not want the braids on the side of her head.  We tried to tell her that was what made a Princess Leia costume, but she was having none of it.  Then this morning (the day before Halloween, she changed her mind.  She wanted to be a fox.  Normally I would not entertain a change of costume at this late juncture, but since I had done nothing to get a Leia costume together, (and I really thought a fox would be easier) I acquiesced.  I gathered the required supplies that afternoon: 

And voila!  A fox is born!  I asked her if she was prepared for everyone to ask her, "What does the fox say?" all night, and she assured me she was, and even did a song and dance for me, but she pretty flatly refused once we were at trunk or treat.

Maggie's original plan was to be a character from one of her many self-authored short stories, but when I asked her what that costume would look like, it was suspiciously like what she had worn to school that day, with a name tag that says, "Hello, my name is Pippa O'Ryan".  I told her that was fine, but that she might get some folks who wouldn't want to give her candy if she looked like a teen-ager that hadn't bothered to get dressed up in a costume. After some thought, she went as this: 

And no, she wasn't Hermione - she was a Hufflepuff disguised by Polyjuice Potion as a Griffindor!    

Ah, my little ghouls are growing up!  

First we went to our church's trunk-or-treat, where Maggie helped man the booth her Sunday School group had put together (Sesame Street Theme!) 

Gracie ran across a friend from school dressed as Si - 

And they tried their hand at the games of skill: 


Whoda thunk that Uncle Si could hula-hoop?

Once we got home Gracie realized she hadn't painted her face, so we got her all dolled up:

And then we joined our neighbors for our annual romp around the neighborhood!

We only covered two streets, but the girls still had a candy haul that should keep them sugared up until Easter.  

As long as mommy doesn't find the candy stash!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Yellow Rose Goat Show 2013

The girls and I traveled a few weekends ago to Denison, Texas, for the second annual Yellow Rose of Texas Miniature Silky Fainting Goat Show.  Once again, the girls were primarily responsible for showing goats, while my job was to photograph the winners.  Last year the show was in November, which meant we drove in the dark to get to the show.  This year we arrived before nightfall and got to enjoy the scenery on the way.  The girls were impressed by Lake Texhoma's size.  

The girls were excited to stay in the same hotel this year, especially Gracie, who remembered the pool with great fondness.  Unfortunately, she forgot to pack a suit, and the only suits available at wally world were snow suits!  This year the girls missed a day of school to come to the show, so Maggie worked diligently on her homework (plugged into her ever-present MP3 player) while Gracie settled in with a graphic novel.  

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed to the barns where we had goats that needed to be beautified.  We were not Nana and Granddad's only recruits - several friends were on hand to help as well.  Here, Gracie and Bethany brush out Winter's Dream, a Sr. Doe:

Apparently they did  a good job, as she won her third Grand Champion ribbon and is now a Master Champion.

Here Maggie uses her "goat whisperer" techniques to soothe Love Bug, another Sr. Doe.

While the girls were readying the goats, Granddad and I smoothed out the backdrop for the photos and covered some signs above with towels.  Granddad wanted to be sure I had a subject for my test photos.  

Pretty soon it was 9:00 and time to start the show.  The littlest does go first.  Here's Maggie with Gidget.  

Each handler takes their goat and they walk around the arena, keeping the goat between themselves and the judge.  The goats are judged on conformation, hair coat, how they walk, and how they look.  Well, it's really way more complicated than that, but I didn't read the whole rule book.  I'm just the photographer, after all.  

Once the judges make their decisions, they line the goats up in order of placement and they talk about the qualities of each goat.  Then they get their pretty ribbons if they win!

Here's Maggie with our first big winner of the day, Sanibel!  She's a Reserve Grand Champion (2nd place) Junior Doe.

Only the big winners get their photo taken, so I have plenty of time to visit with the goats between awards.  This was one of my favorite little goats, although he was too small to be a big winner at this show.  He's still got time to grow though.  I called him Mr. Bangs, although that wasn't his name.  He was with a different breeder who was a first-time attender at this show.  

He got good points for facial hair!

This buck reminded me of the goats in the story "The Billy Goats Gruff,"  because he just looks the part!  He did very well based on his conformation, even though he wasn't as silky as some.

These are more what you expect to see when you see a full-grown Miniature Silky Fainting goat:

Both of these goats won Best of Show (there were four shows this weekend) and are in the running for Goat of the Year.  Overall Randolph's Mini Hoof Farm did well at the show - we had plenty of ribbons to decorate our booth!

It rained pretty hard on Saturday, and I took some videos in the arena with the hope that there would be a big clap of thunder that would make all the goats faint and that I would have a viral video in the making, but no such luck!  By the time things wrapped up on Saturday we were tuckered out and ready to head home. I I guess that's another successful goat show for the books!