Friday, February 25, 2011

Ben is thirty!? {friends for the weekend}

Ben -- my husband, my best friend -- turned THIRTY on Saturday!

Sometimes when I blog I do pictures first, sometimes words first, but today (ok, this turned into multiple days) I'm having trouble because there are so many photos and so many things to say.  So let's try this stream of consciousness just see what happens style.

For Ben's birthday, I invited some of our best friends out for a surprise weekend visit.  Ben had his suspicions, but ultimately I was able to convince him that nothing was going on.  Then suddenly at the peak of his boring birthday sullenness friends appear, and WHAM! I'm the best wife on the planet.

Here's the cast.

Some of our best Beverly pals...

Ben and Christina...

and Ben and Susan...

(Yes, we've got a lot of Bens.  And that's how we like it.)

And some of Ben's Connecticut buddies...

Dan, Tim, Justin...

We formed "teams" and made pizzas for dinner.

We built an ice cream sandwich cake for dessert.

It was AMAZING.  One layer of cookies and cream ice cream sandwiches, a layer of whipped cream, chocolate and caramel syrups and crushed butterfinger, then a layer of chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwiches followed by a second pileup of whipped cream, syrups, and butterfingers.  Yowza.

Dan took control over my camera for a while.  It was fun to upload the photos and find this:

It wouldn't be Ben's birthday without a game of Let's Go to the Races, a VHS horse racing game we found at a yard sale years ago.  To get everyone pumped up I whipped out a jockey cutout photo prop we found a while back and forced everyone to pose.  It was really fun to watch everyone else be the jockey; not so much fun being on the other side.

Then we auctioned off horses, placed our bets, and raced our hearts out.  We laughed, we cried, and Bob slept like a champ through all our hollering.

Ben and I saw everyone to their beds and watched the fire for a few minutes before we went up to sleep.  
There's no one I'd rather stay up late with.

The next morning we cooked up a huge breakfast of farm fresh eggs with cheese, sausage and bacon from our own pigs, home fries with peppers onions and garlic, french toast, and Panera pastries courtesy of the Zobas.

We bundled up to play outside where we tore up jugs with the shotgun and did some serious sledding.  Here's Justin and Ben Z holding hands (or so we thought from a distance), then tumbling over each other in a cute little puff of snow.

The conditions were perfect for thrill-seeking -- mostly a sheet of ice topped with a dusting of snow.

Ben M and I went for the sledding trifecta, the triple crown -- the three biggest hills one after the other.  We did that one above for starters to get warmed up.  I think we went twice actually.  Then we went for the ultimate -- hiked all the way to the top of the big hill that looks down over the whole property...

... then we flew down the crunchy hill, plowing over the occasional bush, straight through the break in the tree line and across all the way to the pond, basically following the path that water flows down the mountain.  It was crazy!  Crazy scary and crazy fun.

This is my favorite shot from the weekend I think because see that smile on my face?  That's not fake -- that is how extremely happy I was after that wickedly thrilling ride.

How could we stop after that run?  We went over to the other side of the property and crossed the tree line into the neighbors' land to conquer the most insane hill of all.  The tallest, the steepest, and the way the wind hits the face of the hill, it was practically all one huge sheet of ice.  On the way down, all I could think was, do not fly off the sled.  I was soaring face first down a giant cheese grater made of ice.  I just kept picturing my grated face should I lose control.

But it was so FUN!  Nothing's really all that exciting if there's no danger involved -- and what is fun if not excitement!  Ben thought we hit 60 mph -- now I'm pretty sure that's not true but it sure did feel like it.

And it was all possible because Stina was such a great friend for Bob.  (Thanks :)

We went back in to warm up and do some dangerous hunting Wii-style.

And then everyone had to leave.  And I may have teared up a little.

I knew Ben felt the same; we collapsed on the couch.  And when we had fully deflated from all the fun I said, "Guess what, babe!  Birthday's not over yet.  Greg and Anna will be here in an hour."

Bob was pretty darn happy to see more friends.  Especially since they brought him a present.

He's such a polite boy; as soon as he realized there was a toy inside he asked with a please ("pee!" + sign in top left photo) for us to open the box.

(Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the Zobas brought Bob a present, too...
...which Bob did not get to play with while they were here because you don't need to hear the whole story but the short of it is that I stabbed a hole in it with a screwdriver.  Whoops.  But no worries -- duct tape can fix anything, especially plastic inflatables.  The bob & wobble lion is now bobbing and wobbling just fine.)

Greg--excuse me, Mr. Roaf's goal was to teach Bob a new made-up sign before they left; he chose "read" (even though Bob already says that word, but that's ok): pretend to hold a magazine one inch in front of your face and shake your head rapidly from side to side.  Bob got a real kick out of it and has been doing it ever since.

The next morning when Bob saw Anna again, he pointed at the new toy and then said "ree!" and did the sign.  I love how Bob remembers everything now -- people and things and songs and well everything.  He's a real little person.  Anyhow.

We went snowshoeing and sledding (because that's what you do when you're in 100 acres of winter wonderland)...

Greg and Anna played with my old Preskool Talk and Play (a big multi-track cassette player with colored buttons you press to switch tracks, it has books to go along with the tapes, such as The Computer Apprentice, seen below.... do you have any clue what I'm talking about?)

And Anna gave me a haircut... my first in, I don't know, two years?  I'm stylin now.

Oh, and of course I had to make the Roafs pose as jockeys, you know, for the birthday of my love.

And that is it.

Now I'm married to a thirty year old.  Aka: someone in his thirties!

Do I feel old? you ask.  In a way, yes.  But in another way I feel young!

Love you, Benjamin.  Happy birthday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


My ears been anxiously awaiting this album ever since j&k introduced me to the genius of Adele.

And I've been listening to it nonstop since it came out yesterday.  Every track is so so good.

Her voice is so real -- it'll touch your soul.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Part one.

One day Bob kept begging for snow during his lunch.  (There are heaps of it on the other side of the glass doors next to the table.)  Oh, how he loves to eat snow.

A delicious, calorie-free dessert.  Not that Bob is watching his calories.

Part two.

Later on, we stopped by the Indian Grave in Cooperstown just to check it out and play with the snow in its proper environment.

Part three.

Last weekend was the Cooperstown Winter Carnival.  Pig roast, dog show, home run derby (Ben won second place), fluffy snow.  A great day.

Bobbert sure loves the snow.  And so does my camera.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day from Bob!

I didn't get around to making Bob's valentine until today, so I'm afraid this year it's print-your-own-valentine-if-you-want-one.  Or just enjoy this adorable on-screen version.

I got the card template from i heart faces (and I'm linking up for this week's "red" photo contest just for the heck of it).

Hope you're feeling LOVED this Valentine's Day.  I sure am.  My sweetie husband greeted me when I awoke this morning with flowers and chocolates and a handmade card that is my favorite ever.  I'd take a photo and show you but I don't want you to be jealous.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The ABCs of real estate

Just got disc two of Modern Family in the mail and watched the first episode immediately.

"What makes a good salesman?  It's no big secret.  You just follow the ABCs of salesmanship:


BOOM!  That's how you sell a house."

Thank you, all you people who said how great this show is and made us want to watch it.

And Ben, thanks for queueing it up despite my hesitation after the night of Obama'a address.


Dear Bobby, you're 15 months old!

When I just went in to check on you (this was last night), you took your sucker out of your mouth, yawned, and put it back in -- all in your sleep.

Other little things about YOU, our little one year, three month old:

You're saying so much now; you copy just about everything.

You are learning the alphabet; you can say most of the letters and are starting to put them in order; the best I've heard you do so far was "A, B, C, D."  Same with counting; I've heard you say "one, two, three," on your own, and you're pretty good at filling in some of the other numbers going up to ten.

You do super cute impressions of a squirrel and a prairie dog.

Our favorite saying of yours currently is "poo-pah" which means "poop in the potty."

You are the ultimate mama's boy.  Which for now, is fine, and cute, and makes me feel loved -- but you're going to have to grow out of this someday!  You love to help me cook, especially stir, and to avoid your whining I pretty much have to hold you and let you "help" the entire time.

You have finally over the past month started sleeping through the night!  And we're working on weaning: we're down to just one nursing first thing in the morning (and an occasional snack in the middle of the night).

You love to read and play ball and try to break our cell phones and climb the stairs and snuggle your blankie and watch your "read show" and take all of my little lotion bottles and chapsticks out of the little basket they're in and then put them all back again.

You love to eat just about everything, but especially eggs, tomatoes, bananas, cheese, pears, oranges, and "snacks."

Here you are on the day you turned 15 months old!

We love you, little man!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Avocado Egg Salad

I guess you could say we have a bit of an egg surplus going on here.
Which makes it only natural that I should start eating them for lunch in addition to breakfast.
Plus, it feels very good feeding our eggs to Bob -- I mean, it's the incredible edible egg, right?  Perfect, untouched, pure food.  Straight from the chicken's butt -- fresh as fresh gets.

So I searched for a delicious-sounding egg salad recipe.  Honestly I associate egg salad sandwiches with kindergarten when my mom packed my lunch, and I don't exactly remember the taste fondly.  Thus the need for a really special egg salad.

And I found it.  Well, I found a version that used avocados and I improvised the rest.  And it's GOOD.  Last time I made it I found myself craving lunch all day long.

(And by the way, Mom and Big Gram, this would be great to make for Gram: lots of protein and good fats.)


6 eggs, hard boiled* and cooled and shells removed
1 avocado (or you could use two if you like)
1/4 cup sweet pickles  (I used Grandma Kay's version of Gram's homemade pickles -- simply delicious)
1 tablespoon mustard of your choice (I used a three pepper mustard that is just amazing)
1/3 cup mayonaise
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Chop the eggs, avocado, and pickles.  (Some people probably just mash the eggs and avocado, but I like a chunkier consistency.)

2.  Mix everything together.

3.  Put it on some rye bread, slice some cheddar cheese and put that on there too, and EAT.

A perfect lunch for Bob!

* I had to look up how to boil an egg.  This is what I found as the "proper" way:  Put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover for 10 minutes (my jumbo eggs could have used 15).  Transfer the eggs to cold water again for a few minutes, then peel.

A double-yolker!  I love these!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Oh, television.

My Gordon friend Lindsey wrote about television recently.  And now I'm going to.  Not necessarily because she did, but I'm just saying.

First off: superbowl.  Generally nothing makes me more ashamed of our country than watching the superbowl.  I could have told you that Christina was going to screw up the national anthem.  Seriously, I would have rather heard a kindergartener sing it; at least the five year old would have gotten the words right (and probably would have been closer on the melody, too).  Her response: "I got lost in the moment... I hope people could see how much I love this country."  No, you got lost in yourself.  And yes, we could see how much you love you.  Superbowl commercials: I find the fact that people care so much about the commercials even worse than the commercials themselves.  Except GoDaddy.  Sorry, Leann, if you ever happen to read this, but I find the use of sex appeal to sell web domains both unnecessary and disgusting.  The half time show: can people who like football even stand the artists that usually perform at half time?  I kinda like a couple of Black Eyed Peas songs, but Fergie's rendition of Sweet Child of Mine was possibly the most offensive noise I have ever heard.  And this is all besides the crazy obsession with football and sports in general, about which the talking heads go on chatting 24 hours a day.  But at least we don't have to hear so much about Brett Farve anymore.

Television in general: I guess I have to say I like it.  While I'd probably argue that reading a book is a better use of time, reading is also rather isolating.  You can't share a book with your loved one like you share a movie or show.  Plus, vegging out in front of the TV is just so darn relaxing.  The only thing I really can't stand about it is advertising, but with DVR and Netflix on demand via the Wii, you can almost avoid it.

In these winter months with little to do, Ben and I have been watching quite a few shows.  I'll tell you what they are in case you're looking for something good to watch.

Our favorite is Thursday nights on NBC: The Office, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock.  All soooooooo funny.  Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey are geniuses.  Thursday is easily our favorite day in the winter.

We've also been watching some American Idol (can't lie, whatever, it's entertaining) and Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel.

We just finished watching all eight seasons of 24 on Netflix.  Don't even try to add up the total number of hours because I don't want to know what it is.  I have purposefully NOT let my brain do the simple multiplication required.  That show is darn addicting.  I'm glad it's over.  But I'm also glad I experienced the 24 phenomenon, albeit 10 years too late for anyone to care.

Our new Netflix series is Modern Family.  Wasn't sure I'd like it, but so far I'm giving it an A.  Hilarious.  ("Hilarious" the slang term; it's not literally driving me insane.)

We DVR all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting, and if we're ever feeling super lazy and want to watch TV in front of Bob or during dinner or something, that's what we put on.  Bob loves watching all the kids, there's a zero percent chance of anything inappropriate appearing, and it's less annoying than his "read show."

More about the "read show" in the future...

Trying to figure out how to turn on his "read show" for himself.

So... what do you watch?  What awesome shows am I missing?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I want to catch my death of cold...

(I added music to my blog.  If you don't hear it, you could turn up your volume.  And if you don't like it, you could turn down your volume.  But I hope you do like it.)

Sunset - Sunday, May 30, 2010 - Laurel Lake, Lee, MA
The night of Gram's stroke.

Last May, my Gram (that's my mom's mom's mom, for those who don't know) had a stroke.

My mother had been begging me to visit for Memorial Day weekend; I decided that I needed to do some things to get ready for our trip to Jamaica the next week and couldn't make it.  But then I got the call about the stroke, and we ended up driving out anyway, to be with Gram and the family at the hospital.

When we got there, Gram was okay (meaning alive) but she still hadn't been able to say anything, or move the right side of her body.  I remember feeling like I would never get to have another real conversation with her, and it felt awful.

I went to Gram's bed in the ICU; when she saw me she managed to say, "Hi. Hi, Ang."  I could tell she was relieved to see me, and it helped relieve my fears a little to see that she understood what was going on and was already beginning to communicate a little.

When I talk about Gram, most people ask, "How old is she?"  I don't know why the question offends me.  She's 89, about to be 90.  So what?  Is she of the age that we just shouldn't care if she suffers or dies anymore?  To me, Gram should live forever.  I don't feel ready to lose her.  There are threads in the family that are just too thin, I'm afraid they'll break without her holding everything together.

I've tried to write about this several times since last May, but I can never quite find the right words.  It's so easy for me to write about all the joys of watching my little person's beginning in this world; it is so so hard to watch my favorite older person's ending.  The truth is, I think, Gram is just waiting patiently to die now.  She loves her family, but she's lost too much.  Too many relatives, all of her friends, her husband.  Many years ago, riding in my car, Gram said to me, "They say time heals all, but they are wrong.  It gets harder every day."  I can't imagine losing my husband -- not now, not 50 years from now.  Yet so many women have lost theirs and kept pressing on -- my Gram and her two daughters, and Wendy Matte, whose husband Bob's wake we attended on Friday, included.

Nine months after her stroke, Gram is doing better; she's getting around the house okay, but she's very weak.  She's communicating quite a bit, all of the normal, everyday things.  But there is so much that is lost in her head; all day long she searches for words she can't find.  Sometimes I can figure out what it is she wants to say, and sometimes she gives up frustrated.  In a way it's funny ("Put your homeworks on," she said, meaning "boots,") but mostly it's heartbreaking.  When we were visiting last weekend she said, "Oh, I wish you could understand again."  And I had to leave the room because I started to cry.

Being old is just a cruel way to end life.

When I'm Gram's caretaker, I do my best to give her a good time.  Bobby helps quite a bit.  She loves to watch him do everything he does.  "Oh, isn't he somethin," she says.

This weekend I convinced her to play dominoes with me and Ben (that's the classic game Gram and I played all the time when I was a kid.)  One morning she said, "I don't like this day.  It's too early."  (It was around 11.)
"What do you mean, Gram?  Are you bored?"
"Hmmm... do you want to paint?"

So I pulled the old paint by numbers out of the attic, and we painted.

I wish I had taken a photo of Ben's project or of "abstract #1" once it had more paint on it, but I didn't, so, oh well.

Bobby loves to play with all of Gram's teddy bears.  (In her old age, she's gathered quite the collection.)  She got a new one recently -- a huge one.  Almost as soon as we got to her house she started trying to tell me: "I want to show him something; it's a little monkey."  Soon I realized she was talking about the big bear I had noticed in her bedroom, not a little monkey.  The brain is an amazing, funny thing; it's so strange how all the words are up there in Gram's mind, but it has such trouble finding the right ones.

Here's Bob playing with the same bucket of toys that all the kids have played with at Gram's...

There's a little something of everything in there; the doll in the blue dress was my mother's, the my little ponies were mine, the nerf was James's, I see a happy meal toy or two.  The toy phones and helmets (not pictured) are Bob's favorite items; the entire bucket usually doesn't last more than ten minutes before he moves on to playing with non-toys.

On Saturday my brother Dave, Crystal, and Mason stopped by to go sledding down the front hill for a bit.

On Sunday I gave Bobby a butter cookie (the kind that comes in the round blue tin) -- big treat -- and he savored every crumb and every second of the experience.  For the longest time he just sat there holding it in his mouth, half hanging out.

Since Bob's getting so good at climbing, this was the first weekend we pulled out the steps and allowed him to climb up the kitchen stool.  Big thrill.

Not pictured are Bob's two very favorite things in the house: the cat and the cuckoo clock.  He's been searching for both since we got home.

Also not pictured: delicious massaman curry from a Thai place in Williamstown -- Ben's and my favorite meal.

I knitted this hat (my first ever) for Bob using one of those round hat-knitting thingies.  Found it in the attic and decided to use it as a diversion for the weekend.  Actually I made this hat in one evening.  It's super easy.  Gram loved Bobby's hat so I brought the supplies home with me to make one for her.  And I finished that one in one day, too.

So, that's it.  Those are my incomplete thoughts on life after a stroke enmeshed with a recap of our weekend in the Berkshires.

Mom and Big Gram, thank you so much for taking such good care of Gram.  I wish I could be there more to help.  Gram loves you both a google.

I want to catch my death of cold... cause I'm scared of growing old...  
                                                                                                                                     Chris Garneau
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