Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Truth be told I wasn't feeling very thankful this year until I got some great news about an aquaintance whose ex-husband had kidnapped her two kids the week before. How could I count my blessings when another mother was going through the worst kind of Hell? But this morning I found out they were recovered, safe and sound on Thanksgiving night.

So now that the constriction around my heart has been relieved I'm feeling very thankful, indeed to all the Gods for our law enforcement officers and every other man and woman in uniform (military or civilian) who put their own lives on the line to protect us. And my heart goes out to the family and friends of the four police officers brutally gunned down near Tacoma this weekend. The suspect is an ex-con who had been sentenced to 95 years for theft, robbery and burglary by the state of Arkansas and was then paroled after his sentence was commuted by then Gov. Mike Huckabee. It appears he was recently charged in Pierce County, WA for rape of a child and assault of a police officer and targetted these officers to protest his probable re-incarceration.

On a far, far less serious note - this year I'm also thankful for the Internet. Not just the medium (though to an information addict such as myself it's like heroin) but all the wonderful people who inhabit it. I can't begin to express how much my life has been touched and bettered because of online friends - new and old, and those I will probably never meet. Love, laughter, joy and pain shared. Knowledge and insight gained.

And of course, online shopping. I've got just about all of the Monkey's shopping done already, and received the first two packages at work today.

The tops from GreaterGood are beautiful. He'll love them. I hope he'll also like the Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks book by Calef Brown.
He's big into rhyming right now and getting him to sit still for more than a very short story is always a challenge. I tried getting him into Shel Silverstein and other children's poetry but he prefers richly colored illustrations.

Like Sylvia Long's Mother Goose that  I purchased long before I'd even thought of having kids:
And I know he'll love this boxed CD set of Mary Pope Osborn's Magic Treehouse books. Magic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8

We received one from Wendy's this summer as a kids meal prize (how much better then cheap plastic toys is that!!!) and it's been a favorite for every road trip ever since - long or short. But Daddy and I are getting a little tired of "Goodnight, Gorillas" so it's more of a present for us than him.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Due to my crowd-phobic tendencies (never mind my general anti-consumer sentiments) I've never been a huge "Black Friday" shopper (day after Thanksgiving) .  Instead I became more of a "Cyber Monday" shopper - making most online purchases on the following Monday.   But now Amazon is bringing you the best of both world - price matching their competition starting *today* - all through next week (including Black Friday)./ .  And you can shop in the comfort of your own jammies and not have to worry about being trampled by wild-eyed bargain hunters.

Barnes & Noble is now getting in on the act:
Hundreds of the hottest DVDs at Special Black Friday prices most 50% off or more!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gifts that Keep on Giving

Time for my annual plug of one of my favorite groups of charitable websites: The Greater Good Network of:
The Hunger, Rainforest, Breast Cancer , Child Health, Literacy, and Animal Rescue Sites.

Besides the "Click Once a Day" campaigns, they have the most wonderful gifts & goods from all over the world with a huge selection of organic, eco-friendly, Fair Trade, sustainable, etc. products. Most of which come from the actual programs of the network's charitable partners to improve the lives and health of people (especially women and children), animals and the environment.

Before you head down to the local megaretailer to buy cheap plastic (and possibly lead-painted) stocking stuffers, for instance - wouldn't it be terrific to buy handmade wooden tops made from 100% safe, non-toxic materials from a program that provides education, medical care and micro-credit lending to "Untouchable" women living in the slums of India who have no other way to survive?  Only $2.95 each, AND that tiny, otherwise insignificant purchase (less than a latte) will allow the Rainforest Site to preserve 1145.0 sq. ft. of land  at the same time??

Or, if you're looking for a gift under $20 for that work or family gift exchange - instead of the typical cheesy coffee cup + candy, how about a hand-dyed scarf by women from Uganda who are trying to rebuil their own shattered lives but also those of war orphans, and provide health services for 4.5 children at the same time? 

There's gorgeous jewelry - which will help fund 50 cups of food for the hungry.

 Fine Art painted by endangered Asian elephants  (besides saving the elephants, you can fund 600 cups of food!)

And that's just the tip of the iceburg.  You can find anything for anyone on the greatergood websites, including flea and tick products for your pets, (the purchase of which also happens to provide 28 bowls of food to animal shelters).

Last year, gave over $3.4Million to global charities.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mary had a little goat, little goat, little goat!

It's ears were white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went the goat was sure to go. It followed her on the bus one day, bus one day, bus one day....

I'd take these guys home!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Halloween 2009

Catching up a little on some posting. Here's the Monkey carving his pumkpkin with Daddy

& the Kittlin:

as a pirate on Halloween:

 We went Raiding for Loot in Grandpa's neighborhood.

Here's the Monkey and the Twinkles.

As long as we're posting adorable pics of the Twinkles (my step-nephews), here are a few from a gathering a month or so ago:


And Brady, with the Monkey:

Then with the Giant Frog (won long ago by Mr. Stang at a carnival for yours truly when we were dating):

Guess the frog was OK, he decided he'd make a good seat:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day Greetings

I can't watch the flag-draped caskets & memorial parades  - it's too painful.  But this, this I can watch. 

Get a hankie. Four legged friends welcoming home their Soldiers.  Then hug your soldier.  Or if they're not home yet, hug your hound and remember a one year deployment is like 7 years to your furry best friend.

The last clip, of homecoming soldiers surprising their kids at school had me blubbering at my desk.  That look of total joy and relief on their faces says everything and hits me in the gut every time.  I just imagine these little kids, trying to be brave for Daddy/Mommy - holding all their fear and anxiety inside for months at a time, never knowing if they'd come home to the worst possible news.  And the absolute release of all that tension, sadness and stress when they see them walk through the door - alive.  

Every time I lay down with the Monkey at bedtime and get to listen to all his little "Guess what?" stories from his day - his seemingly insignificant questions and observations that give me a small window into his mind as he experiences this world for the very first time and tries to make sense of it all.... I think of all the missed birthday parties, BBQ's, games/recitals sacrificed by our men and women in uniform.  All the missed bedtime stories.  Missed memories.  Missed chances for hugs after skinning a knee.  Missed fevers and health scares.  The missed inches on a growth chart.  And thank those who have volunteered to miss all that with their own children to protect me, mine, and ours.

We can never thank them enough. All we can do is be damned sure when we ask *any* family to make that sacrifice  - parents not being able to experience their children grow up; children being orphaned in all but name - nevermind the ultimate sacrifice - there had better be a very, very good reason for doing so. 

Today, and everyday I pray for them to come home safe, and for their families to know peace.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I miss all the fun weather

So while the Monkey & I were up on the central Washington coast this weekend a water spout/ tornado hit Lincoln City on the central Oregon Coast.  I forgot my camera but may get some pics of the event from my cousin (our family retreat, that is - not the tornado).  We had a wonderful time.  Good company, good food, good fun.  The Storm Gods blessed us with a narrow, 4 hour window of windless blue skies in between thunderstorms to beachcomb and see what the "giant" waves had brought in.  Unfortunately, no treasures were found.  :(  Nor any new slimy/fuzzy friends.  Unless you count the dead seagulls, which I don't.   We were at my cousin's cozy little cottage near Copalis Beach -  a tumbledown, forgotten little town that's kind of sad, really (to quote Bridget Jones) but delightful nevertheless.  There's a wonderful expanse of sandy beach with lots of small dunes - perfect for building sand castles.  And I'm told a state park/nature preserve (Griffith-Priday) to explore. If you're looking for a rustic coastal escape with your own stretch of desolate beach and complete absence of  tourist kitsch, this is your place.   It's also famous for razor clams.

Now if you're looking for the quintessential upscale, amenity-loaded, picturesquely perfect charming beach town, or if you're not lucky enough to have your own relation with a cottage in Copalis Beach, you can head 7 miles north to Seabrook, WA where developers are attempting to carve "A New Beach Town!" out of nothing and doing a fine job of it.  The brand-spanking new vacation houses, cabins and rentals are all kind of stacked on top of each other.  But it is absolutely adorable, built for walking/bicycling, and probably MOST important - very dog friendly.  Because seriously - what's a trip to the beach without kids and dogs?   If you're not quite up to forking out $400k + for a vacation home of your very own, they also have a great website for renting cottages at a very, very reasonable price

You can rent an entirely stocked (except for food), decked out 3 bed house with a hottub that sleeps 8 people for $150 a night in low season.  Fully equipped gourmet kitchen, internet, Xbox...loaner bikes in the garage.  If two families were to split that? There's an amazing vacation for the kids that's cheaper than staying at a Holiday Inn.  You don't have to find a pet sitter, or pay for expensive meals out.  Just throw whatever's in the freezer into a cooler, grab some staples from the pantry and go!

If Seabrook is a little too far there are two similar properties on the Central Oregon Coast: Olivia Beach in south Lincoln City (for the record, the tornado hit on the *north* end of town), and Bella Beach - a few miles further south, just north of Depoe Bay.  Don't let the twister scare you.  Absent some kind of "Day After Tomorrow" catastrophic abrupt climate change event, the odds of another one hitting the same vicinity in our lifetime is about nil. 

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Grandma's in Florence, Oregon

The beginning of October we headed down to Gramma's house in Florence on the beautiful central Oregon Coast.

Slimy creatures abounded.

After a rain shower you can't tell where the beach ends and the sky begins.

One of my favorite obsessions - a cool gnarly old tree.

The next morning it was down to the North Jetty of the Siuslaw River to let the dogs go for a little ball-chasing and dip.

That's Jinx in the middle and the "boys" - her now very-much fully grown Labradoodle pups Moe and Curly.

They take after their daddy who was a ginormous, Royal Standard Poodle.  Mama (Jinx) can walk right underneath their legs.  But she usually still outswims them.

And the highlight of the entire trip.  Over on the jetty rocks, was this little furry guy - all alone.

Stellar Sea Lion, we think.  I wasn't going to get closer for a better identification.  Probably a pup whose own Mama had left him on the rocks temporarily while she hunted.  The Sea Lion Caves are only 11 miles or so north of here.   Don't know what was up with the circles in his fur - maybe ringworm or barnacles? His ribs are showing - could be ill.