Camp Colombo

It's all about organized chaos

There and Back Again, 2014

2014 is over tonight.  It’s hard to believe another year has ended.  Time just keeps flying by and I keep looking around wondering where it went.

We celebrated Christmas several times over the last week and I was back in the photo business with my new camera.  (Thanks family for the early Christmas gift!)  Putting together yearly photo calendars for both grandmothers, and working on a photo book for 2014, caused some nostalgia as I looked through photos of the last year.  Having the time to hang a bit with my kids added to it, especially when my 13 year old slept until after 8:00 Christmas morning.  I was the only one awake early, with just George the cat for company.  What happened to waking my parents with the phrase, “We can’t hold them back much longer”, as the kids hovered at the top of the stairs?  It all changed this year.  But that wasn’t all that changed.

  Look at these two.  They are so tiny.royals

And willing to wear matching jammies for their mom.  matching

They used to both fit in my

Now the matching pajamas are just a memory.


And socks are not as exciting as they used to be.


But they are still silly and like to laugh with and at each other.


Christmas 2005, nine years ago.  Bitty Baby had to be in the photo, Coach and I had more hair and less of it was gray, and JMumbo still fit on his dad’s lap,

family 05

Christmas 2014.  The prodigal daughter has her learner’s permit (which she never uses), George the cat is a permanent fixture in the family, and they are all as tall as Coach and I.  Soon JMumbo will shoot past us.  M&M never will, but that means she can wear heels and not tower over her dates.


I tried to get JMumbo to sit with  me in the big chair last night and watch a movie like we used to.  I even made popcorn to bribe him with.  He wandered into the kitchen, stole the big bowl of popcorn leaving me with a little one, and headed back upstairs to the gaming world he likes to spend time in.  Thank goodness for George, he spent some time with me, filling the empty space.  JMumbo was always the one willing to snuggle with his mommy and hang out.  Now his legs and arms hang over the edges of whatever he is sitting on.

2015 will bring more changes in physical size, interests, and aptitudes.  It will be a year where the prodigal daughter starts to narrow down college choices and JMumbo enters high school.  Time will keep moving forward and I will try to keep up, remembering what Bilbo Baggins said, “It’s a dangerous business going out your door.  You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  I’ll try to keep my feet in 2015.

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You can’t make this stuff up.

You can’t make this stuff up.

I went to the seasonal pancake house yesterday with the Youth Group and various other pancake lovers.  While finishing up our pancakes, one of the waitresses was alerted to the wasp that was buzzing around the room.  (I would guess they live in the wood paneling and wake up when the restaurant opens.)  The waitress disappeared for a brief moment, only to reappear armed with a hand vac.  Wielding it like a gunslinger from the Wild West, she proceeded to suck up the wasp.   Several others were pointed out to her and she quickly met the challenge, climbing over the backs of booths to reach her targets.

I kept waiting for Candid Camera to show up.

Someday I am going to write all this into a sitcom and become a millionaire.  You can’t make this stuff up.

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Blessings and Beginnings

I spent November giving thanks publicly on Facebook, thinking about all the pieces of my life that I have to be thankful for.  It made me feel good about myself, look at life as filled with positives.  I enjoyed reading other’s posts about what they were thankful for.  It forced us to really think about all the good we had in our lives that sometimes gets buried by the day to day chores and routines.  But then November ended and so did many of the positive posts.  I wasn’t ready to give up on looking for and commenting on the brighter moments, so I challenged myself to find a blessing or beginning for each post I made in December.  If you follow the Christian calendar, we are in the season of Advent, waiting excitedly for the arrival of Jesus, our messiah.  It is a time of anticipation for new beginnings, possibly one of the reasons the celebration was moved to December, to help transition into the new year, begin again, wipe the slate clean.   It is also a time of blessings.  After finding she was to carry God’s child, Mary is not tossed aside by Joseph, something that was within his rights at the time, but instead protected.  A 70 mile trip with a 9 month pregnant wife to be could have ended badly for Joseph, but an innkeeper gave what he had so they were sheltered when the birth occurred.  Shepherds had the news shared and traveled to meet the baby, blessed by the visit of an angel.  Scholars traveled many miles to share the blessing of precious gifts with the family and took the secret of the baby’s location home with them.  All blessings.

I’ve found that sometimes the blessing is as simple as a ray of sunshine after a week of gray clouds and rain.  It was watching the joy of giving to others practiced by an extraordinary group of kids in our Sunday School.  It was hearing my cousin asked a young woman, whose outside beauty was accentuated by what shone from within, to marry him, adding another member to our family.  It was celebrating the everyday moments with my kids.

Blessings and beginnings are difficult in the wake of Friday’s disaster. All I can hope for is that our country will step back, take a look at what we have decided is important, and make some changes. Changes that focus on family, on the world we have created and the one we really want to live in. I don’t discuss religion often, but the guidelines in all religions encourage us to show love and respect for life and each other. I continue to pray for all of us and hope we will find our way again.

I don’t want to suppress people’s rights to speak or express themselves, nor do I want to ban the right to own firearms.  All I ask is that these freedoms are tempered with personal responsibility, with thought and care for others outside ourselves.  Governmental restrictions and pointing fingers won’t fix what is wrong, we need to fix it, bit by bit, by each taking responsibility for our own actions.  Religion isn’t the answer for everyone either.  Forcing ideology and personal beliefs on each other is not the way out of the chaos.  Compassion and understanding, tolerance and acceptance are needed.

We have to ask ourselves what each of us can do, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to make our world a better place to live in.  We need to begin to show each other the kindnesses and courtesies that seem to have been lost in the need to own the biggest, best, and latest everything.  We need to remember that we are all connected, now more than ever, and our actions cause bigger ripples.  Are your ripples nurturing or destructive?

Open a door for someone.  Thank the person checking you out at the grocery store.  Wish someone a good day ahead and mean it.  When asked how you are, respond with a positive.  Listen more and talk less.  Find the wonder in the simple things.  Believe in something.  Show compassion but temper it with honesty.  In this season of giving, move beyond the tangible gifts and share yourself and the love we all have inside.

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Sometimes I’m a Halloween curmudgeon, then I eat a Milky Way.

Halloween, the holiday that excuses our need to become someone we aren’t or let our true selves shine through, just for a little while.  I don’t dress up or go to big kid parties anymore and have to admit, I am harassed unmercifully for it.  Lucky for me I am past the age where peer pressure works on me, or I would end up impersonating a miserable human being with a ludicrous smiley face mask on at them all.  Maybe it’s because there really is no one else I would like to be right now.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and as crazy and complicated as my life has become, I don’t want to change it.  And that’s the curmudgeon’s side.

I do like the carving of pumpkins, even pulling the guts out.  I am a seed sorter and roaster, so before the insides are tossed on the vegetable garden, I grab the seeds and set them aside.  When it comes to carving, we are pretty basic.  We have tried the kits and I know some people who end up with incredible pumpkins from them, (check out Pink Peppermint’s pumpkins), but with kids waiting impatiently to attack the pumpkins with their carving tools, basic works best.  The frenzy of Halloween is a good prep course for the next two months and the Christmas build-up, with a healthy dose of sticking pumpkins and gooey slop for fun.

Notice JMumbo hard at work as I finish gutting his pumpkin.







Last night we had a crew at our house.

Living on a short cul-de-sac, we know all the neighbors and don’t have to check the candy they give out to our kids.  We also never get too many trick-or-treaters and can count on filling our plastic pumpkins within these houses because it’s just the neighborhood kids and a few others who have discovered Bountiful Lane.  The kids can tear up and down the street, zig-zagging from house to house without fear of cars.  I have to admit, it sounds a little bit like Mayfair and it probably is, but we like it that way.

After Dinner in a Pumpkin (click on the name for the recipe), Coach started popping popcorn and I made some fizzy worm juice for the kids.  They’ll drink anything with gummy worms in it served in a fancy glass.  The moms walked the neighborhood and the kids ran it.  Everyone smiled and had fun even the disgruntled teenager, and I felt like I had eaten 10 Milky Way bars.  It’s that mom joy that is so hard to describe, but beats any adrenaline rush out there.  I almost lost the rush when Coach mentioned JMumbo would outgrow this soon, and maybe we should have another, but I ate 5 more candy bars and passed it off as a hallucination.

I grew up with homemade costumes.  I don’t remember ever buying one, even when I was at college.  Of course back then it was a choice of costume cost vs libations and libations always won.  My kids don’t enjoy the bought costumes as much either.  I made JMumbo an entire Peter Pan costume out of fleece one year.  And the prodigal daughter talked her grandma into sewing a kimono for her Mulan costume another year.  I’m teaching them to be resourceful so when they go to college and have to make the costume vs. libation choice, they spend the money on costume supplies.  (A mom can only hope.)

JMumbo is currently fascinated with Lord of the Rings,  (Thank you Wii games) and we were teasing him that he could be Joedo the Hobbit for Halloween.  He latched right on to the idea and Mom spent an afternoon scouring Goodwill for a vest, cape, and some sort of fur for his feet.  Thank goodness I had my friend Lynne along, she found the perfect velour type, brown, three button coat.  I pulled the sleeves inside the lining, sewed up the armholes and cut off two buttons.  Voila!  A hobbit cape.  Some fake fur glued on a pair of old slide on shoes, and we had furry feet.

I was pretty impressed with the final product.

Some of the other critters that visited us:

Even the prodigal daughter seemed to have a good time.

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Moments for me

If you haven’t noticed, Camp Colombo has been a bit quiet lately.  I am taking a grad. class online and it is keeping me busy elsewhere on top of all the normal “mom” things I do.  I love the class and it really is rejuvenating my desire to teach, but the discussion posts and papers are sucking me dry of thoughts.  You could say my class is “hogging my blogging”.  (Just some corny me humor for all of you.  I always was a big Fozzie Bear fan – Wacka Wacka Wacka)

Today I grabbed some “me” time and cooked.  I made Fettuccine Alfredo for dinner because I was craving something rich and creamy.  I printed the recipe from Ree Drummond’s blog, The Pioneer Woman, and it was delicious!  It was simple too, about 5 ingredients to mix together.  Use the link to find her site and search for the recipe.  While you’re there, check out the basset hounds.  They are a smile and a half!

I started applesauce today also.  Our local grocery store puts big, wooden bins out front this time of year and you can buy local apples in bulk.  I fill up my recyclable bag and make applesauce.  Nothing tastes like homemade applesauce, another easy recipe using apples, sugar, some apple juice or cider, and cinnamon to taste.  I wish I could give you measurements, but I don’t cook like that.  I toss it in and stir, let it cook, taste, then toss some more in depending on what my taste buds tell me.  I would have been the perfect pioneer woman, because I use my hands as measuring cups and spoons.

I know this doesn’t sound like relaxation to some people, and I understand the head scratching.  It’s the same feeling I get when people talk about working out.  I cringe.  Why spend my time getting all sweaty and achy when I could be making something yummy to eat?  My philosophy does explain why many of my pants are slightly tight and where the love handles came from.  But who really expects me to look like Sandra Bullock?  She has the time and money to hire personal trainers to work out for her.  I bet she didn’t have Fettuccine Alfredo that tasted as good as mine tonight, nor will she have a shelf of homemade applesauce to eat this winter.  Unless she has her personal chef whip it up…

Oh well, I’m not Sandra, nor do I think I ever will be.  I’m just going to be a woman in her mid-forties with some mini love handles eating applesauce and dishes covered in cheese, hoping the Republicans can find a decent candidate for President.  But that’s a whole different blog.

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A Few Thoughts…

1. Forget Universal Health Care, I want a candidate who is for Universal Women’s Clothing Sizing.  I couldn’t find two pair of pants the same size that fit the same if my life depended on it.  They can even be from the same company and fit differently.  And FYI, I don’t know if I am a Traditional, Relaxed, or Modern fit.  Nor am I sure if I am a Jackie or an Audrey.  At this point, I would enjoy having clothes that fit like Jackie or Audrey’s, especially if it meant my body looked like theirs, but what would really make me happy is to find some underwear that fits this forty + year old body and doesn’t bag or sag.  My body does enough of that on its own, it doesn’t need any help.

2. Two ten-year old’s and a bunch of college kids with vuvuzelas rooting for the PSU women’s soccer team equals a grin the size of Cleveland.  I love college kids.  It’s the whole “opportunity to be all that I can be, in whatever way it works” that does it for me.  I remember that being one of the best parts of college, I got to be me, just me.  Not the administrator’s daughter, not someone’s sister, not the responsible class treasurer.  Just me.  When the college student showed up Sunday dressed as a pirate and stood next to the kid in the full blue and white body suit, it just proved the point.  And JMumbo thought it was the coolest thing ever.  Learn the lesson my son, let your inner pirate out and play a Disney medley on the vuvuzela once in a while.

3. Even a short visit with an old friend in a familiar place can make a harried day better.  He’s the master puppeteer, gently tugging the strings to see what happens and the dutiful uncle showing up at Little League Football and wondering what all the fuss is about.  (You never know, a scout may show up unexpectedly and recruit one of those eight year olds for the pros)  He’s always made me laugh and even though we are James Carville and Mary Matalin when it comes to politics, I know there is respect for my thoughts.  And sometimes I surprise even him with my ability to summarize a situation succinctly with a shrug of my shoulders.  (How’s that for some alliteration and SAT words all together?)  So thanks for the smiles in between my meat transport drives.  (That’s what we do in the country.  We drive over an hour each way on a Monday night to pick up our Christmas present of beef, ham, and chickens from our parents.  I’m either from Deliverance or Jeb Clampett should look out.)


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Dinner Table Discourse

If you have ever had dinner with two boys, you know that there is no predicting what will come out of their mouths.  Tonight was no exception.

JMumbo had a friend over.  He was being picked up after his big brother’s soccer game, so I made macaroni and cheese for dinner.  M&M’s buddy was crestfallen when she found out, she loves my mac and cheese.  (That’s why we like her best, better than the prodigal daughter sometimes.  Of course she goes home too and the prodigal daughter stays.)  I figured it was a safe bet, what kid doesn’t like mac and cheese?  And the friend wasn’t a picky eater.

Apparently my mac and cheese was not what he expected.  We were sitting eating and he quietly said, “This is the worst macaroni.”

I looked at him and said, “What?”

“Oh…I forgot you were there!”  he said, laughing.

“So, what was wrong with it?”  I expected the shape of the macaroni, the crumbled chips on the top.

“There’s too much cheese.” He said this with a serious expression.  Too much cheese.

What can you do but laugh?  So I did, while reminding him it wasn’t named Macaroni and CHEESE just for kicks and giggles.

Later M&M and JMumbo were showing off their good manners by insulting each other.  M&M called JMumbo a freakezoid.  His response?  “Is that like a trapezoid?”

High level dinner discourse at our house.

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44 years old and 3:00 in the morning

Being in your forties and a woman is great in many ways.  You’re pretty much over the peer pressure, your kids are growing up and don’t need constant attention anymore, you have some routine in your life.  Then “the change” begins.  Your body has changed before.  In your late twenties it decided to become allergic for the first time.  When you”re pregnant certain foods don’t agree with you and it doesn’t always go away after the baby is born.  Childbirth gifts you with a wonderful creature who will love you unconditionally (most of the time) and a pouch left over from your stomach stretching for nine months.  This mid-forties change is a whole new ballgame.

I know I’m not going to look like the young cuties on TV no matter how much I diet and exercise, but I felt like it was under control.  I would gain a bit in the winter and lose it again come summer.  My clothes fit and if they didn’t, watching what I ate for a few weeks solved it.  Not any more.  For the first time in my life I have love handles.  And I don’t know where they came from, but I do know I would like them to go back.

I am up at 3:00 am.  A lot.  And it isn’t by choice either.  It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does I know that I will watch the sun rise in the summer and make my morning coffee a bit earlier in the winter.  If I knew the trigger I could try to avoid it, but there really isn’t a pattern.  For whatever reason, my brain turns on and demands I get up.  My body joins in, clamoring that it can’t lay down one more minute, no position is comfortable, and I am done.  Up and wandering around the living room.  Netflix is a life-saver for me.  That and I like to read, so I can catch up on books for a few hours.

My system is re-arranging itself again, just when I was really getting comfortable with it.  According to the research, I have a few years of this to look forward to.  I can’t wait.


Farm Fun

Last weekend we visited my uncle’s farm.  You never know what you are going to find when you go, new pigs or tractors, or maybe turkey pullets, which my uncle informed me are dumber than chickens.  Chickens are not the brightest animals, but apparently turkeys really take the cake.  My uncle told us they spent three days pecking at the ground, looking for their food, when actually they had walked over and through it multiple times in the process.  That is one dumb bird.

They have a rooster too.  Some of the regular visitors to the farm call him Bob.  Bob has lived there a few years and has twisted feet.  Even with the foot impediment, he manages to wander all over the farm.  He greets the people who stop to buy eggs at the egg house, appearing behind them when they turn from paying for the eggs, essentially trapping them in the shed.  One lady won’t get out of her car until they remove the rooster.  She says she’s not afraid of the dogs, but the rooster terrifies her.

Bob isn’t really terrifying.  He’s a big rooster, but just wants to hang out where the action is.  You can even pet him.  He especially likes his waddle stroked.  If you are not familiar with rooster anatomy, a waddle is the red thing that hangs down below the beak.  (I added this because I know what “stroking a waddle” sounds like.  I work with HS kids, I know where some minds went with this.)

This is Coach giving Bob the rooster a little love. See how still Bob is when the waddle stroking is going on?  It’s like it hypnotizes him or something.

And JMumbo got in on the act also.  He was a bit hesitant at first, but he and Bob were best buds by the end of the weekend.

The farmhouse has other fun creatures.  Meera the cat lives in the bathroom.  She sits on the dresser to the left of the door as you enter.  If you are lucky she’ll peek around the corner so you have some warning. otherwise she just pops out at you when you come in the door, scaring your pants off.  Sometimes she sits under the curtain in the window next to the toilet.  And climbs down into your lap while you pee.  Once I trapped her on the back of the toilet.  I don’t think she ever touches the floor, which makes me wonder how she gets to the counter where her food is.  Yep, her food is on the counter, which makes sense because otherwise the boxer eats it.  Forrest doesn’t care if it is dog or cat food.  Kind of like Augie, the black lab, but Augie eats anything including whole chicken carcasses.

The farm has always had funny animals.  Pigs that play with bowling balls and sit up begging for stale rolls.  Dogs that fall in oversized gopher holes.  Steer that play games by pushing you around the pen.  It doesn’t matter when you show up, there’s always a story related to an animal, like a kitten who looks like it stuck its paw in a light socket because all its fur stuck straight out from its body.

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Salsa and Sunsets

The Relay for Life is this weekend.  I write that like it is the only Relay for Life happening anywhere, but it is actually the Relay I participate in.  The kids and I started last year as part of “Team Taylor”, sponsored by the farm.  My aunt is the driving force behind it as a cancer survivor, and because she seems to be the driving force behind much of what that side of the family does.  I love her for this because it means I don’t have to be that force, I can sit back and enjoy it all.  The Relay is followed by a gathering at the Lake house of family and friends.  What’s fifty or so more people when you start with over twenty?

The Relay weekend was supposed to become the family Christmas in July.  If you know anything about living near a Great Lake, you know that winter means snow.  And wind.  And more snow.  And more wind.  Put all that together and you have a big, sloppy winter weather sandwich.  Coach swears that one year we went to sleep with bare ground and woke up with 2 feet of the white stuff.  The last few years celebrating at Christmas time resulted in one uncle’s family and my parents not getting out.  They closed the main highway just after we hopped on it.  This isn’t some dinky county highway either, this is an interstate.  It took a long time to get home those years.

So we switched to July.  Which works out well.  Farms are much more fun in the summer, especially with a Great Lake near by.  You can actually swim in the water in July, not just look at the frozen swells.  The Relay is an added bonus.  We didn’t give gifts last summer having just exchanged in December, but we had a pig roast and birthday cake for my cousin and JMumbo.

JMumbo really did enjoy the kiss I think.  He giggled the whole time.

The names were traded for gift giving and everyone was set.  Then I threw the wrench (I do this often. For some reason I like to muck up the works).  I sent out the email wondering if we really needed gifts.  My kids didn’t need anything and I didn’t need them to receive any more stuff that I would have to clean up.  (This was the true motive, less housework for me)  My youngest cousin agreed, which is why I like her best, stating that it was about family, not stuff.  Did I tell you how much I love her?  After a brief discussion with my aunt about Christmas wine being a supply not a gift, the wrench melted away and the wheels started turning again.

I hadn’t meant this to turn into a synopsis of how we go about family gatherings, but a friend once told me that if there is a round about way to tell a story, I will find it and follow the meandering path.  Just like I did with that sentence.  What I really was thinking about when I started this was that I volunteered to bring salsa and was going to make some Tomato, Peach, and Onion salsa.  I made some last summer and it was yummy.  I defrosted some tomatoes and had some leftover canned peaches.  Then I discovered the quart jar of it in the basement.  Guess where my motivation went for making the salsa?  Right out the window.  Isn’t that awful?  I sat down and wrote this blog instead, which has next to nothing to do with salsa.  Talk about avoidance.

Although…the English major inside me does see a bit of a metaphor.  Sometimes what you need just shows up, like the salsa or a beautiful weekend walking for a good cause and hanging out on a lake bank.

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