Camp Colombo

It's all about organized chaos

Grad School Overload

I spent the entire day working on papers and lessons for my graduate class. I am shot. Exhausted. Unfocused. Don’t get me wrong, I love my program, am getting great stuff from my classes. But a class every 8 weeks for the last year and a half, with a paper due every week plus discussion and response has drained me. Anyone who says online courses are easy is full of goat puckey. Yep, goat puckey. There’s no skimming through because you have to write everything out. Which may be why I haven’t posted much recently, about the last 9 months, or written in my journal. I’m written out.

One class left. Then what? A job. I am more than qualified to teach your kids. But what I really want? I want to create the lessons to help others teach your kids. I’ve discovered I’m really good at it. One of the biggest things I learned from my grad work.

But for now, I have the rest of a book waiting, a cup of tea, and a cozy bed with flannel sheets to crawl into. I’m beat.


Learning a Foreign Language

Conversation on the way home one day with JMumbo:


JMumbo:  Mom, I don’t want to take French or Spanish, I want to learn a different language.

My thoughts: Oh no, we only offer Spanish at our school, what am I going to do?

What I said:  Really?  What language do you want to learn?

JMumbo:  I want to learn English.

Long pause as I process this wondering where the wires crossed.

Me:  Bud, you already speak English.

JMumbo:  No, what they speak in England.  That English.

Gotta love JMumbo.  Do you think he wants to learn to insert “bloody” and “bangers and mash” into his vocabulary?  Or just talk with a cool accent like the prodigal daughter does when she practices for when she marries a British lord?


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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What to do with the leftover turkey? Why make soup of course!

I love Thanksgiving.  It really is one of my favorite holidays, probably because it involves very little planning regarding anything but the meal.  And even the meal is purely subjective.  There are guidelines, but they aren’t set in stone.  It’s really about what you like to eat best and making a big batch to share.  No need for gifts or big decorations, I don’t even do shopping on Black Friday, mostly because I have no patience for crowds and end up bored after the first hour or so.

thanksgiving mashed potatoes with gravy

Massive amounts of mashed potatoes and gravy are essential to our holiday feast, but the turkey is optional.  My mom would rather eat chicken and makes sure we get one from the Farm, so it really tastes like chicken, and makes the BEST gravy ever.

This year she included a turkey breast and we brought some home.  Last night it was just JMumbo and I.  Friday night equals soup in my house, it has since the kids were little and we would snuggle in on cold Friday nights to soup and a movie.  As the kids get bigger and busier, this is one of the moments I miss the most, so getting a chance to hang out with JMumbo and have soup with a movie was a treat.  The kids are set on Mrs. Grass’s chicken noodle soup, the one with the “golden egg”, but I always make my own pot.


This week I started the way I always do, checking out what was in the refrigerator.  When I saw the turkey, in it went.  Then I dig through the cupboard and pull out what looks like it might go together.  It doesn’t mean I will use everything, but it gives me a chance to sort and choose.  Below is what I ended up with, and it is one of the best poultry based soup I have made.  Even if you are trying eat healthier, don’t ignore the butter, it really adds a richness to the soup.  This soup has a lot of fresh ingredients and the few canned ingredients are pretty healthy, the butter isn’t going to ruin your plans for healthy eating.

I don’t post many recipes because I rarely remember to measure anything, I just toss it in and taste until it seems right, but using leftovers for this made it a bit easier to guess the amounts.  Remember to taste it as you add and adjust accordingly.  Sorry there are no photos of my soup, I am not very good at remembering to take them as I cook.


Leftover Turkey Soup

32 oz/4 c of chicken broth (I used Rachel Ray’s low sodium because it’s my favorite)



8 oz/1c of vegetable broth (Again Rachel Ray brand)

1Tbsp unsalted butter

Half an onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 Tbsp capers

1 tsp salt (to taste works, this is a guess on my part)

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1 small can of whole button mushrooms, sliced in half

1 – 1 ½ c dried small pasta (I like Ditalini)

2 c chopped leftover turkey (or chicken and you can adjust the amount)

Add the broth to the pot first, then the rest of the ingredients.  You don’t have to add them all at once, and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes to make sure the pasta cooks.

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I’ve become an RV owner

It has been an interesting summer.  We bought an RV in the early spring and every time we load up I feel like the Griswolds, but I’ve really enjoyed the trips we’ve taken in it.

The “tramper” as I call it (Trailer and Camper combined because I never seemed to label it correctly), is a Class C, which means everything is attached.

It has a sleeping space over the front seats, which means I try and knock myself out at least once a trip moving from the passenger seat to the fridge and back.  The kids can sit and play games at the table, lounge on the couch, and JMumbo and I discovered that it was really easy to nap in the back on a long drive home.

Being a bit on the OCD side, I continuously add to the bins and baskets used to organize the cupboards and plan meals a week ahead so I know what to pack, and so I don’t have to eat hotdogs and hamburgers every night. 

There is no TV allowed by decree of the mean mommy, but we do take the laptop along for an occasional movie night.  One of the deals with buying the tramper was we would spend time together away from the TV.  Living in the snow belt means a lot of time inside during the winter with the TV.  Camping is not that time!  The family has managed well living in my world, even coach has survived without his daily dose of ESPN.

With nothing else to do, the kids talked him into playing Mexican Dominos, which he lost and then said it was because we made up rules.  (That’s why he’s a good coach, he wants to win, and JMumbo may have cheated, he’s like that sometimes.)

The tramper did help fulfill a request of the prodigal daughter and JMumbo; it got their father to the beach.  The last eight years or so, the kids and I have travelled with my parents, to Rhode Island for a paternal family get-together.  My dad’s brother lives about 10 minutes from the Atlantic, loves company, and offers up his home to us every summer for a long weekend in August.

Numbers were down this year with a cousin starting college, another getting married the weekend after, and my brother attending a wedding in Florida, but we still totaled a healthy 16.  For years Coach has found reasons not to go, the number one reason being he is not a beach guy and what would he do there all day?  He found out this year that a set of twins, age 6, will keep anyone busy walking the beach looking for rocks to take home.  I think he averaged 2-3 miles a day.

I love sitting watching the kids on the beach and in the ocean because I remember when it wasn’t the prodigal daughter out there holding a boogie board steady for her cousin, but me holding the board steady for her.

Every year there is a giant hole dug in the sand, but my son now seems to tower out of it, instead of barely peeking over the edge.   And we adults get a little grayer and gravity drags more bits down.  We play games when it rains, eat incredible meals, and wallow in spending time together.  Thanks to the tramper, Coach finally was there to experience it.

He didn’t say much, but the few comments about JMumbo facing the waves and boogie boarding in, and the prodigal daughter’s endless patience with her small cousins, said enough.

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Teenage meltdown #3859

The movie The Hunger Games came out at midnight last night.  The prodigal daughter has been counting down to this moment for about 3 months.  Her room is full of homemade posters, her ipod has every movie poster/screen shot she could find downloaded, and we have been treated to in-depth analysis of actor choices.

Before you ask, yes we have both read the books.  Multiple times.  And loved them.  They are that well written.

I, being a brain dead mom, told the prodigal daughter I would transport a group of them to see the movie today.  She immediately invited seven friends.  Which is great, but the Acadia only holds eight and she casually informed me that one mom was going also.  When I learned how to add, that equaled nine, one too many for the vehicle to fit.  In prodigal daughter world that means you just cram one more girl in and talk about how squished you are the whole ride to the theater.

When I left for work yesterday morning, this was the plan.  When I got off the scholastic team bus at 6:55pm after a meet, it all fell apart.  I called Coach to alert him I would pick up the kids from practice and he gave me a heads up.  There had been a meltdown at dinner.  Someone shared with the prodigal daughter that all the tickets were sold out.  All of them.  For the whole week.  A massive, tear-filled meltdown unfolded.  The ONLY reason she had gone to school this week was because of the movie field trip.  Apparently I missed the institution of “optional schooling depending on social activities” in our house.  I think she confused her life with Katniss’, the main character in the book.

I saw no evidence of this meltdown when I picked her up.  She seemed pretty upbeat and chipper.  Then JMumbo decided a stage whispered, “She had a meltdown at dinner” was appropriate.  Way to read the situation JMumbo!  Evil daughter surfaced and began to growl.  I exerted my powers as the Supreme Decision Maker of the Universe and shut down all conversation regarding the movie until we arrived at the house and could call the theater.

One phone call later, I discovered that not only were the tickets not sold out, there were plenty for the show time we chose.  The young lady I spoke to suggested we arrive a half hour early to make sure we could sit together, but didn’t see a problem with ticket supply.  Several phone calls and texts later, everyone was set, I had a passel of girls headed to the house after school to create puffy paint “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” t-shirts, because they are girls and all of them are rooting for Katniss.








Meltdown controlled, but somehow I still ended up alone in the car with a bunch of teenage girls.

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A bit of auld lang syne

I had some visitors this afternoon.  Some were older, but two were younger, pre-school age.  The youngest had little interest in anything but Daddy and his pacifier, with a short lived excursion to the porch steps to work on going down.

It was the little girl that captured my attention and made me remember when the prodigal daughter was little.  She picked me flowers and we put some in a mason jar for her to take home.  She picked her daddy some dead flower heads, which the entire group “oohed” and “aahed” over.

Then she found the puddles.

Hopping to create a glorious splash.  Check out the ponytail flying.

Stomping a splash into existence.

Hey, what’s this?

I’d better run through the deep part.

Look how high the water will go!

When she was finished, she trucked over and told me her boots were wet.  So we took them off.  Then the socks had to come off too because they were dripping.  And after that, the pants were history too.  Off she went in her shirt and underwear and I had a déjà vu moment.  JMumbo spent half his childhood wandering around with no pants on.

It was such fun and I assured the dad that I would clean up the toys, just head home and enjoy your kids.  Because you get so caught up in the day to day when they are little; the diapers, feeding them, cleaning up after them, watching constantly for anything that might hurt them, that you miss it.  A little one comes along and spends a few hours with you, and you take your camera out and take 25 shots of her because you were too busy being mom to take them of your own.  Wistfully you think back to how you would have done it differently as you assure the newer parent that it was fun and please let’s do it again.

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The crocus are here! The crocus are here!

This is a beautiful sight.  I look forward to the appearance of these lovely purple flowers every spring, because they mean winter really is almost over, something everyone in Western New York is ready for when the crocus appear.

They are not large flowers and they don’t last long, but while they are here, they brighten my day with the golden centers promising more sunshine and warmth, longer days, and time to take a deep breath and enjoy being outdoors unencumbered by heavy coats, mittens, and scarves.

I don’t remember seeing them this early before, but welcome them with joy.

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A Brief Moment in Camelot

Being the mother of a teenager isn’t easy.  Your “How to Embarrass your Teenager” handbook is constantly being thwarted by the “Being a Teenager, the Sullen Years” handbook your teenager received at 12:01 on her birthday.  Teenagers live to be sullen and uncooperative.  The prodigal daughter spends a lot of time being angry for things I didn’t even know I did.  She barely tolerated the time spent playing a game with me and JMumbo today, hanging her head, peering at us from under her hair, like we were sucking years of her life she might never get back.

But sometimes, once in a while, it all comes together and you experience the movie scene moment.  You know the one, where mother and daughter connect with laughter and meaningful conversation.  Well, we didn’t really have the meaningful conversation, but the laughter was there.  We were meeting Coach at the theater so he and JMumbo could see the 3-D version of Star Wars I.  The prodigal daughter and I bought tickets to a later movie, “The Vow”, and headed off to Wally World to pick up a few things.  It was time to find a bin that would hold the American Girl stuff and put it away.  This is not an easy task for me, it means I really have to admit she doesn’t want to dress up her dolls anymore.  She isn’t going to wear a Snow White dress again and sit on my lap while I read Franklin books to her.  Years of make-up, hemline battles, and broken hearts lie ahead.

We found a bin after a brief search and a few choice comments about me talking to myself and me responding that I brought her along for a reason.  (This is in the handbook mentioned above – mumbling out loud so your teenager can hear and be embarrassed for you.)  She mocked my sock choices, told me certain bras looked like “what people your age wear”, and bribed a new magazine out of me.  There were some smiles and one or two laughs.  It felt like heaven.

In the movie theater we shared a popcorn and periodically she leaned her head on my shoulder.  I pretended to cover her eyes at certain points and she giggled.  We agreed it was a good movie and she understood how wrong the parent’s reactions to the situation were.  Love conquers all, a bit of residual princess theme, still resonates with her.  We sang along to The Wiz on the way home.  It was a moment and I’ll try to hold onto it when sullen girl makes another appearance, testing my patience.  That for one brief moment, the prodigal daughter and I were living in Camelot.

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The Double Edged Sword

Vacation, it’s a double edged sword.  I get excited about having a week off and time to actually work on all my “projects”, but then I begin to set things aside “to do when I have more time on vacation”.  Before I know it, I have a list a mile long and I’m wondering how I will get it all done in a mere 5 days.  None of the tasks are monumental.  I’m not trying to repaint the house or strip the kitchen cabinets.  It’s the little things.  Putting the rest of the Christmas decorations away, picking up the debris scattered throughout the house, washing various athletic gear and storing it until next season, dropping the bag of books off at the library.  Little things.

The little things add up.

Of course vacation also means the kids are home because with a job tied to the school system, my days off are their days off.  Their social lives must be addressed.  Who will come to play with JMumbo? Can I line up 5 friends, one for each day, that will keep him busy and happy?  Will the prodigal daughter ever leave her room?  If she does leave her room, will it mean I must drive her somewhere?

You have to figure in the appointments too.  Vacation is the perfect time to schedule dentist appointments, haircuts, major shopping trips to Sam’s Club.  because you don’t have to wait until after school hours.  You can get it all done and be home to relax.

Relaxation.  The other half of vacation.  Knowing if I don’t finish making the spaghetti sauce today, I still have tomorrow to work on it.  Sitting down and figuring out how to create a pattern in a throw I am crocheting.  Watching all seven episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflix because Colleen told me I would love it, and she was right.  Posting to my blog! Working on ideas for Sunday School before Sunday morning.  Visiting my parents while my brother is there too so the kids can all hang out together.  Taking a deep breath and then another.

This vacation has moved slower than most.  I wake up terrified it’s Monday and the vacation is over, to breathe a sigh of relief that it’s only Wednesday.  I need this pace right now.  As I grasp the pommel of the double edged sword, I remember that for every slash that slices into my life, there is a parry that heals.

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