Which Village Person Was He?

For November this year, Buds joined the cause of No Shave November, which we call “Noshavember.” This made me ponder his facial hair evolution over the years.

When I met Buds, he didn’t even have chest hair.

Not sure he could even grow facial hair back then.

Not sure he could even grow facial hair back then.

Christmas of 1994, we were apart for the last Christmas. He went home to Vermont and came home with a goatee.

Our last Christmas apart before we were married, he grew a goatee while in VT as my Christmas surprise.

Our last Christmas apart before we were married, he grew a goatee while in VT as my Christmas surprise.

The goatee was a huge hit and it will appear as a gift to me randomly.

The goatee didn't always grow in gray.

The goatee didn’t always grow in gray.

He'll often grow  a goatee on vacation. Gem-Fest two years ago.

He’ll often grow a goatee on vacation. Gem-Fest two years ago.

Gem-Fest this year.

Gem-Fest this year.

This year, by the end of Noshavember, the beard was loud, proud, and gray.

Noshavember 2016...I love this face.

Noshavember 2016…I love this face.

He headed to Virginia to celebrate the end of 2016 with his co-workers and promised them a holiday surprise.

Dropped down to this for the work holiday party...and to send Yessa into hysterics.

Dropped down to this for the work holiday party…and to send Yessa into hysterics.

Paula pointed out a few similarities between his caterpillar and…someone else…

Photo from http://tinyurl.com/z23y595

Photo from http://tinyurl.com/z23y595

I think the cowboy. Maybe the construction worker.

And, thankfully, while he was with Kel, Paula, and the girls in VA, he ditched the moustache. K & B helped him shave, and we were all grateful.

Had a little help shaving.

Had a little help shaving.

Shaved while in VA for that holiday party.

Shaved while in VA for that holiday party.

Thanks, K & B, for giving us back our regular Buds.

Instant Love

Gina purchased an Instant Pot during Black Friday last year. Buds and I saw it in action when we were there for Thanksgiving. We were so intrigued, we purchased one during Black Friday this year.

It arrived shortly after we returned home, and I dived into learning to use it.

I’m in love with it. So in love, this happened:

It was such a great sale!

It was such a great sale!

To get my defense out there before Buds laughs at me:

I love the Instant Pot because food goes in it and it can be forgotten. I was already doing the forgetting part after I put food on the stove, which seldom went well (except for that time we realized we liked our sautéed green beans really quite black), and we know I’m going to keep forgetting, so let’s embrace it!

Another part of forgetting is forgetting to start cooking the food until it is almost meal time. Instant Pot helps solve that problem, too.

Finally, it’s not just a pressure cooker. It’s also a rice cooker, a slow cooker, and a yogurt-maker. Think how much room this one appliance saves…if you actually own all those other small appliances!

Speaking of getting rid of things, I’ve already hidden away the slow cooker, and when we were getting ready for family movie night last night, I remembered I had just read about making popcorn in the Instant Pot!

Buds and the rest of the family doubted the wisdom, but I was dreaming of being able to get rid of the air popper, thereby making space for that second IP, so I suggested a pop-off.

Buds and Yessa would make popcorn the old-fashioned way. I would forge new ground and amaze them all with the IP popcorn option.

And then I’d get rid of the air popper.

We had planned to have a blind taste test, but, their popcorn was seasoned and being munched on before I’d even begun to pop.

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Guess what this is?

Guess what this is?

Whole lotta’ unpopped kernels in that IP.

So, we won’t be getting rid of the air popper just yet.

But, my love remains steadfast, and it does make great cheesecake:

This is not my cheesecake, picture from here: http://cookiesandcups.com/instant-pot-salted-caramel-cheesecake-2/

This is not my cheesecake, picture from here: http://cookiesandcups.com/instant-pot-salted-caramel-cheesecake-2/

The picture above is the recipe I used for one of the cheesecakes we had after the chocolate tour. It was supposed to be salted-caramel, but it was just caramel.

I forgot the salt.

Would You Like Some Chocolate With That Hairnet?

Ever on the hunt for fun things to do with our tribe, the whole lot of us headed to a local Nashville chocolate company, Olive & Sinclair to see how they hand-make delicious chocolate products (and gummy bears).

As is often the case, a tour of a food factory begins with a hairnet.

Do I look cute?

Do I look cute?

She looks Amish.

She looks Amish.

This keeps the hair out of his eyes.

This keeps the hair out of his eyes.

Cute as ever.

Cute as ever.

The children couldn't wait to get T & J into their hairnets.

The children couldn’t wait to get T & J into their hairnets.

J's hairnet cleverly hides under his hat.

J’s hairnet cleverly hides under his hat.

I was hopeful that Eddie would have to put on a beard-net, but that didn’t happen. I may pay extra for that next time.

After we were netted up, we headed back to learn the process. The company employs 10 folks, which includes 3 full-time “wrappers.”

Our tour guide was interesting and fun. She moved to Nashville only 4 months ago to work for Olive and Sinclair after tasting their white chocolate at a chocolate show out West.

Our tour guide was interesting and fun. She moved to Nashville only 4 months ago to work for Olive and Sinclair after tasting their white chocolate at a chocolate show out West.

Our guide walked us through the entire process. We were surprised to learn the cocoa pods grow on the trunk and branches of the tree.

Image from: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/treesandmarkets/inaforesta/images/chocolate-ripe.jpg

Image from: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/treesandmarkets/inaforesta/images/chocolate-ripe.jpg

Olive & Sinclair breaks down the pods to get to the beans inside, which they divide up into 25 pound buckets for easier dumping.

Image courtesy of: https://coconutcreamcare.files.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of: https://coconutcreamcare.files.wordpress.com

The picture above shows a dried pod with a bowl of cocoa beans. The beans are roasted in their huge roaster, 75 pounds at a time, and then cracked to get to the nibs inside, which are what they use to make the chocolate products.

Our guide cracked a roasted bean, which broke like a coffee bean, so we could each try a bit of plain nib. It was interesting to try, but few of us were fans.

After the nibs are shelled (This is done mechanically at O & S, but our guide told us of a chocolate company who has that part done by hand, just to provide more jobs for folks.), they are taken to the stone grinders. One is for the brown chocolate grinding, the other has their white chocolate grinding done in it.

Tons of grinders make the nibs smooth, but it does not make them delicious.

Tons of grinders make the nibs smooth, but it does not make them delicious.

Up to this point, I’ve been impressed with my memory of the tour. That breaks down going forward.

After the chocolate nibs have been ground smooth, the creamy goodness (That actually tastes like peanut butter when you put a sample in your mouth, but quickly turns bitter.) is hand scooped out of the stone bin to continue the process.

From here, things get made. I listened during the tour, but began to lose focus.

I do remember sampling their Bourbon Nib Brittle. That was memorably delicious.

O & S products are for a sophisticated palate. Their white chocolate bar is seasoned with salt and pepper. The caramels come in two flavors: duck fat and sea salt and vinegar. The children were not completely impressed, although they all sampled various items, and Yessa tried the cherry cordial that T shared with her. T’s Dad is a huge fan of chocolate-covered cherries, so she bought out the remaining cherries to take home to him for Christmas.

We purchased an assortment of products to try, and then headed back to our house for a chili dinner and playing and visiting.

Virtual Reality was a hit with T.

Virtual Reality was a hit with T.

I love this crowd.

Post-tour, hairnets a thing of the past.

Post-tour, hairnets a thing of the past.

Realization

We love receiving the holiday cards from friends all around the country. Seeing the smiling faces of those we share memories with. Learning who has moved, who has a new job, whose child has started college…it brings us a smile.

Today we received the card from one of my college roommates, Jana Lu. Jana Lu and Jeff were married exactly two weeks before us and made it back from their honeymoon in time to attend our wedding. I’ve always been so appreciative of that.

They also have three children; two girls and a boy, but they got on the parenting train much more quickly than we did, so their kids are all older than our crew by a couple years.

As Buds and I were walking back from the mailbox, I handed him their annual card, with my eyes wide. Jana Lu is now the shortest person in her family. And I realized, this is probably the last year that Buds and I will be the tallest people on our holiday card. Each day that goes by, the Buster is closer and closer to looking me straight in the face.

This picture isn’t ideal for showing the height similarities since we’re all a little slouchy, and it’s difficult not to be distracted by the hairnets (Post about the hairnets to follow soon.), but this shows how close he is to catching me, and how he’s shot by his older sister.

Inching closer and closer.

Inching closer and closer.

So often in the blog I realize I’m sharing insights that centuries of parents before me have realized. Children grow up. They change. Their problems grow, their preferences alter, they choose who they are going to be.

Despite knowing I’m not sharing something new to humanity, I’m grateful for the chance to be in awe of it with these people, these children, this family. We aren’t the first family that has recognized how children turn into adults, but that doesn’t decrease the magic of it all.

Merry Christmas.

Saying Good-bye to Massadoah

In an unusual twist for the last few new family selections, the partnership found a partner family to replace us quite quickly. Despite the rational knowledge that this was the best decision for the partnership and our family, it was still with an underlying feeling of sadness that we realized our time as Massadoahans had come to an end.

So many fantastic memories with so many dear ones.

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Thanks for the memories, Massadoah.

The Residence

In Tennessee the Governor’s Mansion is called “The Residence.”

Last weekend we had the opportunity to tour The Residence in all its Christmas splendor.

Due to the volume of folks coming to visit, we parked at a local church to take the free shuttles to and from the mansion.

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Security checked us in before we loaded the shuttle, and the head of security came on the shuttle to share some information with us before we entered the house. He’s worked at The Residence for 17 years, through 4 governors, and he told us this governor, Republican Bill Haslam, was the most down to earth, and his wife, Crissy, loves having the public tour the home and loves doing these Christmas open houses.

(Wikipedia also tells me that Bill Haslam is worth around $2 billion, making him the richest governor in the United States. Interesting…)

The theme for the event this year was “Made in Tennessee” and there were TN products all over the various decorated trees.

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We started the tour at the grand staircase in the front hallway, and the guide made sure we knew about the six little trees under the stairs, each decorated for a Haslam grandchild.

Getting things started.

Getting things started.

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After the initial introduction at the grand staircase, we were free to wander at will on the first floor, out into the back yard where the petting zoo was set up, then down to Conservation Hall.

A personal nativity set of The First Lady's.

A personal nativity set of The First Lady’s.

We were told she unpacks and sets it up herself.

We were told she unpacks and sets it up herself.

We learned TN has 96 counties.

A hand painted ornament for each county.

A hand painted ornament for each county

Artwork by an artist from that county.

Artwork by an artist from that county.

Looking at the ornaments.

Looking at the ornaments.

The rooster on top of the tree is laying an egg...that's not how roosters work.

The rooster on top of the tree is laying an egg…that’s not how roosters work.

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In Conservation Hall there were vendors selling a few TN products. We purchased some ginger cookies, which made Buds realize he wanted to take molasses cookies for the cookie exchange at work this week. (Made by Yessa and me, they were delicious! )

Yum.

Yum.

TN artist

TN artist

The children each had the chance to make a leather bracelet, and we saw the woman who told us about wool at Belle Meaded at a homeschooling event this year, and she said she remembered us, too. (So kind…and the copper-head helps.)

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This brave man letting hundreds of children swing a mallet at his hand.

This brave man letting hundreds of children swing a mallet at his hand.

That's the wool woman in the background.

That’s the wool woman in the background.

Another attempt at a family picture:

The book tree behind us is a Guinness record attempt for the tree made with the most books. Over 13K.

The book tree behind us is a Guinness record attempt for the tree made with the most books. Over 13K.

We all had a great time, and even The Buster said to me, “Mom, I’m actually enjoying this.”

His enthusiasm doesn't totally shine through in this photo.

His enthusiasm doesn’t totally shine through in this photo.

High praise.

So Much Awesome

A few random things for which I’m grateful.

Taking a break from licking the tree

Taking a break from licking the tree

She called and said, "Could I make you guys dinner?"

She called and said, “Could I make you guys dinner?”

A good puzzle, a good friend, and a friendly cat...cattentment.

A good puzzle, a good friend, and a friendly cat…cattentment.

Cleaning up wires.

Cleaning up wires.

When your best friend wants to help with running wires.

When your best friend wants to help with running wires.

We got this!

We got this!

Cat parenthood is sometimes making wormy decisions.

Cat parenthood is sometimes making worm decisions.

I can comfort you after the shot.

I can comfort you after the shot.

When the youngest decides to make you breakfast in bed, and then she tells you she would also have done coffee if she knew how.

When the youngest decides to make you breakfast in bed, and then she tells you she would also have done coffee if she knew how.

This life...pretty snuggly.

This life…pretty snuggly.

We Hunt Down A Christmas Tree

We’ve developed several traditions over the years that fill me with joy. Among the favorites are those around our Christmas tree selection.

We’ve gone out tromping through fields with a saw to select the perfect tree; and I’ve loved those years, too, but the last three years we’ve ended up at the same spot. The parking lot at the golf course near us turns into a tree lot during December.

We like the family that runs the business, and the last two years we’ve taken chocolates to share with the employees and the other patrons, and the children have taken candy canes to make a surprise candy cane tree for people to find while they hunt for their ideal fir.

Monkey ready with the candy canes.

Monkey ready with the candy canes.

Unfortunately this year the “cheat sheet” for the chocolates was only on the bottom of the box.

What kind do you want?

What kind do you want?

That was interesting.

I didn’t have any of the chocolates, and on the drive home the rest of the family informed me that the chocolates were terrible. Hopefully the Christmas Tree family still remembers us fondly next year.

Care for a chocolate? I hear they are DELICIOUS!

Care for a chocolate? I hear they are DELICIOUS!

Tree on top, ready to roll.

Tree on top, ready to roll.

We head home, turn on the Christmas tunes, have some hot chocolate, and putter through putting on the lights, hanging the stockings, and reminiscing about the ornaments. The vast majority of our ornaments have a story and came from a loved one, so hanging them up is an event and a celebration.

Whirring up the hot chocolate.

Whirring up the hot chocolate.

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Waffles enjoys licking the tree.

Waffles enjoys licking the tree.

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Still my very favorite Christmas decoration that sister-in-law Kathy gave me decades ago.

Still my very favorite Christmas decoration that sister-in-law Kathy gave me decades ago.

Stockings hung by the chimney with care…we’re ready for Santa.

Giving Thanks

Note: Video in this post. Click through to watch at the website for best experience.

We were sorry to leave Mom and her cozy new house, but so excited to head to K.C. to spend time with The Chan Clan and to pick Buds up from the airport!

We left a day later than planned because we had the chance to visit Cash in the hospital and that was well worth it.

Hanging with Cruz and Aunt Kathy while Grandma went back into the PICU to see Cash.

Hanging with Cruz and Aunt Kathy while Grandma went back into the PICU to see Cash.

But, finally, it was time to head out.

We kept the drive leisurely, stopping at The Toot Toot for lunch on our way down.

I adore this name.

I adore this name.

Hey, Gina, does that picture bug you because it’s just slightly off-kilter? Sorry.

I think Toot Toot is an awesome name for a restaurant for one reason; It sounds like a family nickname we’d come up with.

My dad always called Long John Silvers “Fish and Dip.”

(I pulled two shots below from the LJS website for your viewing pleasure. No, they weren’t attempting to be funny.)

Cannibalism: It's What's For Dinner.

Cannibalism: It’s What’s For Dinner.

Or, as Monkey said when I showed her the above picture, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” (Commas save lives.)

Another gem from the LJS website:

It's like an inspirational poster on drugs.

It’s like an inspirational poster on drugs.

Long John Silvers detour aside, I loved it when my dad would say, “Hey, Sniper, how ’bout we go to fish and dip for dinner?”

So, Toot Toot makes me smile.

Yessa had jazzy chicken legs for her lunch.

Yessa had jazzy chicken legs for her lunch.

We drop into life at The Chandler Casa pretty easily. Bless their hearts for putting up with us.

The basement is our sleeping compound. There’s always a jumble of kids and adults milling around, games to be played, conversations to be had. Gina chauffeuring people around while I tag along to get more time with her.

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We got to see Hero at her job, for which she had just been hired at our last visit.

We watched from above, and she did a good job ignoring us.

We watched from above, and she did a good job ignoring us.

Looks like fun!

Looks like fun!

And her first-ever ATM card arrived, for her growing bank account!

Yeah for a job well done.

Yeah for a job well done.

One memorable conversation from this week together was begun by Henry’s question, “Which would you rather have in a battle to the death? A knife or a bat?”

He was incensed that any of us would even consider a bat as the correct answer.

A hysterical conversation with a vehement advocate for the knife, and yet, I’m still not sure where I stand on this age-old question.

A second “this will become a family joke” moment was when we were discussing the abortion laws in Missouri, as well as what adolescents could expect for privacy from their family doctor, etc. (Yes, that’s what we were discussing. We’re homeschoolers. You never know what we’ll be discussing.)

At about the point where the words “pregnancy” and “sex” were being tossed around, Yessa turned to Hero and Monet with a wild-eyed look and gasped, “I’m too young for this!”

We laughed till we cried.

Buds and I had a playful workout at a splendid new park near G & T’s place. (Much more about this park later.) Todd ran on the park loop while Buds and I played “follow the leader” all around the equipment.

It was a wee bit nippy.

It was a wee bit nippy.

As we were leaving the park we discovered someone forgot their peace pipe.

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Ummm, yeah.

Ummm, yeah.

Curious.

In a later episode at that same park, we had a chilly, but fun walk with the kids:

My Leonardo impression is coming along nicely.

My Leonardo impression is coming along nicely.

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Lots of great climbing and spinning on the equipment:

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And in an effort to increase his functional fitness, Buds decided that climbing up the spider’s web…keeping his feet higher than his head…would be a taxing thing to do.

It was taxing. I almost had to be resuscitated from the oxygen deprivation from laughing so hard.

Gina and I watched in awe from a bit of a distance, but eventually I had to go up closer for a better view.

Alas, my view was not as striking as that of the father and son waiting patiently at the top of the structure to use the slide. I can only imagine their thoughts as Buddie’s butt came up through the ropes.

He succeeded.

Dignity discarded, but physical task accomplished.

This was probably the beginning of the idea.

This was probably the beginning of the idea.

This is fun, but what if I was upside down?!

This is fun, but what if I was upside down?!

Gina took this gem. He looks dead, but he's only just begun to fight.

Gina took this gem. He looks dead, but he’s only just begun to fight.

Here I go.

Here I go.

This is when I stepped closer to confirm his sanity, and then doubled over with gasping snorts of laughter.

This is when I stepped closer to confirm his sanity, and then doubled over with gasping snorts of laughter.

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This is where the dad and son got to witness the finale.

This is where the dad and son got to witness the finale.

And admire Buddie’s keister.

According to Buds, the other dad was very encouraging, and seemed to think the whole idea was brilliant.

Of course, this was also the dad who watched his son slide off a piece of playground equipment while he laughed.

Parenting…it takes a village.

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On Thanksgiving Day the dads took the broods to a park within walking distance of T & G’s to pass the time before the bird was ready.

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I know he's thinking, "Who would even consider choosing the bat?!"

I know he’s thinking, “Who would even consider choosing the bat?!”

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There's Monet!

There’s Monet!

Love this face!

Love this face!

We haven’t even begun to talk about the meals. We had some great ones, not even counting Thanksgiving Dinner.

Todd was experimenting with a couple new recipes in their Instant Pot, and revisiting some tried and true ones.

Homemade naan bread.

Homemade naan bread.

He also made about 47 pounds of two different types of hummus. We weren’t able to finish it all, but it was good.

Sandwich of Justice

Sandwich of Justice

Recording the Sandwich of Justice

Recording the Sandwich of Justice

Whattcha' makin', Gina?

Whattcha’ makin’, Gina?

(Gina tried out a new tactic for cooking the turkey this year. It involved having the oven turn itself off partway through roasting. The turkey tasted fantastic, and none of us fell ill, so we do not get to refer to this as “The Year Gina gave all of us food poisoning.”

Catchy title, though.)

Ehh, I don't think it will kill us.

Ehh, I don’t think it will kill us.

Buds and I made a pumpkin parfait from Lindsay’s website.

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Looks delish.

Looks delish.

Henry had to leave for work at the movie theater at 4’ish, but we all managed to gather at the table to start eating before he headed out.

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Giving Thanks.

Giving Thanks.

On another day, in which Henry was only away from the movie theater for about 4 hours, he willingly went to the movies with us to see Moana.

It was great!

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Another day the moms took some of the brood ice skating.

SAVE ME!

SAVE ME!

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This sign was posted at the rink:

Hmmm, what led to the need for this sign?

Hmmm, what led to the need for this sign?

Buds and Todd got to have some deeper Compulsion Discussion.

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We have to mention Dr. Strange who kept butting into all our pictures. Because of his work in the movie industry, Henry often gets to bring home props from the promos at the theater. I loved how the Dr. looks like he’s so interested, but slightly disapproving of everything we did.

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I don't know what you are doing, but I disapprove.

I don’t know what you are doing, but I disapprove.

As always, our stay went too quickly. We headed for home on Saturday morning. No one forgot his shoes but one critical cable did manage to disappear. Pretty good for us.

Thanks for a blessedly wonderful week, Chan Clan.

Two Things I Didn’t Know

Being a parent has taught me a lot.

Two things I’ll share with you right now, because it’s late, and I’m blasting out a gazillion blog posts and having a great time doing it.

Also, there may have been wine.

1) It feels very different to say to your child, “Sex is great.” than it does to say it to your best friend; but it’s an important part of larger conversations in both cases.

Also, there was less giggling in one of the conversations.

Oh, wait.

That’s not true.

2) No one told me that swords would just magically appear everywhere.

Why do they, you might ask?

Don’t know.

Battles, I suppose.

There when you need it.

There when you need it.

So grateful to be on this journey. Still so much to learn.