I want to start this one off by giving due credit to my wonderful sister, Panther, husband John and her son Michael. They put us up for the night, after the intrepid UltraDad got us safely to their house through an invidious snowstorm, and drove us to the airport the next morning. Panther made delightful lavender filled sock monkeys for me, Linc and Tomoko and Michael crocheted an adorable beanie for Linc, which fits him perfectly. They are also going to pick us up at the airport on our return. Thanks, guys!
Michael, showing off his new creation.
Linc’s new hat fits perfectly! Isn’t he adorable?
Linc is trying to pull his hat off! Maybe a little warm for wearing in the house.
I don’t know why Heather and I had so much trouble, two years ago, making our way through customs, collecting our luggage, and locating the waiting UltraKids. Maybe it a little experience under my belt, but UDad and I fairly sailed through all of that this time, and easily found the waiting UltraBob, who due to our plane’s early landing, had not been waiting long. Due to form, UltraMom dozed in the back seat on the car ride home while UBob and UDad chatted. We stopped long enough to pick up some grocery store pastries (are you jealous, Heather?) and some Starbucks, even some Vanilla Late for UltraMom! This enabled us to arrive home in perfect time for Linc to be napped, fed and ready to meet his new grandparents. Much to my delight, he let us each hold him and even smiled and cooed to us. I will arrive home a few thousand photos richer, I can already tell, and Linc will figure in about 9/10s of them.
Linc is not yet crawling, but likes to stand with a little help and jump with LOTS of help. The Ultras help Christmas until our arrival, and it was lots of fun with Linc, though he’s a little young to really get into the present opening. He was, however, really interested in the process and in the result! UltraBob and UltraGirl got us the perfect gift: a digital picture frame preloaded with great photos, mainly of Linc and of Heather’s and my last visit to Japan. We had a whole suitcase full of gifts with us, mostly little things, but made special by Johnny’s original gift tags: eg “I know Beaker has always longed to see Bali in the Springtime; with this gift that may be possible.” The gift? I’m not really sure. Maybe the beef jerky, the jolly ranchers or the sunflower seeds? We brought Linc a John Deere outfit; jeans, long sleeved T and sweatshirt, which is still just a little big, but will soon be wearable. All of the 9 month outfits Aunt Heather sent fit perfectly right now.
We took a fun walk around Zushi with Linc in a carrier on his Daddy’s back. We got some groceries mainly to enable UltraMom to make her famous pizza, and stopped at DomDom to get a crepe on the way back. Yummy!
Anyway, we are having a great time, and more will follow.
All the best,
Here we are on a big airplane, at an altitude of 38,130 feet (11621 Metres), going 532 mph (865 kph), having traveled some 3116 (4999 K) miles since departing from Portland, OR at 12:30 pm Pacific time. I am trying to give the people what they want here, with both metric and miles so we can all get a good idea of just how far we have come.
We have 1825 miles (2952 K) to go, or about 4 hours, and have a headwind of 58 mph. How do I know all this? Of course I have UltraDad along and he is, occasionally, quite smart, but mostly I’m just tracking the flight on the interactive world entertainment network, in between browsing music, movies and games, such as Bejeweled. UltraDad looked through the seat pocket literature and has decided we are flying on a NWA A330-200/-300 Airplane with seating capacity of 243-298 with a main cabin-seating configuration of 2-4-2. We are sitting in a ‘2’ right nearly over the right wing, so visibility is a bit limited. Of course, mostly there is nothing to see anyway, except for clouds, but UDad did catch a glimpse of some spectacular snow-capped mountains, which just had to be Alaska. Yes, Ultra Readers we are on our way to Japan and a much-anticipated first meeting of the young master Linc and a reunion with his much loved Ultra Parents.
We had a nice Christmas, though an unusual one. Johnny and Jimbo arrived in Carlin Monday afternoon, and UtraMom worked and tied up loose ends at her work by Wed (Dec 24) morning. That was about when Mother Nature let loose her winter fury she had been keeping at bay. It snowed, the wind blew and me and my car slipped an slid on icy streets and sidewalks. By Christmas Eve late we knew there was no way UltraDad was making it home that day. He would be, in fact, plowing snow in Ruby Valley from 3 AM to 3 PM on Christmas Day. We finally got him home at about 5:30 pm Christmas Day, upon which we dug right into our dinner of pork roast, mashed potatoes and gray and got down to the business of opening gifts.
Sister in law, Pat went to her sister/s for Christmas, so we ended up with 3 extra poodles for a couple of days, bringing the grand total to 5 in the house. I have to say they were mostly well behaved, with the exception of Murphy, who took it upon himself to make sure the food bowl was well protected, as well as policing any rawhide bones in residence. Jim slept on the couch in the living room, and several times had all 5 little poodles snuggled on and around him.
We all got just what we wanted, at least I did. I ended up with 2 ‘treasure hunts’ where I had to try and follow a clue or two to find my actual gift. UltraDad got me yoga blocks and strap, a hiking pole and a cool new game we will be trying out in Japan, called something like “Mad Gibs.” From Johnny and Jim I got a pedometer and a fantastic backpack made to hold my laptop, as well as heavy books. That was one of my ‘treasure hunt’ gifts, and I was beginning to be afraid that the backpack I had requested was not going to happen. At the end of all the other gift opening, I was given a wadded up scrap of paper. When I gingerly untapped and spread out the paper and tried to follow my clue “Hey Fara Faucett, go look in the closet”, I finally discovered a blue backpack tucked away in the corner of the ‘tool’ guest room. (To those of you who have been to my house, that designation needs no further explanation). When I got it into the light of day, I realized it had a ‘Newmont’ logo on the front, which was the name of the company Ulta Dad used to work for. My real backpack, as it turned out, was hidden in the top of the hallway closet that Jim had made. The funny thing was that the boys didn’t plant the Newmont one; it just happened to be there from being stashed away long ago! Heather is giving me some cash, which I plan to save for a mother/daughter trip sometime this spring.
John was thrilled with the new spotting scope the boys and I got him, Jim liked his new Braun razor, which I believe is made of solid gold (just judging by the price) and Johnny’s gifts were mostly for his laptop: a new battery, a neoprene incase, and a laptop holding backpack, a little different from mine. Heather and Heath weren’t able to be with us, but seem to like the ipod nanos.
This was the first time I can remember when we did not do our traditional Christmas Eve service, consisting of singing Christmas carols, Bible readings and candle lighting. I’m not sure why we didn’t do it; I guess because Dad wasn’t home and our schedule was thrown off.
As I finish this up, we are safely ensconced in Bob and Tomoko (and Linc’s) comfy and spacious home and have a night’s sleep under our belt. I’ll catch you up in the next installment. Thanks for all your well wishes and I’ll keep you posted.
First of all, let me say a belated very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to JOHNNY, who is somewhere in the top 3 of my favorite sons. I’m sorry this isn’t more timely, but unfortunately his birthday, Dec 12, arrived while my brain was still all mushy from biology finals. It is only now starting to somewhat recover. From such musical creations (composed while swinging full tilt on the swingset glider) as “All You Gotta do is E I O, E I E I E I O” and “I’m a GIANT, a GIANT, a GI, GI, GI, GIANT” to masterpieces of lego and block towers, Johnny let his creative juices flow from an early age. He was perfectly happy playing alone, as he found himself to be quite good company, but could be sullen and stubborn when asked to do something he either didn’t see the point of, or just plain didn’t feel like doing. And now? When his planets are aligned, there’s noone more fun to be around. And he and Jim will be home in just a few days! I can hardly wait!
Okay, that out of the way, on to the topic du jour.
When I was a kid, we always made fun of the annual Christmas newsletters. Our favorite was from our Dad’s cousins Wes and Mary-Lou. Their five kids were, it seemed, putting us to shame in every conceivable arena. One daughter was their ‘social butterfly’. They were all athletic, intelligent and belonged to 5-6 clubs or organizations.
Now, I find myself creating a Christmas newsletter of my own. It’s so much easier than saying the same thing, over and over again in each Christmas card................’Johnny is our social butterfly............you’ll have to read on if you want to know the rest. Oh, and though I didn’t want to sound so much like I was bragging in the newsletter, I can tell YOU: Semester Grades for UltraMom, Fall 2008:
Cellular Biology 190: A
Anatomy and Physiology: A
Human Growth and Development Through the Lifespan: A
The “P’ is for ‘Pass” as Yoga was a pass/fail class. This was probably a charitable grade, but I did always show up and participate to the best of my ability. And now, THE 2008 UltraMom Christmas Newsletter:
December 20, 2008
Season’s Greetings to Friends and Family!
It seems that winter has finally hit northern Nevada with a vengeance; from what I hear in weather reports, I think it is hitting a lot of other places as well. We had enjoyed an unseasonably mild and dry winter up to a week or so ago, and now that we no longer farm and have to worry about how the lack of snow pack will impact next summer’s irrigation season, I can enjoy bare roads and ice-free walking out of doors guilt free. When I was packing up summer and hauling pots, hoses and gardening implements to storage in the shed, I noticed the snow shovel in the corner. I picked the shovel up and paused: would having it ready near my front porch be a tacit admission that winter, cold and snow would and should soon be here? I decided winter needed no help or prompting from me and put the shovel back. If and when the snow did show up, that would be time enough to get ready for it. Of course later when I had to trudge through a foot of snow to the shed in the corner of the back yard, I regretted my earlier decision, but flawed or not, this is how my logic sometimes runs.
This year has been a year of changes for us. UltraDad accepted a new job, leaving Newmont and mining behind. Since a year ago last November, he has worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation maintaining the roads in and around Ruby Valley, NV. This means that he lives in a little house in Ruby Valley state highway yard during the week, which is kind of a drag, since we only get to see each other on weekends. But although the work can be hard, especially plowing snow day or night, it is better than the mine.
UltraMom is still working at the minimum-security prison, running the prison inmate canteen, but is also taking several college classes at Elko’s Great Basin College. It is gratifying to know that at her ‘advanced’ age she can still compete quite well in classes such as Cellular Biology and Anatomy and Physiology. She is really enjoying the break between semesters right now.
UltraBob and UltraGirl became parents on April 26, 2008. Lincoln Arthur McDonald, better known as Linc is utterly adorable and, of course, the smartest baby that ever lived. UltraDad and I will finally get to meet him in person when we make a trip to Japan right after Christmas, so we are quite excited about that.
Heather is still working at Sizzler in Pocatello, and is the best, most attentive waitress I’ve ever had. Her longtime boyfriend Heath is full-time at the Post Office now, so has regular hours at long last. We were able to see them at Thanksgiving time, which we spent in Howe, Idaho with UltraDad’s brothers and family. Jim and Johnny were able to be there as well as UDad’s sister Pat, also from Carlin, and two of her kids and spouses, including adorable infant granddaughter, Rowan. It was great quality family time.
Johnny will graduate from Law School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN this spring. He has a job all lined up; he will be clerking for an Idaho Supreme Court Justice in Boise for a couple of years. It will be nice to have him closer.
Jim just started a two-year graduate school program in Industrial Hygiene at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He became engaged last summer to Jessica Kasper, whom he met while going to school in Moscow, ID. Jim planned a surprise proposal party; he took Jessica up in the mountains and proposed to her in a lovely mountain setting. We had arrived the night before, and Heather was able to be there as well. The big surprise for Jessica was seeing her entire family there. At Jim’s request, they drove out from their farm in Melba, ID and when the kids got back from the mountains, with Jessica sporting a ‘rock’ on her ring finger, a big family BBQ was in the making. I’m glad Jessica said ‘yes!’ The wedding will take place at River Rock Ranch near Boise next July.
Last summer, we were finally able to say goodbye to Idaho and sold our house in Howe. I really had mixed feelings about it, but in the end we were probably fortunate to sell it in this down turned housing market. It does have a certain finality about it though.
So, basically life, though full of changes, is good. While UltraDad and I are making certain physical (and probably mental) concessions to aging, we can still function reasonably well, (if you don’t ask our kids.) Johnny and Jim should soon be home for Christmas, and in a week, UltraDad and I will be getting on a plane bound for Japan. Lots to look forward to. I wish the same for you and yours.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!
Okay, be honest, you thought I would not finish this post, didn’t you? From past experience, when I say ‘to be continued’, or I’ll finish this later, I usually get bored or tired and don’t get back to it, you are saying, and you would be correct. But in my efforts to turn over a new leaf or two I’m going to finish this, by gumbo.
Sunday was a very nice, family oriented day spent with Panther and John. We went to church, came back home and Panther and I decorated her Christmas tree while John assembled the lighted Christmas village on a high ledge. Mostly, I was decorating the tree while Panther pursued other decorating tasks while trying not to aggravate her old ‘war wound.’ About a month ago, Panther, who works as a nurse in Cardiac Intensive Care, hurt her back after repeatedly lifting and turning an extremely overweight patient. The inflamed sciatic nerve causes intense pain down her right leg. As I added small, gilt-framed photos of young Sara and Michael, brightly colored balls and candy canes and numerous stuffed Disney characters, Panther eyed the tree with satisfaction. “Are you sure you want all of this stuff on the tree? “ I asked, adding a 4th Sebastian ornament (you know, the crab from the Little Mermaid) “Yes!’ she exclaimed. “That is my favorite one!” This was a phrase I would hear repeated many times as the tree reached and exceeded the ornament saturation point. We had one moment of panic, when she was sure I had left off yet another favorite ornament, ‘Gonga’, apparently some sort of monkey, but eventually she found him and we all heaved a sigh of relief. “Looks good. I don’t think I’ve ever put that many ornaments on this tree before,” Panther said. If she hadn’t already been hurt, I think I would have hit her.
A bit later, John’s daughter Kelly and friend Mandy came over to dine on John’s famous roll-up pancakes (crepes) and homemade chili. Afterwards, we all trooped over to Emmett’s tree farm (in the town of Emmett, Idaho, no less) for the second annual choosing of a Christmas tree for Kelly and roommates. The girls had lots of fun running amongst the trees while the more mature followed more slowly while chatting with Emmett about the varieties of trees he grew and about the finer points of Christmas tree farming. Then we heard a shout “We’ve found it!” The girls had helpfully marked the tree with one of their mittens, and with Emmett’s help, were soon sawing the tree down. Later, John would help the girls cart the tree back to their home in Boise.
The concert was at the Taco Bell Arena at Boise State University. We arrived in more than plenty of time. It seems the performance would be delayed because of the inclement weather. Whether that was for the benefit of the guests of the benefit of the performer, I was never quite sure. The Boise Symphony Orchestra accompanied Michael W Smith, and he played the keyboard like nobody’s business. He had several other outstanding vocalists touring with him: Melinda Doolittle and George Huff, both former American Idol contestants. There were three other backup singers that were never identified, and a musician who seemingly changed his instrument for every song, leaning towards pipes and a modified bagpipe looking and sounding thing. It seemed that the bus had to chain up the tires to arrive from Washington state, and that the vehicle containing costume changes and Cds to sell never did arrive. The performers looked very relaxed in their bluejeans! We had a bit of a time getting Panther back to the car and in end, she and I waited on a sheltered bench while John fetched it. She finally popped one of her prescription pain pills and was feeling pretty good by the time we got home.
Anyway, the drive home was wonderfully uneventful and mostly lacking in wintertime weather driving drama. I listened to “Travels with Charlie” for a while, but am now thoroughly hooked on “Confessions of an Ugly Step Sister,’ the events of Cinderella from another point of view.
Okay, I finished it, proving all you naysayers wrong. I’ll see you later, when you are inclined to offer me an apology.
Well, once again we plunge headlong towards Christmas. I’m not sure why, but most service personnel seem to feel obliged to ask me, before they cash my check, sell me my groceries or take my blood pressure, if I am ready for Christmas. Perhaps this takes the place of the standard non-holiday greeting of “How are you?” or “So, how is your day going?” designed to show a friendly, but not overly personal, interest in the clientele. It makes me faintly grumpy even as I smile and say, “No, I’m a last minute person, and it’s not yet the last minute.” ‘Ready for Christmas,’ I take to mean, shopping completed, Christmas tree up and decorated, and cookies baked and decorated. I’m sure to many folks this is a rather incomplete list, and so it is, even to me, but I won’t be ‘ready for Christmas’ even when it arrives, so what’s the point of nattering on about it?
Now, I am NOT a Christmas humbug, but neither am I one to set up the tree and decorate the house the day after Thanksgiving. At this moment, my artificial tree is still stored in parts in a large plastic box out in the shed, but I hope to resurrect it soon. As soon as I get the living room vacuumed, that is, and get brave enough to trudge all the way through the backyard to the shed in all this snow and cold. For winter seems to finally be here. The snow is pretty, and I know the ski resorts and farmers need it, but winter driving conditions and sub zero temps I could definitely do without. In fact, the timing of this practically first of the season snowstorm almost kept me home last weekend.
Several months ago, my sister, Panther, asked me if I wanted to go to a Michael W Smith Christmas concert with her the weekend of Dec 14th. At first I told her ‘no’, but before I has finished leaving the ‘I really shouldn’t’ voicemail, I had changed my mind and decided it would be a nice reward for finishing up my finals week. I then promptly forgot all about it until she reminded me a couple of weeks ago.
The Saturday morning I planned to leave, I awakened to a world gone white with cold, dry snow. I told myself I should just stay home. Think of all I could get done! I could write the Christmas card family newsletter , bake my signature Christmas sugar cookies and Christmas up the house with tree and lighted village. I spite of all that good intention, what I found myself doing was brushing the snow off my car, packing it up and driving down the road. ‘Myself,’ I said, “lets just drive down the road and see how it really is. If it’s too bad we can always turn back, right?” And while not great, it never got bad enough to turn around, so I spent the weekend with Panther and her husband John.
I arrived in Boise in time to meet them at the Mall. I think that was the most stressful part of the trip, first finding the Mall, second finding a parking spot and third, finding the food court and my erstwhile companions.
That evening, we attended a BUNCO party at Panther’s friend Carla’s house. I was glad we hadn’t eaten dinner ahead of time, as there were so many interesting dishes to try. One of my favorites was a dip consisting of cream cheese, chopped beef, green onion and a dash of some kind of sauce, Worcestershire, perhaps or maybe Tabasco? When it was time for BUNCO, there were four tables of 4 couples, so I guess there were 16 of us playing. It’s a pretty simple game played by rapidly rolling dice in turn and counting score. In the end, Panther won a prize for having the most Buncos. At the end of this event, from what I gathered, was a second annual, we had a white elephant gift exchange. I ended up with a stuffed bear dressed in Harley Davison duds, but at Panther’s request I traded it to her for her plastic, milk-dud pooping reindeer. She kept the ‘extra poop’ (ie bigger box of milk duds). Anyway, I met some nice people, and the whole thing was a lot of fun.
To be continued………………(I’m getting sleepy!)
“No more classes, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks..............”
Yep, Kids, UltraMom took her last final tonight and will be classroom free until the third week of January or so. I actually feel kind of guilty and at loose ends. What am I supposed to be doing, if not reading Anatomy and Physiology? Now that I no longer have to play my recorded Cell Biology lectures in the car, so I indulged by listening to my new ‘in the ears-read”, John Steinbeck’s ‘Travels with Charlie.” It’s about his travels around America in the 1960s with his standard poodle, Charlie, and up to Tape 2, Side 1, is showing great promise. Nephew Billie saw the tape case in my car and gave the book high reviews. And hopefully, it will have a happier ending than his novels do!
So, now I suppose you want a report on how I’m doing in all my classes, right? I thought as much. Well, in Human Growth and Development Through the Lifespan, my grade is complete. I took the last test late on Sunday night. That class in entirely online and I really like the instant feedback. As soon as I ‘submitted’ my completed test, back shot my score: 90%. Checking all my grades, I saw that gave me a 95.6% in the class, so I didn’t need to use my valuable time correcting missed answers for additional half points. I had planned on getting a lot more studying done that weekend, but allowed myself to be talked into various other activities, such as attending a performance of The Nutcracker in Elko with sis in law Pat on Sunday afternoon. That was great fun; the ‘professional’ dancers were from Reno, but a lot of locals were used as well; Pat knew one of the little ‘Peppermint Twists’, so it was fun to watch for her. Afterwards I suggested we stop by Starbucks. I was in a daring mood; it was to be my very first Starbucks experience. I had only recently started drinking the occasional cappuccino, so that was what I ordered. Pat got a caramel latte, which turned out to be the better choice. My drink was half foam, and was not very hot or very good. Quite disappointing on the whole!
Monday I had my last yoga class. I think the teacher in there may be glad to see me go. I am so inflexible, she is always trying to get me to stretch just a little more, and my body just won’t do it without lots of help! Last week, she told us we were going to ‘stand on our heads’. We practiced supporting ourselves on our forearms and getting into the right position against the wall. When it came time to kick up, I couldn’t do it. “Do you want me to help you?” she asked. When I said yes, she came over and picked my legs up, at which point I promptly forgot all about supporting myself on my forearms and not scrunching me neck. In fact, she had to let me down quickly and asked me every 5 minutes for the rest of class if my neck was okay. At one time in my life, this would have been very embarrassing to me, but now it is more humorous, and only slightly embarrassing.
We’ll skip lightly over the next couple of days. Test in A & P on Tuesday night on functions of parts of the brain and the nervous system. I think I did okay, but this Prof is kinda out of it, and likes to give essay tests and grade them inconsistently, so you never know. Test in Cell Bio over 7 chapters Wednesday morning. It was hard, like all of them have been, but I don’t feel like I did horribly, which in a weird sort of way worries me. The first 3 tests I was sure I bombed and ended up doing pretty well. This one I feel kind of good about, so not sure that is a good sign. Too much psychoanalyzing for sure! After that test, I had a Chiropractor appointment. I have a history of knotted shoulder muscles, so I asked him after he worked on me if they were tight. “Tight would a major understatement,” he told me, and then let me know it was probably from hunching over textbooks too much.
Tonight I took my A & P Lab final over the anatomy of the brain and spinal cord. There was a crazy conglomeration of real brains, brain and nerve models, and diagrams with pins and numbers. The diagrams weren’t too bad; I had studied those in my books, but the real brain was horrible. I don’t know why real brains can’t be colored like they are in my lab manual. Why shouldn’t the pons be bright green, the Wernicke Center blue and the medulla oblongata a pleasing orange? My classmate Kathleen and I were the last ones done, and as we turned out tests in, I asked Prof Ports if he could tell me correct answer on some I was unsure of. “Does it make any difference now?” he asked. “Yes it does. I want to learn this, and by the time my test gets returned, I won’t remember how it was set up,” I answered. This seemed to satisfy him, and he left his grading and showed me what I should have written down instead of what I did, in many cases. Oh well, at least I didn’t miss them all!
Okay, it’s very late, but at least I didn’t stay up late studyingJ I’ll let you all know as soon as I have final grades posted.
Now I can focus on Christmas and upcoming trip to Japan!