Love. Listen/Observe/Read. Act. Repeat.

Monday, September 3, 2012

We're Moving.

This is the last blog post for Family Room here on Blogger. We've built a new site for the blog, for "See Sam Run," for my other writings, and soon, I hope, the birthplace of another book for parents of the bravest hearts. The look and navigation are a little cleaner. Please make the leap with us. See you over at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #192

Peggy: The grass is wet and it smells so good out here. It must have been a nice rain.
Sam: Kind of. The sun was shining the whole time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Patron Saint of College Kids

In my faith, if you have a need, we've got a saint for that. I've got one of those little "guardian angels" hanging from the rear view of the pick-up, but I don't take much stock in it. Some would say I need a St. Christopher medal, but I got Sam and me a membership in AAA instead.

If you've lost someone close to you, like we have in the Wolfe house, then you probably carry that person with you like a patron saint from time to time.

The year after Mark died, in my own year of magical thinking, I often talked to birds that came close, in case it was him.

Friends would tell me that they would get visits from their loved one. These were the greatest stories, by the way, friends who could see the loved one in a bedroom mirror after dark, or who would see the loved one next to the bed, and carry on a conversation. I was a little jealous. The birds never talked back to me. Once I thought Mark was trying to visit -- coming down the hall after all the kids had fallen asleep -- but I got so terribly frightened that he never tried again.

Hence the birds.

I digress.

Michael called when I got home from Iowa. He was filled with emotion. He had felt Mark's presence all through the end of high school and through the first years of college. But now, as he is about to start his senior year, Mark has left his side, Michael says.

"He was trying to get me to be the man he wanted me to be," Michael said.

Michael realized the message: he was there, the rest was up to him, it was his life to lead now.

Mark's been gone for nearly five years and he still makes me weak in the knees.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #191

Peggy: So, how was REACH today?
Sam: Good!
Peggy: Did you learn anything new?
Sam: Driving is a privilege.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's 10 o'clock

Michael has moved into his apartment at TCU and Paige is packing. Tomorrow Paige and I hop in the pick-up and drive her back to Iowa for her sophomore year.

Summer ends again, tonight.

I tried not to cry when she started kindergarten. She's my youngest, but for years she had watched her older brothers go off to school. Even though she went to nursery school three mornings a week, she was so ready that day she went to kindergarten. She just bounded out of the car like her brothers and headed confidently to her classroom. She was big. How could I cry?

Sunday morning, we'll move her into a new room, although in the same dormitory as last year. She's out of her living-learning community, but the bonds between her and fellow writers from last year are strong. They are already trying to figure out how they can find a house to share by next year.

She may not even come home next summer. I'm mindful of that. I didn't come home after my freshman year. We're starting to collect things she will need to live in her first home away from home.

She's big.

How can I cry?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #190

Michael (sharing all the news with the grandparents, via Skype): Sam's going bald.
Sam: Yes, Mom, it's wise that you named me after Grandpa.
Peggy: [face palm]

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #189

Paige (shouting across the garden): Were you calling for me? I'm sorry. I had my headphones on.
Peggy: No. (pauses) I was sawing, though.
Paige: Yeah. Same sound.

Like food, but not a food writer

My friend, RunnerSusan, brought me sweet corn all the way from Indiana and that got me hankering for Yankee summer food.

Brats on the grill. Roast corn. Strawberry pie.

You know, up north, where summer is this quiet, balmy time that you can linger outside all day under a tree and hold a grass blade between your thumbs and call to the birds -- not spend a month hiding in dark room with the air conditioning running while Ercot pumps so much juice through the grid that it sparks down the line and sets whole counties on fire.

I digress.

Here's a recipe that accompanied a story I wrote about berry picking for Texas Highways magazine that ran May 2007. The editors asked for it, and despite my admonitions that while I liked food, and cooked food, and grew food, I was not a food writer.

They pushed me just a little beyond my comfort zone by insisting the story just wouldn't work without some kind of berry recipe. So I dug this little gem out of my recipe box -- where all the family heirloom recipes have been stashed, except I remember my mother trying this one for the first time when I was a teenager. (Click to enlarge)

It'll become an heirloom when my kids make it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #188

Peggy: What is with all these crazy girls?
Michael: They're not all crazy. But the ones that are are all kinds of crazy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #187

Paige: So am I making dinner tonight?
Peggy: Oh, could you? That would be great.
Sam: I know what that means ....
Peggy: Yep, Korean food!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #186

Paige (emerging from bedroom): Is he wailing?
[Sam (upstairs): Kitty! Oh, no!]
Peggy: Yes, I've been listening. I think I hear him laughing. (shouting upstairs) Sam, what's going on?
Sam (shouting downstairs): The cat is drinking from my toilet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On writing, on reading and The Mayborn

People often ask artists who has influenced their work -- musicians, painters, sculptors, filmmakers, writers. It's a tough question to escape. I've asked it, but not too often, because I've found that many good artists don't seem keen on bringing that kind of consciousness to their work.

I write intuitively, too. I try to edit consciously. And editing often seems to be slightly under the influence of whomever I'm reading at the time.

(Except Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and Joan Didion. They are always there.)

This year, Paige has left behind collections from University of Iowa students. Home of Iowa Writers Workshop, there comes from Iowa always something fresh, and often ever-so-slightly unworkable in those pages. I enjoy them. And my friend, RunnerSusan, has loaned me a dozen of her favorite works of fiction that have taken me down unexpected paths.

I took a break from reading the authors scheduled for this weekend's Mayborn conference to pour over essays for a writer's workshop. My essay, Carrion (see the pages on the left), has been accepted to the workshop, so I am reading the work of others who will be sequestered with me and our workshop leader. More new voices and ideas.

Like a book club, only on steroids, it's the eighth Mayborn writer's conference this weekend. It doesn't seem that long ago that I threw the manuscript for "See Sam Run" into the workshop to see what would happen. There won't be anything on that scale for me this weekend, but it will be for someone, and there is all that other talk of writing and reading and writing that is so inspiring to us all. I can't wait to see what this weekend will bring.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #185

Peggy (obnoxiously checking voice mail on speaker at the dinner table): Hmmm.
Paige (listening in): Well, way to go Mom. You got a call from a famous person.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Caramel Popcorn

I cannot believe I have not shared this recipe earlier, at least before I shared Parmesean Rosemary Popcorn.

When I was a teenager, I tried to make caramel popcorn by making the caramel recipe in Joy of Cooking and pouring it over the popcorn. We always had to eat it fast, because by morning, the brown sugar returned. Instead of caramel-coated kernels, they would be more like brown-sugar dusted.

When Michael and Paige were in nursery school (we were members of Cornerstone, a longstanding parent coop nursery school in Denton), one of the mothers brought homemade caramel popcorn to a school Halloween party.

It was incredible. I asked her what the secret was, and she said that after she made the caramel, she roasted it for an hour. Here's my version of her recipe:

Caramel Corn

3/4 to 1 cup popcorn, popped (about 10 cups)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt

Prepare a large bowl and a large cookie sheet by spraying with cooking oil. Pour the popped popcorn in the bowl.

Combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium hit heat. Once the mixture is bubbling, do not stir, but wash down any crystals that stick to the side of the pan with a brush dipped in water. When you see a couple of wisps of smoke coming up from the caramel (after about 3-5 minutes of gentle boiling), immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir well to coat. Pour the coated kernels onto the cookie sheet and roast at 225 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Melon Pops

I hauled off a 10-pound watermelon from the farmer's market last week. We ate some straight, the seed-spitting way. We made salad. We made granita. I couldn't find the melon pop recipe. I thought I'd lifted it from epicurious or Martha Stewart websites, but I couldn't re-trace my steps.

I remembered that Sam really liked them and when that happens, I usually write it down. Found it in the recipe box last night.

Cantalope, honeydew, watermelon. Any melon will do.

Melon Pops
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup lime juice (or lemon if you think it goes better with the melon you're using)
1 melon, cut up (about 6 cups of chunks)
Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and boil to make a simple syrup. Cool. Puree half the melon chunks with half the lime juice. Then add the rest of the lime juice, melon and syrup and finish puree. Pour into molds and freeze.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ok, I'm just going to come out and say it ...

When I wrote See Sam Run, I was filled with gratitude, and no small measure of awe, for the teachers and administrators of Argyle schools. It took a team to get Sam to high school graduation and we passed out nearly 250 "Team Sam" buttons to all those people who made it happen.

It started with Gaye Pittman, principal of Argyle Elementary, who turned off the school bells because they bothered Sam. She bought everyone time to figure out another way for him to get past his fixation on when the bell would ring.

What a heart they all had!

Now, again, our district is in the national news. Last time it was for that manufactured outrage over immodest prom dresses and dirty dancing. That was the class legacy my youngest took with her to an out-of-state college.

Yes, really.

This time it's because, as far as I can tell from reading news reports --

News9 new results for Denton
Texas mom accused of placing camera in locker room
Bradenton Herald
A North Texas middle school principal is accused of placing a hidden video camera in a locker room during her daughter's high school basketball game to see how much the coach yelled at the players.
See all stories on this topic »
Wendee Long, Middle School Principal, Accused Of Hiding Camera In Girls ...
Huffington Post
DENTON, Texas -- A North Texas middle school principal is accused of placing a hidden video camera in a locker room during her daughter's high school basketball game to see how much the coach yelled at the players. Wendee Long, 46, was indicted by a ...
See all stories on this topic »
Texas principal accused of secret locker room video of coach
Wendee Long, 46, principal of the Wayside Middle School in Fort Worth, was indicted last week by a Denton County grand jury. She posted $25000 bail and has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ...
See all stories on this topic »

Firefighters battle heat, house fire in Denton
Lexington Dispatch
DENTON | Firefighters with the Denton Volunteer Fire Department battled a house fire and temperatures in the mid-90s at a home on East Carroll Avenue on Thursday afternoon.
See all stories on this topic »
Mission Denton: Making Disciples
Dallas Baptist Standard
The Baptist Standard :: The Newsmagazine of Texas Baptists, Amber Gonzales--My first impressions of Mission Denton were not what I had imagined. It actually turned out to be much more intensive than I had originally thought—which is great!
See all stories on this topic »
Texas Principal Accused of Planting Camera in Locker Room
ABC News (blog)
If convicted, she could face a $25000 fine or 20 years in prison. Long was released Tuesday on a $25000 bond, according to ABC affiliate WFAA-TV. “The intent is to invade someone's privacy,” Denton County Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck said.
See all stories on this topic »

ABC News (blog)
Word perfect
Denton Record Chronicle
Music Theatre of Denton packed houses for its last show, the cheeky Avenue Q. The local music theater company could have chosen to put on the brakes for the next production. But instead, the company stayed in the same gear — irreverent comedy that ...
See all stories on this topic »

Denton Record Chronicle
Texas principal on leave in locker-room recording case
The principal of a middle school in Fort Worth was put on administrative leave after telling her supervisors that she may face charges in Denton County in a case involving a video recorded in a girls locker room, a district spokeswoman said this week.
See all stories on this topic »

-- what another reporter once asked about Argyle ISD, really needs to be asked. One of those truths that's hard to see from the inside, but plain as a termite swarm on the outside.

(By the way, just because I work in a newsroom doesn't mean I know more than what anyone else knows.  On many occasions, I've felt, as a journalist, to be the last to know. Newsmakers know that once a journalist finds out, everyone who reads a paper is going to know. I'm not talking about Long's guilt or innocence. That will be sorted out soon enough.)

Here is the question.

What is it about Argyle ISD that makes the adults eat their young?

Monday, July 2, 2012


A friend brought a jar of honey by today. Making a batch of Puffs-o-honey had been on my to-do list ever since we left Trader Joe's two weekends ago loaded with all kinds of items for the pantry, including four bags of puffed grains.

I would have bought Puffs n'Honey if they'd had it. It's made by the Bread Shop, but I don't know any retailers that carry it here.

It's hard to get even mainstream items. I asked Albertsons off and on for years to get Grape Nuts Flakes. The store manager said he would get requests for it from time to time (probably all mine, he just wasn't remembering) and he was having a hard time getting it. I about fell over when I saw it on the shelves for the first time two months ago. Also because it was $5.19 for a box.

Puffs n'Honey was one of Sam's favorite cereals as a child. When I couldn't get it here, I experimented with adapting granola recipes to make it. He was almost giddy watching me put a batch together tonight.

"Doesn't it give you memories of California, Mom?" he asked.

Yes, with Trader Joe's, the local farmer's market and my own garden, it's only taken 20 years to get back the kind of cooking we could do back in Sacramento.

So, here it is. Plain, the way Sam likes it, but vary it by adding spices you like -- a couple teaspoons of cinnamon or cardamom, for example. Arrowhead Mills makes good puffed cereals.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In large bowl, combine one bag each of (unsweetened) puffed wheat, puffed rice, puffed corn and puffed millet.

Combine in saucepan, then bring to a simmer:
12-ounce can of apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup canola oil
3/8 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey

Cool slightly, then pour over cereal and toss to coat.

Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool and store.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #184

Peggy (after nearly bumping into Sam hustling through the kitchen to the laundry room): Uh, pardon me.
Sam: I'm not pie. I'm a man on a mission.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Writing Prompt #17

The final entry in Sam's summer school journal:

I feel usually excited before I go camping. I can roast marshmallows, stick them on a chocolate on a Graham Cracker, put the other Graham Cracker on top of it, and then eat it. -- July 24, 2002

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writing Prompt #16, secret to coolness

The penultimate entry in Sam's summer school journal:

If I could change my name, I would change it to Donald Duck because of my middle name and it sounds very cool. Donald Duck turns out to be a cartoon, but he is erasable! -- July 22, 2002

From "How to Draw Guide," learn to draw Donald Duck

Friday, June 29, 2012

Writing Prompt #15

From Sam's summer school journal, proving metaphorical questions do not have to be answered metaphorically.

I would rather be a passenger on the plane because I look rather young to be the pilot. -- July 19, 2002

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Writing Prompt #14

From Sam's summer school journal, previously unknown occupational aspirations:

It would be a lot of fun to work at the zoo. The best part of the job is that I would keep the endangered species away from everyone. I would also feed all the animals from outside of their space. -- July 28, 2002

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writing Prompt #13

From Sam's summer school journal -- problem-solving that need for another big plate of red ants:

I would find an orange because it tastes probably good for ants. Perhaps roast beef, ants would probably love to eat meat. Or even bacon, bacon would appear very sweet to humans, but very good to ants. -- July 17, 2002

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #183

Peggy (talking via Skype): There's a turkey hen living on our land.
Grandma: Oh, I saw a documentary about turkeys recently. It was called, "My Life as a Turkey."
Michael: Was that about George W. Bush?

Overheard in the Wolfe House #182

Grandma (updating us on all the news via Skype): The neighbor is getting new siding, so that's going to be cool and fun to watch.
Sam: Well, we aren't going to be able to do that. Mom can't afford to buy plane tickets.

Writing Prompt #12

From Sam' summer school journal:

I would rather eat a tomato because it is a fruit and I love fruit. Also a tomato can be very sweet. My family has been eating tomatoes and they told me they taste good. -- July 15, 2002

(Note for June 26, 2012. Sam eats things with tomato sauce, and ketchup is one of his top three favorite condiments. But he has yet to try a tomato.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing Prompt #10 and #11

These entries from Sam's summer school journal seem about right for our first 100-degree day of the summer:

I would use sunscreen or sun tan lotion. If I didn't have any of that, I could wear a hat or stay in the shade. -- July 10, 2002

My favorite ways to cool down is to drink plenty of cold water or stay in my air-conditioned house. I could swim in a swimming pool. -- July 12, 2002

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Writing Prompt #9

I asked Sam if he could remember what the prompt was for this entry in his summer school journal. He couldn't. I've read this before and I still can't even come up with a guess what the kids were shown and asked to write about. Here it is:

I would have a sign that says "do not eat" or "I don't taste very good." I could even have it say "I am made of fake meat and bread." Probably would say, "Too late, I am rotten." It would even say "Frozen rock solid." -- July 8, 2002

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Writing Prompt #8

From Sam's summer school journal:

One of my wishes would be that I could have a teleportation to relatives in other states. I would also wish for a counter-curse and even a half-life. -- June 27, 2002

Friday, June 22, 2012

Writing Prompt #7, or Explaining Frisbees on Mars

From Sam's summer school journal:

If I threw a frisbee into the air and it kept going up until I could no longer see it, it probably went into outer space and might've landed on Mars. -- June 26, 2002

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Writing Prompt #6

From Sam's summer school journal:

A way bears and people are alike is that they are both warm-blooded. Another way they are alike is that they both eat and sleep. They also stay with a family and are related.  -- June 24, 2002

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Writing Prompt #5, apropos today's summer solstice

From Sam's summer school journal:

In the summertime, there is hardly any rain. In the summer, I can swim. In the evening, after dinner, there's still daylight, but in the winter, it is dark. I also can go on summer vacation and even work with my mother and father and mow lawns.  -- June 21, 2002

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writing Prompt #3 and #4

From Sam's summer school journal:

My favorite fruit would be apples and bananas. My favorite vegetables are carrots. I would have the advertisement to buy a red, juicy apple. Try to find this in an ad which will be shown in a T.V. commercial. -- June 17, 2002

I would ask Garfield what he likes to do or why he's mean to Odie. If I were a cat, I would go "Meeeeeeyowwwww" all day long to drive people berserk. Cats don't even have to do homework, they like to sleep all day. -- June 19, 2002

Cookies 'n Cream recipe for Texas expats

I really missed Blue Bell Cookies 'n Cream when we were living in California. Once, on a drive back from a visit to Texas, Mark tried to figure out where the last stop in order to bring back two half gallon cartons. He didn't want to risk not finding it in Amarillo, so he picked it up before then and packed it in ice. 

What a wonderful surprise! He was bummed that it had nearly melted by the time he got to Sacramento, but I didn't care. I refroze it in our little ice cream maker and, other than not have the satisfying crunch of a cookie in the middle of a smooth ice cream bite, it tasted wonderful. 

Blue Bell is still just in 20 states, mostly southern. But now that Trader Joe's has opened in Fort Worth, I'd almost think the world was righting itself. But then, Mark would have to be here, too. 

God, I miss him still. 

Here's a cookies 'n' cream recipe we'd make in California. I still make it here from time to time, like I will later tonight, since I was able to pick up some Newman O's on sale. (Note: this recipe calls for raw eggs. Know your source. Also, if you use the little Cuisinart freezer, you'll need to cut this recipe in half.)

Mark and Peggy's Original Cookies N' Cream

4 eggs, beaten
2 1/4 cup sugar
5 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 T. vanilla 
1/2 tsp. salt
One-pound bag of chocolate sandwich cookies

Crumble the cookies in bits and put in freezer to chill. Add sugar to eggs and beat until stiff. Stir in milk, cream, salt and vanilla. Freeze mix according to manufacturer's directions.

About 3-4 minutes before its finished freezing, drop in the cookie bits a little at a time. The dasher should push them evenly throughout, but if it doesn't, stir it by hand a little. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writing Prompt #2, or why Texans love Blue Bell Ice Cream.

Sam opened his journal, which I'm now realizing must have been for summer school his freshman year, not high school English, given the date, by describing himself.

"My name is Samuel Donald Wolfe. I am 14 years old. So far my hobbies turn up to be games. I happen to like apples and bananas. My brother is 11 years old. My sister is 8 years old. My mother is 41 years old. She now works in Gainesville. My father is 45 years old He mows lawns, plays the tuba in concerts, and teaches in Arlington. I now have three dogs. I have two black dogs and one brown one."

Not sure why he has me working in Gainesville. I never did.

Below is the result of his second writing prompt:

My favorite ice cream is Vanilla, Peppermint, White Chocolate Almond, Orange and Strawberry Sherbet with Starburst pieces. There will probably be a new flavor ice cream. I would try to invent grape ice cream or blackberry ice cream. -- June 12, 2002

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Writing prompts

I am cleaning out a closet this week. I kid myself. This closet will take more than a week to comb through. It is full of material meant to be the foundation for future writings.

I stumbled across some of Sam's things I kept, just in case there was another book to follow See Sam Run. In high school English, Sam had writing prompts, too. I will be rolling these out over the next days and weeks.

As it customary with Sam's writing, no editing is required.

If I were a cow, I would wake up before sun up. I would also take a day off to get fed. My favorite dairy product is, of course, fresh milk. I would also have Parmesan cheese as a second favorite dairy product. If I were a cow, I wouldn't have to worry about homework.  - June 11, 2002

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Where running meets writing

It used to be that I ran with RunnerSusan
It was easy. We were neighbors. Not in the Yankee way, (which we both are, by the way), living next door or across the street from each other, but in the Texas way, where we could be like the two trains in a story problem with 4th grade math. If two runners leave the house at the same time, and one heads west on Frenchtown Road and the other heads east, where and what time will they meet?
And then we'd keep running for an hour.
She moved to a new place, with a peach tree and a patio. It would take more than an hour to meet, so now I  race alone.
It's ok.
One day soon, we'll figure out how to start the way we started last summer, trail running. Trail running is the best, anyways. If we get going good enough, we might race together this fall, through trails in the woods in East Texas, or up around Lake Ray Roberts.
I'd love to run the Palo Duro Canyon race in October, but a professional conference sneaked onto the calendar that weekend.
Maybe next year.
By the way, fellow Mayborn School of Journalism pals Valerie Gordon Garcia and Sarah Perry joined team-in-training.
We care about blood cancers in the Wolfe house.
A good friend is living with it.
And so is my dad.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #181

Peggy: Hey, Sam, why don't you help out here and dry some silverware? I don't have room for one more piece in the rack.
Sam: Ok.
(sometime later) I don't have to do all. I can just do enough that you have more room.
Peggy: Well, that's true. But if you want to do the minimum, then just dry the big cooking and serving spoons. You'll be done after just two or three pieces, then.
Sam: I'm afraid I'm just picking random pieces of silverware.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #180

Peggy: (whistling Orinoco Flow)
Sam (in a stage whisper): Oh, mom whistles off-key.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #179

Sam (after an upsetting morning): And don't put that as an Overheard.
Peggy: I won't.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Horse bling

Sam isn't a belt-buckle-wearing kind of guy. When he'd come home from Chisholm Challenge with another trophy buckle, usually from being the best in English equitation, we'd look at it lovingly for a minute. The organizers of Chisholm Challenge order the trophy buckles each year from the silversmith in Placerville, Calif. That was always fun to see, too. I knew the shop since I worked for the El Dorado Arts Council for three years, back when Sam was an infant and toddler. 
But then, we'd just put the buckle back in the velveteen box and shove it in the dining room cabinet. (Lots of room in there. We don't have many fancy dishes.) After a few years, I felt bad. He worked hard for those buckles and he didn't get one every year for every event. (Unlike Special Olympics medals, but I digress.) 
I figured it was time for a display. I asked Dad, and the next time we were talking on Skype, he showed me what he'd built. I brought it home two weeks ago and showed it to Sam. 
He's not really a belt-buckle-arranging kind of guy, either. I pulled them out of the box, marveled at the craftsmanship and then arranged them. 
I hope he's a belt-buckle-noticing kind of guy. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #179

Sam: Oh, Gus! You're in the office now? I can't stand it if you're gonna stink up the office now!
Paige: (from the other room) Then wash him!
Sam: I can't do that. It doesn't make sense to wash him when he's cutting the cheese.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Okra pickles

If rhubarb is Northern, okra is Southern. Especially okra pickles. I like cooking on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

This recipe comes from an old Martha Stewart Living show, and my instructions assume you know canning basics. If you don't, read more about here. Here's a hint from a mistake I made one year falling for that everything-is-big-in-Texas way. Don't use elephant garlic. It turns blue in the pickling salts.

Pickled Okra
2 lbs. tender okra
1 quart white vinegar
6 T. kosher salt
16 garlic cloves, peeled
8 red jalapeƱos, (opt.)
8 fresh dill heads
1/2 c. yellow mustard seeds

Wash okra and trim stems, leaving caps.

Prepare 8 canning jars and lids in boiling water bath, according to manufacturer's instructions. Meanwhile, bring vinegar and salt to a boil with 3 cups of water.

Pull jars from water bath, drop in dill head, jalapeƱo, a pair of garlic cloves and 1 T. mustard seeds to each jar. Pack okra in tightly, pour over hot liquid, making sure okra is covered and there is about 1/2-inch head space at the top of the jar. Release any bubbles with a clean wooden skewer.

Wipe rims, screw on tops, and process for 10 minutes. Cool for 24 hours before storing. Let mellow for two months before opening. Keep refrigerated after opening.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble

This is based on a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook, the first edition (2004) of which I scored on Amazon for $12 because of some kind of production error that made the headings unreadable for people with certain kinds of vision impairments. I hope I never develop that impairment as I age. I adore this cookbook.

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and halved
1 lb. rhubarb, sliced 1/2-inch thick chunks
1 c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1 T. lime juice
1/8 tsp. salt

1 1/4 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. salt
12 T. unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Stir the filling ingredients in a large bowl and then pour into a 13-inch baking dish. (I use my lasagna pan.) Stir all the topping ingredients, except the butter in another bowl and then crumble in the butter with your fingers. Spread it evenly over the top, bake for 45-50 minutes until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #178

Peggy: I hear that lots of girls wanted to dance with you after Special O.
Sam (grinning): Yes. There weren't a lot of leader-follower dances.
Peggy: Oh, you mean things like the Macarena ... and the chicken dance, and YMCA.
Sam: Yes. With leader-follower you can dance with a partner.
Peggy: Like the two-step?
Sam: Two is best for two-step.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #177

Peggy (putting trivet back for a pan of kolaches due to come out of the oven in two minutes): I'm sorry. You need that. It's just that I've been cleaning for 40 years, so I kind of go into auto-pilot.
Sam: Mom, you need to know that once you go into auto-pilot, you can't come back to Earth.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #176

Peggy: How come you're so handsome?
Sam: I don't know. I don't want to look bad.

Mile-marker 700

Ran 5 miles this morning and that took me past 700 miles. That's a nice round number.

I wanted to celebrate the blog sailing past 10,000 visits, too, but that nice, round number was busted by cyber-stalkers and their mega-downloads. Total buzz kill.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #175

Sam: I don't know what grass it is that gives me allergies, but it survived the drought.
Peggy: Yes, it did.
Sam: It just waited for the rain and [claps hands together]. Like a logic bomb.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #174

Peggy: I saw the cat playing with what I thought was a worm this morning, and then it started moving its thousand legs and I realized it was a centipede. Or a millipede.
Sam: Oh, wow.
Peggy: It took about five hits with the fly swatter to kill it.
Sam: Why did you kill it?
(long, long pause)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Talk to yourself and grow your brain

I have overheard my children talking to themselves over the years. This is a habit I don't have. Where I grew up, that was a sign someone had the crazies. But raising Sam taught me not to judge. He got the talk-to-yourself ball rolling for the younger generation around here. I asked Michael once recently, what did he think of all this talking to oneself. He was cool with it.

Apparently, so are the scientists.

Monday, April 23, 2012

RunnerSusan's Awesome Photos, Ken-Burns-ized

After taking gold

Left to right, Bonanza, Sam and me. Photo taken by Susan Harrell Knoll. Sam just took gold in Class A English equitation. The man rides like someone who grew up on the back of a horse. Maybe he can take it down a notch and try out for the regular Olympics now.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #173

Sam: What about that leftover barbecue shrimp you made?
Peggy: I finished that for lunch today.
Sam: Oh. You need to make some more.
Peggy: I can do that.
Sam: I only had one.

Regional Equestrian Special Olympics I


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemade Nutella

2/3 cup hazelnuts
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 T. honey

Toast hazelnuts on a cookie sheet at 400 about 15 minutes. Skins will be very dark. Immediately wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub the skins off. Put the hot hazelnuts in the food processor and process until liquefied (about 5 minutes). Combined the sweet milk, chocolate chips and honey in a bowl and microwave one minute, stir, and return for 30 seconds at a time until the chips are melted. Stir into hazelnut butter and process until very smooth, 3-5 minutes. Pour into glass jar with a tight lid and store in refrigerator.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #172

Peggy: Paige said Pottermore is really good. It looks a little like Cosmic Osmo.
Sam (smiling from ear to ear): Yes.
Peggy: Or is it better?
Sam (eyes still glued to computer screen): Much better.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #171

Peggy: How's the tractor running?
Sam: Good. I killed it a few times.
Peggy: Oh, yeah. So how is the grass? Is it the thickest you've ever seen?
Sam: Darn near. (pauses) I've never have seen grass like that before.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Position of trust

Emails have been flying for the past week from Riding Unlimited, although I have yet to see anything official from the board of directors. All we know in the Wolfe house is that two people who have been a part of Sam's extended family for more than a decade are suddenly gone. And just two weeks before RU is to host regional Special Olympics, we hear rumors of a "new direction."

Sam is upset that a place that is as important to him as his home, his school and his church now appears to be in jeopardy. Thank goodness he's a level-headed bloke and he's not making any big moves just yet.

I have this much to say for now. Nonprofit boards often go through periods of weakness, and so the staff and volunteers get strong, or the entity folds. It's when boards try to right themselves that things get truly dangerous.

They forget what sustained them in the down time.

And then they do the one thing they shouldn't. They bite the hands that kept them alive.

How did they get through a down time? It wasn't money. Nonprofits never have enough money. Ever. Get used to it.

What sustains them is passion and caring and a sense of community.

What sustains them is people.

The things we value most in life have seemed, to me, to also be incredibly fragile. Few people are wise enough to be responsible for those fragile things.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love Letter to Caleb

Our family has been touched again by tragedy.

My cousin Caleb's mother left his dad, my uncle, when Caleb was very young. We had to wait until Caleb was grown to see him. We are so grateful he wanted to know us, because to know him was to see and know aloha's true meaning.

Below is the titular essay of this blog, where you can know a little of Caleb, too.

Family Room

Chris painted a Mardi Gras mural in the family room downstairs after Karen and Greg moved into their Loveland house. In it, a girl sashays to the music, her necklace swinging to the beat. Light shines from party rooms down the street. Up close, the corner bricks feel real. For a time, Greg’s first anniversary present to Karen, a painting, hung in the family room, too. For a first anniversary -- for “paper” -- that’s a beautiful idea. Their family room seemed a good place for a golden anniversary party. Come and go. Say hello. Sit outside if you want. Escape to a quiet room, if you need.
Friends came. In-laws and exes came. Family came from next door and far away, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. Even though Don and Carol were the guests of honor, Phil found the easy chair. They wore tunics, silk dresses, crisp shirts and sport coats, jeans and t-shirts. Greg changed his clothes. Outside the family room, in the back yard, Bill took pictures of every permutation. Cousins, siblings, daughters, nieces, grandkids. Bench, stairs, trees, grasses, sky, clouds. Peggy and Chris took off their fancy shoes and went barefoot like Caleb after that. Greg changed his clothes again.
Karen put a big bowl of M&Ms in front of the big screen TV. She was in charge of the caterers, who brought teriyaki chicken on sticks, Swedish meatballs in white gravy, and spicy tortilla rolls with bean dip. They put extras in the oven and refrigerator, which we forgot for a while. Chris was in charge of the frosty orange punch made of ginger ale, juice and sherbet, but Peggy broke the punch ladle. Andrew was in charge of two cakes -- one of three towering tiers, wrapped in blue ribbon, glazed with red raspberries, bordered with delicate dots, and topped with flowers; another made with crunchy carrots and nuts. Perry was in charge of the wine. He laughed when Greg put foam tops on the Guinness Stout.
Don said there were more guests and less time to visit than he expected. One friend came with his wife. After saying hello, they made themselves comfortable in the family room, visiting with other guests. When it was time to go, they teased the happy couple, “Thanks for the conversation.”
Jeremy played the ukulele. When there were too many people in the family room, he and Caleb took two carloads to the go-cart track. Although they knew how to get there, no one seemed to know where they were, except that Michael said they saw an eagle there. Janelle giggled when someone said Helen took too many pictures while she drove her go-cart, and Sharon caused a pile-up.
On the TV, behind the bowl of M&Ms, Teresa showed a music video she made using photos showing the early years; November 7, 1959; all the girls; travels; and the grandkids. Upstairs, Karen had filled a wall with ten of those photos.
After that, Don and Carol lit the anniversary candle and cut the cake. Some people ate cake with a spoon when the forks ran out. Then, Peggy and Karen and Greg scavenged for forks, washing them to reuse them, at least, until the carrot cake was all gone.
Guests asked again to watch the movie starring Don and Carol, with supporting characters Peg, Chris, Karen, Teresa, Mark, Matt, Greg, Perry, and . . . Ron, Sam, Michael, Paige, Carter, Matthew, Brandon, and Mandy.
By twilight, friends had gone, taking a shortbread cookie, frosted a blue 50th on white, for a party favor. Kyra and Sara had already taken many shortbread cookies, since they were at the right height for small arms and hands.
After a futile search of the family room, and the rest of the house, for the lost remote, Carter and Tammy and others played “Catch Phrase” instead of “Scene It.” Hot potato meets Taboo. Tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick. BUZZ.
Then Carol made a small circle of chairs near Edith, announcing she would open cards, some of which came with gifts or $50 bills because a few guests simply refused to follow instructions.
As the caterers came to collect their satiny blue tablecloths, platters and serving trays, everyone helped clean the family room. Greg was in charge of the trash. While everyone else was busy in the family room, Matt decorated Don and Carol’s Grand Caravan with window paint.
“Just married -- 50 years ago.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #170

Sam: Now that I'm an adult, sometimes disability services go bankrupt.
Peggy: I had not thought of that before but you are right.
Sam: That means I'm on my own.

Friday, April 6, 2012

If you gave up chocolate for Lent ...

Here is a great way to savor the return.

Big Chocolate Blobs

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 oz. semisweet chocolate
3 oz. unsalted butter
1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso
2 tsp. vanilla
6 oz. chocolate chunks
4 oz. walnuts
4 oz. pecans

Prepare cookie sheets with parchment. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave, stir and let cool slightly. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla at high sped then switch to low speed and mix in chocolate, and then flour mixture, just til blended. Stir in chocolate chunks and nuts.

Using a cookie scoop, drop about 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie, about nine per pan.

Bake for 16 to 17 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and remove the cookies after fully cooled.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #169

Peggy: That's a brand-new baby over there. Do you want to go see?
Sam: I'm not going anywhere near that baby. (pauses) I'll just scare it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Random Thoughts from the Grassland Half

There are people who can run 37 more miles than you and still get to the finish line before you do. The last mile is longer than the first four. Stay far ahead of the guy whose t-shirt says "Pappa Joe." The LBJ Grasslands are not flat -- as in, climb every mountain; ford every stream. Don't run up a hill unless you can see the top. Trail runners will tell you "good job" even when you're walking. Compressors are just as loud on the prairie as they are next to your house. The Grasslands are also flammable. Don't get between a mamma cow and her calf. Try not to think about all the wild hog tracks you are following. You learned the best survival lessons in kindergarten: carry jelly beans and eat the peanut butter crackers at the aid station.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #168

Sam: I'm reading about an OS that can run your lights and ceiling fans and other household appliances and stuff.
Peggy: You mean, like 'The Clapper'?
Sam: What's a clapper?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Disappearing stairs and the washing machine

When I was a little girl, I had a recurring nightmare that always began in the basement of our townhouse (We lived in Milwaukee. Townhouses had basements.)

My mother would be sorting laundry and putting on another load, and I would be playing nearby. Then, I would become preoccupied and not notice that my mother was done and heading back up the stairs.

Now, in the rules in my dreams, I'm supposed to go up the stairs first, with my mother behind me. Because if I didn't, then the stairs would disappear underneath my feet and I wouldn't be able to get safely back up.

Stuck in the basement, I would have to deal with the washing machine, which would stop being an inanimate object and become a monster. That's usually when I would wake my 8-year-old self up and try to dream about something else when I fell back asleep. Usually, it worked.

As I grew up, I learned to fly above disappearing stairs in my dreams. That felt kind of cool. Then no matter when stairs showed up in my dreams, I was always flying over them, grounding myself at the last minute, before I "fell."

Sometimes, when you're little, I think you have a better handle on the world than you do as you age.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waiting for the cable guy

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of calling Tom "Smitty" Smith for a story I was working on. He's with the Texas office of Public Citizen and I always learn something when I talk to him.

He wasn't in the office. He was at home, waiting for the cable guy. It had been a long wait, and we laughed about how it's always that way. I shared the little known fact that the actor (Daniel Whitney) created his Larry The Cable Guy by calling into radio shows.

Sam is a huge fan of Larry the Cable Guy, though not from his stand-up or his movies, but as Mater in Cars and Cars 2. During his sophomore year, he wanted to do his final paper for a film history class on Larry the Cable Guy. His humanities professor was reluctant, I could tell. He said his subject had to have made at least three movies. Lucky for Sam, Witless Protection was coming out. I showed him the IMDB web site, and he found some older movies, one of which was at the library, so he was in business.

Sam really went after that paper. He researched the actor's biography and the nature of comedy. His critical thinking grew in the course of researching and writing that paper.

I'd learned long ago that when Sam is motivated about a topic, he will learn as well or better than any other student doing the same work in a more traditional way.

His analysis of the actor and his work almost had me respecting the guy for his talents. And then I remembered all the fart jokes.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #167

Sam: (after describing overhearing a co-worker tell a manager he wouldn't be able to work the next day) ... and I wanted to tell you that I might be working tonight, because I'm getting better at seeing context around me.
Peggy: That is awesome.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #166

Sam: Do you know about the website,
Peggy: Yes, I do.
Sam: You do?
Peggy: That's FEMA's site to help you prepare for emergencies. They learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that people aren't prepared. They have some really basic ways you can always be prepared for an emergency.
Sam: Do you know that there are no less than 80 different messages in the emergency notification system?
Peggy: (face palm)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Resource Fair tomorrow

I went to this fair last year. It's huge. If it exists, you will find it here.

SEPTSA's 5th Annual Special Needs Resource Fair
Saturday March 3rd, 2012 - 10 am to 2 pm
Where: Bolin Administrative Center, 1565 West Main Street, Lewisville, 75067
Map here


Thank you to our Media Sponsor,
...for helping us spread the word and reach more families!

Exhibitor Reservation Information and Registration here
Download a flyer to print or share here!

If you have questions, contact Jeannette Robichaux at (972) 310-2922

Families from LISD as well as surrounding communities are invited to attend. There will be exhibitors relating to all ages and abilities, and everyone is welcome. We are inviting various recreation providers, therapists, summer camps, lawyers, financial planners, and professionals that serve the Special Needs community to come share their information with students and families, as well as educators.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #165

Peggy: Everybody makes mistakes, Sam. I made a $400 one when I dropped my phone. I'll never make that mistake again (shaking the Otter Box).
Sam: Yeah, my mistake wasn't so bad. It only cost $3.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #164

Sam: I'll call the dentist tomorrow and schedule an appointment for Thursday.
Peggy: I don't know if they can get you in for a check-up that fast.
Sam: Maybe it's like the doctor's office.
Peggy: What do you mean?
Sam: You have to schedule your check-up a year in advance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Parmesan-Rosemary Popcorn

I visited St. Louis for a conference last week and had some great popcorn for a healthy snack. I did my best to replicate it at home. Parmesan is one of Sam's favorite things. When I told him I would be making this, he said, "That sounds good. But I didn't think you liked Parmesan that much."

Parmesan-Rosemary Popcorn

2-3 T. corn oil
3/4 c. unpopped popcorn
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. rosemary, ground fine in a mortar and pestle
1/3 c. grated parmesan
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

In a prep bowl, combine the rosemary, parmesan, salt and pepper, cover the bowl and shake well for even distribution.

Heat corn oil over high heat in a large, light weight fry pan -- covered -- with three kernels of popcorn. When the three kernels have popped, add all the rest of the popcorn at once and shake until all kernels have popped. Usually, that's after two to three seconds go by between pops.

If you can release some of the steam by slightly lifting the lid while the popping is going on, without sending kernels all over the kitchen, do it, because this makes the most tender kernels possible.

Pour out into a wide bowl and drizzle the olive oil over all, tossing well to coat. Then sprinkle the cheese mixture over all and toss well to coat.

Eat immediately, but once cooled can be stored in a tightly covered container for a day or two before its too stale and you just have to feed it to the chickens.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Random thoughts from the Cowtown Half

Don't try to mix honey and chia seeds in the truck, but if you do, bring a wet rag. Running with thousands of people in the stockyards makes you feel at one with the cattle. Some men wear chaps and they are not cowboys. At the 8-mile mark, you can hear people unload their psychological burdens whether you want to or not. No matter how many hills you train it is impossible to prepare for the Main Street bridge incline, although, in a pinch, singing loud and off-key can help. After crossing the finish line, even though you are milling among thousands, you can still run into the man who is remodeling your bathroom. The wedge-shaped finisher's medal does not appear to be something you should wear on the way home, in case your airbag goes off.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #163

Sam: When we get home, I'll make spaghetti.
Peggy: Sounds great.
Sam: You've got to eat some dinner before you fly.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #162

Sam: It looks like Tutorial 10 is the last one.
Peggy: You mean you're finished with that class already?
Sam (grinning): Uh-huh.
Peggy: And when is mid-terms?
Sam: Sometime in March?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Team Kolaches

2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. warm water
2 tsp. yeast (one package)
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. whole wheat flour
6 1/2 to 7 c. white flour
2 tsp. salt
2 packages jalapeno/cheddar sausage
16 bits of cheddar cheese (cut about 1/4 inch thick, 1/2-inch wide and 1 1/2 inch long)

Peggy's part:

Warm milk with butter until butter melts. Set aside. Pour yeast over water and let stand until softened and moist, about five minutes. Check temp of milk and butter (make sure its lower than about 100 degrees, but still warm) and stir into yeast mixture. Stir in sugar, eggs, wheat flour and salt. Add white flour enough to come together and start forming a ball, but not stiff, or the kolaches will be too dry. Let rise until doubled. This can take 2-3 hours. Punch down and put into the refrigerator a minimum of four hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring dough out to warm up. Meanwhile, cut sausage into 16 even lengths. (You want about 3 inches).

Sam's part (how to shape): Cut dough into 16 equal parts. Flatten the dough to shape, then put sausage and cheese in middle to wrap.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #161

Sam (watching Wheel of Fortune): The Talented Cast of Glee!
Peggy: Wow, Sam. That's pretty good, since we never watch that show.
Sam: It just came into my head.
Peggy: That's because you can learn things from context.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day from Mark and Peggy

Sometimes we did things just to see if we could.
I've tried the html/javascript widget, but blogger doesn't want to share. Copy and paste this into your browser to listen on Chirbit.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #160

(while on Skype with the grandparents)
Sam: Here's the attachment. And you can see the universal remote on my iPhone.
Grandpa: I see it. It looks like a remote on your TV.
Sam: If you touch "Watch a movie," it turns on the DVD and the TV at the same time.
Grandpa: No kidding. Can you use it to open the garage door too?
Sam: Maybe. (starts hunting for apps)
Grandpa: How about washing the dishes?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pizza a la Sam

This recipe is on the regular rotation in the Wolfe house. It's all in the dough.

You can either top it with barbecue sauce, mozzarella cheese and bits of cooked chicken breast for preferred variation number one, or smother it with bottled marinara sauce, mozzarella, and slices of turkey pepperoni and Canadian bacon for the all-time family favorite.

Pizza dough
(enough for one large round and one small round)

Put in a mixer outfitted with dough hook 1 1/2 cup warm water, 2 T. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt, 1 c. whole wheat flour, 2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached white flour, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. Rapid Rise yeast.

Run in mixer for 4-5 minutes until dough is a nice, pliable ball. Let rise til doubled.

Bake the pizzas at 425 F for 8 minutes, one on top rack, one on bottom, rotate and bake til crust begins to brown and cheese is bubbling and golden.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #159

Peggy: You know, I was able to drag a lawn mower all the way to the south fence line. You really do a good job of mowing the orchard floor. It's a like a golf course out there.
Sam (with the biggest grin he's flashed in a long time): Well, thanks.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Don't Spare the Horses.

When Michael was home visiting for the holidays, we had a shared moment for which the details completely escape me now, but after which my son said, "Wow, Mom. Don't spare the horses."

I'd never heard that before. But I liked it. I liked it so much I wondered whether it would make a good New Year's resolution. One I could actually keep.

In a word, yes.

I logged my 500th mile in in training this month and other things in my life are proceeding at that dogged pace.

Last night, I dreamt something was outside my front door. Unlike all the other dreams of monsters and tornadoes and machines and floods and fire and being forced to get control of a runaway vehicle from the backseat of the car, I didn't hesitate.

Texas has a castle law, you know.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #158

Peggy: Are you ready to make some pizza?
Sam: Oh, yes! I've got to get rid of some static electricity first.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #157

Peggy: I don't know what's going on with Gus. He has been anxious for several days now. It's the same kind of anxious he had when the batteries went out on the smoke detector. But we fixed it. Last night, he was so anxious, he couldn't sleep. Today, he doesn't even want to come in the house. I don't get it.
Sam: I think the smoke detector in the office is about to go out.
Peggy: Really? How do you know?
Sam: I can hear it clicking softly when I'm in the office. Can't you hear it?
Peggy: No. Only you and Gus can hear it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #156

Sam: They are asking whether I'm registered for Selective Service.
Peggy: You are. You did that when you were 18. Do you remember filling out that card at the post office?
Sam: They need my SS number.
Peggy: Hmm. I guess you would have a draft number. (rummages through records)
Sam: Wow. I have another number.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #155

Peggy: An argument isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Sam: Yes, but arguments are suspenseful.
Peggy: What do you mean by that?
Sam: You don't always know the outcome. Sometimes it's good. But sometimes it's bad.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #153

Paige: Sam, how do you do that side move on the horse?
Sam: It's tricky, Paige. You have to pull your reins to your foot where you want the horse to go.

Belt Buckle Quality

(The work ... not the video. More short and grainy stuff.)

Sam took first in showmanship in Class A today at Chisholm Challenge.

This event gave him fits when he was younger. If you are not familiar with showmanship, here's what little I know. In many horse shows, competitors are showing the animal to the judge -- just like a dog show, for example -- so it can be evaluated for its conformation to the breed.

Showing an animal is complicated. You've got to get the animal to do things on your lead. People sometimes hire professional handlers to show their dogs. Being judged on showmanship is having someone evaluate your handling skills.

For kids with autism and other disabilities, showing an animal can be wickedly difficult. You have to stay focused. You have to follow directions with many steps. If your animal doesn't behave as expected, you have to deal with it.

That's gray-matter growing stuff.

I highly recommend it for kids with disabilities. Some stables will take kids at-risk. Michael rode for a year after he had surgery on his ear to help correct some balance and perception problems. Sam has been riding at Riding Unlimited since he was five. If you can volunteer or donate to a therapeutic riding program, you will be a big part of making amazing things happen in your community. Some volunteer programs will help you learn to ride, too.

Just one caveat: make sure the program, the instructors and the facility are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, or PATH International. They used to be known as NAHRA.

Here's Sam's showmanship performance. Class A patterns are more difficult. The other classes do simpler patterns for the judge, just walking up, turning and coming back.

And here's his buckle!

Here is video his performance in trail.

We haven't heard how he did there. It takes a while for them to run the tallies. Sam was tired. We went home for lunch and rested.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bonanza is a Paint

Here are some videos from today's ride. During English equitation today, Sam and Bonanza walked, trotted and cantered in Class A.

Sam took second. It was a wonderful ride.

Tomorrow is trail and showmanship.

Charging the battery tonight.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #152

Peggy: Who are you riding at Chisholm Challenge?
Sam: Bonanza
Peggy: What kind of horse is he?
Sam: Brown.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Overheard in the Wolfe House #151

Sam: Uh, do I need to do something else?
Peggy: I'll be off the computer soon. I'm just writing a blog post about my grandmother.
Sam: Won't that make us sadder?

Being Who You Are

My grandmother's 90th birthday was was her last.

We knew that. Her cancer was untreatable. She had been blinded by macular degeneration years ago. She sent word through the family that she wouldn't be sending Christmas cards anymore.

It's a big family, on my mom's side. My mother is the oldest of nine. I'm the oldest granddaughter of, um, about sixteen, or so, I think. I haven't met all my cousins. Many are still in Wisconsin, but not all. The great-grandchildren number more than 40, and yes, I believe there are great-great-grandchildren, too. My youngest uncle is only two years older than I am.

What can I say, except we're a big, Catholic family.

Except about 10 years ago, Grandma let go that we weren't always. Mom went back to meet the cousins in Northern Ireland. My great-grandfather came over from Ireland as a Presbyterian. He never sent for his family. He married my great-grandmother, shown in this photo with my grandmother.

Grandma converted to Catholicism to marry Grandpa.

My grandmother liked ham sandwiches and drank black coffee no matter what. She knew everything there was to know about babies. She was loving, but not a sentimental person nor the keeper of scores of family treasures (if there even were any).

She liked tossing out the old and in with the new. Grandma was in the moment.

But she was always stitching something. She was the first relative to show me the value of handmade gifts. One year, Grandma and Grandpa made all the granddaughters doll beds of wooden spools and cut coat hangers. They were canopy beds, and mine had pink flocking. I couldn't believe I got the pink one. In my seven-year-old opinion, it was the prettiest of all the beds.

Whenever I visited my grandparents, which got harder and harder to do as the years went by, I would get a tour of the house to see the latest creations. It was as good as touring a folk art museum.

There were other family secrets Grandma never shared. Some we knew, but couldn't speak of, because she wouldn't acknowledge them. Some we learned from Aunt Bea.

Aunt Bea, the originator of the family's sweet roll recipe, and the speaker of family secrets.

Grandma probably just found out how much her sister Bea let on. Don't worry, Grandma. It's all good. It's all about the love. You knew that and so do we.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chisholm Challenge

Before the bull and bronc riders, before the rodeo show and the barrel racers at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, you can see some terrific horsemanship at the Chisholm Challenge for Special Riders.

Thanks to all the volunteers and staff, and sponsors, of the area stables that continue to serve the community in a way no other recreational outlet can.

If you check it out, you'll never see horses and riders in quite the same way again.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Peanut Sauce Promise

Here is the recipe Mark got from the hornist when they were both principals in the Sacramento Symphony.

I found the recipe unexpectedly authentic and always wondered where Eric got it. Mark used to like to say that, as a French hornist, Eric played very sharp and nearly missed all the notes. It's tuba humor. You had to be there.

Peanut Sauce

1 chicken carcass
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch green onions
3 carrots
1/2 bunch of celery
3 yellow onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup ginger juice (grate fresh ginger and squeeze through a cheese cloth)
2 1/4 pounds crunchy peanut butter
1 1/2 lb jar of Crosse and Blackwell
red sambal
3 T butter
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In four quarts of water, boil chicken with cilantro, green onions, carrots and celery for one hour. Cool to lukewarm and strain.

Saute onions and garlic in butter and olive oil til golden, set aside.

Add peanut butter to lukewarm broth. (If broth is too warm, it will coagulate.) Stir until lumps are gone. Add onion mixture, cocktail sauce, ginger juice and red sambal to taste. Stir thoroughly.

This makes a lot of peanut sauce. Serve over cold noodles and cucumber cut julienne. Stir fry tofu til brown, add red peppers and spinach til wilted, stir in peanut sauce as desired. Marinate chicken in sauce, grill, basting with additional sauce. Give a jar to a friend.

It Takes a Village

Sam didn't learn to swim the summer this little movie was made. He was 4 1/2 years old. He enjoyed the water very much.

After we moved to Texas, my neighbor, Karol Smith, took all three of my kids into her backyard pool and taught them to swim in a week. She said she'd taught dozens of kids to swim by condensing the way most parks and rec programs did it -- sometimes over several years of summers. She guaranteed she'd get it done.

It was the summer Paige turned 6, so Michael would have been 8, and Sam, 11. I was certain she'd have Michael and Paige swimming, but told her Sam might take a little longer.

It didn't. And, Karol turned Sam into the biggest fish of them all.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #150

Peggy: Was it fun seeing Kelley's new baby today?
Sam: Oh, yes. I'm sure it inspired sentimental feelings in you, when you took care of us when we were infants.
Peggy: Oh, yes.
Sam: Of course, it made me remember when I was born.
Peggy: You can remember when you were born?
Sam: Yes, I can.
Peggy: What all do you remember?
Sam: The hospital looked very similar.