Monthly Archives: November 2014

~ A Critter Christmas Tree ~

Since our Christmas season this year is going to be rather abbreviated for various reasons, we had to squeeze a pound of Christmas Do-ings into an ounce of time this weekend.  We hunted for and cut down our Christmas Tree, 2014-11-29 14.13.04 pruned it, put it up, realized it was crooked, and put it up again, decorated it, and decided it was facing the wrong way, so we moved the whole ding-dang show until My Captain’s OCD was satiated.

AND, we went to two shows:  “A Tuba Christmas” and “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.”

Don’t judge me.  I’m trying to entertain people from the ages of pre-teen through Senior Citizen.  It’s tough to make everyone happy.  Fortunately potty humor is our universal love-language, and we do just fine at venues like these. 2014-11-29 13.41.39 Hunting the tree on a crisp, cold, clear day was lovely, as it usually is every year. This year we actually forgot to bicker, and clearly we need to go back and have a do-over.

A Christmas tree hunt without some minor family squabble feels just plain weird. But without much ado, the tree was agreed upon. 2014-11-29 14.13.56 The children each got their try at cutting….2014-11-29 14.13.22…though to be fair, they might have been napping, it was hard to tell. 2014-11-29 14.15.28 And My Captain, as he does every year, had to finish the job. 2014-11-29 14.19.25 I supervise.  At my age and girth, it is my God-given right to just stand there and supervise. 2014-11-29 14.13.28 Critter found a couple of oddities this year at the Tree Farm.  Most notably was a dead possum at the base of one of the trees in the field. 2014-11-29 14.15.10 Because nothing says ‘Live Christmas Tree’ like a halfway rotted corpse of some unfortunate overgrown rodent.

But also, he found the tree tops of two Christmas trees that someone else had clearly trimmed and discarded right there in the field.

MOM!  I’ve got to have these!

Er, okay.  For curiosity’s sake, why?

I need to make a couple of Critter Cristmas trees!  They’d be like Charlie Brown Christmas trees, only REAL!

My Captain’s mind was way ahead of us.  Right after he got our precious family tree up for us to decorate, he took Critter to his work area, 2014-11-29 19.37.59 and proceeded to do manly things like glue with super heavy duty, oh-lord-don’t-get-this-on-your-clothes wood glue.   2014-11-29 19.43.12 and drill with a heavy duty, two speed, supercalifragilistic drill, 2014-11-29 20.03.30 and nail…gently, so you don’t split the wood!  And because Mama is watching, and you KNOW how she gets. 2014-11-29 19.45.12 And the next thing we knew, Critter bellowed, “Eureka!” and it was done.

Okay, there was no “Eureka!”   It was more like a “Behold!”  Or maybe it was a “Woot!Woot!”  I can’t really recall.  But what I DO remember is his face.  It reminded me of the Absentminded Professor right after he invented Flubber. 2014-11-30 11.00.21 But a Critter Christmas Tree is way, way, WAY better than any silly ol’ Flubber.

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~ A Tuba ChristMOOSE ~

As you know, Critter has started learning the Trumpet, and it turns out the kid has a SET OF CHOPS.  Now, all of a sudden, he is enthralled with all things brass.  So when Grandma Jane found out The Weinberg Center for the Performing Arts in Frederick, Maryland was putting on a free concert called ‘A Tuba Christmas,’ she knew we had to go!

I admit, I was less than excited.  A Tuba Christmas?  I’m not able to envision ‘Silent Night’ in Sousaphone.   Nope.  Not happenin’.

But what we found, was not what I expected.  Hilarity.  Color.  Festivity.  And a LOT of well-decorated brass!

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And I’m not talking the military kind!

2014-11-29 12.02.09My Captain, Varmint and I were Amazed.

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Critter was enthralled.

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And considering that lately the only thing that enthralls Critter is either The Flash, The Green Arrow, or Minecraft, that is saying something!!!

The tone of all of those tubas, sousaphone’s, and countless other tuba-related horns was nothing short of beautiful.  I never imagined how lovely such a deep concert could be.

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My Captain even put his phone away to listen.   THAT is saying more than Critter being as enthralled as he is when he’s watching The Flash.

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And remember, Critter is learning to play Trumpet on My Captain’s old workhorse of a trumpet that he played in high school.  We could see My Captain revisiting those days just watching this concert.

Don’t get me wrong, Varmint and I enjoyed it too….

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But to be honest, it wasn’t until after the concert when we met some of the players out in the lobby that I was fully delighted.

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For it was then that I got a close up of the sheer genius of these artists.  It was then that I saw they had festooned their instruments with, among other things,  my beloved….. Moose.

2014-11-29 13.09.58Sousaphone-playing Moose, to be exact.

And that, my friends, was well worth the price of admission.

And for the record?  Silent Night ROCKS when played entirely by Tubas.

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~ The Best Of Intentions ~

My Captain wanted to share a ‘family’ meal with his shift to honor Thanksgiving, even though they were not slated to work on that day, so he scheduled a shift a few days before the holiday to hold an official Pre-Thanksgiving Shift Feast.  Lt. Tom, Master Firefighter Johns, and I put together a menu, and I grocery shopped my fool head off.

I’m always happiest when I’m at the grocery store.  I love nothing better than to be be-bopping down the aisles to poorly re-rendered ’80’s music as I gleefully toss food items into my squeaky, wobbly-wheeled cart.  It’s the life I’ve chosen, and I’m good at it.  Don’t judge.

Our menu: Slow Cooked Roast Beast, Au Gratin Potatoes (Cheesy enough to kill a horse), Creamed Spinach/Artichoke Casserole (because CREAMED is the way God intended any vegetable to be eaten), Orange Glazed Carrots, Sage Sausage Stuffed Roasted Mushrooms, Hot Autumn Fruit Compote over Ice Cream, and Peanut butter Pie.  It was going to be fabulous.

The big day came, the Beasts were lovingly placed into two crockpots.  The side dishes chilled in the fridge, already prepared and awaiting cooking.  The men had their instructions for meal preparation.  The firehouse dining table was laid with tablecloth, adorned with Autumn-hued flowers, and the special ‘turkey-themed’ napkins were laid out.  And then…..

… the tones went off.

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Montgomery County’s professional Trench Rescue Team was being dispatched

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to aid a neighboring county’s volunteer rescue in their efforts to save a man trapped by a shale slough at a house construction site.

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It would take them time to get there. 2014-11-25 14.15.22 It would take them time to  establish what the other county needed from them.

2014-11-25 14.21.022014-11-25 15.14.00 2014-11-25 15.14.16 It would take time to achieve that. 2014-11-25 15.14.29 And it would take time to extract the victim.

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And then it would take time to pack it all up and go back to the station. 2014-11-25 14.18.40 Where they would then receive several more calls for various auto accidents and medical emergencies. They were in their element, doing what they do best, as much as their ability to support a different command would allow.

And dinner?  That forgotten thing that, in the grand scheme of priorities, fell way, way, way down the ladder?  Yeah, well….prolonged cooking time is not always kind to food.

The Roast Beast slow-cooked to the point where it fell apart.

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The Potatoes and Spinach/Artichoke Casseroles were a bit dry. 2014-11-25 19.52.45 The Orange Glazed Carrots were mushy. 2014-11-25 19.52.58 The Sage-Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms were more like dehydrated pemmican. 2014-11-25 19.53.03 No one had time to buy vanilla Ice Cream, so they ate the hot Autumn Fruit Compote over ice cream flavors like Cookies and Cream (ugh!)

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But the Peanut Butter Pie….it was as cold as it was supposed to be…flawlessly whipped-creamy, and sinfully delicious.

And so the meal, which was consumed by this band of tired, hungry heroes, who had spent the day collaborating in the service of strangers, may not have been perfectly executed, but it more than served its purpose.  It brought them together for a moment of non-emergency-oriented brotherhood, to pause and be grateful for what they have, for being able to do what they do, and to reflect on life as they so singularly live it.

My Captain’s intention for having this special meal was to affirm and strengthen the shift as more than just a ‘Special Ops’  team, but as a family.

It wasn’t just about the food.  It was also about solidarity.  Unity.  Fraternity.

But mostly it was about the Peanut Butter Pie.

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~ Good Grip! ~

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m a ‘gal’, but I’ve never been a ‘girl’.  I always WANTED to be a girl.  I always wanted to be cute, petite, feminine, gentle, and sweet.  But God, apparently, has a sense of humor, and instead built me to be a swarthy, moose-like, out-spoken, strong, wise-cracking ‘gal’.  That’s me.  Not so much a ‘girl’ as a ‘gal’.  Oh, believe me, I wanted to be all those other “Girly-girl” things, but I’ve long since come to terms with the big wonderfulness that is me.  I’ve embraced the Moose.

This world needs Mooses.

But as equally as I’ve never fit into the world of Girly-girl, neither have I completely fit into the world of Manly-man.  This was driven home to me last night as I overheard a conversation between My Captain, and Critter.

It was more of a lesson, than a conversation.  It was about handshakes, and the importance of them in the Manly-man world.  Apparently, to earn his mancard, a man must have a handshake that grips somewhere between George Clooney, and The Hulk.  It has to be suave, confident, and comfortable, but also send the message that you are not someone to be trifled with.  It requires eye contact, squared shoulders, and focus.  There can be no wavering.  There can be no apologetically embarrassed hesitation.  And there sure as hell can be no dead-fish qualities to the grip.

Who knew there was so much at stake in a common greeting gesture?  I sure as heck didn’t.

My Captain kept telling Critter that it is important to ‘land’ properly.  That, just as with a handshake, if you mess up the first attempt, and it turns into something awkward, you will find yourself having to re-gain your footing, so, too, is life.  That it is better to do things ‘right’ the first time, than it is to half-ass it, do it ‘wrong’ and spend more time having to fix things.  Oh, he wasn’t suggesting that it is not ok to make mistakes, but he was definitely teaching Critter that first ‘everythings’ matter:  First impressions.  First dates. First grades.  First jobs.  First commitments. First tries at anything.  So it makes sense to do your best, and approach these things with deliberate, intentional effort.

A true man, he said, approaches life like he does a handshake.  With confidence and straightforward strength.

They then spent a few minutes practicing the handshake, working on the grip.  A true man’s compliment to another man, he said, is “Good grip!”.  I thought about what Girly-girls must practice, and couldn’t come up with a parallel, as it was never a world I lived in.  Am I supposed to be teaching Varmint some kind of hand-shake-life-lesson equivalent?

Oh, that poor child is so screwed.

If you need me,  I’ll be in the corner, practicing my Moose call. (We don’t have handshakes.)

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