Archive for Holidays

Life Lessons Learned

Try to ignore the flat screen above the door. We did.

My family and I just got back from our Ramos Road Trip 2010.  I wanted to take the kids to the Rockies, but we decided that was just too much driving (thanks Laureen).  Instead, we drove south through Illinois and Indiana and camped in the woods of Kentucky for 4 nights.  Ok,  so our “camping” involved hot running water and Direct TV.  But I know you would never judge me for that.  It did involve unpleasant smells and vermin, so it was almost like real camping.

I like vacation.  I like it for the obvious reason that it’s a chance to rest and relax. (Although, despite practice, I’m not very good at either of those things.)  But I mostly like our vacations as a chance to build memories and to learn things about your country and about yourself.

Our cabin came with the important essentials.

You learn about history and geography when you stop at State Historical Sites.  But you also learn a lot about humanity by stopping at scary Interstate truck stops.  And by (accidentally) stopping in Gary.  These are the life lessons I take away from vacations.

The view from our hotel.

1. I learned that every bad thing I have heard about Gary, Indiana is true.  My apologies to Michael Jackson and anyone else from Gary.  What an  indescribably depressing place.  We accidentally stopped there at 10PM on our drive south.  The hotel desk clerk warned us not to leave anything in our car overnight “cuz someone stoled his shotgun right out his truck last night.”

2.  I learned that here are a shocking number of McDonald’s between Wisconsin and Kentucky.  And we actually stopped at a shocking number of McDonald’s (9) on our 6-day trip.  Don’t judge.  A girl needs coffee.  And southwest chicken salad.

3.  I learned that Neenah really needs a Chick-fil-A.  But not a Waffle House.

I swear we didn't actually eat this. I just took a picture in the camp store.

4.  I learned that there exist entire “dry” counties where you can’t buy alcohol.  And that these counties are usually very large and not worth driving out of at 9PM to get a beer.  Except on your 4th night of camping and eating camp food.

5. I learned that Kentucky has a confused time zone identity.  Whatever time zone Kentucky is in,  Louisville is in a different time zone.  Mammoth Cave National Park has tons of signs warning us that it is in Central Time Zone.  Which we thought we were in already.  I asked the worker at our campground what Time Zone we were in .  He said he didn’t know.  So, I asked him what time it was.  He said he didn’t know.  I left it at that.  The clock at the Ranger Station said 5:20.  My iPhone said 6:20.  The clock in our cabin said 3:47……..

6. I learned that 6-year-olds only care a little bit about the Civil War.  And that 9-year-olds do not care at all about the Civil War.  People in their 30’s are newly fascinated by the Civil War.  And people in their 90’s that you meet in the parking lot stopped caring either way about that war.

I had to bribe him with chicken McNuggets to get him to smile. But he's 9 and it's a Civil War mural, so this was the best he could do.

The Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

7.  I learned that Kentucky is really beautiful, with green rolling hills and a rich, fascinating history.  Wisconsin is beautiful too.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate Wisconsin.   Indiana is….. meh.  Indiana does have a lot of windmills.  And colleges.  I guess Indianans aspire to bigger, more beautiful things……..

8.  I learned that Subey-stores are worth 20 points and that Subey-commercials are worth 10 points.  This is VERY important.  And watch out for pseudo-Subey-stores.  They’ll wipe you out.  (See previous blog post.)

8.  I learned that sometimes the best part of going on vacation is the drive home.


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I’m trying so hard not to hate winter.  No one wants to carry a bad attitude around with them for a whole season.  Especially when that season is 27 months long.  (See, there goes my bad attitude again….)

I love the changing of the seasons.  I love winter thawing into spring when green bursts out all over my yard.  I love the long, hot days of summer that turn into crisp, autumn afternoons.  I love the beauty of a fresh snowfall and the clean air of winter.  For 3 months.  Then I’ll be done.  But Wisconsin will not be done.  She will still have a good 4 months left for me.  It’s a long, cruel season.  I realize that I need to work harder to embrace winter.  I live in Wisconsin.  I’ll always live in Wisconsin.  My family is here and my home is here and all my mortgages are here.  I’m not leaving.  So, by the edict of “love it or leave it”, love is my only option.  Sigh.

Last winter, I bought myself good boots and snow pants and a down jacket.  I was ready to go.  I don’t really have a winter sport and I think that contributes to my dread of winter.  I hate being inside so much.  But I also hate cold.  I have to make a concerted effort to get outside with the kids and troop around in the snow and go sledding and skating.   Outside play is good for everyone.  I could go on and on.  In June.  In January, I’m much less dogmatic about going outside.  But, I resolve to do better. In the past weeks, we’ve trekked outside (all the way to the backyard!) many times to glory in the cold.  We have an awesome snow fort, a giant ice mountain, and a frozen zip line that never got put away from summer.  And, to be honest, we’ve been having a blast.

Stay tuned…..only 26 more months to go…….

Solon posing in his snow fort. (Gage declined to be photographed.) The four entrances make it super-energy-efficient!

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Mothers, Daughters, and Christmas Salami

Christmas means many things in my family.  Gifts, candles, carols, blah, blah, blah.  In my family, Christmas is about the food.  We don’t even pretend anymore.  We don’t dress up or set the table or use forks.  That fancy stuff  just gets in the way of the eatin’.  We even abandoned an actual menu for Christmas Eve.  We just load up the living room coffee table with all our favorite dips and appetizers and desserts and go to town.

Shrimp, artichoke dip,  salsa…….these are a few of my favorite things……..

But, one of the most important parts of our family Christmas Eve, our “yule log” if you will, is the Christmas Salami.  We’re not usually much of a sausage family.  But, what’s Christmas without the salami?  So, on Christmas Eve, my (vegan!) sister and my (carnivore!) mom and I went to the grocery store to get the essentials.  Wow.  You should grocery shop with my mom sometime.  Wonderful, but painful.  I regret that I don’t have any daughters I will be able to subject to the Christmas Grocery Shopping.  It’s a rite of passage in our family.  But I doubt that any daughters-in-law will be willing to accompany me.  Only mom knows how to get the RIGHT cocktail sauce (refrigerated, not canned), the RIGHT crackers (stone-ground wheat), and the RIGHT salami (not too soft).  My mom rejected the salami I chose and went back for one that was “harder”.  Seriously.  You can’t make this stuff up.

As usual, my mom was right.  I hate that.  (Someday, it will be my turn to always be right.)  Christmas Eve “dinner” was painfully good.  And filling.  And big enough that I’m still eating artichoke dip and corn chips for breakfast.  But, not the salami.  That was gone right away.

My mom, triumphant in the quest for the 2009 Christmas Salami.

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Labor Day Parade 2009


Finding our place in the line-up (between the WE Bucket Trucks and the Dogs-Riding-Remote Control-Hummers). Explaining to our kids not to throw all the gum to kids in the first block.


My son, a plasma car, my sister's foot, and 9 pieces of chewed gum. He only lasted 1 block with all that gum. He made it 12 blocks on the plasma car, which is exactly 11.5 blocks farther than I made it on the plasma car. For the first time in my life, my legs were too long for something

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Mighty Gift-Giver

It’s been a summer of Birthday Parties!  My boys have been invited to party after party.  It’s great.  But, 30 minutes before the party, I remember the present.  “No problem!” you say, “You own a toy store!”  Well, yes and no.  My oldest son is 8.  Mom and Pop Place is birthday-gift-central for one and two year olds.  For 8 year olds, it’s a little trickier.  I stroll my aisles and see tons of things my sons would like.  But my sons are………unique.

So, multiple times this summer, I have turned to an old favorite: the mighty tow truckMighty Builder Construction Set from Melissa and Doug.  Have you seen these?  I LOVE them.  You get all the tools and wooden parts you need to build your very own cool vehicle.  We have the fire truck and garbage truck and the tow truck.  My son got one last Christmas and he loves displaying the race car that he built himself.

It’s been the summer of Mighty Builder Birthdays.

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Happy Holiday!

When you read this, I will be on vacation with my family.  Sipping icy drinks in such exotic locales as “My Parent’s Backyard” and leading our children on educational hikes to such destinations as “LegoLand In The Mall Of America” and  “Maybe Ikea”.  Yes folks, it’s the fabulous Ramos Family Vacation.  No time to talk right now, gotta get our travel shots and passports in order.   I’ll send you a postcard.  Or not.


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