Our November started with a visit from Flat Stanley. For those of you who haven’t made his acquaintance yet I’ll explain. Stanley Lambchop is the main character of a series of books that first debuted in 1964. Unfortunately, Stanley was flattened by a falling bulletin board. While that may sound uncomfortable being flat has its advantages: he can slip under a closed door and save money by traveling the world in an envelope. Stanley came to Tucson from Ohio courtesy of our 9-year-old cousin, Frankie. My job was to photograph Flat Stanley in Tucson before returning him with his vacation photos. I introduced him to our emblematic saguaro cactus, a prickly pear cactus, and for a spot of color I nestled him among bougainvillea flowers. In each case I promise I was careful to help Flat Stanley avoid the spines.
The second week Lance was in three different places (if only we could’ve mailed him, think of all the money we’d save!). First trip took him to PressNomics in Chandler. He loves the energy of the event (although I think the proximity to SanTan Brewery is another strong draw). Lance was home in Tucson for an entire 24 hours before catching a flight to San Francisco. That trip was a triple whammy: An Event Apart, the awesome atmosphere of the Automattic mothership, and face time with coworkers.
Certainly the looming threat of digging a trench (150 feet long, 18 inches deep, through rock and clay) didn’t have anything to do with his desire to get out of town.
Our pool pump and filter needed to be re-wired and in order to save a serious amount of change we opted to dig the trench ourselves. Yes, we could’ve rented a Ditch Witch but we started the project on a Sunday and none of the rental places were open. Besides who doesn’t love a nice backache at the end of the day?
Lance returned home with less than two days to rest and prepare for his first attempt at riding in El Tour de Tucson. Thankfully, he had signed up for the smaller 60-mile version instead of the full 111 miles. While Lance had been training regularly he had not tackled that distance and he had not been able to train the week prior due to his travel schedule. I saw him off at the start and made my way carefully home (the ride used Silverbell Road this year, near our house). Sooner than I expected Lance called me to let me know he was almost to our pre-arranged meeting place. I drove down and met him with snacks, an energy drink, and some encouragement. He was almost done—only 10 more miles to go!
His unofficial time was 3:32:30. Not too shabby for a first timer! Very proud of him!
Two days later we drove to Phoenix to catch a non-stop flight to Kansas City. We were heading to Shawnee to spend Thanksgiving with Lance’s sister Heidi, her husband Jed, and their four kiddos (also known as the A Team: Andrew, Aiden, Austin, Alison). We had last visited in April—amazing how much the kids had grown! The twins, the youngest ones, were now walking everywhere and talking. While our ears weren’t as discerning as the parents’, by the end of our trip we could tell when Austin was talking to us: Lance was La and I was Eh.
It was lovely to spend time with them. We baked pies, made cranberry relish (without wooden spoon splinters—a Lance and Jed cooking anecdote that will never be forgotten), assembled foam turkey place cards, built and erupted a volcano, played at a local park, ate tons of delicious food, watched glass marbles being handmade1, read books with the kids, and whiled away the hours catching up on each others lives. As always it was tough to say goodbye. We left with tons of good memories and some decent photos.
The pace picked up right after we returned. We arrived late Saturday night (technically very early Sunday morning) and caught a few hours of shut eye before hopping up to meet Charles and Alison for our monthly cleanup at Sweetwater Wetlands. It was a lovely morning with lots of new birds to admire. The place was buzzing with people—a Groove-billed Ani had been sighted the day before. The unusual looking bird is only a very rare visitor to the United States and generally only during the summer. We tried twice for a sight of the black beauty but we dipped (as they say in the birding world). Later Alison linked me to a photo that someone snapped after an eight hour wait! I guess I’ll never be an expert birder—I just don’t have that kind of patience.
Monday morning we met with the contractor to start the extension of our north porch. He did a good job with our south porch extension and we’re eager to continue progress. Mid-morning Lance was contacted by an old friend; he and his wife and four kiddos were in town for the night, would we like to meet up with them? After a quick discussion we invited them over for dinner. I cleaned the house, dashed to the store, and whipped up dinner (and homemade dessert). We had a nice time sharing the evening with them; it had been a few years and a couple children since we had last seen them.
Thursday the construction crew arrived before dawn to pour the concrete pad. I opened the gates, let them in, and went right back to bed. The pad had a long weekend to cure before the guys commenced building the porch the following Monday.
Friday Lance and I loaded up for a family-filled weekend trip. Our first stop was Willcox where we picked up my Grandma. It was her first trip to visit the family since moving there in January of this year. Grandma was excited and a tiny bit nervous about the trip—we weren’t sure how she’d fare during the hour-plus drive. Thankfully our drive was uneventful. Grandma peered out the windshield admiring the view the whole way.
Though I was worried, the entire trip went well and Grandma seemed to thoroughly enjoy her vacation (as she called it). I breathed a sigh of relief when we returned her safely to her place in Willcox and I think Grandma did too. I overheard her say she was too tired to eat lunch. At which point she was offered chocolate cake. No one in her family turns down dessert. And that is how we left her, happily munching away. As we continued on home I realized that I probably should not have let Grandma ride up front since she is under 4′ 9” (Arizona state law). Yikes!
December promises to be busy but with much less travel which suits us just fine.
Photos: View our photographs from November News.
1 Learned during our trip to Moon Marble—the oft-used phrases knuckling down, lost your marbles and playing for keeps all come from the childhood game of marbles. ↩