Christmas Day Carnage


Another Christmas has come and gone. We were sad to miss visiting with my dad this year, but he had a hip replacement and was recuperating. Luckily, all went very well for him, and he’ll be back running strong in no time.

Meanwhile, someone else was excited to have the largest package under the tree.

20141225_000752319_iOS (800x600)Others were more chillaxed.

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Some may have been too chillaxed. Yeah, that’s my novel that put her to sleep.

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As usual Grace got waaaaay too much stuff. That’s the hazard of having an only child, I think. Trust me, this was only the tip of the iceburg.

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She also got One Direction concert tickets for the summer for her and two friends. That’s the gift that will keep on giving all year.

Bryon made a FANTASTIC dinner for us. His Christmas dinners have become something of a legendary tradition.

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We also had a few hors d’oeuvres like this…

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And one thing about our family, we all love shrimp. Without consulting, everyone brought a platter of cocktail shrimp to share. That didn’t even include the shrimp in the main dish!

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Another ‘given’ is Grace’s love for sparkling grape juice. I bought two of these bottles. The family brought the rest.

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Bryon finally got to open his giant gifts.

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An archery target and a new hunting blind. Grace shopped online and for them both, all by herself. I just paid with the credit card and picked them up.

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I had a few awesome surprises of my own under the tree.

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The next morning, Santa had left a few more surprises for Grace (paint and miscellaneous decor to redo her playroom upstairs)…but no elves to do the work.

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A new papasan chair


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New bookcases with storage

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The paint had to wait for another day because there were games to play!

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Let’s do it all again next year! #scaryselfie







Miss Merry Christmas 3rd Grade Rides in the Niangua Christmas Parade

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Last year was Niangua’s first-ever Miss Merry Christmas pageant. Grace won for her third grade class with her brownie-making demonstration. She even got a nice appreciation package from Betty Crocker after I posted her picture to their Facebook page. You can read about it here.

She was over the moon and coveted that tiara like a princess. She was supposed to get to wear her crown and ride in the Niangua Christmas parade but it got cancelled due to ice and snow.

This year she got her wish.

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The motorcycle group Bikers Against Child Abuse, B.A.C.A,. sponsored a Breakfast with Santa prior to the parade.

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IMG_8112 (1024x768)I’ve gotta say I was digging the biker Santa.

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In a cool turn of fate, Bryon got to drive her car. He’d driven our high school homecoming queen one year. I can’t find a picture of that day, but as fun as that was for him, this was much better.

They were both excited to get to drive/ride in a cool new car from Marshfield Chevrolet. When he arrived, they gave him a brand new, red Chevy pickup. Erm, cool but he drives a brand new red, GMC pickup. Nothing too special about that. Still, he drove it back to Niangua and planned to make the best of things.

When he got back to the parking lot to line up though, one driver had three high school girls to drive and a two-door Ford Mustang from Don Vance Ford to escort them in. Bryon and the other drive made the switch and he ended up in this cool ride instead.


The real irony and the completion of the circle of awesome is his first (and favorite) car was a 1972 Mustang Mach I. It looked VERY much like this one. All this car needed was some black racing stripes.

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Some things are just worth the wait.

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Niangua has a population of 405 people.

Want to see the entire parade? Here it is…all ten minutes of it.


The pièce de résistance: Halloween

After all the hoopla BEFORE Halloween, we all sort of flamed out.

I asked Grace how important it was for her to go trick-or-treating and she said, “Meh.”

So instead…

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We went to town for sushi.

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Halloween sushi. It’s a thing. This is the Oh My God roll.

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Then it was off to the Hotel of Terror. I hadn’t been there since high school when a spook chased me out and three blocks down the street with a chainsaw.

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Still we managed to make a friend.

And start a new family tradition.

Haunted Trail: Scary Edition

The first Haunted Trail we did for Grace’s class a couple of years ago was pretty tame. The kids said it wasn’t scary. This year, we turned up the scary.


 Of course before we even got the trail there was lots and lots of prep.

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Thank God it didn’t rain.


Me, Grace and Grandpa Medley.


The entrance of the Haunted Trail.


First stop, Terminus.

Of course none of the kids got the genius of this.

The trough…

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and the BobBQ.

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I KNOW, right?


Your last warning.

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One of three graveyards.

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The skeleton ‘guts’ were mushrooms.

Yeah, I know skeletons don’t have guts, but it looked too cool.

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We walked the trail in the dark the night before to make sure everything worked correctly. This grim reaper scared the crap out of Belle and she growled at it.

This ghost and the witch coming up next are motion activated but needed an assist in the dark.


We had about a dozen masked spooky volunteers stationed throughout the trail to make sure things stayed… interesting.

The Cook family provided half of them.

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The Tunnel of Doom was super awesome. We had strobe lights inside, a cackling reaper that said, “Come closer. Come closer. Let me get a hand on you.”

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The kids had to squeeze out the end and my brother, Mike, was there to spook them when they did.


This animal burrow was the perfect spot for a strobe light and bones. We threw the light down the hole when it got dark. And no, I was NOT the one who stuck my hand in there and fished out the light when it was all over.


Speaking of hands… Aw yes, the bloody stump.Gotta have it.


Graveyard number three.

Grandpa Medley was dressed as Dracula and sat in the coffin. That coffin has a lot of miles on it. My dad had it when I was in college. No. I don’t know why or how he came by it. I can tell you he used to stuff a pair of overalls and close them in the coffin with the legs hanging out the end, pile the whole thing into our pickup and drive around town with it on Halloween.

It’s a legacy coffin.


Nearing the end.


Of course another reaper.


I like to call him Bob.


My dad sat at the very end of the trail and turned on the four wheeler lights to blind the revelers as a spook chased them with the leaf blower…which sounds EXACTLY like a chainsaw 😀

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For me, the scariest thing of all was the fake snake Grace planted outside the back door.

I about lost my mind. Violet at least made an attempt to save me.


Preparing for scaring


We spent much of October preparing for our Haunted Trail.

We did it for the first time when Grace was in second grade. We skipped last year and decided to do it again this year for her fourth grade class.

Last time, the kids said it wasn’t scary.
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We fixed that.

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Grace was so excited when I brought this scary clown mask home she went to check Bryon’s schedule to make sure what time he was getting home.

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She hid in the bathtub so she could jump out and scare him.

Of course her giggling and squirming gave her away before she could even jump out.

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I bedazzled the inside of house.

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There might have been a few real cobwebs as well.

IMG_7752 (1024x768)Is it bad that I have more Halloween decorations than Christmas?

Christmas 2013

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We did Christmas a our house again this year. It’s so nice to stay home and have a house full of visitors on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas morning we wake up and play games in our jammies after Grace opens even MORE presents.

Artwork from Grandpa Medley

We stopped buying one another presents (or were supposed to) years ago. Grace is the only one who gets gifts, and it’s an embarrassing number of gifts at that. We buy her clothes, shoes etc. as needed through the year but her birthday and Christmas are her big cash-in days. So, yeah. All of those gifts under the tree are hers. Santa brought more for her the next morning.

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Grandpa Medley & Lynsey playing Headbanz

Our friends Lynsey and Brayden came over and played games with us too.

Bryon made spaghetti carbonara again. Honestly, I think he’s stuck making that for eternity because it is amazing, and we really only get it once a year. 


I think this will be the last year Grace believes in Santa. She’s nine now, and I’m pretty sure she’s just playing along because we told her kids who don’t believe don’t get gifts from Santa.

She’s no dummy. Next year, though…maybe we can all sleep in.



Miss Merry Christmas Winner

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For the first time this year, Grace’s school held a Miss Merry Christmas Pageant. It’s a miracle the event ever actually happened because it was rescheduled three times around snowy weather.

Each contestant, preschool through sixth grade, had two minutes to perform a talent. Grace chose making brownies. You can imagine how happy this made me. Finally, the having-a-kid payoff. A brownie-making slave.

She practiced and practiced.


A few hours before the big event, we took her to town to the beauty shop, and she got the full treatment. Hair and nails. She told the stylist she wanted wedding hair.

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We packed up all of the ingredients in a picnic basket and headed to school.

The gym was packed with the families of fifty-eight contestants. Our little school only has 250 students K-12 so that was an amazing turnout.


They were all dolled-up and stinkin’ cute!


There were awards for first through third place winners in each grade but only first place got the tiara.

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Grace had her eye on those tiaras from the moment she walked into the gym.

She did a fantastic job and even gave a plate of brownies that she had made the night before to the judges. All of her practice paid off. She won first place in third grade and took home one of those tiaras.

A few days later, I posted the little video of her talent display and a picture of her with the Betty Crocker Ultimate Brownie mix she used to win on Betty Crocker’s Facebook page. Betty liked it and messaged me that they wanted to send her a little gift.

Here is what she got.

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Life is good in the third grade.


Thanksgiving Dressing Success

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This year, I finally made my grandma Betty Rice’s secret Thanksgiving dressing recipe. It only took forty-three years before she would give me the recipe. She can keep a secret.

Of course, I can’t SHARE the recipe now because then I’d have to kill you. Trust me, it is different than anything you’ve ever tasted. I love the rich taste of it but some of our family does not. Fine by me. That just means there is MORE for me.

I was nervous making it for the first time and bought four boxes of Stove Top stuffing just in case it was a colossal failure. I kept Grandma Rice on speed dial and did consult her before I started. Good thing too because she left out a couple of tricks that would have likely ended my experiment with different results. I’m glad I gave it a go while she’s still around to consult.

I even sent a container full of dressing home to her so she could test it out.

I’m happy to report it was Betty Rice approved.

Christmas Catchup

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The trees are down, the lights are off and every piece of Christmas ephemera is carefully packed away for another year. Why is it always so much more fun taking that stuff out than putting it away?

We had a great Christmas in the Big Cedars.

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Grace decorated a gingerbread train early on in December, and she did a great job.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas day we played games…

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And we ate, and ate, and ate.

Here’s me enjoying a Redneck repast of wine and deer jerky. Yep, nothing says Christmas in the Big Cedars quite like booze and jerky.

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As is the case every year, Grace got an embarrassing number of gifts. I think perhaps that’s the case with only children. In our defense, she really doesn’t get or even ask for much during the year. Her birthday is in October so that’s always an issue when we have a huge party like we did this year with more than twenty kids.

Having a food drive in lieu of gifts helped with that problem but Christmas… is a different animal.

This may be the last year she believes in Santa. We’ll see. She did notice that a couple of her DS games had price tags on them and pointed it out to me saying, “Santa’s elves didn’t even make these!”  I told her that Santa, like the rest of us, always looks for the best deal 🙂 I’m pretty sure she bought it.

But next year…