Sunday, September 26, 2010

65th Annual Cook Family Reunion

… complete with a hog roast, hayride and GIANT bonfire.
I’m pretty sure this is my favorite family “holiday”.  No argument over which family to visit first.  No checklist of items to bring and presents to pack.  This is so much more low-key; just show up in layers, eat, then relax around the fire and/or prepare yourself for the hayride.
Great-aunt Pat and Kaden keeping warm while mommy enjoyed the hayride.

Of all the hayrides I have been on or heard of, our family seems to have the only one that involves sneak hay attacks. I never found this unusual; perhaps it just makes our hayrides more fun & exciting.
Cook cousins
Can't tell everyone is related, can  you?
Kyle & Uncle Steve 

As I’ve become a mom and all of my cousins are "grownups", the ambush torch has suddenly been passed onto Kyle and the rest of our (male) generation.  This year the ambush team went above & beyond with a fireworks distraction to aid in their surprise raid.  After passing the family
cemetery, everyone collectively gazed up to the brightly lit sky and exclaimed something along the lines of, “Oh wow! FIREWORKS!” That was the precise moment the wagon was pelted with straw.  I think my aunt Dawn got the worse of it.
Aunt Dawn & Dustin

When it was over, the tractor pulled in to let everyone off.  The sky then opened up and a downpour began.  This was about the time everyone scattered.
Not sure what's happening here, but this one made me laugh!
I thought Kaden might actually go to bed at a reasonable hour because he looked deliriously tired.  Nope.  He took a power nap in the 10-minute drive to Elwood’s (my grandpa’s) house, which was sufficient enough to give him a second wind. I was secretly glad he woke up and got a chance to visit with his great-grandpa and relatives he doesn’t get to see very often.
Kaden lights up EVERY time he has been with his great-grandpa Elwood (Cook).

4-generations of Cooks

The LONG day ended with me assisting in draining a bottle (or two) of yummy red wine with my favorite female cousins, staying up WAY too late/early (6:00 am!) only to be awoken 2 hours later by my son patting my face and murmuring, “da-da-da.”

One could argue that it was completely ridiculous and irresponsible to stay up so late. 
I would have to argue that the opportunity presented itself and I had to seize it!
Besides, I’ve already recovered from my haze and will gladly do it again in December with whoever is willing as we return for Christmas (with Ben watching Kaden the next morning).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I HEART Columbia!

After meeting Kyle at his new apartment on 10th street, we quickly decided it would be WAY more fun to explore the town & agreed that we would return when Kaden clearly had enough.

Kyle & I each grabbed a side of Kaden’s car seat and walked the short distance to “the district”.   After someone along the way commented on how we were "such a cute couple", (EEEeeeewwww!) we ended up at the Broadway Brewery for dinner, where I ran into some friends from high school.  From there, we pressed on to visit Helen at The Wine Cellar, where she works, and enjoyed a little (or a LOT of) dessert with Jackie. (Chocolate fondue with trimmings AND lavender shortbread cookies… We couldn’t decide… and I was on vacation.)

Maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere and friendly faces everywhere we went. Whatever it was, Kaden had a good time with the rest of us and we stayed out until 11, when Kaden finally closed his eyes and gave into sleep.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

I know I've been talking a lot about food, but there’s nothing like taking a morning stroll a crisp, clear fall morning in Columbia, only to be treated to breakfast by your dad at Ernie´s CafĂ©.
And just when you think it can't get any better...
Kaden's 1st college football game.

For the past 12 years or so, dad has purchased season football tickets. I hadn’t been to a game in Columbia for 3 years and dad treated Kaden & I to the Mizzou-Miami, Ohio game on Saturday.  We made our way down 9th street, weaving our way across Mizzou’s campus, toward the ever-growing sea of black & gold at Faurot Field.
Kaden relaxing at the tailgate
Hanging onto Grandpa Cook

Leaving the game and walking through Tiger Plaza.
Another future tiger?

As we passed Jesse Hall and came to the quad/ the columns, I couldn't resist taking a few more pictures with the beautiful landscape in the backgroud.

... and we still had a reunion to attend that day.

tall & small looking even more pronounced

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grandma's House

Thankfully there was only one short-lived meltdown before Kaden resigned to the fact that plane was full and that he was going to have to sit quietly on my lap for our two flights into St. Louis.  Amazingly, he did it!

We began our trip in Warrenton by spending two nights at mom’s house.
Looking deliriously happy to be with grandma!

Between watching all of her animals, playing with Kyle’s old toys, climbing up & down a full set of carpeted stairs, getting to go to Jennifer’s house to play with kids his own age and getting to be cuddled to sleep by grandma, Kaden had a BLAST!

Kaden and his lady-friend, Miss Ava Schneider.
everyone sharing a banana
Kaden, Eli and Ava

Although Jennifer and I are now vastly outnumbered by small children, we still manage to get together and catch up for several hours every time I come through Warrenton.  Seeing her is always one of the high lights of my entire trip. 
We had one warm day before the weather got the memo to immediately switch from summer to fall.  Mom/grandma decided to fill Kaden’s baby pool one last time before closing it for the season.  That morning I sat down with my coffee mug and watched the ice-cold hose water fill the small pool.  Before I got a chance to process what was happening... 
... a fully-clothed little body was lumbering over the edge, eagar to get into the water.
Although the freezing water momentarily took his breath away, he must have decided the positives outweighed the negatives because he stayed IN to play for a bit...

cuddling each other to sleep each night 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Missouri, Here We Come... AGAIN

I’ve started the slow process of laundry, cleaning and gathering for yet another week-long trip
to Missouri.  When I think about packing for that first trip home exactly 1 year ago,
this round seems so much more manageable.

I hate to utter this aloud, but I feel as though I can (somewhat) coast lately.  Kaden can get around on his own, can feed himself (to an extent), and even entertain himself for sustained periods of time. 
Regardless of whether or not the floor is picked up, everything seems to wind up out of the toy boxes every morning.

With that being said, I sure hope I won't have to eat my words with us being “those people” on the plane.  I think everyone has been within earshot of "that toddler" on a long flight.  Not fun.
I am really looking forward to a relaxing trip and seeing lots of familiar faces!  

Monday, September 6, 2010

Boys Ranch Rodeo

On Saturday afternoon Kaden, Shanny & I drove out to Boys Ranch for the 66th annual rodeo.
Kaden clearly NOT as excited as I was about his new cowboy boots (thank you Hannah!) and shirt.

organized chaos

Instead of serving brisket and beans as in years past,
Ben got to work the chutes (#3) which looked much more exciting. 
Four of Ben's 6th graders participated in senoir calf riding this year.

Every year my FAVORITE event is "mutton busting".  For those of you who are unfamiliar,
a small child is placed atop an overgrown sheep and when ready, the chute is opened... 
  The sheep then takes off at a full run in an attempt to get the child off its back.
The vast majority of kids fell off in less than 8 seconds, but one girl hung on for at least 12
and got the crowd cheering on their feet.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of my boys in their cowboy gear once we got home again.
Kaden looking much happier and Ben looking quite exhausted.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Everyone has their moments and I’ve definitely had mine for nearly two weeks, which has strangely coincided with the first two weeks of school. Do I miss it? Yes, I definitely miss parts.
Could I go back without the horrible mom-guilt of dropping Kaden off at daycare for 9 hours a day? No. For me, that would be a worse feeling than my so-so feelings of missing work.
So what's my problem?  Maybe school isn’t even it... Maybe its knowing that I’m only going to be in my 20’s for a couple more weeks (but somehow I don’t think that’s it).  Who knows...

TODAY is the day I pull myself out of this funk.
I just caught up with my two best friends with two much-needed marathon phone calls.
I have my smooth Amos Lee CD playing.
I get to enjoy this fall-like day by driving the winding road to Boys Ranch for their annual rodeo.
and if the above mentioned fail to work, I always have my cheap box-o-wine in the fridge…

A more uplifting post to come...