Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Frericks Christmas Eve

To catch you up on our holidays, I’ll devote this post to Christmas Eve which is when we host the big Frericks family Christmas with all of Ken’s brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and their children invited. Ken comes from a family of ten so this is the only time of the year anyone tries to invite everyone to one house!

We would easily have over 100 people if everyone was able to attend but the actual attendance this year by my estimate was 60. Since she is not often out of her wheelchair anymore, it is becoming more difficult to get Grandma Frericks to these events, particularly since, for this number of guests, we host downstairs. This is when we take full advantage of Kyle and Trevor’s strength and have them carry Grandma in her wheelchair down the steps and then back up at the end of the night.

On the other end of the family age spectrum, little great-nephew, Aiden, made his entrance by sliding down the steps!

Many made efforts to get family pictures with grandma.

Our family picture was in last post but here’s the one of Ken’s sister Lois and her family with Grandma. This family has had a difficult Christmas since Erin and BJ’s father, Bruce, passed away just a week earlier at age 60. It’s been a very difficult season for all of us with deaths. Since October, we’ve lost a niece, an uncle, a brother-in-law, a coach, a close friend from church and a young man the boys age with whom both played high school sports.…but I digress…back to the joys of the holiday.

As my contribution to the meal, I cooked 2 turkeys and 3 hams.

Ditka took the job of being the official ‘ham guard’. He stood at the kitchen counter, directly below the ham, for literally hours guarding the hams as we rotated them through baking, cooling, carving.

Everyone brings a covered dish and we provided the drinks. I had too much ham but with Trevor home until mid-January, I’m not too concerned about leftovers!

There were several toasts in our bar area in honor of Kyle and Jenni’s engagement. Kyle had mentioned he might have difficulty making morning Mass with Jenni’s family if cousin Joe made it to the party and I did notice that most of the ‘toast’ pictures included Joe!! (Kyle suffered through it though and was up by 7am to leave for Mass with Jenni—boy, it really must be love!!)

As usual the foosball table, was center stage for many of the younger crowd.

The highlight of the evening is the ‘switcheroo’ game that is open to anyone high school age or older. If you want to participate you buy a $25 gift that you expect most anyone would enjoy receiving.

Ken passes out numbers equal to the number of gifts. This year there were 26 participants. The person with #1 opens a gift. The person who had drawn #2 can either ‘steal’ the opened gift or open a new one. If you have your gift stolen you can then steal form someone else.

By the time you get to the last numbers there is a LOT of stealing going on as well as a lot of teasing and ‘negotiating’!.

The little one’s gather in the center with the gifts and help pass them around, unwrap and throw away the paper. We’ve learned over the years that buying gifts such as cute little stuffed animals can be a problems since you can end up with a teary toddler if someone snatches such a gift from their parent!

Those who chose not to play the game used the nearly 2 hours of game play as a good time to get through the buffet line. This actually worked well for us since not everyone was trying to eat at one time.

Over the years the game has really gotten pretty crazy and some have started ‘alliances’ to try to figure out how to get the gifts they want most. It’s all in fun. This year we decided to break ‘alliances’ by passing out playing cards every fifth round and anyone who got an Ace got to tell any two other folks they had to switch gifts. It’s always interesting to see which gifts are the hot items for the year. This year a rice cooker/steamer and a beautiful Italian porcelain mask Joe brought (he is currently stationed in Italy) seemed to get a lot of attention.

As always, everyone had a lot of fun with it.

As we were at the door seeing everyone off, I noticed that some of the kids had fun phone repositioning some of Ken's decorations so that they were bidding everyone farewell from the staircase

....a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Hugs, C

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Ring for Jenni!

On Christmas Eve our oldest son, Kyle, proposed to the love of his life, Jenni Richmiller.
In keeping with tradition, Kyle had asked permission of Jenni’s father, Danny, the week before and brought the ring home on December 23rd. I knew this was coming since I had been in discussions with Kyle on the type of ring and diamond since before Thanksgiving.

He had quickly become an expert on the 4 'C's of diamond buying and in the end chose a high quality diamond and brought in to Carlinville to be mounted by the local jeweler. He chose a solitaire diamond just over 1 carat that is an Asscher cut which has a really beautiful firey brilliance with all its added facets.

He was going to wait until after the holidays to give Jenni the ring. I kept coming up with ideas of how he could give it to her in unique ways over the holidays so that they could make the announcement amidst holiday family and friend festivities. Kyle didn’t like the idea of making it a public proposal but in the end the ring was burning a whole in his pocket and so he proposed on Christmas Eve when he found a time that none of us were around.

Since Jenni’s two brothers are both in the Army, they are planning an October 2010 wedding since that seems to be the most likely time that neither will be deployed. Now the fun begins trying to coordinate the church, reception hall, bridal party, etc., They’ve already gotten a good start on the planning and I’m trying very hard now to stay in the background and let them do it their way like a good ‘Mother of the Groom’ should do. They have asked me to make some contacts of various reception halls and places for dinners this week so I will get my ‘fix’ of being part of the project!

It’s exciting to me since I now have a daughter in the family as well as the boys. But the most important part is the Jenni loves my son dearly and is very good to him.

They seem to be a perfect fit for each other and work really well as partners.

Grandma Frericks is now the only one of the grandparents still around so we got a photo with her and our new family of five at the Christmas Eve party.
Hugs, C

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Graduation Party!!

Trevor graduated last May with his BS degree in Accounting and will graduate this coming May with his MBA. That didn't stop us from also getting in a December graduation party on Friday for two of Trevor's close friends and fellow football players, Kevin Mahoney and Andre Lima, who both were receiving their bachelor degrees on Saturday.

Kevin's request was that we plan his party somewhere that he could get a steak so we chose the Alamo Steakhouse in Mattoon, IL. They don't normally take reservations but with the number of people we had they were willing to set aside an area for us. Unfortunately I had not considered the fact that the Division I-AA football championship between Villanova and Montana was on TV at exactly the same time and they had us in a room without television. The management was very understanding that these guys HAD to see the game and worked things around last minute so that we could sit with good views of their large projection TV's.

We had met some of the guys and Kevin's mom at the 'Meat Mansion' (ok, rather crude name that is used for the house where Trevor, Kevin and Chris live) and then had car pooled over to Mattoon. The guys were quick to get the party started!

Andre and his family arrived shortly after. We were really surprised to see Andre with his new hair! His long, long, dark curly locks are all gone and he's now donning a more 'professional' hairstyle. This short hair will probably be a blessing for his 6 week trip coming up to return home to Brazil. Then he'll be heading up to Chicago to begin his internship with a construction management company.

There was one guy who was not particularly thrilled with the change over to the other side of the restaurant. We could now see the TV's but Andre's little brother, Kevin, couldn't reach the top of the table from his booster seat!! He quickly decided he preferred big brothers lap over the booster seat.

We were suddenly quite surprised to have Coach Spoo, the EIU head coach, drop by. He and his coaching staff were having the holiday dinner at the restaurant. We took the opportunity to snap some photos of the graduates with Coach. Coach Spoo has been named OVC Conference Coach of the Year and is currently in the running for the National Coach of the Year. 20% of the vote is based on internet votes so you can help Coach bring in some really big bucks for the EIU team by giving him a vote at this website.

This is Coach Kray who always helped with the D-Line. Nick Kray's cousin Mike Shanahan, an EIU alumni and former Denver Broncos coach is apparently now in contention to become the next Washington Redskins coach. EIU is known as the NFL 'Cradle of Coaches'. Besides Shanahan, for example, New Orleans Saints Heach Coach, Sean Payton, and Minnesota Vikings Head Coach, Brad Childress are both former EIU Panthers. In addition there are several current NFL assistant coaches that are EIU alumni.

Forrest Jackson, the coach of the Defensive Line, dropped by to offer congratulations as well. Coach Jackson has one of division championship before so he showed us his ring and we were passing it around to get some idea of what they guys would be getting. There rings won't arrive until after the holidays unfortunately.

As most of you know, Trevor had originally signed with and played at a D1-A school, Bowling Green State University. He played his last game with that team against Ohio State to a packed house of over 105,000 at the famed Horseshoe. (We had thought that after playing their he'd never want to leave 1-A ball but we were wrong and it turns out he made a great decision). When he decided to leave BGSU and come to Eastern, two of his best buds, O-Linemen at BGSU, Guy Williamson and Kevin Mahoney, decided to transfer with him. Although Guy later left EIU to go to work with his father, he came back to celebrate Kevin's graduation. It's been a long time since I've had a shot of these three guys together.

Sandy Mahoney, brought a cake for Kevin and Andre. I'm thinking the sign behind them is appropriate advice to these former football players as they move on from their college days. It says 'Live life like it's the 2 minute warning'!
It became apparent the rest of the evening that these guys are having no problem living life to the fullest!
Stuffed from a really great meal, we all headed back to the 'Meat Mansion' for 'Beer Pong' competition. The guys had their stereo attached to a laptop providing loads of great Christmas music as background straight from 'YouTube'. (I'll have to get Trevor to set up similar playlists so we have the videos/music as background for our upcoming family gatherings). I was surprised that there are also a variety of 'Beer Pong' songs/videos on Youtube as well. Spending a Friday evening with university students is a very 'educational' experience!

Ken and Trevor were doing quite well as a team. I stayed out of the competion - might have felt differently if there was such a thing as 'Margarita Pong'!

Of course, as the night proceeded there were plenty of rounds of shots and toasts to the new grads.
At midnight, when Ken and I were ready to call it a night, the rest were ready to start hitting the bars. I'm very happy that Trevor's house is within easy walking distance from most of the Charleston night spots, since to them the time at the house was only the 'pre-game'.
On our way back to our motel, Ken and I and Sandy Mahoney deposited the group at their first stop, the Panther Paw. I was surprised that the Paw was so packed considering Christmas break had started but apparently the hundreds of mid-year EIU grads all had similar ideas about where to go to enjoy one of their last nights on campus.

Saturday, the official graduation day, Andre had the early round of graduations so we didn't get to see him. However, since Kevin didn't graduate until afternoon, the Mahoney parents, Ken and I, and the 'Meat Mansion' boys met for breakfast at Lincoln Garden Restaurant. It was amazing that these guys were up and about at 10am considering they were still partying at 4am!! As we left the restaurant there were hugs and best wishes from all the various waitresses since this restaurant has been a regular meal stop for the boys for years now.
We know we will continue to see Kevin since he is going to stay in Charleston until he finds more permanent work. However, it was really sad to say our good-byes to Andre since we don't know when we'll be seeing him again now that he is leaving the area. These football guys are a true brotherhood though and I've no doubt that these wonderful guys will be Trevor's lifelong friends, and forever a part of our extended family.
Next post I'll fill you in on just how much I DON'T like travelling without the RV!!
Hugs, C

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rig Maintenance and Gift Wrapping

Ken left very early Tuesday morning, in single-digit temperatures, to go out to where the motorhome is stored. He got it warmed up and then headed to our local big-truck service center, Rick's Transit, to have annual service completed on the rig.

While the engine started without problem, the generator took a bit of coaxing and the jacks seemed a bit sluggish. Ken had picked up the dessicant filter ahead of time at Freightliner because the prior year he found out after in for service that no one in town had the right filter.
This filter is suppose to be changed every 2-3 years to keep the moisture out of the air breaks, bags, etc., Since this was the 3rd year he wanted to be sure we had the filter replaced. Lo and behold, they found out after starting service that Freightliner had provided the wrong filter. Not sure how this happened since they used the VIN# to determine the filter. Luckily, Rick's was able to locate the right filter.

Ken likes to stay around and annoy the mechanics while the are doing the service. Actually he likes to go to Rick's because they don't mind having him around learning more about the rig mechanics while they are doing the work. They serviced the engine, chassis, generator, air systems, and checked ride height.

On his way back to our storage lot, Ken drove down town to get a propane refill. He got a lot of strange looks from people, driving this big rig around in this kind of weather. I suppose they figured we should have been down south by now!

It was gift wrapping day for me. I dressed in one of my Christmas sweaters, turn on DirectTV Holiday Music channel and covered the dining room with boxes and wrapping paper, bows and ribbon.

Ken returned in time to help with a few of the last gifts...but not before I had wrapped his gift!

Today was also the day that the H1N1 vaccines were available to the general public here in Quincy so we drove downtown so I could get my vaccination. Ken had been vaccinated earlier since he qualified for the first round with a chronic health condition.

We dropped by our nutritional supplements provider, Melissa, to pick up some items Kyle had requested.

Tuesday is the night that Pop's Pizza has $10 large taco pizza's and $1 bottles of beer and margaritas so we decided that was a good excuse for eating out.

Afterward, we dropped by the local Farm and Home supply where our great-nephew, Derek, works since if was 'family night' and we got an extra 20% off. We found a couple of additional gifts so I'll be back to the my gift wrapping room!

It seems that even when we don't have much planned for the day we have full days!

Hugs, C

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Halls are Decked!!

I have a new appreciation for all the work Ken has gone through in past years putting up all the Christmas Decorations while I was at work.

This year Ken pulled all the decorations out of the attic for me and did the outside decorations. I told him I would take care of inside. Geez, we have a lot of decorations!! Some of our Christmas decorating schemes are getting really old and dated but since we haven't decided for sure whether we will even be here next Christmas, we are trying NOT to buy anything new. In fact, when Ken saw me taking pictures, he suggested I simply use the file from last year since everything looks the same!! (But I didn't--seemed like cheating!!)

So here's a quick tour.... From the outside the style of our house is sort of ready made for Christmas wreaths, ribbon and garland. Pretty traditional.

As you come in the front door, the foyer is decked out in ribbons and garland as well.

Here's looking down from the second floor.

The family room is where we put the primary tree with lots of homemade and special ornaments, some of which go as far back as having graced my family tree when I was little.

It's all topped with Grandma Frericks crocheted garland and tree-topper Angel.

(Oops, I see now that the dogs have once again messed up the bottom row of 'popcorn'...they love to chase each other under the tree--not my favorite of their games!!)

We have another small tree downstairs.

This year I did it completely in apple ornaments, with one of Grandma Frericks quilted tree skirts at the base. She made a tree skirt for us and each boy so right now I'm 'borrowing' from the boys to make sure both the upstairs and downstairs trees are properly attired.

From there, I've just got lots of miscellaneous decorations strewn about the house.

Here's the hutch in the kitchen with one of grandma's hand crocheted Christmas doilee and the two little Longaberger sleds my mother gave me as Christmas 'hostess' gifts back when she was still here but no longer able to host Christmas.

The hutch gets more attention during Christmas parties as its where we set out all the Christmas candies and cookies.

Over the years we have accumulated a variety of centerpieces like this one that currently resides on the kitchen bar.

As Christmas cards arrive. I like to hang them from ribbon down the sides of the kitchen doors since regardless of the type of gathering, our kitchen seems to get the most traffic.

Since most cards arrive with family pictures its a nice central location for guests to take a look at the holiday photos from other family and friends. For example, there's some great pictures of one of our newer little great nieces, Clara, who lives in Washington, DC and won't be making it to our Christmas party (I made sure to put them right at eye-level, Grandma Cindy!!)

Well as per request, that's a quick tour of some of our holiday decorations!

Hugs, C

Our Family Candy Company!!

Sunday was my sister Kathleen's annual Christmas Candy Factory gathering. Ken and I are lucky that since we don't yet have extended families, we are included as part of Kathleen's family. This is one of my favorite parts of the holiday because all of my sisters' kids and grandkids look forward to the event and have a really great time. There's no better example in our family of what the season is all about!

Aunts and uncles did the cooking icing and coordinated as our little nieces and nephews did the sugar cookie 'sprinkles' artwork

McKinley even enlisted help of big brother, the oldest of the nieces/nephews, Derek

Even Grandpa Walt got in to the act as Chief Fudge Pourer

My niece, Deanna, shows off the results of the days work

Thought you might like to 'sample' some of our candy factory goodies...

Here is probably the simplest, yet one of most delicious 'recipes' we make. I'm not even sure it has a name so I'm simply calling if 'Rolo Turtles'.

On a cookie sheet, you simply take some shaped pretzels (we used the holiday stars) and place one unwrapped rolo candy on the center of each pretzel. Place in a 350-degree oven for 4-5 minutes to soften the rolo. Place one pecan half over each rolo and press down to spread the softened rolo over the pretzel.
Note: per request: these holiday shape pretzels can be found at Sam's (generic). Also come in Rold Gold brand at many grocery stores.


Hugs, C

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's a Little Cold to Be Taking That Coat Off!!!

Ditka, in typical contrary fashion, decided this cold weather is a perfect time to 'blow coat', when it is too cold to brush him outside. When people say Shiba's don't look like they would shed much, I need to have this picture to pull out and show them!

Ken has gotten this much fur off of him daily this week...you'd think he'd be bald by now!! Thank goodness they only blow coat twice a year.

Since Thanksgiving weekend when we had the last football game, we've spent more consecutive days back at 'the nest' than any other time since I retired. Ken has used the time to complete winterizing and various maintenance actitivies he had lined up for the motorhome.

We've had our first snowfall but the blizzard threat earlier this week turned out to be mostly wind and low temperatures with little snow.

Here's the view into our backyard and on to the golf course.

Sox was not pleased to be put out to do her business in that cold and snow.

I can imagine she's wondering why we drove that motorhome back here to cold Quincy when it could have just as easily have turned South!!

Hugs, C

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family Milestone-Trevor's Job

There are times you look back on over the years as milestones in your family, times when you approach forks in the trail and then the course becomes clear.

Our youngest son, Trevor, has accepted a position with RSM McGladrey as an Assurance Associate. He will not actually start work until next fall. In the meantime, while he completes his MBA as part of his football scholarship, McGladrey will pay for him to do the CPA review courses, pay his expenses to take the CPA exams and even give him a bonus when he passes the exam. We are thrilled for him. Businessweek ranks McGladrey as one of the best places to start a career so I can't imagine a place I'd rather have him starting out, especially since it is in Springfield, IL, a not-too-big not-too-small city, which puts him only 30 minutes from big brother Kyle in quaint little Carlinville and 90 minutes from hometown Quincy.

We expect he'll be on the road a lot, but for a single 23 year old guy who loves to travel its all good. He's also really lucky to be able to travel out of Springfield which has great flight connections on decent size aircraft and yet is small enough to make your time from your car to your gate minimal.

In this economy, with so many new college grads struggling to find anything, getting this kind of work is a dream come true. Also, because of the time and expense involved in studying for the CPA, this job insures that Trevor stays motivated toward that goal.

Despite full time football and full time studies, Trevor stayed persistent in pursuing internships and job opportunities. He didn't ask for help or input from Mom or Dad and I had to resist the temptation to bug him about what was going on. I've found in recent years that its one thing to feel good about your children's accomplishments that you've helped them achieve but its a really special feeling to see them succeed totally on their own. I guess its our latest phase in parenting!

With Kyle now settled in to his own house and Trevor with a defined starting point in his career, our nest is soon to be permanently empty! When, after I left work, people would ask whether Ken and I planned to stay in Quincy, become fulltime RVers, keep our house, I always said that we had to see that both boys were settled somewhere after college before we would make that decision. While it will be nearly a year before Trevor is settled in to his new job, little by little it seems the stars are aligning!

Hugs, C