Category Archives: Stretch

19 Years of Sous Chef… Photo Essay


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Sous Chef is 19 years old today.

It may seem sentimental, but I thank God for every one of those 6,935 days she has been alive. Each of those days is a blessing. Each of those days is a gift. Each of those days is a grace.

She is a wonderful young woman, as likely to be volunteering her time with a marginalized population as she is to be having a raucous time with her many good friends.

That I am reluctant to see her grow up and beyond The Cinnamon Girl and me is cliched and obvious.

That I am more proud than words can express of her is, I hope, equally obvious.

That she is one of the shining lights of my life and one of the best people I have ever known is gospel truth.

Happiest of birthdays, Sweetheart. Many, many, many happy returns.

 

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20/20 Vision – Happy Birthday, Stretch


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MatthewStretch turns 20 today. 10 x 2. 5 x 4. 2 decades.

I do not know how this happened so quickly.

I do not know where kid went, the one who, as a toddler, would wake up incredibly early – we are talking before 5:00am here – and drag me out of bed to play with his “guys” (his little plastic football players).

I do not know where that same kid who wanted to play every sport imaginable for as long as the days, weeks and seasons would last has gone.

I do not know where the boy who would sit in front of a computer screen playing “Backyard Football” hour-after-hour has run of to or where the kid who was sure he was going to be an NFL wide receiver or tight end has flown.

I have been looking for the guy who sat next to me at the conclusion of a frigid cold, heartbreaking Denver Bronco loss with a tear literally freezing running down his cheek.

Likewise, I have been searching out the student who sometimes asked me to read his papers and asked for help on his homework.

High and low I have sought the 6 foot 7, red robe wearing graduate I hugged as he walked across a special stage.

What I have found in these searches – what I have found with this new 20/20 vision of Stretch  now that he is 20 – is a young man on his way to adulthood. Well on his way.

I have found a young man upon whom others rely.

I have found a young man who cares deeply about his world and those around him.

I have found a prayerful young man, a passionate young man, a smart young man.

I have found a young man who it is both honor and privilege to call “son.”

And I have found just how lucky we, his bonus mom, his brother and sister and I are that he is in our family.

Happy birthday, Stretch. Many, many, many returns.

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Off to College (3 in 5 Daze) Part III: Stretch


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Day Five! The Cinnamon Girl and I bid farewell to all 3 kids as they head off to college (Sous Chef and HJ jr have already departed… and then there was 1) I love how small the world is and know that we’ll all be able to remain in contact far more easily and more closely than I was in contact with my family when I went off to school more than a few years back.

Still, it will be strange to have no kids in the house… strange and sad? Strange and wonderful? Strange and… we don’t know. It’s just a new chapter for us all.

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Stretch and I got HJ jr all set at Colorado State University following our St. Louis trek to drop off Sous Chef. I am 1832 miles into this journey which, today, comes to an end without too much travel on our end. We put Stretch on a plane to Spokane, WA (so he has another 1093 miles to go!).

 

Stretch is heading into his junior year at Gonzaga University and he’s truly begun to fill in the outlines of the man he’s going to become. Poised and confident, he’s ready for this year and for all the challenges and joys it will bring.

The Cinnamon Girl and I are most excited to know that we will be spending a week with him in Spokane this spring and will look forward to whatever trips home he makes between now and then.

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From this…

Matthew Christmas 2015

… to this in the blink of an eye.

… plans to give you hope and a future.

– Jeremiah 29.11

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Stretch Turns 19


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More than a few words on Stretch today on the occasion of his 19th birthday:

Our kid has grown into a fine young man. Caring and compassionate, Stretch  is the type of guy who holds open the door, who asks if he can help, who genuinely cares. I don’t know how much his parents have had to do with making him who he is, I just feel both profoundly lucky and profoundly blessed that he’s become the man he has.

We miss him when he’s away at school.

Stretch loves sports, I mean LOVES sports. The Cinnamon Girl notes that he will turn on the television for anything involving a bat, a bat or a coach. She’s right.

He loves his family and truly takes joy from being with and teasing Sous Chef and HJ jr. He shares the same enthusiasm for his cousins, even when they are hanging all over his arms and legs as if they were limbs of a tree.

He loves his girlfriend friends and we delight in getting to know them through his stories of them.

He loves a good joke, a good laugh, a good moment.

And I love being around him and, as I’ve said many, many times, it’s my privilege to be his dad.

Happy Birthday, son. I love you and I love you and I love you (should go on 19 times).

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A Mother’s Day With Cinnamon


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My wonderful wife, The Cinnamon Girl, is one of the most talented storytellers I know. This is not an exaggeration shared through love colored glasses, it is a fact. I have seen her take over a dinner party with this ability, making people laugh until they cry. I have watched her take over many a classroom with it, inspiring students and engaging them with her wit and smarts. Frankly, I love when she tells stories because she’s so good at it.

She fascinates and entertains our children. That’s another statement of fact and it’s also not something that I am exaggerating. She treats them as equals, as young adults and they more than appreciate that. They like being entertained by her, by her stories and her offhanded irreverence. They understand she has important things to say to them. They feel her love for them.

We have three wonderful kids, and that’s primarily because of what a wonderful mother she is. She has helped them grow and helped them find their places in the world. What a gift she is to them.

I simply couldn’t ask for a better partner in every way.

I couldn’t ask for our children to have a better mother.

I couldn’t ask for a better wife.

Happy Mother’s Day, Cinnamon Girl!

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Denver Broncos Super Season 2015 Memories I


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As we anxiously await the kickoff to Super Bowl 50, I wanted to reflect on this crazy year for the Denver Broncos – a year unlike any I can remember – and share a few highlights of the season that was…


At The Games…

I had a terrific time at the games this year, even the ones I saw in person that the Broncos lost … yes I was at both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs home games, but being at the post thanksgiving New England Patriots game and both  playoff games offset those experiences.

The best part of being at these games, though? The company I kept!

In order:

  • Sous Chef at the Kansas City game – loss.
  • Stretch at the New England game – WIN!
  • The Magister at the Oakland game – loss.
  • The Cinnamon Girl at the Pittsburgh Divisional Playoff game – WIN!
  • Sous Chef at the New England Championship Playoff game – WIN!

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Our Own Christmas in Colorado


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This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2013. I was going to update them, but they were primarily perfect the way they are.

Beyond spending time with the kids, The Cinnamon Girl and I look forward to this time of year in part because we are creatures of habit and there are wonderful routines and tropes we anticipate renewing this time of year. They are what makes the Christmas Season feel like Christmas.

One cannot always count on the weather. On December 21, 2015 as I update this post, it’s sunny, so one must generate the Christmas Spirit in other ways.

It isn’t hard to do.

Christmas Things We Enjoy

12. Decorating the House

Right after Thanksgiving, we love to get the Christmas lights and Christmas tree up and running. We did this when Stretch and HJ jr were home for their Thanksgiving Breaks. Our outdoor lights are white icicle and we added a Christmas Fox to our yard this season.

The tree is trimmed. It shines all day. I love this time of year.

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11. Making Christmas Cookies

The kids are older now, so some of the overwhelming excitement about butter, flour and sugar may be a bit lessened, but we spend an evening this week making and decorating our cookies. Everyone gets to do just what they want to, make and decorate for as long as they wish. We put on a movie or Christmas Carols, break out the cookie press and bake. These are times to enjoy!

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10. Listening to Christmas Music

Also immediately after Thanksgiving, I begin listening to Christmas music. I have a playlist ready to roll all year for this event and I even change my running routine (I’ve been listening to audio books for my runs this year) to Christmas classics. The song below is my newest favorite…

9. Christmas Kringle

When I married the Cinnamon Girl and we began to combine Christmas traditions, I can say that the best thing I gained in the bargain was the eating of the Christmas Kringle!  Never heard of it? Here’s what wikipedia has to say: “In the United States, kringles are hand-rolled from Danish pastry dough (wienerbrød dough) that has been rested overnight before shaping, filling, and baking. Thirty-two layers of the flaky dough are layered, then shaped in an oval. After filling with fruit, nut, or other flavor combinations, the pastry is baked and iced.”  Um, yeah. That description doesn’t do the Kringle justice! It’s a delicious (and calorie free!) delight that I wait all year to eat!

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8. Holiday Shopping

Each year, The Cinnamon Girl, the kids and I go out for a meal and shopping for Christmas presents. The day begins with breakfast, brunch or lunch (depending upon the shoppers’ mood!) at the Cheesecake Factory and then we wander the mall while the kids point out things they want from one another  and we do the same for them. It’s a lovely tradition that we’ve been doing for years and it is clear from these young adults that they want nothing about this tradition to change – don’t even mention it!

Once home, the kids retire to their rooms and wrap their gifts and then get them under the tree.

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7. Holiday Calendar

We love to plan the month… and plan the season. We love to work everything in that we want to do. With three teenagers and two households to consider, that gets a bit challenging, but we make it work!

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6. Smelts

My dad was Italian. A little. His mother was Italian. A lot. Italian families celebrate Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In our context, this meant only smelts. Smelts need to be cleaned – de-boned and washed. That task has fallen to me for the last decade. It’s a tradition… perhaps not the most joyous one!

In case you don’t know what that is:  from wikipedia: “The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence – in this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products – on Wednesdays, Fridays and (in the Latin Church) Saturdays, as well as during Lent and on the eve of specific holy days. As no meat or butter could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil. The meal may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. The most famous dish Southern Italians are known for is baccalà (salted cod fish). The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà is attributed to the greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.”

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5. Sponge Bob and the Christmas Moose!

Each year for the last few, Sponge Bob and the Christmas Moose have been a part of our celebrations. They turn up when we least expect them… they scare the animals, they frighten the children, the make us laugh!

They haven’t made their annual appearances yet, but I am sure they are coming…

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4. Christmas Cards

Is it a dying tradition? I don’t know. I certainly hope it’s not. There is much to be said for the act of writing, the act of signing one’s name, the act of putting a stamp on something and putting it in the mail. I love sending cards as much as I love receiving them.

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3. Christmas Eve Celebration

With the extended family on Christmas Eve, we always feel as though we are home.

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2. Cinnamon Girl Makes Christmas Dinner

No matter what she decides to make for us, it’s always delicious. This year, it’s likely to be crab and mashed potatoes with asparagus. She might even make homemade cheddar biscuits to go with along. She’ll give us champagne cocktails. She’ll make it perfect. The Cinnamon Girl is actually the best gift I got this or any year. Period. End of discussion.

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1. Time with the Family

Sous Chef.

Stretch.

HJ jr.

The Cinnamon Girl.

Family makes Christmas. My family makes Christmas great.

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