Archive for October, 2008

Getting away, part 2

The departure was somewhat hindered by – what else? – a vehicular challenge!  It turns out that Scott’s Honda was in need of new tires, and I guess it was an urgent need, because Scott said we needed to stop by Economy Tire in Ozark on our way out of town to get the new tires.  We were supposed to be there at 1:00 PM, so we planned to leave the house at 12:30.

I had already packed almost all my stuff, but there were three things lacking, and I had written a note on the fridge to remind us to pack them:  maps, games, food.  I hate packing the food.  I guess it is due to my innate aversion to meal prep in all its forms, but I always try to get Scott (and Jessica, if it’s a family camping trip) to pack the food.  I told Scott I hadn’t done anything on food yet, and I suppose that was a coded message (big no-no in our family), but later in the morning, I did see him pulling some food items together.

I needed to pick up Andrew from his art class at 11:00, and we had some cleaning up to do (it’s a woman thing; we hate coming home to a mess), plus we all needed to eat lunch, finish last-minute packing, and get gone by 12:30.  Scott was working ANPAC till the last possible moment, and it was all a whirlwind, but we did leave at 12:30.

About halfway to Ozark, Scott said, “Oh, no!  I didn’t pack any games!”  In our family, this was a very serious situation.  We like to play games.  Scott and I really like getting to play games alone sometimes, and the only time we seem to make time to do that is when we are on a getaway.  We talked about which games we wished we had brought – Perquackey, maybe Boggle, Quiddler.  Scott commented that those were all word games (my favorite type), and I told him that we should have also brought something strategic (his favorite type).  Then I made the fatal mistake of mentioning Sequence.

Sequence is Scott’s very favorite game; one which he could play for hours on end, and when I brought it up, he said that maybe we should turn around and go back to get it.  However, we decided that if we did go back, by the time we got to Ozark, got the tires, took Andrew to Isaac and Janet’s house, and got on the freeway, we wouldn’t have enough time to get to Tulsa, check in to the hotel, eat dinner, and get to the concert on time.  The concert would start at 7:00 PM, but I had told him that for me, “on time” would be 6:45.  Since it was my birthday celebration he chose to honor me in that, even though he strongly dislikes arriving anywhere early.

We did have one funny moment.  Andrew was in the back seat reading while we were discussing our tragic lack of games, and I turned to him and said, “Hey, Andrew, I have an idea.  When we get to Ozark (20 minutes from home), I’ll drop Dad to get the tires (which was supposed to take 30-40 minutes) and I’ll go home to get the games.”  “Okay,” he mumbled, not really paying attention.  “So would you rather go home with me or stay with Dad?”  “Ummm, stay with Dad.”  “Okay.  That sounds like a plan.  Do you think that’s a good idea?”  “Yeah, sure.”

Scott and I grinned at each other.

We ended up sitting at Economy Tire for longer than expected, because it seems that once they got our old tires off, they realized that they only had two of the tires they had quoted Scott.  They ended up giving us a set of four slightly better ones for the quoted price, so we finally blew that town, dropped Andrew with our great friends in Walnut Grove, and were eventually able to “Go West, Young Man.”

Three hours later. . .

I was driving as we approached Tulsa.  At home, we had googled the Spirit Bank Event Center (the concert location) and a lot of options came up.  We later figured out that they were probably a lot of Spirit Bank branches.  Anyway, we had picked the one that sounded most promising and printed out those directions.  Also, given our hurried departure, not only had we forgotten games, we had forgotten maps.  All we had with us were printed directions to the event center (or so we thought) and directions from there to the hotel.

By precisely following our internet directions, we successfully drove straight to . . . the corporate headquarters building for the Spirit Bank – in northwest Tulsa.  But something was clearly amiss.  There was absolutely no traffic in the area, which seemed odd, given the concert starting in an hour.  Hmmm. . . Noticing that there didn’t seem to be any arena nearby, and not having a clue where we were, I continued driving in ever-increasing squares as we pondered what to do.

I then thought of our friends Dan and Anna who live in Tulsa.  Surely they could talk us through getting from where we were to where we needed to be.  It was now about 6:00 PM.  Dinner before the concert was looking unlikely.

We pulled into a gas station so Scott could drive.  He likes for me to drive when brains are not required, but when things get sticky, he prefers to be behind the wheel.  The switch was good, because it would give me a chance to call Dan and Anna.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any numbers for them in my cell.  But not to worry.  I knew I could call Anna’s mom, Connie (in Arkansas), and she could give me the numbers.  So I started dialing various numbers, trying to remember Connie’s home phone, a number I probably had not dialed in ten years.  Even with trying the new AR area code, I kept getting errors.  Shoot!!! What the heck WAS her number?!?!?

Next I got the brilliant idea to call my mom and ask her to look up Connie’s number.  She tried to, but was not able to find them listed in her Little Rock phone book.  So, I asked her to get Dad on the phone and I asked him to go online and look up Connie’s number.  He was successful and I called Connie, who then gave me Dan and Anna’s home number and Anna’s cell.

I called Anna’s cell and left a message, then called their home and got Dan.  I was really glad to reach him, but when I began explaining our predicament, I am sure he thought we were totally loo-loo.  While Dan gave Scott directions, I went into the gas station and bought – at Scott’s request – an Oklahoma state map and a Tulsa city map.  Even though I selected the paper instead of the plastic versions, it would probably be best for us not to tell him how much those two maps cost.

Dan’s directions were spot on, and by 6:20 PM, we were really and truly headed toward the Spirit Bank Event Center, which is actually in the neighboring town of Bixby at the far southeast edge of Tulsa.  We were both getting very hungry, but at least it looked like we would make it to the concert “on time.”

All was well until we got to the appropriate (“Memorial”) exit, where we found two lanes of exiting traffic ground to a total halt.  It took us – no joke – 25 minutes to get from the shoulder of the freeway to stop light at the end of the exit ramp.  It was 6:55 PM.  Most of the population of Greater Tulsa clearly intended to attend this concert, and 95% of those were in front of us, barely moving.

Once on Memorial, The Event Center was on our left, probably only about one-half mile from the freeway, but it was after 7:10 when we finally found a place to turn left off Memorial into a parking lot for a grocery store right next to (before) the Event Center.  With most of Tulsa and a significant portion of Oklahoma all going to the concert, we figured that the actual Event Center parking lot would be full anyway and that this was as close as we would get.

So we parked in front of the grocery store and began the hike to the Event Center, and that’s where the comedy routine began.  Between the grocery and the Event Center was a strip mall which ran perpendicular to Memorial.  It faced the Event Center parking lot, and its back was toward the grocery.  We followed the ever-increasing crowd, and approached the hindquarters of the strip mall.  You know, back doors and dumpsters and such.  But not only that, the ground behind the strip mall was (SHOCK and AWE!) about eight feet lower that the ground we were standing on!  We were actually on top of a retaining wall.  Not only that, there was a metal rail fence on top of the wall!

As we got closer to this obstacle, I told Scott, “I am SO not going to climb a fence.”  But when we actually got up to the fence, we found that we were at the end of a long, but steadily and calmly progressing (after all, we’re Christians, right?) line of people.  Why?  Someone had set up a ladder at the bottom of the retaining wall, and all the folks who had parked at the grocery were queuing up to climb through the fence, step onto the ladder, and climb down to the level strip mall/Event Center parking lot!  What an adventure!

Thankfully, Scott missed the photo op on the large woman squeezing between the bars of the fence, successfully landing feet first on the ladder, and making her descent.  We then all but ran to the Event Center from which, thankfully, we did NOT hear any music emanating.

Once inside, we raced to the facilities, climbed up high and and then down low to locate our seats (which ended up being some of the best in the house), got settled in, and in about three minutes, the concert started.  It was SO, SO, SO wonderful.  The best we’ve ever heard.  Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman were both outstanding and we got to experience some truly amazing worship.  We loved every minute of it, and we really appreciate the help of all the folks in North Little Rock, Sheridan, and Broken Arrow who so graciously helped get us there.

After the concert, we assumed we would climb back to the car the way we had come – Scott was even planning to get a picture –  but no.  The Event Center security guards had roped off the driveway behind the strip mall and the ladder had been removed, so we had to walk all the way around the strip mall in the cold and wind; but we had been so blessed by the concert that we didn’t care.  = )

To be continued. . .

Private eye solves mystery

So I finally stopped whining about our cars not going, and Scott and I decided to try to get the Toyota (22 years old) fixed before the van, because the van had more problems.  I guess it has issues or something.  It flat out refused to start for anyone for any reason with or without jumper cables.  I wanted to tell it where it could put its jumper cables, but – oh yeah, I’m supposed to be done whining.

Next step:  call Economy Tire in Ozark and see when they could look at the Toyota.  Of course, that would assume that we could somehow get the Toyota running.  About 3:00 PM Monday they could work it in, but it would be better to bring it in sooner, because then if someone else cancelled, they could get to it sooner.  We had to scrape the windshields Monday morning (it was COLD!), but we were able to use the Honda to jump the Toyota.  I drove the latter and Scott followed me in the former the 20 miles to Ozark, but just before we left home, Scott said to me, “It can’t really be a battery problem; the battery’s brand new.  It’s more like something is draining the battery.”  And a light bulb went on in the air above my head.

I replied, “You know, that key will come out of the ignition switch in any position.  I’ve even had it fall out on my foot while the car’s tooling down the road.  Maybe I’m turning the car off and taking the key out and it’s not in the correct position, and something about that is draining the battery.”

Hmmm. . .

Well, off we went to Ozark, but before handing the car off to them, Scott asked one of their guys that very question, and he said, “YES!  That would surely drain the battery.”  So we asked him why, if that were the case, did the battery not get recharged when I ran it for thirty minutes after jumping it the day before.  He said that if it had been drained ALL the way (which it surely had, as it hadn’t been driven in almost a week and the ignition had probably been in the wrong position that whoel time), it could take up to a few HOURS of running to re-charge it.  He suggested we make sure it was always turned to off to the LOCK (like table trays in the full upright) position, take it home and be glad.

Which we did.  The trusty 22-year-old has now become our main family vehicle, and it’s doing a good job.  Methinks is may be yearning for a front-end alignment, but I drove it all day today with probably ten different stops and it started right up each time.

I repent of my whining.

However, the vehicular saga continues, because this morning, after the van sat on the driveway for 24 hours (during which multiple starting attempts were made, all with absolutely no hint of success), I turned the key and it started right up.

PUH-LEEEZE someone go figure and tell me what that means!

Remind me again about the cost of cars

Let’s see.  I am pretty sure the phrase has to do with the car you’re currently driving being the cheapest car you’ll ever own.  Didn’t Larry Burkett say something like that?  Well, I hope Larry (God rest his soul) never faced the sequence of vehicular challenges that presented themselves to me today.

Faithful readers may recall that our trusty van, the 98 Dodge Grand Caravan, has recently had a hard time starting, but only from time to time.  It has a brand new starter ($$$) and a brand new battery ($) and the mechanic can’t figure out why it starts sometimes and sometimes refuses to.  It now requires two hands to count the number of times I have been stranded in the past six weeks – SINCE the two new additions mentioned above.

Then we had the day that the van wouldn’t turn off, which just added a bit of interest to the saga and a little more ($$$) to the ole’ VISA card.

Today I used the van – which started right up with a satisfying VROOM – to take Andrew to gymnastics at 3:30 PM, seven miles from home.  I came back, parked the van in the driveway and went into the house.  I spent an hour and a half doing odd tasks and went back out to the van at 5:15 to pick up Andrew when his class ended at 5:30.  The van was completely dead.  Well, the chime came on and the dashboard lit up, but there was no click or anything when the key was turned.  DEEP sigh.

The 86 Toyota is not especially comfortable for me to drive, but as it was the only other option, I got in, adjusted the seat and turned the key.  Nothing.  Not a click.  Absolutey nothing.  The Toyota also has a brand new battery.  DEEPER sigh.

I called our neighbor, Bill, who I had just seen drive past on his way home, but there was no answer there.  I then called Scott, who was in Springfield where he had worked hard all day and was preparing to teach a two-hour Bible class this evening.  I told him that I was sick, sick, sick of cars that don’t start, and that while I am not proud and am perfectly happy to drive used vehicles, I had had it and I thought it was time to spend $30K and get a car that actually starts when the key is turned.  He knew I was being sarcastic and said very softly, “I’m sorry.”  I told him I was sorry too and that I would get over it and figure out a way to pick up Andrew.

I next called our neighbor, Steve, who said he’d be glad to come jump me.  Now bear in mind that just last week, when the van stranded me in the Hobby Lobby parking lot in Springfield, it had taken quite a bit of effort to jump it.  In fact, it did nothing even after revving the other car.  Then, suddenly, after no clicking or anything, it just started.  So when Steve tried to jump it today, we were determined to be persistent.  However, after being hooked to a good battery for 10 minutes, there was still only two times that it tried to turn over, then nothing.  The dreaded (but now very familiar) dinging chime, lit dash, and no click.  We gave up and shifted our attempts to the Toyota.

It also took about five minutes of charging (its BRAND NEW battery), but it finally, very sluggishly turned over.  I let it run for about five minutes, then drove it to the gym where I left it running while I went in to get Andrew.  We came home.  I parked the Toyota – which I assumed would now have to function at least temporarily as our main family car – in front of the dead van and turned it off.  Then, just to make sure all was still well (which it surely should be after having run the car for over thirty minutes straight), I turned the key.  The Toyota was completely dead.  No click.  No nothing.  I thought about crying, but I think it may have been Daisy Osborn who said crying was a gross waste of time, so I didn’t bother.

This dead vehicle situation was becoming a true inconvenience.  Hopefully Scott would be home on Tuesday and I could use his car (a Honda that hopefully has not caught the “dead” virus from the other members of our used car lot) to get Andrew to and from gymnastics.  However, Scott would take the Honda to Springfield on Wednesday, when I would need a car to get Andrew to piano, me to the grocery, and the two of us to church, and again on Thursday, when I would again need to do two gymnastics runs.  What to do?

Then I thought of our Old Faithful green Aerostar!  It wasn’t insured, but a phone call could fix that.  If it would run, I could hopefully have a reliable vehicle for the next few days.  Andrew and I hiked confidently back to the toyport to try it out.  I put in the key and turned it and, voila!, it went rnnn, nnn, n n n, but wouldn’t turn over. I tried again.  Just a click.  One more try and – you guessed it – nothing.

So here I sit with three cars, not one of which will start.  You know, I don’t really ask for a lot in a vehicle.  I can live without power windows and locks.  I don’t yearn for leather seats or bun warmers.  I do like my AC and heat, but I don’t need a CD player, a cassette player, or even a radio.  I’m willing to scrape windows, so rear window defrost isn’t essential.  Map lights are nice, but we can carry Mighty Brights.  My seats don’t need to recline or remember where I last positioned them.  All I really want is for the @#$%*&%^ car to simply start when I turn to the key.  Every time.  To be specific, I want a van that starts, and I want it now.

Maybe I just need a little cheese with this whine.

The end.

Getting Away, part 1

Every year, usually in the fall, Scott and I take a long weekend away without kids.  His purpose for this jaunt is to evaluate our personal lives, our marriage, our kids, our ministries, and our future – including but not limited to filling out questionnaires, asking each other hard questions, and setting short-term and long-range goals in something like eight pre-defined categories.  My purpose for the trip is to rest, relax, and have fun.

I’m not passionate about contemporary Christian music like Scott and the girls are.  In fact, I can go months at a time without hearing any contemporary Christian music at all, and I will not feel deprived in the least.  However, there is a handful of such singers on my (extremely) short list of favorites.  One of tragically died a few years back (and the world is poorer because it), but I was quite excited to learn this summer that the other two would be touring together this fall.  Yes, I will show all 48 years of my age by admitting unashamedly that I really REALLY REALLY like the music of Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman.  Scott asked what I wanted for my birthday and I said I wanted to go to their Tulsa “United” concert on October 23.  Furthermore, I told him I wanted to go so badly that if he were away on business then, I would go alone or take some subset of our kids and go with them.

It turns out that Scott would be available, so we ordered tickets for the Thursday night event and reserved a room at a Marriott.  We get those “free,” compliments of all the purchases I dutifully labor to rack up on our VISA card.  Scott then suggested we combine the concert with our annual weekend away.  Ho-hum, okay, I guess so.  After all, if he was willing to go with me to have fun, could I really complain about a couple days of “work?”  So it was a fine idea, but neither of us really wanted to spend three days in Tulsa.  (No offense, Dan and Anna.)  We’re just more the cabin-in-the-woods type than the big-city type.

Scott didn’t have time to do the research and reservation of a cabin, so he delegated that task-ette to me, and I was happy to handle it.  I didn’t think it would be too tough, but I was quite wrong.  Our favorite destination is normally Newton County, Arkansas, which includes some of the MOST gorgeous real estate God ever created.  I called various cabins we have frequented in the past, but they were all booked for that Friday and Saturday night.  I called places we had never been.  I called places I wasn’t sure we would want to go, and half many, many renditions of “no room at the inn,” I finally figured out that that particular weekend was expected to be at the height of fall color season.  The whole world wanted to be in Newton County those two nights!

Expanding the seach parameters a bit (read “don’t limit it to Newton County and be willing to pay any price”) I finally found a vacancy.  It was at the Gates Historic cabin in suburban Snowball, Searcy County, Arkansas.  You can read about it here. Quickly lest someone else call on another line and snatch the reservation out from under me, I gave the woman our credit card number and carefully wrote down some very interesting directions, the combination to a locked gate, and the location of the cabin key.

With lodging arranged, the only remaining detail was Andrew care.  Initially, Jessica and Josiah intended to be home during that time, so they could keep the young child.  Next, they decided they, too, would like to attend the concert with some other friends, and we said that was fine, but they would have to take Andrew with them.  = )  They agreed.  Then they decided to go on a five-week mission trip that would have them somewhere in New Jersey or Delaware during the critical time.  Uh-oh.  Scott then stepped in and asked our good friends, Isaac and Janet, (whose daughter and Andrew have been close friends for years) if they would be interested in providing room and board for a nine-year-old for four days.  Crazy people that they are, they said “sure!”

A good time would be had by all.  At least it would if we could ever get out of town.

To be continued. . .

It’s over

Please don’t anyone tell Scott how relieved I am that baseball season is officially over for Team Roberts.  We’ve had plenty of late nights, which don’t affect my husband, but do affect my son and me.   I am sorry that the Red Sox didn’t make it to the World Series, buy hey, I was also sorry that the Cardinals didn’t make it to the play-offs.  I am a loyal wife and a loyal fan, and I’m so very thankful that our lives can now return to some semblance of normal.

I had gotten used to the van not starting,

although for over a month now, my happy little Caravan has started perfectly every time.  I’m so thankful.  I do, however, clearly remember those very frustrating days when it wouldn’t start and no one knew why.  My dad thought it may have had something to do with the neutral safety switch, a gizmo of which I had never heard, but which made sense when he explained it.  Since the car is consistently starting now, I have not investigated that further, EXCEPT for a stroke of brilliant listening a few days after Dad sent me that email.

It was a Saturday about 12:40 PM, and I was listening to “Car Talk” on NPR with “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.”  It’s mostly a comedy show with some actual information about car repairs thrown in.  The kids and I really enjoy “Car Talk.”

So I happened to turn it on mid-program, and they were telling someone that if his car wouldn’t start, he could try putting it in neutral and jiggling the prandle handle while turning the key.  If that managed to start the car, it would indicate that the neutral safety switch needed to be adjusted or replaced.  Wow!  I always knew my dad was a genius, and now I have objective confirmation!

The topic for this post is actually unrelated to the van’s previous failure-to-start syndrome.  With Andrew along, as he always is these days, I pulled into Sam’s to go in and pick up my new and improved glasses.  I did park nose in, a habit I am cautiously re-acquiring now that my vehicle is behaving itself.  I turned off the van, pulled out the key, and opened my door to get out, but the car was still running.  Naw.  Couldn’t be.  Yes, it was.  I could hear it and feel it running.  I stared stupidly at the keys in my hand.  How could the van be running without the key?  And more critically, if a firm, metal key couldn’t turn it off, how could an out-of-shape mom?

Now, I have had this happen with the antique (1986) Toyota a time or two.  I think it’s because the keys are so old and smoothed off that you can actually pull the key out while the Toyota’s running.  (In fact, one time the key fell out of the ignition and landed on my foot – while I was driving!)  When the Toyota pulls that stunt as I taxi to a stop in the driveway, I just shove the key back in, twist it to the proper position, and take it back out.  So, that’s what I did with the van.  Before I panicked.  I put the key in, turned it to the proper position, and pulled it out.  While the van continued to run.  I repeated this maneuver three or four times.  Very, very curious, to say the least; not to mention frustrating.

Andrew got out and stood in front of the van while I executed the same sequence a few more times.  I wanted to make SURE it really was running, and not just my rather odd imagination.  It was indeed running.  Well, there was nothing to do but leave it running and go get my glasses, which I did.  The glasses lady asked me how I was and I told her that I was okay, but that I was rather frustrated at my car, which wouldn’t turn off.  Several Sam’s employees gathered round to hear the details.  None of them had ever heard of such a thing happening before.

Thankfully, the van’s gas tank was about half full, but doggone it, I was a woman on a mission, with many and varied stops to make in Springfield before church.  Furthermore, it was all timed down, and time to attempt to turn off one’s vehicle had not been scheduled into the itinerary.  I certainly couldn’t imagine leaving it running for fifteen minutes at Hobby Lobby, an hour at the library, or 90 minutes at church! And what would I do at home?  Just leave it running overnight?!?  I clearly had a problem!

I called my new good old boys at Economy Tire in Ozark and explained the situation to their mechanic.  He was shocked.  He said I would have to take it to the dealer, because he had never heard of such a thing and wouldn’t have any idea what to do!  AARRGGHH! The dealer.  Can you imagine what they would charge?

Next I called Scott.  He said I should forgo my other errands (boo hoo!) and take it to Daytona’s (read, “fast, usually good service at premium prices”) while I was in Springfield and see if they could fix it.  I did as directed, and after several of their staff smiled at me while I explained that the van whose keys I was relinquishing was presently running in the parking lot, a couple of them went out in the rain and discerned that it wasn’t actually the engine running; it was the fan. I see. With a bit more investigation, they were able to determine that the “fan relay switch” had gone bad, and therefore the fan would not switch off, even when the car was off.

Now, in most cars the fan relay switch part costs about $15.  In Dodges, the fan relay switch is “solid state,” (whatever that means) and the part alone costs over $75; with labor, it would run me a cool $156.  Sheesh.  I conferred with My Hero, and he decided I should also go ahead and have the oil changed and tires rotated, (due to be done later that week at Wal-Mart), so the total bill was well over $200.  However, I am very thankful that the van now turns all the way off.

I’ve been driving for 31years, and I have frankly always taken for granted the fact that when you turn the key forward the vehicle starts and when you turn it back, it stops.  Now I have proof positive that neither of those assumptions is necessarily true.

Never too early for a shower

Although Saturday is a school day for us, we typically get a rather late start.  For one thing, Scott has a foreign language tutoring session at 7:00 AM on Saturdays, so he typically eats breakfast late.  That means that breakfast clean up (mine while Josiah’s gone) is late, which means I am late getting Andrew going on his piano and academics.

Saturday’s also my day to work in the “garden,” (actually a very small collection of containers and beds), which I like to do before showering; hence one can often find me in my walking clothes (gray shorts, bright blue T-shirt with massive white bleach spots, and olive drab floppy hat) and smelling offensive until late morning – but only on Saturdays.

Yesterday I was particularly slow to start.  I had gotten involved with letter writing and had even begun tackling the dreaded weekly Quicken update.  Well, that wouldn’t be too bad if I actually did it weekly, but let it sit for two or two-and-a-half weeks, and it’s a monster.

My desk is in the office, and the office door is directly at the top of the stairs.  The front door is at the bottom of the stairs, and it’s obviously a straight shot all the way.  About 1:00 PM, while I was up to my (not-so-fragrant) elbows in Quicken, the doorbell rang.  Andrew hollered that he’d get it, and I hollered back, “I don’t care WHO it is.  I’m NOT coming to the door!”

It was Alice Russum.

I could not believe it.

My hair was standing on stringy, my clothes looked horrid, Alice Russum (who always looks gorgeous) was at the front door, and there was no way for me to even escape to the bedroom and a shower without her seeing me!  AARRGGHH!

I called down to her that I was way too dirty to be seen, and I ducked around the corner – with all the grace of a baby elephant – and into the shower.  In eleven minutes flat, I showered, applied makeup and clothing, and fixed my hair.  As I was drying the hair, Andrew called up to me, “too late, Mom, she just left. . . just kidding!”

Alice and her husband were members of our little church some ten years ago.  He works overseas for Chevron – generally gone a month, then home a month – and in the intervening years they have lived in Missouri, Texas, Korea, and Viet Nam.  Now they’re back in Stone County (although he’s on a four-year stint in Bangladesh), and she was in the area and decided on a whim to drop in.

We visited for a couple hours and had a grand time catching up on everything.  We laughed till our faces hurt.  And I learned my lesson:  even on Saturdays, always shower early.

Us three and no more

Life is a bit strange right now.  I am very gradually getting used to the idea of only three people living here, but it’s still quite odd.

For example, how on earth does one cook for only three people?  I haven’t done this in 17 years!  If you make a full batch of whatever, there are many leftovers.  They don’t all get eaten before they spoil.  That is obviously a problem.  If you make a half batch, you end of with half-units (etc.) of open or fresh ingredients.  That’s a problem.

Worse, if you make a loaf of bread because 1/3 of your present family constellation STRONGLY prefers homemade bread, the three of you (who are scrambling to eat other left-overs before they die) will not consume the whole loaf in two days.  The bread becomes stale and the 1/3 in question won’t eat it.  The 1/3 also doesn’t like his bread to have been frozen, so freezing half the fresh loaf is not an option.  I do normally use the ends and stale pieces to make croutons and bread crumbs, but considering that on average one-fourth of a loaf will go stale every day, we will soon have enough croutons to construct a carport and enough bread crumbs to sculpt a life-size replica of Sarah Palin.

Then there’s the matter of chores.  Katie’s life as an eighteen-year-old was definitely not chore-heavy, and Jessica’s chore load has also been growing considerably lighter.  (We do heavy chores and light academics in the early years and, like the ratio of interest to principle, it shifts the other way as they get older.  The obvious down side of this for a mom is that eventually, the youngest child passes ALL the chores back to the mom!)  However, Josiah still does a lot of work – vacuuming, sweeping, meal clean-ups, etc., and at least in that sense, I am feeling his absence acutely.

Take breakfast clean up.  On certain days, this is normally Josiah’s chore.  Thus, Andrew and both greatly prefer to walk away from the messy kitchen after breakfast and ignore it till lunch.  That doesn’t bother him, but I actually can’t stand to see dirty dishes piled up, food left out, and the trash can overflowing.  So usually I clean it up.  If I were to officially assign that chore to Andrew in Josiah’s absence, you would be able to hear the siren-sounding response from the next county, or maybe the next state.  Maybe I’ll put in some of those ear plugs I found while cleaning out the box on our bedroom closet shelf and, as our pastor says, just Get Over It (a.k.a. “G.O.I.”).

Anyway, I will be glad to see my kiddos again soon.  I know there will be a season for three, and eventually for (gasp!) two, but right now, six seems much more comforatble than three.

Walnuts on my windshield and gasoline on my shoe

Because I was driving all over on a photography project, I let the gas tank get a little lower than usual.  I am compulsive about refilling at rock-bottom-priced QT in Springfield or Ozark anytime I travel through those cities at a fourth of a tank or less.  This drives Scott nearly batty.  The only times I’m in Springfield or Ozark are on Sundays or Wednesdays, and on Sundays Scott is in the car with me.  He is willing to stop for gas, but only if the needle is squarely on “E.”

You see, Scott only fills his own car when the needle is slightly below “E,” so he reacts violently to the concept of filling the van if there’s any visible space between the needle and “E.”  On this matter I disagree, and since I do the Sunday driving, I figure the driver can stop for gas whenever she sees fit.

The problem develops when we zing through Ozark at three-fourth of a tank or even a half.  It makes no sense to fill up then, but since there’s so much driving to and from Branson for gymnastics (two trips three times a week), piano (one or two trips a week), and Wal-Mart (we are making every effort to limit that to once a day now), we’re bound to be below an eighth of a tank (my absolute minimum) before we breeze through Ozark again.  In that situation, the kids and I buy gas at Gateway in Walnut Shade.

I have learned a few things about Gateway.

#1 Their prices are always significantly higher than QT.

#2 Their prices may change several times throughout the day.

#3 Pump #1 will not read my VISA card.

As I mentioned, I had let the van get below an eighth, and in fact, it was squarely on “E” when I pulled into Gateway.  Wisely, I avoided pump #1 and pulled to #4, the next vacant spot.  For some reason, it ran terribly slowly, so I stood next to teh driver’s door and waited patiently while it filled.  Occasionally, I glanced at the pump.  “$11.00 so far.  Hmmm…  I’m going to be here for a while.”  It took almost five minutes to fill, and to occupy the time, I was studying all that blurb on the pump that no one every reads.

Suddenly I heard a loud splash.  I turned to see $2.71/gallon gas shooting out of the van.  The stupid pump had not shut off!!!  $51.11.  I wonder what it would have been if the pump had stopped when it was supposed to.  Grumble, grumble, grouse, grouse.  I shut it off, and as I was taking my receipt, the lady at #3 said, “Did it not shut off?!?!?”  “No, it didn’t.”  “Well, gas is $2.49 in Springfield Ozark and $2.82 in Branson.”  “That’s nice to know.”  She was a little too cheery for me, especially as I tried to side-step the puddle of gas I had just bought.  I told her that I normally bought it it Ozark or Springfield, but needed it now.

Scott and I were talking about gas prices just yesterday.  I have decided that heads I win and tails you lose.  It turns out that we were pretty heavily invested in energy, so when gas prices were pushing $4.00 a gallon, although we joined everyone else in complaining, our stocks were actually doing quite well.  Now, with oil going from $140 a barrel down to $80 or whatever it is, the energy stock is way down (and I think Scott may have sold it), but we’re glad to pay less at the pump.

However, even at $2.49 for those who can frequent QT, I’d rather have it in my tank than on my shoe.

21 to 8

This fall ball season has consistently featured games that are not the least bit close.  We were completely wiped out in the season opener, and sadly, the same was true tonight.  However, for the past three weeks, we have run-ruled our opponents.

We faithful fans have found these games much less fun to watch that the church league ones in the summer.  We like a close competition, not a runaway.  The team that beat us tonight was First Baptist White.  We (the Promise Keepers) made a LOT of errors in the field, but even without all those, I am not sure that we would have won.  Their team was a hitting machine, and their outfielders caught all our flies.

We were also missing John, and personally, I am not too terribly impressed with Danny, who’s been playing right center.  Also, we’re missing Troy, who’s out the rest of the season with a knee problem.  Usually Max pitches for him, with John and first, but tonight Josh (mgr of Montana Mike’s) pitched.

We started with:

LF – Mark

L/C – Jerod

R/C – Danny

RF – Les

1B – Max

2B – Tony

3B – Scott

SS – Kevin

C – Monty

But Mark kept dropping them in left, so he was moved to 2nd.  Tony went to left, and that scenario was not pleasant.  Tony tended to let them go over his head, while Mark didn’t respond quite quickly enough in the infield.

One positive thing:  after I gave them a talking to last week about the team’s tendency to hit a fly ball and look at it rather than run, they did seems to run more this week.  In any case, the faithful few were there to cheer them on (to defeat); Cinda, Andrew, and me.

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