Archive for April, 2009

Visitor list

See today on, under, or near the bird feeder:

Cardinals

Blue jays

Mourning doves

Goldfinches

Bunny

Rose-breasted grosbeaks

Red-bellied woodpecker

Gray squirrels

Chipmunk

Indigo bunting

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The fifth time around

I am helping a fifth person learn to read!

With Katie, I spent a few days teaching her the short vowel sounds and then told her that if you added an ‘e’ to the end of a short vowel word, it made the vowel sound long.  With that information, she taught herself to read her first book, “What’s Different,” a big colorful DK-ish picture book.  My investment in her literacy:  a couple hours all told.

For Jessica, I followed the same plan with the short and long vowels and then taught her a few key consonant blends.  We practiced sounding out words for a few minutes a day over a month or so, and she proved to me that she was able to read.  Having achieved that skill, she then adamantly refused to read anything at all for almost a year.  You’d have to have known Jessica as a youngster; if it wasn’t her idea, it wasn’t happening.  Then, one day when she was seven, I found her reading in her bedroom.  Now she not only reads books, she writes them!

Teaching Josiah to read gave me gray hairs.   He desperately wanted to read and begged me to teach him.  We tried at age five (his insistence), but it was hopeless.  We tried again at six, and it was even worse.  At age seven, we began tackling Alpha-Phonics, and it was an agonizing year of frustration for both of us.  He couldn’t seem to hear to the different sounds, and he absolutely could NOT remember ANY of it from one day to the next.  Aaarrrggghhh!   Josiah was later diagnosed with dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder, which explained WHY it was so hard for him to learn to read, but which didn’t make that his learning process any smoother.  We just kept slogging along through Alpha Phonics until we both thought we’d lose our minds.  I was DETERMINED to give him a strong phonics foundation, depsite his learning disabilities, and all that work eventually paid off.  It was  “Calvin and Hobbes” that finally pushed him to fluent reading at age eight-and-a-half, and for the next five years, he read aloud to me every school day.  Now he’s a voracious reader, praise God!

Andrew worked like crazy to teach himself to read at age four.  He managed (in extremely slow motion) to get through “Are you My Mother?” at which point I decided to take him through Alpha-Phonics.  He moved through it quite quickly and reads very well.

Now I have my fifth student, E, a 51-year-old man at our church.  He only went through the 6th grade and in his words “failed every grade.”  He can read a bit, but it’s mostly guesswork.  He does know the alphabet, but he was never taught phonics, so the concept that letters stand for SOUNDS is completely foreign to him.  He also has a really hard time hearing or imitating consonant sounds. (Will this be Josiah all over again?!?!?)  He’s lived his whole life functionally illiterate and had accepted the “fact” that he’d never be able to read well.  His wife reads necessary information to him.

I have suspected he couldn’t read since the day I met him and his wife several years ago, but a few weeks ago, when I saw them across the way at church on a Wednesday night, I felt strongly that I was supposed to offer to help him – if he wanted help.  However, I didn’t know him well, and I wasn’t sure how to talk with him about it.  Golly, what do you say?  “Um, I suspect you can’t read and I think God wants me to offer to help you learn?” That’s kind of hard to work into a conversation!

I went home that night without saying anything, but the next morning I happened to be in the van at 11:00 AM.  That’s when Focus on the Family comes on the radio, we can’t pick up that station at our house.  The only place I can hear that station is in the van, and since I am NEVER in the van at 11:00 AM, I hadn’t listened to Focus on the Family in over a year.  That morning, I flipped it on, and here’s what I heard:  Some man was on there, and he was talking about education and reading and how he hadn’t learned to read till he was in his 40s and a lady volunteered to teach him. Now, I can be a little slow on the uptake, but it was as if God had knocked me upside the head with a two by four!  A WHOLE 30-MINUTE PROGRAM on adult illiteracy in America THE VERY DAY after I had felt I was supposed to offer to help E?  Good night alive!  This was obvious even to me!

I was so sure of it that I ordered a new copy of Alpha-Phonics, because I’d given our old one away once Andrew was reading.  I’d surely never need that book again.  With some money thus invested, I got up my nerve to talk to his wife, who confirmed my suspicions, and then I called E.  He was guarded, not because he didn’t want to learn to read better, but because he didn’t think it was possible.  He said he was lazy when it came to school stuff; although he semed to be the type who would be a very hard worker at his job.    I told him I knew I could help him learn to read better (how could ANYBODY be more challenging to teach than Josiah?), but that I totally respected him and was not pressuring him.  If he wanted help, I’d be glad to help.  If not, that was fine, too.

We agreed to meet for thirty minutes before church this evening, and he worked very hard and made great progress.  He understood that we were going to go “back to first grade” and build a solid phonics foundation, and he was fine with that, so we did a lot of short ‘a’ work and sounded out words like dad, man, Sam, and tax.  He recognized tax and said we’d just paid that.  = )  He’s good to meet again next week.

I am cautiously optimistic.  My main challenge right now is to come up with creative ways to help him hear, say, and remember the consonant sounds.  We used the old Campbell’s soup commercial (“Mmm, mmm, good”) for ‘m,’ but if anyone has great ideas for any of the others, please do share.

I’m thinking maybe Jiffy Lube

Scott”s Honda needed an oil change and tire rotation, and since he didn’t have time to go do it, he offered to PAY me to take care of it.  A little mad money is always nice, so I agreed.  In fact, I had already planned to take the van in for the same services on Thursday, and with my Wednesday and Friday mornings already scheduled, the Honda and I chose to visit our local Wal-Mart Tire and Lube Express (TLE) today.

Now, during the couple years that we used the Ozark Wal-Mart, I learned a few things.  The TLE opens at 7:00 AM, and it’s best to arrive there at 6:50.  This virtually guarantees you will be the first in line; hence no wait.   I called last night to confirm that the Branson TLE also opens at 7:00 AM, and I – alone – was there in the parking lot at 6:55.

I should have guessed there’d be issues when the (enormous – belt AND suspenders required) good ole boy couldn’t get the automatic door to open to let me in.  Let’s just say that in Branson, they aren’t nearly as quick and professional as they are in Ozark.  To say the least.  First, it took the G.O.B. five minutes to V-E-R-Y  S-L-O-W-L-Y unwrap each half section of each roll of coins for his cash drawer.  Money finally in place, he picked up the little scanner gun they use to enter your vehicle’s service order and realized that somebody had left it off the charger overnight.  He gradually ambled over toward the computer to key in the information, which I stated clearly and then had to repeat while he made “humorous” comments.  You get the picture.  My car was FINALLY logged into the service queue at 7:20 AM, but even then they couldn’t pull the car into the bay because the bay doors are padlocked overnight, only the manager has a key, and he just didn’t seem to care very much about unlocking it with any great haste this morning.  (Sigh)  I went to do my grocery shopping.

Since I needed the tires rotated too, I knew it would take a while, so I browsed various areas of the store and didn’t hurry.  Finally at about 8:20 AM, they paged me, but it wasn’t the usual “. . . your vehicle is ready in the TLE.”  It was something about “. . . come to the TLE. . . ”  which didn’t sound especially promising.  When I got there, G.O.B. asked me where was the key to the locking hubcaps.  Now, how on EARTH should I know THAT?!?!  I didn’t even know the car had locking hubcaps, much less where a key to such would be stored.  G.O.B. informed me that his man had found the key to the locking lug nuts (didn’t know it/they existed, either), but couldn’t find the one for the locking hubcaps which would allow him to get to the locking lug nuts.

I called Scott.  Scott said the key was either in the glove compartment or in the console between the front seats.  I relayed that info to G.O.B.  who told it to “his man,” who replied that he had already thoroughly searched the glove compartment, the console, and the trunk:  no locking hubcap key.  I handed the phone to G.O.B. and let him and Scott work it out – which eventually came to “declining the rotation,” and I paid, loaded my groceries, and left in a car with new oil and all its tires exactly where they had been over an hour ago.

At home it was about 9:00 AM, and things were not going well there, either.  I tried to whip the guys in to shape and then made a major decision.  As it stood, a good part of Tuesday morning was shot.  Wednesday mornings we’re always gone.  Thursday morning I’d be back at Wal-Mart for the van.  The prospect of losing three consecutive mornings was depressing, so I decided to go ahead and completely kill today by doing the van, too.

I collected a library book and my standing file of paperwork to occupy me during the wait and then remembered something.  The van was gone.  Jessica had driven it to work, because on Sunday night, even though she had carefully rolled up the Toyota windows, some armadillo or something rolled them down and left them open all night while it poured down rain.  (We have brazen wildlife like that in Walnut Shade.)  It had then rained lightly off and on all day Monday, so there had been no chance to dry it out.

So the van was 17.5 miles northwest of here.  I called Jessica and told her I wanted to come get it, and she was fine with that.  She also told me that the Toyota was dry (then why hadn’t she driven it?), and it ended up that she was right.  So I drove the Toyota out into the sticks (about midway between Branson and Ozark) and swapped it for the van.  I then called the friendly UPC (I can tell ’cause she’s got the hair to prove it) lady at the Ozark Wal-Mart TLE, who said they could get me right in for the oil change, but then it would be a couple hours wait on the tire rotation.  Given that, I decided (where WAS my brain?) to take it back to Branson.

When G.O.B. saw me walk in his first words were, “the computer’s gone down since you were here,” and his second words were, “you got that key now?”  I told him, no on the locking hubcap key, but that I had brought in a different vehicle for the same treatment.  Now, Wal-Mart without a computer closely resembles a return to the Stone Age.  It took G.O.B. quite a while to figure out how to write up the ticket by hand, and by the time he was done, although I had been the lone customer when I walked in, there were four folks behind me in line.  I was really glad my ticket was ahead of all theirs!

I found  two adjacent benches (they are positioned for elderly men to inhabit while their blue-haired wives shop till they drop) and used them and my shopping cart to sort all my paperwork into four stacks:  Ditch It, File It, Keep It Handy, and Act On It.  Then I went back through the store and picked up a few more odds and ends, including some breakfast munchies.  Next, I wandered back to the TLE, where the computers were still down, there were still four (different? same?) people in line with more coming in the door, my van was sitting outside the bay door (sadly facing in and not out), and my keys were still sitting neatly on top of my ticket, evidently now second in the line of four or five tickets arrayed there.  (Maybe I’d backslid?)  I’d been waiting an hour and a half and they hadn’t started on the oil change yet, much less the tire rotation.  (Sigh)  I guess there was one benefit:  I did get halfway through my library book.

I eventually arrived home at 12:20 PM.  I had spent some five-and-a-half hours dealing with oil and tires on two vehicles.  The day was definitely far spent and I still had to deal with putting away the groceries, organizing the subset of groceries we’d be taking camping, practicing two piano duets, ironing, making a camping cake, chili, creamy cheese potatoes, and chainsaw bars for the camping trip, pushing Andrew through all his chores and schoolwork, printing and highlighting the library lists, planning and cooking tonight’s supper, taking Andrew to and from gymnastics, picking up the comforter from the dry cleaners, and going to the bank.

In hindsight, I just don’ t think I have time in my life for the Branson Wal-Mart’s Tire and Lube “Express.”  Next time, it’s either the Ozark TLE at 7:00 AM, or else this busy mom’ll pay retail plus ten per cent at Jiffy Lube.

I worked before I played, honest!

This weekend AIM headquarters hosted its annual (?) Midwest Leadership Camp.  Including the 25 or so local folks, I think there were close to 100 in attendance for the three days.  The meetings and training sessions were held at the Salvation Army Church, but sleeping was done in other localities.  I have heard that some 30 guys, including Josiah, slept (or at least spent the night) at the Discipleship Focus Camp near Silver Dollar City, and the girls were housed in various homes about the area.

Friday and Saturday nights we hosted seven friendly, cheerful, polite, helpful young ladies (three from Pennsylvania, four from Wyoming).  The Pennsylvania contingent left Sunday evening as soon as the camp was over, so last night we had only four.

Before and during the weekend, I was planning and prepping meals with a vengeance, and in honor of that, we will have leftovers tonight.  Thankfully, that means that I have not had to spend even one minute thinking about or cooking supper today, which has carved out some extra time for me.  To tell the truth, it didn’t carve out as much time as I have taken, but I will play catch-up this evening. . . maybe. . . or maybe not.    = )

I have spent way too much time today playing with Flickr, and for those who care, I have added a bunch more of the Colorado pics, titled all the pics (except the infamous monga-set of LOST PICS), added pics to existing sets, and created a few new sets.

No, I haven’t gotten much else done today.

Yes, I have a pile of schoolwork to check, but schoolwork I will have with me always (or at least for the next eight years), right?  So, I changed our sheets, cleaned our bathroom, did the breakfast cleanup, helped Andrew with his math, practiced the piano, and then I combined my two recreational loves of  organization and photography and HAD SOME FLICKR FUN!

Bottoms up

I started noticing inverted (deceased) armadillos on the way to church this morning, so I started counting them:  northbound on Highway 65 between 160 and 60, four.  Three hours later:  southbound on the same stretch of Highway 65, seven.  It must be open season on armadillos.

An open letter to the wasps of Walnut Shade

Dear Wasps,

I humbly acknowledge that God made you all a few hours before us humanoids, but I think you’ve taken this entitlement mentality just a few wing flaps too far.

Why, for example, must you spend so MUCH time banging your heads into the ceiling of my kitchen?  I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in there lately, and I am more than a little tired of your constant whizzing and crashing.

And while we’re at it, how the heck are you getting in in the first place?  (Sigh) I’m guessing you’ll claim it’s the laundry room door, and you’ll probably want to press charges for what you perceive to be my unlawful six-hour detention of your relative between the storm door and the laundry room door on Tuesday, but lemme tell you, “this ain’t no Guantanamo,” and in my defense, I did try THREE TIMES to let him out.  Frankly, I think he may be playing with only half a deck or something, because even though I stood there holding the door to the outside WIDE OPEN, he insisted on continuing his head-banging routine with the window glass.  Sheesh.

Then there’s the issue of mortality; more specifically where and how your kind chooses to die.  I got in the van yesterday – um, that would be the van parked  on the driveway with all the windows tightly closed – and two of your compatriots were dead on the dash.  That, in and of itself, wasn’t particularly unnerving, but they had positioned themselves symmetrically before passing on to their final reward.  One was four inches in from the left and the other was four inches in from the right.  Come on now; what’s up with that?!?

And if you guys are really as superior as you make yourselves out to be, why in the name of all that is holy holey can you never simply go back out the way you came in?

Look, I’m not a masochist, and I’m not waging jihad against you.  I don’t want you dead; I just want you out of my house and my car.  Is that really too much to ask? After all, those two entities together comprise only about 20,192 cubic feet of airspace.  Pretty restrictive for guys with wings, huh?  Especially when you’ve got the WHOLE REST OF THE WORLD to inhabit, for crying out loud!

But if you stubbornly refuse to leave, could you please just let up on the intimidation tactics?  Andrew totally freaks out when you practice your ballistic missile dive bomb routines.  In fact, if you’d just volume down a few notches, I think all would be well.

Sincerely,

Walnut Shade Mom

P.S.  I could pull out the RAID, you know.

Chance glance

I was invited to speak at our church’s MOPS meeting Thursday evening.  Thursday afternoon was pretty full, and I arrived home at 4:50 PM from taking Andrew to the doctor and the gym and needing to change clothes, collect my stuff, rendezvous with Jessica, eat supper, and leave preferably no later than 5:10 PM.  That would explain why I was standing at the kitchen counter while I scarfed a small plate of leftover Tex-Mex salad and some cold cheese dip and chips.  While crunching and munching, I just happened to glance out the back window, and guess what I saw on the ground near the bird feeder . . . ?

No, it wasn’t the red-winged blackbird.  He and his brother were up at the feeder.

No, it wasn’t the mourning dove, although he was pecking around at the base of the feeder.

No, it wasn’t even the baby bunny, who comes out several times a day to nibble grass between the smokehouse and the bird feeder.  He was out, too, and he’s SO TERRIBLY CUTE, which is why I almost failed to see the. . .

TWO brilliant blue indigo buntings, side by side in the long and shaggy grass of our very own backyard!  Wow!  They are the MOST beautiful birds, and I wish they had hung around longer.  As it was, I glanced up, saw them, watched them for 8.74 seconds, blinked, and they were gone.  What a wonderful chance glance.

Of suckers and ironing

You see, I don’t fish.  Therefore, I don’t know all details involved in fishing that are OBVIOUS to die-hard anglers, and so I probably made a fool of myself this morning.  However, that is okay, because I learned something, and I really do love to learn.

I was walking on the late shift today, and around 8:35 AM, I watched a full-sized pickup – towing a bass boat, of all things! – pull down into the tiny dirt parking area beside the bridge.   It rained hard a few days ago, so the creek is up, but it’s still only a couple feet deep – not to mention rock-strewn – so I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what these guys were up to.

Earlier this week, when it was three-and-a-half feet deeper than it is now, you might have been able to float a bass boat in it, but there’s no way even in high water that you could launch at the bridge.  Between the parking lot and the dirt area next to the creek are several carefully positioned boulders that totally prevent vehicles from driving to the water.  What were they going to do?  CARRY the bass boat to the creek?  At least my walk would not be dull.

Over the next few minutes, there was much to-do in the area of the trailer hitch.  Stuff, including a cooler and five-gallon bucket, was unloaded from the back of the truck.  Then on my next pass, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an ironing board by the trailer’s right wheel!  WOW!  These guys were obviously smart enough to realize they couldn’t launch their boat into the creek; so instead, they were going to knock out a little ironing.  Their wives would be proud.  Personally, I can respect that in a man.

Next, out came some kind of electric (gas-powered?) knife.  It sounded like a distant lawn mower.  Maybe it was a Saws-All.  Heads down, the men began going after whatever was on the ironing board.   They’d saw for a few seconds, pause, closely examine whatever it was, put some of it in a large Zip-Loc, and then – horror of horrors – fling the rest of it up into the grass beside the bridge abutment. Not only that, every now and then they’d fling what looked like long plastic bread bags up into the grass, too.  I was stunned at their littering boldness, and I was beginning to get angry.

We happen to be sticklers about not littering, and the idea of these yahoos throwing their fish guts and plastic bags all about down near the creek really got my goat.  I made a mental note of their truck’s license plate number.  Then from the bridge overhead, I called down:  “Yo!”  They looked up.   Pausing till there was no traffic passing, I hollered, “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t throw your litter into the grass.  Just haul the litter out with you.”

One of the guys motioned about with his Electro-Knife and hollered something back at me, but a vehicle passed just then, and I couldn’t hear what he said.  They both kept staring at me and talking and waving and pointing with that knife.  They really didn’t look all that thrilled to see me, and I confess that I felt a bit intimidated.  And of course, with my less than perfect hearing (but surely it was really the traffic noise, right?) I was still unable to understand them.  I decided that Lone Sweaty Woman probably shouldn’t walk down and go eyeball-to-eyeball with Men Wielding Knife, so I just turned and walked on home.

But, my goat having been got, I really wanted someone bigger and uglier than me to tell those guys to stop littering by the creek!  So I called the Taney County Commissioner’s Office and asked who I should call to report someone littering on public property.  That nice lady connected me to the sheriff’s office, and that gentleman listened to my story and said he’d send a deputy out to talk to me.  I told him I didn’t want the guys arrested or anything; I just wanted them to stop littering by the creek.

Some few minutes later, the deputy phoned.  I told him my story while he listened patiently.  Then he responded, “If they’re cleanin’ fish and throwin’ the guts and carcass in the grass, well now, that’s not litterin’.  That’s all biodegradable and the animals’ll eat that stuff.”  I thought, but did not say, “Yes, but what about the stench until they do?”

He continued, “It’s sucker season, and them suckers go on up those creeks this time o’ year.  And they’re big fish.  They’re probably cleaning a load ‘a suckers.  Now when ya’ fillet them suckers, ya’ pull out all the meat.  That’s probably what they’re puttin’ in the plastic bag.  Then, the skin, you peel that down, but it’s still attached to the carcass, and them’s big fish, them suckers, so when you toss out that skin, why, it stretched, and seriously, it’ll stretch to about twice as long as the fish.  That’s what happens what you fillet ’em.  So what you seen that looks like a bread bag when they threw it is probably that skin still atached to the carcass.  But that’s not litterin’, cleanin’ fish and tossin’ the guts in the woods or on the ground.  There’s nothin’ illegal about that.  Now, one thing is, you could call Conservation.  Becuz if they’re catchin’ fish illegally, or if they don’t have a fishin’ license, now that would be a crime.  But you’d need to call Conservation on that.”

He was really quite polite and very patient with this obviously totally ignorant city girl.  I thanked him for calling me back and told him that my main concern was just keeping the land around the creek clean.  He assured me that the foxes and coons an’ such would take care of that.  He reiterated that no crime had been committed, but that I could call the Conservation department if I thought they were fishing illegally.

Now, how I, a confirmed non-fisherwoman who doesn’t even know how to GET a fishing license, much less whether suckers are in season this week, would know that is beyond me.

So, thus ends another interesting anecdote in Taney County living.

Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear?

Getting it in gear

Tonight Josiah was driving us home from church.  He did a fine job.  We stopped to get gas in Springfield – we seem to do this every Sunday and every Wednesday now, thanks to our Asian (read “miniature”) gas tank, then stopped at the pharmacy drive-thru in Ozark.

We got back on the freeway and headed down into the hills.  Now, as my family will attest, my hearing is not quite what we all wish it were, meaning that I miss a lot when the only sensory input is aural, so when Josiah said, “do you hear that grinding noise?” no, actually I didn’t hear it at all.   But I did glance over at the speedometer, and my eyes did happen upon the tachometer, which was registering a steady roughly 4000 rpm.

This did seem uncommonly high to me.  It usually runs around 2700 rpm when zipping along on the highway, but sometimes, when climbing an exceptionally steep hill, it goes up to 4000 or even 5000 rpm and remains there for up to a half mile, even after cresting the top of the hill.  I guess eight-year-old, 96,000-mile transmissions are allowed to do things like that, so I wasn’t too worried.  Surely it would drop back into a normal range soon.

It did not, and Josiah was alarmed, to say the least.  He kept on commenting about it, which caused Andrew to get anxious, so I had to first reassure Josiah that it was not that big of a deal and that he could just tell Dad about it when we got home (that is what dads are for, isn’t it?) and then reassure Andrew that we weren’t going to have a wreck and that we WOULD get home just fine.    A mom’s direct responsibilities cease only when she’s asleep.

As we worked our way up the steep hill from Busiek, Josiah said, “See, Mom, it’s all the way on the floor and it’s not accelerating at all!  And it’s still over 4000.”  I replied, “Yes, but there’s not one thing we can do about that now.  Just keep driving and let’s get home.”  However, it slowly dawned on me that maybe there WAS something we could do about it.  Maybe, just maybe, the van was in 2 instead of D, and somehow, with all those reams of grey matter between us, we had BOTH failed to notice it!

“Josiah, maybe it’s in second.  Maybe when you took it out of park at the pharmacy, you accidentally shoved the prandle handle too far and it went into second.  Pull into the gas station at Saddlebrook.”

He did.  It was actually in the tranmissional nether region between second and drive (go figure), and it had been there for about 12 miles!

It’s a whole lot easier to drive on the freeway when your vehicle is in drive.  I’ve been told that it’s a whole lot quieter, too.  = )

“Mom, may I use your blow dryer?”

So said the fifteen-year-old male with the half-inch long buzz cut.  Hmmm…  I asked WHY he wanted to use it and WHERE he planned to use it.

He wanted to try to dry out an old computer keyboard that may have become moist inside when he wiped off the keys with a damp paper towel.  I think the keyboard was already dead.  It’s definitely dead now.


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