Archive for January, 2012

I like my title

I have been sorting through stacks and stacks of stuff on my desk.  We do get a LOT of mail, especially in January when five different family members all get donation receipts from various ministries and interest statements from the bank.  I think I earned something like $2.41 in interest this year.

Well, today we received a piece of mail that looks a lot like some tax return-ish thing.  It’s probably junk mail, but it looks really official.  Above the mailing address it says in bold, all caps, “BUSINESS MAIL – TIME SENSITIVE, MISSOURI BUSINESSES, INSIDE:  12 FEDERAL AND MISSOURI REGULATIONS AFFECTING YOUR EMPLOYEES, IMMEDIATE RESPONSE REQUESTED, COMPLIANCE  UPDATE 2012.”

It got my attention.  But check out the address!

Patricia Roberts, HR Manager

Roberts Family

(our mailing address)

So I am now officially “Patricia Roberts, Human Resource Manager for the Roberts Family!”  I wonder if that’s anything like, “The Hub?”

“Gentlemen” not welcome

Date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 11:06 am

Dear Commissioner Strafuss,

I was given your email address as someone who might be able to advise me about a deeply troubling situation near my home in Walnut Shade.

I don’t know you personally, but I believe we may have met at piano presentations with your daughter, Liberty, who takes lessons from Mrs. Walker, as does my son, Andrew.  I am thinking we also met once when our family visited Faith Life Church.  In any case, I give that background only so that you may know who I am.

Our family lives on Hwy 160 in Walnut Shade, next door to the now-defunct “Casa de Luz” Mexican restaurant, near where Hwy 160 crosses Bull Creek.

On the far side of the restaurant is a construction equipment staging area for Altom Construction.

About a week ago, I was out walking, and I visited briefly with the man who I believe owns (or at least manages) that construction business.  I do not know his name, but assuming he was Mr. Altom, the conversation went like this:

Mr. Altom:  Well, I guess you’re getting a gentlemen’s club next door.

Patty:  What do you MEAN?!?!?

Mr. Altom:  Well, a man stopped by here on Saturday while I was working, and he asked me what this [the construction area] was going to be.  He asked if it would be a school or a church or a daycare.  I said, “no,” and he said that was good, that then he’d have no problems.  He said that he was putting a gentlemen’s club in there [pointing to the now-empty restaurant building].

Patty:  You have GOT to be kidding!  I definitely don’t want a gentlemen’s club next to my house!

Mr. Altom:  I told the man, “good luck with that!”  Honestly, I would think that the commission would laugh him right out of the room!

Patty:  I certainly hope they would, but it sounds like I’d better try to figure out what I need to do to fight this.

Mr. Strafuss, our family – and I’m sure our neighbors also – believe that such a business would be greatly detrimental to the moral climate of our community, and we want to know how to prevent this from happening.  I really have no idea how to begin to keep such a business from going in next door.  Any direction you could give on what we should do, who we should contact, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much for your time and attention to this matter.

Patty Roberts


On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 11:30 AM

I am Jefferson City today but I will check into it asap. I am opposed to any such business.


Date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 12:42 pm

Dear Commissioner Strafuss,

Thank you for your prompt reply and your opposition to such a venture.  I appreciate your willingness to look into this on behalf of our neighborhood.

Patty Roberts


Jan 21, 2012

This is the response I received from my PZ dept.

Mr. Commissioner Strafuss,

Someone recently came into the Planning Department Office and explained to Ms. Kissee that they were wishing to either purchase or lease the property at 222 Coffee Road , Walnut Shade to be utilized as what they described as a “bikini bar”. They inquired with Ms. Kissee about the required Planning Commission process for establishing such a use. I have been told that Ms. Kissee informed them of both the Division III (Special Use Permit) process and also provided them with a copy of the regulations, information and application forms for both the Division III Process and the specific regulations governing “adult entertainment businesses” as defined by the Taney County Development Guidance Code. The Development Guidance Code defines an Adult Entertainment Business as, “An establishment used for presenting material, selling material, or featuring entertainment that is distinguished or characterized by an emphasis on displaying, depicting, describing, or relating to sexual activities or anatomical areas that are sexual in nature and which excludes minors by virtue of age.” At this time an application has not been filed with the Planning Department.

In order to establish an adult entertainment business in Taney County an applicant would be required to obtain a Division III – Special Use Permit. Per the provisions of Section 4 of the Taney County Development Guidance Code the following specific requirements would apply to an adult entertainment business.

4.1. Adult Entertainment Business Any business, operation, or establishment that falls within the definition of an Adult Entertainment Business shall meet the following conditions:

4.1.1. The applicant must specify the exact use proposed and delineate how the business will operate.

4.1.2. The proposed use shall not serve alcoholic beverages or be located closer than 2,000 feet to any establishment that sells alcoholic beverages either sold, consumed, or set-ups, by the drink or through package sales.

4.1.3. The proposed use shall be located no closer than 3,000 feet from any church, school, public building, existing residential structure, or establishment which caters specifically to children.

4.1.4. An adult entertainment business shall be located no closer than 2,000 feet from another adult entertainment business.

4.1.5. The Planning Commission may, at their discretion, impose additional conditions or stipulations that it deems necessary.

In conclusion, it would not be possible for the existing building located at 222 Coffee Road to meet the provisions of the Code that are specified for an Adult Entertainment Business. This existing building is located approximately 94 feet from an existing residential structure (Ms. Roberts’ Home) at 8053 U.S. Highway 160 (as measured on Beacon). It is my understanding that the operators of the bikini bar were wishing to serve alcoholic beverages which would not be allowed per the aforementioned regulations.

I believe we are safe from this type of business going in at that location.  Let me know if there is any additional information needed.



Jan 21, 2012

Dear Commissioner Strafuss,

Thank you for inquiring of Planning and Zoning concerning the proposed “gentlemen’s club” business and forwarding to me the details of Taney County laws concerning such.  In addition to our house being less than 100 feet from the property in question, Walnut Shade Baptist Church is about one-quarter mile away, so we should be “safe” on both counts.  I am greatly relieved to have the information you provided below, which I will share with our concerned neighbors.  I am sure they will also appreciate your work on our behalf.

Thank you again for taking this matter up so quickly.

Patty Roberts


How sweet it is when government is on our side and works promptly on our behalf!


J.R. had told us he thought it would take”four or five days” to remodel the boys’ bathroom.  Yeah, right.  The 2009 remodel of our master bath lasted about eight WEEKS, so I was not holding my breath.  Today J.R. began the demolition.  I think he started about 10:00 AM, and Pastor Guy came to help him around maybe 11:30 AM.  At 4:30 PM, the bathroom was completely gutted. WOW!

I will have to try to figure out how to upload pictures to the blog.  We’re down to sub-floor and studs, which is what I wanted.  The guys also unearthed some very interesting tidbits of history, culture, and creativity.  There’s a lot of that in a 100-year old house.

Time to Skype the girls!  More later.

P.S.  The Llama is now going to show me how to add pictures, so here goes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That worked (!), but I am not sure I could remember how to do it again if my son weren’t here.  I think I need to take an additional picture to show what it actually looks like now, but you can get the idea.  There is now no sink, no cabinet, no toilet, no shower, no flooring, and no sheetrock.  In one of those shots, you can see what looks like corrugated board, and that is actually what was under not one, but two layers of sheetrock.  But what’s awazzing is that it is the outside wall of the house!  The bathroom was added on outside the actual house many years ago, so when you enter the bathroom, the wall on the right side (the one the sink is on, against our bedroom) and the wall to your immediate left (the wall that the door is set into) were the outside walls of the original house.  Pretty wild.

I’d like to get a shot that shows the whole bathroom, but, as you know, the problem with bathroom pics is that you have to hang from a skyhook to get them.  The room is only seven feet square, so even in a corner I can’t get far enough back to show it all.  Maybe better pics will be a project for tomorrow.


I’m TOTALLY overwhelmed by God’s goodness and timing

There have been a couple of events recently in which I sensed God’s leading to do certain things; things that, for a number of reasons, made absolutely no sense.  However, with fear and trembling I did those things, and in each case, God brought awesomely amazing good out of those situations.  I feel so affirmed.  WOW!  I must really be learning to better hear his voice!

I’m also getting the concept that God is really into timing.  He’s clearly got it down to a science, and to the extent that I can get with his program, I participate in experiencing his goodness.   = )

Four to one

It came about because our friends’ car was not drivable.

Their Jeep was out of commission and was awaiting a certain part so it could be repaired.  Meanwhile, they were stuck at their home, out in the boonies on a large ranch a few miles from here, with no transportation.  When Scott noticed that Dave and Susan weren’t at church on Wednesday night – and that after Dave had told him on Tuesday night, “See you tomorrow night!” – Scott called him on Thursday evening and learned of their vehicular situation.  He then decided to loan them Jessica’s car, which he and Katie took to them later that night.

This was a bit of an inconvenience, as Jessica had only four days left before departing on Tuesday to Asia, and she had planned a number of various errands and meetings with friends in those final days.   However, Katie would be home until Sunday morning, as would her car, and she let Jessica use hers over the weekend.

There were delays on Dave and Susan’s part arriving, so when I saw them on Sunday and Dave apologized all over himself for keeping our car so long, I said, “Hey, it’s no big deal.  We have two cars, and we’re fine.  And you don’t have to check in with us every day, either.  I’m not saying we want you to keep the car for two years or anything, but just use it till yours is fixed, and then bring it back.”

That was Sunday morning, and Katie drove off to Virginia in her car about the same time the Dave and Susan pulled into the church parking lot in Jessica’s.  (“Hey, Mom, that looks like my car pulling in!”)  As we were down to just the van and the Honda, we communicated carefully about who needed to be where when, made the necessary plans, and all was good.

Monday morning Scott and Josiah went to Springfield in the Honda.   No problem. Jessica met a friend and they visited at 8:00 AM, she came home, and she went to meet our pastor for lunch.  No problem.  I knew I had to go to the bank to make a cash withdrawal for Jessica to take to Asia, but once the van came home, I could do that any time in the afternoon, as long as I got there before 4:00 PM.

At 2:40 PM, Jessica (in the van) called me.  “Mom, where’s the overdrive?”

“Uh . . . I don’t know.  Why do you need overdrive?”

“Well, it’s flashing.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m by the side of the road.”

“Okay, but where?”

“On the downhill from F Hwy.”

“What’s up with the van?”

“I don’t know.  It wouldn’t accelerate, so I coasted down the hill, but the temperature gauge is really hot.”

This was somewhat unsettling.  While I was pretty sure we could figure out a way to get her home, it would leave me unable to get to the bank, and the withdrawal was time critical, as we’d leave for the airport at 9:00 AM Tuesday, and she had to carry the money with her to pay her tuition when she reached her destination.  Then she said, “I think I can make it home if I coast.”  Which she did.

Nothing better than a little car drama, huh?  The overflow bottle on the radiator was totally empty.  Not a good sign.  I left the hood up to wait for it to cool, and, while Jessica called Scott to tell him the news and ask his advice, I went inside to try to figure out how to get to the bank.  It was 2:45 PM.  First I called Shelly, a neighbor who goes into town every afternoon to pick up her kids from their various schools.  She was already in town.  Next I tried Lee.  She also goes in to pick up her daughter, but it turns out that on this day she wouldn’t be going in till 5:00 PM.  No good.  I considered Tammy, but she was already in town for her son’s piano lesson.  At 3:10 PM, I finally reached a Sue, who smokes like a chimney and curses like a sailor. . . BUT she was willing to take me in to the bank right then, and I was very thankful.

Shortly after we got home from that little jaunt, Scott and Josiah pulled in.  They had decided to leave work early to come home and deal with it.  Nice gentlemen they are.  Scott filled the reservoir with coolant and drove the van around a bit.  All was well, but we decided that we should take the Honda to the airport on Tuesday, just to be on the safe side.  Which we did, and that went fine.

When we got back from the airport at 11:15 AM, I decided it would be good to take the van out for a test run, to make sure the radiator/overheating thing was a-okay.  I drove it from here to F Hwy and back.  The temperature gauge stayed below C (cold) for about three miles, but at the base of the hill up to F Hwy, it rapidly climbed all the way up past H (hot).  AARRGH!  Not only that, it was a cold day and I had turned on the heater, but it only blew cold air at me the entire nine-mile trip.  Normally it starts blowing warm air after about two-and-a-half miles.  I coasted back down from F (the gauge dropping almost to normal while coasting) while I called Scott to tell him what was going on.  I then gingerly inched it up the hill to 160 with the gauge staying one notch hotter than hot all the way.  Thankfully, it’s downhill almost all the way to our house, so I coasted home, parked it, propped the hood, noted the two inches of coolant in the reservoir, and waited for things to cool off – again.

Scott agreed that something was very wrong, so he called Advanced Automotive up on Mt. Branson.  They had checked it out in September when it was doing this same overheating thing.  They pressure-tested the cooling system and found no leaks.  They replaced some odd fittings or whatever and did a full flush and fill and all had been well until Monday.  Scott told them all this and asked if we could bring it in later in the afternoon (Tuesday) and have them look at it on Wednesday.  They could.  Scott had already been off work quite a bit, so he asked Josiah and me to take it.

When the little beast had cooled sufficiently, I added 32 ounces of water to the reservoir, asked the Llama to follow me in the Honda and took off.  As soon as I pulled out of the driveway, the temperature gauge was at normal, and a mile from the house, it instantly zoomed from normal up past H.  One mile down, ten miles to go, and the thing was already blistering hot.  As I pondered that, I began to hear a bubbling and hissing noise under the dash.  Oh, boy.  I was almost up to the flat before Hwy 65, when suddenly – VERY suddenly, there was a huge steamy explosion kind of a sound, and there were clouds of steam shooting out of the front of the van and seeming to come from under the van on the right side.  As in, when I looked out the passenger window to find a place to pull over, there was such a big cloud of steam that I couldn’t see anything.  At least I assumed it was steam and not smoke.  If smoke, I was really in trouble!

I got the van just barely off the road and turned it off.  I sat there for a moment in my steamy clouds and wondered what to do.  I surely couldn’t drive it to Advanced Automotive like that!  Thankfully, Josiah hopped out right behind me and examined the situation.  I called Scott and told him in a calm voice that I was fine, but that I could not drive the van to the shop because something significant had happened and there was a great deal of steam everywhere.  Josiah then got on the phone and told him (Llamas do tend to exaggeration in crisis situations) that something had exploded.  Lovely.  We got out and saw a large green puddle on the pavement under the passenger door.  Hmmmm. . .   It looked as if something had caused ALL the coolant in the system to run out onto the ground.  Scott said there was nothing to do but lock it up and come home.  Which we did.

The problem – other than the obvious problem with the van’s cooling system – was that the next day (Wednesday) Scott and Josiah had to go to work in Springfield.  While they were gone, I would need to take Andrew to piano and do the grocery shopping, go home, go to an appointment, go home, take Andrew to the Y, go home, and go pick up Andrew from the Y and go home, before going to church.  And we had neither four, nor three, nor even two working vehicles.

To shorten this very long story, we had to borrow Jessica’s car back from Dave and Susan for one day and have the van towed to Advanced Automotive.  It’s now Wednesday, and we may get the van back sometime today.  Whether we do or not, we plan to go pick up Dave and Susan for church and then let them take Jessica’s car, since we don’t need two cars at the same time for the next few days.

I am assuming the Honda will remain functional.  That’s safe to assume, isn’t it?

Bounced and Twisted

First, I’ll have you know that I jumped on the trampoline today and actually got air.  Katie was my witness.  I thought sure I made it 3/8″ off the mat, but she said she thought it was more like a full inch.  Impressive, eh?

And then tonight we played Twister.  This was Josiah’s idea.  The first round was the girls, and I was the first to fall, but oh, how hard we did laugh!  Then the guys went and Scott made us laugh so hard our faces hurt.  I’m pretty sure other parts of Scott were hurting. . . In the final round, Josiah and Andrew went head to head – or, shall I say, head to behind? Andrew’s quite flexible and Josiah’s quite determined, so they kept going for a LONG time.  I think some pictures were taken, but they might be rather incriminating.  Josiah was the ultimate victor, and he earned every bit of it.

Winding up a superb family holiday

We’re in the home stretch of our three weeks (actually 23 days!) with all six of us in the same home at the same time.  I’m guessing that the next few days may be a bit emotional for Walnut Shade Mom, as Katie drives away for her final semester at PHC (although we will see her for a week of spring break in March) and Jessica flies away for five (or more?) months of study and ministry in Asia.  I’m pretty sure some tears will be shed, but I am dealing better with my emotions these days – experiencing them, expressing them, and letting go of them.  This is clearly a learned skill.

Jessica is trying to connect with as many friends as possible, and I think she’s being pretty successful in that.  Although she’ll be with a number of YWAM staff friends in Asia, and she’ll surely make a lot of new friends on this grand adventure, I know it’s also kind of sad for her to say goodbye to her Missouri friends for such a long time.  I think she will also miss her siblings. I’m thankful that they have such close relationships, especially since I never experienced that with my brother.

Today Jessica is giving Andrew his Christmas gift:  a date with her.  They are both major people people, and being with people they like is a VERY high priority to each of them.  She’s taking him to the Discovery Center in Springfield and then out to lunch.  I’m sure they will have a blast and he will remember the details of this day for years to come.  Jessica also spent time with Madison yesterday, and she’ll visit with the Voth girls tonight.  She’s also hoping to meet with Tess, and I don’t know who all else before she leaves on Tuesday to spend time with Lori Ann (in PA), Courtney and Emily (living in DE), and Katie and Amy (in VA), before heading west to the Fast East.

Josiah returned to work yesterday after several weeks off, and I haven’t heard how that went, except that I do know that he was quite dashing – and for the first time actually warm – in his new wool coat (his Christmas gift from his sisters).  He certainly does clean up nicely.  He’s also working diligently (feverishly?) on prep or Take the Challenge’s upcoming mission trip to west Africa.  Under Scott’s guidance, he will be leading four other American young people in doing dramatic evangelistic outreaches and holding discipleship and mime workshops for young (ages 15-25) believers in Niger.  I think they’ll be gone for about three weeks in March.  There’s a ton of planning to be done to get the team ready, and all of that falls on Josiah’s broad shoulders.  Thankfully, Jessica has done this kind of mission trip planning and prep before, so while she packs to be overseas for several months – note that the Peacock is not bored – she is also helping, advising and encouraging Josiah, and together they are meeting with for practices with another local guy who’s going, so that the two guys can be trained (and therefore able to train others) to present some specific dramas Jessica learned last year in Asia.  Josiah is also doing schoolwork; currently American Government, Advanced American Literature, World Geography, Spelling, and most notably NOT Geometry, which he completed on December 31.  The finishing of Jacobs Geometry was a huge milestone in his life, as he is now officially done with high school math.  Our family firmly believes that this accomplishment ought to be, to quote John Adams (July 3, 1776), “solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Andrew is pressing forward with piano, gymnastics, schoolwork, and time with friends.  He’s making good strides in all those areas, and he has especially enjoyed having all his siblings home.  He’s enjoying the youth group at church and it’s great to see him connecting with other guys his age.  His life (and mine, for that matter) will undergo a pretty hefty change next week, when we reduce to us four and no more and I become once again the only female in the house.  But lest we be bored or sad or lonely, we think next week is also when our friend and ace handyman, J.R. will arrive to complete the destruction of the boys’ bathroom and rebuild it on a more sure foundation.  Scott and I picked out everything but the floor vinyl and the paint color a few weeks ago, and he is concerned that this bathroom for the boys will be fancier than ours!  I don’t care about that one way or the other.  I just want it to be functional, leak-proof, and cleanable.  One thing is for sure:  it CAN’T possibly take longer or cost more than the remodel of ours.  I’ll keep you posted on that. . .

We’re expecting highs in the 60s today(!!!), so I’m going to go clean our own bathroom and bedroom, do the breakfast clean up, do some fun stuff with Katie, and then take a walk by the creek.  Ahhhh!

How many cars does it take to go to church?

Well, I guess it depends on how long the drive is.  For nine years, we drove 36 miles (45 minutes) one way to church, and we always took one vehicle, the van.  Now that we are driving only four miles (six minutes) one way to church, a new trend has emerged.  For our 7:00 PM Wednesday service, Scott and Andrew and I left at 6:52 in the van.  We had thought Katie was going to ride with us, but Scott said she was riding with the other kids.  They all made it by straight up 7:00.

After church, the girls and the parents were ready to leave – that probably had something to do with the fact that we had scheduled a bridge rubber right after church – but we couldn’t find the boys.  The girls left in whatever car they had driven, while I went out to warm up the van and Scott went back inside to find the boys and tell them that they could get home by walking up to Hwy 160 and turning left.  Ha.  He came back out to the van saying, “three cars.”  So we got home a few minutes after the girls, and the guys got home a full two hands later.

It seems that the answer is three.  = )

More Christmas Memories

We had a grand time at Silver Dollar City on December 22nd.  We rode a few rides, ate kettle corn, looked at various stores, did not eat supper there, and enjoyed the lights.  It was very Christmas-y and festive.  Of course, the highlight of that evening was the lighting of the Christmas tree.  It did not play the “Hallelujah Chorus,” but it did play the “Carol of the Bells,” so there was great rejoicing.  It will be noted that Llamas who wear lightweight jackets with no hats or gloves in cold, windy conditions will be unable to maintain a sufficient body temperature to allow them to fully enjoy their surroundings.  Likewise for Lemurs, but at least neither species complained much.  I must also add that the crowds departing from the City were totally unbelievable.  We gave up ever trying to get on a tram, but just in attempting to get to the egress that would let us walk to our car, we were crushed in a claustrophobia-inducing press of bodies, the likes of which I had never personally witnessed at SDC.

We had a real tree again this year, obtained and decorated in true Roberts style on December 17.  This year, I think we set a record for the greatest length of time to have our tree up.  We took it down today (January 3), having enjoyed it for a full 18 days.  To its credit, it stayed lovely till the very end, when Josiah rather unceremoniously hauled it – dripping both water and needles – from the living room, into the dining room, through the breezeway (getting it through that breezeway door took a LOT of pulling, tugging, and grunting), and out toward the ditch and/or burn pile.

The reason we had our tree up so long this time was that my mom had the audacity to have her eyelids raised a few days before Christmas.  Following this outpatient surgery, she was not supposed to travel until she had seen the doc for a follow-up visit on December 29. Mom and Dad have come up to see us every year for a couple days right after Christmas, but this year that visit was delayed a week, so we left the tree and other items of decor up and out, so that we could have a cheery Christmas celebration with them yesterday.

In other matters of tradition. . .

Josiah wrapped his packages on Christmas eve.

Although I always worry that there won’t be enough stuff in people’s stockings, we were not able to get it all shoved in, and I had to resort to four gift bags for the candy.

I took an early morning walk that was wonderful.

We had breakfast casserole with fresh pineapple for breakfast.  (Non-traditionally, this year we added Jewish Apple Cake to the menu, as well.)

We ate our breakfast on paper plates with plastic cutlery.

Non-traditionally, we forewent the reading of Luke 2 and instead asked each family member to share a scripture that he or she though embodies the real meaning of Christmas and tell why.  We had six really good offerings.

It took about two-and-a-half hours to open all the gifts!

I was TOTALLY blessed and overwhelmed with all the wonderful and meaningful gifts the kids and Scott gave me.  A short list of items that made me smile and/or cry (and some still do) would include my tiny yellow bear, the piano music to Rich Mullins’ song, “Peace,” my preamble mousepad, and the first and only hardcover edition of “The Best of Walnut Shade Mom.”  WOW, WOW, WOW!

It seems that everyone was pleased with what he or she gave and what he or she received.  For the rest of the day we relaxed, took a walk to Big Rock, did whatever we wanted to do, and ate whatever we wanted to eat, including, but certainly not limited to Bird’s Nest Cookies, dipped pretzels, Craisin cookies, Christmas Cookie Balls, and Oreo Balls.  We also made up a batch of hot cider that was deemed “excellent.”

During this holiday season, we have been trying to do a lot of things together; that is, activities that involve all six of in the same place at the same time.  Please understand that in a family like ours, where we can’t even agree on basic food preferences, it’s very hard to come up with things that all six of us like to do, so we made a list on the marker board of some 20 possibilities, and then we took turns selecting an activity; the rule being that you did what the specific person selected, whether you liked it or not.

I doubt I can remember all of those activities but here are some of them.

We worked a 500 piece puzzle that was an American flag made entirely of postage stamps.  More accurately, Josiah ironed the $15 (?!?!) piece of felt that was billed as a puzzle mat and then bopped his brother with the elongated white vinyl balloon around which the puzzle was to be rolled, while Jessica and I worked on the edges.  Over the next few hours, Scott and Katie completed the puzzle.  Amazing!

We tried only – marginally successfully – to play Piggyback Ping-Pong.  I think it was Andrew on Katie against Jessica on Scott (or something like that).  I stayed off people’s backs and just took pictures on that one.

We did enjoy several rounds of triples ping-pong. It’s played like doubles, except that there are three on each end, and they take turns hitting the ball.  The biggest challenge for me was remembering who I was supposed to hit after.

We made cookies.

We played Crazy Bridge backwards (10 down to three, I think).

And we played a game that Jessica learned from a friend, and which we now call, “Chicken in the Party Van.”  It involves drawing little pictures and trying to guess what has been drawn.  It is totally laugh-till-your-face-hurts hilarious.   We even conned may parents into playing it, and my dad is NOT a game player.  One of the funniest ones was when Grandpa’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out,” morphed into “A Man Going Down the Line Firing Cannons.”  Oh, how we laughed!

The kids have been playing a lot of Worms and Crusader.  Jessica and Katie are playing Nancy Drew.  Scott and the girls and I have played a great number of hands of bridge, and we have enjoyed all but one of those.  Katie had found Scott a brand new, still in the wrapper, set of KEM cards (probably 1970s vintage) at a thrift store in Virginia (can you believe it?!?), and the cards were stated to be guaranteed for six hundred rubbers of bridge or one year, whichever came first.  Scott decided to try to prove it; hence the excessive playing of bridge.  How very fun!

We watched some Star Trek, which brought back memories for me.

We did a few days of school between Christmas and New Year’s but it wasn’t too intense.  Scott did some work.  There was a cleaning of the vacation rental home. Katie’s been working a bit on her thesis and wishing that the Springfield library processed inter-library loans as quickly as Patrick Henry College does.  There have been some meetings concerning Scott and Josiah’s upcoming mission trip to Niger.  Jessica’s been making lists for her soon departure to Hong Kong and other locations in Asia.

Katie and I have played some pool (it was one of those nights where you takes turns scratching so many times that eventually there aren’t any more balls to pull back out), some Take Two (she’s won two out of three rounds and is cumulatively ahead by something like 175, but I doggedly refuse to give up), and quite a few delightful rounds of Library Re-Org.  This is a game we both enjoy greatly.  In fact, I have decided that it’s really necessary to maintain a decent stash of unnecessary books, so that when Katie comes home, we can cull the collection and reorganized things.  We have pbs-ed and otherwise unloaded a small boat load (a canoe-load perhaps?) of unwanted, unneeded books, and hopefully someday those will turn into books we really will read, books for the rental house library and/or college books for Josiah. Which, by the way, on or about December 23, he received notice that he was accepted to Patrick Henry College for the fall of 2012, WITH a hefty scholarship that will be renewable for four years!  Go Llama!!  Yee hah!!!  We’re all terribly proud and happy.

Basically, I have just been breathing deeply and reveling in having all six of us here together for the past three weeks.  It’s been like the good old days, but these have become the good new days.  God is so very gracious to us.  We’ve made some very special Christmas memories, even down to Andrew singing in an operatic voice, “running like a chicken with your head cut OFF!”

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