Archive for March, 2012

Jeopardy question: What is $16.95?

Answer:  The cost to send up to four pounds of anything to Hong Kong.

Note that the “small flat rate box” and the “padded letter-size flat rate mailer” both go for $16.95.  The latter holds more than the former, but you will have to completely enshroud your package in packing tape to guarantee that it won’t rip open in transit.

Jeopardy question: What is “scrubbing the whole thing with Comet cleanser?”

Answer:  The only way to remove several hundred streaks of blue ink from the inside of the clothes dryer.

Note that if your arms are length-challenged, this process can be facilitated by requiring the person who unknowingly sent the pen through the laundry – and whose clothes appear to have miraculously emerged unscathed – to climb bodily into the dryer to scrub the back face of the drum.

Jeopardy question: What is six?

Answer:  The number of times I had to mop the floors after a lidless water bottle (in which several large jaw-breaker-ish candies has been soaking) fell off the dining room desk.

Note that, because I inadvertently stepped in the dried-up sticky mess as I was doing the first mopping, I managed to successfully track it into Jessica’s room, the upstairs hall, our bedroom, and our bathroom.  Further note that it is possible to mop all the wood floors in our house six times in one day, even when allowing them to dry completely in between each mopping, but for the sake of maintaining one’s sanity, this is not recommended.

How I love spring!

We are currently in the very middle of my favorite time of year!  The redbuds are in bloom, the plum trees gave their brief but stunning display, the dogwoods are lovely, and we don’t have to run the heat or the air.  What could be nicer?  Well, this afternoon I took a walk and wade down at the creek, and there, perched several feet off the ground, in a clump of dead leaves that landed in a bare-limbed twiggy little shrub during last week’s rains, was coiled some 24 inches of juvenile snake; copperhead to be exact.  He was sunning himself, and I was able to get within a foot of him.  What a treat!  I only wish I’d had my camera with me.

I have about a dozen little tomato seedlings out on the porch, right beside about a dozen little red pepper seedlings.  In fact, I should probably go bring them in for the night.  I have high hopes for these little guys.  Now I just need to find enough pots and buckets to plant them in, and some way to get them up off the ground so they’ll drain properly. O, the joys of container gardening.

The nicest thing about spring is that it keeps coming around for me to enjoy, year after year.


One point for the YMCA

I don’t give out Y points very often and so thought this event was blog-worthy.

I had paid for Andrew’s March Parkour classes, which meet on Saturday mornings.  Then we learned that his coach would be unavailable for at least three of the five Saturdays in March, so I asked the gymnastics coordinator for a refund.  She said she could credit our account, which she did.

Today he went for his Wednesday afternoon tumbling class, for which we pay $8.  When I went to the desk to pay, I told the receptionist that the gymnastics coordinator had given us a credit for some of the March Parkour classes, and could that be applied to today’s tumbling fee.

Bear in mind that in three years (off and on) of dealing with the Y, I don’t think I have EVER been able to have one employee look up something that some other employee put in their computer and have it actually be there, but today, miracle of miracles, the receptionist looked up our account, said we had a $20 credit, and applied $8 of it to Andrew’s tumbling class fee.

A non-stressful interchange at the YMCA front desk; something new and different!

Close call

Tonight I challenged Andrew to a game of Gin Rummy.  I warned him in advance that since I have played a lot more than he has, I was likely to win.  He did not seem to share that logic.

I pulled out to an early lead of something like 71 to 35, but then, over a series of three or four hands, he pulled back to tie it at 83 all.  A game is 100.  I ginned in the final hand for a bonus of 20, but he only had five points in his hand, which was quite commendable.  So my prediction came true, but the guy is awfully close to catching me.

He’s close to catching me in another way, too.  I am fairly certain that by a week from Thursday, he will have pushed me back down to being, once again, the shortest person in the family.  I’m thinking I haven’t been in that position for about seven years – when the girls had passed me, but I could still look down on Josiah and Andrew.  Now I won’t be able to look down on anyone, and I’m sure there’s a spiritual lesson there.  = )


Took a nice walk with Andrew

We went across the bridge and down to the creek on that side, by Roxanne’s house, and then followed the old road/path down around the backside of the cow pasture all the way to the horseshoe bend.  We walked for about an hour all told, and we had some good conversation.  I have learned that he opens up much more when we’re walking or riding in the car or something, than just sitting at home.  It’s as if the doing/moving/going makes him more comfortable to share what he’s thinking.

One of his questions tonight was, “Mom, what would you do if our house burned down?”  We had left the oven preheating for pizza.  = )  I told him I’d make sure he was awake and out of the house (he’s a very heavy sleeper), and then if possible, I’d grab my computer.  He said, he’d collect, “all my money, and then some clothes, which I’d put in a bag, and my deodorant, and my wallet, and probably some of my things. . . ”  I told him that in a fire he wouldn’t have time to do all that; that it would be a matter of get and go in order to get out fast; that sometimes in a crisis situation, the most important thing – in fact the only thing – is just to keep living.  Then he said he’d just take his money and whatever else he could grab fast.

We talked more about money and the value of it and how we spend it and why.  All in all very interesting.

Also, it’s sucker season.  I wouldn’t know this, not being an angler at heart, but a good old boy was walking around the bridge the other morning and when I asked him what was up, he said he was looking for suckers.  I gathered that suckers were fish.  He pointed out a couple under the bridge.  He told me that he’d been over to this hole three mornings in a row, but someone had always beat him to it and fished them all out.  He was from Crane, which, according to google maps, is about a 48-minutes drive from here, and he’s been getting up at 5:30 AM to come over here for suckers.  His girlfriend told him not to come back without any, so he was fairly desperate.  It seems that people catch these suckers, clean them, and throw the rest of the fish back in the water, so the area around the bridge is full of trash and dead fish right now.  Yuck.  And down where Andrew and I were walking, at the main access point, there were dozens and dozens of dead fish in the water, right at the creek’s edge.  Of course, the crows and vultures and stuff will take care of them in a few days, but I didn’t get to wade like I wanted to.

Maybe tomorrow!

The downside of an early spring

Technically, spring will begin in three days, but it’s been spring around here for the past three weeks!  However, since winter never arrived, maybe we’re really just going from fall to spring.  I can’t remember ever having to do the first mow on St. Patrick’s Day, but that’s how it fell this year.

We’re hosting a life group here tomorrow night, and in Scott’s honor, I have been somewhat stressed about the yard.  Generally, I care about how the inside of the house looks when we have guests.  The only outside part I care deeply about is the porch and walk.  Scott, on the other hand, sees no problem at all with a messy house, just so long as the yard is mowed and neatly weed-eated.

I think the main problem is that we have no lawn; at least not the “real” kind of lawn tended by people who live in subdivisions.  In a couple months this will not matter, because once the weeds get thick enough and we whack them all off at the same height, the uniform greenness will effectively imitate lawn, but right now, there are just too many inconsistencies.  For example, there are the dandelions.  Today, they are blooming so close to the ground that the mower has no effect.  Frustrating little yellow blooms.  And then we have these little purple weeds that are EVERYWHERE in thick four-inch high clumps.  Of course, in a deeper shade of purple we also have a nice but widely scattered collection of grape hyacinths, which I actually like; but in a bed, please!  NOT all over the yard.  Rounding out the unwanted flora are lots of wispy, grasslike green onions.  They’re probably six or seven inches high, but once mown, they are still unsightly mini-imitations of wheat shocks!  Ugh.

I decided the yard had to be mowed before this group, and as I did not want to be working on that project in the forecast 82-degree Sunday afternoon heat, I told Andrew we’d tackle it this (Saturday) morning.

A few days previous, at my insistence, he had already tried unsuccessfully to start the rider.  No surprises there.  It never starts for the first mow, but the push mower had started, which was a hallelujah blessing.  Then there was the weed-eater.  I knew there was something to be done with a little square bottle of oil, so I told Andrew to go read the instructions and fill the weed-eater and try to start it.  He came back in saying that there were no instructions and the weed-eater wouldn’t start.  This was bad news, because the weed-eater is what we really needed to tidy up the front (the part that matter most when guests are coming).  I called our handyman friend and explained that the rider wouldn’t start and would he b3e willing to drop by sometime when he was in the area – he lives some 15 miles away and Walnut Shade is not on his way to anywhere – and take a look at it for pay.  He said he’d come by Saturday.  I also told him about the weed-eater:  that Andrew had poured “some” oil into the reservoir, added “some” gas, and couldn’t start it.  J.R. explained that that bottle of oil was supposed to be pre-mixed into a gallon of gas and THEN poured into the tank.  Well.  He said we’d need to drain it and then he’d take the spark plug out and clean it and see if he couldn’t get it started when he came.  Super nice guy, that J.R.

So this morning, we went out to tackle the yard with only a functional push mower, but lo and behold, here came Andrew driving the rider!  Yee-ha!  Things were looking up.  Why on earth that beast started for the first mow, I have no idea.  Clearly something new and different.  But wait.  It would drive but it wouldn’t mow.  No matter how many times Andrew moved that certain lever, the blade wouldn’t turn.  With my lightning fast mechanical mind, I diagnosed the problem.  Are dangling belts like dangling participles?  The mower’s was hanging at a rakish angle, clearly NOT encircling its intended wheel.  I could not discern a way to get the belt back on, so I had Andrew put the rider away.  That belt will have to be a problem for Scott on another day.

He brought me the push mower and started it for me.  I’m not too good at starting lawn equipment.  I began pushing the front, and I sent Andrew to re-fill the weed-eater’s tank with the pre-mix I had prepared the day before and see if the stars were aligned so as to enable it to start, even though its spark plug had not been cleaned.

God was merciful to us again, and the weed-eater started!  So I mowed and Andrew weed-eated, and when I was about to drop, he took over the mowing.  We only did the front, both sides, and the near back.  The far back is not yet high enough to need mowing, and as the Oldest Female On Premises, I made an executive decision that the mowing of ditches is vastly overrated.

The whole task took us a couple hours, and while the yard doesn’t look stellar, it looks good enough.  I was thankful that we were able to work together to get it done, even with some staffing and equipment deficiencies.  I also texted J.R. that we were fine and to please take care of his own family today.

I am quite sure that yards are really not intended to be mowed till April 15, so does this mean I have to pay taxes today, too?

Miscellany from my week

Katie helped collect library books Sunday afternoon.  There were a lot to collect, and she found them all.  Whew!  No fines!

We had a good group Sunday night, with a good prayer group at the end.  I am getting closer to these ladies and we’re all beginning to open up more.  I think there’s potential for some real friendships here.  Andrew went home to spend the night and next day with Zach.  They are quite different from each other, but they generally get along well.

Katie went back to college on Monday.  Most days, I am happy for her and pleased with the way God’s leading her.  Some days I’m a little sad, and on a few days, I’m really sad.  The realization that she won’t be coming back to live here any more sinks in only gradually and is not something that gets processed once and and for all.  I have to work through it over and over again.  All days, I’m so extremely proud of her I could burst!

Thankfully, although it takes something like 26 hours to fly from Dulles to Springfield, it’s a proven fact that one can fly from Springfield to Dulles in about nine hours.  Maybe it has to do with wind speed and the rotation of the earth. . . ? After I dropped her at the airport, I met a friend for a late lunch.  It was really nice to see her.  She’s been through a divorce and is recovering from all that, but she seems to be doing well.  We caught up on each other’s families and stuff.

I pulled out of that parking lot, thinking about which library branch would be best to drop the books at.  (I couldn’t think of a good way to avoid ending that sentence with a preposition.)  As I made a left turn onto the busy street, it dawned on me that the Panera where we had just eaten was adjacent to The Library Station!  We had planned it that way a few days earlier, thinking that I’d have Andrew with me and he could browse the stacks while we visited, but he was with Zach and I had forgotten.  At that point, looking back over my shoulder to change lanes, I glanced toward the trunk and failed to see the two loaded book crates. . . mainly because they were still at home in the dining room!  Hmmm. . . another trip to Springfield would be required.

Andrew and I were invited for dinner and cards at our pastor’s house two nights in a row.  Hamburgers and bridge one night; pork chops and spades the next.  Actually, he played with the kids and I played with the adults!  It was a lot of fun.  = )

I had our new rear van brakes adjusted on Wednesday.  There was no charge for that, which is a good thing when you consider what it cost to have them installed.  Then we zipped to Springfield for an ortho appointment, because one of Andrew’s rubber band hooks had come off for the second time.  AARRGGHH!  We had been to a regular ortho appointment two weeks ago, and we have another one two weeks out, but this one could not be avoided.  However, this time, I, singlehandedly mind you, managed to to remember to bring with me both crates of library books.  I also found a neat book for me at the Brentwood branch.  So far, it’s quite inspiring and challenging.

This week’s counseling session was fairly intense, Andrew’s tumbling was cancelled, church was really awesome, and Andrew had youth worship practice after.  The logistics of that practice session are somewhat interesting.  Jessica (not ours) sings and plays keyboard in the adult service, and her husband, Pete, plays guitar and drums (on a drum machine).  He is also the youth pastor.  For this youth worship team, Jessica sings, Traiten plays guitar, Andrew plays keyboard, and Pete plays drums and maybe guitar, too.  The complicating factor is that Pete and Jessica also have two younger children who need to get to bed.  One of the teen girls has been commandeered to go home with their children, get them in bed, and stay with them till Pete and Jessica get home from worship practice, but Abi doesn’t drive, so our family has offered to be responsible for taking Abi and the two kids to Pete and Jessica’s house.  This week was our first run, and it was not without incident.  We got to the house, but no one had a key. Ten year-old Reece said he knew where a key was hidden, but he needed a light.  Now, I could readily have provided a tire gauge, half a box of Kleenex, a set of ear buds, and two pairs of nail clippers, but light I did not have.  However, he and Abi managed to climb a fence, find the key  in the dark, and get into the house.  Next week, I’ll stick a flashlight in the glove box and ask Jessica for a key.

Thursday was a home day.  I like those for two reasons:  I can get a lot done, and I don’t have to wear any make-up.  I finally got ALL the guys ironing (from, ahem. . . two and-a-half weeks ago!) done, and that was a nice feeling of accomplishment.  I’m sure I did something else useful that day, but I don’t remember what it was.

Today, Andrew had a swim and gym thing at the Y in Springfield all day, so I had some time to take bags of stuff to the thrift shop, get some potting soil and weed-eater oil at Wal-Mart (did you know you’re not supposed to dump that little square bottle of oil into the weed-eater reservoir?  and that if you do and then add gas to it, the weed-eater won’t start? I’m hoping our handyman friend can rescue me from that stupidity before I have to explain the dead weed-eater to Scott. . . ), shop for some clothes (which I ended up not buying, but that was OK, because now I have a good idea of what I really want), buy a new journal, and go to the post office.  I’ve been spending a lot of time there lately, it seems, thanks to that silly 13 ounce rule.  Back home, I worked some on homeschool hours, planned Josiah’s academics for the last week of March, did a lot of ministry correspondence stuff, updated Quickbooks, and wrote a LOT of thank you notes (some of which I did by email).  I also sent an encouraging note to a friend who’s going through a lot of tough stuff, and by then, it was time to pick up Andrew.

We had a relaxing dinner of pizza and pears while watching some TV, and afterwards, I managed to redeem myself in gin rummy, skunking him 269 to 69.  I mention that because Andrew demolished me last time we played, and tonight I felt vindicated.

We will have a group here Sunday night, the yard looks really horrid, and I need to clean a couple bathrooms, two bedrooms, both halls, and the stairs.  I think Saturday will be a cleaning kind of day, inside and out. Then we have tentative plans to go out to eat with our good friend, Donna, who is celebrating her resignation today from her job of 13 years.  Let’s just say that she has endured a LOT with that job, and we all know God has wonderful things in store for her now!

It’s been a good week!

I was hoping for snow

But we got a tornado instead.

Winter hasn’t showed up yet this year, much to my chagrin.  I have literally only worn a coat five times.  Admittedly, that does make my morning walks a lot more comfortable, but the lack of snow drains my soul.  We did have ONE snowfall of a few inches that lasted ONE day, during which Scott and Josiah built the now-infamous six-ball snowman.  That was great, but woefully inadequate.

When I heard rumors last week that there might be snow on Tuesday of this week, I was excited, but my life has been fairly full lately, so I actually forgot all about it.  Tuesday evening I went out to eat with a friend of mine, and because the thirty minutes of her time that I had requested stretched in to multiple hours (!), it was 11:15 PM when I got home and a little after midnight when I headed to bed.

Lying there, I felt strong winds pummeling the house and I heard the flag whipping and wondered if I should get up and go bring it in.  I probably should have, but I was tired, it was late, and I didn’t want to bother.  I did ask God to watch over our house, land, and vehicles, and to protect us.  Then I fell asleep.

The next morning, February 29, I got a message from Andrew’s piano teacher, saying that there had been a tornado in Branson, but that she would still be expecting him for his 8:30 lesson.  I was surprised, having slept through whatever had happened.  What had happened was evidently really intense.  I talked with a man who lives a quarter mile off the strip and had seen it. He said the sky was neon puke green, and they watched blue and purple lightning striking places on the strip. I went online and saw pictures of buildings ripped apart and/or flattened.  Places that we drive by all the time have been destroyed.  First Baptist’s entire steeple is gone.

However, the amazing thing is that there were no deaths, and the injuries sustained by a few dozen folks were relatively mild.  Many homes were damaged or destroyed, as were many businesses, and this all as tourist season is just gearing up.  But there weren’t many tourists in town yet, and, as our youth pastor reminded us last night, if this had happened just a couple weeks later, there’s no telling how many folks might have been injured or killed.

It’s amazing how quickly the clean-up and rebuilding is already moving.  The tornado hit around 1:15 AM, and by dawn, many streets had already been cleared of trees and debris, and the electric company was working on downed lines.  Many people are still without power, but the stated goal is to restore electric service to all of Branson today.  Tourism is the lifeblood of this town, and everyone is working madly to do what it takes to persuade tourists that Branson will still be a great vacation spot this spring.

My heart goes out to those whose homes were damaged or destroyed and to those whose workplaces are not functioning.  We are available and willing to help, but we were told by a city employee that it seems that “they” are not really letting locals volunteer to do anything, preferring to rely on the MANY teams of trained professionals and volunteers who are coming in from all over.  Maybe it has to do with safety issues, or maybe it’s just that those folks already know what to do and how to do it.  In any case, I am kind of sitting by and watching and wondering.

And praying.  Not just for snow.



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