Archive for August, 2014

Bouncing baby boy

Today, in the midst of a number of other significant projects, my guys put together a trampoline.  Wow!

We’ve had an awesome Jump King trampoline for a lot of years, but none of us could remember exactly how long we’ve had it.  In trying to calculate its age, I was trying to imagine how big Andrew was when he was first jumping on it.  Toddler?  Little elementary-aged guy?  Then we were all trying to figure out how old the big kids were when we got it, but no one knew that either.  I was thinking it’s been something like seven or eight years.  Andrew wondered if it might have been ten years.  He did say, “I  remember how Dad gave it to us.  It was at Christmas, and he took the owner’s manual and wrapped it in a Pringle’s can and gave it to us.  I remember that.  We all LOVED it!”

So as I typed the previous paragraph, I thought, “Hmm. . . owner’s manual. . . so at one point there was an owner’s manual. . . I wonder if we still have it. . . but wait!  I know just where to look for it!”  And I did.

Sometime within the past year, I decided I should tackle cleaning out the massive filing cabinet in our office.  Let us not now go into the details of all that has been rather haphazardly shoved into its bowels through the years, but I did at that time accomplish one tiny file-decluttering task:  I went through ALL the owner’s manuals for everything.  They had all been dropped and compressed into two bulging and overflowing file folders labeled, respectively, “Owner’s Manuals” and “Owner’s Manuals.”

After discarding nearly half of them because we no longer own those things, I decided the remainder needed to be organized in some way, and that that way would probably involve a greater number of folders than two.  I gave this situation quite a bit of thought.  (We beavers are known to allow our planning to paralyze us into inaction.)  Initially, I tried organizing them alphabetically but quickly realized that if I ever actually needed to find an owner’s manual, alphabetically is NOT the way I would look for it.  Instead, I opted to organize them by location, which worked much better, and we now have a total of seven “owner’s manual” files, labeled (alphabetically) as follows:

Bedroom

Computer-Related (primarily office, but I couldn’t call it “Office,” because some computer stuff lives in other parts of the house)

Kitchen

Living Room

Misc Electronic

Misc Non-Electronic

Shop/Cellar/Playroom

So, in seeking the manual for our original trampoline, I simply slid open the middle file drawer; noted that the trampoline had never ever lived in our bedroom, kitchen, living room, shop, cellar, or playroom; reminded myself that it was clearly not electronic; and quickly pulled out the Misc Non-Electronic owner’s manual file.  Third item in file:  Jump King Trampoline, Christmas 2004.  Mystery solved!

2004 was ten years ago.  So Katie was 14, Jessica was 13, Josiah was 10, and Andrew was 5.

That trampoline actually collapsed last fall when Andrew and one of his not-so-slim friends were on it.  As we simply couldn’t tolerate being tramp-less, and with Scott feeling extremely thrifty, despite some advice to the contrary, he bought a used one off of craigslist.  It was smaller, not very sturdy, not as much fun, and it only a short time.  Sometime in April or May, during a Life Group here, Andrew and a bunch of other kids were happily on the trampoline.  Unknown to anyone else, one of the kids who is a neighbor of ours –  and whose family, although unchurched had been attending our Life Group – had in hand a small axe that he had picked up from somewhere in our yard.  (Evidently someone who shall remain nameless had left it lying out.  Not realizing the kid had already used the axe to slash (purposely or accidentally?) a small gash in the mat, Andrew suddenly saw the kid with the axe, grabbed it from him, and, in the truest spirit of Doing What’s Right To Protect All The Little Kids  Bouncing With You, flung it as far as he could away from the trampoline.  This was a good thing and surely prevented anyone small from being injured – much less anyone large from being sued! – but the gash quickly widened to virtually split the mat in two, and that was the end of that trampoline.

We left the poor thing sit, and for the past four months it has been drooping forlornly in the grass out back.

When you have a gymnast for a son, a trampoline is important; comparable to the importance of having a computer when you have a programmer for a son.  So I did a LOT of research and tried to find another big, sturdy, inexpensive, NEW trampoline.  I eventually found one and I told Scott about it, but since he made no comment, I just saved my link and bided my time.

Then they other day, Scott happened to say something about a trampoline!  “‘O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’ [she] chortled in [her] joy.”  I told him (again) that I had found what looked like a great one, and I sent him the link.  He replied that he was OK to buy it, and within the hour, before he could change his mind, I ordered it so fast it made my head spin.  The behemoth arrived on our porch yesterday, Scott and Andrew assembled it today – moments before it RAINED!!! – and Andrew tried it out.  He turned a back flip, said it’s super bouncy, told us he LOVES it, and said “Thank you very much!”

Looking over my shoulder, he couldn’t believe the title I put on this post, but he was grinning in his disbelief.

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My Hero

On Wednesday, I was again homebound, due to the Honda still being in the shop.  I have learned that when I don’t have (get) to go anywhere, I can accomplish a lot more at home, and I also gain some additional “free” time.  With this time on Wednesday, I decided to go to the creek, to my special place where I like to spend time with God and be refreshed.

It was a blistering hot day, but I had wisely decided to go down there about 10:00 AM, while I was still in my grubbies from walking and watering, and before my shower.  I walked rather slowly down there because my hip was bothering me, but when I got there, I had a wonderful time for the better part of an hour.  Then, having finished what I came for, I walked slowly back to the house in the then nearly ninety-degree heat.

At home, I talked with Andrew a bit and then reached for my phone to see what time it was.  My phone always lives in my left pocket.  My jeans and my jean shorts and my dress pants all have pockets that will accommodate my phone.  I don’t buy pants that won’t.  However, my exercise shorts, which I had been wearing since 6:30 AM, have very shallow pockets.  Since I don’t take my phone walking, it’s not a problem, but I always take my phone to the creek, and on the walk down there, it had been riding in my shallow left pocket.  But when I got to my rock bench and sat down, the phone was partially falling out of my pocket, so I took it out and set it on the rock beside me.

Now, standing in the dining room, I couldn’t find my phone, and panic was definitely rising.  This phone is actually a small computer, and I know exactly what it would cost to replace it.  Ugh.  In addition, it contains all my (200+) contacts, the loss of which would be mildly catastrophic.  So, where on earth was my phone?!?  Had I dropped it somewhere on the walk home?!?  Had I lain it down somewhere in the house?!?  Had I left it at the creek?!?  If so, could someone have picked it up?!?  As I considered the possibilities, I am sure my blood pressure was steadily increasing.

First step, I had Andrew call my phone, and we both clearly heard. . . absolutely nothing.  My phone wasn’t in the house, and that meant it was somewhere between our house and my special place.

Well, I obviously needed to get back down there ASAP, so I grabbed my keys, told Andrew I was going to drive back down to the creek, and tore out the front door. . . to see absolutely NO cars sitting in our driveway.  Well, that did make sense.  The Durango was in Springfield, and the Honda was at Taney County Tire.  Hmmm. . . that meant I would need to. . . WALK back down there.  Oh, no.  In the heat.  With my hip.

Ugh.

And just then, as that light bulb was gradually getting brighter in my mind, Andrew said, “No, Mom!  Wait!  I have a bike.”

And as I quickly explained where I thought the phone would be found, he tore out the back door, hopped on his bike, and embarked on The Great Purple Phone Search.  That guy is speedy.  Within five minutes, he called me to say he had found my phone!  O, Glorious Day!  O, Glorious Son!

When he arrived back with my phone in hand, it was quite warm, nearly hot.  In fact, he said that when he picked it up off the rock – where it had been sitting in the blazing sun for some 20+ minutes – it said, “Temperate.  iPhone must cool down before you can use it.”  So my fairly expensive phone had overheated and could have been seriously damaged, had not my son come to the rescue.

Thank you, dear Andrew!!!

Knowing when to exhale

Friday night we planned to go out on a date.  We were due for a date (we generally have a date every other weekend), but we were both rather ambivalent – couldn’t figure out where to go or what to do or what we wanted to eat.  We finally decided that what REALLY sounded fun was to find a restaurant where we could enjoy a leisurely meal and sit and play pinochle.  = )  In thinking through the various options, it seemed that most of our usual eating establishments wouldn’t take too kindly to our occupying a table for a long time, especially on a Friday night when there were other people waiting to sit in our seats, so that pushed us in the direction of “some small mom and pop place where there’s not a line out the door and they won’t care if we sit and play cards,” and that made us think of Mr. G’s pizza.

Mr. G’s is in old downtown, a couple blocks away from Dick’s Five and Dime.  It’s not at all fancy, sometimes smoky (we don’t smoke), and very big on kino (we don’t gamble), but their Chicago style pizza is really good, and I also like their salads.  They’ve never been full when we’re there, and we knew that as long as we could find a table that wasn’t near a cloud of smoke, it would be fun, so off we went to Mr. G’s.

When we pulled up to Mr. G’s, something didn’t look right.  The place was darker than usual.  There weren’t any cars around.  Oh, don’t tell me Mr. G’s is closed!!!  Read it and weep.  Not only was Mr. G’s closed, there was a typed notice taped to the door with a padlock on the outside.  Not a good omen for pizza and pinochle.  Sigh.

Pulled up to the curb and stopped on an uphill there at Commercial Street, we tried to figure out what to do next.  We sat there for several minutes, and the A/C was running full blast because even though it was about 7:00 PM, it was still something like 94 degrees outside.  While we sat and pondered, we began hearing some kind of a low rumbling afar off.  Kind of like rocks tumbling softly.  Or like a very heavy truck going over a bridge a quarter mile away.  Or actually very much like the sound a pot of plum preserves makes when it finally comes to a boil. . .

Me:  What’s that noise?

Scott:  I don’t know.

Me:  Is it. . . ?

Scott:  Well. . .

Me:  Our car?

Scott:  Maybe. . . uh. . . hey, I think I see smoke!

Me:  Huh?

Scott (turning off the car and pointing):  See?

Me:  Coming from our car?

Scott:  Uh-huh.

Well, this clearly was not good.  We’re downtown on a Friday night when most everything is closed or closing, our car is smoking, and we can’t even (legally) have Andrew bring the Durango and come rescue us.  What to do?

We got out of the car, and Scott cautiously lifted the hood.  Yes, the radiator had boiled over and was in fact, from the sound of things, still boiling fairly vigorously.  I could hear my dad’s admonition:  “Never open a hot radiator.  Don’t even touch the cap.  Wait for it to cool completely, and then open it very slowly.”

Me:  Ummm. . . I think we have to wait for it to cool down.

Scott:  Yeah.

So we stood there beside our boiled-over car and talked about our options.  Scott’s theory was that it had just overheated because it was so hot outside, and we had sat there idling for a long time with the A/C running and with, because we weren’t moving, no airflow over the engine.  And anyway, he couldn’t remember when the radiator had last had a flush and fill, so there was probably little to no antifreeze in it.

I listened more or less patiently.  OK, somewhat less than patiently.  His anaylsis may have sounded logical, but it didn’t sit well with me.  It seemed to me that even at 94 degrees with the A/C on, any self- respecting car – even if it is 16 years old and its odometer shows nearly 200,000 miles – shouldn’t boil over.

A man just leaving the antique store on the corner, saw our hood up, and asked if we needed help.  Scott told him the car had overheated because we’d been sitting there idling with the A/C on.  The man said he had a jug of water in his truck, which he dug out and handed to us.  It was over half full, and that was a blessing.  Once the radiator was cool, we’d need to pour in as much water as it would hold, and all we had on hand for that purpose was our two half-full water bottles.  We took the jug, thanked the man, and got back in the car.  Scott took a big swig from his water bottle.  I successfully resisted the strong urge to blurt out, “What the heck are you doing?!?  The car obviously needs that water a lot worse than you do!”

My thought was to leave the car there to cool, walk the couple blocks over to where the little diner-type restaurants are, have a meal, come back, pour the water in the radiator, head for home, and hope for the best.

Scott’s plan was to drive to some other restaurant Steak n Shake?  Applebee’s?  A Chinese place in Hollister?  and eat while the car sat there and cooled.  He was quite sure the problem was just our choice to sit with the A/C on, so he was sure that once it cooled down, all would be fine.

I was more skeptical, but then, he always sees only the positive and I always see only the negative, so our different opinions made sense.

In the end, we compromised.  We drove a few blocks past all the mom and pop restaurants and parked the car on a side street.  Then we walked back to the Branson Cafe, but found that, despite the fact that it’s now owned by a family we know, it had closed five minutes earlier.  So, probably looking just like a couple of confused tourists, we crossed to the Farmhouse Restaurant, which was still open and appeared to be the happening place on Main Street that night.

I really enjoyed my meal there (DELICIOUS chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuit, and coleslaw) and, it being a totally casual good ole’ boy kind of place, we did break out the pinochle cards while we waited.  The kitchen messed up Scott’s order, giving him coleslaw instead of his fried okra, so while he waited for the okra, he did try a small bite of the coleslaw.  The look on his face confirmed that he still feels about coleslaw just like I still feel about barbeque.  Convenient that we are allowed to be different, and proof that some things never change.

After dinner, we requested two large ice waters to go (which Scott did not drink) and walked back to our car.  The radiator was cool and low, so Scott poured in our two ice waters plus some of the water from the man’s jug.  (Perhaps I’m not supposed to say that he discovered the next morning that he had forgotten to replace the radiator cap and then had to go visit our friend, O.)  Anyway, not realizing the system wasn’t pressurized, we drove home with the A/C off and the windows down and were thankful to arrive unscathed and with the temperature gauge still showing “normal.”

That evening and again Saturday morning, there was more commentation – to which I chose to listen silently – about why the car had overheated.  Scott decided he wanted to take it to Taney County Tire (TCT), our current repair shop of choice, and have them flush and fill it and do an oil change.  But they are closed on Saturday, and with our present dearth of legal drivers, and Scott’s need to drive to work in Springfield on Monday (and Wednesday and Thursday, for that matter), it wouldn’t be possible for us to get the car to them on Monday morning.

So we dropped it off Sunday after church, on our way out to the annual church picnic and baptism at Table Rock State Park.  That was about 12:30 PM Sunday.  Scott called TCT Monday morning to tell them why there was an extra car in their lot and ask them to repair it.  We planned to pick the car up Monday evening.

But TCT called him back later Monday to say that they had determined the cause of the overheating.  It seems that a fan had gone out and needed to be replaced.  Now, I am not sure where under the hood this specific fan lives, but it must be in some totally unreachable location – like Tanzania? – based on the priced they quoted us for this service.  But it had to be done, and for that amazing number of dollars, they would also do the flush, the fill, the oil change, (“And wait!  There’s more!”) and a tire rotation that was due.

Except that they called  back even later Monday to say that the part they had ordered had arrived, but it was the wrong part.  Ugh.  So they’d get the new part Tuesday morning and it would be ready Tuesday afternoon.  Well, that would work out all right.  I had a doctor’s appointment in Branson on Tuesday afternoon, so we could just leave a bit early (Scott working from home on Tuesdays) and I could drop him off at TCT to pay and pick up, before I went on to the doc.

Expect that they called Tuesday morning to say that they had received the part, but it was once AGAIN the wrong part.  Ugh, Take Two.  They would have they correct part in hand Wednesday morning, and the car would be ready Wednesday afternoon.  This did throw a wrench in the schedule, however, because Andrew and I were planning to go to the grocery on Wednesday morning.  Now, since Scott would take the Durango to Springfield that day, we’d have no car to go to the grocery.  Hence we would need to go to the grocery on Tuesday morning (I refuse to hit Wal-Mart in the afternoons, if there’s any possible way to avoid doing so), and Tuesday morning was rapidly going away.  As in, “going away, going away fast.”  So we dropped the academics we were in the midst of, quickly scribbled out a list, and went first to Wal-Mart and then to McKenna’s, where I intended to procure peaches, cantaloupe, and watermelon.  Scott had requested “a small melon to take with us on our guys’ float trip this weekend.  The river’s stream-fed, and I’m going to float it behind us in the water.”  Whatever.

Except that when we got to McKenna’s they had NO PEACHES because, “The peach man’s running a day late,” and they’d have them tomorrow.  Wednesday.  When I would have no car.  “And by the way,” Jean McKenna added, “That’ll be the end of the peaches for this year.”  I almost cried standing there.  Their peaches have been almost as good as the Colorado ones.  Sigh.  Very. Big. Sigh.

So I arranged with our neighbor to be on stand-by to take me to town this (Wednesday) afternoon, whenever I got word that the car was ready.

Except that Scott called at noon to say he had heard from Taney County Tire.  Hope rose.  It seems that the part did not come in today.  Hope fell.  The manufacturer didn’t send it.  Oh, yes, the manufacturer had received the order for the part from TCT and evidently had the part on hand; they just failed to get it into the box to be shipped overnight.  AARRGGHH!!!  It was now being overnighted to arrive in Springfield at 8:00 AM Thursday, it would get to TCT by 9:00 AM Thursday, and the car would be ready sometime Thursday afternoon.

Scott, of course, would have to drive the Durango to Springfield on Thursday, leaving us once again car-less, but Andrew and I would need to be at the church at 8:00 AM Thursday.  So I texted Pastor Barb, explained the situation briefly (I can do that; it’s just that here I have chosen not to), and asked her to come four miles out of her way to pick us up.  Sigh.  She, being willing to do almost anything for enough homemade salsa and homegrown tomatoes, said that would be fine.

All that to say that, while I do fondly hope to have our fully serviced Honda back home tomorrow afternoon, I will not be holding my breath till it arrives.

 

On lacking “no good thing” ~ Psalm 34:10

It being an odd-numbered year, our plum trees have once again produced a bumper crop of tart, grape-sized plums.  It goes against my nature to let perfectly good fruit rot on the ground, so this year I decided that I would once again make plum preserves.  I stocked up on the essentials – jars, lids and rings, sugar, and pectin – and started picking.

I have carefully calculated that it takes exactly 3/5 of a bucket of plums to produce the requisite six cups of prepared fruit.  That’s a lot of tiny plums, many of which have blemishes that need to be cut out, and all of which have a seed that needs to be cut out.  Then once pitted, the plums have to be cut up into tiny pieces.  The most time-consuming part of making plum preserves with such small plums is definitely the cutting out and cutting up.  It takes about an hour and-a-half to do that.

But after our first two batches (which Scott helped with!), I had a brilliant idea.  We have this nifty new blender, and maybe I could dump the pitted plums into the blender and let it do the cutting up.  Which I did, and it worked magnificently.  Whew!  With that technique, I was able to get the whole procedure down to about three hours total per batch.

And we did six batches.

Which resulted in fifty-nine (59) 8-oz. jars of plum preserves!

Last time, with the wonderful help of Scott’s mom and Andrew, we put up 38 jars, but what with our eating them and giving them away, we ran out in January of this year.  Then Scott started mentioning our lack homemade plum preserves, his fondness for homemade plum preserves, and his desire for me to buy SOME kind of store-bought something to go with peanut butter. . . like maybe blackberry jam.  Which I did buy, but he kept talking about plum preserves.

Loosely calculating that at 38 jars (rounded down to 36 for easier figuring) lasting 18 months, our usage – either personally or publicly – was about two jars per month, and since I wanted this year’s batch to last the full 24 months, I wanted to produce something in the range of 48 jars (rounded up to 50 because that’s an easier number to remember).  Technically, I could have stopped with our fifth batch (total, 48 jars), but we still 3/4 of a bucket of uncut plums sitting on the kitchen floor, and I was two jars short, so I pressed on for another three hours and 11 more jars.

There are still loads of plums ripening on the trees, but the deer have been enjoying the ones off the ground and on the low branches.  I know this is true because 1) one evening, after washing the Durango, Andrew counted six deer munching away under the plum trees, and 2) they do leave evidence of their presence.  ‘Nuff said.

We took the rest of the bucket of uncut plums to our friend, JR, at church.  He said he’d feed them to his chickens.  At least, I think it was chickens.  Or maybe it was some other animal.  His family has chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats, and dogs, and they are wanting to get a milk cow. . . or was that a goat?  Well, anyway, we gave the leftovers to JR for his animals.  The ones still on the trees and under them are now officially fair game for critters and/or neighbors.  I guess some neighbors can be critters, as well, but thankfully none of ours are.

I have gotten all the canning stuff put away, and I’ve mopped the floor for about the fourth time in a week.  (Be it noted that when making plum preserves, no matter what precautions you take, the floor is unbearably sticky within the first hour.)

It was exhausting, but fun, and I do feel quite productive.

We have no lack of plum preserves!

Jeopardy question: What is two and-a-half?

Answer:  The number of cups of nectar (sugar water) our local hummingbirds are currently chug-a-lugging in an eight-hour period!  That, combined with seeing five or six of them at a time – instead of the usual two or three – dive-bombing each other around the feeders, makes me suspect they are tanking up in preparation for their extended southerly trek.  However, it seems way too early for that.  Could this possibly mean we are in for another long, snowy winter? (Hope, hope!)

Sweet deception

Five years ago, I started losing weight, and I kept losing weight until about a year ago, at which time I had lost a total of 40 pounds.  My weight has stayed the same for the past year.

Three years ago, I bought some dress pants that fit at the time (size 24), but by a year ago, they were a size too big (I really needed a 22).  They’ve been too big for a year and I’ve worn them anyway, because although I have looked all over for replacements, I haven’t found any in a fabric I like that will actually fit my size and shape.  Until a few weeks ago, when I saw some at JustMySize.com that seemed to have potential.

As instructed, I carefully measured my pertinent body parts and ordered two pairs – one black and one navy – in the size thusly indicated (as expected, 22).  The pants arrived and they were too big, but I wasn’t sure how much too big.  I sent them back and re-ordered a black in size 20 and a navy in size 18.  These pants arrived and the black pair (20) was too big, but the navy pair (18) fit just right.  I sent back the black 20s and ordered a black 18, which should arrive in a week or so.

But here’s the deal.  I know good and well that I am absolutely not a size 18!!  A year ago, I was a 22 and I haven’t changed a bit, so I’m sure I’m still a 22, but the makers of pants have evidently decided that I would feel better about myself if I wore a size 18, so they have taken a fine pair of pants that used to be called a 22 and are now calling it an 18.

Well, they are right.  I do feel better, but I also know it’s all really an elaborate lie. It’s difficult for me to reconcile this.  In many areas of life I am working hard to understand, believe, speak, and act on only the TRUTH, so admitting the fact that I am pleased to wear a lie is somewhat disconcerting.  I call this “sweet deception,” and I think I shall dig out and enjoy a piece of taffy in honor of it.

Kaleidoscope!

A collection of butterflies has been flying by (and sucking nectar from) my orange zinnias.  Such a group of butterflies is officially called a kaleidoscope or, less creatively, a swarm.  I much prefer the former.  These are all the same kind, quite large, and of what I think are the “swallowtail” variety.  Often, as many as six at a time are coming and going to the zinnias, and when space is too tight there, the ones being edged out go for the four-o’-clocks and/or marigolds in the big bed.  I really like to see “my” kaleidoscope; they make me happy.

For several days, I’ve seen them in the morning and again in the afternoon, and while I’m out watering I often think, “I want to look those up and try to identify them,” but, as is so often the case, once I get inside, I totally forget.  But this evening, I thought, “Hey, Patty!  Pull out that butterfly book and try to figure those guys out.”  So I did, and guess what?

My Butterflies and Moths of Missouri book (authors J. Richard and Joan E. Heitzman; let’s all guess what this couple does on a date) indicates that my beautiful visitors are definitely Missouri Woodland Swallowtails Papilio joanae.  Oh, I am so very pleased to have this information.

And I just looked at the “About the Authors” information on the inside back cover of this guide and read, among other things, that, “Richard and Joan Heitzman have been butterfly collectors since childhood, but did not begin systematic study of Lepidoptera until their marriage in 1951. . . ”  So I was right!  They probably do – perhaps more accurately did – carry nets on dates!

And get THIS!  “. . .  The Heitzman’s have collected [Yes, I fully realize that apostrophe is incorrect; I am copying this text exactly as printed.  The Conservation Department clearly needed a proofreader.] 17 new species or subspecies of Lepidoptera.  Papilio joanae J.R. Heitzman, named for Mrs. Heitzman, was the first new species of swallowtail to be described in the United States and Canada in 37 years.” So the butterflies that are named for the wife of a famous butterfly-collecting duo are the dining in my yard.  = )

This is most satisfying.


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