Archive for April, 2015

O, Pythagorus!

I am working through geometry for the fifth and final time.  This has been a tough course for Andrew, and having tried everything without too much success, today I decided to work very intensely with him.  I explained the lesson to him and then sat right beside him and talked him through each problem.  We checked each answer as he did it, and the immediate feedback seemed to help.  We did two lessons this way today, and his score on the second one was MUCH higher than they’ve been in the past, so it looks like for the short term, I will once again be intimately acquainted parallelograms, trapezoids, right triangles, and their relative sides, angles,m and areas.

You would think that after have done high school geometry five times (Patty, Katie, Jessica, and Josiah), I would have it down fairly well, but tonight I was completely stumped.  I had to ask Scott to figure out and explain to me why, in the case of a certain proof, Andrew’s and my answer of (a-b)^2 really was equivalent to the answer book’s answer of (b-a)^2  (and therefore correct) AND how on earth the book ever derived (b-a)^2 in the first place.  Scott did explain it, but for the record, Mr. Jacobs, you really should have listed both answers as correct options on lesson 9.5, problem 38; especially since the answers to problems 39 and 40 both depended on the answer to that one!  I do want to be gracious, but honestly, these kinds of frustrations just seem to be too much for my 50+ year-old brain to handle well at 9:00 PM after a long and busy day.

While it has truly been deeply gratifying to have been able to homeschool kids for lo, these past 24+ years, I will confess that checking math answers and doing related corrections is one aspect of the process I will not miss whenever I finally hang up my “homeschool mom” hat.

Chuck squared

I went to take an afternoon walk by the creek today, and just as I headed down the little hill on Blansit, I heard something scuttling through the leaves on the ground.  I figured it was a squirrel and stopped to look.  Paused, and looking into the undergrowth, I suddenly saw something brown and furry less than ten feet away.  A medium-sized groundhog (woodchuck) was looking up at me!  I was so surprised, I said, “Well, hi!” and the fellow froze for a moment and then shambled off. . . with his companion!!!  There were two of them side by side!  I always call a groundhog “Chuck,” so I wasn’t sure how to refer to the second one.  There’s the groundhog I used to see across the road from Stockstill Park, and the groundhog I frequently see in the grassy area above the creek at Skyline Baptist, and, of course, there used to be the groundhog that lived under our shop building out back – before Scott had the underpinning replaced with metal. . . but no matter where I see a groundhog, I always say, “Look!  There’s Chuck.”  I wonder if the second one was his mate.  Should I call her “Charlotte?”  Or “Chick?”  Or is it okay to just call them both “Chuck?”

In any case, two groundhogs together was a cause for rejoicing!

Jeopardy question: What is 155?

Answer:  The cost of a ticket issued for floating on the Buffalo River without a life jacket in your kayak.

Saturday morning, knowing that Andrew would be gone all morning to the 5K Color Run in Springfield and then be doing schoolwork in the afternoon, we decided to go floating, and since Bull Creek was low rock (details below), Scott thought it would be fun to go float the upper Buffalo, specifically putting in at Ponca, a put-in that is loaded with all kinds of memories for us.  Let us not even mention our disastrous late March float back before we had kids.

Suffice it to say that on a lovely Saturday in April with the water at the low edge of “moderate,” several hundred people from a multi-state area had exactly the same idea, and they all converged at Ponca.  Thoughts of tranquility and solitude evaporated, but we did enjoy the float.  Much could be said, but I don’t have much time to write right now, so I will be uncharacteristically brief, listing only a few bullet points before getting to the jeopardy business.

~ When you have to line up to go through a rapid, there are too many floaters on the river.

~ It is possible to be the only two floaters (out of multiple hundreds) who are not carrying beer in your boat.  Don’t ask me how I know.

~ There seems to be a high correlation between beer consumption and the use of foul and/or explicit language.  It’s been a long time since I heard so many curse words and references to dimensions of bodily parts.

~ A number of people equivalent to the entire population of Newton County camped on the Buffalo between Steel Creek and Kyles Landing on Saturday night.

~ Having a Perception Dagger kayak makes you a stand-out among floaters.  In addition to various foul (but I assume actually positive) terms, I was told I had a sweet ride.  I agreed!

~ IF, in an effort to get some sun on your face and upper torso, you take off your T-shirt and lay it across your always-exposed-in-the-kayak legs and then remove your floppy hat and secure it under your kayak’s front elastic straps, and IF four minutes later your vessel makes a sudden intimate and slightly sideways connection with a large boulder into which the current has very forcefully directed you, and IF you maintain a firm grip on your paddle despite the shock of the incredibly cold water, and IF you holler loudly enough, and IF you stay upstream of the flipped kayak, and IF you don’t try to stand up in the rapid, and IF you keep your head up and your feet behind, and IF you use your paddle to maneuver yourself around various rock obstacles, and IF you keep trying to drift in the direction of less steep bank, THEN you will eventually be able to stand up and collect your breath enough to holler at a couple of the other several hundred folks on the river that you are okay and to please help your husband grab and flip your boat.  BUT once you and boat are reunited, you will find that although your two water bottles survived the tip and are still in their holders(!!!), your T-shirt (easily replaced and no big deal) and your beloved floppy hat – yes, the floppy hat you have had for fourteen years and which you wear not only on all float trips but also every single morning of your life when you walk (irreplaceable and a very big deal) – have sadly both been sacrificed to the vicious river gods.  Several minutes of silence and/or tears will ensue as you grieve this intense loss, and for the next six hours, you will find yourself peering intently at canoes, kayaks, floaters, bushes, branches, rock outcroppings, and logs on the slight chance that the floppy hat may have ended up in some retrievable place.  Accepting the fact that it did not and you will never see it again can be challenging and may take some time.

~ If you stop to pee at the jumping-off bluff on the right, just upstream of the Hemmed-In Hollow trailhead, know that there is no cover anywhere, the area is criss-crossed with trails, and if you are wearing a one-piece suite with no T-shirt for extra modesty, should you fail to do your business quickly and re-dress with extreme haste, you will risk being met by four riders on horseback from the trail to the right, two dogs plus nine people from the trail to the left, four cross-country backpackers from the trail behind you, and six young children from who knows where and who are about to jump off that bluff.  Truly, there are times in life when men definitely have it easier.

~ The trail to Hemmed-In Hollow is neither 1/2 mile long nor 1/8 mile long.  However long it is, it is definitely worth the hike, but it would be easier to do in socks and shoes with decent support than in wet creek sandals.  A walking stick is helpful, so I left one there for you.

~ The rapids between Hemmed-In Hollow and Kyles Landing are a bit more fun and challenging than those further upstream; however, the fun is somewhat reduced when one has to back-paddle like crazy each time to keep from running into the people ahead of you, who are in various states of inebriation and piloting various types of crafts (canoes, kayaks, a john boat?!?).

~ When in a rocky and shallow rapid, repeating the mantra, “NEVER get crossways to the current, never EVER get crossways to the current!  Eat it!” can be a helpful reminder to do the non-intuitive thing of heading straight into the biggest cold waves and letting them slosh into your lap.

End of bullet points.  Perhaps you are glad.

As we pulled into Kyles Landing, there were probably a dozen boats lined and beaching tight against each other at water’s edge.  I have never mastered the beach thing; I have a hard time maneuvering into a tight space and I never land very gracefully.  I was carefully looking for a gap between all the kayaks and canoes to figure out where to drop my little Dagger, when I glanced up and saw the beach four uniformed officers.  They were in olive drab, with badges and patches and guns in holsters.  “My!” I thought.  “They must be looking for some wild fugitive.”

I landed my boat, and, since the gravel “beaches” are always uphill, asked Scott (who had beached his boat and pulled it up just ahead of me) for a hand in standing up.  (My entrance to and egress from my kayak is never anything that could be remotely described as pretty.)  “Pull hard,” I instructed and he more or less yanked me to a standing position.  As I bent to retrieve my paddle, one of the officers (turns out they were a combination of Arkansas Game and Fish and National Park Service – the Buffalo being a National River) with a scowl on his face addressed Scott.

“Sir, do you have a life jacket in that kayak?”

Of course he didn’t!  We don’t even own any life jackets, and why on earth did this guy care about that?  He must be joking.

He wasn’t joking.

When Scott ignored his question, “Officer Mahoney” repeated it, in a very firm tone.  Scott replied in the negative, turned away from the man and bent down to deal with our kayaks, but OM told him to, “leave the boat and step over here.”  And when Scott hesitated, “Come right over here!”

I was unnerved.  It was 7:30 PM, and we still had to load up, change into dry clothes, and drive an hour and a half home.  We were beat, and now we were in trouble with the law?!?  The conversation went something like this.

OM:  Do you have a life jacket in that kayak?

Scott:  Uh. . . no.

OM:  Why not?!?

Scott:  (questioningly)  Because I’ve floated this river a lot of times and I’ve never used a life jacket?

OM:  You’re still breaking the law.

(I was shocked to hear this!)

OM:  You can’t just break the law because you don’t want to obey it.  I’ve seen this river come up several FEET in no time at all and people get tipped.  It can be very dangerous.  It’s a law in the State of Arkansas that EVERY boat of ANY kind on ANY body of water is required to have on board a life jacket for every passenger.  Now, who’s this lady with you?

Scott:  She’s my wife.

OM:  Does she have a life jacket?

Scott:  No.

OM:  So neither of you has the required life jacket?

Scott:  That’s right.

OM:  OK, then you stand over here.

(I went and stood beside him but said nothing.)

OM:  Where do you live?

Scott:  In Missouri, north of Branson.

OM:  (disgusted with Scott)  Missouri has the same law.  Arkansas or Missouri, you’re breaking the law to not have a life jacket in your boat.  You have ID on you?

Scott:  (pointing up the hill)  I do in my car, but not on me.

OM:  You know all your information?

Scott:  Ummm. . . ?

OM:  Your driver’s license number, or your soash?

Scott:  I know my soash.

So OM flips open his metal ticket writing pad thing and gets started.  Scott had to give his name, social security number, address, place of employment, phone number, etc.  OM kept writing and writing.

OM:  You know, I said this just this morning, this very morning, that I wasn’t going to give any more warnings.  It’d all be tickets.  I give the same speech over and over and people just ignore it, so I’m giving them all tickets.  I should give you a ticket.  On a river like this with no life jacket! You see all these concessioners?  (There were scads of BOC and Lost Valley trucks and trailers, some loading up to 16 rental boats.)  They rent all these boats, and they are required BY LAW to provide a life jacket for every person.  You have to do the same.  (He kept writing.)  You see this W?  That means warning.  This’ll be turned in, but it won’t go on your record.  But you need to go to Wal-Mart and buy you a couple life jackets.  Every person in every boat has to have one.  You don’t have to wear it, but you have to have it in case of an emergency.  And if you have a child 12 and under, that child has to have that life jacket on at all times.  Only if you’re on a lake in a pontoon boat with a railing around it, the child can take it off.  Or when he’s swimming, but if he’s in a boat, he has a life jacket on ALL the time.  Now sign here.

Scott signed.

OM:  That just saved you $155.  If I’d written you a ticket, which I should have done, that’s what it would have cost.  Now get those life jackets and comply with the state law.

I said, “Thank you, sir,” and we hauled our boats up the hill.

So I guess if he had ticketed each of us, we would have been out $310.  All for breaking a law we didn’t even know existed.  Well, I know that ignorance is no excuse, but I’m thankful to be able to say that I still haven’t been given a ticket.  And I guess I need to add “life jackets” to my Wal-Mart list.  Sheesh.  I told Scott, “Hey, for our next float, how about we just do Bull Creek?  It’ll be peaceful and quiet, we’ll probably see only three or four other floaters, and I’m pretty sure that there won’t be any law enforcement waiting for us at the bridge!

[Note:  There’s a rock that I look at each morning.  It’s in the edge of the creek beside the bridge, and I can tell how floatable the creek is by how where the the water is on the rock.  “Under the Rock” = not floatable at all.  “Bottom of the Rock” = marginally floatable, but with a lot of dragging (I won’t float it at that level).  “Low Rock” = tolerably floatable.  “Mid Rock” = good floating; full run (Round Mountain Road to the 160 bridge) in 3 hours.  “High Rock” = really good floating; full run in 2.5 hours.  “Top of the Rock” = great floating; full run in 2 hours.  “Over the Rock” = flood stage crazy floating where you just flow over everything; full run in 1.5 hours.]

T-minus two visits and counting for Andrew. . .

That would be two more dental visits.  We think.

Of course, we’ve already dealt with numerous dental issues with Andrew, and we’ve already had orthodontics for our two daughters and Andrew, wisdom teeth removal for all three of them, more-or-less routine exams for most of the six of us through the years, and (ahem) several fillings for me.

But when Yours Truly became aware of a significant cavity in one of Andrew’s teeth, we decided to take him to a new, highly recommended dentist for what I innocently assumed was going to be routine cleaning and exam with a probable follow-up visit to fill the cavity.  Not so at Branson Dental Center.  That first visit was an exam and consult that revealed a lot of significant problems which we have now been systematically treating over the past six weeks.  To the tune of the cost of a very nice used car!

And so it goes. . . or rather, is going. . .

* A trip to the dentist for one repeat root canal with a crown

* A trip to the ortho in Springfield to adjust a retainer that no longer fit with the crown (no charge, as we had already paid up front – many years ago – the cost of another nice used car for his orthodontics)

* A trip to the dentist for a different repeat root canal with a crown

* Another trip to the ortho to re-adjust the lower retainer to accommodate the second crown (no charge)

* A trip to the dentist for one group of several cavities filled

* A trip to the ortho to see if a damaged retainer could be repaired or had to be replaced.  (Survey said replaced – saving Andrew $270, WHEW! – but come back in a week to pick it up. . . no charge)

* Scott’s trip to the dentist for a consult and cleaning, during which he was told he has great teeth, he has no cavities, and they’ll see him again in a year.  This for the guy who does NOT take religiously good care of his teeth and who last saw a dentist in August of 2011!

* Back to Andrew. . . A trip to the dentist for a second group of several cavities filled

* A return trip to the ortho to pick up the repaired retainer (no charge)

* Pending. . . a trip to the dentist for a third group of several cavities filled, and then another trip to the dentist for a cleaning

Then, in mid-May we will begin working our way through MY dental treatment plan, which will involve a cleaning, several fillings and five, count ’em, FIVE crowns.  And yes, you can order a game by that name from for $9.47 plus shipping, but the “game” Dr. Tallon will be playing in my mouth will be quite a bit more expensive than that; costing us somewhat more than a certain fully loaded 2004 Dodge Durango.  Although my many and extensive fillings are crumbling (and I DO take religiously good care of my teeth!), I am very thankful that I need no root canals and I have no pain, so for financial reasons, we plan to spread my visits out over the better part of a year.

Moral of the story:  Unless you are single and have teeth like Scott, if you ever have an opportunity to buy dental insurance, waver not at the cost of the premiums through unbelief.  Just do it!

PS.  I will add that Andrew is The Most Stoic dental patient I have ever seen.  The guy has now endured one extraction, LOTS of repair work, some three years of orthodontic adjustments, four root canals, two crowns, and something like ten fillings, and he never makes a sound!  Not even a groan or wince during the injections.  He simply sits there with his mouth open and lets them do whatever needs to be done.  He is one TOUGH young man.

Defining my term

chauffeur  [shohfur
noun.  a person employed to drive a car or limousine that transports paying passengers.
verb (used without object).  to work as a chauffeur

The Durango is not a limousine, but I am definitely a chauffeur, although chauffeur is not so much who I am as what I do.

I drive.

Andrew is currently cleaning one of our vacation rental homes.  He doesn’t yet have his driver’s license, so I am driving him to and from the house.  It’s 18 miles (20 minutes) each way, which makes for 72 miles (nearly 1.5 hours) total.  He pays us for that gas, and since Scott and I have agreed that my time is also worth some money, Andrew is also paying me for my time to shuttle him.  The cleaning job is fairly lucrative.  He is paid by the job, so there is incentive for him to finish as quickly as possible.  Today it took him five hours, and I find that to be pretty impressive.  I am quite sure that I could not begin to clean a five-bedroom, three-bath, luxury home from top to bottom in five hours!  Shoot, I can’t even get our own home clean in a whole lot more hours than that.  The people who clean our other vacation rental homes are in their 40s.  I’m really proud of the job our 15 year-old son is doing!

Sing, sang, sung

This afternoon, Branson Chorale, our local community choir performed its spring concert at the First Presbyterian Church.  I was pleased with how we did.  I made a few mistakes, but I don’t think they were conspicuous.  We didn’t totally bomb any of the songs, although we missed a lot of percussion cues on “Dry Bones,” somewhat of a shame after all the practicing we did on that one.  We also made Bob (our director) laugh hard on the end of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair.”  It was a priceless moment, but I found it totally unfair that we had to do that one by memory and the guys got to use their music on “Nothin’ Like a Dame.”  I was reminded again how very much I do like Rogers and Hammerstein songs.

While it was a fun performance, and I’m glad to have a break from choir for a while.  I’m not going to sing with them for the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra this year.  I think one of the reasons I was stressed about this concert was that I didn’t feel adequately prepared.  Part of that is my fault for not practicing diligently enough at home, but I think the fact that we missed three rehearsals this semester (two due to weather, one due to Bob’s shoulder dislocating accident) also played a part.

Irving Berlin’s “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor” was a tremendous finale.  I cried while Jen read the Emma Lazarus poem from the base of the Statue of Liberty, and it was hard not to get choked up on the last page of the song.  I do love America!

Simply unbelievable

One of our cleaners went to clean one of our vacation rental homes on Thursday afternoon.  I was in the area, and she called me to tell me it was pretty bad and to please “come and see.”  Which I did, and I was appalled.  There is really no way to describe what these guests did to this house, but I will say that it normally takes an average of seven man hours to clean it, but it took 32 man hours to get this place into decent shape for the guests arriving the next day.  All three of our cleaners worked like crazy until 2:00 a.m., and the list of issues, damages, and problems (which I numbered in an excel spreadsheet) came to 58.

Word to the wise who frequent vacation rental homes:  If you’re REALLY out to get your friendly vacation rental home owner, try throwing food against the walls; pouring coke on beds and a recliner; dumping ALL the pieces from ALL the games and puzzles (together) all over the floor, into various drawers and cabinets, and out in the yard; drizzling syrup down the kitchen blinds; breaking the dispose-all and the upholstered dining room bench; doing a spray painting project on a dresser; ruining numerous pans and baking supplies by burning food onto them; leaving a great deal of raw and/or bloody food in the fridge; and flecking and/or dripping bright red nail polish liberally throughout the house on bedding, furniture, and a jacuzzi tub.

Suffice it to say that our cleaners and our handyman are the very, very best!

Popping out

For the second year running, our little dogwood tree out front is “flowering!”  The bracts (which aren’t really the flowers, but which are the fun, showy parts) still look greeny-creamy, but in a few days, I am sure they will be whiter and even lovelier.  Andrew has now mowed twice, the first time being on Easter (4/5), and I am so enjoying the lovely lacy green of spring.  It’s my favorite season, and it comes around every year.  What a blessing!

“That really gets my goat”

Last week, Scott had an inquiry on one of our vacation rental homes.  The man wanted to come in two days, and stay for eleven.  Scott much preferring a house rented to a house empty gave him a discount, arranged to get the house cleaned at the last minute, and told him to come on.

It turns out the man spoke broken English (this can sometimes be a tip for a scam) and said he and his companions were Orthodox Christians and that as such, they celebrated Easter a week later than usual.  No big deal to us.  They could celebrate Easter whenever they wanted or not at all, as far as we were concerned.  As long as they paid their rent and followed the rules, we were good.

On the day of their arrival, Scott told me that the man would be coming by our house first to pay the balance of his rent. I guess it being last minute, he had only put the first half of the rent on a credit card or something, so he still owed quite a bit.  That was atypical, but OK.  Once he had paid in full, Scott would give him the door code and send him on his way.  We aim to please.

We waited a good part of the day, and no one showed up to pay, but mid-afternoon, the man called to say, “I’m at your house.  How do I get in?”  We looked out front.  He was NOT at our house.  Instead, he had driven straight to the subdivision where our rental houses are located, some 20 minutes away!  Scott agreed to meet him in Branson to exchange money and door code, and some time later, Scott returned with the largest stack of $20 bills either of us had ever seen.  97 of them, I think!  They had had a pleasant conversation.  The family was from Romania, and the wife was nice, so Scott was confident they were not drug dealers.

So all was well until last Friday, when Scott, working in our home office, received a phone call from a lady who owns another rental home in that same subdivision.  Her home happens to back up to the one these Orthodox Christians were staying in.  Note that this particular neighborhood is, well, upscale, to say the least.  It’s not a gated community, but the houses are quite nice and the home owner’s association has LOTS of regulations that are binding upon both the owners and the renters.

The lady who called was quite nice, but she wanted to let Scott know that there were GOATS tied up in his back yard!  Goats!!!  Who’da thunk?  Scott was. . . “shocked and slightly embarrassed,” but he thanked her and told her he’d take care of it.

He first reviewed the contract the renter had signed.  It said that there were to be no pets in the unit or on the property, and that having pets present would result in immediate eviction with no refund given.  Hmm.  I told him I thought the guy might try to get around that because I surmised that the goat was probably not a pet, but a Passover lamb that was going to be sacrificed (in our backyard?!?) shortly and would be the featured guest at a religious barbeque!

Scott then called the guest and explained the situation.  In broken English, the man said, “Aw, it’s only a baby lamb.  Give me a break.”  But Scott stood firm and told him that the goat would have to go.  And no, not just out of our yard and into the woods; out of the entire housing development.  And yes, Scott understood and would like to respect their tradition (I had told Scott it was a Passover lamb), but the homeowners association wouldn’t allow it, and the guest had signed a contract that there would be no pets.  The man agreed to remove the goat, but I have yet to hear exactly HOW he did that.  As in, did the goat leave the premises under its own power, or not?

I suggested to Scott that he change the word “pets” in future contracts to “animals,” just to cover all possible (Orthodox, Romanian) bases going forward.  As he said, “I’ve been running this business for several years, and I’ve had to deal with lots of interesting situations, but GOATS?!?!  I guess there’s a first time for everything!”

Jeopardy question: What is 111?

Answer:  The number of ladybugs removed at one time from two windowsills in our kitchen.

And yes, they were all dead, which proves that Wal-Mart’s battery-powered bug-killing juice really does work!

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