February Photos

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunday, March 29, 1998 - Keith's New Job and Mama's New Teeth

This week Keith started working full-time for my nephew, David Walker, who owns Walker Construction. His other boss, who owns Platte Valley Precast, was running low on work, since it is somewhat seasonal. The Walkers make poured basements--that is, they set up forms in the hole dug for the basement, then pour in the cement. Sometimes they make poured walls, and they hire a friend to pump the cement up into the forms with his pump truck. That’s how the walls for the school were made. Annette’s father laid the brick on the outside. He’s quite skilled, and does many artistic, original creations in his work.

David has gotten himself quite a reputation around these parts for his fast, accurate work; and they get jobs within a 150-mile radius. His younger brother, Robert, is his first assistant. Last week, in addition to some jobs in the Country Club Hills area north of Columbus, they also had a job in Fremont, about 45 miles east.

Keith was riding with David and some of his coworkers when David's mother-in-law called him on his cell phone to tell him his brother-in-law and wife had just had a new baby, so he would not be coming to work that morning.

“Where are you?” Sarah asked her son-in-law.

David glanced down, tipping his head and pursing his lips consideringly. “Oh, about ten inches from the steering wheel,” he replied.

Tuesday, my mother had all her top teeth removed and two on the bottom. The top plate was put in immediately. She’s doing remarkably well, although she can’t really chew yet, so we run everything through the blender for her. My sister stayed with her the first night, then Hannah, and then Dorcas for the next two nights. Last night Mama insisted nobody needed to stay with her.

“I’m just fine!” she declared.

Tuesday night she had some trouble with her mouth bleeding, but she, with my sister’s help, was able to get it stopped. She’s been quite weak, but yesterday she was trotting around all over the house, thinking she needed to fix Dorcas some breakfast--in spite of the fact that Dorcas was supposed to be taking care of Grandma--trying to clean the house, and such like.

I’ve finished Lydia’s dress, another one for Victoria in coordinating pink/green/ yellow calicos, done the alterations on several suits and dresses, and decorated a couple of hats for Hester and Lydia. I sewed two large re-embroidered appliques on Dorcas’ pink silk suit, then spent one whole day sewing pearls and sequins on them. I tried on a dress I’d bought from J.C.Penney’s last fall, which I’d been saving for Easter. Good grief!--I look like a short, pudgy aardvark in it. I let Dorcas try it on. She came marching out to show me, looking not quite as bad as I had, but not too swell, either. She reached up, got a good grip on the shoulders, and lifted them--and the entire dress, along with them--right up past her earlobes.

Holding it at just about nose level, which put the waist in approximately the right place, she enthused, “It just fits!” and then, after a short pause, “Ya got some really taaaaall shoulder pads?” haha

We trotted that dress right over to my tall niece, posthaste.

We got shoes for Dorcas and Joseph, and now only need a shirt for Larry, a belt for Hester, and socks for Caleb. Only two more weeks!

Remember Victoria had a high temperature a week and a half ago? Well, Monday she broke out with some type of a rash; it looked like one of the minor measles, maybe roseola or something. Tuesday it was fading, and by Wednesday, no sign of it could be seen. Usually by the time a child breaks out, they’re feeling better, and that seemed to be the case with Victoria.

Robins, doves, and house finches are back, singing like everything; and juncos and chickadees and white-crowned sparrows are passing through. Every night, we hear flocks of geese flying over.

Wednesday, Larry went to Omaha to put a starter on a Suburban for some customers of ours, the Charbonneaus. This was the Suburban into which he put the Cummins diesel; we took the vehicle to the people last summer one day. The woman’s father is the owner and builder of Omaha’s two largest malls, and they live in a big mansion on some wooded hills of far western Omaha. They show horses all over the country and in Canada, too. They also raise appaloosa Great Danes. These dogs are huge, I tell you. I mean, they’re humungous. Luckily, the breed is fairly gentle, and they usually like people.

When Larry arrived, the biggest Dane, one which they give free rein all around their large estate, greeted him nicely. The man, Bill, invited Larry into the garage. As soon as Larry set foot inside, the Dane took exception and bit him on the ankle! Luckily, he had on boots. (That is, Larry had on boots; not the Dane.)

“Hey!” yelled Larry, and the dog let go.

Bill laughed a bit sheepishly. “He’s never done that before!” he said.

Later, Larry went to Hansen’s Truck and Salvage Yard for parts for their Suburban and ours. He found a neat little switchboard for ours, which he later hooked up to some of the multitudes of wires so that some more of that indirect lighting in the ceiling works. It looks pretty neat! We only need to find a few more switches, now, some of which will turn on the heat in the passenger’s seat. Larry calls it my ‘electric chair’.

In the meanwhile, Bill was cleaning the dogs’ cages. He accidentally let the big ankle-sampler into another big male dog’s cage--and a raging dogfight ensued. He got them apart eventually by using the garden hose.

Directly Larry returned. He climbed out of his pickup. Around the corner loped Ankle Chomper, friendly as ever---all covered with cuts, and bleeding. The Charbonneaus were calling the vet, trying to find one that would make a house visit. They couldn’t. So, while Larry worked on their Suburban, he let them borrow his pickup to take the dog to the vet to get all stitched back together again.

Thursday it was 74°, so we got the strollers out of the garage, and Hannah and I took Caleb and Victoria for a walk.

One night Hannah was doing her homework. Caleb sat beside her, looking at his and Lydia’s magazine, Your Big Backyard. It’s all full of animal pictures and stories, and it’s put out by National Wildlife Corporation. We get Ranger Rick for Joseph and Hester. Caleb kept showing Hannah pictures.

“Hannah! Look at this ugly bug!” or “Hannah! Read this to me!” or “Hannah! What kind of animal is this?!”

Hannah, busy writing, muttered, “I’m . . . doing . . . my . . .”---

Caleb, looking earnestly up into her face with wide blue-gray eyes, finished the sentence for her: “Homework!” and, without a pause, “Hannah! Look at this!”

Hannah, of course, burst out laughing, and Caleb looked up quickly to see what was so funny.

One time about a year ago, Caleb was brushing Hannah’s hair. It was full of static electricity.

“Hannah!” exclaimed Caleb, “Your hair is swizzy!”

This reminded us of the time Lydia, age two, was brushing Hannah’s hair. “Goodness! your hair is Frisbee!” said she.

Yesterday Caleb was looking out the front door, watching all the cars full of teenagers arriving at our neighbor’s house.

Finally he asked, “How come the people who don’t go to our church never wash their cars?”

Now that’s what you call ‘biased’!

Last night I made three deep-dish apple crumb pies. There is only one left. My oven sure is handy, allowing me to bake all three at once. And they all brown evenly, too.

The More-Door Ford is now residing in the paint booth, eagerly awaiting its first coat of paint--hopefully tomorrow..... always depending on how many other customers Larry has, of course.

And that’s this week’s news.

* * *

P.S.: My mother had the stitches taken out of her mouth this morning, and everything is fine. She says it hardly hurts.

P.S.S.: The crewcab now has its dark teal stripes! And the silver stripe is soon to follow.

Sunday, March 22, 1998 - Garden of the Gods, and Home Again

When we arrived home, we had oodles and caboodles of messages on our answering machine. Three were from a neighbor, normally a nice man with whom we’ve been friends for over 25 years. But in the last few years, he’s begun drinking more and more, and he’s practically an alcoholic now. Not quite a month ago, he bought a pickup from us. Just before we left for New Mexico last week, we sent the title over to his house with one of the children, inadvertently leaving a signature off of one line. Well, he thought that the last day he could get his pickup licensed without paying an extra $25 was Monday, the 16th; and, when he couldn’t get us on the phone, he became more and more agitated. His last message was downright nasty--and somewhat slurred, I might add. But the following morning when he talked to my mother, he must’ve been in his right mind again, because he was just as nice as ever.

As it turned out, there was no need for him to get all hot and bothered; he had until Friday to get his truck licensed. So everything turned out all right, and we’re still on good terms with our neighbors. A few months ago, Hannah heard the man’s wife telling one of her friends, “As he gets more alcoholic, his mother treats me worse.”

Some people are suffering things in their lives of which we would never guess, aren’t they? We redoubled our efforts to be friendly to them, after hearing that.

Early one morning last week the man called for Larry to help him: he was stuck somewhere out in the country, and he’d revved his pickup so hard, the fan belt had flown off, causing the engine to heat up, and eventually blowing apart the air filter. (This is understandable, if you’d ever heard him starting his vehicles on cold mornings. He arouses the entire neighborhood by revving the engines to a high-pitched scream, then holding it there awhile, and next roaring it up and down, up and down, sounding remarkably similar to the tornado sirens. Poor vehicle!) Anyway, Larry pulled his pickup out of the mire, then put a new fan belt and air filter on it, all without charging him anything. So he shouldn’t have been so bent out of shape over that license, should he? Oh, well; that’s the way it goes, when one runs a business in which one has customers of the Homo sapiens variety (some of them are such saps).

I’ve finished Hannah’s pastel-eyelet white dress, and I was relieved to see it fits her perfectly--I had to alter the pattern considerably. Victoria’s dress is now done, too. It didn’t cost one red cent; it was made from leftover scraps I unearthed in my material closet. The skirt is a very full pale pink taffeta with flocked dotted Swiss, and a wide ruffle of lace at the bottom; the bodice is shiny white silk jacquard covered with white chiffon, and the sleeves and sash are unlined chiffon. Now I am about two-thirds done with Lydia’s dress; it’s a combination of coordinating calicos, lavender, green, and pink, with lots of ruffles, a double collar, and a double skirt. After that, I have one more dress to make for Victoria, pants to hem for Caleb, alterations to make on three dresses, and half a dozen flowered headpieces to make. And Dorcas and Joseph still need new Easter shoes. Stop the clock!! I’m running out of time!!

Last night Larry cut the three older boys’ hair. That done, he removed Joseph’s stitches. It looks very good, and I think the scar will soon fade away, and nobody will ever notice it.

A few days ago, I was counting all the animals we’d seen en route to Albuquerque; but I just knew there was one more, and I’ve finally remembered: it was that wild boar. I saw it Saturday night as we were driving north of Albuquerque. It was in the median, and it was eating something. It turned its head and looked at me, and sure enough--it had a funny little pig snout and lopped-over ears, and it was almost black. At least, that’s the best description I could get as we went flying past in the dark. Does it sound right? My sister said it was probably an escaped farmer’s pig. She was kidding me, of course.

It sure was pretty going up over Raton Pass. It had snowed, a wet, clingy snow that was stuck in clumps all over the firs and red sumac. My pictures don’t do it justice; too dark. I needed to be standing on the mountainside, rather than whizzing along on the interstate, with my camera on a tripod, and opening up aperture and slowing down shutter speed.

We traveled to Colorado Springs, where we got a room for the boys (except Caleb) and a double-room suite for the rest of us at the Super 8 Motel. We walked to the door of the suite, stuck the key in the lock, swung the door open, --

And stood and stared in astonishment at an apartment with a living room, dining room, and kitchen bigger than those in our house. There was a pull-down bed between kitchen and living room, and one of the couches made into a bed, too. So there really was no need to have another room for the boys, at all!

I went back to the front desk to tell the lady, and to get a few more blankets and pillows. At that point, the friendly lady behind the desk suddenly underwent a metamorphosis, and began making like the money we’d given for the other room had gone straight into her pocket, and now I was trying to steal it right back out!

“We don’t have more pillows,” she said snootily.

But the place was four stories high, with over 400 rooms!

I smiled politely. “That’s okay, then; we have our own pillows. Two more blankets will be fine.”

She scuffled her feet back and forth. “Well!” she huffed, “I’ll have to charge you more for that suite, if you put more people in it!” She glared at me. “I’ll charge you exactly the price of that other room!!”

I raised my eyebrows. “Never mind, then,” and I walked off.

My, my. Anyway, at least, by keeping the room, we had an extra bathroom. Bother! Why didn’t we look at that suite first, before getting the other room?!

During the night, Lydia had the flu; but by the next day she was well enough to travel, although still under the weather, poor little girl.

We went to the Garden of the Gods and climbed around on the rocks. I took pictures of several of our own Herculeses (is that the proper plural form of Hercules?) (or is it ‘Herculi?)--Joseph, Keith, and Teddy, pretending to hold the Balanced Rock up.
In one picture, Keith was acting like he was going to jump on me from a big rock above the Suburban. I found Teddy, Hester, Joseph, and Caleb hiding from me in some shallow caves. Larry crept up behind and. . .
ROOOOAAAARRRRRRRRRED!!!--which brought them skedaddling out in a hurry.
Victoria, who’d been in the Suburban, awoke then. She gazed around sleepily, then suddenly looked up and spotted me on the rock high above the Suburban. “Mama!!” she screeched, pointing and laughing.
After using up several rolls of film, I finally noticed the sign: No Climbing On The Rocks. Oops.
But there were at least a dozen other people, doing just that. Oh, well; we didn’t unbalance Balanced Rock, and nobody sailed off on Shiprock, neither. We left ’er all in one piece, that we did.
Traveling north from Colorado Springs, we had our air conditioner on, and scores of people were dashing around in Bermudas and tank tops; but by the time we got to Denver, we could see the snow clouds billowing up over the mountains. We went to Lincoln Auto, but didn’t buy anything; the jetski one of our customers wanted had already been sold, and we didn’t see anything else we couldn’t live without.
It got windier and colder all the way home. But the freezing rain predicted from North Platte all the way home wasn’t as bad as they’d cracked it up to be. We slowed down, anyway, just in case. The day after we got home, somebody had an accident on the ice near Grand Island and was killed. We arrived home at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
That night, Hannah told Bobby about her terrible mishap in the Super 8 Motel: she’d flushed her amethyst ring down the loo, ker-SPLOOSH. That was no dime-store quality ring, either. Yes, she was in tears over the misfortune.
Well, guess what Hannah came home with Friday night? That’s right; a new amethyst ring, just like the old. In fact, it’s even sparklier; the cut must be superior. So she was in tears all over again.
Bobby smiled at her. “Now, stay away from the plumbing!”
Bobby is a kind-hearted, generous boy.
Thursday afternoon, Victoria awoke from her nap with a temperature of 103.4°. She probably caught whatever it was Lydia had. I quickly gave her a bath, cooling it gradually down to lukewarm; when I got her out and re-dressed her, her temperature had dropped considerably. I gave her infant’s Tylenol, too. She felt better right away, but even tonight she didn’t quite seem up to par. Hester and Lydia didn’t feel good tonight, either; and Joseph was sick this morning.
Keith bought himself a dremel, and has used it, along with all the other woodworking tools, to make several pretty oval picture frames. His skills are improving; each project is a little better than the last.
According to the tag that came with Lydia’s little bean-bag dog, Rumply Sharpei, he had a birthday last week. Lydia was greatly concerned over the event, wondering where a person would buy puppy presents, and such like. I found myself unwittingly promising to make that stuffed pup not one article, but two. And just when I have so many other things of importance to do!!
Oh, well. When Lydia came home from school and discovered the items, she was so delighted, I decided then and there that those things that are extremely important to my child had better be extremely important to me, too, for then will my little girl know I really love her.
She helped me pick out material from the fabric closet for a bone (brown burlap) and a ball (red fur). Then, while she was at school, I cut them out and sewed them together, getting the wise idea of putting a few beans into a small lid and inserting it into the toys along with the stuffing, so that the playthings rattled. That done, I wrapped them with birthday paper, stuck two bows on the package, and made a cute name tag with a teddy bear on it which said, “To Rumply Sharpei.”
When Lydia found it, she was so excited, she bounced. She bounced the whole while she unwrapped the parcel. And when she pulled the bone and the ball out, she bounced some more, which made them rattle, to her surprise, pleasing her no end.
And, for the icing on the cake, I’d found that there was just exactly the right amount of red fur left to make Lydia a skirt. Oh, wasn’t she happy! She’s got it all laid out, along with a matching sweater in bright primary colors, to wear to school tomorrow.
Yes, it was worth the time and effort.
Friday night Dorcas went with the girls in her class to some cousins' farm--the cousins who just had the little baby boy--for supper. There are four girls in her class, and only one is not related to her, and that one is related to both of the others! Second cousins, they are. Or maybe they are first cousins twice removed. Hmmmm. (Well, two are first cousins.)
One of Dorcas’ friends, the one who is not related, gave Hester and Lydia a big bag of pink clay she’d made. They’ve been busy making flowers with it and with the blue-green clay Lydia made a couple of weeks ago.
Larry has been working on the ‘More-Door Ford’. He said that’s a better name for it than ‘Super-Duper Crewcab’, as I've been calling it, because we might get it mixed up with my Super-Duper tacos, and accidentally eat it.
And that’s all, she wrote.

Tuesday, March 17, 1998 - Trip to Albuquerque

Actually, the date on this letter is wrong; it should read ‘March 18’, because it is 2:00 a.m. But it still feels like Tuesday, so that’s what I typed.

We’ve just arrived home from a trip to Albuquerque, where we delivered a pickup to a Mexican man who owns a dealership called “All Trucks”.

Larry, after working day and night to complete the big crewcab in order to drive it and pull the 48-foot slant trailer, finally gave up. There was just too much left to do, and he was getting much too tired. Besides, he also had to make sure the pickup we were selling was in good running order, and that took a good deal of time, too.

So we used a new flatbed trailer he’d just purchased, and pulled it behind the Suburban. The pickup was a big one, and with all of our belongings--to say nothing of the humans, themselves--our Suburban was rather loaded down, a bit saggy on the rear. And off we went.

We left Friday, the thirteenth, at about 2:30 p.m. Larry didn’t sleep a wink Thursday night, so, as you can imagine, he was really tired. The fact is, he was trying to nap and drive at the same time before we ever reached Grand Island!

I yelped and hollered and punched and poked him until he made it through the city; then, fifteen miles south, in Hastings, he turned the wheel over to me. I drove almost all the rest of the way to Raton, New Mexico, arriving at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

During the night, I saw quite a variety of wildlife: bobcat, skunk (I drove cautiously past that one), deer--both whitetail and mule, and raccoon. All the way from Benkelman, Nebraska, to Raton, New Mexico, the roads were bumpy and hilly and curvy, there was no shoulder; and it was very windy. It was hard driving in such a wind; the pickup on the car trailer was causing the Suburban to sway, partly from the weight, and partly because the windshield was out, which catches a lot of wind. By the time we got to Raton, my shoulders and neck were tired and sore.

Late Saturday morning, after not nearly a long enough time to sleep, we groggily tumbled out of bed and headed for Albuquerque. The littles were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, having slept a good deal of the night away. We didn’t call Larry’s Aunt Lynn, who lives in Raton, because we needed to get that pickup to the man in Albuquerque, and Aunt Lynn would wonder why we needed to rush off without coming to see her first.

We enjoyed meeting the Mexican man and his family. The wife spoke little English, but the daughter translated for us when we couldn’t understand each other, and so we had a nice conversation. In any case, friendliness crosses all language barriers, si? The lady told me she came from a family with ten children, five boys and five girls. So our big family didn’t look unusual at all, to her.

We were hoping to go to Taos and through the mountains to the west; but the Suburban slowed all the way down to 15 mph over Raton Pass, so we thought we’d better not risk those steep mountain passes. Instead, we took the interstate. We returned the same way, because it was already dark, and we wouldn’t’ve been able to see the sights anyway; and heaven knows we need those 24-hour rest areas and truck stops along the way.

We went in a souvenir shop just north of Albuquerque, and the children all got themselves a memento with money given them by Mama especially for that purpose: beaded belts, sparkly pens with pictures on them, rocks and geodes, arrowheads, a beanbag Indian doll (for Victoria), and . . . postcards--for me, of course.

During the return trip, most of which I drove while Larry slept, I saw a wild boar in the middle of the interstate, the first time I’d ever seen one.

Sunday morning we called Aunt Lynn, who was altogether surprised to discover we were right there in Raton, not a mile away! We stopped at a grocery store to buy all the food we would need to fix dinner (we’d brought quite a bit, but needed some fruit, yogurt for the dressing, and spices for the soup). I tell you, the prices were totally outrageous! Some things were more than twice the price of the same item in Columbus.

Anyway, while I was in the grocery store with several of the children, Larry, with a couple others, took the Suburban off to a car wash and made it look purty again. Arriving at Aunt Lynn’s at about noon, we fixed beef/potato/vegetable soup, fruit salad with wild blueberry yogurt, and chocolate/peanut butter/butterscotch chip cookies. Dorcas and Hannah made the cookies. That grocery store hadn’t even stocked Nestles Crunch pieces or Heath Brickle, two of the major necessities of baking!

Aunt Lynn made yummy raisin bars, and gave me the recipe, since we all liked them so well.

That afternoon, Ralph Bryan, an elderly man whom Aunt Lorraine used to care for and who had seen us at Grandma Jackson’s funeral and taken a shine to us, called to talk to me.

Aunt Lynn called Uncle Earl and Aunt Lois, and Uncle Bill and Aunt Lorraine, to tell them we were there and to see if they wanted to come see us; but Earl and Lois had cows calving right and left and couldn’t leave them, and Bill and Lorraine said they didn’t have enough money to buy the gas to come. Aunt Lorraine’s medical bills have made things rough for them, it seems; and now she can’t work, either.

Well, that made me feel sorry for them, so we packed up the leftovers (and there were plenty) and, after a quick trip to K-Mart for a decent pillow (for poor old me) (the motel provides bricks), we all, including Aunt Lynn, headed for Gladstone. The aunts and uncles live about ten miles from this little town, on ranches on opposite sides of the highway. We went to Lois and Earl’s, and Lorraine and Bill came there to visit and eat supper with us.

But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

You see, some time in the afternoon, it started raining, and it kept at it all evening and night. So the country road to Uncle Earl’s house was nothing but wet clay and slime.

Mercy. It was awful. There were deep ditches on each side of the road where the road grader had pulled the dirt up onto the road, making it extremely humped in the middle, which made it even harder to stay in the center of the road. We slipped and slid and skidded one way and then the other, constantly threatening to slide right into the ditch.

And then we’d see a cattle guard up ahead--a cattle guard that was positioned high atop a steep rise in the road--a cattle guard that looked to be about three feet wide, whilst our lovely Suburban was all of nine feet wide, sliding sideways as it was.

But do you know what happened, each and every time we arrived at one of those guards? I’ll tell you: the Suburban miraculously straightened out and squirted through, its pretty teal and metallic sand sides unscathed.

I told Larry that the only reason it went through like that was because the terrified occupants all gasped in unison, which sucked the sides in and made it skinny enough to fit.

Finally, we spotted Uncle Earl’s spread up ahead through the darkness and rain, and it seemed like it took an endless amount of time to travel the distance to the driveway, which was to the right. Just before we got to it, the Suburban began skidding uncontrollably to the left. There was no stopping it. Fortunately, there was no deep ditch at that particular location; but there was a two-and-a-half-foot bank. We thudded hard against it. That jarred us back toward the road, and we found ourselves pointed straight at Uncle Earl’s drive. Larry steered into it, and we slipped and slid along until we at last reached the house, where we managed to get stopped before we hit the fence.

I thought sure the left side of our Suburban would be severely damaged; but, amazingly enough, we couldn’t find a single scratch or dent. It took a good long while, however, before my hands stopped shaking and my heart started beating regularly again.

The whole while we were in Uncle Earl and Aunt Lois’ house, I could hear the rain pouring down, and I knew that hideous road was getting worse, and worse, and worse . . . . .

But I’ll have to say, Larry didn’t win all those motorcycle and dirt-bike trophies for nothing. I tell you, if it had’ve been me driving that Suburban, I’d slowed to a petrified stop in the road, whereupon we would’ve slithered right on over into one of those roadside gullies, and there we would’ve been then, stuck until the next ten-year drought came along. And probably not right-side-up while we waited for it to come, either.

Anyway, we did have an enjoyable visit, in spite of the difficulties. And, on the way back, Uncle Bill led us through the pasture for part of the drive, so we didn’t have to contend with that awful road for so far.

Nevertheless, I informed Larry that he’d’ve never made it safely, had he been all by himself; for then he would’ve had only one guardian angel; whereas, with all of the rest of us along, there were no less than twelve of them.

Yes, I’ll take Nebraska’s ice and snow any day, as opposed to that.

After taking Aunt Lynn to her house, we returned to our motel--the third time we would sleep there, and only having to pay for two nights, since we’d arrived so near morning Saturday. The rooms we stayed in had a strange odor, and sometimes it would get so bad it was hard to stomach. We left the windows open, in spite of the coolness of the weather, both Saturday and Sunday while we were gone, and by the time we returned, the room smelled good again. But shortly after coming back into the room, and as soon as everybody started showering and taking baths, the stench would return. It smelled remarkably like wet, disposable diapers, so, for the first little while, Victoria found herself getting changed unnecessarily often.

We eventually figured it out: there was fresh paint around the bathroom heat lamp, and every time we turned on the lamp, the whole room reeked something fierce. I think somebody made a mistake with that paint. Wrong paint, wrong location.

After spending the greater portion of the day Monday at Aunt Lynn’s, with Larry milking the goat, me playing the piano, and all of us singing (not necessarily all of that at the same time), we left at 5:30 p.m. It had been snowing on Raton Pass, and the trees were really pretty. Fog covered the mountain tops.

We took a short excursion through Trinidad to look at Larry’s old haunts, and then continued on to Colorado Springs, where we got a suite in the Super 8 Motel.

And now, since I’m about to fall asleep on my word processor, I’m going to close......

To be continued!

Sunday, March 8, 1998 - Gaggles of Geese and Jumbles of Jacksons

We have just had an enjoyable Sunday dinner with Lawrence and Norma, Linda, and Bobby. The day was expected to arrive with near-blizzard conditions, but the snow stopped, and all we had to cope with was the very cold temperatures and the very high winds, which were compatible with neither Sunday hats nor Sunday hairdos. Since we spend a lot of the morning at church, dinner must be mostly made on Saturday. I spent quite some time preparing the ingredients for a chef salad, putting such things as tomatoes, meat, eggs, croutons, cheese, and peas (those were raw, by the way) in separate containers. I erroneously asked somebody to get me the word processor, meaning food processor.

“Hee hee hee!” giggled Hester, “Mama’s gonna eat her words!”

Bratty kid.

Once, long, long ago, when the world was young and blithe, I combined everything in the salad the night before. I assure you, it was inedible the next day.

Norma supplied a couple of roasts, and we threw one more into the roaster just to be sure there was enough; we also had baked potatoes, green beans with bacon and onions, fruit salad with that cream cheese/sour cream/butter/whipped cream concoction for dressing, buttermilk biscuits, and pumpkin chiffon pie.

The pie looked funny, kind of like somebody had thrown in a cup of baker’s cocoa just to be funny. But it tasted delicious, and nobody is in the throes of severe food poisoning, so I’ve come to the conclusion that it looked that way because of the nutmeg I used. My mother gave me a cute little basket of spices, which she ordered from a health food magazine. She doesn’t go shopping anymore, so she orders most of the gifts she gives. Anyway, this nutmeg was extra dark, but particularly flavorful; perhaps it colored the pumpkin such a chocolatey color.

We gave Norma her gifts--a day too soon, but we all thought we’d waited long enough to give her these homemade things with which we are so pleased. Linda had the same notion; she brought a few presents, too.

Dorcas received a letter from a Filipino penpal which read as follows: “Greatings! Hi! Hello! I hope you are feel fine and good mood upon receive my letter and hope you can cope up all the obstacles of life!”

Sometimes the news the Filipinos write is sad: one of Hannah’s penpals told her that she’d just attended a funeral for her 27-year-old cousin who’d died in childbirth, leaving her two-year-old motherless. Some of them are too poor to go to a hospital.

Did I ever tell you about Esther cutting her arm on a metal wire where she works? It happened almost a year ago, I think. One of her fellow employees took her to the emergency room, where an intern did an extremely lousy job of sewing it up. It was about 3 ½ inches long, and deep.

Over the next few days, it wouldn’t quit bleeding, so Esther’s mother took her to our family doctor. When the doctor saw the cut, and especially the stitching job, he was horrified.

“Oh! This is awful!” he said. “You’re going to have trouble with this!”

He put a couple more stitches in it to stop the bleeding, put a topical antibiotic on it, and also gave her an oral antibiotic, since it was getting rather badly infected.

The doctor was right. Esther has had trouble with that cut. It turned into a horrible scar, gradually widening until it was nearly three-quarters of an inch wide and paper-thin.

The doctor decided he must take action. So, just a couple of days ago, he spent over an hour carefully pulling the several layers of skin back together again, sewing the bottom layer with the kind of stitches that dissolve, and finally pulling the top layer together with neat, precise sutures. It didn’t bleed at all, and now there is a fine line which should heal nicely and be scarcely noticeable. The doctor’s long, slim fingers are skillful.

Monday evening Keith made a nifty breadboard, with a drain-groove all around and four little rounded legs, for one of the men he works with. The man paid him $10 for it.

“Now me have lots tomatoes, lots tomatoes!” Emilio told Keith, making cutting motions with his hand across the breadboard.

Keith bought two sawhorses and a bench for his router. The router (or table saw--they’re interchangeable) fits right into the bench, and it has all the outlets and switches needed for any machine it holds. While Keith was putting the sawhorses and bench together, Victoria, who was greatly intrigued with all these unique toys, kept climbing up beside him and hugging him, no doubt hoping all that lovin’ would get her permission to play with his ‘toys’.

Tuesday evening, a girl who was in Dorcas’ class at the public school had an accident and was severely injured. She was flown to a hospital in Omaha, and is not expected to live.

Although Dorcas hasn’t seen the girl for several years now, it is nonetheless somewhat unsettling to learn such a thing about somebody who used to be a friend.

Said Dorcas, “It certainly makes me want to drive carefully!”

I know the feeling. Two of my friends were killed in separate accidents when I was in high school. I saw some of their best friends go to bits and pieces over the news.

I broke another string on my piano; now there are two missing, and the latest one is a double on one note. The strings of the upper keyboard, you see, are fastened to pegs at the front of the sounding board, stretch across the board to wrap around a peg at the far side, then come back again and hook into another peg. Each part of the string is individually tuned, and each note has three parts of a string. From a low C# down to the lowest F#, there is only one string per note, wrapped with a brass coil; a string which starts at sounding board front, wraps around a far peg, and ends in a front peg, giving it two parts of a string per note. From F# on down to the bottom, there is only one string, but these big strings, also wrapped in coils of brass, hook into pegs at sounding board front, and end in pegs at sounding board back. (That description is about as clear as mud, I see.)

I once broke a low bass string--one of those that doesn’t turn around and come back--and it flew straight up like a missile, putting a deep gouge into the underside of the piano lid.

The song leader nearly cleared the pulpit in one mighty leap. And the congregation all jumped in unison, nicely masking the fact that I myself jumped so violently (I!--who never jump!) I nearly upended myself, piano bench, and all. Somehow, however, I managed to keep right on a-playin’, not missing a beat.

Anyway, the previous broken string on my piano is one that is shared by two notes, so it’s not so vital to tonal quality and keyboard action. But this newest broken string is a ‘two-on-one’ string; so every time I hit the note that only has one little string left with which to make its lovely sound, it makes a strange little ‘plink’ noise which throws me off my feed. So Larry will have to put new strings in for me, and then I will have to tune them, and after I hit those notes no more than two or three times, I’ll have to tune them again, on and on ad infinitum, until the excess elasticity of new strings has gotten itself worked out and it will hold its tune. Oh, help and bother.

I look forward to heaven, where musical instruments will never need to be tuned, for they will never be out of tune! Did you know that, according to the Bible, we will have all the same talents in heaven that we had on earth--perfected, of course; plus a whole volley of other talents, besides? Imagine!--I’ll be able to play incredible renditions of riveting harmonies with nary a fluff! I’ll be able to sing high without my voice cracking; I’ll sing low and not get hoarse. What fun!

Baby Todd’s outfit is now all done, and I cut out Hannah’s dress and got about half of it done. It would be done by now, but it got interrupted by a pile of wampum we collected from some customers, which I managed to discard of quickly by writing out no less than 56--that’s right, fifty-six--checks. When one buys parts and pieces and components and parcels from one hundred and one body shops and auto parts houses and salvage yards, one winds up with a plenitude of people to pay.

Thursday morning, Mama’s window feeder was full of English sparrows pecking up seed, chirping and hopping about. Suddenly, with one simultaneous CHEEEP!!!, they flapped off in a frenzied flurry, not to be seen again for over two hours. And then Mama’s little parakeet, whose cage is right beside the window feeder, craned his neck to peer out the window, then flew wildly against the sides of the cage, beating his wings frantically. He finally landed on a lower level of his tubular cage, and, not being able to see out the window any more, he calmed down and sat still on a perch. Mama quickly went to the window to see what in the world was causing the upheaval; there, soaring just over the trees, was a red-tailed hawk! Her little bird didn’t move for two hours--not until a couple of sparrows came back into the window feeder, and he heard their chirps and scratchings.

Dorcas has been enjoying coming to Jr. Choir to lead the singing. Someday soon, Penny will no doubt feel well enough to come back, and then Dorcas will be sad.  Not that Penny is well, you understand.

Thursday evening after Jr. Choir, we went to Wal-Mart for a major shoe excursion: Hester and Lydia got saddle oxfords for school and Easter shoes, too--Hester’s, white; Lydia’s, ivory, to match the lace on their dresses; Caleb got shiny black slip-ons for Easter which have little kiltie fringes and tassels, and which he tries on regularly throughout the day; I got a pair of suede moccasins with sheepskin lining and fur around the ankle (only $2!); and Victoria got a pair of Winnie-the-Pooh slippers (they have a stuffed Pooh’s head on them, and she keeps hugging them), white McKids walkers, and white patent leathers with bows on the toes for Easter.

Lawrence's granddaughter asked me to write in her autograph book, so here is what I wrote:

Oh, Lord of the heavens, Thou art excellent in power;
Thy terrible majesty reigneth hour by hour.
Thy children, so feeble, have oft stood in wonder
At mighty displays of Thy lightning and thunder.

There once was a time when the morning stars sang;
Foundations were laid, and shouts of joy rang;
For Thou commanded the morning and created the light;
Thou positioned the sun and set it in flight.

The sea’s many fishes, all the birds of the air,
And the creatures Thou madest are exceedingly fair.
The dewdrops so precious, or treasures of the snow,
Thou sendest wherever Thy desire bids them go.

On a crag of the rock makes the eagle her nest;
Under willows of the brook takes behemoth his rest.
All this is done by the might of Thy hand;
For Creation obeys Thy slightest command.

May humility and reverence keep our hearts ever true;
For Thou, Lord of All, granteth blessing anew:
Our captivity Thou turneth, and for sorrow, giveth joy;
Praise of Thy mercy shall our tongues ever employ!

This poem was taken from Job, chapters 37 to 42.

Friday evening it started snowing and blowing hard, and it kept at it until early Sunday morning. In the middle of this blizzard, we decided that Dorcas absolutely had to have some boots that actually fit her, and in which she did not have to lop her toes under three times just to get them on; so off we went to Payless, where, lo and behold, the only decent boots they had left were not only in Dorcas’ size, and comfortable and warm, but were also half-price--only $9.

While we were gone, Hannah made Nestle’s Crunch/Butterscotch Chip/Heath Brickle cookies, which, along with a hot mug of either cocoa or coffee, made a marvelous welcome when we walked in the door.

Keith did lots of scooping with his pickup’s snowplow; he cleared a couple of gas station lots, then went around scraping off several friends’ driveways, including Lawrence and Norma’s and Lawrence's daughter's. He also did part of the school and church parking lot. Teddy is on lawn/snow duty (the young people all rotate these jobs every two months), so he helped several other boys and young men scoop and snowblow the walks and porches. Joseph, meanwhile, took care of ours. I think we got about eight inches of snow.

Saturday morning when I peeked in Victoria’s room to see if she was awake yet, there she was, sitting in her crib, industriously unzipping her sleeper. Just as I scooped her up, the phone rang.

“HO!!” she shouted right in my ear. (Hello)

She’s such a funny little dear.

Tonight Hannah was at Bobby’s house; Hester went along, since she and Esther, Bobby’s sister, are good friends. They were sitting at the kitchen table having hot chocolate. Bobby got up to go get something; quicker’n a wink, Hannah turned his chair around backwards. Coming back to the table, Bobby, acting as though nothing were out of the ordinary, left the chair as it was and simply straddled it. Hannah valiantly kept a straight face.

Just then, John, Bobby’s father walked through.

“Bobby!” said he, “Can’t you sit like a gentleman?! Turn your chair around!”

So Bobby did--while staying astraddle of it, of course winding up with his back to the table, and cracking everybody up in the process.

Larry has been working night and day on that big crewcab. He hopes to have it done this week, because, you see, a Mexican man in Albuquerque who owns a car dealership wants a pickup (maybe two) we have, and just Thursday sent us a down payment for it, plus the money Larry told him he’d charge to deliver it. The man calls Larry ‘Meester Lawry.’

We also need to get a vehicle in Denver. So I wrote to Larry's aunt, who lives in Raton, NM: "What would you say to a visit from a whole gaggle of Jacksons? Or maybe I should say, a ‘jumble’ of Jacksons; that probably being more accurate after such a long ride in a pickup, never mind how big it looks."

As they say, “We’ll be in touch!”

Sunday, March 1, 1998 - Peanut Butter for the Dog

My baby turned one this week--imagine that! My mother gave her a giant panda bear which she just loves. We gave her two boxes with Velcro lids and plastic handles; in each box are four board books, and on each page are lift-up flaps with pictures underneath. She’s quite fond of books. Hannah got her a white teddy bear, and she crocheted a ruffly pink dress for it. Bobby gave her a white teddy bear, too, dressed in a clown outfit--and they hadn’t known ahead of time what the other was getting. Esther gave her a beanie baby. Victoria’s taken a real fancy to dolls in the last month or so.

Joseph’s virtual Pooch recently made it all the way to 25 years--again--before he croaked--again, winding up in a chapel with a cross over the top. Yes, you can get yourself a new pup and start over again as many times as you like. If the batteries wear down, you have ten seconds to change them before the program cancels out and you have to start over again with a new pup. Did I tell you we got Joseph a ‘Second Generation’ virtual dog, which we are saving for his birthday? I can hardly wait to give it to him. He likes all sorts of gadgets and doodads, contraptions and jiggers. This dog is capable of learning new tricks, and can be taken ‘outside’; and, when visiting the ‘pet shop’, there are four different puppies to choose from. One is smart and happy but unhealthy, one is smart and ill-tempered, one is dumb and happy, and one is dumb and ill-tempered and unhealthy.

My mother will be getting her teeth taken care of some time this month. The antibiotics the dentist gave her took care of the abscess, and she’s been able to eat better; so she’ll be stronger and better able to withstand the dental work.

The mole on Joseph’s neck grew back, as the doctor warned us it might, in which case he told us he would freeze it off. Last time, he burned it off. We have an appointment for March 12. Tomorrow Joseph has an appointment with the dentist; I think he has a cavity in a molar.

Penny has a number of volunteers who help her grade papers. Do you remember when, before I started doing all of our bookwork, I used to grade the eleventh-grade history papers? I enjoyed it, but it was quite time-consuming. Also, she has a machine that reads aloud all typed copy, and also some ink printing, if it’s done neatly enough. Her older students type their lessons, and then Penny can ‘read’ them herself. She uses her reading machine to learn all her lessons, and she types all her tests, quizzes, and worksheets herself. She really is quite independent. She has her own apartment, and, before she began teaching, she owned a music shop, The Golden Music Store, where she sold all sorts of instruments (excluding piano and organ), religious books, Bibles, gifts, and toys. She still sells books and Bibles, but usually they must be ordered, and that takes two or three days.

She also gave guitar lessons and tuned pianos. Other than the church’s piano, which she tunes regularly, she only tunes during the summer months.

Penny has recovered well from her operation, although she still has a few aches and pains. Penny is one of those sorts of persons whom we all think is absolutely indispensable--we just can’t--and I mean can’t--get by without her! She’s written quite a number of poems for the Christmas program, and if we don’t like words to a song, or want a different theme for some music, we just tell Penny. And directly, just like a computer, clickety-clack, clickety-clack, her Braille writer spits out the lyrics we want.

She’s a walking encyclopedia, too; got a question? Ask Penny. She’s one of my very best friends. Her students all know that if one of them should be so disrespectful as to whisper in class while Penny is lecturing, or some other such infraction, there is a whole room full of loyal pupils who will promptly inform the teacher. Lots of people think tattletales are all wrong, and of course it is disgusting when a person delights in getting another in trouble, in which case he ought to be given the punishment he was hoping the other would get. But to report genuine evil deeds to the proper authorities is positively the right thing to do.
Just think of the story of Joseph: “he brought to his father his brothers’ evil report.” And God honored his courage in doing so. Joseph is a type of Christ, which is why the Bible records not one fault that he may have had. The Bible teaches that one who hides somebody’s sin is guilty of the same.

Monday I spent about fourteen hours cutting out material. I cut out two dresses for Victoria, one for Lydia, a vest, shirt, and pants for some cousins' new baby, a matching vest and pants for a teddy bear for the new baby, a cover for a photo album for Norma’s birthday, and a dickey for one of Hannah’s dresses. All of the baby’s things, except the shirt, are now done.
I asked the oldest daughter for one of their favorite teddy bears, so I could dress him in the matching clothes. The next day, Dorcas brought the bear home. Imagine my surprise when, upon pulling the bear from the sack, I laid eyes on a mint green bear! It’s soft and fluffy and cute, but…green?!

On Norma’s album cover I appliqued several roses, on which I did machine embroidery. At the top I embroidered “Our Picture Album”, and along the binding edge I embroidered “Our Pictures”. It started out to say the same as the front, but the letters kept growing and the album kept shrinking. I sewed re-embroidered lace all around the edges, sewed shut the flaps…and then couldn’t get the album into the cover. So I ripped out a flap, put the album in, and sewed it back together again. Bother. You’d think, after all these years of sewing, I’d know better than that!

At about 12:30 a.m., my sewing machine’s foot pedal gave up the ghost, quite a nasty trick for it to pull, if you ask me. After all!--whom can you borrow a foot pedal from at that hour?! Whom can you have repair it at that hour?! That’s right. Larry.

Yup, he did; and I was back in business. Just like Lydia said, “My daddy can fix anything!”

One afternoon while visiting my mother, Victoria spotted her own picture across the room. She bounced up and down excitedly, pointing at it. “Dare’s Toria!!” she announced.

Sometimes she elongates her name: “Bic-roar-yuh-yuh-yuh-yuh!” Funny baby.

Tuesday it was 68°; most of the week it was above 50°. But yesterday and today it was in the twenties and feeling as if it were below zero, what with the snow and the wind. I sure hope all the flowers aren’t ruined. The crocuses were already blooming, and the daffodils, miniature tulips, and hyacinths were up several inches. The mums are up, too, but only a half-inch or so.

Our teacher for kindergarten and high-school science spent her last day at school Friday. She is expecting a baby sometime soon. This is an exciting event, since she and her husband have been hoping and wishing for about six years. The children all gave her many gifts; Teddy decided to make her a little wooden apple box with a lid. He made this decision at about 9:00 p.m. Thursday night. First, he enlisted my aid in drawing the apple. Poor old non-artist me--I’ve been having my brain stretched artistically lately, that I have.

Anyway, I came up with something that actually resembled an apple, and Teddy rushed off to his scroll saw. Unfortunately, somebody had slightly tilted the holding plate, and he didn’t notice until he’d spent much time meticulously cutting out the entire apple, at which point he discovered that he couldn’t get it out without making a crack in one side through which to slide the blade. You can be sure, he was greatly disheartened. Taking pity on the boy, I sent him off to bed with assurances that his father and I would make his little box for him.

So, Larry cut it out, first using the scroll saw, and then hollowing it with Keith’s new router. After he completed the lid, it was my turn. I carefully drew a picture of a teddy bear in a very ruffly dress onto the lid, then used Teddy’s wood-burner on it. It turned out quite cute, and the teacher was pleased with it--but Teddy, I think, was even more pleased than his teacher.

Thursday Larry put running boards on Lawrence and Norma’s van, since getting in (it’s higher than some vans) was hurting Norma’s back. It’s much easier stepping in now, and it looks sharp, too.

Bobby gave Hannah a tape/CD player for her birthday. We gave her a watch made of paua shell, both the face and the wings of the butterflies that make up the slide-bracelet bands. Mama gave her an ivory afghan kit, and Lawrence and Norma gave her three games, which all the children have been enjoying. They are ‘Scattagories’, ‘UpWords’ (that’s like Scrabble, but you can lay tiles on top of tiles), and ‘TriBond’ (“What does a stop sign, a book, and a cardinal have in common?” Answer: “They’re all red.”)

Norma made the yummiest birthday cake--Mmmmm, MMMMM!! It was some kind of a carrot cake, with pudding, whipped cream, and coconut on top. MMMMM-MMMMMM!!! We tease Norma, saying she doesn’t think people can turn a year older unless they have a birthday cake. Maybe we’d better hush up, if we want to keep getting such delicious cakes.

Saturday we went to Grand Island for material for Hannah’s Easter dress. I was surprised to discover that the store hadn’t yet stocked their spring fabric, but we managed to find some white eyelet left over from last year, and, being left over, it was even on sale. It has pastel embroidery around each little eyelet hole. I also got some fleece to make Joseph a new bathrobe for his birthday. He picked black, with Dalmatians with red collars on it. I still have red fleece left over from the little girls’ coats, so I’ll use that for the collar and belt. Fleece is expensive; it’s usually $14/yd., but this was last year’s fleece, and it was only $9/yd.--still too high. Anyway, I think I have enough to make a matching robe for Caleb. I got three yards, which cost $27, so they’ll be $13.50 each, still cheaper than buying robes at Wal-Mart--and nicer robes, too.

After spending altogether too much money at the House of Fabrics, we rushed next door to the Goodwill to make ourselves feel better with all manner of marvelous bargains--and we found them, too!

We got a light brown western suit with dark brown pants for Teddy for Easter, a cadet blue sweater vest with hand embroidery (this, we got free), white pumps with cutouts around the toe for one or both of the older girls (brand-new!), a gray linen dress with black velour-and-lace collar, a flowered dress with attached cancan and big lace collar for Lydia for Palm Sunday, a navy silk pleated skirt for me--something I’ve been looking for ever since Christmas, when Annette and Kenny gave me a forest green and navy plaid raw silk jacket, and a couple of $9 patterns for only $.25 each. I paid $20.79 for all that. Whoopee!

Tonight after church, Bobby noticed a peanut butter jar on the floor under the table. Being a helpful sort, and not knowing that the nearly-empty jar had been bequeathed to the dog, who cleans them out handily, he picked it up and put it on the table. Directly, Hannah noticed it.

“YUCK!!” she cried, nose a-wrinkle, snatching it posthaste and heaving it into the nearest waste receptacle. “Who in the world put this on the TABLE??!”

Bobby looked amazed. “Well, uh, er, I did!” he said, somewhat discomfited.

And then wasn’t Hannah embarrassed. haha

She told him about the time Esther Seadschlag tried to give their black lab, Ebony, a morsel of something-or-other, which he didn’t prefer, thank you, so he very politely deposited it onto the floor. Esther picked it up, tossed it carelessly onto the table.

Enter sister Ann. Hungry. Scanning the table. Spying the tidbit, she snatched it and stuck it in her mouth. Esther, reading the paper, suddenly looked up. “Oh! NO! ANNN!!! The dog had that in his mouth!!”

Ann fled for the bathroom.

This afternoon we went for a ride to the Monroe Wetlands, where were thousands of Northern pintails, mallards, redheads, lesser Canadas, and more. Now when I get ready to take a picture from the Suburban, Victoria gives out the orders for me: “Hode stee-oh!!” she shouts. (Hold still.)

Of course, after that, nobody is holding still, because everybody is laughing so hard. And Victoria looks smug.

* * *
Monday, March 2, 1998

We have just returned from the dentist, finding to our relief that Joseph has no cavities, and his teeth are in fine shape; the reason they were hurting is because at least three of his molars are slightly loose, and the permanent teeth are directly underneath. When he eats, the loose teeth rock back and forth on those permanent teeth just a little bit, and that hurts.

I got back my pictures taken near Grand Island. As we drove by a field and saw dark heads, when we were still some ways away, and not looking through binoculars or my big lens, we thought they were more Sandhill cranes. Suddenly, somebody caught sight of a white bird among the dusky ones.

“There it is!” several voices cried, “The whooping crane!”

Larry screeched to a halt, and binoculars and camera were hastily brought up to eyes.

“Oooops,” the voices said in chagrin.

It was a snow goose. (Was that me that just last week thought somebody would have to be blind in one eye and unable to see out of the other, to mistake a whooping crane for a snow goose? Well, is it any better to mistake a snow goose for a whooping crane?)

Some flocks of Sandhill cranes are so huge, they blacken the whole sky. These big birds fly in formation like bombers on Special Maneuver.

Now I told the kids I’d help them send off some letters and pictures to their penpals, so I’d better do just that.