February Photos

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, August 6, 2001 - Toadstool State Park (Not at all the same as Mushroom State Park)

Last week somebody took Mama some tomatoes from their garden (although the nutritionist at the hospital has since said that she should eat nothing with seeds in it).  She couldn’t finish them, but she liked them, so she asked her favorite nurse, Julie, to save them for her, and bring them back for breakfast on bread with peanut butter.
Julie looked properly amazed.  “I don’t have that recipe!” she said, making Mama laugh.
David was low on work this week; he told his men that if they were wishing to go on vacation, now was the time to do it.  Joseph didn’t work Monday or Tuesday; Larry did some work on David’s shop.
Last week when I printed my letter, my word processor went bonkers.  It looked like the cats had walked on the keyboard and typed a bunch of hieroglyphics.  I turned it off and tried again...  It did it again.  I thought it was ruined...  But I didn’t have time to worry about it, because we were going to Norfolk to get my camera!  Yes!  It was done!  I received a notice in the mail, telling me so!  (After we got back home, I tried my printer again...it still didn’t work, and then I ran out of ribbon...I inserted a new ribbon, and the printer worked like magic!  Stupid thing.  Wonder what ailed it?)
It was very hot--98°--and humid.  After getting the camera--I had to leave one arm and one leg as proper payment--we went to Ta-ha-Zouka Park, where we planned to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  But it was just toooo hot, and we weren’t even hungry.  Luckily, we’d brought plenty to drink.  I parked under some big shade trees.  Victoria bounced up onto her knees and peered out the window at the toys.
Sitting there with the air conditioner blowing on her full blast, bottle of cold water in hand, she giggled and said, “Oh, this is so much fun!”
The children leaped out and dashed off to play.  Joseph helped Victoria and Caleb onto the old-time merry-go-round, and then, pumping the handle as hard as he could, sent them flying round and round.
“My stomach hurts,” said Caleb, and you would not have believed Joseph could have stopped that thing so fast.
Victoria told me, “Joseph had us going so fast, my head nearly flew off my neck!”
After walking across the little white wooden bridge over the pond, we’d had quite enough of that oppressive heat.  So we climbed back into the Suburban and headed for home, and I went back to cleaning Joseph and Caleb’s room.  There is not yet an end in sight.
That evening, in spite of the heat, we took our supper to Pawnee Park.  After we ate, Larry, Joseph, and Caleb played basketball while Hester and Lydia played volleyball with a small beachball Teddy had given them.  Victoria played in the sand around their feet.
“Do you want to move over to the side?” requested Lydia politely, after nearly tumbling over her small sister who had moved unnoticed behind her.  “Then I won’t step on you, and you won’t get hit with the ball.”
Victoria obliged.  Lydia served and Hester smacked it--an unexpectedly wild hit that bounced right off Victoria’s head.  So much for not getting hit.  All three girls went into gales of mirth.
We were hearing the sound of motorcycles and four-wheelers, and finally curiosity got the better of us.  We hiked over the dike and down to the Loup River, and there they were, pulling all sorts of stunts and capers with their bikes and ATVs.  I took some videos...and then, when they spotted me doing so, they really put on a show for me.
After one came skidding past precariously close, sending up a spray of sand, I asked from my vantage point behind the camcorder, “Are my toes in danger?”
“Yes,” said Larry, and meant it.  “Back up!”
I backed up.
That night, we got out the Nebraska map and pored over it.  We thought longingly of the mountains with their refreshing beauty and coolness; but we couldn’t afford for Larry to take that much time off...  The next day, Larry asked for Friday and Saturday off so we could go camping, starting Thursday night after supper.  We planned to go to Fort Robinson State Park in the northwest corner of Nebraska--that’s about 450 miles away.
Our largest sleeping bag needed to be washed, and it’s too big for my washer, so I decided to do it in the bathtub.  I poured in a cap full of detergent, filled the tub half full of water, and threw in the sleeping bag.
“Slooooooop!” said the sleeping bag, and the tub was emptied of its water.
“Wow!” I remarked to Caleb, who was standing beside me watching procedures, “That’s one thirsty sleeping bag!”
I put more water into the tub, kneeled down, and started to turn the bag --and that’s when I discovered that soaking wet sleeping bags are heavy.  The fact was, I couldn’t turn it.
Sooo...I stepped into the tub, and proceeded to agitate the thing with my feet, creating mounds of bubbles, while Caleb and Victoria stood watching and laughing.  I let the water out, standing on the sleeping bag to drain as much water out as I could, then filled the tub again.  Once more, I stomped about on the bag, to the accompaniment of Caleb and Victoria’s laughter.  I let the water out, and filled the tub the third time.  After rinsing it and draining the tub again, I tried to lift the bag out.  But I couldn’t do it; it was simply too heavy.
I called in reinforcements--namely, Hester.  With her help, I managed to get the thing out to the front lawn, where we spread it out in the sun to dry.  Now and then throughout the afternoon, we turned it and moved it, so as not to damage the grass.  By 6:00 p.m., it was dry enough that I could put it into my dryer to finish the job.
That afternoon when I started to curl Lydia’s hair, her temple felt too hot.
“Are you sick?” I asked.
“Oh, well, my stomach just hurts a little bit,” replied Lydia.
I took her temperature.  She had one degree of fever...but she wanted to get ready for church, so I went ahead and curled her hair.  Hannah and Aaron came visiting, and all of a sudden it was too late to go see Mama, and I didn’t feel good enough to go, anyway.  I had a fever, too, and so did Dorcas.  Dorcas has been having a fever every evening for a week.  I took a nap, then got up to get Victoria dressed for church.  I went in her room, woke her up, got her clothes--and she informed me her stomach hurt.  So Lydia, Victoria, and I stayed home from church.
I decided I’d better make some food for our trip.  I started making three pumpkin pies, and ran out of eggs.  I left that sit until somebody came home from church and could go to the store, and started making zucchini bread.  Ooops; I still needed eggs.  And walnuts.  I gave up and went back to bed.  Lydia was asleep in the recliner, and Victoria was playing here and there between us...  Lydia was once abruptly awoken by Victoria’s stuffed duck quacking loudly beside her head.
“Well, he didn’t mean to wake anybody up,” explained Victoria, raising one shoulder and lifting a palm upwards, “But I accidentally gave him too big of a hug, and so he had to quack; he couldn’t even help it!”
Soon the rest of the family came home from church.  Dorcas went to the store for me, and then I finished making the pumpkin pie and three loaves of zucchini bread.
Thursday we spent the day getting packed.  I visited Mama and, true to form, she spent a good deal of the time telling me to drive carefully, don’t forget a can opener or the lighter, wear life jackets when boating, take bags for dirty clothes, and watch out for the rattle snakes that live in that part of the state.  Although it’s been many years since Mama traveled with my father, she can still remember many items of importance that I never think of.
When Larry came home from work, he resumed working on the trailer we would use to haul our carriers and bins.  He’d made a plywood floor for it, and now was putting sides on it.
At 7:30 p.m., he went to State Farm Insurance to finalize everything relating to our family’s auto insurance, which is a good thing to have when one is traveling.  It took an hour and a half, because, as usual, they didn’t have the paperwork done.  He came back and continued working on the trailer.  It got later...and later...and later...  At one point, he said we would sleep at home that night, and leave in the morning.
“No!” I exclaimed, “We can’t do that!  The kids are all excited, having planned for days to leave tonight; and, furthermore, our stuff is all packed; we would have to unpack, and every time we do that, we wind up leaving important things behind.  I will drive; you can sleep.”
So he agreed to go.  We left home at 1:30 a.m.  We stopped at the store before leaving town ...and then we came back home and got Larry’s glasses and sweaters for everyone.  It was not a bit cool outside, but sometimes the children get cold in the Suburban.  And then we were on our way.  Just out of town, I took over the driving, and I drove till the sky was getting light.  At Norfolk, I turned northwest on Rt. 275.
A nearly-full orange moon sank to the horizon in front of me.  An ermine came strolling out of the left ditch.  Realizing he didn’t have time to cross, he stopped and sat down in the left lane, then looked at me as I approached, blinking his big brown eyes, his fuzzy little head tipped to one side.  During the night, I drove through fog here and there, and sometimes it was dense enough that I had to slow down.  Somewhere by Wood Lake, the sun came up.  There was a layer of fog just above the ground, and the sun glistened through it.  Larry took over the driving, and I took over the picture- and video-taking.
“Look!” I said, pointing, “Look at that enormous turkey farm!”
The kids all stared at one long building after another.
“We should leave Caleb there,” suggested Joseph.
Caleb ruined the joke by exclaiming, “Oh, goody!  That’d be fun!”
At Valentine, we turned back east on Route 12 and went to Smith Falls, where we ate breakfast.  It was already muggy and hot, and the bugs were out full force.  Miserable!  These little black bugs are shaped like thin triangles, and they bite hard.  When Hannah was little, she called them ‘jets’, because of their shape, and the rest of the children have called them ‘jet bugs’ ever since.
We ate zucchini bread, although we had earlier said we would eat the pumpkin pie...but I thought perhaps Larry had changed his mind, and didn’t remind him about the pie.  In truth, he had forgotten it.  We regretted this, later.
After gulping down some milk, we hastily put everything back into the coolers, grabbed the cameras, and trotted off to the falls.  Smith Falls, at 75 feet Nebraska’s highest waterfall, is spring-fed, and very cold.  The closer we got to the falls, the cooler the air, and the less bugs there were.  The little stream that tumbled down over the rocks below the falls was full of water and flowing fast, so we thought there would be more water than usual at the falls--and there was.
It is so pretty, the way it comes spraying down like a veil, misting the woods around it.  We stayed in the coolness for a time, and then we walked back alongside the creek.  Just below a small rapids, we took off our shoes and waded.  BrrrrRRRRrrr!!!  It was cold!!!  But it felt good on that hot, sultry day.
Soon we were on the road again, heading toward Chadron and then on to Fort Robinson.  The children slept part of the way.
Caleb woke up.  He tossed his pillow over the seat behind him.
“Oh, no!” cried Lydia.  “You got it in the pumpkin pie!”
That’s when we learned that the pie had not fared so well in the heat while we were cooling ourselves at Smith Falls.
We drove through part of Fort Robinson State Park, looking for a good fishing lake and a good campground, preferably with one near the other.  We followed a small gravel road up into the bluffs, and there we ate dinner:  liquefied pumpkin pie.  It still tasted scrumptious, though, so nobody was complaining.
“Just pretend it’s pudding,” I told everyone, although it tasted like nothing but liquefied pumpkin pie, to me.
The children were intrigued at the road:  it went down through a dip, and there flowed a spring-fed stream right over the top of it, perhaps a foot deep, and the vehicles were required to ‘wade right through’, according to Lydia.  It was beside this little stream that we found a lonesome picnic table and stopped to eat.  Upon leaving this little picnic area, we had to ford the little stream, too, which was accomplished with a good deal of giggles issuing from the rear of the Suburban as we splashed our way across.
There was a nice campground in the village of Fort Robinson, and the entire village was a museum of sorts; but there was nary a shady site to be seen for setting up our tents, so we decided to take a look at Pine Ridge National Recreation Area.  The map showed the park to be roughly in the center of a lop-sided square formed of Routes 20, 2, 71, and 385.  We drove south on 71...  We saw no signs telling us of Pine Ridge National Recreation Area.  We turned east on a little country road, and eventually came to Box Butte Reservoir, still finding no signs of Pine Ridge.  There was a tiny ghost town in the hills by the reservoir.
We wondered about the inhabitants, and what had become of them.  Think of the pioneers, settling here and there throughout the country, having no idea if their village would thrive or die in the years to come.  Life was often hard for them in the Sandhills of Nebraska, so far from civilization.  If they had no spring nearby, they were dependent on the rain, and the rain in those parts was not dependable at all.
We continued north then on 385, and when we came to Chadron State Park, we pulled in to take a look.  It was a nice park, with a lake where we could make use of their pedal boats, and shade trees all over the grounds.  The showers were nice, and we decided to stay.  We set up the tents and ate supper -- beans in tomato sauce, macaroni and cheese, zucchini bread, and fruit.  Joseph, Hester, and I were unimpressed with those beans...but Caleb gobbled them up and had the rest of Hester’s, too.
Then we went to the lake, where we first rode on the pedal boats.  Joseph, Hester, Lydia, and Caleb rode on one, and Larry, Victoria, and I took another.  But that didn’t last long, because the park supervisors required them to be docked by 8:00 p.m.  So we collected the fishing poles from the Suburban and went fishing.  Larry caught several small trout, and Lydia nearly caught a sleeping female Mallard, who quacked reproachfully before swimming a little ways farther away, tucking her head under her wing, and going back to sleep.
When Larry knew he had something on his line, he’d call Victoria or Caleb to come reel his line in--and weren’t they pleased, when they discovered they’d caught a fish!
We awoke the next day at 7:45 a.m. and deduced that a nice shady spot in the evening is not necessarily a nice shady spot in the morning.  Ugh!  It was hot!!!  We were soon up and out of our tents, folding everything up.
Larry went to get the milk out of the electric cooler--and that’s when he learnt that he’d turned the dial the wrong direction.  Instead of cooling the milk, juice, butter, and jelly, the cooler had heated them.  All night.  And we discovered that that cooler was, indeed, capable of heating things well.  We’d always wondered how well it did that.  All we needed were some packets of Carnation, and there we’d be then, with mugs of hot chocolate.  But it was nearly 100° already, and we had no Carnation, and nobody wanted hot milk.  The hot cherry juice, however, was so good that we drank it in spite of the heat, and it did go well with the zucchini bread, which tasted like fresh-baked, piping hot bread.
Soon we were on our way to Toadstool Park, where there are many tall, pointed sandstone formations with big funny round shapes up on top.  We drove down a rough gravel road--the gravel is snow white, in that part of the state--for nineteen miles, and then discovered:  we had to hike a mile to see the Toadstools.  It was already getting late in the morning, and we had 550 miles to go before getting home, and we intended to make it home that night... and besides: it was 102°.  So we took pictures of an old reconstructed sod shanty, complete with a large cactus growing out of its roof, and all the funny sandstone bluffs and the strange shapes rising in the middle of nowhere.  Then we bumped our dusty way back to the highway.
We saw antelope and whitetail deer, and hawks by the dozens.  On Route 27 south from Gordon to Ellsworth, we saw one spring-fed lake after another.  Pelicans swam on many of them, along with Canada geese and a variety of ducks.
As we topped a hill and flew down the other side, Joseph abruptly announced, “The top carrier just blew off!”
We looked back--and sure enough, there sat our carrier, right smack-dab in the middle of the road.  It had been on the trailer, and the wind had lifted it enough that the strap didn’t hold it in place.  We found a place to turn around, and went back.  Amazingly enough, it was still in one piece, and the lid was still on it, although several of the clasps were loose.  It took at least fifteen minutes to collect the carrier and secure it on the trailer again, and during all that time, not another single vehicle went past.  Humanity is few and far between, out in them thar Sandhills.  Did you know that the state of Nebraska ranks 43rd in density, with only 21 people per square mile?
At Ellsworth, population 26, give or take a horse or two, we stopped at the one and only place of business for one of those extremely necessary pit stops.  Then, because we dislike taking advantage of all the facilities without giving anything in return, we looked around the store for something to buy.  It was a long building, with several rooms and different levels of floors.  At the far back was a room full of saddlebags and necessities for a trail ride; off the narrow hall was a little room with displays of BB and pellet guns of all types and sizes; in the large room just off the main floor were racks upon racks of boots for dress or work, men’s, women’s, and children’s, and on the walls were handcrafted shelves, paintings, and Indian beadwork; in the main room was a rack of postcards, handmade necklaces, money clips, and bracelets; on the wall was an assortment of bits and bridles; and at the back of the room was a refrigerator half full of pop and water.  We bought all the water and several bottles of pop.
Larry got a pair of Wrangler jeans, and I bought one souvenir--for baby Aaron: a tiny pair of the softest moccasins I’d ever laid hands on.  They are made in three shades of suede.  They come to the ankle, and around the tops are fringes.
Leaving Ellsworth, we turned east on scenic Route 2 and headed for Broken Bow.
“Why in the world would anyone name a town ‘Broken Bone’?!” queried Caleb.
The air conditioners (there are both front and rear) in the Suburban cool the vehicle so quickly and efficiently, the children were often glad I had brought their sweaters.
Caleb put his on and buttoned it up the front.
“Something’s wrong,” he said.
“Oh, help,” said he.
“What happened?!” he said.
Everyone turned and looked.
Caleb, it seemed, was caught with the seatbelt right down the back of his sweater, through the sleeve, and out at the wrist.  We couldn’t help it; we all burst out laughing.  Caleb removed the sweater with some degree of difficulty, nearly stringing himself up in the process, and then sat looking up at it, perplexed, as it hung there above his head, in a ferocious wad of seatbelt and sleeves.  We laughed the harder, and then Lydia had pity on him and untangled it.
Caleb, by then laughing, too, took his sweater, debating whether or not he wanted to put it on.  “I was cold, once,” he told us, “but not any more!”
The route to Broken Bow follows a two-track rail line that is normally very busy.  But Saturday we saw six or seven long west-bound coal trains stopped on the tracks, perhaps three miles apart.  The engineers were in the engines, but nothing was moving except for the prairie grasses alongside the tracks blowing in the never-ceasing wind, and a couple of slow-moving east-bound trains.  We saw a line of railroad equipment, all headed west, and surmised that something had happened to the track somewhere farther west...a derailment?
At Broken Bow, we ordered pizza at the Pizza Hut, and then went to fill the Suburban with gas.  I called home and talked to Dorcas...and by the time we went back to the Pizza Hut, our pizzas were done.  We took them to the city park, ate, played Frisbee, and the children played on the toy set for a little bit.  Then we turned south on Route 21 in order that we could go through Sumner and give a man a vehicle title he needed.  This took us some distance out of our way, but it also allowed us to travel via I80, which is nice at nighttime when we need to make a pit stop.  Pit stops in the Sandhills are hard enough to find in the daytime, and nearly nonexistent after sundown.
We were going around a corner in Kearney when Larry glanced in his rear-view mirror and spotted it (or didn’t spot it, as the case may be):  the left tire on the little trailer was gone.  That is, most of it was gone.  There were a few shredded bits of rubber left on the wheel; that was all.  And the spare was home in the Bronco.  Larry pulled into the parking lot of a closed tire shop, and we looked longingly through the windows at the rows and rows of tires for sale.  He unhitched, and we headed out to the all-night Wal-Mart, where we knew there was a tire store and lube express.
There we learned that just because the Wal-Mart was an all-night store, it did not necessarily follow that the tire store stayed open all night.  It took no less than an hour for a clerk to ask another clerk who asked another clerk who asked an assistant manager who asked another manager who called another manager who called the secretary of state who called the vice president who called the president who called the premiere of Quebec who called the Queen Mother, who just had her 103rd birthday party, who called Prince Charles, who just knocked himself cuckoo (if he wasn’t already) falling off his horse in a polo match, who called the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to ask if someone could kindly open the Kearney Wal-Mart tire shop and sell Larry the tire he needed.
And then, finally, we got the tire.  Tony Blair is a kindly man.  (Sometimes.)  We drove back to our trailer, and spent another hour there while Larry laboriously struggled to get the shreds of rubber off the wheel.  Once the rubber was loose, it took no more than five minutes for him to straighten the wheel a bit, put the new tire on the wheel, and drive to a station to put air in the tire.  Back to the trailer then, where Larry put the wheel back on, hitched up...and we were ready to roll.
We arrived home at 2:00 a.m., and then everyone had to take showers, and I curled Hester and Lydia’s hair.  We tumbled into bed and slept as fast as we could, which wasn’t quite fast enough.
Morning arrived mighty soon.  Hester didn’t feel well; I think she probably got whatever it was Dorcas, Lydia, and I had earlier in the week.  She stayed home from church.  No visitors for dinner Sunday, since I had not had time to go to the store, and the household grocery level was extraordinarily low.  Teddy went to Amy's house to eat.  For the rest of us, Larry concocted a dish with a vegetable stew blend, deer sausage, and scrambled eggs, along with fresh-baked biscuits.  Mmmmmm, yummy.
Larry and I went to the hospital to see Mama that afternoon.  Caleb didn’t feel well that night, so, not feeling so great myself, I stayed home with him.
Some books I ordered recently arrived:  The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents, What Makes Flamingoes Pink, Everyday Geography of the United States, The Word Detective, Encyclopedia of Medical Care, and The Houseplant Encyclopedia.  I like to scan through books of this sort ...especially word books and such like.  When I was little, newly learning to read, I used to enjoy reading dictionaries.  Imagine the book reports the children will have now.
As I type, Victoria is singing a song, making it up as she goes along:  “Oh, the flowers are blooming, because I watered them, I watered them, I watered them.  Yes, the flowers are blooming now!  When they’re dying, we water them again, and they bloom some more, they bloom some more, they bloom some more.  As soon as they’re dead, we’ll water them, we’ll water them, we’ll water them, and then they’ll bloom, they’ll bloom, they’ll bloom!  Oh, yes, maaaaaaybeeee, maaaaaybeeee, maybe they will, they might, they might!”
Hmmm.  Sounds like she has our method of watering the flowers down pat.
The dryer is dinging!  Time to get busy...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Monday, July 30, 2001 - Ruinful Hats and Owly Cats

As I wrote in last week’s letter, by last Monday, Mama was feeling better.  the antibiotics were stopped Saturday (although she was given three or four more doses Tuesday and Wednesday, which made her feel ill), and she’s felt gradually better ever since.  She finally ate a little bit Sunday, and a little more each day thereafter, and things are tasting more normal to her, and she doesn’t feel so sick after she eats.
Larry got home early, about 4:00, last Monday.  It was very hot, and David didn’t want to start another job that late.  So Larry started taking apart my non-working washing machine.  It was probably the transmission that had gone bad.  By the time he got it out, it was too late to take it to the appliance store and see if he could get another, perhaps a rebuilt one.  Meanwhile, it rained on the blankets Larry had taken into the back yard to dry, Saturday night.  Again.  That was the second time they had been rained on.
Victoria is riding her bike without training wheels!  That’s the youngest any of our children have ridden without training wheels.  Teddy helped her get started, ran along beside her holding onto the seat...then he let go...  --and suddenly there was Victoria, going along nicely without any assistance at all.  She giggled.  She laughed.  And she sped up, until I think that if she would have crashed, it would have been an impressive crash indeed.  Larry went out and told her to slow down.  She beamed at him, and slowed down a nanofraction.
One day Hannah held out a toy to Aaron, and he reached his hand up and touched it, moving his little fingers all around on it carefully, his mouth in an intrigued little ‘O’.  Any day now, he’ll get a grip on it!
Tuesday Larry worked late, so he wasn’t able to work on the washing machine.  I knew he wouldn’t be able to Wednesday, either, so I decided I’d better take all those clothes to the laundromat.  A good many of them smelt decidedly mildewed, having come from Joseph and Caleb’s damp closet, and the longer I waited, the worse it was getting.  So, at 6:00 p.m., Hester, Lydia, Caleb, and I went to ‘The Clothesline’ to wash clothes.  Victoria was sleepy, and stayed home with Dorcas and Joseph to take a nap.
I washed twenty loads of clothes at a dollar a load, ran out of quarters, and still had four more loads to go.  I took all the washed and wet clothes home again, thinking I would dry them in my dryer in order to save some money and not stay at the laundromat so long.  The littles stayed home to eat supper.  I scurried off to the grocery store for juice--the colder, the better, please; it was hot that day--bananas, California Trail Mix, and $20 worth of quarters.  I was hungry.
I went to the laundromat, munching bananas, Trail Mix, and drinking juice all the way, started the last four loads of laundry, and then went to the hospital to see Mama.  Keith and Esther pulled into the parking lot just after I’d parked, and honked and waved immediately after I’d crammed my mouth full of Trail Mix.
I did not stay long, because as soon as I mentioned that I had clothes in washers at the laundromat, my mother informed me that if I didn’t hurry back pronto, somebody would be helping themselves to all our clothes.
I should have kept my big mouth shut about those clothes, because Mama, still being Mama, suddenly decided to buy me a new washer and dryer, both, and instructed me to get them the very next day, without delay.
I returned to get the laundry, and took the wet things home.
And then I finally ate supper--cold Schwan’s chicken pot pie.  Of course I could have warmed it up in the microwave, but I had already seated myself and taken a bite before I discovered it was cold, and in order to put it into the microwave I would have had to scoot my chair back, get to my feet, pick up my plate, turn around, take one step, open the microwave, put the plate into it, and push four buttons.  Then I would have had to stand there for half a minute while the food warmed up (unless I wanted to go to all the trouble of turning around, taking a step to my chair, sitting back down, then getting back up again and stepping to the microwave when it was done), then open the door, get the plate back out, turn around, take one step, sit down, put the plate on the table, and scoot the chair back up.
Too much work for me.  I ate it cold.
Meanwhile, I’d started a load of clothes in the dryer...and it seemed to scarcely make a dent in those humungous bags of wet clothes.  It began to dawn on me that it would take at least two days to get all those wet clothes dry, and by then they would doubtless smell quite stale.  I allowed as how it would have been wiser to dry them at the laundromat, and Larry seconded the motion.  Sooo...we enlisted Teddy and Joseph’s help, and carried humungous bags of wet clothes back upstairs and out to the Suburban.
Then Larry, Hester, Lydia, Caleb, Victoria, and I all went to the laundromat.  Mind you, we did not go to the same laundromat; me has me pride, after all.  I had already attracted enough attention with all those multitudes of clothes, and everyone stared at me as if I were nuts when I put the wet things into bags and took them away again (they were right; I was nuts).  They stared at me again when I had to stand on the very tips of my tiptoes like a ballerina in order to pour the detergent into the dispenser at the tiptop of the commercial-sized washing machine.  I could not at all see what I was doing, and hoped I was not pouring the stuff into an air vent or something, and wind up producing large iridescent bubbles to float all over the room.  Then, to top it all off, the door wouldn’t shut until I hauled off and slammed it with all my might and main.
Sounded sort of like a sonic boom, did.  Several people bounded straight into the attic and were not seen again, the duration of the time I was there.  Anyway, we took all those wet things to ‘The Washing Well’, and we had everything dry and ready to take home again in two hours.
And then I had the monumental job of sorting all the clothes we’d washed.  Yikes.
Victoria bumped her head on Lydia’s glasses and bent them, so Lydia, industrious soul that she is, found herself a pair of pliers and ‘fixed’ them.  She didn’t know that the pliers the lady at Wal-Mart uses on glasses has rubber inserts to protect the gold finish.  So the gold finish on Lydia’s glasses afterwards sported a few nicks in it.  Lydia was regretful; she did like her glasses.
Wednesday, Joseph went to the dentist.  I found out later that they could have done the root canal; instead, they merely repacked the tooth with medicine--and then they called and told me they needed to send our papers to Medicaid to see if Medicaid will pay the bill.  Sometimes a root canal is considered ‘cosmetic’.  AAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!!
“Oh, no!” I cried.  “He could have had that tooth fixed, and didn’t???  Oh, I wish someone would have told me.  I want that tooth taken care of, and if Medicaid won’t pay it, I will,” I said.
The lady acted quite surprised.  “Really?!” she said.
“He’s been suffering with that tooth for almost a year and a half now,” I told her.  “What do they think is the proper thing to do for an abscessed tooth, if they think a root canal is ‘cosmetic’?!”
“Just pull it,” she answered, as I expected.  We don’t think that,” she assured me.
Horrible people!  That’s awful!  But it stands to reason, coming from a government group, don’t you think?
Joseph was given the next possible appointment:  August 20th.  OooooOOoooOOOOooo...  We decided that if that tooth kept hurting, and that dentist couldn’t see Joseph, we would take him to a dentist who could.
Wednesday, Mama made sure I went to purchase a new washer and dryer, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Then Larry called to tell me I needed to go to our insurance agency on the double and sign the papers for our auto insurance, so we would not be driving illegally...
Feeling as though I needed a washer and dryer a good deal more urgently than I needed insurance, which others may or may not agree with, but they aren’t in my shoes (nor yet in my basement), so pooh to them, too, I went first to Sears.
My sister Lura Kay recommended Maytag, because they seem better able to cope with cement than Whirlpool or Kenmore.  And the menfolk around these parts bring home plenty of cement, perhaps to thicken the potatoes, or perhaps to redo their back drive, depending on the quantity they should happen to fetch home with them.  On them, I should say.
Of course I wanted the largest capacity...so I had only one choice in dryers, and two in washers:  I could choose between a stainless steel barrel for $150 more, or an enameled barrel.  The saleswoman recommended stainless steel, especially when she learned we had hard water.  I chose enamel.  My old washer was not stainless steel, and I had never had any trouble with rust; it didn’t ever sit idle long enough to acquire rust, I think.
The appliances would arrive the next day.
That mission accomplished, we continued on to State Farm.  Now, why did they tell Larry that the papers were all drawn up, and all I needed to do was sign them and write out a check?  That wasn’t true at all.  The papers were not drawn up, and they also needed all our VINs and the numbers on our driver’s licenses--Larry’s, mine, Dorcas’, Teddy’s, and Joseph’s.  I didn’t have them.  I signed one paper--without reading it...I may have given away mineral rights to property with a mother lode of silver or gold, for all I know.  I was told to bring back the needed information the next day, and then I was bid adieu.
“And after all that, they didn’t even offer us kids those free suckers!” Victoria observed reproachfully.
Larry said he would get all the information together for me in the morning, and leave it on my desk.
I did some mending that night, but not enough that any sizable difference could be seen in the stack of mending yet to be done.
Thursday morning, I sent one of the littles into the living room to get the paper with all the information for State Farm off my desk; they came back and reported that there were no papers of any sort anywhere to be found.  I took them at their word, partly because I could not imagine that they would not have seen a lone paper in a designated spot (a paper was there, though), and partly because I was rushing around getting things out of the way and trying to make things look decent for whomever would be arriving with the new appliances.  Just a few days ago, we’d cleaned things up for the plumber, so there wasn’t quite so much to do as there might have been.  But he would be coming in through the garage, and the garage is horrendous.
But that is not in my job description.
Lydia, helping clean the kitchen, leaned down, bumped her glasses on a chair, and bent them all up.  Then she tried to straighten them--and all of a sudden, to her immense surprise and dismay, her glasses were in two pieces.  Aauugghh.
The washer and dryer arrived at about 2:30.  First, the man hauled out the old ones.  He had a motorized cart that helped him pull the things up the stairs.  After getting the dryer all the way to the top, he discovered it wouldn’t fit, even though he’d already removed the door.  So he had to take it back down again, remove some strips of wood on the door jamb, and then try again.
That time it fit.
The minute he departed, I loped pell-mell down the stairs and started a couple of loads of clothes--one in the washer, and one in the dryer (the last load I’d dried in the old dryer had not gotten dry).  There is a gauge on the dryer that tells the amount of moisture in the load.  The appliances are quiet--I was used to the old washing machine sounding remarkably like a freight train chugging up Cottonwood Pass.
Just as the saleswoman told me, they do indeed wash and dry quickly.  The dryer is usually done at the same time as the washer, and that is certainly new and different.  The agitator actually works (the top half of my old one didn’t go around), and there are all sorts of settings on both washer and dryer.  For over ten years now, there has only been one working setting on each of my old appliances:  normal wash, and permanent press dry.  All the other settings were Out Of Order.  Good thing we are mostly Normal Wash and Permanent Press Dry, eh?
I was folding and putting away clothes in my room, and Victoria was playing on the bed.
“Do you want me to sing you a song?” she queried.
“Yes, please do,” I responded.
“Well, what shall I sing about, bears or lions?” she gave me choice.
“Bears,” I answered, and she launched into song.
“The bears are jumping on your head,” she sang lustily, “Claw, claw, claw‑‑” and she reached out and scritch-scratched on my head.  A deep breath, and she continued her tuneful little air, “Now your hats are ruinful!”
The jaunty number continued imaginatively, with a great deal of spirit, and with all sorts of motions put in.
As soon as the next load of clothes was started, I scurried off to the hospital to tell Mama how well they both worked.  She was glad.  She’s been eating better every day, and she feels better.  Her voice is back to normal most of the time now, too.  The cooks in the kitchen have been grinding things that are too hard for her to chew, such as the meat, and that has helped.  Also, they have given her some sort of thickening agent, and she puts a spoonful into her juice and even her water, and then doesn’t have the problem of choking that she had been having.
Larry and I took the children to the library that evening for books and videos.  Dorcas likes to take them, but she wasn’t feeling well.  So, while Larry snoozed in the Suburban, I helped find books and videos.
We then took Lydia’s glasses to Wal-Mart.  Instead of just fixing them, they gave her a whole new set of frames!  We went to get them the next day...and discovered that, since they had not had the exact same pair in stock, she had received an upgrade--they are spring-loaded, which is what we wanted in the first place.
“Break them again,” advised Caleb, “And maybe the next time you’ll wind up with sunglasses attachments like mine!”
Lydia was skeptical.  “Or maybe I’d wind up without any at all.”
Thursday night Joseph was in a lot of pain from that abscessed tooth.  I told him to go straight to the dentist’s office Friday morning:  “Don’t bother to call first; just walk in and tell them that you can’t work, you can’t sleep, and you need that tooth taken care of now.”
I offered to paint his jaw bright red, wrap a long rag around his head, and tie it at the top, just to help them understand he was, in point of fact, in pain.  He declined my assistance.
Since he’d been unable to chew all day, he asked us to bring him a milk shake after we went to the library.  The children all sat down to watch “Ol’ Yeller”, and Larry and I went off to the Dairy Queen.  In addition to Joseph’s shake, Larry got himself a twist cone, and I got a cone dipped in chocolate.
Now, if you know anything about anything, you know that when parents eat food they are not planning to share with their young’ns, they must be sneaky about it.  (Unless they are mean old coots, of course, and don’t mind telling their children, “This is mine, and you can’t have any.”)  Not wishing to be in the Mean Old Coot Category, but not wanting to share our booty, either, I pulled into the drive, handed my cone to Larry, threatened him with bodily harm if I should find one molecule of said cone missing when I returned, and took Joseph’s shake into the house.
“We’re going to the grocery store,” I told the kids truthfully, “and we’ll be right back.”
Victoria nearly foiled everything by jumping up and saying, “Can I come?”
“No,” I told her, thinking fast, “You don’t have your shoes on, and I’m in a hurry.”
I was, too:  my ice cream was melting.  Worse, Larry was holding it!  (Wonder what excuse I would have come up with, had she have had her shoes on?)
“Okay,” she answered agreeably, “I don’t want to miss the video anyway.”
I fled for my life, before some other offspring of mine decided he or she wished to join us.
Still licking our large ice cream cones, we headed north toward the lakes.  I drove around Lake North, and then stopped beside the sandy beach.  Yes, finally, they have put sand around that lake.  Ever since I can remember, there has been nothing but gravel around it.  Sharp gravel.  We walked down to the water’s edge, sat on the steps, and I stuck my feet into the water.  It almost felt warmer than the breezy night air, which was a rather funny sensation.
Soon the ice cream cones were all gone.  We washed them down with a mug of hot coffee, and headed for the grocery store.
Home again, I got all the remaining clothes out of Joseph and Caleb’s closet and began sorting them.  Whew, what piles of jeans and shirts they have!  I declare, I think they must have every bit as many clothes as Hester and Lydia do.
Joseph went to the dentist Friday morning.  He got in after a wait of only thirty minutes, because somebody had canceled their appointment.  The dentist did a root canal.  The tooth was full of infection, and it was loose.  If it does not tighten up by the next appointment, it will have to be removed.  I think the dentist was amazed to see how bad that tooth really was--Joseph was not just a-spoofin’!  He’s on 1500 mgs of penicillin a day now, and will be so for a week and a half.
That evening when we went to see Mama, she was eating a peanut butter sandwich--and she ate the whole thing.  I was glad to see that.
Saturday when I visited her, Hannah, Aaron, and Dorcas came, too.  As we were on our way down the hallway to Mama’s room, I saw one of the nurses on her way toward us, pushing two wide carts ahead of her.  Hannah and Dorcas were both beside me, and there was no way the three of us abreast were going to fit alongside those two wide carts, so I sped up so as to walk ahead of the girls.  But they were busy telling me a Very Interesting Story, so they sped up, too, staying neatly abreast with me.  I quickly slowed down so as to walk behind them.  They slowed down, too.  I sped up.  They sped up.  I slowed down.  They slowed down.  I came to a complete stop.  They came to a complete stop--exactly even with me.
I opened my mouth to say, ‘Somebody needs to go first here, and somebody needs to follow!!!” when the nice nurse herself stopped, pulled one cart behind the other, and said in her friendly fashion, “Come on!  You can come through!”
So the silly girls marched happily along beside me, totally oblivious to the fact that I had an overpowering desire to conk their oblivious heads together.
Hannah took Mama the lapghan she’s been crocheting with blue and white yarn.  It’s done in a dozen patchwork squares, with white many-pointed stars in the middle of each square.  It has a wide, lacy border all the way around it, with a narrow blue edge.  Very pretty.  Mama hardly wanted to use it, for fear she’d spill something on it.
She said, “My!  It’s almost like Christmas!  Someone brings me flowers every day, and the nurses come in to see what sort of a new bouquet I have, each day.”
Baby Aaron did not wish to go hospital visiting any longer than three minutes, thank you, and started fussing, then crying in earnest, so we had to leave rather abruptly.
Our air conditioner was not sending out even a puff of air anymore, no matter if it was frozen up or not, so Larry headed down to Hester and Lydia’s room to look at it.  The filter, it seems, was stuck tight against the flagellum, so that the konseal couldn’t zuffolo at all.  This causes the fipple flute to foist a wicked swingle on the smelter, such that neither tallywag nor treefish had a prayer of swimming their way through.
Larry was properly amazed at the water that was dripping from it, all over the floor, getting what still remained of the ruined carpeting totally soaked.  Um, hello?  I mentioned this once or twice?
He fixed the filter, got the rest of the carpeting around the air conditioner and under the wardrobe out; but there is still all the icky carpeting under the bed.  I think perhaps I shall tell Larry and Teddy that they can eat supper tonight--IF they get that carpeting out first.
Our air conditioner is actually working now!  We are comfortable!  That is indeed New and Different.
I finished sorting all the clothes from Joseph and Caleb’s closet; hung all the shirts that are the right size back into it, sorted according to long or short sleeves, with church shirts (as opposed to ‘home’ shirts, ala Lydia, age 2) in the middle.  Teddy went to Wal-Mart and got me another rolling clothes rack to put in the shelf room, and I put it together.  On this, I hung the size 14 and 16 shirts.  I crammed the short-sleeved size 12 shirts onto another bar, and wedged the size 12 church shirts behind them.  Now...where in the world would I put the long-sleeved size 12s?  I finally found a small gap on one bar, and squeezed them in.
Kitty likes to come downstairs while I am down there, and she invariably lies down upon the white shirts.  Socks likes to sleep atop the blue enclosed clothes racks.  They are flimsy things; Larry fastened one to the big clothes bar with a heavy hanger.  Good thing, too, because one of the supporting legs collapsed inward, and the whole thing would have fallen, had it not been supported otherwise.
Dorcas has not been able to get in a full 40-hour week for two or three weeks, partly because there are less children than there used to be, and partly because her boss has hired several new girls, and then, so as to give them a chance to work, sends her old faithful workers home early.  Now, if that isn’t cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Dorcas is hoping things will get better when school starts again, as one or two of the girls will be going to college, and she will probably be able to work more hours.
Wednesday, my friend Helen, Hester and Lydia’s teacher, brought us a big box--75-count--of blueberry bagels.  We put about half of them in the freezer, and ate the rest in a couple of days.  Then we got the frozen bagels out of the freezer and ate them in two more days.  I bought four cartons of cream cheese to go with them--strawberry, raspberry, light strawberry, and cheesecake.  The light strawberry was for me...but I wound up sharing most of it, intentionally and otherwise.
One afternoon I got it out of the refrigerator, starting putting it on a bagel...and along came Victoria.  She climbed up on a chair beside me and watched as I put a liberal dose on my bagel.
“Is that the ‘light’ stuff?” she questioned, “Or is it the ‘dark’?”
Victoria was coloring her Sunday School paper this afternoon.
“Is ‘peach’ the right color for faces?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied...and suddenly I remembered Dorcas, about six years of age, explaining to Hannah that some people are Black, some people are Mexican, while we, on the other hand, are Peach.  I’ve had the urge to write ‘Peach’ on questionnaires requesting my race ever since.
Sunday mornings and evenings while we are at church, we keep Kitty and Socks indoors, partly because people don’t appreciate the cats roosting on their hoods, and partly because we don’t want the cats run over.  So, in the mornings as soon as we know they are both in the house, we shut the kitchen window and don’t let them out again.  The cats, of course, then want out, primarily because they are being kept in, and they let us know this by bombing around the house like apes of the jungle, leaping onto the backs of our chairs just to make us flinch, howling and scratching at the door, having boxing matches betwixt themselves, and skidding madly across the floor after imaginary critters of unimaginable ferocity, making tails bushy and hackles rise.  (Theirs--and ours.)  Kitty was in this sort of an attitude at the back door when Victoria leaned down and spoke to her in a sympathetic tone.
“RRrrrrrrrooOOOOOooooOOaaaaaAAAarrrrrrrRRRR!!!” remarked Kitty, making Victoria spring back and stare at her in amazement.
“Leave her alone,” I recommended, “She’s rather owly right now, because she wants outside.”
Victoria’s eyebrows flew up. “Owly?” she repeated carefully.  “She acts like an owl??”  She grinned.  “Do you think owls act like cats?” she queried, and giggled when I pulled her ear.
After we ate dinner, we went to the hospital to see Mama--all but Teddy, that is, who was eating dinner with Amy's family, as he does every other week.  Then, after dropping the sleepyheads off (that was Dorcas, Joseph, Hester, and Lydia), the rest of us went for a little ride out in the country, and I took videos of the cutest little calves.  Most of them look half-grown already, but we saw one little calf who must have been a fairly recent addition to the herd.  Another calf, probably several weeks older than the smaller one, was industriously rubbing his head against a tree.
Victoria poked her head out the window.  “MoooooOOOooo!” she shouted.
The calf steadfastly rubbed his neck on the tree.
BAAAAAAaaaaAAAA!” bellowed Victoria, and his head came around, his ears flew straight up and out, and he stared at us in great wonderment, long-lashed brown eyes blinking slowly.
Victoria and Caleb went into peals of laughter.  I caught all this on video, and we’ve laughed over it several times since.  We drove to the power district west of Monroe via the canal roads.  Birds, butterflies, and dragonflies abounded.  I took a picture of a dragonfly blowing to and fro atop a tall reed.
Tonight we were watching a video, first the one I took yesterday afternoon, then one about all kinds of wildlife.  There was no narrative, only music, and it was funny how they picked exactly the right kind of music for each picture--fast and furious Sousa marches when the kangaroos were hopping fast, light and twinkly for the butterflies shown fluttering in slow motion.
On came the snow monkeys from Japan.  Two young ones were shinnying up a couple of tree branches side by side, scuffling with each other, tumbling here and there, upside down and every which way, swinging from one branch to another, defying gravity all the way.
“Do you think that would be too hard for Caleb to do?” asked Victoria.
Recently, a friendly neighbor of ours gave us some peach/fig rolls.  She is a very nice neighbor, but dear me, is she some bad cook.  Furthermore, she tries to be healthful, and only succeeds in making UFOs--Unidentifiable Food(?) Objects.  The peach/fig rolls were absolutely horrendous.  Several of us tasted them--and then rushed off fast for something to drink.
A wee bit green around the gills, we commenced to asking each other such things as, “What on earth did she do to them?” and “What in the world did she put in them?” and “What did she leave out?” and “Are they fermented?”  Uuugggghhh!!!
Teddy, Amy, and her brother Charles came in.  Teddy, upon spotting the rolls and learning who had given them to us, and having had previous experience with the lady’s food experiments, picked one up.
“Do they work?” he asked, and proceeded to bounce it violently on the floor, the idiot.
“Teddy!” I exclaimed.  “Pick that up and wipe the floor.”
He did so, then tossed the roll onto a plate, grabbed a knife, and, hunkering down like a pro wrestler, began hacking the hapless thing to bits.
“It’s not saying anything,” he said cautiously, backing out of the room while keeping a sidewise glance on it, lest it spring off the plate and attack him.
Anybody want some peach/fig rolls?
Time to go see if the new washer and dryer are getting on together as famously as ever!