Saturday, May 31, 2008

Play Ball

If it wasn't for that "country van" (ours), you might think this was a family-friendly used car lot! Nope, it's the parking lot at the new Sports Complex. Completed this spring, the complex includes four ball diamonds, a generous smattering of tennis courts, a couple of soccer fields, an already heavily-traveled walking trail and vast amounts of mini-van/suv parking.

The ball diamonds are a bit imposing. Can you see what appears to be tiny kids out there? They are actually 11 and 12 year old boys. From the grassy knoll, you can view four games at once by slowly turning. It's really cool!

Dane took a moment before the game to get in the zone and it worked well for him. He struck out six kids in three innings and only allowed one run! Overall? They lost 10-9, darn it! Not to worry, we'll be back ready for more baseball on Monday evening.

Friday, May 30, 2008

On the Grill

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we had the pleasure of grilling out with friends one night, grilling out with my husband's sister and her spouse the next night and being invited to dinner at my in-laws the next night. We know how to eat around here! We enjoyed the three evenings very much.

I did not take pictures out of respect for the privacy of those close to was a momentary lapse, I must not have been feeling well.

I did capture this precious moment between my husband's father and his great-granddaughter.

She found his hearing aid, examined it and asked many questions. She then looked at him very seriously and said, "You have another one of those". She turned his head and looked in his other ear and a triumphant smile broke out across her face.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It was 20 Years Ago Today

My husband and I tied the knot 20 years ago today! How can that be? A bunch of life has been crammed into those 20 years! In honor of such a historic day, here are a few shots from the big day.

I believe we were thinking, "Am I ever glad that part is over. Where's the party?"

My suppot group - my husband's sisters (two on left), our nieces, my sister (on my right) and my pals. They must have really liked me to wear those pink popsicle dresses. Pinky-peach was how I described the color at the time... and I was gaga over it. The matching roses were "Sophia". My husband, who has an "in" with the local florist, still gives those roses to me each year.

My husband and his home boys. My two brothers (one on his left and one second to the right) were also convinced to join the gang, along with our nephew. You may notice that they look rather sunburned. They played golf for most of the day before, followed by a bachelor party. When I reached him at the end of the aisle with his sunburn, a bit of a hangover and wedding jitters, he looked as though he might faint at any moment.

The reception was held at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in the beautiful upstairs of the main building. A jazzy, blues band played and the doors to the the garden were open. It was lovely. I do remember a bit of concern over the nude statues being exhibited at that time. My grandmothers were there, after all!

You may be able to see the guests lined up for food in the back. They were either ravenous or the food was incredible, because the food ran out a little early and my father needed to beg for more in the kitchen. Even though I'm the youngest of my family, I married first (just by six weeks) and when we left the reception, for the only time I know of, both of my parents cried. That's when I "got it" that the evening was life changing.

A city, a small town, separate toothpaste, family, friends, separate sinks, three sons, many pets, separate retirement savings plans and a funeral home business later, it's been a wonderful, cuh-razy, action-packed ride.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The First Day of Summer Vacation

From my perspective, today is the first real day of summer vacation - the first day the kids aren't due at school. I'm thinkin' a nice quiet day.

Are you kidding me??? We took off this morning for guitar lessons, followed by shorts and baseball cleat shopping, and then baseball lessons. As we walked into the baseball school, we noticed that the left back tire was nearly flat... which lead to this.

Bet you can't tell we're country folk.

By late afternoon we had called The Mortician twice for assistance. First he came to get the car with the flat tire. I love this man. Next he came home from work to get this guy...

You see, the kids have been fishing quite a bit in the pond the last few days. One day they ended late and had three large fish on a stringer. Since they planned to fish again in the morning they decided to leave the fish on the stringer overnight. In the morning when they checked on the fish, one-half of a fish was missing. So this was not a case of escape, freedom, back to the cool pond waters. Something ate that half of a fish and sometime in the morning it came back for the other piece. My husband's conclusion: a huge snapping turtle. Yikes!

So when word filtered back to me today that the kids in the neighborhood had found a huge snapping turtle and my husband was on scene, I needed to go take a look... and a few pictures.

The Mortician and a neighbor had a plan. They would "humanely" put the turtle out of this life with a shotgun! Oh, boy. As I snapped photos, an idea dawned on me and I said to my husband, "How about you put the turtle in the back of your suburban, drive it down the road to the creek and let it loose?"

His reply based on the unnerving hissing noises and the 1" stick the turtle had broken like a toothpick, was, "why don't you put it in the back of YOUR van, drive it down the road and let it loose."

"Ok!!!!" Am I a good bluffer or what???

He added, "Anyway, it will just come back."

Being a little stubborn, a bit bossy and full of ideas. I replied, "well, how about farther down the road to the river?"

It must have been what felt like a half-a-million little eyes, ages 9 through 14, that made him grumble, "Oh, alright!" Did I mention I love this man? I do not have a PETA membership, I swear. It's just that even a frightening, incredibly ugly creature such as this turtle, should have a chance if there's a reasonable one. Right?

He threw the turtle in the back, we all jumped in the cars and off we went.

The Mortician chucked the turtle down the hill to the river.

As he walked back to his car, with a devilish grin on his face, he said, "If that turtle comes back, he is going to KILL us!"

The turtle's new home, that is, if it survived the fall.

The First Bounty

Isn't it beautiful? It's Blackseeded Simpson Lettuce and the..."I can't remember variety" of Spinach. Our youngest, Spencer, was particularly interested in trying out this bounty at dinner. He's impressed by the thought that it came out of the garden in the back yard. I am , too, to be honest. I planted those teeny, tiny seeds on a very windy day and it just didn't seem possible that they would grow into something so big, so green and so gorgeous.

The just tastes better than store bought. Fresher, crisper with a deeper flavor. We were amazed. Our oldest said, "This tastes good and we know no one added any artificial stuff." That's right. No wax on the apples, dye in the oranges or sugar-water in the corn. I never knew store-bought corn might be injected with sugar water. We had some earlier in the week and it had an unnatural sugary, sweet flavor. Candy on a Cob! Yuck!

It's true that veggies from your backyard involve some work. We also try to get to the Sat. morning farmer's market. This week we bought asparagus and eggs. We've started buying a few things from the organic section at the grocery, too. We buy bags of golden delicious apples and they do not last long.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Next Stop: High School

Did you have a grandparent, great aunt or uncle who would pinch your check and say, "Oh, how you've grown!" or "You're just getting so tall"? I did and I would do an internal eyeroll and find the food table.
Now, I hear myself occasionally say it to my own kids! Yikes!
Today was a big day for our oldest son, Mason. He was "promoted" from 8th grade. I have to admit to being completely unfamiliar with this particular milestone and I headed to the ceremony with a bit of this really necessary? I imagine it was begun many, many years ago...possibly when it was 8th grade graduation. These days 8th grade might be only halfway in a person's education.

The Class of 2012

Moving from the middle school to the high school is a big step. Not only have the kids grown physically, Mason now looks me in the eye, but they have grown intellectually as well. They are ready to take on more complex, challenging courses of study. So, yes, let's celebrate this milestone! Let's honor the successful navigation of middle school and give the students our encouragement and pledge of support as they head for the rougher, more demanding waters of high school and beyond.

The ceremony was very well-done. Several kids spoke briefly and two young ladies sang solos. The second soloist has a career as a singer in her future! The, uh,... promotees, walked across the stage to receive a certificate. As their names were called, the MC also read a statement on what they were proud of from their middle school experience. Mason's was "being on the honor roll throughout middle school". Not bad!

I know, leaving the stage, back to the camera...sigh. I pressed the button as he was shaking the principal's hand, but my camera has a mind of it's own and usually pauses, oh, about an hour, before it takes the picture. I need a manual or a photography class or a private tutor or someone else to take the pictures!

Way to go, Mason!

Mason with buds, Sam and Ian.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Mother makes Kansas Governor Sebelius Laugh

Did you know Douglas County, which includes Lawrence, was the only county in the whole state of Kansas to go Democratic in the 2004 presidential election? I notice these things because I come from a politically active, mostly democratic, family. In fact, I have memories of stuffing envelops for George McGovern, helping my Mom put up yard signs and standing at polling places handing out candidate brochures. My Mother signed my brothers' high school diplomas as the School Board Secretary.

Pic of Mom being sworn in for her first term on the Kirkwood School Board.
She served six years.

My Mom worked hard to get Democrat Claire McCaskill elected Missouri Governor a few years ago. McCaskill lost 52% - 48% to "Baby Blunt". My Mom's term and it wasn't meant to compliment his youthfulness... After the election my Mom was invited to a luncheon to thank the McCaskill volunteers. Who was at this luncheon you might ask? Well, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Prior to the lunch, some mingling occurred and my Mom made her way to the Kansas Governor. She introduced herself and said,

"My daughter lives in ______ (small town in Kansas). I think she's the only democrat in her whole county!"

Governor Sebelius laughed and said, "You may be right!"

Pic of Mom with Missouri Governor Bob Holden, who was the predecessor to Governor Blunt.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We Stop and Watch the Sunset

When we marked a spot for the house and agonized over the angle for the back of the house, we were thinking about the view of the pond. We were caught off guard by the sunsets. At times, we stop what we are doing just to watch. In the winter, they are rather mellow, but now that it's spring...

April 14

The haziness in this picture is from the spring burning of the pastures. Some days you can see the smoke, others just smell it lingering in the air. It lends the pink to the sun.

May 1

May 5

May 14

As my friend, Ann, says, "Life is good!"

Summer Preparation - Me Day

I overheard a woman say to a friend, "School is almost out, I need to reinvent my life". A whole lot of truth resonates from that statement. In three short days the boys will be home. Why is this significant? Well, summer around here involves baseball lessons, practices and games; golf lessons and tournaments; tennis lessons and practices; summer basketball tournaments; swimming; occasional MINOR scraps and bruises (please); sleepovers; cooking; cleaning; and drive-drive-driving. All requiring immense flexibility - like fluid, in an oozy, goozy, can take on any change at any moment kind of a way.

In anticipation of the need for this level of flexibility, I took a Me Day. A day where I forgo my beloved family and friends for some wandering time alone. I think of it as a brain unscrambling day. Meditation would certainly be faster, dare I say, cheaper. Note to self: consider learning meditation.

I got in the car and drove to a couple of my favorite places. First stop, Lawrence, Kansas. Sorry no fabulous photos as I forgot my camera. @#?$%^#*!!! I have a deep connection to my alma mater, especially downtown. A stroll down Mass St. is infinitely theraputic. I stopped in The Dusty Bookshelf, Hobbs, The Bay Leaf and The Winfield House. The only purchase, in case you were worried about Shopaholicism. I know that's not a word, 'cause I looked it up and shoplifting was the only thing in there and I was NOT shoplifting. Anyhoo, the only purchase was a sheet cake pan. I usually make homemade ice cream a time or two for the neighborhood kids during the summer and thought I would throw in a chocolate sheetcake this year.

Next stop, the Plaza in Kansas City. Oh, I enjoy the plaza. You stroll the streets, the weather was gorgeous, by the way, stop to admire the fountains and hit your favorite stores. Let's see - J. Jill, Anthropologie, Ann Taylor Loft and Origins. I'm not sure I know any of the scientific reasons why this ____________ activity, fill in the blank with your favorite, works so well, but I strongly suspect it's the departure from the usual. A t-shirt and some shorts, THAT'S ALL, I swear. Well, ok, I got some face cream and bath salts at Origins. I confess!

This reminds me, the last time I did this, about six months ago, my brother called when I was in the dressing room at J. Jill and simply said, "please move to the nearest exit, immediately!". Wha...? My husband had prompted him. bwa ha ha ha, that WAS very funny!

I feel great today. I'm ready. I've been doing laundry, cleaning, making grocery lists and reviewing chocolate sheet cake recipes. We're going to have a great summer!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Emerald Green Means Mowing

We live on 14 acres, so we have plenty of room for a opposed to fields. Our yard is about an acre, and fortunately, we already own a riding lawn mower.

You might be thinking, "uh oh", who will be moving that lawn and those fields. To our delight, our two oldest boys love riding the lawn mower. Dane volunteered the other day and instead of mowing just his half, he mowed the whole yard!

For the fields, you ask? We have Alice. An Allis-Chalmers tractor to be more descriptive. We own Alice with two of our neighbors and we manage to smoothly take turns and take care of repairs. It's funny how the first year you own an old, almost antique, tractor, many repairs are needed. Alice seems to be in fine working order now.

Just as the boys enjoy mowing with the riding mower, my husband and I love mowing with Alice (I almost said riding and thought that didn't sound right). We are both quite sneaky about Alice-each trying to get her out first to mow our favorite spots. Grass length has been a point of contention at times. I'm for longer, he's for shorter. My brother, Marty and our friend, Mike, also enjoying mowing on Alice. They usually ask if time will be available for moving when they visit. Those city slickers! Takes one to know one...

Alice the tractor, the closest I will get to lifelong dream of owning a horse. ?!?!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Special Mother's Day

Each holiday this year may be bittersweet for me. To explain, my Mother lost her battle with breast cancer in January. As each holiday approaches I feel uneasy, knowing it will be painful yet full of lovely memories of my Mom. First were our birthdays, mine on February 16, hers on February 22. Now Mother's Day. I had heard people talk about the first year and the difficulty of the holidays. I said to myself that walking through the pain would be healthy and that over time it would lift to a place of happy memories. It seems to be true.

My Mom was remarkable after she learned her cancer had returned. She also made a choice - to live each day to the fullest, to surround herself with family and friends, and to devote time to her many treasured causes. I'm working to take a page from her book.

So this Mother's Day, I spent the day with my husband and my boys. We also had lunch with my mother-in-law. I was reminded again how very many blessings I have in my life.

My husband, who has hung in there with me through many emotions these last few months, gave me the following card. I'm not sure I can fully explain why I love this card so much. It just pictures the place he and I have found together. Even though we faced many challenging times, we still feel like those kids.

I don't think the pain of losing a loved one every completely fades, but we live on to make more happy memories. I offer a favorite Psalm of my mother's. She told me a few months before she died that she said this to herself every morning.

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mini Society

At our local elementary school they have a wonderful activity called Mini Society. The kids learn about money systems, producing products, supply and demand, and other cool things about the real world. Spencer's company, Sports Rocks, co-owned by his friend Jacob, sold painted rocks with a variety of sports team's initials. The boys painted more than 100 rocks with a little assistance from their employees. I had the pleasure of being an employee. One of the activities is Market Day, where the kids, teachers, and parents are given "money" and may walk around the classrooms to purchase the items the kids have produced.

The proud owners of Sports Rocks

Jacob made this amazing stand to display the rocks.

"As soon as I finish my chex mix, I'll tell you about these rocks."

Things were hopping toward the later part of the market and a line began to form. "No pushing please, plenty of keepsake rocks available."

The boys had a ball and sold most of their rocks. They ran a short sale during the last ten minutes and announced free with a minute to go. All the rocks instantly disappeared. When they realized the class would be having an auction tomorrow of remaining inventory they humbly asked for just a few rocks back...please... three will be available for auction.

Mini Society is a wonderful experience for the kids and it has the the added bonus of mixing learning with fun!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Someone May Need to Call 911

This beauty is one of the leftover plants after I placed her siblings in the garden. Approximately fifteen plants remain inside in pots that I have continued to care for. Do you suppose I had a premonition?

This poor guy has been out in the garden for about a week. A cold, not frosty, but very cold night or two and some powerful winds have rendered this guy, well, in need of some life-support. I've heard that tomatoes experience the most shock at transplanting of any one mentioned buying a portable defibrilator!

What to do? Two people have suggested milk jugs with the bottoms removed. Sounds very smart. I will start saving and putting them over the sickest plants, however, I won't have enough any time soon. Any other ideas? Immediate ideas?

Fortunately, some of the plants still look pretty good. The ones closer to the wind wall, including the Beefmasters tomatoes! Maybe I need to start making all of my husband's favorite dinner recipes and giving loads of oozing "great idea", "go for it, honey" when he mentions wanting to play golf. He will "want" to extend the wind wall! Yes, yes, this is a good plan. It may just work!

I fertilized and watered today, and I think I'll wait a few days to see what happens. Thankfully, as you saw, I have a few lovely replacements for the plants that kick the bucket. I recently read an essay by a woman who cursed the Kansas wind on a daily basis (sounds familiar) until she bought a windmill and used the wind power to operate a water pump from her pond that she used to water her garden. Hmmm? She then developed an appreciation for the wind. Hmmm?

Remember, Jenny, it's a learning process. Trial and lots of errors is most of the fun!!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Digging in the Dirt

The counter in my pantry has become Garden Central. I needed a place to organize seed packs, references and other supplies. Even the garden trowel - a little dirt among the cans of soup and boxes of rice never hurt anyone...

Last week was big for planting. One Monday, tomatoes, bell peppers, cantelope and watermelon plants went into the garden. Thursday saw the planting of zucchini, cucumbers and green beans. Also, a few petunias out front...gotta have some flowers!

By far the most important variety planted this week was the wind fence. Bart picked up the wood at the lumber yard and had the fence up in no time. He was right that my idea of a charming, weathered, picket fence probably wouldn't stop any wind. On Wednesday evening the fence was tested! We had gusty winds with the threat of severe weather. I went to bed worried about the new tomato plants and put off looking for half the next day. They were just fine!

The plants are taking off in the garden. Lettuce and spinach are close to the first harvest. The potato plants look great. Kohl robi and corn are peaking through.

I haven't had any no shows yet. I am, however, out of space! Darn I thought that garden bed was big...not with the likes of watermelon and cantelope. Hmmm...expansion in the future??? Shhhh! Don't tell Bart...not yet anyway.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Summertime = Baseball

Summertime at our house means baseball! Practices begin early May and the first games are around Memorial Day. Two games a week plus practice until late July. For the past few years this has been times three and last year was the most challenging. We had several nights with all three boys playing at the same time in three different towns! This year just Dane and Spencer will play baseball. Mason is hitting the local junior golf tour.

In my hometown of Kirkwood, Missouri, the kids start earlier and end later with one game a week. So we had the pleasure of seeing my nephew, Marshall, play ball on our recent trip home.

Guess who the team manager is???

That's right...Uncle Marty!

This year Marshall is pitching and playing center field. Isn't he handsome?

Working on getting a piece of it!

What did my children do while watching their cousin play baseball???

Spencer, the master of self-entertainment. That would be Mason standing

and laughing, and Dane as photographer.

The kids are counting down...only two weeks of school left.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Heart of Our Nation - Part 1

Our oldest son, Mason, was nominated by one of his teachers for the People to People Leadership Forum . The forum is a weeklong trip to Washington D.C. where the students that participate learn about the United States goverment, American history and technology. We thrilled when he was interested in going on the trip. We completed all of the paperwork until we reached the form Permission for a Minor to Fly Alone. Gulp.

My mother had been to Washington D. C. many times and had frequently recommended we take the kids for a visit. Why not? So we all went! We arrived at Dulles airport where the People to People staff picked Mason up and we did not see him again until the end of the week back at Dulles.

Bart, Dane, Spencer and I took off on our own.

Our first adventure was the subway system. After receiving assistance from an exceptionally helpful subway station worker, we bought our passes for the week and set off. It was amazingly easy to travel to downtown D. C. Those familiar with D. C. know of the mall, not like shopping, but a vast open grassy area with the capitol at one end and the Lincoln Memorial at the other end. Trust me looks can be deceiving. What looks like a short stroll in between is actually about 10 miles...just kidding, maybe 1/2 mile. Around the mall are all of the Smithsonian Museums and some government buildings.

Our first stop was the Air and Space Museum.

Fortunately, we arrived around 10:00 a.m. and this line moved very quickly.

Many cool things hung from the ceiling.

We waited a few minutes to go into the cockpit of a 747. It was worth the wait. It was an older plane than what is used today...I've never seen so many buttons and switches. Exactly how many people did it take to fly a 747???

That there was a huge rocket engine. I thought the space info was incredible. One room had a profile of each space mission and information on each astronaut including those who did not survive. I remember my roommate running into my room to tell me to turn on the TV, because the space shuttle Challenge had exploded.

Good thing it was was getting a little crowded.

We decided to buy lunch at a stand across the street. We noticed several buses full of People to People students and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something familiar. There was Mason! Our only sighting for the week. Yes, I waved like an idiot and surely embarrassed him.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Spring Beauty

Spring in St. Louis, where I was born and lived until college, comes two weeks before spring in Kansas. Because of this, and I imagine other horticultural factors, they have a prized tree that is rare in Kansas.

The dogwood.

These two beauties are outside my brother, Marty and his wife, Leslie's, family room window.

This gigantic, gorgeous, white dogwood is in my sister's backyard. For two days, I drove my family cah-razy pointing and talking about every dogwood I saw...gagillions of them! I admired, considered, commented, praised, and longed for the dogwoods.

I daydreamed and yearned for dogwoods on the hours-long drive home, until I reached our driveway...

Only seven months in this spot and this crab apple consoles me.