October 22, 2003

Preparing--or not--for Book Group

So here I am with all this free time on my hands (I don't leave to pick up Jonathan until 1:40 p.m.), and lots of things to do to get ready for hosting my book group tonight, and I just can't bestir myself to do anything. I just hate that! Dishes need to be put away, the bathroom needs a clean as does the kitchen floor, the chili pot needs to be washed, and what have I done so far? Staked my cherry tomato plant (it grew too tall for its current trellis), watered the plants on the deck, and read my e-mail. Argh!

Maybe I need to put some music on to get me moving. I am looking forward to this evening--we're having Texas chili (no beans!), fresh homemade cornbread in my cast iron skillets, and a green salad. (Provided for the chili are also corn chips, grated cheese, sour cream, diced onions, and fresh jalapenos.) For dessert we'll have coffee, French vanilla bean ice cream in waffle bowls with chocolate or caramel sauce on top, and ginger creme cookies. Yesterday while Jonathan was at lunch bunch I visited both Bookwoman and BookPeople (supporting my local independent booksellers) to find a good selection for us to vote on for next month's book--it was a hardship for me to do, of course, visiting two bookstores.

Posted by elizabeth at 11:49 AM | Comments (2)

October 19, 2003

Digital Camera Use; Rock Paper Scissors; 100 Years Ago Today

I read about a great site that has lots of information and advice on taking pictures that you wish to save with a digital camera. The information is presented with extreme clarity (even I understood it!)--definitely worth a look for anyone who uses a digital camera.

Much to my overwhelming astonishment, I learned in the Sunday paper that there is a world championship for Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS). There is even a web site for those feeling the need to join the World RPS Society. The winner of last year's world championship (the first ever) won $1,200 Canadian dollars and a gold medal. He must have committed to memory the standards for each hand signal, such as "Rock is represented by a closed fist with the thumb resting at least at the same height as the topmost finger on the hand. The thumb must not be concealed by the fingers." I don't remember my parents being that strict when they were trying to see who had to get out of bed to make the coffee in the morning! I did find it interesting to see that the game appears to have originated in Asia; a Japanese dictionary says it arrived in Japan in the early 1640s, and that the Japanese version was influenced by the "sansukumi way of thinking", which refers to an ancient mythology in which the snake fears the slug, the slug fears the frog, and the frog fears the snake.

Finally, for those of us who think we are so advanced here at the dawn of a new century. It never hurts to have a little perspective--100 years ago at start of the 20th century, folks then thought they were just as advanced, compared to what had come before as we did. And yet . . .
--average US life expectancy was 47 years
--women washed their hair about once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo
--there were only 144 miles of paved roads in the US
--more than 95% of all births took place at home
--90% of US physicians had no college education and were instead trained at "medical schools", many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard"
--crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea had not yet been invented
--only 6% of all Americans had achieved a high school diploma
--heroin was available over the counter at drugstores, and according to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."
As the source for this compilation of facts said, just imagine what they'll be saying about us in another 100 years.

Posted by elizabeth at 11:40 PM | Comments (3)

Sunday Morning Pancakes

Jonathan and I made pancakes together this morning--always a very fun thing to do. He helps me measure everything, he pours it all into the bowl, and then he mixes up the batter. I'm training him to be my sous-chef! (Hopefully a more tractable one than my father, who although an excellent one has the temperament of a head chef and must generally be coaxed into performing his duties . . . ) Doing pancakes on Sunday mornings together has become an on-again, off-again ritual for us, but we've done it both Sundays since returning from Kansas and will probably keep it up through Brian & Joy's upcoming (hopefully) visit. It's a fun thing to do.

Last week finally saw me have some productive days--I managed to do great things on Thursday and yesterday, including unpacking the Kansas suitcases and put everything away. I also did about six loads of laundry, woo hoo, cue the noisemakers. The Container Store is about to profit from me again; I seem to have some kind of fall cleaning bug, and all these things around the house that have needed doing the past four years all of a sudden need doing NOW, in my mind. So I got another file cabinet, more storage boxes (finally packed away my needlework as I can see I won't be thinking about that kind of stuff again for a few years), cleaned out one of Jonathan's toy boxes as well as the clothes that are too small for him, etc. My kitchen needs going over (too many gadgets shoved into the backs of drawers), the linen closet is a disaster, our bathroom closet no better, loads of family history stuff to do, more shelves needed for my books (and where will they go? yet to be determined in negotiations with my husband). And that doesn't even touch on the daily things to be done--our bathroom hasn't been cleaned in about six weeks, the house hasn't been vacuumed since before I went to Kansas, the lawn hasn't been mowed since the same time, etc. I see now why every household needs a wife (n.b.--that was very tongue-in-cheek)! It's a full-time job keeping up with an investment like a house.

I read today in the paper that Bush has lost a lot of popularity with older voters, probably b/c of the deficit, health care situation, and poor interest rates on investments. That's a crucial voting bloc if he's going to have any hope of getting properly elected--wonder what he's going to do about it?

Jonathan and I finally made it to the park on Friday when Jessica and Eamon were over. The day was beautiful, low eighties and not a cloud in the sky. We had a great time playing outside and enjoying the fresh air.

Yesterday after gymnastics Jonathan and I went to a school carnival at the Round Rock school that we are contemplating transferring into for kindergarten next year. We had a ball, even though we were there only about 40 minutes before it closed. Jonathan got a lollipop from a lollipop tree, had a ride on a pony, threw baseballs at bowling pins, did some spin art, tried to lift a heavy mallet and smack it down to make the bell ding, and went down an inflatable slide twice. Then we went to Matthew's dorm room and delivered Dale's old desk chair to him to replace the one that came with his dorm room. He said his butt would be much happier! The chair he had been using was a hard wood chair, no cushions, no wheels--typical dorm fare. He looks much more comfortable in his new one. Jonathan was most tickled to get to see where Matthew lives, plus M. pushed him in the chair all the way from our car to the dorm room (I had to close my eyes a couple of times) and then gave him some graham crackers while we were there. Cousins are good to have around!

Posted by elizabeth at 10:59 AM | Comments (3)

October 15, 2003

Happy 9th Anniversary to Us

Today is our 9th wedding anniversary--Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart! Hard to believe it's been so many years, as it still feels like just last year. Tonight the ever-reliable and lovely Auntie Jenny is coming to stay with Jonathan while we go out for a dinner together. We'd been planning to go to Fonda San Miguel but somehow seem to be leaning back towards our favorite steakhouse . . .

Posted by elizabeth at 12:15 PM | Comments (2)

Kansas Trip was Wonderful

Jonathan and I had a glorious time in Kansas. He recovered overnight from his illness the night before our departure and we had a great time on the airplanes (had to switch in DFW). He was most pleased to arrive at the farm (and to ride in his Boppa's truck) and recognizes now when we are getting close. There was a combine harvester that Butch had on Mom and Dad's property, and Jonathan was pretty fascinated with that. I think Daddy even got him up in the cab of it one time when they were out riding around on the Gator.

I managed to catch Jonathan's tummy bug, unfortunately. It exploded in me two days after he had it, so I spent my second day at the farm alternately in the bathroom and lying in bed wondering if it was ever going to stop--I got it about 10 times as severe as he did. Mom even got me coke syrup from a soda fountain in Atchison (primary ingredient: high fructose corn syrup). In the evening I ran a low-grade fever, but in the morning I was okay. It was very, very nice indeed to be sick at one's parents' house and be taken care of and also not to have to worry about my little fella.

The first weekend was quite busy with everyone arriving for the memorial service for Grama Sprong (otherwise known as Elene Ensign Sprong). Dale came in Thursday afternoon, and my cousins Carol & Bill, along with Carol's oldest son Trevor, arrived in the early evening. I hadn't seen Bill since I was in third grade (about 9 years old), and it was good to see him again. He has a nice smile. On Friday Margaret and Tim arrived after some flying travails and miscommunications of their own, and the house was full.

The memorial service went off without a hitch. On the previous Wednesday, Mom and I had gone up to the funeral home and put a whole bunch of pictures of Grama (going from age 3 to 95) as well as an ancestor and descendant chart on bulletin boards that stood on easels. We also displayed the beautiful tree of life quilt that she made for me, which now graces my guest bed (or will when I upack it). There were about 15 people there, and Mom spoke a bit (choked up at the beginning, much to her surprise), then the minister, then I did. A little choked up myself at points.

After that we went to the cemetery where Carol, Bill, and I planted mums around the headstone. Luckily the three of us had gone up there the day before to neaten it up (Grandpa just barely made it in there in time--he arrived there Wednesday morning from Houston, and the grave certainly looked fresh, much to our surprise when we checked on it Wednesday afternoon). We raked a bunch of the dirt up that had been off to the side, and Bill did a good job of centering it a bit more on the stone. We also discovered that the ground was harder than it looked and went ahead and used the shovel to dig the holes for the mums ahead of time; otherwise we'd have been there for half an hour trying to do it with little hand trowels.

After the mum planting, we all trooped down the road to the farm for a great luncheon prepared by Mom. Appetizers and drinks were set up in the old house, and many of the attendees enjoyed being in the house as they remembered it from their childhoods, and I think they all quite enjoyed seeing how nicely Mom has fixed it up.

After it was all over late that afternoon, we were all kind of partied out. And eaten out, since we'd been eating quite well ever since Thursday evening. I believe we all had popcorn for dinner, with the exception of Trevor and Jonathan, who had macaroni & cheese. I even watched an episode of Monster House--I didn't have much more brain function than that.

Sunday everyone was gone by lunchtime, and you can guess when the rest of us did. Daddy slept through phone calls in his chair downstairs in front of the television, Mom went out to the little old house to sleep and was out there nearly three hours, and I slept upstairs while Jonathan cuddled up to me and watched television. Thank heavens for the kids channels on satellite!

Monday Daddy and I visited the Mid-Continent Library again (went there in June as well). Got some more documentation, nothing earthshattering--did find one very nice obituary about my great-great-great-grandfather of whom I had previously known only his last name. His full name was John Jeffrey; his daughter Sarah Jane married Charles John McCullough, and their son John Jeffrey McCullough was Kitty Lou's father.

John Jeffrey was apparently born in Brooke County, West Virginia, on 8 Oct 1812. He was a tinner by trade but was entirely a self-made man as his father died at an early age and he was the sole support for his mother and seven siblings; this deprived him of the opportunity for formal education. On 19 Nov 1834 he married Jane Weaver (in Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, I think). He served as a Justice of the Peace for ten years, and the obit says that "his love for peace made it possible for all difficulties to be settled without the aid of law"--I'm not sure I fully understand that statement (I thought a JP and the law were on the same side??), but it certainly offers opportunities for further research into records from that time. He was "in his eighty-second year" when he died from pleuro-pneumonia, and was ill only five days before he died.

Wednesday Mom & I took Jonathan back to Science City at Union Station in Kansas City, and he had an absolute ball (Mom wrote about it already in her blog). We were there a little more than two hours, and we didn't even come close to running out of things that he wanted to do. Then we ate at a quite nice restaurant in Union Station (Pierpont's) and headed back to the farm.

The trip home last Friday afternoon also went without a hitch except for when Jonathan spilled apple juice all over his shirt about 20 minutes off the ground from Kansas City. In an inspired fit of maternal improvisation, I took his shirt off and dried it on the air vents in the ceiling. Worked great!

Posted by elizabeth at 11:59 AM | Comments (3)