I am doing some reading on why and when governments began collecting vital statistics on their citizens, and I would not have guessed the driving force. According to Val D. Greenwood in Researching American Genealogy, the original impetus for state or national registration of births, deaths, and marriages was to protect property rights--but this wasn't very effective, especially in the ever-growing American territories. It was actually "medical men and statisticians" who provided the reason necessary to set up and enforce accurate registrations--without that basic information about the population it was responsible for, the government could not really know how bad a cholera or plague epidemic was. Lovely thought, isn't it?
I also found out that the reason nothing is kept on a national level here is, of course, the Constitution. All powers not granted expressly to the federal goverment are reserved to the States--and in 1787, Mr. Greenwood points out, no one saw the need for vital registrations. This means for us family historians that one must check on a state-by-state, county-by-county basis for people, which is sometimes very reminiscent of looking for a needle in a haystack. In Ohio, which is where most of my dad's side of the family is from, deaths were not recorded until 1867, and then only at the county level; state-level registrations don't begin until 1908.
Tonight I made one of my favorite shrimp recipes since we'd gotten a pound of shrimp free with a Central Market coupon. I hadn't made it in a while and had forgotten how much I liked it! Yum. I must have gotten inspired by Mom's cooking when I was up in Kansas.
We went to a reunion of Excite folks last night at a friend's house, and I took along a lasagne as our contribution to the potluck. Cheap, feeds a lot, and it's easy to make two at the same time (which I did). But I hadn't been too thrilled about the recipe I had been using, so I tried combining bits of it along with a modified version of what's in the latest edition of the Joy of Cooking. I was very pleased with the results--the tomato meat sauce had lots of depth and flavor, and I also used fresh lasagne noodles (fresh but storebought), which I think made a lot of difference. Next time I may try to make my own noodles--lasagne noodles couldn't be too hard, I'd think, just big flat sheets of dough. I put the recipe up on the Karlhub, so next time you are itchy for a new one, try it out.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is Jonathan's 6th birthday, and I confess to being excited about it! For a couple of months it has been hanging over my head a bit--he wanted to have a party with all of his classmates (he went to at least 6 or 7 during the school year), but with the busy end of the school year, preparing for the trip to England, and then doing the trip to Kansas, nothing got done about it. No decision as to where to have it, no invitations sent out, nuttin'. I really, really didn't want to disappoint him . . . but it just didn't seem feasible this year.
So yesterday when we were waiting for the Zilker Zephyr to depart the station, I asked him if it would be okay if we didn't do that this year. And he was fine with that! No protest or disappointment or anything. I asked him who he would like to see on his birthday, and he said, "Jennifer" (too bad since I took them to the airport this morning for their Prague trip, but she came over with Magda Monday evening to wish him a Happy Birthday and give him his presents), and when I asked who else he replied, "Archie, Jessica, and Eamon". That one I could arrange. Whew! I feel like I dodged a bullet with that one. Next year I promise myself that I'll get invitations out to classmates in the weekly folders before the school year ends. I don't want to do this again!
Anyway, we saved all that money that would have gone to a party, and we ended up getting him a REALLY COOL present--check out the Rockwood Jr. drum kit by Hohner. It's a group present from us, Dale's parents, and his brothers. Right now it's sitting in our study--I wrapped ribbon around the drumsticks that came with it and put them out with the other presents on the kitchen table, and I just can't wait to see his face when he realizes he's got a drum kit of his own. When I took singing lessons last spring, the teacher had a small drum kit in her studio, and I used to go early so that Jonathan could have 15 minutes playing on the drums before my lesson started (he wasn't in school yet then). I think he will be in heaven with this. The best part is that there's no parental supervision required with this like there would be with a guitar or other more delicate instrument. I hope it serves as a good outlet for him. Dale has already been teaching him how to read drum notation and he picks it up very quickly, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this.
All the birthday decorations are hung up--signs hanging from the fan, tinsel on the wall, "Happy Birthday" signs on the windows and a banner over the fireplace, and the ribbon curtain over the entrance into the kitchen. His presents can't go on the floor this year due to the presence of mischievous little Kayleigh (who managed to crawl onto the TOP of the kitchen table this evening while Dale was doing the dishes--I wasn't in the room, but apparently Jonathan walked in and said to Dale, "Kayleigh's on the kitchen table", and sure enough she had crawled onto it from the kitchen chair--AARGH!, said Dale), so they are on the kitchen table with birthday hats and noisemakers piled around. In the afternoon, Archie, Jessica, and Eamon will come by to join us for singing the song and having double fudge cupcakes from The Cheesecake Factory (what Jonathan has been wanting for his birthday for about six months now).
Six years old--goodness it's going by fast!
One day I really do hope to put up more information about our trip to Kansas (we returned to Austin LATE last Friday), but that apparently will have to wait . . .
Right now I just wish to say a big "Happy Birthday" to my honey, who is 38 years old today. Who would have thunk it? One year older is one year sweeter. XOXOXOXOXOXOX
No particularly big plans for today. In the morning we'll watch the Tour de France, which is getting really interesting now that they're in the mountains. During the day I shall whisk the little anklebiters away so that Dale can play with his new birthday toys, and in the early evening we shall retire to our local Mexican restaurant (Antonio's) for margaritas and fajitas--a more perfect combination is hard to find. I hope that at some point during the day, Jonathan and I will find time to bake Dale a cake (from a box, alas, my standards have plummeted and gone up in a state of fiery disintegration) so that we can light candles and then blow them out. Probably not 38, though. That is starting to seem like a lot!