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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Costumes '08 -- Take One

Just in case the wig and spider-face don't make it until the actual trick-or-treat night, I thought I'd post some pictures of the party at our church last Saturday. What do you think?  

Shouldn't I just spray her own hair?  I have no words for this wig.  Do you?


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last of Arkansas, Plus a Left Hook?

Not so much story-telling today, but some photos to prove we actually did go to Arkansas and that I'm not just practicing my writing skills.

There are cotton fields all over the place there and we pulled over so Sammie could see one up close.  Brian and I got into a little tiff about whether or not it would be ok for Sam to keep some of it.  I don't know if you can tell, but this field had already been harvested once.  Want to weigh in with your opinion?  Stealing or education?

When my cousin emailed this photo to us, I realized this might be the only one that has all six of us in it. I think I'll keep it.
In Little Rock, a new park had been built down by the Arkansas River. When we pulled up, we couldn't see much of anything. That's because a lot of it is built down in the ground. No merry-go-rounds or swing sets. You come down the slide, then choose from several cave-looking entrances. There are short tunnels that take you to rock climbing walls or other parts of the playground. I've never seen anything like it and the kids loved it!  There's a better description here, but no photos and my photos just do not do it justice.

There are black circles strategically located in the fountain part of the park.  Chase is climbing up to one on this stump.  Look what happens when you push this button...

I wish the photos were better, but they give you the idea.  There's just nothing like a visit with good friends. We had a great time at the park with the Adcock's, out to dinner, and at their fantastic church. I was so blessed by Darrell's worship set in their chapel.  (He's their Worship Director) They have several venues and it was a blessing that he was leading in the traditional setting, so that Grandaddy would really enjoy it, too.  I know there's a reason God separated us, but I tell Him frequently, how I just don't like it one bit!  I'm glad He's more patient than I am.

I started to put this post together yesterday in the waiting room of a doctor's office.  On the way out of said doctor's office, Grandaddy bit the dust.  Though I didn't see protruding bones, I was concerned about the blood I did see and the blood I, perhaps, could not see, so we went to the ER for the afternoon.  I didn't document the bruises and scrapes on his knee, hands and elbow, which would support a story that he actually fell.  This photo could make me look very, very bad, except that I'm right handed and I do sorta like the guy.

Amazingly, nothing was broken, cracked or damaged in any permanent way.  Is this guy tough or what?


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Be A Flirt, Lift Your Shirt

This little episode had me laughing so hard, I was crying.  And, as Brian will tell you, it takes something very unique to make me laugh.

This is about day two of our trip to Arkansas and Brian wanted to take a snooze, since he'd driven the eight hours the day before. I asked Grandaddy to ride up front with me so we could talk.

The trek from Blytheville to Little Rock is an interstate heavily laden with semi-trucks.  I suppose they all are, but this one seemed like mostly semis with only a few sedans here and there.  You know how truck driver humor is a little risque sometimes?  Well, instead of the usual naked lady silhouette on the mud flap, this one fella wanted some real entertainment. His mud flap read: Be A Flirt, Lift Yer Shirt.

I started giggling and pointed it out to Grandaddy and said, "When we pass this truck, you need to lift your shirt."  He smiled.

I'd had two shirts on earlier in the day, but shed the top layer as it grew warmer and my sweater was laying in between the seats.  When we got close to the truck, Grandaddy said, "Honk your horn as we pass by."  So, we got close and I honked my horn.  He took his cap off and starting waving my sweater in the window.

Is this funny to ANYone else?  


Friday, October 24, 2008

Land of a Thousand Nooks

So, can you imagine packing up whatever you could fit in a four-dour sedan and a mini-van, not knowing if you'd ever see your home again?  That's what Grandaddy did when he came to live with us.  At the time, we took about a week's worth of clothes. (I think he only owned about two week's worth.) I can't even remember what all...I remember using the "if someone were to break in, what would they take" test.  Some depression glass, two TVs and a few collectible, antique toys that he loved.

I found it interesting the things he had on his list to get from the trailer.  He assured me that it was just little things and we could fit it all in the car with us. And, he didn't think it'd take much time at all.  Buwahhahahah!

By the time we loaded the van to go to the next stop, we looked a little like the Clampet's when they moved to Beverleeee.  I had to climb over a ladder to tend to the kiddos in the back.  Yes, a ladder.  But that was Brian's find, not Grandaddy's.

Here are a few things Grandaddy wanted to be sure to get:  a piece of rope, a ball of twine, pliers and a rat-tail file.  He also packed a few ink pens, a little box of keys (go ahead and ask me what they're for), a soldering iron and a hand-held engraving tool. While he searched every single drawer, closet and cabinet, he made sure to get a couple more ink pens, a pocket flashlight and several more pocket knives (to go with the two he keeps by his chair).  

I really believe mobile homes should be renamed to something like "crevices for every need" or "secret hiding places on wheels."  I've never seen so many little nooks and crannies. And, it was always a surprise what you might find.  For instance, in the bedroom, we opened a cabinet and there was one blanket (no, not a surprise); a box of pocket knives (no, not a pocket knife, a BOX of pocket knives); a box of other sharp knife things that have sheathes that I don't know what you call them...a whole BOX of them; and, of course, what every bedroom needs, a bunch of electric wire.  In the closet, there was a coffee pot.  That's still the bedroom, mind you. 

We also went through a whole slew of records, with no fewer than eight Statler Brothers' albums.  Grandaddy was specifically hunting for his Brother Dave Gardner and Ace Cannon albums.  We found the Gardner ones, but no Ace.  I'm thinking she had to hock them for this special one:

Was Grandmother a closet-Trekkie?

All kidding aside, we did come across some special things.  I found a Madame Alexander doll in a box under the bed that was in great condition.  Grandaddy showed me a set of drafting tools that were his dad's from around 1900, made in Germany and still in their original case.  He also found some sheet music where his dad had written words to a song that Grandaddy later had a friend put to music more than 30 years ago.  Also in the closet next to the coffee pot was a tin box full of sympathy cards from when my mother and brother died.  Tucked in it were a few cards to them from my mom on Mother's Day.  It was kind of cool to see her handwriting.

To be honest, it was very hard for me to be patient for those few short hours we were there.  I kept shaking my head (in my mind) every time he dropped something into the box.  Then I'd have to remind myself that this is his life, his home.  These are his memories.  And, if a pocket knife and a ball of twine makes the man happy, then so be it.  I know he was energized by the trip.  He's been happily tinkering with his things ever since we got back.

Part of the energy came from the next leg of our jaunt.  We headed to Little Rock to visit my I'm-sure-we-were-separated-at-birth friend, Tracy.

I'll tell ya more about that next time. Keep a look out for the post called "Be A Flirt, Lift Your Shirt."


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How Grandaddy Came to Live With Us

I want to tell all about our trip to Arkansas this past weekend, but it may not make sense until I tell this story first.  So read on and stay tuned for more stories later.

This is the story of how Grandaddy came to live with us.

In the late 70s, not long after their only daughter died, Grandmother and Grandaddy bought a mobile home and moved back to their home town of Blytheville, Arkansas.  Grandmother was one of six children, so they still had lots of family and lots of good memories there.  

Why a mobile home?  Remember that my Grandaddy was a crane/dragline operator all his life.  They moved at least once or twice a year when one job ended and a new one began in another town.  My mother went to 16 schools in 12 years.  Grandmother told me, "I thought it was more important for Jean to be with her Daddy than to go to the same school for 12 years." Their mobile life hinged on a house you could bring with you.  They mostly had what we would call a camper until they bought this mobile home.

I know trailer parks get a bad rap, as well they should in many cases.  If you happen to have a clean park in your town, I hope you'll picture it as the place they chose to spend their retirement years.  (Can you imagine, btw, being retired for 30 years?) When I visited as a young girl, I remember it as a clean place.  It had a swimming pool and a playground and everyone kept their lots very nice.  It was made up of a lot of military folks who were stationed at Eaker air force base.  I met new people each visit who had "adopted" my grandparents as their own.  That always relieved the guilt a little.  The guilt from not visiting more often.  (Not that I had control at that time.)  There was one young couple who to this day still refers to Grandmother as "Grandmama."  

Anyway, the air force base closed, lots of people moved out.  The park changed owners many times.  They filled in the pool and the only thing left of the playground now is rusted out teeter-totters.  When my sister and I visited as adults, we both tried to talk them into moving home with us.  Either of us, it didn't matter who.  It seemed like they lived in a dump.  I know I would never use that word in front of them.  They were old and couldn't take care of the place like they wanted to and we were too far away to be of any help.  But the bottom line was they still had each other.  They would do what they could to maintain the place, but their main goal was to take care of each other.  And they made it clear as long as they had each other, they weren't moving.

I mentioned all the cousins I had there.  I didn't know any of them, mind you.  I knew names and the family tree was fuzzy at best.  How much can you get to know them in a week or so every other year?  

In December of 2004, one of these cousins called.  (They never called.)  She said, "Your grandmother is not well.  She had a heart attack last month and has had surgery.  She's been home most of that time, but is now in the hospital again.  Someone needs to come."

So, because I could, I went.  I was a stay at home mom, Brian worked from home and could easily work anywhere and the lady whom I call "mom" now was able to keep Samantha. In fact, Mom had already planned to keep Sam for a time and we were headed south when we got the call.  My sister, Honor, would've gone in a heartbeat, but both she and her husband worked and didn't have anyone to keep their son.  

On the drive there, I asked Brian, "What are we going to do?  They just can't take care of themselves any more.  They can't stay there."

He answered, simply, and without much thought at all, "They'll come live with us."  He's like that.  Always feeling like God has blessed us in such a way that it makes it easy for us to bless others.

I should mention here that my first thought was, "They will?"  I had no idea how all that would work out and there were so many questions and so few answers that I just stopped asking them in my mind.

Grandmother was in the hospital when we got there and was making some sense the first day.  You could tell she was right in her mind when she didn't want to talk about coming to live with us.  "I'm not going to have my kinfolk taking care of me," she said.  Grandaddy couldn't hardly form a thought, he was so worried about her.  He just said, "Let's wait and see."

I was with her in the hospital the next day, trying to encourage her to eat when she had another heart attack.  She had a living will, but apparently none of the staff knew that.  It's very hard to be the one to have to say over and over as each new nurse, aid and doctor came in the room, "She's got a living will, please don't hook up any machines to her.  She's a DNR.  Please don't do that, she doesn't want that."  

She called Grandaddy's name, so I got Brian on the phone and told him to bring him right away. She died before he got there.  She was 89.  He was 91.  They'd been married 62 years.

For the next day or two, we planned the funeral and talked to Grandaddy about coming home with us.  At the time it was, "just until we get things sorted out."  

He'd say, "Kris, what are we going to do about my back?  I can hardly walk."  Then he'd ask, "Kris, where am I going to sleep? Kris, what about the baby? (I was expecting Chase at the time.) You can't take care of two babies and me at the same time."  

The questions kept coming and kept coming.  I had as many or more running around in my head.  Finally, I said, "Grandaddy, I didn't say I had all the answers.  We'll take it one day at a time and figure it out together."

So, we loaded up all the things we could in our car and another friend's van who lived close to us and he's been with us ever since.  

He's never wanted to go back.  Until about two months ago, he said, "There's a few things I want from the trailer."

Which is why we went to Arkansas last weekend.  The next post is called, "The Land of A Thousand Nooks."


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sweet What?

I love food.  I love going out to eat and I particularly love fancy restaurants.  Not only for the new food I get to eat that someone else has prepared, but for the relaxed atmosphere.

Grandaddy loves to go out to eat and doesn't even mind spending the money, but he hardly ever likes the food.  Brian loves to go out to eat, too, but he can't get behind the high prices and the three hours it takes to eat.  It's sort of a running joke that we could be at the ritziest place and he would still order a hamburger.  (Ask him about the $25 burger he had in Boston.)

So, last night when I snuck out sans children for a few hours, I peeked in one of the fancier places in town called Tallent.  I've been there once before and drooled at the thought of the dessert I had ever since.  (Essentially, it was bananas foster made infinitely better with a drizzling of hot fudge sauce.) I thought I'd have an appetizer and fancy dessert and hope to get out of there for less than $30.  

I think the chef must have some tie to Kentucky because the new Fall menu had hints of Southern flavors.  I ordered an appetizer that, as I recall, was described as "cheesy grits with country ham gravy and fried sweet bread."  I thought to myself "Cheese? Country ham?  Fried bread? I can not go wrong."

So the largest plate came to my table with the tiniest bit of grits and some tennis ball-sized fried thing was on top all smothered with gravy. When I cut into it, I sensed something was not right.  And then a little bell went off in my mind. A phrase I'd heard years ago and I couldn't hardly swallow.

I got the waiter's attention and sheepishly confessed my ignorance.  "I'm so embarrassed to even ask this, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought 'sweetbread' is a term to nicely describe animal testicles."

You should've seen the guy's face.  A slight grin, completely reassuring.  He said, "Oh no, no, no.  You don't have to worry about it.  No gonads here."  I was relieved, to say the least and yes, he did use the word "gonads".  I don't know even how to spell such a thing.

I picked up my fork and took my next breath to thank him for the info when he added, "No, sweetbread is actually the thymus* gland of a baby calf."


He must've seen the look on my face, because he kept on going.  "It's a gland in the back of their throat that they eventually outgrow.  Humans don't have it.  Only baby calves." As if this further definition sounded better than what he said to begin with.

I was at a total loss for words; truly an uncommon feat in my mouthy mouth.  All I could think to say was, "Could I see the dessert menu, please?"

Just when I thought I could end this crazy meal on a good note, I read the new Fall dessert menu and no bananas foster to be found.   

No wonder Brian always sticks to the burgers and gets an ice cream cone on the way home.

*Sweetbread link here, if you're into that sort of thing.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

En Garde

When we went on our trip a couple of weeks ago, the first report we got about Chase was that our friend Scott was teaching him to sword fight.  I guess he doesn't get much of that what with all the princesses and Barbie things around.

So, when Brian saw the lightsabers at Disney World it was a quick decision to get a pair for Chase as his souvenir.  (He was only slightly miffed when he saw the same ones at our local Wal-Mart for about $10 cheaper.)

It wasn't until I heard "En garde" over and over again from the other room that I realized that Chase wasn't the only one lacking in a little dueling action.  
Some things never get old, I suppose.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Old Men and A Kindred Spirit

Remember that old Dean Martin song, "Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime?"  

I thought of it yesterday as Grandaddy sat with one of his newer old friends having coffee and donuts.  

Grandaddy had to stay in a retirement community while we were building our house and was absolutely dreading living at Redbud with all those "old" people. Remember, Grandaddy was 91 at the time. They had the same table mates at each meal and one of them was a retired professor from IU named Dave Kaser.

I remember MANY years ago, Grandmother and Grandaddy both saying they never spent much time with people their own age, because it made them feel old.  So, by "younger" it could have been people they'd worked with who'd been 20 years younger (and still pretty old to me) or it could have been the very young military families that moved in their trailer park for a stint at Eaker air force base.  

So, this retired professor is a very well-read man having his p.h.d. in library science. Grandaddy said it was all he could do to finish 11th grade.  Dave has traveled the world as a lecturer and Grandaddy traveled the country following whatever construction jobs would put food on the table. He and Grandaddy couldn't have very much in common, but they hit it off very fast.  They talked about everything during those meals and Dave Kaser was the only good thing Grandaddy ever said about Redbud Hills.  

As they visited in our kitchen yesterday, I heard them talk about a little bit of everything.  Old jobs, old times, Dave's international travels and Grandaddy's 30 some-odd moves around this country.  

At some point Afghanistan came up and Grandaddy kept mispronouncing it.  Dave never once tried to correct him.  I don't know why I see that as such a mark of respect, but I do.  And, am sad to say, I wouldn't have had the same restraint.

Grandaddy shared about the day Grandmother died and cried about the fact that he couldn't get to the hospital in time when he knew she was asking for him.  Dave comforted him.

Dave shared about how he does ok, but doesn't get around like he used to and Grandaddy comforted him.

When it was time for Dave to go, Grandaddy called me in.  I took my cue to say that he was welcome any time.  That this is Grandaddy's house, too and that without invitation, we hoped he'd come back whenever he could.  Grandaddy was crying again.

And he stood at the door, watching him drive away for a long time trying not to let me see him cry.

And, so I say, old or young, educated or not, well-spoken or well-"accented"....

....everybody needs somebody sometime.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Key to Early Learning? CANDY!

Last year Chase dressed up as a cow for Trick-or-Treat.  He had just turned 2, so he wasn't familiar with the ritual at all.

We'd start up to the house and stand back a little urging him to knock on the door.  The neighbor answered and we'd urge him to say trick or treat.  

"Trick o treat." Gorgeous little grin.

They'd ask what he was dressed as and we'd urge him to say cow.  

"Cow," he'd say.

They would inevitably ask, "What does a cow say?"  And, we'd have to encourage him again.  "Say 'moo', Chase."

He'd give his best, "Mooooooo."

After about three houses he had it down almost without a breath...