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Halloween 2007-42 Here we have Jane as the ballerina in too tight shoes, Leo as Bob the Builder and Mae as Laura Ingalls.  Thanks to hand me down dress up clothes, last year’s dance recital and a mother who won’t throw away good clothes, the cost to me was Zip, zero, nada….Priceless.  My grandmother made me the Laura dress in 1976.  It is a teeny bit long on Mae.  Leo’s hat looks like a fireman’s hat, but it says “construction” on it.  Since we live in the country, we just trick or treated our neighbors, and we were probably the only ones most neighbors had.  We still made a haul that will last through Easter.

As kids we usually t-o-ted in town,  near my grandmother’s house.  Occasionally we would stay overnight with a friend from school, and they would t-o-t in our rural neighborhood.  Mrs. S** was the one who made popcorn balls for each kid she expected (and a few extras) then made up little packets with lots of other goodies as well.   I still remember her fondly.  This year we accidentally found that neighbor here!  I think she only has her granddaughter usually, but we gave her a heads up and each kid came home with a rice crispy cookie with a face on it, and a little packet of goodies.  We will be back next year! 

I do believe Leo messed with my keyboard and the “n” key is not my friend tonight.  How does one fix that?

Riding in cars with me

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In the mid 1980s my brother and I started driving in a 1966 Ford pickup. It was hot -because it didn’t have a/c, although it did have a nifty floor vent thing. Dad had someone paint it, but told him when he had used up the first bucket of paint to stop. It was a medium blue on the outside with a turquoise interior. It had an AM radio good for picking up Denver stations and not much else. The speedometer did not work, so you had to kinda estimate on the fly. I don’t think anyone ever got a ticket, but that V8 would go plenty fast. After driving fast, when we parked, it would backfire, to let everyone else know we had arrived.

When we were younger, as in 10 or so, my brother and I helped the hired man completely overhaul the engine. At the time I could have told you nearly anything about how the engine worked. Since I didn’t keep up in that field though, now I can identify only what is necessary. That was when the average person could overhaul an engine. The worst thing about the pickup was the brakes, you had to pump them furiously to get any action. This probably contributed to its final demise. I wrecked it, flipped it actually, on a gravel road while trying to stop. I wouldn’t recommend that for anyone else. I think the steel in the body probably saved us. We didn’t even have a scratch.

We then graduated to my great grandmother’s 1967 Buick Electra. Now that was a car. Too bad we didn’t have a drive-in theater anywhere near, as you could fit a dozen people in the trunk comfortably. It had 6 cigarette lighters, I believe, one for each passenger. My poor kids will never learn the pleasure of scarring each other by playing with a hot cigarette lighter while on family vacations. One time I parked it in town overnight and the next morning I found a length of garden hose sticking out of the license plate (where the gas tank was). Some poor sod didn’t realize that even though the tank would hold probably 35 gallons of gas, (what was needed to drive 250 miles) I could only afford to keep 5 gallons in it. My brother ended up wrecking it though and replacement parts were not in the budget.

That was the only automatic transmission I remember driving until I was 28. In fact when I took driver’s ed, I told Mr. D. that I had never driven an automatic. This turned out to be a good strategy as I immediately grabbed his left knee which he had sprawled exactly where the stick shift was supposed to be, and slammed on the brake with my left foot. The brake on an automatic transmission is larger than on a standard, and it sticks over where the clutch should be. I repeated this several times and still managed to pass the class. Mr. D. did teach me to parallel park like a professional, and that lesson has served me quite well.

When I got married in 1997 my dowry included a plain 1994 pickup. My husband had a fancy 1997 pickup. We still have the 94, although it has several cow shaped dents as it is now the fencing pickup. We traded the 97 for a car, coincidentally just before the engine blew. I doubt it could have withstood the kind of use the old red pickup gets.

We had a really sexy pickup last year, with chrome everywhere, it was the old, pretty style of Ford, like 92. It had a chrome bumper, mud flaps, running boards, bed rails, everything but naked ladies on the mud flaps. It also had a 6 CD changer and really fancy radio. Some of this should have clued us in as to the previous owner, and his probable driving habits. That pickup caused us no end of headaches, as well as a multitude minor repair bills. It had brake problems as well as some acceleration issues. At the end, my husband went to put it into reverse and the shifter pretty much fell off in his hand. He added a size 8 dent to the front fender then traded it in on a newer, plainer model, still under warranty. I wish we had at least swiped the tailgate off of it, I bet it would fit on old red.

 

What was the best birthday present you got?

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I had been writing my initials, SP entwined for several years.  Dad registered it as a livestock brand in our state, and gave me a belt buckle with it on it.  The best gift I ever gave someone was Auctioneer school for my husband, which gave him the chance to live a dream he had never really verbalized.

   

 

My Reading Habit

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I went to the Dr. today and found out that the baby is a boy.  After four pregnancies, I finally found out.  It was pretty darn obvious, although I did confirm my suspicions with the ultrasound lady, “Is that what I think it is?”  It was.  So, a boy for Leo to beat up.  Good.  We will probably call him Paul.  My husband made the mistake of telling his mother this info and she suggested Wayne.  She has not liked any name that we have chosen.  She got to name 11 children, and that is enough for anyone.  She has a questionable neighbor named Wayne, I would never hear the end of it from hubby’s 10 siblings.  Baby happens to be breech as well.  Great, I get it out of me earlier than scheduled!  We are looking at the first week of  November.  Can’t wait to see how much fun a C-Section is.  Maybe the kid will flip around like he is supposed to and it won’t matter.

My Reading Habit

I come from a long line of readers. My mom was a high school librarian. She decided at one point in her career that she would read each and every hard cover fiction book in her library. I don’t know how long it took her, but she read several hundred, maybe thousand, books to accomplish this. She admits to skipping some of Isaac Asimov’s, since she had so many in the library, but she got through the rest of them.

I started keeping a book diary last November. I found that I read about 10 books a month. In the nearly 12 months since I started keeping track, that makes 116 books. October is not yet done, but I am reading a Uris book which promises to take me into November. That seems like a lot, but I have to admit that many of them are teen books, not particularly long, but not necessarily children’s books either. I have managed to read Roots, Angle of Repose and the last three Harry Potter books, including VI and VII each twice since I have been keeping track, and I don’t believe any month has been fewer than nine books. I read too much. It is a great escape though, and pretty cheap too, considering the library is so close, and free if I keep myself organized. It gets kinda lonesome being a stay at home mom in the country, and having a husband who works at a job all day long and his cow business from the time he gets home from his day job until dark or later.

We added an office onto our house a few years ago. The contractor made me a built-in desk with a bookcase over it. As he installed it, he commented, “nobody has that many books!” Was he ever wrong, and I don’t even have very many books, comparatively speaking. I cleaned up my office the other day and found a stash of dusty magazines I had not read. They were only from the last couple of years and so I am tackling them now. I get Smithsonian, and a person just has to read those, they are too interesting to pass up. The other ones I had stashed away were mostly Nebraskalife, some of those are better than others, but I like to page through them at least, to see if I know anyone, and sure enough I usually do. I try to take magazines on trips, so I can read them to my husband as he drives.

I went to a garage sale today that was only books. There were upwards of 60 boxes of books, the kind the moving companies call “book boxes”. The man was a minister so many were on counseling, religion and just plain old Bibles. The rest of them ranged from classics, like Plutarch’s Lives or what ever that was, to Judith Krantz. Some of it made me raise an eyebrow, but I guess a minister has a right to relaxation just like the rest of us. Apparently they were only getting rid of part of the collection. Wow, my mother doesn’t even have that many books. My dad might. I managed to walk out with 10 books, including Raggedy Ann. I will have to find a spot to put them as all of my book cases are full.

I checked out the list of top 100 books challenged from 1990-2000. http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=bbwlinks&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=85714 (I don’t know how to make it look fancy and short, but that is where this takes you.) I had read 29, and maybe three or four more, I don’t remember for sure. Mom had read 46. It makes me feel like an underachiever. She said she was off to the library with the list. I wonder if she will learn anything about how her body is changing…

The incident of the underwire

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After my third and final child, I figured my body was done changing shape and I had come to an angle of repose, as Stegner would say. Grandma asked what I needed for Christmas, and I was honest and said a bra. She gave me a gift certificate to JC Penney.

In January I took all three kids to JC Penney to go bra shopping. Leo was in a stroller, as he was 7 months old, and the ladies were along for the ride, at 4 and nearly 3 years of age. JC Penney is apparently saving money on labor, as nobody works in the store except the check out clerk, from whom I borrowed a tape measure. I found a couple bras that I thought might come close, so we went to the fitting rooms. The handicap access one was locked. It was the only one with a door, so I chose the curtained room farthest from the changing area entrance. Then I was faced with a choice. I could close the curtain and leave Leo outside in the hallway, or I could put the stroller in the changing room and change in the hallway, with a view of the entire store, or rather the entire store would have a view of me. My third alternative was leaving the curtain open and the stroller in the hallway. I tried this, but the ladies were being “active” and I had a hard time keeping an eye on them without chasing them down the hall while hooking a bra behind my back. I am somewhat modest, and although the store was pretty empty, it seemed a little risqué.

I finally gave up in disgust and bought my husband some long johns with the gift card. I told the cashier, when she asked if I had found everything I needed, that I had not found anyone to help me in the bra department. She said she was sorry but she had to stay at the cashier’s counter.

We proceeded down the mall to Victoria’s Secret. The lady put all four of us (and the stroller) in a changing room that was larger than a standard bedroom, with a locking door and everything. She measured me and found me some bras to try. She even gracefully side-stepped my question about the weird under-arm fat bulges which showed up in one particular style I had tried. I bought two bras, which cost more than the gift certificate had been by quite a bit, but the service and privacy were worth it.

I had quit nursing Leo four or five weeks before bra shopping, thinking that things would be back to normal. About two weeks after the incident, I noticed it looked like I had a couple of golf balls rolling around in my new bras. Have I shrunk more? I don’t have a lot to lose in the first place!

I don’t know of course, since I am pregnant again. For some reason Sears was the only place to buy nursing bras in our town, and they quit carrying their maternity line. Actually nearly every store quit selling maternity clothes between Jane and Leo. You would think the third largest town in Nebraska would have enough customers to keep a maternity shop in business, or at least a place to buy something between WalMart (where I don’t shop) and Yonkers (which I can’t afford). Last week I bought two nursing bras through the JC Penney catalog (it was private, and of course they don’t carry any at the store). The catalog said buy your pre-pregnancy size. Can’t wait to see how that works out. It just doesn’t seem right. My old nursing bras are shot, and they never fit well in the first place. I would have asked about nursing bras at Victoria’s Secret, but I had asked during my first pregnancy and found out that breastfeeding was not her secret.

I am not actually reading the book, but it looks good.  Will have to check out the library.

Random outside thoughts from September

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This must be a good year for toads. We have them all over the place, and the darn things eat mosquitoes, so I hate to step on them, but it is hard to avoid. They are quarter sized on up to prince-kissing size (maybe that was a frog). We probably have nearly one per square foot of lawn, well maybe less than that, but they are everywhere. Maybe we are low on garter snakes…Dad always said the coyote and rabbit populations were dependant on each other. I haven’t seen many snakes this year, but not because I was looking for them either.

I am ashamed to admit it, but we have had 17 extra inches of rain this year, timed pretty well. Our annual rainfall is around 22 or so. I feel bad for the people at the other end of the state with 5 inches so far this year, about half of what their average is. We did not water our lawn this year, until last weekend, and then just a few dry spots under the trees. The rest of it looks pretty healthy, but we aren’t expecting a Golden Spade Award any time soon.

It is a good thing we live in the country, otherwise our neighbors would be calling the city on us for not maintaining our property and causing adjacent property values to decline. We let our lawn get way too tall sometimes, then I have my homemade automatic mulcher, which involves a tarp strap holding the grass shooter up so the grass scatters. When the lawn gets too tall this leaves attractive windrows of dead grass in the lawn. I let it cure for a day or so then mow again, scattering the dry grass further. I have learned that if I don’t fertilize my lawn, I don’t have to mow it as often, same goes with watering. Our garden can become an eye-sore being right along the road and full of 6 foot weeds.

Somewhere in Nebraska there is a line, on the west side of the line, rural people just have a yard that looks ok, not especially nice. East of that line (where we live) rural people haven’t got the memo that they live in the country and they keep their lawns up like town folk do, but probably using stronger chemicals, available only to farmers. Our neighbors water their lawn pretty much every day, and mow it probably twice a week. Sounds like a waste of water and fuel to me, but their lawn looks great.

I lived on a farm in Wyoming where my boss actually ran the swather across my lawn a couple times a year, followed by the bailer. It doesn’t take long to mow when you have a 30 foot wide mower. The bales were pretty small though. We have too many trees for that to work here, otherwise I would be tempted…

Right now I am outside, and one-year-old Leo has the hose. He is learning all about fluid dynamics, and how to spray himself in the mouth. He is having a blast. He is a mower man as well, climbing up on the lawn tractor every chance he gets. I turned my back the other day then when I looked back, all I could see was the soles of two feet disappearing on the far side of the mower. He has some sort of rolling head-first dismount figgered out, because he was not upset in any way and he landed on the concrete. We better keep it parked on the grass I guess.

I looked out on the deck the other day, and there was Ariel the Mermaid sunbathing in the nude. It seems her natural pigmentation would preclude such behavior. When Jane went out to get her, she wasn’t even burned. Now I am jealous. Most of my ancestors came from England, so I didn’t develop the tanning gene. I don’t do much of anything, unless I burn, so I stay out of the sun. I guess it is probably safer that way. My husband never burns, he just gets darker and darker. Someday we will probably be visiting a dermatologist as a result of this, but he isn’t worried.

Leo moves so fast these days, the other day he disappeared. He decided to walk around the corner of the house, and down the driveway to greet Daddy returning home from work in his huge pickup. We need to put a little fence thing in that part of the yard. He doesn’t come to his name yet, so if he wanders, you have to go searching. We have asked the county to put a Slow Children sign in front of our house, but they are not in a hurry to do that. Even if people don’t slow down, maybe they will keep an eye out, if only because they think my kids are slow.

Rail travel at the turn of the century

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This has been a busy week at our house.  Janie had to have the root of a tooth removed Monday.  Somebody, ahem, put her on the bed when she was 10 months old and of course she fell off and knocked a tooth out.  She only had it for 3 weeks.  Anyway, the Dentist said 2 1/2 years later that the root had to go.  Then the doggone tooth fairy didn’t remember to visit the first night the root was put out.  Whoops. 

Wednesday the husband had nose surgery, hopefully to cure his snoring problem as well as let him shut his mouth without actually dying of asphyxiation.  We shall see.  He has been hanging around the house a lot, it is kinda weird having him around so much, but then he can’t help because he feels so lousy. 

Then of course, I made it to the chiropractor twice.  My lower back hurts and it is all I can do to waddle around chasing Leo.  Fortunately he prefers to climb, so I don’t have to bend over much.  I have to leave the kiddos in the waiting room while I go back.  So far they have not caused any problems.  Today a lady was waiting on her husband and she read a book to my kids.  Nothing like a small town I say.  I have been having all kinds of shooting pains up and down the back of my thighs.  I am counting the days until this kid gets out of me.  Thirty eight give or take a couple.

 

Rail travel at the turn of the century

I have taken two train trips in the last year, both starting from central Nebraska and ending in Denver. Amtrak has a ways to go before they make any headway in transportation in the US, and that is too bad.

Good things

1. You don’t have to drive or stay awake

2. The clientele is less spooky than bus travelers, in my limited experience

3. It probably isn’t more expensive for one person than driving with gas at $3.00/gal

4. Lots of leg room

5. Lounge and Dining car to relax in and meet people

6. There is kind of a romance about rail travel

7. You get to see the Denver Stock Yards (and other stuff you might not happen across)

8. The employees are exceptionally nice

9. Old train stations are cool

10. Less pollution than all those people driving, and probably flying as well

11. No waiting in line for security checks

12. You keep your luggage on the same car as you, so it won’t end up lost

Bad things

1. They are so doggone late

2. Only one train goes through a day, so the time may be horrid ie. 2:05 am departure

3. The bathrooms (although they are no worse that those on planes)

4. It is not easy to sleep next to someone you don’t know

I wish people would take advantage of this kind of travel so

1. More trains would run

2. The rail companies which own the tracks would prioritize getting Amtrak though

3. Amtrak could update some of its equipment (I think some of their engines are old)

4. More routes could be added