Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sunday Sermon in Freeport

On Sunday morning after we had let Lucky and Leah out into their pen, Cecelie and I ate toast together. Gerald always gets up early at Freeport and goes out for breakfast and reads the newspaper and comes back to the house when the rest of us are getting awake.

Jeannie and Rick had grabbed the opportunity while we were there to make a short over-night get-away to Chicago before their heavy school schedule begins again. So they were going to church up there, and we took Cecelie to Sunday School at her church, Park Hills Evangelical Free Church. In the past when we have gone with Jeannie and Rick we just tagged along to their class. However, being by ourselves, I wondered if it might be better for us to go to a senior citizens class. We went upstairs where a very elderly gentleman was standing at the coffee table. I assumed he was a host and asked him about a class for our age group. He shook his head sadly and said there was no class because we had missed Sunday School as the opening time had been changed. Puzzled at first, since we had just escorted Cecelie to her class for which she was obviously on time, I continued to listen to the sweet lonely old man explain how he belonged to another church but was here because he liked to stay involved and not let himself get bored. As he lectured on the importance and doing things and going places, I realized that he was indeed stretching himself. Since we were right by the classroom we usually attended, we left the old gentleman enjoying his cup of coffee and darted into the classroom of much younger adults where we were warmly welcomed and had a good Bible study based on a book by Philip Yancey.

Gerald collected Cecelie and we attended the worship service together. There we heard an outstanding sermon on the familiar passage in Ecclesiastes 3. I am still thinking of the pastor's studied conclusion that life is not a puzzle to be figured out but rather a gift from God to be enjoyed. It was comforting to be assured that many things are beyond our control and will happen no matter what we do, but a transition will always occur. Accepting transitions successfully is something we can do somethng about. I felt his brief sentence about the importance of recognizing when it was a time to keep and when it was a time to discard was meant just for me. I am still mulling on that as our week progresses.

We went to Wendy's for lunch and Gerald and Cecelie had a Frosty for dessert before we went back home for the afternoon. Cec was eagerly awaiting her parents' return, but she was easily occupied by the dogs, our walk, the visit of a neighbor child, etc. until Jeannie returned. (Rick had been dropped off at the high school, where his truck was, where he had been working on his math classes before they left on Saturday. While continuing his preparation, he phoned from there to say goodbye and thank us.) I liked hearing from Jeannie about their visit to the Toulouse LauTrec exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute that Rick was kind enough to take her to.

We quickly said our goodbyes and left at 5 and got onto Route 20, which we had learned the day before is the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Highway. We were intending to get a motel on the way back home, but the closer we got to home, the livelier Gerald became. We arrived at Woodsong at three minutes after midnight. We listened to reports of Hurricane Katrina as we drove down Route 57 and prayed for those in that awful situation knowing that much of what was going on was beyond their control and they were indeed going to have terrible transitions ahead of them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Concerts at the Stephenson County Fair and at the Coffee House and then Galena

We made our annual jaunt to Freeport to attend the Stephenson County Fair and heard Leslie sing her fourth concert there--and Elijah sing his first. Although the kids did not start school until Friday, Jeannie was already at work on her grant job, and Rick was involved with teacher meetings and tennis practice. So their schedule was quite challenging all week long.

We went up on Wednesday and arrived in time to go to the house first (barely) and onto the fair for Elijah's 4 p.m. concert. He was quite good and interspersed his songs with jokes. Afterwards we walked through the art and home/hobby building, and I think Gerald and Cecelie got to see some farm machinery and animals. We went to Culvers for supper according to our tradition altho this year we dropped Les off at a gathering of her friends.

Since Jeannie and Rick were at work, on Thursday we took Leslie to the Coffee House at l0 a.m., where she was to sing for four hours. Cecelie and I stayed and listened and enjoyed fancy hot chocolate, etc., until noon while Gerald and Lige went to Farm and Fleet. They joined us there for lunch, and then we all went home until time to pick Leslie up.

Jeannie and Rick needed to take Cecelie and Elijah back to the fair Thursday night to ride the rides since that was wrist-band night. Consequently, Gerald got to drive Leslie to and from that night's social activity at the pastor's daughter's home. I got to rest and read a book!

Friday morning Les and Lige both had their first day of school--just a half day. Cecelie, who was starting first grade, had only an hour or so in the afternoon, so Jeannie took off work and took her while I took Leslie out to the beauty school at the college for manicure and hair appointment.

Leslie's hour concert was at 5 that evening, so we again attended the fair. To say we were thrilled with her singing as we had been with Elijah's is a grandparent's understatement.

Afterwards, we walked through the lamb house and saw more machinery and animals before Rick took us all out to dinner. Since Lige and Les were leaving early the next morning for a youth retreat, Jeannie wasn't wanting Les to socialize--but a couple of friends who couldn't make it to the concert showed up in their car for her to sing some of her songs for them -- and presented her with roses.

Ever since Jeannie and Rick moved to Freeport in 1995, I have wanted to go to Galena. On Saturday morning after Jeannie took the older two to church to leave for their retreat at Dixon, Gerald and I and Cecelie took off through northwestern Illinois, and we saw Jo Daviess County for the first time.

The panorama of the gently rolling hills and beautiful farms were magically picturesque. You could see for miles and everything was gorgeously green. We stopped at the wooden-staired tower and climbed to the very top (puff puff) and could see even further. The tower itself was a work of art, and Cecelie loved it.

Galena was as pretty as I imagined, and the diversity of architecture there is unbelievable. One of the earliest of Illinois towns because of the river and the lead mines, Galena had reached its height of population with 14,000 before the mines gave out and the railroads replaced the river transportation. With under 4000 population, the residents there welcome over l00,000 tourists each year including an annual Boy Scout celebration of President Grant's birthday.

We visited the beautiful Italinate home the citizens of Galena gave their hero General Ulysses S. Grant when he returned from the Civil War. Gerald said he bet they built and furnished it for $l0,000, and we were to learn from a brochure that actually it was all for $2500! Five bedrooms, lovely parlor with horsehair furniture, dining room set with the china they took to the White House, library with two huge bookcases filled with books, and kitchen and pantry and a little room off the kitchen with a bathtub! Kerosene lights, of course, and fireplaces in downstairs rooms and coal stoves in the upstairs bedrooms. A sweet little dressing room for Mrs.
Grant with a sewing machine. No servants quarters as they only had day help despite all the entertaining they must have had to do.

The library contained the statue of President Lincoln, General Grant, and Secretary of War Stanton done by sculpture John Rogers. I encouraged Cecelie to help me remember that to tell her mother who would be interested.

Julia Dent Grant was the first president's wife to be called the First Lady as all have been called since. She entertained lavishly in the White House, and their daughter Nellie was the first presidential child to be married in the White House.

We also visited the little general store next door to Grant's home and the Market House downtown where we saw more displays on Grants' life and his saddle and Mrs. Grant's tiny size 4 shoes on display.

Elihu Washbourne's home was only open on Fridays we were told. We could have spent a week in Galena and not seen everything, but we felt we and Cecelie had absorbed about all we could absorb in this lovely lovely history-laden town with more stairs going up and down the hills than you can imagine.

Taking a different route home, we crossed into the dairy land of Wisconsin and stopped for a drink at a little store where they made and sold cheeses. Gerald and I had old-fashioned bottles of root beer, but Cec chose that modern harsh blue stuff in a plastic bottle. We sampled cheeses with toothpicks and took home a goodly supply. Since we had let Cecelie choose Happy Joe's for lunch, we decided supper at McDonald's (her second choice at lunch)might make a perfect ending for her day and she agreed. The dogs Lucky and Leah were glad to see us.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Summer is almost over.

Two local grandchildren, Samuel and Geri Ann, started back to school with registration Friday. Geri Ann's middle school softball team played four games last week plus in an all-day tourney on Saturday. I am always reluctant for summer to end, and this year is no exception. Fall and spring are my favorite seasons, but I feel a certain melancholy at the death of summer's greenness. The start of a new school year has always seemed to me as the true new year rather than January 1 in the middle of the year.

Brian came down to mow his government ground, and he worked hard all day long and into the evening on Saturday. He did not work any harder than Trent and Brianna and Sam played, however. It was so hot that without Geri Ann here to encourage them to get outside and play dodge ball, they stuck under the air conditioning watching videos and playing their various electronic games in a world of their own.

I had dallied on Friday and postponed my grocery shopping trip until Saturday morning. Guess I wanted to stay under the air conditioning also. I had okra cut up to fry for lunch when I came home and thought with sliced tomatoes, I would serve the fried chicken I bought at the Kroger deli and the apple crumb pie I bought from the Apostolic church women's group outside Krogers on the sidewalk in the heat. I was attracted to the teenage girls at the table and wanted to encourage them--and I also did not want to fix a weekend dessert. When I got home, I found out David was working as Brian was, and I decided to just serve the chicken and tomatoes and fry the okra for supper.

Just as I went up to start supper, David called and said he'd bring home a couple of the bake-in-your-own oven pizzas, which he did with a large salad. So I did not cook supper. Brian wasn't in yet when we finished eating, and I left everything on the dining room table for him. Before I got upstairs to clean the kitchen, however, David had put everything away. I had an easy Saturday in the kitchen.

And because it was so late when Brian got through mowing, his plans to make home-made ice cream up at their camper and invite Sam up for that instead of the usual smores got postponed until after church today at our house. Home-made ice cream is one of Brian's specialties at campsites.

Before we left for Sunday School and church this morning, I put a meat loaf and beef roast in the oven, so all I had to do when we got home was make instant mashed potatoes, slice the tomatoes, and finally fry the okra. The bake-sale pie had not been cut yet, so that was still available to go along with the truly delicious ice cream. Brian and the kids had to start back to Lake Saint Louis, and we sent some tomatoes and okra home with them for Mary Ellen to enjoy this week since she could not be with us today.

I ran by the Cedars' house yesterday morning for the first time and went through the changed rooms. The workers were up on the roof, and they didn't even know I was there. It is a long way from finished, but I love the open spacious look.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Powerful Southern Illinois Writers

It was exciting last night to listen to several local writers share their work at the Writers Guild at John A. Logan College. Those sharing ranged in age from a Herrin high school graduate who is leaving now for his second year at Florida State and also his father to some of us in our seventies. There were fiction pieces, oral stories, humorous pieces, nonfiction and yet another tantalizing chapter from our president Linda Allen's mystery novel. I can't wait until she finishes it and I can hold the published book in my hands. I was most impressed with a very original form of writing by Roger Poppin. He delivered an entire series of one or two sentence observations on life that were so powerful that they repeatedly took my breath away. The observations were not exactly poetry, but because the meaning was so intense and so condensed, maybe it could best be described as poetry.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

So Long. It's Been Good to Know You!

After Geri Ann's middle school game up at Zeigler, we all headed to Gerry and Vickie's where a surprise good-bye party was planned for Erin. She had agreed to be there at 7:30 to meet and say farewell to her sister Tara, and a host of us relatives and friends showed up also. Until all the cars parked outside gave it away, I think she was truly surprised.
Tomorrow Vickie and she take the six-hour drive to Notre Dame, and we won't be seeing much of Erin till Christmas break. This will be a big adjustment for all of us--but especially for her parents and sisters and her little dog Chloe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Scientific Experiments

Although Mary Ellen has lived for years with strange stuff growing in her fridge and sink, I had been immune.

However, Samuel started the enthusiasm for scientific knowledge when he placed a tiny container of honey from restaurant meal in the freezer side of the downstairs fridge in the "art room" where the kids hang out. Feeling proud of his success, he shared the results with his cousins.

Inspired by this, the kids discovered that if you take the long narrow plastic sticks of frozen sweet water with multitude of flavors that Katherine had stored in the freezer for the kids--and if you empty them in Gma Sue's washed plastic yogurt cups and then microwave them in the Cedars' microwave that is in our downstairs right now, you will have a yummy yummy slushie. And you can carry on this experiment a long long time as you mix various flavors together. Katherine had one and agreed they were quite delicious and better than any town-bought slushie. However, since we are all nervous about the safety of plastic containers in a microwave, I stopped the experience unless they wanted to go upstairs and get non-plastic containers to use.

This switched the kids to making popcorn in the popcorn popper before they went to bed-- and doctoring it up good with the 48 ounce bottle of canola oil on the popcorn table there in the "art room." Seeing the mess the next morning, Gpa suggested I might need to put a smaller bottle of oil down there. (Since this room is not carpeted, I call it the "art room" to avoid calling it the "make-a-mess room.")

However, before I had considered how to clean up from that, the next morning's experiment was to try and use the oil to make "artificial vomit." I suspect it must have been highly successful. Aunt Katherine pulled out her best school teacher wisdom and after shaming them a bit about the mess, told the kids they needed to pay Gpa $2 for using up so much of his popcorn oil!

Well, they all dug deep and collected coins and presented them to Gpa. Gpa took them with grace and accepted apologies and has proudly shown his riches around. If you want to know why many of the coins are corroded, that is because Trent had tried at some point in time to see what happens when you put coins in acid--I assume vinegar. If you want to know without having to do the experiment yourself, take it from me the acid can really make the coins look groaty.

Since Mary Ellen took the kids back home after a sleep-in morning to rest up from all the traveling, then lunch on leftovers from Sunday dinner, and finally looking at her sister's books of remodeling plans, things are apt to be a little less exciting around here with just one grandchild in the house.

However, we won't get too bored, for Gerald and I started yet another softball season yesterday afternoon when we drove up to Sesser to see Geri Ann's first middle school game there. Afterwards, we started to go to the Sesser Opry House Cafe for supper and wondered why so many cars were parked there. We walked into a full house and a loud country music concert going on. Fearing we couldn't hear each other talk and that the crowd might prevent quick service and not seeing any place to sit, we got back into the car and turned on soft classical music and drove around some of the lovely park and camping area there by Rend Lake enjoying our region's beautiful scenery during the twilight. Then later as we traveled down Route 57, we pulled off at Seasons restaurant and found a quiet place where we had a very good sandwich. We continued listening to beautiful music all the way home, and it was a nice ending for our day.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Saying goodbye to Erin

Since Gerry and Erin were home from Salinas, they and Vickie, Tara, and Geri Ann were able to join us and the Cedars and Trent and Brianna for Sunday dinner at Woodsong. Special guests were cousins, Renee and her son Tyler.

Erin leaves us this week for fall semester at Notre Dame, and there is a certain sadness in our hearts although we are also happy and excited for her. We just won't be able to see as much of her. But that was also true when she started kindergarten. And it was true when high school and all those activities took up even more of her time. So I put a blue table cloth on in her honor with gold paper napkins, and Gerald picked golden blackeyed Susans, a handful of small sunflowers still blooming, and some of the partridge peas (warm season native grasses planted on the set-aside ground) for us. And Renee skillfully made a couple table arrangements for us. When two or three tiny insects turned up on the flowers on the kids' table, that added great meal-time entertainment for them.

David took Samuel and Trent fossil hunting yesterday while Brianna, who had spent the night with Geri Ann, went on their shopping trip to Fairview Heights.

Soon now Mary Ellen will be arriving to spend the night and collect the kids after being at Hilton Head for the weekend. She called about 2 or 3 and she and Brian were in Savannah and waiting to go on to Atlanta, where their ways would part. He is going to work in Florida this week, and she flew back to St. Louis and is now driving down.

Southern Force 2005

Another team from east of the Mississippi River won the 18 and Under Girls Softball Gold Nationals at Salinas. Southern Force was the first team east of the Misssissippi River to do so--last year at Marietta. Congratulations to Virginia Shamrocks.

Reflecting on the 2005 Summer season and the fact that the Gold Nationals at Salinas did not turn out as hoped, Gerry had to admit it was a great summer to finish 5th at the Champions Cup, win Orland Park and Cincinatti Sluggerfest, as well as Mattoon, and finish 3rd at Nashville, TN, with an overall record of 48-9-4. Congratulations to Southern Force, and best wishes to all the girls going off to play college softball. And may all the high school girls have a great year of study and play.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Southern Force on their way home

I am sad to report that Southern Force lost their game yesterday, so they were eliminated at Salinas. The last we heard from Gerry he was at the airport for a two hour wait till he started home.

A Surprise Visit from Jane and Vanessa

Katherine called me upstairs late yesterday afternoon saying I had surprise visitors who would make me happy, and they did. There stood my niece Jane and her daughter Vanessa, neither of whom I had seen for a couple of years for some reason. Vanessa was all grown up getting ready to start high school next week. I was so confused that I thought she was her older cousin Leana--even tho she looked like herself and not Leana. I finally got my bearings and adjusted to Vanessa's being an attractive young teen now and no longer the cute little girl who hiked at Ferne Clyffe with us. She is not only good at math and science, but she is very interested in art. I was glad to be able to call Brianna up to meet her second cousin. We had a good discussion with the girls about, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Brianna will be in the fifth grade next year, and I think she will fulfill her goal to be a writer. I have found little books left behind, which she has writtten, for years now. Of course, she also has other interests--space travel and dog training, etc. We also got fresh news and updates on Vanessa's older brothers Ryan and Sean--both of whom are in college now.

My brother had just told me on the phone the other night that Jane would be on a 1-3 month paid time-off from her employment as a respiratory therapist as her company was making some significant changes. So Jane and Vanessa were on their way to vacation in Texas and stopped by.

Jane read some of her poetry to me. The special one she gave her mother for Mother's Day about unconditional love made me tear up. She has filled four journals of poetry since college--all written in long hand in that neat beautiful script she has. One of her goals while she is off work is to get them typed onto the computer.

I had not started supper yet--though by the end of the visit it was suppertime. I had cooked a couple of chickens the day before and had them (uncut up) with broth waiting in the downstairs fridge and was planning on making dumplings with tortillas for our supper for the seven of us here at Woodsong this weekend. I did invite Jane and Vanessa to stay, but they felt they needed to get on down the road. I was afraid it would take me quite awhile to get the meal on the table (and it did) so I did not insist they stay on.

But their visit was a lovely addition to an August day.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I Had It All Wrong

Southern Force is still in the tourney at Salinas. I was incorrect that it was single elimination. Although we lost our first game to the Arizona Hotshots and, thus, went to the losers' bracket, we can continue to play. Yesterday we won over the RBI Monarchs.

Ginger's angiogram went well, and no blockage showed up. Garry got to take her home yesterday evening. In fact, as they were going through the village of Ware, Garry saw people going into the church there for prayer meeting and said to Ginger that they could go. Ginger replied that she was all ready and willing, so they stopped to give thanks before reaching their farm. (That is why when Ernestine called from camping in the Tetons to find out about Ginger, we were unable to reach Garry and Ginger at their house.)

Mary Ellen, Trent, and Brianna arrived around 11 last night, so Samuel woke up happy this morning to have two buddies to play with. Mary Ellen lingered over the breakfast table just as Brian knew she would--so we had a nice visit. They are off this evening for a long weekend at Hilton Head Island, SC, where Brian is to receive an award from work. (The trip is part of the reward.) So the kids are staying here while they are away.

I had a little late night adventure because Mary Ellen told me that Katherine's interior lights in her van were on--and the van was locked. Confidently, I got the van keys and assumed I could get them to turn off. After two trips to the van determined not to give up, I finally had to get Katherine (who knew SHE had not turned them on) and she got them turned off and she went back to Internet research for some product needed for their house remodeling--and I finally headed to bed.

I made a huge double recipe of egg plant casserole yesterday for supper (that I had planned to make on Tuesday) and a small cobbler from some apples the Cedars had brought and that no one was eating. I had washed them and placed them in a bowl on the dining room table and while they looked pretty, no one noticed them. (Of course, having watermelon from the garden to eat and peaches from Flamm orchards that I got from Krogers gave the apples some competition. But the cobbler went over well.)

Gerald had already cleaned out all the martin houses, and suddenly we are getting great flocks again flying around, lighting on the houses, and resting on the telephone line. We assume they are on their way to South America.

The ducks Gerald raised and one of the other young ducks who has joined their group and the two remaining young geese have finally overcomed their awkwardness and learned to fly well. It is a pleasure to see them flying above the water as well as swimming in it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sad Activities

We attended a meaningful and comforting funeral service for Ken Boyer yesterday. We kept looking for Garry and Ginger and not seeing them, but I felt certain they were just where we could not see them. As we left to go to Casper Cemetery, however, Ken and Keith told us that Ginger was in the hospital at Cape Girardeau. Keith had felt something was wrong the night before when they were not at the visitation and had started phoning. Ginger had felt strange (not as observably ill as several times in the past when she had life-threatening episodes and was taken by ambulance to the hospital) but Garry thought she needed to be checked out. The ER admitted to the hospital for tests.

At the lovely funeral dinner given by the First Baptist Church of Anna in their fellowship hall, we were able to visit with the Wenger cousins and with friends Harlan and Carmen, and Gerald met and talked to a Shawnee classmate of Keith about the "olden times" in the Mississippi bottoms.

I was looking for my cousin Helen wondering if she would be helping with serving the meal, and one of the helpers said she wasn't but she was in the other room with the leisure club (is that the correct name?) that meets on Tuesday. Glancing out the window, he saw her car and said, "Yes, she is still there. Let me go get her." So soon I was also visiting with my cousin. That was good.

After the meal and the sad goodbyes to Jo, Scott, Stacy, Irma, and others, we decided to go on to Trinity Cemetery as Gerald had hoped to do. He had been wanting to see his grandfather's gravesite there. We neatened up a bit around the tombstone of Ben and Ida Glasco and their 3-year-old daughter Lela who died when Gerald's daddy was four and their son Oard, who was murdered when he was 20. Gerald's daddy never got over grieving for his brother. Daddy had been told once that a person who was involved would approach Daddy before his death, but no one ever did. (The person who was tried for the murder was not convicted.) Not too long ago, someone found an ancient newspaper clipping about the murder in a box from an estate sale and gave it to Garry, who had copies made and shared the clipping with all of us. It was a sad commentary that teenage gangs are not a new phenomenon, and young men traveled in packs back in the 1920s also and were jealous when a handsome newcomer came to the community.

At this point, we started trying to find out about Ginger thinking she was probably already home from an overnight stay at the hospital. When no one answered the phone at their home, we decided to go to Cape as she must still be in the hospital. So we did and visited with her and Garry until evening. We were there when the nurse came in and explained the doctor wanted to do an angiogram this morning to rule out any blockages. We are awaiting news.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ken J. Boyer

We were very saddened on Saturday when we learned that Gerald's cousin Jo Boyer had lost her husband that morning. We will be going to his visitation at Anna funeral home tonight. His funeral is at 11 in the morning.

Jo, or Joyce as I called her at that time, has always been special to me because she was a beautiful teenager in a Sunday School class at our tiny village church at Ware, where Gerald and I first belonged together when we were just married while he finished his last year at SIUC. Then after he finished another year at the University of Illinois, we again belonged to the church at Ware during the three years we lived in Union County to farm the Orville Gambill farm in the Mississippi bottoms. Jo and her brother Larry Wenger were both in an Intermediate Training Union class there also if I remember correctly.

When the Boyers lived at Rochester, a Springfield suburb, we had mutual friends--Helen Ruth and Don Dillow. After they came back and lived at Anna for a number of years, the Boyers moved to Southeast Missouri. Since at that time Jo and I were both in family literacy work, I loved talking to her at family reunions.

I am so sorry the family has lost Ken.

Keith's Birthday

According to custom, the Glasco brothers met this morning for breakfast to celebrate Keith's birthday today. I debated going, but when I heard Gerald up at 5:30, I still wanted to sleep. Unless sister Ernestine is here from Wyoming or something special is up, most of the sisters-in-law prefer sleep to breakfast. However since her stroke/seisure, Ginger wakes up and wants to go to early breakfast with Garry. I always have a twinge knowing I would especially enjoy visiting with her at the breakfast, but usually my desire to sleep wins out as it did today.

Gerald and I peeled eggplant together this morning, and I have enough cooked and mashed to make a double eggplant casserole tomorrow. And I put enough to do the same next winter in the freezer along with a couple quart bags of okra to fry at family gatherings--one of my kids' favorite vegetables.

My friend Phyllis emailed me to explain that she does cover her okra to steam it in the microwave and she even eats the stems of the frozen okra she buys and cooks these days.

The two large bundt pans of zuchinni bread I made on Friday are almost gone. I liked the one best with candied pineapple mango in it as well as nuts, but some of the others enjoyed the more plain bread with just the nuts.

Brianna and Trent were by on Saturday to play with Samuel, but the kids were too excited about playing to eat much. I fixed salmon patties to go with all the garden vegetables. Geri Ann and Sam were both taken up to the camper on Friday night to visit with Bree and Trent. I forgot to ask if they made smores again.

I am sure Brian was pleased to find his crops refreshed by the wonderful rain we had Friday. I got drenched as I left Aldi's with our groceries, but I did not care. The rain felt wonderful to me. We still haven't gotten much here at Woodsong though. Gerald's wonderful canteloupe and watermelon vines are dying.

Grandkids all over the place....

Gerry and his daughter Erin are in Salinas, CA, with Southern Force for the Amateur Softball Association Gold Nationals. Since we won last year at Marietta, GA, folks are aiming for Southern Force. At that level of play all teams are very good, so we may be out in a hurry this year since the tournament has been changed from double elimination to single elimination. It will only take one slip-up to be out of the running. Gerry left at 3 a.m. Saturday from Johnston City to drive to Saint Louis and then fly onto California with practice games that afternoon and I suppose through today. There is no pool play this year, so the games begin in earnest in the morning.

Although 13 of her youth group ended up in the hospital when a fast-moving virus caught up with them in San Diego, Leslie was one of the more fortunate ones and is getting along okay--just a little weak her mother said. This was at the end of a productive and good week in Mexico where the kids interacted one-on-one with children at an orphanage.

After a second antibiotic and a final check up at a special clinic at Monroe, Elijah recovered from his serious ear infection and was able to board the plan with his paternal grandmother on Saturday. Gma Rosie is taking him mountain climbing in Newfoundland on an Elderhostel jaunt especially for one's grandchildren.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An Extended Weekend of Fun

Southern Force (18 and under) and Southern Express (16 and under) Win First Place at Orland Park

For the third year in a row, Southern Force attended the Sparks Invitational Tourney at Orland Park, and for the third year in a row, won first place without losing a game all three years. It was exciting to find out that Southern Express with players from our local towns was also there. And even more exciting when they also won first place in their 16 and under division. Southern Illinois did itself proud.

After bouncing around our decision as to when to leave for the weekend, we decided at noon Thursday to leave at 4 p.m. that day instead of early Friday. We made it off the farm at 4:30, made a couple of stops in Marion for gas and a car wash, and were on our way up Interstate 57. We stopped for supper and the night at Rantoul. And we were in Orland Park for the women's softball tournaments by 9 a.m. on Friday when Southern Force played their first pool play game of that day.

It was good to see Gerry, Vickie, Erin, and Geri Ann and the Southern Force players and parents and grandparents we knew and gradually to meet team parents we had not met before. Although they had planned to play all season, Chelsea Petty and Sojourner Moody had not been able to play until this tourney. This was Sojo's first tourney after knee surgery and she was playing with a brace. Geri Ann was also on the roster, and was actually put in three different times as a pinch runner and scored a run once in that capacity. Last year when we won the nationals at Marietta, we had a very young team, but with many of the girls returning, we had a little older team this year--but if you averaged in Geri Ann's age, we might still have been called a young team. Ha.

Jeannie had learned we were coming up, and since they had not been able to get hotel rooms over in Iowa as they had planned (where Rick was running), she and Lige and Cecelie were home alone. Well, not really alone, for they had Leah and Lucky too, of course. So they decided to join us altho Cecelie had one final swim lesson that morning. So it was after noon before they were able to take off from Freeport. She was unable to get lodging where we were, but they did get a room at Sleep Inn, which turned out to be the place Southern Express was staying.

By the time Jeannie arrived, we had played another game after lunch and gone back to our hotel. So Lige and Cecelie joined Geri Ann in our swim pool, and Jeannie and I lounged and watched them swim while we visited. Then Gerald took our swim group out to supper. As we drove around unfamiliar territory looking for a restaurant for kids, we finally let the kids choose a new restaurant, which they saw like the one Aunt Mary had taken Geri Ann to in Lake Saint Louis area--where the kids played Trivia on a handheld game contraption. We got off the highway and found a place to park and got our party of six to the door and saw the sign: Not open yet. Training session. As we prepared to turn around and head back to the car and highway, these very friendly young people held the door open and with great enthusiasm welcomed us inside. We followed their directions and they urged us to sit down as it would take minute and then guided us to our table and we were handed menus and the kids were given the game contraptions and began to play immediately. All this was done with great friendliness and vigor by the young workers. We were then told to order whatever each person wanted and the meal would be free! It turned out to be a special night for parents and friends of the employees being trained--and I guess also for anyone like us who accidently happened onto the establishment. We had excellent service and the kids and adults liked the good food, and all we spent was the tip! We left with more enthusiastic goodbyes and good wishes from the young employees. We took Jeannie and her two children back to their hotel, where they walked the dogs and swam again in their pool, and we went back to get to bed as soon as possible in order to attend the 9 a.m. game on Saturday.

We only had that one game that morning it turned out. This park welcomes dogs, so Lucky and Leah were able to join us. The play equipment for children was great and right by the park and there were even benches there in the shade to watch the games. We should have had a leisurely day. We planned to treat the kids to the big water park there that afternoon.

Unfortunately, Lige's ear had begun to give him some trouble, and Jeannie was involved trying to get hold of doctors back home to send his ear drops prescription to an Orland Park drug store. This was complicated by the phone number she'd gotten off a drug store drive- through turning out to be the phone number for a different drug store. (Don't ask. We never found out why.) And further complicated by her needing the most recently changed insurance company number to avoid paying $l00 for the drops. So her day was spent calling and calling with Rick's cell phone breaking up repeatedly until finally she got all the needed information to all the right people and she found the correct drug store (after we sent her in the wrong direction after we had lunched) and she picked up the drops and ear plugs and got back to the water park. Again we sat beside the water this time in the hot afternoon sun and tried to watch the kids and visited while they tried out all the exciting stuff at the water park. Geri Ann took on a challenging mentoring job and she was able to encourage Cecelie to get up her nerve to do everything the big kids did.

We went to IHOP for a quick supper cause it was almost time for the evening's game. When Lige could not eat his food, we realized that his ear was hurting more than the usual problem that was cured with ear drops. We went onto the 6 p.m. game with the kids and Lucky and Leah, who of course thought they were as big as any big dog they approached. It was so dry at the park that the girls were playing ball with great clouds of dust surrounding them everytime they ran, and when they slid into base, they were coated with grime. In this environment, Cecelie had entertained herself by carrying dust to the first bleacher and doing art projects there in her little corner with the dirt. By the time the game was over, Jeannie was afraid to start the long drive back to Freeport as planned without something more for Elijah, who was obviously in great pain.

It was still light for Jeannie to search out an urgent care at local hospital but driving those roads with unfamiliar turn-offs was challenging. We took Cecelie back to our hotel, where we were cooled off and I gave her a bath and shampoo but did not have clean clothes to put on her as I had not thought to get them from Jeannie's van. Finally Jeannie got what she thought was excellent care for Elijah for his pain and another prescription for an antibiotic to take care of what was now known to be an ear infection. She picked up Cecelie at our hotel, and they got back home to Freeport at 2 a.m.

She walked into church the next morning eager to hear from Leslie's youth group who were to have arrived back in San Diego after a week in Mexico. The first thing she heard was that most of the kids either had food poisoning or a virus and one was in hospital. Not only could they not go to the church service in SanDiego as planned that morning, they would not be able to come home as planned on the flight home later in the evening! However, Leslie was evidently one of the least sick ones and she and some of the kids arrived home at 3 a.m. Monday. I think the rest of the group were able to come home last night. Leslie seems to be doing all right, Jeannie said, but Elijah had to be taken to his home doctor and received a stronger antibiotic. And told do something more today if he was not better.

I failed to phone this evening. Things piled up on me. We had had a phone call yesterday while driving home from a man we know in central Missouri and he was bringing his wife and daughter over to see our house as he was here on business today--and we had talked some time back that he wanted his daughter to see our house because he thought it was just what the daughter and husband needed to build on their recently constructed lake. In all the confusion of re-entry to home life late last night, that completely slipped my mind this morning. So after lunch while I was busily involved deleting emails for three e-addresses, they arrived and really got to see the house in its lived-in condition. We had a lovely visit with them and their adorable 8-month-old baby boy, and then it was time for supper--which I didn't have to prepare very much for thanks to a delicious bowl of spaghetti that David's mother had sent last night. With fresh corn-on-the-cob and tomatoes, we had a fine meal. Moving laundry over to the dryer, etc., putting food and dishes away, etc. kept me busy, and I did not get Jeannie called about Elijah. I hope we have good news in the morning.

Getting back to our mini vacation: After seeing the two Southern Illinois teams accept their trophies Sunday afternoon, we left the ball park about 5 and headed north towards McHenry above Chicago. We ate a wonderful supper at Buffalo Grove at the Buffalo Ice Cream Shop and restaurant. I would definitely recommend it.

Gerald was able to maneuvir the Chicago traffic and then to locate the Pierces' home with his computer directions without our even having to phone for help. We got to our friends' home in time for a great evening visit and heard all about their afternoon jaunt going to a Master Gardener tour and summer picnic. Unfortunately, we did not get to go with them as they had hoped--so I missed the home that has a stuffed lion in the living room! And missed getting to ride a golf cart around a farm home with raspberry plantings and other gardens. But it was still light enough for Willitt to show us his beautiful plantings and shrubs and trees and deck in back on their acre lot and to nibble on blackberries and goose berries from the vines there.

We went to bed late and slept late yesterday morning, and then feasted on orange juice, baked oatmeal, biscuits, two kinds of marmelade, four kinds of jelly, perfectly fried bacon (like I can never do), and hazelnut coffee that I learned to juice up further with instant cocoa! We talked and talked around the table despite all the catching-up the night before. It had been a long time since we had been together as they don't get down to Southern Illinois very often now that Carolyn's mother passed away a few years ago. It is too long a trip to make easily, which is why we had never visited them. Carolyn and I were debate colleagues for two years at SIUC back in the days when men and women had separate divisions! She was also a bridesmaid at our wedding, and we have kept in touch all these many years seeing each other when we had opportunity. We enjoyed filling in the blanks since the last visit and catching up on our children's lives and updates about both families' grandchildren.

We were so stuffed from breakfast that we felt we needed to refuse the Pierces' lunch invitation and the trip around their town (actually Johnsberg rather than McHenry despite the McHenry address I have always used for them). We wanted to stay and visit longer, but the dreaded drive back through the toll roads and traffic faced us and we knew we needed to get back on the road and back down I57 to Southern Illinois. Gerald made it through the city without a problem, and I drove some in the middle of the long drive home although he drove most of the way as usual. What a wonderful luxury to have the roads we have, but the traffic gets heavier every year.

It was a good mini vacation, and I did feel refreshed and invigorated when we woke up at Woodsong this morning. Gerald spent the day getting his garden back in shape and took lots of tomatoes to neighbors and the soup kitchen.