Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ouch! Into the Losers’ Bracket

Shortly before noon, our granddaughter Erin showed up at Woodsong, and we headed over to Henderson, Kentucky, where the Southern Force 16-and-under softball team was playing today n the Amateur Softball Association nationals.

Erin is helping her older sister Tara, the Force coach , but Erin has been driving back and forth because motel rooms are few and far between in this area. With 140 teams competing, this is one of the biggest national ASA tourneys ever. Erin thought she would sleep better at home than in Tara’s room with her beloved nephew Aidan.

After lunch in Harrisburg, we traveled on to the Shawneetown bridge across the Ohio River and into the beautiful hills of Kentucky. Next as we drove between fertile fields of corn and soybeans, Gerald was reminiscing about his frequent trips to Owensboro to the soybean processing plant in our old hog-raising days when our little children sometimes rode along. He declared these were the best crops he has ever seen in that region.

The tourney hosted by Owensboro, Kentucky, has games spread out at different fields and towns, so Henderson was a little closer trip than Gerald made on Monday when he drove over to see the first game in pool play. Southern Force won that and also yesterday’s pool play game. Unfortunately, playing the Arizona Hotshots today, we lost our first round of bracket play 3-0 when a great Hotshots hitter did us in with a home room that brought in two other runners after five scoreless innings.

We had five hits and once also had two runners on base—but we did not bring them in, so the most dreaded thing happened. Southern Force is now in the losers’ bracket, and it will take 17 wins to bring them back to play in the championship game against the winner of the winners’ bracket. (Tara’s team did this very thing last year at the nationals in North Dakota and won second in the tourney. But that is a very difficult and usually impossible way to get to the championship.)

It was very hot when we arrived in mid-afternoon. We immediately met our daughter-in-law Vickie, who was headed to the truck to get a bucket and shovel for Aidan to play in the huge sand pile by picnic shelter. She pointed the way to the shelter, where Marie Miller was watching Aidan for her. It was in the perfect location to watch Southern Force play.

Since we had forgotten to throw our lawn chairs in the trunk, I was very grateful to be in the shade with a breeze there instead of on the bleachers under the blazing sun. Gerald was tough enough to stand with Gerry or others most of the time, but I had the extra pleasure of watching two-year-old Aidan.

Seeing him get dirtier and dirtier as the afternoon wore on, we had to remember that it seemed only yesterday that we were watching Tara and Erin play ball while Geri Ann carried her sand bucket around with dirty face and feet. Vickie would bring her to the ball park sparkling clean with shiny face and neat hair, but Geri Ann threw herself into the sand pile play as hard as she does on the ball field now. (She was DH today and got two hits, but not the homerun that put the Hotshots ahead.)

Marie Miller co-cared and co-fed Aidan along with Vickie. She helped Aidan start playing in the sand pile by showing him how to dig holes and shovel sand. She willingly put his shoes and socks back on when he tired. Then when he wanted another session—but with company—she placed her lawn chair and sun umbrella on top of the sand pile to keep Aidan company even as she watched Danielle play. (Danielle got one of our hits.)

Of course, when K.J. and Jett showed up (big kids!), Aidan had all the company he needed as he followed them around in the fenced-in grassy area on the other side of the shelter as well as on the sand pile. Marie kept him hydrated with a bottle of cold tea and Gma Vickie offered a icy snow cone that he loved digging into. Both were pulling snacks out of their bags.

Beyond the fenced-in area and way way over on a hill was an attractive play ground with equipment. Aidan was very outspoken about wanting to go there. Vickie had to show and explain the locked gate on the fence that made it impossible. He kept asking Vickie for a key to that lock, but finally accepted that she had no key.

We were all a little startled when our peace was broken because three boys showed up running from the playground and crawled over the five-foot gate. They saw our worried expressions and hastily explained that they had tickets to the ball game in their pockets and just did not want to go way way around to get in. We were concerned that Aidan would be trying to climb that fence too. He didn’t, but he had a great time with K.J. and Jett trying to figure out how to pick that lock.

Since going into the losers’ bracket meant that Southern Force would be playing at 9 o’clock in the morning instead of sleeping in, Erin needed to stay over and didn’t come back with us. (We weren’t sure we could get her wherever they play by 8 in the morning.) We had a pleasant trip home stopping at Subway for supper.

Lightning flashes and darkening sky with the promise of a welcome rain made it even more pleasant after we came into Illinois. We arrived at our garage just as the first sprinkles began, and it has been raining ever since. We are going to bed with visions of Brian’s corn lapping up the moisture and growing bigger and better ears while we sleep.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Garden Vegetables, Glycemic Index, and Shaking on Salt

Gerald was explaining to me this morning what glycemic index is all about. Interestingly, the desirability of some food items on the index conflicts with previous information given to us by dietitians in the past. GRRR.

For someone like me, who does not like change, trying to absorb the new information is as aggravating as trying to remember what in the world our bank calls itself now. After much effort a couple of years ago, Gerald shifted to skim milk at the dietitian’s request. Now this new information says that whole milk will cause fewer changes in blood sugar or something like that. GRRRR.

The only good thing is that fresh garden vegetables are still highly recommended—and thanks to our neighbor Scott’s garden and Gerald’s, we are enjoying lots of those right now. I had been trying to buy frozen veggies as opposed to canned since the canned has salt added. Fresh, of course, are even better. (I still would like to add salt while cooking them, but people at our table will just have to use the shaker and do that themselves.) Since the younger grandkids, who have just left, seldom touch the veggies anyhow—except for Scott’s sweet corn—that has not been a problem.

We have had three messes of okra to fix in the microwave. (Yes, of course, we like fried okra better--especially the grandkids.) I fixed a huge pot of green beans that Scott and Sonja sent over—and Gerald broke them for us. (No, I did not add bacon for seasoning. They were still delicious.) We have had our first zucchini casserole. (Yes, I would love to make zucchini bread, but until we have guests to eat it, I won’t.) We have had tiny fresh tomatoes for two meals now. (We did not have to worry about salmonella.)

One of our most interesting new vegetables is a squash that Gerald accidentally bought that must have been mixed in with the zucchini plants he purchased. I guess it is an orange acorn squash—which I did not excited as I thought they were all dark green. . I have just halved them, scooped out the insides, and placed them upside down on a plate and put them in the microwave. I even eat the skins. (Yes, I am sure they would taste even better with salt, butter, and perhaps brown sugar. But they are good plain, and certainly simple to fix the healthy way.)

Gerald moved his garden this summer in hopes of getting rid of a wilt disease we had, but he thinks it has moved with him. The Japanese beetles are visiting our trees on the lawn, but I haven’t heard yet if they are bothering the garden. We had been getting generous rain, but right now we are somewhat dry. Nevertheless, we are blessed with great vegetables that make our diet in line with a healthy glycemic index. (Yes, I would like to never have to think about glycemic index on top of worrying about calories, vein-clogging fats, salt, Vitamin K dangers, and whatever the dietitians discover next to dazzle us with.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meals Plus Snacks Are Necessary

“Grandma, can we make corn dogs?’ (Never mind, that we just ate supper a little after six—less than three hours ago.)

Actually, I was glad that while rummaging in the freezer for ice cream that they found the corn dogs that I had bought for this week—and then forgotten about in all the excitement and busyness of the week. I suspect a corn dog is as good a snack as any. So I gave permission for them to fix the dogs in the microwave—but not the oven which they would have preferred for some reason. It is just too hot to use the oven unnecessarily.

As an experiment, I had put a new jar of peanut butter and box of crackers in the den, where I keep grandkids’ treats in the fridge there. So far the peanut butter has been untouched. None of our kids have a weight problem, and I thought the protein better for them than sweet treats. They are definitely not couch potatoes.

With the heat like it is, they have pretty much stayed inside under the AC during the afternoons. This makes me appreciate a big house. I can get away from the noise--most of the time. We have too many grandkids to downsize yet.

What kids like and do not like to eat always amazes me, and, of course, it varies from kid to kid. The three here this week won’t touch a green salad. Yet our church kids adore salads—maybe because their Gma Jo makes some of the tastiest salads in the world and they and their friends found salads habit forming.

I can remember never liking pickles until some cousins were at our house one summer and encouraged me and my brother to start eating pickles off the table before supper was served. We ate the whole bowl of pickles, and I learned they were acceptable food for kids.

When our Erin was little, she liked Neopolitan ice cream and called it "sandwich ice cream." Consequently, the other cousins followed her lead and liked "sandwich ice cream." But this group doesn't even remember that, and they turned up their noses at Neopolitan the last time I bought it.

Meals definitely change while the grandkids are here. However, I did fix a pot roast with all the veggies yesterday, and we ate that again today also for our main meal tonight. Gerald was having lunch again with Gerry today. For the kids, I fixed macaroni and cheese to go with ham and some left-over vegetables (which no one ate) when we got home from VBS. Although I knew our kids always liked macaroni and cheese, I thought their enthusiastic reaction was a little strong. Come to find out, some TV show they watched yesterday had featured macaroni and cheese and threw a craving on them. I was glad I fixed two boxes, so they were free to eat all they wanted.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fifi's Loaning Me Her Rubber Chicken

My three-week search for a rubber chicken for VBS has been successful. Brianna told me Sunday afternoon that Fifi has a rubber chicken. I called Mary Ellen the next day to double check and told her to ask Fifi if I could borrow it. Everyone agreed Fifi said yes. Brianna said Fifi didn’t like the old thing anyway. Now if the Taylor household can locate Fifi’s rubber chicken and not forget to bring it down to Woodsong, I have escaped the dreaded thought that I was supposed to spend $l0 on one. (I had decided as a matter of principal that I would not, but I had not been able to think of another way to pull off the on-going gag each day about the safety of the captain’s pet parrot.)

The called-for colorful ten-foot “parachute” was neatly packaged and delivered to my front porch today while I was away. I have never played with a pretend parachute before, so I have to learn how to explain to the children how to rolls balls around on it and flip them off. Kim coached me tonight. (I still better read those suggestions in my leader’s book again.) Probably some of the kids have already done this and can teach me.

In the same box was my copy of The Cherokee Trail of Tears by photographer David Fitzgerald and with text by Duane King. I had just finished reading Marilyn Schild’s copy she loaned me, and it was so beautiful that I had to add it to my TOT books. I wish I had time to sit down and read it again.

Sonja filled the side of our garage with inflated animals yesterday while I was gone, and tonight I hauled them to a storage room at church. My back seat was filled with sharks, whales, a sea horse, a flamingo, and other air-stuffed objects to use in and around the tropical island I am supposed to create for our games. These are joining the stuffed cat that Charlene has loaned me and the monkeys from Samuel’s house.

The dining room table is still covered with boxes, papers, and the things I had laminated yesterday for the children to use. Tomorrow will be my first day at home this week, so I will need to finalize plans and make efforts to clear that table before grandkids start arriving.

We were saddened when our crop of seven ducklings quickly reduced to three. Gerald was somewhat comforted, however, by getting to see a nest full of baby quail make an appearance.

The ducks and geese cross our lane all day long going to the wheat field for the grain left behind after Scott combined it. Something about an approaching car causes them to want to go from whichever side of the lane they are on to the other side. I slow down and talk to them as I wait. I talk sweet when I am feeling patient. When I am not, I tell them to get off the road. They don’t act like they hear me. Reckon they have bird brains?

We received a gentle half inch rain last night and another during the day today while Gerald and I were both off the farm. As I went in and out of stores this afternoon, the rain wasn't good for the new perm I got this morning, but Gerald says this is just the right time for Brian’s pollinating corn.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Someone stole June"

A friend wrote, "Someone stole June." June happened much too quickly for me too, and now it seems July is already hurrying by much too quickly. I want to yell: Slow down, Life!" Where are those lazy hazy days of summer?

The dining room table is covered with boxes for Vacation Bible School. I am gathering up all the stuff called for in the teacher's book. Stickers, colored feathers, stuffed monkey, etc. Sonja emailed me that she has some of the items I need. Charlene phoned that she has the stuffed cat I was looking for. But I still need a parachute (not a real one--the kind kids play with), a rubber chicken, six foam balls, some egg-splat balls, etc. etc. The writers probably have a staff or a wife to order and gather up all this junk. GRRRR. And they probably have a bigger budget than I do for foolishness. I hope they do some soul searching to decide if they are using their budget wisely, however, just as I do.

Since I was in Carbondale yesterday afternoon, I made a point to stop by the toy store there. I found a rubber chicken, but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend $10 for one. I bumped into Jon Musgrave as I left the store and entered the mall, and I asked him if he had a rubber chicken. I explained: "I don't want to buy one. I want to borrow one for the one day I need it for a five-minute gag." He said he didn't have one, but I had to wonder after I commented that no one I knew owned a rubber chicken and he quipped, "Not that they will admit to."

Making decisions on what to spend money for becomes a problem once you have a dollar or so extra beyond the absolute necessities. The starving people around the globe haunt me. The beautiful faces in magazines of the children with cleft palates who only need $250 for surgery torment me.

Yet I know Jesus approved the costly perfume Mary used to wash his feet. And small extravaganzas that I have given to individuals have blessed me sufficiently that I was sure I had done the right thing.

I have always believed we are wise to build good-looking public buildings and fine highways and beautiful bridges because so many people are helped by these. When we are going down the highway without another car in sight and Gerald points out the million dollar roadway just in front of us, I not only luxuriate in this great richness, but I also know that more people than I can count will also benefit from it just as we are. And when we read about a bridge disaster, veterans being mistreated, or children in bad buildings in inner city schools, we know we have been penny wise and pound foolish. (Or people making those decisions have been. But the decision makers have to have the public's support.)

I have come to realize that I can buy a good product for our home without qualms of conscience (if I can afford it) because I know if there is any use left in the item when we can no longer use it,I will pass it on. If not to someone I know, then to the household giveaway sponsored by the Ministerial Alliance in Marion. Clothing can be taken to Salvation Army and glasses to one of the Lions' collection boxes. I would never deliberately burn something that someone else needs.

I remember reading that wealthy big spenders in the Depression who gave lavish parties argued that they were giving jobs to people who needed them. That made perfect sense to me. Yet there still remains something distasteful when someone gives ostentatious affairs while other are suffering.

On the television today I heard someone explain an advantage to the high gas prices. With fewer people on the road, fewer deaths are occurring. If it were one of my family saved from death, I'd have to choose the higher price if I could prevent the death. Isn't life complicated?

I must go online and decide if I can get a rubber chicken that with postage costs might cost less than the local store. And I must decide whether a few minutes of fun is worth it to the children. All the while I will be remembering that some research shows that we learn better and retain information better if we are having fun. And that is the point of VBS. We want youngsters to learn Bible truths that they will incorporate into their lives. We hope their lives will be spiritually richer and more effective because of this study.

My sister reported that their VBS in Amarilo was one of the most satisfying experiences she had ever had. Picking up and teaching two great grandchildren was part of the reason, but hearing other children also respond with how much fun they were having and wishing VBS could last even longer made her feel she was well paid for her efforts.