Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer 2009: The funny, fearsome, and fascinating!

As far as my summers go, this one ranked up there. Rather than working on my dissertation or consulting on educational grant projects, I simply enjoyed the time with my kids. As I reflect on the last couple of months, I realize that we’ve had some interesting adventures and observations.

Both girls were participating in a softball tournament in town one Saturday. It was a hectic and wet morning. (The tournament was eventually cancelled due to rain.) Between the first two games, Todd went to the car to get some umbrellas when he noticed an older woman on her little Rascal.

The grouchy old lady had driven off the sidewalk and was trying to get her Rascal back up on the cement. Todd was passing a man with a dog on a leash and she was shrieking at him: “You need to keep an eye on your dog!” The situation got Todd’s attention and he turned to see how the man was handling this public scolding. The man turned around and yelled, “I’m blind! Okay?!”

That’s when Todd noticed the white cane and realized that this “seeing eye” dog apparently doesn’t yield to personal mobility vehicles.

Did you notice the large, fluorescent green, flying beetles this summer? Where did these things come from?!

One evening Todd and I decided to make a Walmart run. The kids love to come along on these excursions in the hopes of scoring a new toy or trinket. On this occasion, Annie and the little girls from across the street came running over to the yard. Todd told them that we were running to the store and Tana would be in charge.

Annie begged to come along but Dad was firm and told her she had to stay home this time. In reply Annie said, “Fine. We’ll just shake our butts and leave!” With that, the three girls turned and walked away.

Over the 4th of July weekend we all (except Lisa’s clan) went to Dad and Mom’s. While the grandkids set off fireworks, we all enjoyed the nice weather and each other’s company. With all of our families together, we always end up with lots of fireworks to enjoy. The kids have a ball lighting, laughing, and running.

Dad has a large cement slab outside the shed that doubles as a launching pad every year. With our folding chairs in a semi-circle, everyone had a great view. Of course, we were also telling stories and jokes as well as taking pictures. There’s always lots of laughter when we are all together.

Mike, Jessi, and Caitie were handling the larger fireworks. We had several mortars that were dropped in a tube so that they would shoot straight up. They were some pretty powerful explosives and made for a beautiful display. However, Mike accidently knocked one over after lighting it—facing directly into our chairs. Marc calmly said, “That’s not good.” Feeling like the world was going in slow motion, Mike yelled, “Ruuuuunnnnnnn!!!!”

Everyone scrambled except Andy who stood there like a deer in the headlights. There were also three of us still in our chairs—Brandee was taking Dad and my picture. We were totally oblivious to all the excitement until things started lighting up!

BTW—the picture of Dad and I is really good!

Speaking of Brandee, somehow she got on a “texting list” to get helpful dating tips for the single guy. Once every week or so, one of these little gems would come across her phone. Here’s a couple of my favorite:

If you have a pet, take a picture of it and put it in your wallet. If a honey asks if you have someone special in your life, take it out and show it to her.

When you meet someone new, tell her that you are 20 years older than you really are. Then say, “Don’t I look good for my age?”

If you’re talking to two honeys, don’t mack on either of them. Instead, get your swerve on and let them fight for your attention.

Oh, what great tips! I can just picture the chubby dork down his momma’s basement sending these to desperate men. Each of them ends with “For help, call…” and a phone number!

Tana and I went for many long evening walks. On one occasion a neighbor was outside scolding her dog. We’re not sure what the dog had done but laughed and laughed when we heard, “You’re just a furry sack of tators! Yes you are! You’re just a furry sack of tators!”

What in the world does THAT mean?

Jeff and Kim have a ghost that their children refer to as the “dark boy.” When we stayed with them over Memorial Weekend, I think we got his bedroom. Besides getting locked in our room FROM THE INSIDE one night, Todd found his Solo cup that he’d placed on top of the fridge had bite marks all around the rim the next morning.

One afternoon the kids and I went with Shanel and her kids on a day trip to Kanopolis Lake. It was the perfect day to go out there—hot and still. We took lots of snacks and floaties. While the kids played, we laid out on the water or on the sand.

I was out on my floatie enjoying the heat of the sun and cool of the water, when I noticed the stench of something dead and rotting. I looked around because it hadn’t been there before and nobody else seemed to be noticing it. The kids were on the beach digging in the sand with shovels and buckets. I vaguely thought, “Hmmm…I wonder if they dug something up?”

Within a few minutes they started screaming. Andy had a dead, rotting, fairly large fish on his little plastic shovel. The whole beach reeked with the horrific odor! Everyone out there was just thrilled with this discovery.

I had them go further down the beach, dig a hole, and bury it.

The people who lived here before us were antique collectors. In our backyard was a pile of old bricks from Kansas brick roads. This summer I used them to design and create a brick patio in our backyard that we will enjoy for many years to come.

One day we decided to go with Brandee to Manhattan for a day trip. The idea was to pick up her nieces and nephews so that we could all go swimming together. Well, it ended up being an eventful day. After picking up the kids in Wamego, we made the drive back to Manhattan only to discover that the pool was closed. So, we drove back to Wamego to swim in their pool. After about ½ hour, the kids had to get out because there was a floater. No, not a dead body. Fecal matter in a pool requires a bit of sanitization before the swimmers can return.

What a day—lots of driving with little action! When we dropped the kids back off at home, their parents were there. We visited for a few minutes then headed out to the vehicle. On the way, one of the kids said, “Andy ate some dog food!” We were all outside at this point. I looked at Andy and said, “Well, what did it taste like, buddy?” Then I chuckled because I knew they were expecting a totally different reaction from Mom. Then Andy responded, “Just like every other dog food.”

After the laughter died down, I was able to inquire about his dog food sampling history.

As Tana and I were walking tonight we had a great time recounting our summer stories for possible inclusion in my blog. We also tried thinking of a title using different letters and finally decided on “F” even though Tana thought that beginning the school year this way might be a bad omen. It’s funny--sometimes our walks are completely quiet with both of us lost in a comfortable silence filled with our own thoughts while other walks are a gabfest punctuated with giggling.

Man…I’m blessed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The 4th of July!

The 4th of July is my favorite holiday.

Every town has their special “day” or event. In Salina it’s the River Festival. In Todd’s hometown it’s Satanta Day. In Tribune it’s the Greeley County Fair. But in Hugoton it is the 4th of July.

The morning of Independence Day starts early in Hugoton with events at the park and a parade. As a child, I remember eagerly anticipating this morning each summer. Our park was beautiful—full of large trees which provided lots of shade, playground equipment, and the pool. There was always a dunking booth, cake walk, three-legged race, face painting, sack race, turtle race, egg toss, sawing contest, ring toss, and bingo. But some years brought interesting new ideas. I remember one year when two people took turns sitting on a horizontal pole over a Port-a-Pit and pelted each other with padded sticks until one fell off.

The morning always ended with a swimsuit beauty contest. Don’t get too excited—the participants were all under the age of 6! Dressed in their cutest swimsuit, little boys and girls would parade around the pool getting introduced over a loud speaker as spectators crowded around the chain link fence to get a good view and take pictures. Although I remember participating in this event, I certainly didn’t win.

When Domino’s opened (not the Pizza chain but a tasty little burger joint owned by great guy that had this for a nickname), my family began the annual tradition of walking there from the park and eating lunch together. Nowadays, this requires a pretty big table—not to mention a race with the Stegman’s, who at some point started the same tradition!

Somewhere along the way, the boys quit coming to the park with us and began their own little tradition of golfing with Dad all morning while Mom, my sisters, and I chase the kids around the park and have fun catching up with old friends who have returned for the annual festivities.

By this date each year, wheat harvest was complete and my folks and their friends were ready to unwind. We often got together with friends for some type of party. The parents sat around in lawn chairs while we blew things up all afternoon with big metal coffee cans full of firecrackers. At some point, one of my brothers-in-law brought a potato gun. After that, the boys worked together to design and build another one to perfection. From that year on, as my sisters and I played with the kids, the boys shot the potato gun. It always cracked us up that they laughed long and hard after EVERY shot! This led up to Tana’s famous line to Aunt Casy (probably at about 4 years old), “I love fireworks day. I love potato day.” Mom learned quickly to stock up on potatoes and cheap hairspray.

My hometown always put on a great fireworks display at the Babe Ruth baseball diamond. I remember being impatient for the baseball game to end. Between the game and nightfall there was typically a coin hunt in a pile of hay. With my asthma, I never got to participate in this exciting event. Everyone would park out there and sit in the stands, lawn chairs, the pickup beds to “ooh” and “ahh” at the sight. It always ended with an American Flag that would light up for a few seconds before fizzling out to signal the end. In the last several years this has been held at the Dirtona Raceway but most often at the high school football field where spectators sit in the bleachers and are often treated to some type of entertainment prior to the display.

Back at home, the fun really began. This is when Dad drug out the night fireworks that he had purchased. Grown men are just like excited children when it comes to fireworks! Typically we had a driveway full of friends and a huge stockpile of things to light up. In town we simply lit these in the street. Now that my folks live in the country, we use the cement slab by the shed—unless it’s been a particularly dry summer. My husband and brothers-in-law share that same ornery gleam that my Dad always has in his eye when it’s time to light ‘em up. The grandkids all take turns helping with this task with shrieks of fear and excitement.

Over the years, we’ve deviated from this typical schedule on occasion. Many of these years, work kept someone away. One year Heath was recovering from surgery in Wichita and we watched the fireworks over there. When the twins were babies, I remember being exhausted and staying at Dad and Mom’s to watch from the window while everyone went into town. Of course, I’ll never forget the Independence Day weekend of 1991 when we lost Thad, Carrie, and Delbert. Remembering Thad’s ornery grin will always be part of this day for me.

So many have given so much to give us the freedoms that we enjoy in this wonderful country—the United States of America. I know that I was blessed to be born in this country and raised in Hugoton, Kansas. No wonder this is my favorite holiday. Happy 4th of July!