Archive for the ‘Social Commentary’ Category

I Survived Preteen 2 Camp

July 13th arrived and that afternoon, with my 11 year old and 16 year old sons in tow, we boarded one of  our church’s vans for a 91 mile drive north, then east, to High Hill Camp, in High Hill, MO.   I and the 16 year old had volunteered to work at the Preteen 2(fancy wording meaning 5th & 6th graders) Camp.  As soon as we arrived  and I climbed out of the van, I began to think to myself, “I’m getting to old for this!”    High Hill

Fortunately, I was assigned to a bunk room in McKinzie Hall with a friend from Florissant, as our former church there had also sent campers and adults whom I knew.  That was a nice surprise and those Florissant 5th and 6th graders remembered me when I had taught them Sunday School when they were 5 year olds.  It made me feel old to now see them at ages 10 and 11, but that’s life.  It  moves on year by year and kids grow.  I am sure they noticed the grey hair that I sported which I didn’t have when they were 5! That grey hair also got me pulled into a Scavenger Hunt of sorts when the camp’s dean for the week, challenged the campers to find the camp staff who had taught him when he was in Sunday School at his church in Wentzville, MO.  I had to turn many a puzzled campers away with a No! when they asked me if I had been the dean’s teacher.

As I got my bunk ready and my gear unpacked, I kept thinking, “I’m getting too old for this!”  At bedtime, in trying to get 11 girls to stop giggling and talking, as it was now nearing 10:45 pm and they had to get up at 7:00 am, I kept thinking, “I’m getting too old for this!”  The 11 girls in my dorm noticed that the next door bathrooms had been redone with nicely, newer tiles than our bathroom and reluctantly we had to tell our girls that they couldn’t shower in the newer bathroom.  Gritting my teeth, I understood why they wanted to use the newer shower stalls. As I looked at the showers we’d have to use all week, not in terrible shape but showing their age, I thought, “I’m getting too old for this!”

High Hill's main building

High Hill’s main building

Coffee readily flowed for the staffers as soon as we were ready for the dayand that  helped get Monday off to a great start.  Little events all week helped to make me realize that maybe I’m not too old to help out at a Preteen Camp.  My two co-leaders and I were assigned to Family #4.  My two co-leaders  were much younger than I and they tried to be all buddy-buddy with the 11 campers assigned to us; 7 girls and 4 boys  I was a bit sterner with our group, as they needed to stay on task and on time as we had a lot of activities to complete each day, completing some before lunch and some before the swimming break, and some before dinner.  I noticed that by Wednesday that my 2 younger camp staffers were growing more irritated by the immaturity of some of our 11 campers and that the buddy-buddy, hey I’m cool act was not the way to work with or motivate 5th and 6th graders.  When one of our girls injured her leg during the traditional faculty hunt( camp staffers donned black clothing, hats, some even put black marks under their eyes like NFL players do, then we go and hide somewhere at the camp and when it’s dark the campers are let loose to find us) and my two younger camp staffers were no where to be found due to their hiding skills, so it was I who our kids turned to to help the girl make it to the nurse.  I stayed with her and helped to ease her pain, and give her comfort as the nurse made phone calls to discuss with her guardian as to what she would want us to do: give medicine and wait until morning to see how her camper felt, or arrive in the morning to take her home to see the family doctor.  By the next morning, I noticed that the kids who had first wanted to sit with the two cool staffers on my Family #4 group were now wanting to sit by me.  That made me feel not so out of it, and a bit pleased; guess the word got out how I stayed with their hurt fellow camper.

The meals at camp were very good-they hired a full-time  trained chef this summer, as well as another cook.  I hope the kids noticed the satisfying and tasty food that was prepared for them.  The music was fine-geared to preteens and the high school and college-aged camp staffers.  Me with my grey hair, didn’t know some of the songs and decided to clap along to those and rest my voice.  The lead band guy looked like a cross between actors James Franco and Joshua Bowman-an actor on ABC’s Revenge, so of course, some of the 6th grade girls kept making excuses to talk to him all week.   I sent my college age daughter a text about that fact and she sent back a text with an LOL-she said that’s usually what happens at camp, the girls all falling for the boy band leader.

High Hill's Lake, but to me, it's really a large pond.

High Hill’s Lake, but to me, it’s really a large pond.

There was also cases of puppy love developing around me as for some unknown reason, the 4 boys in my Family #4, had been dubbed the “cutest” by some of the boy-crazy girl campers and I noticed one girl in particular, hanging around the Fab Four when it was the daily 3:00-5:00 activity break time.  I just shook my head as to that girl’s antics.  She was quite a few inches taller than those boys but it didn’t prevent her from  flirting like mad with our group of 11 year old boys.

The weather was wonderfully cool for our week: 70s and low 80s during the daytime, low 50s at night.  Unheard of for Missouri in July, as it’s usually hot and humid.  I was glad that I had packed a jacket and had reminded my own 11 year old and 16 year old to also pack jackets.

I got to see my 16 year old son in action.  He did well working  with his Family #10.   He willingly led the group in two songs.  One was when he was mockingly punished for leaving his water bottle lay around camp-at lunch he had to perform I’m a Little Teapot for the campers, who when he told them he didn’t know the words, they all enthusiastically jumped in and helped him sing the song!  The second time he was helping lead a fun song, The Banana Song, when another staffer was mockingly being punished for leaving his name tag lay around the camp.  I saw my son in action as he easily got 150 some kids to get quiet, took charge of the song, and then led them through it with all of the song’s motions.  I also saw my son take his turn with one of the boy’s in his Family group who had asthma, help to cheer the boy up at various times, as he had to leave activities for his treatments, which he didn’t want to always take.

There was a young woman at the camp, a missionary to Haiti.  Her daily presentations about Haiti, the people, and the minister and his wife whom she works with were all fascinating.  Our campers got to make a toy like the Haitian kids do.  Since they don’t have access to toy stores they will take used water bottles, a nail, string, a stick, and 4 water bottle caps and make a car that they can pull along behind them with the string.  I hope that our campers remember at home when they see their water bottle car that their lives in the US are vastly different from the children in Haiti.  I hope that they will remember the money we raised for the missionary’s mission and that perhaps one day, they will be the ones to listen to the urgings God places in their lives to go and serve others, to show them love, and to not be afraid to tell them the truth of the gospel.

Am I getting too old for this?  Too old for camping with a bunch of 10-11 year olds?  Almost old enough to being their grandparent?  Part of me says yes, part of me says no.  I do know that I enjoy teaching kids and helping them learn more about their faith.  Perhaps I will return next year and if I do, I know I’ll survive it all over again.

Early Childhood Classes for Rolla Public Schools?

RHS Bulldog 2During this past Spring, I was sent an email from the Rolla School District’s  Superintendent’s office.  My email address was included in a longish list, and I was asked to consider participating in a review of the school district’s CSIP.  Comprehensive School Improvement Plan is a way for a school district to go over goals that the district wants to improve upon and/or to implement.  How I got on this list, I don’t have any idea and a CSIP?  I had to actually google what that meant.  I got my teaching degree in the dark ages of 1987 and haven’t been in a classroom since the spring of 1991 when motherhood called me away,  so this terminology was new to me.  I was curious about the topics that this CSIP would cover so  away I went to the meeting.

As soon as I entered the district’s building, I was ushered to the room where the school board holds its meetings.   I was one of 7 ladies, and we simply went around the room, giving our opinions on the different items that were part of the district’s CSIP.  Two gentleman from the KC area presented the CSIP to us, and they marked down our comments.  They explained that they worked for a company that traveled all over the state of Missouri, conducting discussions and gathering data for school districts and their specific CSIPs.   This meeting took about an hour and when all was said and done, I was glad that I gave my input.  After all, how many moms who have homeschooled their children for preschool and grades K-7th for  part of their educations were on these CSIP opinion-seeking missions?

Fast forward to July 3rd and I received another email from the Superintendent’s office.  This new message thanked me for participating in the CSIP .  The email went on to inform me that several times now, throughout the Rolla School District and community,  a process has been presented to bring Early Childhood programming into the district.  It’s not up and running for this coming school year, but the district would like to have a community-wide approved issue on the April 2015 ballot.  Hopefully, by the beginning of the 2017 school year, Early Childhood will be offered.  The email included some video clips for me to view pertaining to community input about Early Childhood Education that has been discussed and planned for  since 2007.  An online survey was also included for me to give my opinions.

Winslow Homer's Crack the Whip

There are two plans being looked at to bring this about.  1.  Build a new building that will house all of the Early Childhood Education classes, from 4 year olds to kindergarten.  2.  Turn one of the existing elementary schools into the Early Childhood building.  Then the other two elementary schools will house grades 1-3.  The 4th graders will be moved to Rolla Middle School, and will be there with the 5th and 6th graders.  The 7th graders will be moved to Rolla Junior High to join the 8th graders.  The 9th graders will then move to Rolla High.    Both of these plans will cost money and will involve voters input.

While I appreciate the effort to look at Early Childhood Education,  the fact remains that it is not a mandatory part of education for a child.  One can design and build a fabulous building but that doesn’t mean that all of the families in the Rolla School District with preschool children will sign them up.  I looked into preschool classes for our oldest child  when we lived in St. Louis County, and paying $80-$90 a month was an outrageous fee for our family’s budget.  I therefore did preschool activities on my own with our child, and also with his siblings, when they were in that preschool age.   You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, is a saying that comes to mind when I read about an entity, here a school district, attempting to get involved in spending a lot of money for something that may not be as successful as they imagine it will be.

Home Art Class

Home Art Class

I happened to watch the school board candidates on the local cable access channel when they were running for reelection.  One of the incumbent’s mentioned this new program and that in pursuing it, children who get to experience preschool turn out better than those who don’t.  I would like to remind this gentleman that my kids, who never stepped foot into a preschool, have all done very well in the Rolla district, and the oldest three are now pursuing higher education at various colleges.  To insinuate that children who don’t go to preschool are doomed, I find that reasoning faulty.

I admit, I am looking at this issue through my homeschooling lenses.  I think one of the reasons homeschooling works is the low student to teacher ratio.  A teacher with only 10-15 students in a class can probably get a lot more teaching of a new concept done than a teacher with 25-30 students.  I propose, that instead of focusing on Early Childhood Education that the Rolla School District make a bolder move.  Add more classrooms  at the elementary schools and the middle school.  Add more teachers to grades K-7 and  lower the student to teacher ratios in these grades.  I would expect that the district would see an increase of students in those grades achieving more  in content and understanding of important concepts in core subjects.  Those students would have a better ability to begin navigating their way through Junior High, High School, career paths, and then on to Higher Education, if that is the student’s goal.  I would much rather have my tax dollars go to supporting a plan like that, where the majority of school-aged children in the district will be attending these schools, than putting my tax money into a new Early Childhood Education plan that cannot possibly cause all of the preschoolers of Rolla, MO to attend.

Tearjerkers, 1939 vs 2014

** This post contains spoilers**

My college student daughter, who is home for part of the summer, suggested on Friday morning that she, her twin sisters, 14 year olds,  and I,  go and see the  new tearjerker  movie, The Fault in Our Stars.  I inwardly groaned at this suggestion.  I really didn’t want to spend my evening watching a movie in a theatre full of teen girls sniffling and crying.  I also didn’t want to get caught up in the plot and find myself sniffling and crying!  However, college daughter’s idea prevailed, so after supper, with tissues in our purses, we traveled to Waynesville Cinema 8.  (I don’t understand why Rolla’s Forum Theatre can’t seem to get the newest movies thus, losing our movie going dollars to Waynesville.  That may have to be a blog topic for another day!)

The Fault in our Stars

I settled in my seat as  the movie began.   The plot was pretty simple.  Hazel Grace Lancaster is 18  years old and has been battling cancer since she was a child.  First she had thyroid cancer but then it metastasized into her lungs.  There is no cure but she has been on an experimental drug and so far, no new tumors and the tumors she has aren’t growing.  She lives with a portable oxygen tank and a breathing tube under her nose.   Her parents worry that she is depressed so they urge her to attend a support group for teens living with cancer that meets at a local church.  Reluctantly, Hazel Grace attends where she meets her future love, Augustus Waters.  He, having beaten osteosarcoma  in his leg and wears  a prosthetic leg,  attends the support group to be there for his  friend, Isaac, who is living with retinoblastoma which will leave him blind.

As I sat there and watched these teen characters dealing with cancer, life, and death, I kept comparing it to another tearjerker movie made in 1939 that also dealt with love, cancer, life, and death.  That film was  Dark Victory, which starred Bette Davis in a tour de force performance.  Davis was nominated for Best Actress at that year’s Academy Awards and Dark Victory was also nominated for Best Picture, but being that the year was 1939, they didn’t stand a chance due to a film about a tough southern belle fighting for her land and trying to figure out who she really loves as the Yankees invade the South during the Civil War.

Dark Victory

In Dark Victory, Bette is Judith Traherne,  a rich party girl.  She loves to watch her  horses compete at the races, she loves to spend her money on parties, and she has a lot of friends in this monied set.  She has also left a trail of broken hearts around her.  (Ronald Reagan plays one of her pals,  a lovable drunk!)  Judith begins to have chronic headaches so she  sees her doctor who recommends that she see a Dr. Steele, who is young and brilliant about brain problems.  It doesn’t hurt that he is quite handsome, too.  Dr. Steele determines that Judith has a tumor and needs brain surgery to treat it.  During the surgery, he discovers that the tumor is malignant and nothing can be done for Judith, that she has 10 months left to live.  The doctors decide not to tell Judith, but Dr. Steele does admit the truth to Judith’s friend, Ann.   Judith  accidentally gets a look at her medical file and finds out the truth.  She is angry that Dr. Steele hadn’t told her but did tell Ann.  Judith decides to follow the bad advice of eat, drink, and be merry for who knows what tomorrow will bring.   One evening she runs into Dr. Steele, who gets her alone and scolds her for this type of living.  He advises her to find peace with the diagnosis so that she can face death with dignity.  She realizes he is right.  Judith and Dr. Steele also realize that they love each other and wed, deciding to live each day as it comes,  knowing that death will take Judith sooner than later.  When Dr. Steele is invited to speak at a medical convention about  new ways to treat brain diseases, Judith urges him to go.  She knows how hard he’s worked and been looking forward to speaking.  She  doesn’t reveal to him that her eyesight is failing her.  As he drives away in the taxi to the airport, Judith bravely takes to her bed to prepare to  die with dignity.

I compared and contrasted the two films in my mind.  Dark Victory has Judith for the main character: a strong, independent young woman. The Fault in our Stars has Hazel Grace for the main character, not yet in her twenties, with strong opinions, she is still  dependent on her parents for clothing, food, shelter, and paying the onerous medical bills.  In both of these plots, the main characters fall in love.  Only in Dark Victory  is a true commitment made with a marriage.   That one little point keeps me from liking the 2014 movie.

How refreshing it would have been for the author, John Green, to have Hazel Grace and Augustus  marry one another! To wait to consummate their love for one another!  They could have had a simple ceremony in front of a judge, and then  lived in the basement at the Water’s home, since Augustus had turned it into a “cool” apartment-like abode.  Teenage pregnancy rates don’t need anymore encouragement than they already get from the entertainment industry.  Sadly, a better plot point was thrown out the window to go with a perceived societal  idea that teens can’t wait to jump into bed with one another.

On the way home, my daughters and I were surprised that we didn’t sniffle and cry like we thought we would.  I said that I found the plight of the parents in the film more touching.  Watching these parents bravely be there for their dying kids, especially a flashback scene to when Hazel Grace almost died at the age of 11,  got to me.  The scene where Hazel Grace and Augustus shared a passionate series of kisses at the Anne Frank House struck my twin daughters as “awkward” and weird how the surprised bystanders visiting the Frank House started clapping.

Dark Victory was originally a play written by George Emerson Brewer, Jr. and Bertram Bloch.   As I mentioned earlier in my post, The Fault in our Stars was a book written by John Green.  Dark Victory was labeled as a Woman’s Picture when it came to the box office in 1939 and I’m pretty sure The Fault in our Stars was labeled as a vehicle to pull in the teenage girl audience.

Dark Victory will be airing tonight on Turner Classic Movies at 1:30 am CST, so if you are able, set up your dvr machine to record it.  That’s what I plan on doing and I’ll let my daughters watch it with me, popcorn to eat  in a giant bowl, and let them see a similar plot and how Hollywood and the social mores of 1939 handled it.

 

The “Fix the Kitchen Floor Stat!” Blues

3 years ago when we were able to house hunt in Rolla, MO, a 3 bedroom house wouldn’t do.  Not because we are ostentatious people but because we had 6 kids and 2 adults so a 4 bedroom house would be where  we would start our hunt.  With God’s  providing, we were shown a 4300 square foot house, built in 1984, in a nice subdivision.  It was only a  2 minutes drive from church, 7 minutes from the junior high school, 8 minutes from the high school, 7 minutes from The Centre,  and 10 minutes from shopping.  The house met our need and was in a great location.  Location, location, location, I’ve been told, is the realtor’s mantra and I’ve been reminding myself of it to counteract what happened  at our house in January of 2014.

We noticed that there was a group of ceramic tiles in the kitchen floor that  needed to be replaced.  There was a crack  running through these tiles  and it was getting worse.   With the knowledge that extra, matching tiles had been left in the garage by a previous owner(we’re the 3rd family to live in this house) my husband, armed with information from This Old House’s online videos,  began to take up the old, cracked tiles.  Thus our Kitchen Horror Story began.

As husband worked that Saturday afternoon, he discovered that the sub-floor under the tiles was wet!  He discovered tiny, black ants crawling around blissfully unaware that their world was about to end…they were living in the sub-floor!  The more my husband decided to remove other tiles, the more he found  damp sub-flooring.  He also discovered that the  sub-flooring  was made of particle board, not even decent sub-flooring!!!!  We were dismayed and realized that all of the ceramic tile comprising  the kitchen floor would have to go in order to rip out the wet, particle board sub-floor and replace it with decent sub-flooring and new ceramic tile.

To aid us in this necessary work, a good man from our church came on the scene.  He  likes to help people with projects and after  husband told him about our horror story,  this good friend came right over and helped to remove the old sub-floor and put in the new one.  He and husband also discovered a couple more problems with our house.  The sub-floor under the stove was actually the deck that was on the outside of the kitchen wall!

A sunroom had been installed on the back wall of the house with french doors opening into it off of the kitchen.  When the sunroom had been added on, the kitchen wall was pushed  back to widen the kitchen.  Instead of extending the existing sub-floor to be under this new area of kitchen flooring, it was simply decided to let the outside deck be the new sub- flooring!  That discovery answered our questions as to why  the old  kitchen sub-flooring had damp areas and signs of past water damage(we are pretty sure that whenever it rained, water was hitting the decking and bouncing right into the kitchen particle board sub-flooring)  and why that part of the kitchen was  so cold and why  it felt  like cold air was blowing in on top of our feet!  Husband and good friend  also discovered that the sunroom wasn’t built correctly and that it will have to be redone, another project to tackle when the kitchen is done.

Horror story indeed, or perhaps an illustration of man’s inhumanity to man?  You probably think I am being too dramatic with my choice of words, and maybe I am.  But when one is new to a town, has no idea who good builders are and who aren’t, if we, the buyers, are told that the  home sellers are honest and now we know they were  not, it just sours ones outlook on his fellow citizens, a bit, when the home you buy from them turns out to have hidden problems.

A few positive events to come from  all of this kitchen repair is that I did get  husband to agree that we might as well repaint the kitchen.   From a pale, blah beige we now have a sunny, Copacabana Yellow, courtesy of Benjamin Moore Paints.   When the pantry cupboard was removed in order to get the old sub-floor and ceiling tile out from under it, the silly thing fell apart due to it being made of cheap particle board and improper installation.  This event led to a good recommendation of a local woodworker and a visit to his shop.  A new cupboard is being built as I type this blog.  Lastly, husband told me today that he is actually enjoying installing the ceiling tile himself and so far, so good. New baseboards will be installed, trim will be repainted with Parrish White semi-gloss paint from Benjamin Moore, and all will be ready in the kitchen when our loved ones arrive to witness child #3 graduate from Rolla High.  So, for the month of May, my usual amount of blogs won’t be written due to this kitchen business but as soon as May 23rd-24th are over, I plan on renewing my blogging for the Rolla Daily News at it’s usual amount.

My Daughter Thanked Me and her Father

One of my thirteen year old twin daughters was invited to a classmate’s birthday party.  (Only one twin was invited?  Well that happens when twins are in some separate classes at school and make new friends not  from the pool of  friends they both know…it actually makes my twin girls even on birthday party invites as the other twin was invited  to another classmate’s party in the Fall.)  As we were driving home, I asked my daughter the usual questions: How many guests were there and what are their names?  What snacks and/or type of cake did you eat?  Did you play any games and what were they? Did you have a good time?  After my first set of questions were answered and my daughter said she had had a nice time, I asked about the adults who had been in the living room and kitchen when I arrived at the home when the party was designated to be over.  My daughter told me who the various adults were and then said that the gentleman in the kitchen washing up the dishes was not the father, as I had assumed but a stepdad of the student.  After a pause, my daughter commented on the sad fact that a lot of her classmates have divorced parents;  one friend has parents who have separated recently due to a big fight.  She summed up her comment by thanking me and her dad for staying married to each other.

divorce with wedding cake

Her comments got me to thinking this past weekend.  Divorce statistics remain high, too high, in my opinion, in the Unites States.  I have known many people who suffered when their parents, for whatever the reasons, announced that the marriage was going to be over and a divorce was imminent.  One friend could still recall the pain, at the age of 5, watching her father trying to leave the house with a suitcase in his hand, her older sister sobbing and clinging to him, trying with all her might to make him stay and he having to pry his daughter’s hands  from his person.

Divorce  hurts the children the most.  The innocent, who didn’t ask to be born, who now have to watch the anger, the bitterness, of the two most important adults in their lives go their separate ways.  These children  having  to experience  the bewilderment and fear  of their world being  torn apart.  The consequences of a marriage ending don’t resolve  until one of the divorced parents passes away.  One friend, who’s parents had divorced when she was a college student, and miraculously she saw them re-marry one another when her own children were in their teens, recalled the hurt in having to make two phone calls when a new grandbaby was born, the hurt in having to host one parent at one holiday and the other at another holiday.    I read years ago in a study that children who lose a parent to death actually do better in coping with  life than children who lose a parent due to divorce.   The child who loses a parent to death has good memories to dwell on but   the child of divorce often has the bad memories  to deal with, and the continuing angst and sadness  of two parents who didn’t stay married to one another.

A statistic I read in researching for this post stated that 40% of children before reaching the age of 16,  could expect to see their parents’ marriages end in  divorce.   That number is unbelievably high and very sad.  My point in writing  this post is not  to heap guilt on divorced parents. What’s done is done, and there are myriads of reasons for a marriage to fail.  If that has happened, here’s a helpful article I came across in my readings for helping one’s children cope with the divorce and good ways to handle visitations and to keep communication open between the children and both parents.

My advice to young married couples with children would be to focus on your marriage over the needs of the children.  Children are a blessing, I firmly believe that.  They require lots of care, nurturing, and love.  They need guidance, discipline, and your wisdom.  However, you musn’t put them at the top of the marriage…the first relationship, the husband and wife relationship, must come before the children.  Don’t make idols of your children!   Years ago when I atttended La Leche League meetings with my firstborn and was getting a handle on breastfeeding him, I also met other moms in the same boat as me in that we were all first-time moms.  One mom in particular, was putting her baby at the top of her life’s agenda.  The be all and end all of her reason for living was her baby.  She shared with us how her husband was starting to complain a lot about how she’d drop everything at one whimper from her baby, to the point that her husband was starting to sleep in the guest room!  She was adamant that that was okay with her, her baby and his needs came first.  I didn’t say anything to her and if I had  I don’t know if she would have begun to change her ways,  but I foresaw a divorce down her life’s path if she didn’t ease up on her attitude that her baby had to be first  in all aspects of her daily living, and if she continued to treat her husband like a second-class citizen in her marriage.  That’s my example of making one’s child an “idol”.

To young, married couples, keep that line of communication open with one another.  Find a sitter from time to time and go out on dates.  Let each other know how much you appreciate what they bring to the marriage.  As a stay at home mom, I relished the compliments  my husband would give me when our children were small.  I, in turn, have told him many times how much I appreciated his hard work at his career in order for me to be at home with our children when they were small and later, when I homeschooled them.

Wedding cake

I was humbled, happy, and pleasantly surprised when my daughter thanked me and her father.  I had not really given it much thought that due to our marriage succeeding, that there is an inherent stability that our children could count on, an inherent safety in their world.  Strive, young married couples, with children, to stay together for your childrens’ sakes.  You will probably get a thank you too, years from now.

April 8th is Coming…Getting Ready to Vote!

I view my opportunity to vote with  great enthusiasm.  When I lived in Florissant, I volunteered to work two elections as an official, checking voters’ addresses off of large books, having them initial their names, answering their questions, even calmly dealing with some strange complaints a few  voters  would make.  I remember  being very glad for the presence of our wonderful  head judge  who gladly took on  the “strange complaints voters” aside to talk with them and soothe their ruffled feathers.

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April 8th is approaching and that day means I have an opportunity to vote in my new city of Rolla.  There are quite a few items to vote on: pick a new mayor, pick school board members, and whether or not to vote on a sales tax increase for the Parks Department.

Three people are  running for Mayor and I know nothing about any of them.  I need to roll up my shirt sleeves and try to find out who they are and what they believe in politically and why should I vote for any one of them to be the new Mayor?  What are their plans for Rolla? There will be a Mayoral Candidate Forum on March 20th and I plan on attending that so I can listen to each candidate speak and answer questions presented by the voters.

The school board had planned a question and answer session with the 4 candidates  running for the board on March 3rd but that was postponed to yesterday, March 10th, due to bad weather on the 3rd.  The local cable channe Channel 16,  aired this session yesterday afternoon so I tuned in.  Of the 4 candidates for the school board, 3 are incumbents, and the 4th candidate is running to be elected for the first time;  only 3 seats are open for filling this election cycle.   As I watched, I felt that  one of the  incumbent’s  answered questions fairly and calmly.  One of the incumbent’s is a former teacher and I think having someone who actually worked in a classroom would be a good skill set to have on any school board.  One of the other incumbents kept criticizing the “newby” candidate’s points…it gave off an aura of “I have been on this school board and since you haven’t been, you really need not apply for a seat” and that struck me in a very negative way.

The most controversial issue  facing Rolla voters is whether or not to approve a sales  tax boost that will  benefit the Parks Department.   The sales tax proposal is very small,  1/4th of 1 percent tax.  Why is this proposal, called Prop A, so controversial?  It is due to the city’s Recreational Center, known as The Centre.  It was built 8 years ago and at the time it was built, I believe from what research I’ve been able to do, that taxes were raised to fund the building of this Centre.  Voters were told 8 years ago that by 2013,  The Centre would be financially self-supportive.  That hasn’t happened.  The Centre has never ran in the black budget-wise.   Some people in the community cannot afford to pay for the exercise classes offered,  cannot pay for a membership at The Centre, so is it fair to once again tax  the consumers who shop in Rolla to continue to pay for this building?  Some have asked why not separate The Centre from the Parks Department as the parks do need upkeep and improvements and that a sales tax increase  just for the parks would probably pass.   The anti-Prop A forces have had signs popping up all around the city with The Centre featured prominently on their signs.    The Centre is sort of like a YMCA for Rolla.  There is a nice indoor  pool with a section for lap swimmers, a regular swimming area  for kids, and  a low-entry area for little kids.  Swimming lessons are offered throughout the year.  There is an indoor track for runners and walkers.  Weight-lifting , treadmills, stationary bikes, etc.  Gyms for basketball and volleyball.  Fitness classes are offered and one can even sign up for personal trainers.  On Tuesday afternoons during the school year, PE classes are offered to the home schooled children in the area.  Afterschool activities are offered for school kids too old for daycare yet not old enough to stay at home alone until parents are home from work.   I do appreciate The Centre and what it is trying to provide for the community, and our family has participated in some of these offered classes.  On Prop A, our house is a divided one.  I will probably vote for the Parks Department, but husband is anti-taxes no matter how small the proposed increase, so our votes will probably cancel each other’s out on this issue.

This post was just a glimpse into voting, and issues my community will be deciding upon in April.  I encourage my fellow citizens in Rolla, to be sure you are registered and to vote.  It is a right of all Americans, 18 and older, to make their voices heard.  Don’t ignore your civic duty!

Our turtle saga continues…

Our youngest, a son, age 1o and soon to turn 11, loves turtles.  He is often reading all the materials he can find on them via the internet and in a book we bought him 2 years ago, The Turtle,  by Lenny Flank Jr.  When we moved to the Rolla area, almost 3 years ago now, we decided to rent a house until our Florissant house sold.  Providentially, we found a rental house, large enough for our family of 8  just outside the city limits, on the west side of Rolla.  Living in the country for most of the 2011-2012 school year let us have many encounters with nearby cattle and wildlife.  With a small stream cutting across the 5 acres at the rental house, turtles were inevitably found and this added to our youngest’s  turtle love, or mania, if you ask his older siblings about it.

Red-Eared Slider 1

Springtime in Phelps County revealed to us that lots of turtles are in the area as they are trying to cross the roads, both rural and city streets.  We joked for a bit amongst our family that Rolla should’ve been named Turtle Town.  We quickly decided, even husband did too, to slow down, if a turtle was seen trying to cross one of the County Roads, and if no other cars were coming, we’d pull over and help the turtle get across before it could become a traffic fatality.

RESlider 2

In early May of 2012 we made the move to a “new to us” home inside the city limits.  The next Spring, 2013, our older kids were in the backyard to collect the dog and bring him inside the house when they  found a turtle, a box turtle, slowly making its long trek across our yard.   They were able to corral it and called the baby of the family to come out and see it.  With mine and husband’s permission, this Box turtle was added to our family.  Our youngest, from all of his readings, was able to determine that the turtle was a female and he named her Amber, due to the colors on her shell.    Amber quickly became the boarder in our sunroom.  A good sized rock was hauled into the room for her to climb onto, a large crockery dish of water was also put out for her to use.  She quickly adapted to her new environment, eating her meals that were placed on the rock(lettuces, strawberries, apples, worms, crickets, mushrooms, and mulberries were some of her daily fare), and  sitting in the water dish.  I even observed her dipping her head into the water from time to time, and yawning!  Who knew turtles yawned?  As the summer was nearing it’s end, I unfortunately took the turtle outside with me one evening as I did some weeding in a flowerbed.  Amber saw my distracted state and made her escape.  Our son was distraught, I felt horrible, and after some tears and a few days had gone by, we talked with our son and he agreed that Amber was probably better off in the wild.

RE slider 3

Now it is almost our son’s 11th birthday and once again, we’ve given the okay for him to have a turtle for a pet.  The local pet shop won’t sell them, and it’s not time to collect one from a road as they’re still hibernating, so the internet came to our rescue.  After much research, a Red-Eared Slider is due to arrive anytime now for our son’s latest turtle adventure to begin.   So here is hoping that the turtle has a long, happy life in our home, that our son will continue to develop his interest in these reptiles, and that the responsibilities that come with owning and caring for a pet will blossom in him.

Baby #3 will be leaving the nest…

Our third child, son #2, will be leaving the nest this summer.  He will graduate from high school at the end of May and turns 18  a couple weeks from now.  I reminded him this morning that he’ll  be old enough to vote and he replied, “Really?”,  and then followed that up with the comment that he didn’t know if he’d really want to bother with voting.  I find that to be a common theme for 18-20 year olds that I know.  In fact, he seems to fit in with a trend I saw this morning in the news about the youngest voters.   The news story for that is here, the 4th point in the article.   college caps

Our son has done well in school.  He has always gotten math concepts quickly and took two years of Chemistry, earning A’s in those classes.  That amazes me because I managed to get out of high school with no chemistry under my belt.  I do know what H2O and NaCl are and who Marie Curie was, but that’s about it for my chemistry knowledge.   With his strong understanding of higher math and science, I just assumed that he was going to announce that he wanted to be an engineer like his dad, but no, he has surprised us all with his announced plans of studying Culinary Arts.  He has told me several times, “People gotta eat!”, and he’s right about that!  He has been accepted to attend a Culinary Arts program at an area community college and is waiting to hear if he’s been accepted into a 4 year Culinary Arts program at another  college his older sister attends.  The 4 year program also focuses on the business aspects of restaurants and I have teased him a bit that if he graduates from that school then he can come back to Rolla and open up a Penn Station, a restaurant we miss eating at and one that a college town with a majority of male students needs!!!!  download

Our third son is unique, in that he has red hair…none of our other 6 children have red hair, so he often gets teased about being the “ginger” in the family.  I’m just glad it’s a darker red, not a bright, orangey color.  Our older daughter studied genetics in a science class her senior year and informed us that if we had had an 8th child, that that child would probably have had red hair too!  This third child was born on George Washington’s actual birthday, which I have liked to remind him of from time-to-time.   He’s a lefty, a trait he shares with one of his younger sisters and my dad and when at age 3 he showed an eagerness to learn how to move the mouse on the mouse pad to play preschool games on the home computer he was quickly able to master that with his right hand.  It was  the same for guitar when he took lessons and I didn’t realize left-handed guitars existed, and had bought him a guitar for right-handed people.  He cheerily went on his way and learned how to play that guitar, never complaining to me.  acoustic guitar

A main reason he might seem unique is that he was born with a birth defect in his left eye.  The pediatrician caught it the day our son was born, during those early tests that are conducted on newborns.  The pediatrician explained that when a light is flashed in a newborn’s eye, a “red reflex” is looked for.   The red reflex was there in our son’s right eye, but not present in his left eye.  This meant that our son would need to be examined by a pediatric opthamologist immediately and a retinologist.  There were two possible causes of our son’s eye defect, one serious but not deadly and the other deadly: PHPV or cancer.  Cancer??!! In a newborn baby???  I was in a state of shock on hearing this news, but the pediatrician and later the pediatric opthamologist reassured my husband and I over and over that our son had a healthy heart, lungs, kidneys, reflexes and that he would grow up to do most activities that boys do: run, climb trees, swim, ride a bike, etc.  Our late minister happened to be present for a visit when the doctor came in to discuss the possibilities of the diagnoses, and after the doctor left, our minister stepped up and prayed with us and for our son.   God’s timing was perfect in that  our minister just happened to choose that time of day  to be at the hospital to make visits, to hear the doctor’s words, and knew what to pray for , to give us peace and comfort at that bewildering time.

The Retinologist was from Scotland and was a very kind man.  He did the initial tests looking for white spots that would mean cancer.  After we left his office, having been told that it would be several days before the results would be known, our pediatrician called us that afternoon with the results: no cancer, it was definitely the PHPV.  Persistant Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous, a rare eye defect that hits 1 out of a million babies, according to the doctors.  There is no known cause for it, and it usually effects only one eye, which was what our son had.  He underwent 5 surgeries before the age of 7, a lensectomy to remove the lens of his left eye which was a large cataract, several eye muscle surgeries to correct strabismus that had developed, and a surgery to open up the drainage channels in his left eye-his left eye being somewhat smaller than his right eye, and an eye’s drainage channels need to be able to drain out fluid build-ups in eyes, a naturally occurring event.  If the fluid can’t drain out properly, it will build up and put pressure on the retina, causing  glaucoma, which is something our son has his eye pressures checked each year to keep on the alert for.

We have gone through eye patching, to try and force his left eye to strengthen visually.  That went well while he was a baby but when he was a toddler, he discovered that he could rub off the patch and suddenly see much better and the eye patches became a daily battle.  He also wore glasses,( really just safety glasses as his right eye has always had perfect vision), when he was younger to help keep his right eye safe.  If he ever lost his right eye’s ability to see, than for all intent and purposes, our son would be blind..he can see light and dark and colors with his left eye, but everything is very blurry.  3-D is also not there for him, which I find annoying  when we want to see a movie and only the 3-D( and more expensive) version is at the theatre.  I wish theatre owners would realize that offering the 2-D version is a benefit for movie-goers who can’t see the 3-D effects!

The doctors predictions for our son’s future proved true and he did run and swim, climb trees and ride bikes.  He tried t-ball and that proved trickier for him due to depth perception when trying to hit a ball with a bat.  He also played soccer for a couple of years, which didn’t seem to have as much depth perception difficulties for him.  Learning to drive was also accomplished and the ladies at the dmv office in Rolla were kind and explained that he’d have a mark on his license that alerts officers to a visually impaired driver, but becoming a licensed driver was not a problem.   He’s been able to hold down a part-time job, be in the school musical this past Fall  and this year’s  Spring play, all while maintaining good grades.   climbing trees

As I sit here and look over our son’s life so far, he is unique to me for the medical problems he had to deal with as a newborn and preschooler, he is unique to me for his tenacity in wanting to figure out how a machine works, for accidentally getting in a commercial television shoot at The Arch in St. Louis when he was 4 years old and due to that he was included in the commercial and has a nice little nest egg that accrued monies for him whenever that commercial was shown!  He has been an excellent big brother to his younger 4 siblings and a friend to his older 2 siblings.  I have to  smile  when I contemplate his turn to walk across the stage to receive his diploma in May.   I am glad that it is  his turn to fly from the nest, ready to take on the world with his talents, his faith, and to know that he realizes the blessings that are very apparent  in his life.

Blizzard of ’78

No, this isn’t a title of a disaster movie.  With the weather forecasters for Springfield, MO and St. Louis, MO regaling us tv viewers about the latest snow storm that is expected  to hit the state today and Wednesday, I began recalling the blizzard that I lived through and can remember almost as if it happened yesterday.  It’s also a natural weather event that none of my 7 kids have ever experienced.  Snow storms and cancelled school, yes they’ve experienced that but not a true blizzard.

High piles of snow after the blizzard roared away!

High piles of snow after the blizzard roared away!

I was in 7th grade, and as my alarm clock was about to ring I was coming out of a dream where I was on a beach and the wind was blowing so loudly,  and palm trees were swaying to and fro.  As I awoke from my slumber, I realized that the wind was really blowing, very loudly, howling in fact.  I stumbled out into the dining room, as my bedroom was just off of that room, in our ranch type house on S. Clinton St. and as I looked out the large picture window in the living room, the world was a thick whirl of white.  If a person had been walking outside in our front yard  at that moment, I wouldn’t have been able to see them!  My parents were in the kitchen and I remember my mom asking my dad if I should even attempt to go out to the bus stop.  My dad told her absolutely not, that school would be cancelled and that this was a blizzard!

A blizzard!  I had only read about a blizzard  in The Little House on the Prairie book series up to that point in my life.  I am not sure how many days the snow fell and the winds blew but our small city of 19,000 was pretty much shut down for a week.  My mom was a nurse and folks with trucks and 4 wheel drive vehicles were asked to bring in those hospital employees who couldn’t drive in if their vehicles weren’t equipped for driving in such bad weather.  We, the children and teens of Defiance, OH were in heaven!!  No school for a week!!  I remember when the winds had stopped and the snow had finally quit, that we were allowed to bundle up and go out into the winter wonderland.  Oh what fun we had!  Running around, climbing on top of , and jumping off of the huge snow drifts that the howling winds had left behind.  My future husband, who also grew up in a ranch style house on Maumee Drive has regaled our children with the story of he and his brother, sister, and neighbor kids being able to climb onto the roof of their house and sledding off of it into the tall drifts that were as high as the windows on their house!

Clinton Street, a major road in our town, wasn’t plowed for quite a few days, and as it ran in front of our house, we got to see the ingenuity of Defiance’s citizenry as they figured out ways to get to the Chief Supermarket.  Cross-Country snow skis started making appearances, so did people pulling their kids snow sleds, or toy wagons as conveyances in carrying  the groceries home.  My favorite was one family who had hitched up their Saint Bernard dog to a wagon and he accompanied them to the supermarket!  My dad, two neighbor men, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Koppenhoffer, managed to walk to the Chief and using wagons, brought home necessities such as bread, milk, eggs, and beer!  I remember my mom chastising the men on buying beer, of all things!  Dad did manage to snag an apple pie and he said the shelves were getting pretty empty in the store from  items selling out and the supply trucks not being able to make deliveries yet.

A Toledo, OH grocery store unable to get deliveries in after the blizzard.

A Toledo, OH grocery store unable to get deliveries in after the blizzard.

For a scientific read, I did discover that someone put The Blizzard of 1978 on Wikipedia, and you can read about it at this link.

While I can’t tell my children that I walked 10 miles to school in horrid weather, and I can’t tell them about surviving a chicken pox epidemic(I had the chicken pox, but only a few spots!), I can tell them proudly that I did survive the Blizzard of ’78!    OH 1978

Blizzard of 1978

Blizzard of 1978

OH weather stats for blizzard

The Elderly Gent

I was at Rolla Federal Credit Union last week to do a bit of banking.  As I walked into the lobby and got into line to wait for the teller, I noticed  an elderly gentleman  with white hair peeking out from under his cowboy hat.  The elderly gent was sitting in a chair perched outside of an office doorway and I  noticed that the man was not heavy, he  had on glasses with dark rims, and  he carried a cane.  Shortly after I had gotten into line, a family came into the credit union: a husband and his wife and their son, who looked to be about 12 years of age.  Immediately the elderly gent rose  and greeted them as they came into the lobby.

I thought to myself, “Oh, he knows them.”   Lots of folks in Rolla know one another, such is the way in a smaller community, and I settled back to accidentally overhear their conversation due to the elderly gent talking loudly.   He launched into a loud, fast soliloquy.  The husband who had greeted him with a hello and had politely shook his hand managed to get a few comments and questions in, but I got the impression it was very important for the elderly gentl to say his piece and get it uttered for all to hear.  He related how he was originally from Texas,that  he had been  a country music singer and songwriter-then he gave his name, and of course, none of us had ever heard of him.  He said he sounded a lot like Tex Ritter when he sang.  I did know who Tex Ritter was and so did the husband;pretty sure his 12 year old son didn’t.  Then the elderly gent gave his salvation story, and then launched into a song  he had  written about Jesus.

I had to give the elderly gent credit-for looking to be in his late 70s or early 80s, he did have a strong singing voice.  No tremulous quaverings in his tone at all.  The husband, wife and 12 year old son politely stood at attention as the elderly gent serenaded them.  I grinned at the tellers who were trying not to giggle and not one of the credit union employees told him to stop singing or to go away.  By then it was my turn at the teller’s window and when I was done, the elderly gent had sat back down in the chair and was continuing to talk about his country music writing career and his faith in Jesus to the family of 3 whom  he had greeted when they had walked in.

Fast forward to last Friday afternoon, at Aldi, and as I was placing my purchases on the conveyer belt, I heard a familiar voice strongly singing a song he had written about Jesus.   Yes!  The elderly gent was serenading the Aldi shoppers as they were bagging their groceries!  This time his audience was also fellow senior citizens and they nicely applauded him when he was done.  Most of the cashiers were politely smiling but one did challenge the elderly gent a bit and asked him if he knew any songs by Willie Nelson.  To his credit, he ignored  the question and kept on singing and talking about his faith in Jesus.

I came away with several thoughts from my 2 encounters with this elderly gent.  He was not ashamed of his Lord, Jesus Christ.  He was .proud of his singing voice and past career.  He appeared to be in good health.  He was cheerful and wanting to talk to the public  in places where most people just focus on what they need to get done and want to be on their way.  How many times do I just focus on me, myself, and I when I am out and about shopping or running errands and don’t take time to aknowledge the people about me with a smile or a kind word?

Despite the giggles from the bank teller and the grocery employees, the elderly gent was not afraid of scorn or ridicule or rejection as he boldly praised his Lord and sang in these public establishments.  While I don’t plan on launching into song on my next forrays into the public places of Rolla, MO, I do want to take with me a spirit of friendliness and kindness towards my fellow citizens as we are out and about, shopping and running our errands.  Thanks for that lesson, Elderly Gent.

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