Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What's Been Happening?

I guess it's time to update my blog. It's been a little bit chaotic around here.

The big thing in our family life these past few weeks was Hurricane Harvey. Here in Temple we didn't get more than a couple days of rain and some gusty, but not excessive, wind. But our kids, Chris, Kelsey and the grands, experienced the full force of Harvey. A couple days before Harvey hit land, Kelsey gave a lot of thought to whether she should pack up the kids and head to our house before the storm arrived. But already there were a lot of people evacuating Houston, and the traffic on the roads was not something she really wanted to get caught up in. Besides that, she didn't know how long it might be before she could get back home. In the end, she decided she and the kids would stay home with Chris and ride it out.

They stayed home until the day the city released water from the Addicks Reservoir, near their house (I think that was on Monday, August 28), when they evacuated using their kayak, which they store in their garage. Their camping trailer was stored somewhere else, and they were able to get to it and have it towed to some friends' driveway, where they cozied up for a few days. 

We were all so thankful that our prayers were answered in such a wonderful way. The water never did enter their house, and they were able to return home on Sunday, September 3.

Now they are hosting a family from their church congregation, whose house was destroyed by the flood waters. They are packed in pretty tight, but are thankful to have a house to share, when so many others lost theirs.

These are some pictures that Kelsey sent to me, showing the condition of their neighborhood street when they evacuated.

Kelsey and the kids launching the kayak from their house.

There they are down the street.

Even their cars were spared damage from the flood waters.

With summer, comes vintage car races for Dan to work. He worked one in Oklahoma in August, and is looking forward to one near Houston in a couple weeks. Besides working on the tech team, he has also taken on the role of chaplain for the group. His first time to serve in this way was in August, and he was encouraged by the response to his short, early morning devo.

Fall means football in a big way in Texas. On September 1, Salado played its first game of the season. We met a group of friends from church at Miller's Smokehouse, a great barbecue place in Belton, for dinner, then we all went to the game, which was held on the campus of Mary Hardin Baylor University (Belton). Salado stomped its rival, Troy, with a final score of 33-0. It was a fun night out.

Salado cheerleaders
Here they come!

In case you can't read that - the final score is 33-0
I'm really enjoying working with he Salado Village Artists. Most of these artists are far more talented and advanced than I, but that gives me so much opportunity to learn. We held an art camp for Salado school children during the summer. It ran for four Tuesdays in a row, and gave me a chance to work with children, which is one of the loves of my life. Lately my art interests have shifted to watercolor, and I've been trying my hand at making greeting cards.

We are so blessed with a network of good friends, and they seem to be ready at the drop of a hat to go have fun. Many times we just go out for a meal together, but at other times we go to events, such as concerts. This past Sunday six of us went to lunch after church. We went to Cotton Patch, and the server called our attention to their new appetizer, Chicken Fried Bacon! Talk about a cholesterol party! Since six strips came in one order, Kay decided we really should have the experience, at least once. Oh, my goodness! It really was good.

This past Saturday was a work day at the church building. Dan and I were there from about 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. It was a wonderful day. So many showed up to do outdoor work - cleaning up the foliage and flower beds, power washing the buildings and sidewalks; and indoor work - cleaning every nook and cranny of classrooms, nursery and bathrooms, and painting some of the classrooms. When we all showed up on Sunday morning, the place was shiny and fresh. Oh, and did I mention . . . some of us went out to lunch after our work was finished. No more chicken friend bacon, though!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Great American Eclipse

Today was the day many people have been waiting for, the day when a total eclipse marched across much of our nation. Here in central Texas the moon only covered approximately 68 percent of the sun.

Dan and I watched and definitely noticed a dimming of light, but no darkness. Over the entire course of the eclipse, the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, according to our thermometer. Dan used a couple of paper plates to make a pinhole projector, and it worked perfectly. Here's what the eclipse was like at its maximum. The second picture is just an enlargement of the first one.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Oh No!

See these little cards - the size of sports trading cards, but with ancestors on the fronts and interesting personal facts on the backs? I'll actually blog about this - another big project I've taken on - later, when it is finished. Suffice it to say, for now, that on Thursday I picked up a few of the cards from the print shop because they wanted me to fix something in the layout before they printed a preliminary proof-set for me.

They sent me home to make the changes, and let me take all but one of the six cards that they had already printed. I got in the car and tossed them on top of the sliding door that covers a compartment in my center console. Here are a couple pictures of what I mean.

I laid the cards down on top of the little sliding door,  just like I've laid the pen down in this photo.

As you can see, when the door slides open, there's a handy little compartment inside.

I stopped at the first traffic light, and those slippery cards slid forward, and disappeared under the top of the frame (above where the top of the pen is pointing). Two of the cards still had corners sticking out, so I was able to retrieve them. But the other three were gone from view. When I got home I tried to open the compartment, but the door was jammed because of the hidden cards. Oh no!

Dan wasn't able to solve the problem, either, and said I should call the service department and make an appointment. So, on Friday I went down to Georgetown to get some help. The only way to get the cards out and get the sliding door functioning again was to remove the console assembly, AC control head and bluetooth antenna; retrieve the three cards; and reassemble everything. What a surprise: "Retrieving cards from inside the console" is NOT covered under the warranty! Yeah . . . this fun genealogy project is becoming much more expensive than I had anticipated! Ugh!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Just a Little Walk in the Woods

Last evening Dan and I went to Chalk Ridge Falls Park, about a 15-minute drive from our house, and hiked the portion of the trail that leads to the first of two falls - the one that gives its name to the park. I was hoping to get a few pictures, and that's what a got - only a FEW pictures. The sun was still a wee bit too high in the sky for completing the assignments from my great on-line Craftsy.com photography class I'm enrolled in. The park closes at 8:00, so we couldn't stay for the sun to set (about 8:15) and still walk the trail back to the car.

The scenery was lovely. We were in the shade of tall trees almost the entire time. Getting down to the level where I could get some good shots of the falls was a little tricky - steep trail and stairs - but it was worth it.

From the trail

Fishermen on the bank of the river. Pretty steep stairs to get down there.

A little pond

Finally, Chalk Ridge Falls! 

With a fast shutter speed, and . . . 

with a slow shutter speed - all "foamy."

While down at the falls, Dan struck up a conversation with a young couple. We talked for about a half hour, and really enjoyed listening to the fascinating experiences they'd had in their world-travels. They were newly-weds, having gotten married on 7/7/17 in an underwater wedding at Stillhouse Hollow Lake. The young man is a photographer and a diving instructor, and his bride, who was one of his diving students, is from Venezuela.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Robert's Summer Visit - Part Two

Sunday morning we drove to church, stopping at Starbuck's for breakfast, which is our normal routine. Robert went to Bible class and seemed to enjoy it a lot. During the worship service, that followed, he was good as gold. I was very proud of him. We went to lunch, afterward, with six other church friends. Chicken strips were on the kids' menu, so our boy was happy. We sat across the table from our friend, Kelly, who happens to be blind. At first Robert was very shyly mumbling answers to questions put to him. I explained to him that Kelly was blind and, if he didn't speak clearly and a little loudly, Kelly wouldn't understand him, since he couldn't see his lips. That little prompt was all Robert needed. He immediately began speaking clearly and loudly enough for Kelly to hear him, and the two of them carried on a pretty nice conversation.

On Sunday afternoon I took Robert to the splash pad to cool off properly (remember - AC was acting up). He seemed to be having a great time . . . but not for long. Within about ten minutes he came to me with a hangdog look, saying, "I want to go home. I'm bored." I couldn't convince him otherwise, so we came on home.

Monday, today, was a stay-at-home day. Robert did several art projects - mostly painting. One of his paintings he titled, Our Beautiful Planet Earth. As you might guess, it was a painting of the earth, as seen from outer space. His plan is to paint this same picture every time he visits here, and see how much his painting skills improve between visits.

We also played a new game with the deck of cards Robert got in his McDonald's Happy Meal. I Googled "card games for kids and adults" and came up with one called "Trash." It was really fun for both of us (I rate it 5 out of 5 stars for a G-ma/G-kid game), and Robert was very good at it, in fact he won more hands than I did. He's excited to go home and teach Clara how to play. Watch out, Clara!

Finally the HVAC repairman came and got our AC up and running properly. It was an easy fix, and since we are on a twice-a-year service contract with them, he didn't charge us anything. That's the good news. The bad news will come when we call the flooring people to repair the damage this caused to our hardwood. 

This afternoon was the time Grandpa had set aside to watch the Formula 1 race with Robert. According to his daddy, Robert loves watching the races, but not so much today. He was busy playing with his own cars, although he did keep his eye on the status of his favorite driver, Louis Hamilton. And, in the end, when Hamilton came in 4th, he insisted that the 3rd place winner had definitely cheated. 

Today flew by. We spent some time reading a fun book, Howie Bowles, Secret Agent and Robert watched some Angry Birds cartoons. We had tacos for dinner - a meal that Robert helped me plan and shop for. Before we knew it, it was bath and bed time. Tomorrow we will be taking him to meet up with his Mommy at our half-way meeting spot, Sommerville. As always he's been good, and we've enjoyed our time together. 

I've learned a lot from my grandson over these few days. He's a walking-talking encyclopedia, and his favorite sentence-starters are: "Know what?"; "Well, actually . . .", and "Well, technically . . ."

Know what? God's blessings on earth don't get any better than grandkids!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Robert's Summer Visit - Part One

It's that time again! We try to have Robert come for a visit every summer. The summer zooms by so quickly, between our busy schedule and Robert's. School starts in two weeks, so we barely made it in time this year.

We picked up Robert on Thursday, August 27. Friday morning, as soon as he got up, he asked for his "pre-breakfast." This is a tradition that he counts on when he's at our house. Since Grandpa is the breakfast chef, and Grandpa isn't ready to cook until around 8:30 or 9:00, Robert eats a pre-breakfast to tide him over until real breakfast. Pre-breakfast is usually a bowl of cereal - some sweetened kind that he probably can't have at home. But what happens at Grandma's stays at Grandma's!

Pre-breakfast on Friday was Cocoa Puffs! Yumm. 

While Robert was eating, I kept hearing a loud peeping noise, which seemed to be coming from our front door. I opened the door, and in the corner, cuddled right up against the door, was this little feller. . . .

I thought he might have fallen out of a nest or something. I tried to give him some water, but the drops just rolled off his bill, and he wouldn't open his mouth for them. I slipped some plastic bags over my hands and was going to move him into the shade and protection of some bushes, but by the time I came back outside, he was GONE! Now Robert and I were wondering whether he had actually moved to safety on his own or, in Robert's words, "been eaten by a predator." I guess we'll never know.

So, after both pre-breakfast and real breakfast, Robert and I packed our over-night bags and climbed in the car for a one-night road trip. I thought he might enjoy a mini-version of what Clara and I try to do each fall. We drove to Glen Rose, which is about 2 hours and 15 minutes from home. Our destination there was the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a drive-through safari park. It took about 2 and a half hours to drive through, including a stop, mid-way, at the gift shop. I tried to convince him that a souvenir should remind him of something he'd seen at the park, but it was obvious that he was really going to be unhappy if he didn't get the little plastic box of sharks' teeth. So that's what he came away with.

He was a little disappointed with the variety of animals he saw. So many of the different animals were in the deer and/or goat family. Deer, he told me, are NOT wild animals, because you see them all the time. Everywhere. I sort of agreed with him. I had hoped for some more exotic animals, myself, but the rhinos and cheetahs (both of which were behind a fence) and the giraffes were pretty exotic, I guess.

Fallow Deer (native to Europe, Asia Minor and Iran), Loved their antlers.

Aoudad (native to the deserts of Morocco, western Sahara to Egypt and Sudan)), also known as Barbary sheep and is the only African wild sheep.

This Aoudad came up and stuck his nose right into our open window.
Addax (native to Mauritania to Egypt, western Sahara and Sudan). This is the most desert adapted of all antelopes, which can live most of its life without drinking, deriving sufficient moisture from the plants it eats.

Cheetah (native of Africa to India).

Blackbuck (native to India and Pakistan). Due to their popularity on hunting ranches, there are more blackbuck in Texas than in their native India.

Another Fallow Deer - female.

Giraffe (native to northeastern Africa, Somalia and north Kenya). We were told, at the place where we purchased our tickets, that we could feed the giraffes by hand, holding the food in a flat hand. But, although we saw several of them, none of them were enticed by the food we held out to them.

Ostrich (native to Africa). The park brochure said, "Their eyes are bigger than their brain."

Southern Black Rhino (native to South Africa). 

More Addax, resting in the shade of a tree.

I think this is a Grevy's Zebra (native to Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Kenya)  but possibly a Hartman's Mountain Zebra (native to mountainous zone between the Namib Desert and the central plateau in Namibia). I'm not sure, but . . . I know it's a zebra! :-)

After the safari park, we drove a half-hour away to Cleburne, TX, to spend the night at a hotel. I think Robert enjoyed that almost as much as the park! In the morning, when I told him we needed to pack up our things, he looked at me quizzically and asked, "Why?" "We need to put everything in the car before we leave," I told him. "Leave?" he asked. "I thought we would be living here longer."

We popped popcorn to snack on while watching some kid shows on TV, before bed.

Robert in front of "his" hotel.
After packing up the car and having complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we drove to Walmart. Kelsey had sent the list of school supplies for second grade, so we went to search the store for all the items. It was quite a treasure hunt. Robert considered this a chore, and really didn't want to do it, but he was a pretty good sport about it. Maybe that was because he knew when we were finished shopping, we were going to go to the theater to see The Emoji Movie!

Robert's movie review: "It was surprisingly good!" Yeah, it really wasn't bad, despite the Poop Family Emojis (Patrick Stewart, you've sunk to a new low! LOL)

We had lunch at Schlotzky's and headed home. The video players in the backseat of my new car were invaluable on this trip. Two-plus hours is a long time in the car for a seven-year-old boy. Here's what he looked like with his eyes and ears glued to a video.

The videos certainly made the travel time go faster for him. 
So . . . you win some, you lose some, and some end in a draw. I think this experimental mini-road trip ended in a draw. It was okay, but Robert seemed to feel that it was a lot of time riding in a car just to see a park and a movie. The ends, apparently, didn't quite justify the means, in this case. I guess I'll wait until he's a little older to try something like it again. He does better keeping closer to Grandma's house.

When we got home, I found Dan trying to figure out what to do . . . our air conditioning was malfunctioning, and it was the hottest day we'd seen this summer (106 degrees). I won't go into all the gory details, but by bed time the house was getting quite hot. Luckily, the AC kicked on again, sometime around midnight. This pattern continued repeatedly . . . it would work for a while and give us some relief, and then it would die and let the house get uncomfortably hot before kicking on again briefly. We limped on like that all night. But even worse than having a hot house was the fact that the AC was leaking, BADLY, and apparently had been doing so for a long time, unknown to us. Water got under our wood floor, near our master bedroom, and ruined the wood. Once the AC is fixed, we'll have to bring in the flooring experts to do that repair.

So ended the first three days of Robert's visit - Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

To be continued . . .