Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Woodward's Quasquicentennial

Caught up, hooray! I did it! Today I wrote nine entries (including this one) with more than fifty pictures to catch us up from May 29 to today. TA-DA! Yes, I pretended each was written as it happened. It’s not easier that way, but it is less confusing for readers.

This week was Friends and Neighbor’s Day and the quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) of my hometown, Woodward. The celebration included a dance on Friday, parade on Saturday and an all-school reunion on Saturday night. Also, family friend Emily and her fiancĂ©, Jonathan, were coming to visit. They’re getting married in just a few weeks, and she was in the area to have her practice-hairdo done and meet with the minister. Jonathan was afraid they were intruding on short notice, especially since we had family staying here already, but we let him know that Emily essentially is family.

Friday, I ended up helping dad chore before the dance, which I hadn’t planned when I scheduled my prep-time. I got frustrated when my hair wouldn’t dry. Then, I had to stitch a slip and bra to my coolest (temperature-wise) dress. If I didn’t, they would show. Without them, the dress would be too see-through. Then, when I was done and it was time to go, I realized my dress had a hole in the top layer of silk right over my right breast. By then I was rather cranky. Mom trimmed the snagged threads and we called it done. Then when I got upstairs, Dad commented that I was too dressed up. That got me really cranky. What’s more fun right before going out amongst many people than feeling self-conscious?

Once I got inside, though, I was fine. I’m kind of a social butterfly, so mingling makes me happy. I saw my former principal, Mr. Blaker, which was fun. I had several drinks and chatted with my former babysitter, several family members, and everyone who graduated in my decade. No one was there from my class, so I mostly talked to my brother’s classmates. I did manage to find one person younger than me, Matt D. He’s a neurologist. I told him I’d call him for my next brain tumor. I’m sure he gets that all the time.

My only real faux pas for the night was when, thoroughly buzzed, I mistook my Home Ec teacher for my English teacher. After ten years that might not be so bad, except that she and my mom are friends, and she was at my house just last summer. D’oh! The dangers of alcohol, children. Beware!

Saturday morning, J.B. and Erika showed up at our house with my adorable nieces in tow. We played for a while, petting Scooter and playing the piano. We looked for Hooligan to pet him, but he did a masterful job of hiding from us. Then we all went up town for the parade, where we joined up with Aunt Sandy. We also ran into one of my high school classmates, Jill, her husband and baby Oscar. He was adorable.

The parade was everything a small town parade should be: fire trucks, combines, horses, a band and lots and lots of candy. The girls were too little to really forge for candy, so they waved, and I scooped it up. I gave them most of it, saving hard candy (which they can’t have) and the occasional Tootsie Roll or Fruity Roll.

One float even tossed out cateye sunglasses. Despite J.B.’s best efforts, Brookie was gobbling candy like there’s no tomorrow. He grabbed her little belly: “I feel one…two…three…four…five…six Tootsie Rolls in there.” “Wait,” I added, pointing out another part of her tummy, “seven!” Brooke giggled and asked for more candy. I advised her that if she had much more, she’d get a tummy ache. She replied, “I had seven. I think if I ate sixteen, my tummy would hurt.” Erika and I laughed at that.

Then we went for lunch and the bouncy castle. Mom and Dad went home to wait for Em and Jonathan while the bouncy castle inflated. I bought the girls tickets and waited for a round when there were no dangerous big kids inside. Brooke informed me that the wait was taking too long and she loved bouncing on the bed, but once I got her inside she froze, as did her sister. Brooke stood and Courtney crouched looking at us imploringly. We informed them that it was okay, and they could get out.

Once they were safely on the ground, Brooke said, “Maybe the bouncy castle will be more fun when I’m five. Maybe then I won’t feel so shy.” “I bet you’re right,” I replied. The girls were tired and a bit cranky. J.B. may have been sleepiest of all. At the car, Sandy gave the girls pretty name signs for their rooms, which they really liked.

After they left, I met up with Emily and Jonathan. They had some snacks on main street and then we went back to the farm. Jonathan really liked playing fetch with Mac. Then they both got the tour of the new house. Emily had never seen it before. Jonathan went with Dad to chore while Mom and I made supper and we indulged in girl talk. Before we knew it, the guys were back and we had supper while talking about Emily’s dad, who passed away several years ago. Craig was Dad’s best friend, and Emily informed Jonathan that Dad might be his best chance at understanding Craig since Dad “probably knew him as well or better than anyone.” I was having so much fun with our visitors that I opted out of the all-school reunion. After dinner, Emily, Jonathan and I hopped into the hot tub, just as the fireworks display started in Woodward. You can’t beat hot tubbing with fireworks.

The next morning, Mom made us an elaborate breakfast, but had to leave for a brunch with her classmates. Uncle David, also staying with us, was having brunch with his class. That gave Em and I some time for a one-on-one talk, which we hadn’t had in years. Things have been rough since her dad died, but now she’s in love and has a great new job. Mom and Dad are keen to help with the wedding, but I think our support is the best thing we can give her. The more love and support we give her, the happier she’ll be. Of course, we’ll help with wedding duties, too. Whatever it takes, we’re all in.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shows of many kinds...

I swear a lot of things probably happened from July 7 to July 16, but I don’t remember most of them. I exercised, did dishes and laundry and helped Dad with the sheep. I took pictures. I chatted online or on the phone with friends. I read a lot of books and watched some TV online or via DVR. I helped Jordan with some sheep-showing tips.

Wednesday, Jenny called and asked whether I wanted to go see Sdralee with her Thursday at Hoyt Sherman Place at six. I agreed. Mom asked why the concert was so early. I replied that I had no idea. The next day, someone asked who I was going to see. I couldn’t remember. What kind of music would it be? “I don’t know…folk rock? Indy rock?”

It was sheep show day and the Boone County Fair, something I hadn’t been to in ten years. Jordan was showing her sheep. First she helped with a pen of three. Next was showman ship, and later in the day she showed her commercial ewe lamb. Showing pen of three is basically smooshing three lambs together (side by side) with their heads up high and their back legs set straight up and down. Easy, but not the greatest practice before showmanship.

We reviewed some basic info on her lamb, and she and I jumped up and down for energy, since for juniors smiling and having fun are really important qualities in a showman. Other rules: Hold the sheep by the head. Keep the head high. Arrange the sheep so its legs make a perfect rectangle, each leg straight up and down, square under the sheep’s body. Basically, you want the sheep to look tall and elegant like a deer. Always keep the sheep between you and the judge. When the judge puts her hands on the sheep to feel its muscles, etc., place your knee against its chest so it will flex. Smile at the judge, and know when your lamb was born and what it eats. Do all that and you’re golden.

Jordan is both an athlete and really smart, so she did do all that. Her only fault (one I share) is adjusting her lamb’s feet too much, especially when the judge was handling it. Whenever she looked at us, we were giving her the thumbs-up, grinning like crazy and waving our arms to hint that the sheep’s feet were fine and to leave them alone. (Dad didn’t even sit with us. He figured it would make Jordan less nervous if he was out of the way—much different than when I was showing. He would crouch in the grandstand by my head, telling me what to do. Hee! Jordan managed to snag second place, which is amazing for her first time out. The judge confirmed that. “This was your first time showing? Are you a natural or do you have a good coach?” “Good coach.” That said, the judge did mention that the exhibitors “had a lot of distraction from the stands.” Who, us? Well, it worked, didn’t it? Jordan even won her class (or did she get reserve? Well, either way, she ended up in the championship drive).

My parents and I told her how proud we were and gave her hugs. Then we went out to dinner. I got home just in time to spruce up for my concert. I rushed to my car and drove, windows down, to Des Moines. When Jenny came down, she was carrying…a cook book??? Oh, Sandra Lee! As in “Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee” on the Food Network. Hee! “Hey, Jenny, want to laugh at my ignorance?” And she did…as did her sister, Jessy.

Hoyt Sherman place is a lovely venue, and we had great seats. The event was sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association, so all night Sandra Lee showed us recipes with soy while cracking wise with the mucky-mucks on stage and her co-host Erin Keirnan (a local news anchor). We learned that the night before Erin had had three cocktails before going to broadcast the evening news. “How did it go?” “Fine. Just like any other night.” Heh. When I told my parents, they replied, “Hmm…She was pretty funny the other night.” Hee!

Sandra was cute and very funny, teasing everyone around her and drinking liberally as she went. Many foodies don’t approve of her because of her use of prefab food. I read an article where one chef called her “the devil.” Sandra admits that she used to go overboard using Cheese Wiz and has been striving to create healthier dishes. That said, she defended her use of 70% purchased, 30% home made dishes. First of all, as a kid, her father abandoned Sandra’s family and her mom was ill. They had to go on welfare and food stamps, and Sandra had to figure out how to stretch a dollar and make food stamp-approved food as tasty as possible. Secondly, she had found that people couldn’t always duplicate the recipes of famous cooks, and felt that revealing which brands were used would help. Finally, she said, “I could tell you each and every spice is Jamaican Jerk Chicken mix, and you could buy each one, but it would cost about $70. Or I could tell you to buy this packet for a dollar. It just makes sense.” Word!

My favorite was when she made her own version of Bailey’s Irish Cream...but put in triple the recommended amount of liquor. Hee. Then we went out to get our goodie bags, which help two plastic soy-themed plates, soy latte-sized plastic travel mugs and recipes. Then we filed into the dining room for our samples of soy corn salad, jerk chicken, pastry with soy cheese and olive tapenade, fruit smoothie and strawberry angel food cake. Then I stood in line with Jenny for autographs. We’d been standing in line for a while when I felt a hand on my arm. It was Sandra Lee, who thanked us for waiting and assured us she was going as fast as she could. Aw!

Friday I just chilled around the house, but Saturday was the Boone County Fair pig show. I got to see Jordan show, as well as my cousin Connor. Jordan didn’t win as much as she had on Thursday, and as such didn’t have as much fun. Connor, on the other hand, cleaned up! I told him I was sorry I didn’t see any of his baseball games this year, but I’m glad I got to see him show. He replied, “This is better, because I got a lot more trophies!”

It was fun hanging out with him, his sister Hannah, his parents Karen and Lynn, his aunt Karla, and his grandparents Unkie and Helen. Hannah couldn’t stop raving about summer camp, which was coming up soon. Hannah, Karla and I watched some of the rabbit show together and checked out the exhibit building. Later we all ate lunch together, and I had fun having lunch with everyone. Soon we were all headed for home after a hot, fun day at the fair.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Partings and reunions.

July 1, my Staker Grandparents left to return to Arizona. It was kind of heartbreaking. Grandpa’s health isn’t too good, and they keep saying they’ll probably never come back to Iowa. I may never see him again. I know there are never any guarantees, and we can never take it for granted that we’ll see a loved one again, but it’s hard. I almost started crying as I hugged them goodbye. I spent the rest of the day on chores like laundry and dishes. Dad and I kind of fought because he snapped at me when I helped him sort sheep. It bothered me, because it made me feel sad and frustrated, like a child. Later he felt bad, kind of apologized and changed his behavior.

On Thursday Dad and I helped J.B. and Erika move from Newton to their new house in Bondurant. It was hard work, but it was nice to help. We took Dad’s stock trailer and helped them fill it up, along with their moving truck. It was challenging, but we managed to get everything there in one trip. Erika and her sister, April, made some great goulash. Unfortunately, I ripped my second-best jeans and my shin in the moving process. Their housing development in Newton had placed wooden posts here and there around the lawns to keep people from parking on them. With my arms full of boxes, I didn’t see one. Owwwwww. J.B. was very sympathetic: “Ripped jeans are in, so…you’re welcome.” Hee. Love you, too, J.B. Dad and I saw some fireworks on the drive home, and arrived there exhausted.

My uncle Jim was supposed to arrive July 3. He didn’t. July 4, Mom and I went to Perry for a parade where I raked in the candy. I didn’t want to deprive any children, so I only picked up sweets that were clearly thrown directly to me. Upon seeing my haul, Dad commented, “It must have been big boys throwing the candy.” Heh. I was wearing a cute sundress, but replied, “I think I just that I smile and wave.” That night we stayed in and watched the Washington Pops special. At one point, Jim had specifically mentioned wanting to see fireworks. Well, at 11 p.m. Jim called saying he’d seen fireworks and was now almost to our farm… just two days late. We were all in bed, but we dragged ourselves out of bed to welcome Jim and my cousin Darren. Darren got the short end of the stick and ended up on the fold-out couch with its torturous spring-ridden mattress. Poor guy.

Saturday was the Kiley reunion as Saylorville Lake, where we ran into Jim’s other son Sean and his girlfriend Kasey (Casey?), my Kiley grandparents, Grandma Carol, Uncle Tom, his sons Matt and Brandon, their girlfriends Nikki and Nicole (I have no idea which is which) and Brandon’s daughters (the most recent of which, if I understand correctly, was a complete surprise…like my-stomach-hurts-What?-I’m-giving-birth?-type surprise. How does that happen? Oh, well. The baby’s cute).

After the reunion, Grandma Carol, Jim and his kids all came back to our place. We talked for hours, especially about genealogy. Kasey and I bonded over books. Sean does computer animation, and he showed us some of his work. Darren is quieter than Sean, but if you’re right next to him you can hear him crack great jokes.

Grandma camped out in one guest room, Jim in another, and Darren was again on the torture couch. He and I covered it with couch cushions, which helped a little, but Mom and I decided to buy an air mattress to use with the fold-out couch in the future.

The next morning, Sean and Kasey came back to the farm and we all had breakfast together. It was fun. One by one, people took off. Darren was in a car with no AC and bad windshield wipers. He and I took some time to apply RainX to his windshield because rain was predicted. Then we sent him on his way. As he was leaving, some of Grandma’s friends appeared. I was all visitored-out, so I excused myself for some alone time. I don't know how Mom does it! Unkie jokes that he's making her a sign that says "Kiley's Bed and Breakfast."