Thursday, July 31, 2014

'Twas the Night Before School Starts #TBTStories

School is getting ready to start here in our little town, and it makes me think of all those fun back-to-school activities we enjoyed for so many years: shopping for school supplies, paying all that book rental, meeting new teachers, and getting ourselves back on an early-to-bed early-to-rise schedule. :)

One year, we decided to have a campout on our last night before school. Not the night before school started, but the night before the night before. Got it? We packed up all our camping gear (a tent), and trekked over behind the barn to set up our campsite. (We were/are not campers, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Here are the kids, roasting their hot dogs for our supper. Jennifer's all ready in her fancy jammies.
Little Adam must have been wearing his brother's shirt. Whatever worked. We 'cooked' our supper over the fire, and, of course, roasted marshmallows for dessert.
Here's a photo of yours truly in front of our luxurious accommodations. Seven people, one tent. If memory serves me correctly, I graciously agreed to give up my spot in the tent so it would be less crowded. And I am really quite fond of my bed. And sheets. And air conditioning. :)
Everyone survived, and Jim always liked to say he slept like a rock. Or was it on a rock? I think there's a coffee commercial with a similar line. 
Happy 'last day before school starts' to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zoo Day Tuesday

Tuesday turned into zoo day when Darci asked Noah and me to meet them at the Indy Zoo. It was a beautiful (cool for July) day, and we weren't the only ones who decided that a trip to the zoo was a good idea just before school starts. (Next week here in the 'burg.)

Haleigh and Ella are always thrilled to see 'Baby Noah.'
We saw giraffes and hippos, crossed the jumping bridge, and saw elephants and the baby warthogs. We saw sleeping lions and cheetahs, then took a little break to have some lunch.

After lunch we got in line to ride the SkyRide over the Orangutan Center. What was estimated to be a 30 minute wait turned into about an hour, just as the sun came out and the day heated up. Noah kept himself occupied by walking along the divider fence between the lines.
Well hello there, Noah!
They only allow 4 riders per car, so Noah and Ella came with me, and Darci and Haleigh rode together in the next one.
We tried a few selfies. :)
It was a nice slow ride, and soon we spotted one of the orangutans climbing the ropes in the distance.
Maybe it was Rocky? He's the youngest of the 8 orangutans at the zoo. After our SkyRide, we went inside the exhibit to see what the rest of them were up to. It was crowded in there, but we did get one orangutan to pass right by our window. Little Noah was not too sure about that!
The girls wanted to get their faces painted, so we stopped for a little break while they got all decorated.
Haleigh was first, with the pink heart design.

Ella was next,
and she wanted a dolphin.
Noah just wanted his bottle. Such a big boy!
The girls posed for some pictures with their pretty painted faces.

Noah did his own kind of posing. Ah, the life of a baby.
We had a nice day, and Darci and the girls headed south, while Noah and I headed back north to his house. As we arrived home, he was clapping his hands in recognition of a fun day at the zoo. :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Happily Ever After

Jim and I are celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary today, and I put together a little slide show in honor of the occasion. I discovered that there is about a 20 year gap in photos of the two of us. That's what happens when you're busy living life, chasing kids, and keeping the camera firmly in your own hands. :)

Thirty-three years ago. Hottest day ever. Happily ever after. 

Edited to add another option for watching the slide show.

Click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Great Houseboat Adventure #TBTStories

My Throwback Thursday Story this week goes back to Father's Day weekend, 2001, better known as 'The Great Houseboat Adventure.' This was just one of the excursions enjoyed by the Smiths and the Stewarts over the years.

The adventure began when we packed two vehicles with 4 adults, 8 kids, baggage, food, and fishing gear and headed to Dale Hollow Lake in Kentucky. Or it might be in Tennessee, depending on where you are on the lake. And how old you are.

To say it was an adventure is a bit of an understatement. It is still amazing to me that a 10 minute orientation from 'Darl' qualifies Jim and Daryl to drive a houseboat with 3 decks, 6 bedrooms, and a hot tub on top, for four days on a 25,000 acre lake. We didn't even know enough to bring along a 'little boat', but they were happy to rent us one, no problem. With the 'little boat' in tow, we were ready to set sail. When we asked one last question about 'docking' that 90 foot vessel at night, 'Darl' explained that we should just 'tie 'er up to a stardy tree.' Say what?!

All in all, it was a fun trip, and we spent time sunning, floating, fishing, sliding, and hot tubbing as we cruised around the huge and beautiful lake that is Dale Hollow. We only lost a few things along the way: a filet knife, a fishing pole, a deck chair (it just blew right down the slide), and, oh yeah, our 'little boat.' Thankfully, someone noticed it wasn't still with us, and two of the boys gave chase and captured her before she was too far gone. We even managed to find our way back to the marina at the end of the weekend. Fortunately, it was the same marina from which we started. :)

Here are the kids, in age order, all decked out in their matching t-shirts. Of course.
David, Brad, Andrew, Grant, Jennifer, Jonathan, Stewart, Adam.
That's Stewart, Smith, Stewart, Smith, Stewart, Stewart, Smith, Stewart. 
Got that?!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blue Clear Hodgepodge

It's Wednesday again, and time for another edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. I am thankful to Joyce for faithfully providing questions so that we have something to blog about on these hot summer days. In fact, I'm thankful for the Hodgepodge all year long. She makes us think, and challenges us to use our words to give our faithful followers a glimpse of who we are. Thanks Joyce! Be sure to click on the button to pay her a visit, then hop around to see what the others have to say. Be sure to leave some comment love!
Here are her questions and my answers:
1. When I look at the sky I feel________________________________________.

In awe of the grandeur of God's magnificent creation. Takes my breath away.

2. If you had to run for political office, which one would you run for? Do you have any real desire to actually do this?

Not. At. All.

3. What scent makes you think of home?

It depends which 'home' I'm thinking about. In my childhood home, my mom had a preschool in our converted attached garage. There were smells of crayons, paint, and magic markers out there that may be part of what led me to become a teacher. I recently saw a post on Facebook about someone who noticed that no matter how long ago one graduated, the high school still smells the same. I know this is true, since my children all graduated from my (and Jim's) high school.
The home we made together, Jim and I, smelled alternately like chlorine, sweaty socks, muck boots, and the occasional (ok for several years, frequent) dirty diaper. All of those smells evoke fond memories of by-gone days. Living in the country, which is home for us, produces a myriad of fragrances, from new mown hay, manure being spread, and corn drying. I love those special smell-induced memories that send us swiftly back in time, and lead us home.

4. How often do you take a step back to think about where you're headed in life? Do you need more or less self-reflection?

My life has taken a path that I pretty much expected: teacher, wife, mother, granny. I spent many years just hanging on for dear life, without much time for reflection. And I loved every minute of it. Now that I'm older (ahem), I do enjoy taking that occasional trip down memory lane, stopping to give thanks for both the mountains and valleys, and trying to implement the lessons I have learned in that great big classroom called life.

5. July is National Ice Cream Month...besides a cone, what's your favorite food item to top with ice cream?

Chocolate Chip Cake. It is a recipe shared with my mother-in-law years ago by one of her college besties, Joyce. It has become a family favorite for birthdays and special occasions, and it's awesome with a dip (or two) of ice cream. Mmmmm. You can check out the recipe here.

6. What might your autobiography be called?
Livin' on a Prayer.

7. Your least favorite mode of transportation? Why?

I don't really enjoy traveling by motorcycle. Because, well, dangerous. The last time I rode one was 2 years ago in Haiti, where the young guys are eager to give you a ride up the hill mountain for a couple of dollars. I don't have any photos of me on the motorcycles, obviously, but you get the idea. You hop on, hang on for dear life, and hope your friend who speaks Kreyol has told him that you're scared.
Because the roads? Dirt, rocks, ruts, cliffs! And often there are two or three riders behind the driver. When you're going up, you are hanging on around his waist so you don't fall off the back. When you're going down, you're holding on to the back of the bike so you don't smash him. Unless you're in the middle. Being smashed. Oh, and did I mention I was wearing a skirt? Yes, yes I was. On the up side, it did save miles and miles of hiking. Uphill. :)

8.  Insert your own random thought here.
I listened to this new song by Reba, that was posted by a friend on Facebook, and I thought I would share it. Reba has always been one of my favorites. Sincere, down-to-earth, country, but can still be fancy when she wants to be. We saw her a few years ago in Indy when she opened for George Strait. Now that's a show!

If you're like me, this tune will be running through your mind on repeat. Maybe if we all join together in prayer, we can bring peace to a hurting world. Amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Showmanship Showdown #TBTStories

My Throwback Thursday Story today is in honor of the county fair, particularly the showmanship competition that wraps up the livestock show each year. For those of you not familiar with showing livestock, showmanship is a class where the exhibitor is judged on how well he or she presents the animal. It includes, among other things, answering questions, knowing your animal's strengths and weaknesses, showring etiquette, and presenting your animal in a calm and professional manner.

Many counties have a 'round-robin' or 'supreme showmanship' contest in which the top showmen from each species compete by showing an animal from each species in a single evening. Our contest is named as a memorial to Tom Swain, who was a friend and supporter of 4-H in our community, and was killed in a car accident along with his two young sons. Last night marked the 40th year for the contest in Decatur County.

My throwback story goes back to 2004, when Jennifer competed in the contest for the second year. She earned a spot in the competition by being a first or second place winner in the expert division of the beef show. At that time, our show included the top two showmen in beef, swine, sheep, and dairy. Although Jennifer also showed horses, they are not included in the competition. Our county contest now includes goats as well.

Of the four species to be shown, Jennifer only showed beef, so she had to borrow an animal for each of the other species. It ends up being like a crash course in showing, as the exhibitors try to learn as much as they can about each species between the time that they qualify for the contest and the moment they step into the ring to compete. On a hot, hot evening, the 8 contestants started out by showing a pig.
Showing a pig involves tapping it with a little stick to chase walk it around the ring so that the judge can get a good look at it. You must keep your pig between you and the judge, while maintaining control (ie. knowing which pig is yours), all the time keeping your eyes on the judge. Easier said than done!
Next up, beef cattle, and Jennifer was comfortable and happy to be showing her own animal. Jennifer always loved showmanship. Her love of animals, her confidence, and her ability to remain calm made her a good showman. She took it seriously, but with a smile on her face. (And it never hurts to smile at a judge.)
I have always thought that for those who don't show beef, it must be hard and a little intimidating to take an animal you just recently met into the showring, because of their size. They're big! The exhibitors are savvy enough to borrow animals that have demonstrated that they are calm and tame, but even so, they can still be unpredictable.
Exhibiting dairy requires that you walk slowly. And backwards. And there are questions.
Sometimes, the answers get a little creative. How much milk will she produce in a year? I think the judge must have been amused by her answer, and she joined him in sharing a chuckle. No need to tense up, just relax and have fun. :)
Jennifer showed her friend Heather's lamb, and it cooperated well for her. This sheep showing experience proved valuable for Jennifer in her vet tech class at Purdue. While they were learning to restrain sheep for treatment, Jennifer calmly braced the lamb against her leg as shown, while the rest of the class was being pulled all over the arena by the sometimes crazy sheep. Lol.
Keep your eyes on the judge.
Answer more questions.
Whew! All finished, animals put away, and contestants back in the ring for the award presentation. Did I mention it was 100 degrees in there? Each exhibitor receives a medal, a shirt, and other mementos as a reward for their hard work. Then it's wait for the judge to announce the runner-up and the winner.
A big smile at the moment she knew she had won.
A handshake from the judge. Another smile.
That's a big trophy! The large one is a rotating trophy that the winner keeps for a year with his or her name inscribed. The smaller trophy is hers to keep.
All the contestants pose with the judge and the fair royalty.
And a celebratory picture with the whole family. Now that's what I call a throwback!

P.S. Jessica is taking a summer break from the #TBTStories linkup, but I wanted to continue with the stories anyway. Hopefully she will bring it back in the fall. Which will be here before we know it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Buongiorno Hodgepodge!

Hello Hodgepodge! I am happy to be joining Joyce today for the Hodgepodge, which she hosts every Wednesday. She writes the questions, we answer on our own blogs, then link up for some fun and fellowship. Be sure to click on the button to pay her a visit.
Here are her questions and my answers:
1. The month of July was named for Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. He's quoted as saying, 'Experience is the teacher of all things." So what has experience taught you lately?
Experience has taught me lately that little 11 month old boys are into everything. I know that since this little guy stayed overnight with Granny and Grandpa for 2 nights this week. In this photo, he was learning to open the freezer. Lookin' for ice cream, Noah?

2. Where did you last 'roam'?
We recently roamed the streets of Chicago, under the expert guidance of our map-reader grandson Matthew.

3. Speaking of 'Rome', pasta, can only pick one, which would you choose?
I'm an ice cream girl through and through, so I would choose gelato. Yum.

4. 'Rome wasn't built in a day', 'All roads lead to Rome', 'When in Rome...' which 'Roman' idiom have you most recently encountered? Explain.
Well, I recently encouraged my non beer drinker son and his fiancĂ© to try some Irish beer while they visited Ireland by saying, "When in Dublin…"
They tried, they hated. (But aren't they cute?)
I do think that 'when in Rome' is a good motto when experiencing the places, tastes, and adventures of this big wide world.

5. What's a movie you've seen or a book you've read, that makes you want to book a trip to Italy?
I thought really hard. I googled. I learned that I have not watched many movies set in Italy. The only one I came up with was Romeo and Juliet, 1968 version. A long, long time ago. And I'm guessing most of it was actually filmed in Hollywood.
**Last minute addition to this answer: Everybody Loves Raymond goes to Italy! My favorite show in a beautiful place. The Barones, in all their wonderful dysfunctional glory, would definitely make me want to book a trip to Italy. Ha! Smile, Raymond, you're having fun!

6.  Walt's original Disneyland opened almost sixty years ago, on July 17, 1955  Have you ever been to the California park? How about any of the other Disney parks around the world? What's your favorite amusement park ride or attraction?
I have not been to Disneyland California, but I have been to Walt Disney World in Orlando, once as a child, and once with our kids, which I wrote about here.
My favorite amusement park ride? I'll vote for the classic, 'It's a Small World After All.'

7. It's that time of year...when were you last bitten or stung?
I haven't been stung in quite a while, knock on wood, but I do seem to attract mosquitos, especially at the lake. Part of enjoying the great outdoors.

8.  Insert your own random thought here. 
We have a new pastor at our church as of July 1. Changes in pastors are part of being a United Methodist, at least in our little town. 
On Sunday, he challenged us with this thought:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fair Days

It's fair week! The most wonderful time of the year! I have loved the county fair since I was a wee small lass longing to show a horse, or a pig, or even a chicken, at the fair. I loved hanging around the animals (really!), picking up a duck to win a prize, trying to get a ping pong ball into a goldfish bowl, riding the ferris wheel with my besties (even if it occasionally caused some tummy trouble), venturing into the fun house, and eating those greasy donuts (maybe that's what caused the tummy trouble).

Our kids loved riding with their dad on the merry-go-round, getting a twist ice cream cone, and sitting on every single tractor every single night. As they grew, they spent hours in the barn playing cards, scooping poop, and making friends. They experienced the highs and the lows of showing cattle (and horses, for Jennifer), and, hopefully, learned something along the way.

Adam learned (among other things) that fair tenderloins are mighty tasty. We headed out to the fairgrounds on Thursday for opening night, so that he could have a tenderloin before he left for Europe on Friday. He decided to attempt two, a lofty goal. I'm afraid his eyes were bigger than his stomach, but he did get his tenderloin fix before heading across the pond.
On Saturday night, we ate dinner (again at the fish/tenderloin tent) and then took Haleigh and Ella to see the 'Barn Buddies.' There are baby pigs, chicks, lambs, calves, and a llama on display. Haleigh tried 'milking' the pretend cow.
And they had a grand time 'digging' in the corn.
Grandpa got his opportunity to take the little ones on the merry-go-round, his favorite, and they all had a good ride.
On Monday morning, Matthew was dressed and ready to show his Angus heifer, 'Lady Gaga.'
This is just part of his cheering section, which included 95-year-old Great-Grandpa Stewart, Nana and Boomie, Jennifer and Bryan and Baby Noah. Go Matthew!
Here he is in the heifer class, getting her all set up.
And after the class, giving Granny a smile. Such a handsome guy!
Here he is having a quiet moment with Lady before he took her back to the stall. She will go back into the herd to be a mama cow.
During the lunch break, Ella ate with us (again, at the fish/tenderloin tent, that's three times now), and we got some ice cream for dessert. She chose chocolate.
Noah got his first taste of ice cream at the fair.
Where have you been keeping this stuff, Mom? Yumm-eee.
Matthew took a little catnap during the lunch break. Those early cattle show mornings are hard on a guy!
Meanwhile, Haleigh did a little sweeping.
While Noah and Jennifer got acquainted with some goats.
Matthew had a Hereford steer to show in the steer show, thanks to Grandpa Charley. You can see some more of his fans hanging on the rail on the far side of the show ring. 'Cooper' was the champion Hereford steer, since he was the only Hereford steer. :)
After the steer show, Matthew participated in the rookie showmanship class. For this class, the judge is looking at how well the young showmen handle their animals. He asks questions of each one in the class, and watches closely while the showmen lead their calves around the ring and set them up, all the while keeping their eyes on the judge.
This was just after Matthew was named Reserve Champion Rookie Showman! Way to go, Matthew. It's no small feat for a boy of about 60 pounds to lead a steer of about 1250 pounds. (How's that for an understatement?)
I'm so proud of Matthew for working with his cattle even when it was hard, and for doing a great job in the show ring today.
The judge said many times today, that the important part of showing is not the prizes or trophies, though they are nice, but, rather, the lessons learned, the relationships made, the kindnesses shown, and the memories shared that make the experience worthwhile. I am thankful for patient judges who take time to teach and praise, for dedicated parents and mentors who make livestock projects possible, and for families and communities who support the endeavors and activities of our youth.
After the show, we had a chance to take a photo of Great-Grandpa John, Grandpa Jim, Andrew, and Matthew. What a blessing for four generations to celebrate a successful day at the Decatur County 4-H Fair!