Today, Ted and I went back to our school volunteer duties.  He is working with the same teacher as last year and has two new second graders who need to improve their reading skills.  He said they are great kids and are very excited about reading with him.

The secretary and several of the teachers were so happy to have me back, they hugged me when I arrived at the Success School.  I worked with three students today and had a good time.  Ted, my student from last year, has decided to take the GED Options class.  I’m so glad!  He has several more failed classes to repeat, and will have a much better chance of graduating with his class if he spends the year preparing for his GED.

The classroom in which I tutored a few times last year got a facelift over the summer.  The washer and dryer are still there, but all the miscellaneous junk has been moved to a far corner in the “L” of the room and has been replaced with tables and chairs.  The ceiling-hung electric cords for the power tools have been replaced with arts and crafts-style colorful felt parrots hanging from the ceiling.  (I wonder who came up with the parrot theme.)  The room is now used for the daily opening assembly, among other things, and looks pretty good.

Best of all, I had a happy surprise.  As I walked toward the office between classes, I recognized the woman coming out.  It was Cat, one of my former GED teachers.  I knew she was working for the St. Charles School District, but I didn’t know she was working with the Success School kids.  We had a brief and happy reunion.  She was a very good GED teacher and, for her masters thesis, she put together a How to Get Your GED in 60 Days book with a study curriculum for each day.  Another one of my former GED teachers works as a part-time counselor at the Success School.  We GED teachers love to help the underdogs in academia.  It’s a small world, for sure, to have three of us from the SCC GED program all working with the same kids now.

A quick between-classes picture of Cat and me.

A quick between-classes picture of Cat and me.

There were lots of festivals in the St. Louis metro area this weekend.  Among them:

–The Great Forest Park Balloon Race was held in the soggy Central Field in Forest Park this afternoon.  Balloon Glow was cancelled last night, due to heavy rain (2-5 inches across the area), but the race was on today.  Update:  The ground was too soggy for the balloons to take off. 

–Schlafly Beer sponsored the “Hop in the City” festival.  For $30 advance tickets or $35 on-site tickets, attendees could taste 51 different beers and enjoy outdoor music and entertainment.

–St. Peters sponsored “Celebrate St. Peters” at the 370 Lakeside Park.  That’s the same festival where “Elvis” called me to the stage and put a scarf around my neck.

And the list goes on, but perhaps the most unusual outdoor event today was the wife-carrying contest in Eureka, a suburb of St. Louis.  Here’s all the information.  According to the report on the evening news, the winner of the contest gets the woman’s weight in beer.  Yahoo!

According to the evening news, the winning team is awarded the woman's weight in beer. Yahoo!

Today is my brother Denny’s birthday.  He died 39 years ago–twelve years longer than he lived.  He and I used to fight all the time.  We sat on the same side of the table for meals and made sure the elbow of the other one of us never crossed the crack between the two halves of the kitchen table that divided our seating places.

As my oldest brother, he was the one I sought out in high school on the day I was told our mother had been in a serious accident and was unconscious in the hospital.  A teacher was going to take me to the hospital, and I asked Denny to watch our other three brothers after school until I got home.  That’s the most serious-looking face I ever remember seeing on him.  Maybe he thought the same of me at the time.

We didn’t get along with each other while we were growing up, but we became closer when we left home.  He was stationed in California while Ted and I lived in Washington, DC, so long distance phone calls were tricky with the time difference and having to wait until the cheaper evening rate kicked in.  (Remember those days?)  We wrote regular letters to each other, though.  In fact, Denny wrote letters to several of us in the family within weeks of his death.  Was that meaningful or not?  Of course, we all wondered about it at the time.

Denny and Bev became engaged a few weeks after Ted and I announced our engagement.  Denny was a groomsman in our wedding and Ted was a groomsman in Denny’s wedding.  We had Jeff in February 1972; Denny and Bev had Eric in July.  Then we had Kathy in April 1973, and Denny and Bev had Cheryl the following January.

Today, on your birthday, I want to say I still miss you, Denny.  I have four brothers, but one–you–lives only in my heart.


Your big sister

This is the picture of Denny I carry in my mind. He just bought the car and was so excited about it.

This is the picture of Denny I carry in my mind.  He’d just bought the car and was so excited about it.

I’ve been needing some new electronic toys for awhile, so I finally took the plunge and bought them.

My Nexus 7 tablet was diagnosed by Alex well over a year ago (maybe two years ago) as having a broken accelerometer.  Translation:  When I rotated the screen, it would not rotate back.  I had to power the tablet down and reboot it to un-rotate the screen.  Solution:  I’ve just kept the screen locked in the portrait position.  In the past year, the touch screen has also become increasingly less responsive.  Solution:  Tap harder and repeatedly to get a response.  My frustration and patience finally reached their limits with this device, so I bought a Samsung S2 tablet.  It’s an eight-inch screen instead of seven, but I like it.  It’s still easy to hold in one hand and not as unwieldy as a ten- or eleven-inch screen.

Another one of my toys, my seven-year-old laptop, wore out its internet card (diagnosed by Jeff).  I’d be merrily working away and would lose my internet connection without warning.  If I plugged the laptop in with an Ethernet cable, everything was fine, but I’m going to use my laptop for the India teacher trainings, and the odds of having a handy Ethernet port are slim, not to mention how inconvenient that would be.  I bought a 13-inch Asus laptop, and it’s pretty awesome to move up seven years in laptop technology.  I like the touch screen a lot, the laptop is very thin, the keyboard has a smooth, light touch, and I got a terrabyte of free cloud storage with the MS Office suite.  The only downside is that it’s brown!!!  Really?!  Not even a choice of at least standard silver or black?!  I mean, who wants a brown laptop???  It’s a silvery metallic brown, which makes it more palatable, but still, . . .

Anyway I’m happily playing with my new toys and, after also replacing our four-year-old smart phones last spring, I should be in good shape with my electronic toys for awhile.

The laptop came with a nice carrying case. I had to buy a cover for the tablet.

The laptop came with a nice carrying case.  I had to buy a cover for the tablet.

Yup! They both work. The photo on the laptop is from the Isle of Skye ought the northwest coast of Scotland.

Yup!  They both work.  The photo on the laptop is from the Isle of Skye off the northwest coast of Scotland.

I’m reading a pseudo-detective novel and its text is liberally sprinkled with amusing sentences that make me smile.  My knowledge of French is extremely limited, but I’m pretty sure I know what this means and it made me laugh out loud.

After twelve years employed as a sewer engineer for Hydro-Québec, Huck had acquired a faint, but persistent, “l’air du poop” that wouldn’t go away, no matter how much he showered nor how many gallons of Old Spice that he put on.

Dyer, Indiana is too close to our eastern Wisconsin friends and family to pass up a chance to visit the area.  (Not to mention that it’s a good excuse to bring cheese and hard rolls back to Missouri.)  We visited with Ted’s brother, Gary, and while we were in Kiel, we went out on a limb and decided to try a different kind of cheese this time.  We went to Henning’s Cheese Factory near Kiel, did a little cheese tasting, and spent a chunk of money.  We didn’t tour the cheese museum because a tour bus arrived at the same time we did and the museum had a maximum capacity of approximately one busload of visitors.  Now we have something to do on our next visit to the area.

Cheese-y, I know.

Cheese-y, I know.  Note that we are not climbing on the cow nor on the sign.

Jake, one of my brother Tom’s good friends, lives about two miles from the cheese factory (just down Henning Road, in fact), and we’ve gotten to know him through visits to Tom’s house for various events.  Jake was at Brandon and Maddie’s wedding and insisted he would be very hurt if we went to Henning’s without stopping in to see him.  We’re so glad we accepted his invitation, because we had a very relaxing visit.


I could get used to a view like this from my back porch.

I could get used to a view like this from my back porch.Jake in front of his cottage. He has park-like property across from the cottage and it's beautiful!

Jake in front of his cottage.  He has park-like property across from the cottage and it’s beautiful!We also spent a very nice evening with my cousin, Donna, and her husband, Jon.  We had dinner at Rupp’s–a Sheboygan favorite that Ted and I haven’t been to for many years–followed by dessert and good conversation at Donna and Jon’s home.  My Uncle Gibby was supposed to join us, but decided to visit his son/my cousin, Mike, in Menominee during the time we were in the area.  Uncle Gibby will be 90 years old in November.  Donna and Jon are planning a party to celebrate the event, but we won’t be able to attend, since my brother Tom’s other son, Kyle, is getting married in Michigan on the same day as Uncle Gibby’s party.  We’ll have to get together with Uncle Gibby next time.


Settling in at Rupp’s

Driving along Highway 57 between Plymouth and Waldo, we saw a pig car.  Yes, a pig car.  Since our grandson, Teddy, is crazy about pigs, we had to stop to take some pictures for him.

A unique way to advertise a pig roast.

A unique way to advertise a pig roast.

Naturally, a pig car needs a curly tail.

Naturally, a pig car needs a curly tail.We needed some exercise one rainy evening, so we “walked” the Wal-Mart store next door to our hotel.  It took about 40 minutes to go up and down every aisle and gave us a good idea of the scope of what can be purchased at Wal-Mart.  It also showed me how people get to be such die-hard Packer fans.  In Wisconsin, they breed Packer fans, dressing them in green and gold beginning at birth!

Baby Packer regalia to get the little ones accustomed to wearing the green and gold.

Baby Packer regalia to get the little ones accustomed to wearing the green and gold–booties, bibs, caps, onesies, etc.

When the kids grow up, they can buy nearly every essential item of clothing in the green and gold they've learned to love. Adult pj pants are hanging in the background

When the kids grow up, they can buy nearly every essential item of clothing in the green and gold they’ve learned to love.  Adult Packer pj pants are hanging in the background.As long as I was picking up hard rolls in Oostburg, I took time to visit with some high school classmates.  Audie and Sally met me at an Oostburg restaurant and we had a nice visit.  Audie’s husband died two years ago and she is now engaged and planning a wedding for late October.  She looks very happy and said she feels blessed to have been given two such wonderful men in her life.  We also went through the “What are your kids and grandkids doing?” routine, which is always fun.

On our way home, we stopped in Brookfield to have lunch with my cousin Judi.  Time flew by because we had so much to talk about, so we left later than we’d planned, but it was worth the time and we’re retired–we slept late the next morning.  Unfortunately, I forgot to have Ted take a picture of me with Judi.  I’ll have to hold that memory in my heart.

I-55 parallels the old Route 66.  When we stopped for gas, we felt more like tourists than travelers in need of gas and a rest room.  Jake’s, a huge store/gas station near Waggoner, Illinois, is obviously the place to stop for everything Route 66-related.

The tempting window display to attract our interest. Everything says "Route 66" somewhere on it.

The tempting window display to attract our interest. Everything says “Route 66” somewhere on it.

Route 66 themed rest rooms.

Route 66-themed rest rooms.Any souvenir your heart desires.

Any Route 66 souvenir your heart desires.When we got home, we put the cheese in the refrigerator, the hard rolls in the freezer, and the luggage in the laundry room.  Ted checked the rain gauge and discovered we’d had 3.2 inches of rain during the week we were gone.  Now it’s back to normal life for a few weeks before we head to Grand Island, Nebraska and Kirksville, Missouri to visit with Mutzie, Glenn, Kathy, and Annette.  Good times!

My brother Tom’s son, Brandon, was married in Dyer, Indiana last week, and we attended the wedding.  It was fun to get together with family and to catch up with each other.


The wedding was at Meyers Castle and it was very nice.  The bride and groom were going to make a last-minute indoor/outdoor decision, based on the skies.  Based on conversation among the guests waiting with us for chairs to be dried off, the wedding party were apparently some of the few who did not look at the radar before making the decision.  A huge area of heavy rain was just outside the town at the time of the ceremony, but the call was for an outdoor wedding.  We were sprinkled on a little bit, but everyone was inside before the deluge hit.  The pastor did a world-class job of including all the important information, as well as some pleasantries, while keeping the service moving along ahead of the rain.

During the ceremony, Brandon made promises to Damon (his soon-to-be-adopted son) to always care for him.

During the ceremony, Brandon made promises to Damon (his soon-to-be-adopted son) to always care for him.

You may kiss your bride.

You may kiss your bride.


R: Brandon, Maddie, JoEllen, Tom” width=”800″ height=”600″> L–>R:  Brandon, Maddy, JoEllen, TomAnd then it was time to party!

The venue was beautiful and romantic.

The venue was beautiful and romantic.

Damon dancing with his grandma.

Damon dancing with his grandma.The winner for "most unusual wedding cake topper."

The winner for “most unusual wedding cake topper.”Ted and I had a good time, and we wish Brandon and Maddy many happy years together.

Brandon and Maddie forever

Brandon and Maddy forever

Due to the delayed swim party for Dylan’s birthday, it wasn’t long before Kari invited us to Sky’s birthday dinner.  He chose an all-time favorite meal:  ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, and Waldorf salad, topped off with chocolate-chocolate cake (cake and frosting were both chocolate) and ice cream.  Yummy!

Then it was time to open his gifts and to build the Lego set he received while Ted and I visited with Kari and listened to Teddy tell us about school and how he has to do stuff with Google Docs, science, math, etc.  It was a very enjoyable evening, and Ted and I love being able to share these celebrations with our grandchildren.

Yes, he's a teenager now.

Yes, he’s a teenager now.

A nice assortment of birthday gifts.

A nice assortment of birthday gifts.  (And he’s starting to look so grown up!)Sky and Dylan were eager to build the new Lego set.

Sky and Dylan were eager to build the new Lego set.

We were on our awesome European vacation on Dylan’s birthday, so we couldn’t celebrate with him and share his ice cream cake, but we left birthday gifts for him to open while we were gone.  One of the gifts was an afternoon at Creve Coeur Park for him and a friend, to be arranged after we returned.  Ted and I thought it would be fun to rent kayaks at Creve Coeur Lake for the afternoon and then go out to dinner with the boys at a restaurant of their choice.

As it turned out, a previous kayaking experience for Dylan made that more of a stressor than a gift, so we offered him an alternate activity.  After family discussions at Kari’s house, it turned out that what he wanted to do was spend an afternoon in our pool and then go to Pizza Hut.  That’s pretty simple!

On a beautiful afternoon, Dylan and Teddy played in the pool while Sky entertained himself in the basement with his art supplies and the Wii.  After the swim and a snack, Dylan got my treadmill going up to 10 mph for a sprint and Teddy watched Sky play Wii games, prior to playing “footstool” with Dylan.

Watch Wii

Big brother plays.  Youngest brother gets the “privilege” of watching.  Both are happy with the arrangement.

This is how you play "footstool."

This is how you play “footstool.”We closed the afternoon with dinner at Pizza Hut and took the boys home in time to get ready for bed.  They talked and laughed a lot during our time together, so I think it’s safe to say we all had a good time.

Pizza Hut--always a hit with kids.

Pizza Hut–always a hit with kids.