We’ve had 7.5 inches of rain in the last 60-70 hours.  The cold front has gone through and, although the normal high for tomorrow is 71 degrees, temperatures aren’t expected to rise above the low 50s.  The weather guy on TV said he wished it was February, so it would be warm.  At least we weren’t in the blizzard or tornado zones, like western Kansas and Texas.

It’s April, so we opened our swimming pool.  When I mentioned to several people that we would be opening the pool on April 25, they asked how I knew exactly which day we’d do that.  I explained that a crew comes out in the fall to shut down the water system and the pumps, blow out the pipes, and winterize everything; then they come back in the spring and reverse the process.  As a result, we need to schedule the day they come.

We take the winter cover off the pool the day before the crew comes and the concrete is always dirty around the edges where dust, dirt, leaves, etc. collect over the winter months.  Ted set up the power washer and I got busy cleaning the concrete.

The concrete to the left of the red brick trim is clean; the concrete I’m standing on is still dirty. Can you see the difference?

After the crew leaves and all the mechanical stuff is running again, we need to kill off algae that’s grown over the winter, re-stabilize the chemicals in the water, and vacuum the dirt off the bottom of the pool.  It usually takes about 4-7 days to finish the cleaning, stabilize the chemicals, and heat up the water.  This year we learned that some of the pool-opening work can be greatly reduced and/or avoided.

Vacuuming the bottom of the pool.

We usually open the pool when the air temperatures are warm enough to consider swimming, and we close it when the air temperatures are too cool to have fun in the water.  While they were here this week, the pool crew (the same guys who come every fall and spring) told us that algae cannot grow if the water temperature is in the low 60s or below, so if we close the pool after the water cools down to about 60 degrees and open it before the water gets above 60 degrees, it won’t be nearly as dirty.  (Our water was 68 degrees when we removed the winter cover.)

The obvious question:  Why didn’t they tell us this the first year we had the pool???  We’ll definitely try that idea next fall!

A television viewer sent this beautiful sunset picture to a local station and it was later posted on Facebook.  I feel peaceful just looking at it.

This is what my birthday could have felt like–but didn’t.

If birthdays keep getting better as you age, I’m going to keep getting older.  This birthday was so much fun that, instead of counting the candles, I kept on celebrating.  I had a half dozen lunches with friends, a destination celebration at Key West, a surprise weekend visit from our children, and finally, dinner at Bentley’s with Ted.  We saw beautiful flowering trees and spring wildflowers on our drive to the Lake of the Ozarks, our favorite server was on duty, and dinner was delicious, as usual.

It’s going to take something amazing to top this year’s birthday celebrations!

The view from the restaurant window while we ate.  The Lake is visible just to the right of the picture.

I haven’t thought about my physics classes for a long time, but I remember this little gadget.

The newspaper hasn’t moved for awhile and Ted’s head is slumped forward.  Is he sleeping?  “Oh, no,” he tells me.  “I’m just resting my eyes.”  Picture Jeff sprawled on his bed (while he lived at home) with his eyes shut.  Was he sleeping?  Not at all.  He always insisted he was “thinking of what to do next.”

Last week, I saw a bumper sticker that reminded me of Ted and Jeff.

Kari’s family invited Ted and me to their house for Easter dinner.  All the food was delicious (Who taught that girl to cook?  Oh, right–me!), and it looked so pretty on the table, I had to take a picture of it.  Dylan, a master of presentation, set the table and planned the serving dishes and their placement, contributing to the overall effect.  After dinner, there was conversation and sheephead.  It’s so nice to live close to at least one of the kids’ families so we can share times like this.

Lots of milk drinkers in this group.

Albert Einstein was born March 14, 1879, making him a Pisces like me.  I’m sure that’s only one of the many amazing things Bertie and I have in common.  Today is the 62nd anniversary of Einsteins’ death.  To honor his unparalleled scientific mind, here are some things he said on subjects other than science.

Tonight we went to Sky’s concert.  This is always an enjoyable evening for us.  The difficulty of the music and the kids’ improvement in musical skills is always noticeable from one semester to the next.  These kids are now old enough for competitions, so we heard some of the pieces they played at their festivals.  A few of the kids are even brave enough to play solos and duets, so we heard their competition pieces as well.  Most of the music was classical, but then the director asked, “What’s a concert without Michael Jackson?” and the orchestra played Man in the Mirror and Thriller.  Yes, an enjoyable evening.

I love that blue violin on the left.  What if the blue-haired girl played the blue violin?  (Arrow to Sky on the right.)

Here’s a picture my dad took of our family in the 1960s–maybe 1962-63?  Dad didn’t play “photographer” like Mom did.  He was a straightforward point-and-shoot kind of guy.  We used to tease him about his pictures because, more often than not, he cut off the tops of his subjects’ heads, but included their feet in his photos.  This time, he got all of our heads in the picture.

The sun is shining from low in the west in the picture below, so it’s getting late in the afternoon.  We’re all dressed up in our Sunday best clothes to attend Denny’s baccalaureate event.  I’m even wearing gloves!

L -> R:  Tom, me, Denny (back), Russ (front), Mom, Steve

Last night, Ted and I were at Wal-Mart and we saw happiness that lit up the entire store.

Mom, Dad, and their four daughters were heading for the checkout lane and each of the girls had a brand new bicycle!  The bikes were in assorted sizes–one small, two medium, and one large–to fit the owners.  The girls’ smiles couldn’t have been any bigger, and their eyes were shining with excitement as they each rolled a bike past the checker and then out to their van.  Lots of heads were turning to watch (it was like a bicycle parade) and people were commenting on how happy and excited the girls were.

It was already dark outside (about 8:30 pm), but I’m pretty sure there was going to be some bike riding in the driveway before bedtime.

Over the kids’ surprise weekend visit, I had a chance to spend some one-on-one time with eight-year-old Teddy.  Teddy takes after his mother (Kari), and talks nonstop.  Like his mother, he’s interesting, so this is ok and excuses the listener from the challenge of making small talk with a young child.  What always amazes me about Teddy is that first, his mind is always working; and second, it jumps all over the place in no particular order.  For example, when Ted watched Teddy one day when he was sick and couldn’t go to school, Teddy blurted out, “I just don’t get the Big Bang!  I mean, what started it?”  During the 30-45 minutes Teddy and I were together last weekend, some of the myriad of topics that came up for discussion in rapid order included the following:

* Birch bark can be used for paper, so if you would draw pictures of trees on pieces of birch bark and then put them together with pieces of wood for covers, you would have a book about trees made out of trees.

* I wonder if you can ever chew gum enough to make it disappear.  You know, like when you chew other food, it gets smaller and smaller and smaller and then you swallow it, but gum always stays the same.  (I mentioned this conversation to Katie and she told me there is a gum that dissolves.  She had it once and said it was awful.)

* What if we didn’t have skin?  What if everything about our bodies–the organs and the muscles and the blood vessels and everything was still the same, but we didn’t have any skin to hold everything together?  Maybe we would have something rubbery and we would all be like robots.  (Demonstration of how we would move like robots if this should occur.)

* What do you think would happen if you put ice cream in hot chocolate?

* I think more men than women died on the Titanic because they put women and children in the lifeboats first, so fewer women than men were left on the ship.

* Kittens were saved from the Titanic.  Really.  This is true.  A mother cat had kittens in a lifeboat and they were saved when the lifeboat was launched.

* Maybe I could write a story about a Titanic lifeboat.  “A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a lifeboat sailed . . . ”

Kari told me later that Teddy had to research the Titanic for a school assignment, so that explains why the Titanic came up repeatedly.  As I said, conversation is interesting with Teddy.  You never know what he’s going to wonder about next.

I guess I’m not the only one who thinks about what “Grandma’s house” looks like to outsiders.  While the kids were here for my best birthday ever, we were gathered in the family room for conversation.  During the chitchat, Jeff brought up something he’s noticed over time.

Jeff:  “You know how old people’s houses always look dark and smell funny?”

Ted and me in our thoughts:  “Is he talking about us?”

Jeff:  “Well, your (i.e., our) house doesn’t.”

Ted and me:  “Whew!”

I think with the new, non-yellowed microwave, the light, and the lack of funny smells, our house passes the visitors’ litmus test.

Friday night, Ted said he wasn’t too hungry, and asked how I’d feel about eating dinner a little later than usual.  Fine, I was reading a book, so I didn’t care.  We had a light supper around 7:30 and, just as we were finishing, the doorbell rang.  I couldn’t imagine who would be at our door at nearly 8:00 pm on a Friday night–a driver with a broken-down car?  a salesman?  a candidate for Tuesday’s election?  I could see a young-looking man and some other figures through the blown glass in our front door, so I decided it must be some high school kids with a fund-raising plea.  I opened the door and saw . . . my kids!  They had been working with Ted to plan a surprise birthday party for me.  I didn’t have a clue and almost started crying, so I reached for Sefton and snuggled my face into him.

Just the day before, Katie texted me a picture of Sefton and I texted back that he lives too far away from us.  The next day, she brought him here.

Jeff and Thom scheduled flights to arrive in St. Louis within minutes of each other around 6:00 pm.  Kathy and Annette arrived at Kari’s house in the late afternoon, and the plan was for the girls to pick up the boys at the airport, then come to the house to surprise me, after which we’d all go out for pizza.  (That’s why Ted was supposedly not very hungry at dinner time.)  Unfortunately, Jeff’s plane had hydraulic problems and he was delayed almost three hours.  The girls got hungry and decided to eat.  (Messages between them, Jeff, and Ted that I knew nothing about led to Ted’s and my late, light dinner.)  Ted and Thom picked Jeff up at the airport around 9:00 pm.

The kids and Ted apparently exchanged many emails/texts/whatever since late February to plan all this.  The first suggestion was to get together on my birthday weekend, but Ted and I were in Key West.  Not exactly hardship duty, and I was thrilled to have a destination birthday.  I had birthday phone calls from all the kids and not a single person gave away the slightest hint that anything like this was in process.  Everything was planned so that I could have a stress-free weekend to celebrate.  Kathy and Kari took care of the food preparation, and Kari hosted lunches at her house, as well as providing sleeping accommodations for Kathy and Annette.  What an awesome, loving family I have!  This was one of those times a friend of mine described as “pearls” in your family’s life.

Sefton was happy to see his Grandpa too.

Saturday morning included a trip to Paul’s Donuts.  Sefton didn’t seem to mind that his was a toy.

Three of my favorite boys:  Sky, Teddy, and Dylan.  Sky is almost as tall as I am.

As the hostess, I usually go through the buffet line last, but as the birthday girl, I was ordered to go first.  It felt a little weird.

When my plate was filled, I thought the food was so pretty, I took a picture of it.

Then I saw Dylan’s plate.  You can tell by the ring of green beans that he is far more artistic and more skilled at presentation than I am.  (And he likes bread!)

After dinner, there were birthday gifts to be opened.

Naturally, there was Vienna Torte–my favorite dessert–for my birthday cake.

Laralee’s sister is celebrating a milestone birthday in Arizona this week, so she and Jeff decided that Jeff would come to my party and she’ll go to her sister’s.  Alex is in Peru; Kyra is at BYU; Zack stayed home with La; and Julian was dog-sitting.  Dean spent some of the weekend with us, but couldn’t be here for the official birthday dinner.  Annette’s son, Ben, lives in the St. Louis area now, so he and his girlfriend joined us for some of the festivities, but not this dinner.  The miracle is that all four of our children, representing all four families, could be with us at the same time!

Here we are–all four of our children present.

Ted and I had pizza (delayed from Friday evening?) with Thom and Katie before we took them to the airport.

We are regular customers at this restaurant.  When they found out it was my birthday, the staff gave me a gift.  They “wrapped” it in a plastic cup and all the servers and both managers on duty signed the cup with birthday wishes for me.

Shocking!  It’s a glass with the restaurant logo imprinted on it!

On Sunday, Jeff left on a morning flight; Kathy and Annette left after lunch; Thom, Katie, and Sefton left after our pizza dinner.  I’ll bet the small, dark-colored duffle bag Thom is pulling holds his and Katie’s stuff, leaving the large plaid suitcase, the backpack, and the car seat for Sefton.

When everyone was gone, Ted and I relaxed outside at our firebowl.  The amazing, awesome, wonderful, fantastic weekend was over, but I’ll never forget it.

As I was driving home from my volunteer time at school today, I noticed that there was some road construction work going on ahead of me.

A little farther down the highway, there was another sign.

Luckily, the left lane was closed at the point where the highway expands to three lanes, so we could all drive down the center lane.

April Fool’s Day is not an official holiday, but it is celebrated worldwide as the one day of the year during which playful and mischievous behavior is tolerated and even encouraged.  The most important rule of April Fool’s pranks is to do no harm.  Jokes and pranks should not cause physical or emotional hurt to the recipients of those pranks.  Some of my favorite April Fool’s pranks include the following:

In 1957, the BBC News show Panorama featured a story about spaghetti trees that grew in Switzerland.  Video footage showed farmers pulling spaghetti strands off trees.  Following the program, people contacted BBC News to ask where they might purchase spaghetti trees for themselves.  Those who asked how to grow a spaghetti tree were told to put a stick of spaghetti into a can of tomato soup and hope for the best.

An early 1990s news segment on KSDK-TV in St. Louis also featured an unusual April Fool’s crop harvest.  Two of the station’s reporters were filmed picking marshmallows off trees in the Jewel Box (a display greenhouse in Forest Park).  The reporters gently squeezed the marshmallows to check for ripeness.  Miniature marshmallows were left on the trees to grow larger.

In 1997, an email message supposedly originating from the Interconnected Internet Maintenance Staff of MIT, announced that the Internet would be shut down to clean out the accumulated “flotsam and jetsam” of old emails and dead websites.  Readers were told to disconnect all devices from the Internet during the 24 hours between March 31 and April 2.  This was an updated version of the telephone-cleaning April Fool’s joke that warned users to cover the ends of their telephone receivers with plastic bags to catch dust that might be blown out during the April 1 cleaning.

In 1998, Burger King introduced the “Left-Handed Whopper,” specially designed for left-handed customers.  The bun was rotated 180 degrees “to ensure a better grip” of the sandwich.  Thousands of customers ordered the specialty, while many others requested their own right-handed version.

In 2000, Nancy, one of my co-workers at the college, was the target of a clever April Fool’s ruse.  Two of her staff members rushed to her office and breathlessly told her they’d just found out that the dance instructors had hired a helicopter to fly over the entire college service area and drop pamphlets advertising their dance classes offered through Nancy’s department.  (You’d have to know the dance instructors, but this was plausible.)  Nancy was horrified and frantically began brainstorming ways to stop this before her budget had to bear the expense of the helicopter.  Nancy was a good sport.  When she learned it was a prank, she laughed in relief and admitted her heart had nearly stopped when she heard about the helicopter.

Happy April Fool’s Day.  Have fun and do no harm.  ?