Saturday, November 13, 2010

First day of school

See? I told you I was behind...

Fiona is off to first grade, and Aiden is off to preschool for the first time.

The traditional picture on the front porch, each in their favorite outfits.

Both schools are in easy walking distance.

I'm amazed that they bothered to put any vegetation in front of this sign before the first day. I assure you, we weren't the only people telling this particular story with cameras.

At the classroom door, it was very easy to see the difference between Fiona's and Aiden's personalities. Fiona got to the doorway, and froze:

Fiona's hesitation at the door was just long enough to capture this perfectly.

Then, she immediately started seeking structure: "Where's my desk? Where do I put my lunch? Where do I put my backpack? Where...." a high, semi-panicky voice.

Mrs. Burgher was unfazed.

As we left, she was immersing herself in the experience as fast as she could.

Then, it was time to walk the two blocks to Aiden's preschool.

And then there were three. Plus Daddy's shadow.

We got to Aiden's classroom, and he walked right in. Right past the teacher. Right to the toys. Adjustment? What's there to adjust to?

Oh, this looks like fun...

Tomorrow, I'll be posting photos from their high school graduations. Hyperbole, yes, but then, consider: Fiona is seven. Somewhere between a third and a half of her time in our nest is already gone. Better enjoy it while it lasts!

Welcome back

Yes, I know, it's been nearly a month. You can blame Facebook, blame my job, blame my kids, blame my wife, any number of things. Mostly, it boils down to not feeling like I had the free time to write. But tonight, Deborah is out having a "girls' night out," and the kids are in bed (if not necessarily sleeping...) so I'll see what i can do to correct that.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More than we'll ever need

We did a new thing this year: we adopted some apple trees from a community apple orchard. We paid a small fee (about 20 apples' worth, if you're buying them at the store), did some pruning, and stepped back to let rain and shine do their thing.

In early Fall, we got the call that our apples were ready.

These are organic apples — not the waxed-up, pesticide-soaked supermodels that you'd find at the grocery store. Your first reaction might be that they weren't any good... but oh, they were, they were.

Deborah asked for a basket for her birthday, spcifically for harvesting things.

The kids enthusiastically picked the low-hanging fruit...

...while Risanna munched.

Pretty soon, the allure of a climbable tree plus the lack of low-hanging fruit led to the logical solution.

I lost count at 360 apples. The Zipper proved very handy, as not only could we move things around, but it could drive on the grass, and provided a handy place to climb on to get upper branches.

The apples needed to be cleaned up, but looked great with a little washing...

Beautiful apples.

They did need to be cut up to get the worm holes out. For all the apples we had, this took days.

After several hours of cooking and a trip trough a food mill, we ended up with more than 20 quarts of really good applesauce.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grief on the Island

I used to pass by it every morning on my way to work. A hammock, out at the end of the point. It was always up, summer, winter, spring and fall. A really lovely place to sit and watch a sunset, snuggle up. I never climbed into it myself (it's not mine, after all!) but I always appreciated the brilliance of the location and the view.

It's gone now.

Very late last night, the whole end of the Island was swarming with every kind of emergency vehicle, trying to extricate the two college students that had been laying in the hammock when the dead tree the hammock was connected to toppled over on top of them. The girl, Mallori Kastner, was pronounced dead at the scene. The guy, Jeremy Mohr, is apparently paralyzed from the neck down.

The hammock is gone. There's a growing pile of flowers there. The body of the tree is still there, half-rolled off into the water. And there are people, always people. I came across a group that I'm fairly certain included the girl's parents and siblings this afternoon, the mother talking about her daughter's hopes and dreams. I stayed out of the way.

What was I supposed to do?

It's so strange to be in the midst of grief. I came around the point yet again this evening, to find a silver minivan blocking the road, illuminating the wreath and flowers left there in the headlights. They quickly reversed and drove on, and I cursed myself for driving them off. I'd have gladly backed up and taken the other road, to let them sit and look. Rolling up next to them at the stoplight, I zipped down my window and apologized for running them off. They waved it off, but I could see in their eyes that they had other things on their minds. Sorry, silver-minivan-people-from-Illinois. I should let you grieve. My usual route wasn't that important.

What do you do when grief is so close by, but has nothing to do with you? My only connection is that I drive by that hammock every day, that I live just down the block, that I think I saw them snuggling under that tree over there, a few weeks ago, that I used to go to the same college... it's not a connection, really; who am I to intrude on their grief?

So why does it feel wrong to step back and do nothing?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sapo Verde a Ti

Hang around us long enough, and you will eventually be here for a birthday. And we Kerrs don't settle for a standard "Happy Birthday" ...we may very well wish you a green frog: Sapo verde to you!

This started when we lived in Costa Rica, where, inexplicably, people preferred to sing "Happy Birthday" in English, or as close to English as they could. (I've encountered this attitude in many places, but a Portuguese friend explained it most succinctly: "When we get to heaven, we will speak in Portuguese. But we will still sing in English." All the good songs are in English. Now you know.) If you're familiar with a Latin American accent, you can start to see how, with some enthusiasm and vague familiarity with the words, happy birthday can start to sound like sapo verde. Green frog to you!

* * *

So Aiden is five now. He spent most of the day jumping around with a five-kilowatt grin on his face, just absolutely delighted to be FIVE. I gave him one present at breakfast (which also seems to be more Kerr family tradition than anything else) and by the time I got home from work, Paul and Martha were also there.

There were presents; there was cake.

There was a fun game of catch in the backyard with Aiden's new foxtail ball.

Wait, where's that ball going?

There was a lot of questionable throwing technique.

There was giggling and laughing until certain birthday persons could no longer stand up.

Much of the rest of the weekend was spent reading the "funny cat book" (Martha gave Aiden a Garfield compendium) to Aiden and Fiona. I'd forgotten how much I'd latched on to that comic when I was about that age. I didn't get half of it, fresh off the plane from Costa Rica (What's this "lasagna" they keep talking about? Wait, it's pronounced how?) but it didn't take long for me to catch on. I'd also forgotten how much physical humor there is in it; the kids think it's hilarious. I guess I've forgotten what it's like to be a kid.

...a kid who understood sapo verde, but not lasagna.

Wonder what our kids will think is perfectly normal?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Summer Tastes Like

This is what summer tastes like to me: Zucchini spaghetti. Zucchini and tomatoes from our own garden. Sweet, slick onions. A dash or so of olive oil and parmesan. Ahhh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Look

So, yes. I had meant to sit down and write a new blog post tonight, while we sweltered here, and Deborah sewed, but the "customize your blog" button caught my eye, and... well, now I'm writing a post about how I didn't write a post.

What do you think of the new look?

UPDATE: OK, so the initial reaction to the shades-o'-blue scheme was rather underwhelming. I shall try again...

UPDATE 2: Can't please nobody. Back to the same-ol' same-old.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Green-Eyed Monster

I don't know who this guy is, or what kind of plane it is, but he's out there, flying over Warsaw and Winona Lake just about every blue, sunny day, rolling, wheeling, diving, having a great time. He pulled off what sure sounded like a loop right over the backyard yesterday.

It makes me smile every time I see him up there. Frankly... I'm a bit jealous!

Friday, August 06, 2010

For BIG mistakes

There is a story that has become legend in my family. One afternoon, almost 40 years ago, my sister was supposed to be taking a nap. She got out the crayons instead. She then proceeded to draw a mural on the wall, as high as she could reach, and as long as the bed was wide. (Ah, but she'd "stayed in bed," right?) Given that this was in a rented apartment, this was a problem. You can't just paint over crayon — it acts as a resist — it has to be removed. So my parents picked up an eraser, and for the next several weeks (perhaps even months) my sister would have to sit there, every day, working away at the crayon marks until they were all done.

I have seen this eraser. It's about four inches across, and about eight inches long, and aside from a very worn corner, what stands out most is the print on the side: FOR BIG MISTAKES.

* * *

I've been discovering crayon marks on the walls again. We've got the oldest of our young artists paper-trained, but Risanna has been taking an interest in the arts as well.

Yes, baby! PAPER! Paper is a good place to draw!

The marks on the walls and cabinets remain, though. So today, Deborah brought home an eraser...

Yep! Same thing, 35+ years later!

Isn't it great that such things can continue from generation to generation?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Update on Allan, Part II

I just got off the phone with Carolyn (my mother-in-law; my mother is also named Carolyn; the poor kids are going to think "Carolyn" and "Grandma" are interchangeable) for an update on Allan. He got home from the hospital on Monday, and is on a slow, steady program to get his strength back. The stent he has in is apparently coated in a medicine that helps dissolve the plaque directly at the site. Nurses are visiting about twice a week to check in on him and work on his rehabilitation, and treadmill tests are scheduled about two weeks out.

Hurrah, he's home!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Update on Allan

Since I last wrote here, Allan:

  • is off all medicines but one
  • no longer has the balloon pump, as his heart can beat on its own
  • is out of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit)
  • is pacing up and down the halls (for some reason, reading that made me think, "Yup, that's him." I can imagine a certain amount of muttering as he goes.)

The latest word is that should be going home tomorrow!

Friday, July 30, 2010

More late-night phone calls

Deborah, Paul and I were sitting around, looking at stuff on the computer, when May called, sounding very flat and small. Allan (my father-in-law; Deborah's, Paul's, and May's father) was in the hospital with chest pains and apparent heart trouble. A little while later, another call came in: he'd had a heart attack, right there in the hospital — they had to revive him twice with the paddles — and was now having emergency surgery. Around midnight, the call went out that he was now out of surgery; they did a balloon angioplasty, put in a stent, and he has some sort of balloon pump to help his much-weakened heart.

And this from a guy who, all the years I've known him, ran everywhere he went, and whose lone vice was peanut butter ("peanut butter goes with anything.")

Please pray for him.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Deborah and May picked up some lovely Indian dresses at the flea market in Shipshewana, and, well, how often do I have the chance to work with two beautiful models?


We live, if not precisely in Amish country, very close to it. Just close enough that you don't do double-takes when you see beards and bonnets at Wal-Mart, far enough away that you still do single-takes.

Shipshewana is about an hour north of us on Route 5. Much of the Northern Indiana Amish and Mennonite communities center around Shipshewana. ("Wana" is apparently the important part of the name — it shows up everywhere: Wana Cyclery, Wana Coaches & Buggies, and according to one wag's handmade sign, Wana Beer.)

It's also a site for some amazingly diverse shopping, in the form of the Flea Market, which claims to be the largest in the Midwest (1050 stalls!), and is just as likely a source of Amish peanut butter (Mmmm....) as imported dresses from India. So, a Wednesday or so ago, we went to visit.

The road shoulders are extra-wide around here for a reason.

Our primary mission that day had been the flea market; Deborah and May concentrated on the clothes that you couldn't find anywhere else, and I kept my eye out for unusual equipment and used tools. Deborah and May certainly found what they were after, and I found some gems, too, like glass cutting bits and an army surplus booth that had insulated boots. I'll have to come back for those, but they look perfect for winter motorcycling.

Birds on the roof of the auction barn.

The old-timey goodness factor is in full effect... some of it done for the tourists, surely, much of it quite genuine.

Bicycles were in abundance. For some odd reason, at least half of them were recumbents — I probably saw more people reclining on their bikes in one day than all the years I lived in California.

Regular or premium for your horse today?

I got a good chuckle at the gas station, as bicycles and buggies lined up for gas — not for the horses, but for other equipment. The local Ordnung (community ordinances) doesn't allow cars, but chainsaws and generators are OK.

The advertising is pretty straightforward.

Yep... Neat Stuff!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Now Accepting New Theories

I give up. I'm out of decent theories about how Mario Kart chooses the winner of a match.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I've got them rear-ended blues

You'll just have to imagine the blues riffs in the background...

Well I had me a day
and I was driving home
down past the drive-in
the B & K., that's the one

Drivin' a gray car
on a gray rainy day
turnin' folks in front of me
Waitin' for my turn

Oh, I got them rear-ended blues
Guy named Lucky 13
Ran the red
and now I got the blues

Well, they sent me the Po-lice
and they sent me the medicos
Now they're sending me nice letters,
those attorneys-at-low

Well, the next day was awful
and the day after was bad
but I'm feeling better now
it's blues, but ain'cha glad?

Paramedic: Are you numb anywhere? Deborah: Yes! I just came from the dentist!

Oh, I got them rear-ended blues
Guy named Lucky 13
Ran the red
and now I got the blues

Well, I got me a mashed-up Fender
to play this trueful tune
'bout my mashed-up fender
gotta fix it soon

Well I'm still drivin'
down those lonely roads
But I feel sorry for ol' Lucky
he sure had a heavy load

Oh, I got them rear-ended blues
Guy named Lucky 13
Ran the red
and now I got the blues

So. Yeah. Deborah had a blues station playing when I sat down to write this post, and the inspiration was there, so I rolled with it. Should I — as Robert Frost famously put it — say it again in worse words?

Thanks to a doctor friend of ours who was coming to visit anyway, our medical bills thus far have amounted to $13 for an extra-large bottle of ibuprofen. The part that leaves me somewhat nonplussed is the response of (a) the insurance companies, plural — even my own insurance company is falling over themselves to help out, even though they're not on the hook for any of this — and; (b) the sudden influx of mail from personal-injury lawyers. I'm getting stuff from all over the state, and nearly all of them portray insurance companies as thieving scum that need to be battled. I am certain that (a) and (b) are related, but the exact mechanics and history of that relationship are beyond my scope at the moment. I don't plan to take any of this up with any lawyers. If nothing else, "Lucky" seems to have enough trouble in his life — if you're running red lights to try to pick up your kids from your ex-wife on time, your troubles may or may not be self-induced, but they're still problems.

On the whole, though it comes down to this: Deborah isn't hurt, other than a few days of stiffness and pain. The other guy walked away. Cars can be fixed or replaced; people can't. I'm glad it worked out the way it did.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010