Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sledding Adventure


What you see above is the beginner slopes for sledding at our new digs. I drug out a cheap plastic sled that I have had since when I was young, single, always broke and lived up in Minnesota. I spent many a night half loaded sledding down impossibly steep hills that had I been fully sober, I would have avoided. Somehow I made it away unscathed except for a few damaged liver cells. But back to this story. With six inches of snow on the ground and the weather being decent, I took my oldest daughter out for a little sledding. Since most of our property is very steep or has a lot of tree obstacles, we settled on this area of the yard. My daughter had a blast especially since this was the first year she can remember sledding. In the past years we have either not had enough snow or she was too young to go.


This slope shows the progression from intermediate runs on the far right to the expert run on the far left. As you can see, there are plenty of obstacles and there is absolutely no runout on the bottom. In fact, some large tree rounds from my dead tree cutting last fall line the bottom edge before you get to the brush. As a result, I had to dig in my heals to use as a break when I got near the bottom. After a time, I finally convinced my daughter to ride with me using the intermediate runs to the right and she did fine. The one time she went with me on the expert slope to the left, we got too much speed and I had a hard time steering with her in front leaning the opposite way and so we ended up wrecking right before a large ditch that is covered in snow and hard to see. That was the end of her going down that slope.

On a lark, I shed my glove and held the camera with one hand while sledding down the expert slope and trying not to hit any trees. See the video below. You can tell when I had to dig in my heals for it threw up a lot of snow onto the lens of the camera. It is a short run but was fun. It certainly burnt a lot of calories walking back up the steep hill.

video

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Blizzard That Wasn't

For most of last week, forecasters spent much time when they weren't pontificating the fate of the Blade Runner, informing us of the devastating winter storm that was approaching our state. It was going to lay waste, paralyze our lives and leave us begging for mercy. Well last Thursday afternoon it came.

Before it came, my oldest daughter got out of school early. I suppose the teachers were all worried about the  approaching devastation and didn't want kids walking home in the weather so school was dismissed two hours early. When my daughter got off the bus at the corner, she had to fight her way home over frozen brown grass and mild temperatures. Two hours later, when she normally gets home, it began to snow.

The snow came down in small dry flakes and by the time I made a run to the local Mexican restaurant to stock up on some food, we had about three inches of the stuff. It was terrible! I was forced to still obey the speed limit because hey, I didn't want a speeding ticket. The snow continued into the night and at five o'clock in the morning, I got a text informing me that school was cancelled for the day. I snoozed for another hour and then decided I had better get outside and clear the driveway for the wife so she could get to work later.

The road in front of my house was wet but clear, the highway down the block was wet but clear and my driveway was completely buried in six inches of dry fluffy snow! I put the snowblower in high gear and quickly cleared the driveway and pondered why the forecast was so wrong and why the school was so quick to call it off. I don't suppose I will ever know that answer. I suppose other people got nailed from the storm but we certainly didn't.

The weather guys were quick to point out that though it wasn't as much as they forecasted, it was much needed moisture. Because it was so dry, if all the snow were melted it would probably equate to maybe 1/4" of rain. Not nearly enough to cover our shortage. To do that, we would probably need a dozen feet of really wet snow. Still I won't complain because 1/4" is still 1/4" more than we had last Wednesday. Plus, it is nice to look out the window and see something besides brown for a change.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Progress

I haven't any pictures to show you so you have to take my word but I am making progress on the kitchen project. By the time you read this post, I should have the last of the cabinet doors painted, hardware installed and themselves installed on the cabinets. The last four drawers should be painted and ready for the last of the hardware to be installed on them. In fact, the only thing remaining should be to put a couple more coats of paint on the panel that sides our double wall ovens and holds our landline telephone, key hooks and a whiteboard to keep track of our lives. Once I get it all done, I promise I will do a photo spread of before and after photos and post on here.

My next project which I am already planning is to refresh our main bathroom in the hallway. It has a nice tile floor and the shower is in good shape so I plan on doing mostly cosmetic stuff. Unfortunately the paint my wife picked out is lighter in color than the current wall paint which is slopped on the ceiling in a few places so I will have to paint the ceiling, something I haven't had to do in all the other rooms on the main floor. I need to move some bathroom hardware around to better places and do some repair spackling before painting but that is easy enough. Probably the most time consuming thing is that because the kitchen project turned out so well, I am probably going to paint the natural wood vanity and medicine cabinet on the wall in the same creamy white that we did the kitchen and put new hardware on them. It just makes things more modern looking and lightens up the room.

The project after that will probably be to do much the same things to the other upstairs bathroom which will mean I have been completely through the entire upstairs. After that, I have many long lists of things I would like to do downstairs but one of the first will probably be to build some custom bookshelves to house my collection of literature and get all those last boxes off the floor and free up more space. Probably the biggest reason to do this project sooner rather than later is that I have lots of unread books packed away that I can't easily get too. I have bought a few books to keep me entertained over the last couple months because it seemed easier than digging out all the books, finding one and then putting them back only to do it all again once I finish the book. I've also resorted to reading a few books that weren't high on my list to read simply because they were 'on top'.

On a related note, my mother-in-law was recently approved for a green card pending one last interview at the Manila embassy. That means once she retires at the end of June, she will more than likely headed here for an extended stay. That means that by necessity, I will be spending a lot more time working on projects while she looks after Baby Abbey. I'll make sure I have a nice long list written down before that happens!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Small Walks

At our old home, we were surrounded by communities full of sidewalks and often went for walks in the evenings around the neighborhood. It was a good way to 'keep up with the Joneses' and also just to get a bit of exercise and fresh air. Our new place is at the very edge of city limits which actually passes through the living room of our next door neighbor and doesn't have any sidewalks. In fact, it only has narrow lineless asphalt roads winding through the trees. While the setting is excellent, it isn't really conducive to walking after dark which happens way to early in the winter.

I'm not complaining because even if we had light, I still couldn't go because I have a three month old to tow with me. But on those nice days, the little one and I get out for a quick walk up to the end of the cul de sac and back. They are small walks but nice.

Eventually, I hope to range a little further as she gets a bit older and the weather gets a bit warmer. I'm also hoping that by that time, I can get our daughter into our off road stroller that my wife found years ago at a garage sale for five buck and which allows me to walk at a much faster and easier clip. The off road stroller is a plain jane one with just some aluminum tubing and a canvas sling to sit in but it can go over so very rough terrain. This is good because the roads into the woods are marginal at best and at times, require one to creep along at five miles per hour on the best of days to get past. This is because there is a dispute between the city and the county on who is responsible for maintenance  We considered buying several houses in that area of the city but at the end of the day passed on them for this reason among a few other reasons.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Taxes

I've been slacking on my blog and have completely run out of pre-written blog posts to fill the void that is created with my three post a week habit. That would have meant that the last post about my daughter's illness would have remained on top for longer than I cared for it too. So I am just writing a quick splurb about doing my taxes to fill the void until I can come up with something better.

I used to do my taxes by pencil, calculator and lots of head scratching over a period of a couple weeks of evenings years ago. It worked but I dreaded it. Then I made the decision to go to a tax preparation firm to do it for me it about forty minutes. It was painless and stayed that way for many years. As their prices started going up, I strayed one year to buy some tax preparation software but it didn't do much for explaining things and I felt it was only an automated version of my pencil days except that the head scratching still remained. So I returned to the tax preparation company and continued on. That is until one year their fee for doing my taxes was almost 30% of my refund. Normally I try to owe the government and that was never a problem but when I slip and get a refund, I certainly didn't want someone else to collect it. That was the last straw and I went out and purchased tax preparation software the following year. Besides, my tax preparation person simply entered my information into her computer whenever it prompter her to do so.

That was probably five or six years ago and I have been using the tax preparation software every year since. After the first year which requires a lot of first time entry, it probably only taxes me a couple hours to completely due my taxes with little to no head scratching involved. The programs have gotten very sophisticated about how they function and interface with us people who have to file for taxes for a government with a tax code taller than a several story building when printed out. Best of all, taxes are so painless now that I have extra time to do some digging into new parts of the tax code that I am not familiar with to better understand it.

As expected, this year I didn't do a very good job of withholding taxes so that the federal and state governments both owe me back some money, money they have held onto for the last year and several months and gotten interest off of it. Not much these days thanks to our basement interest rates but still money that I would rather have in my account. Due to my wife's job, she actually works for up to six different companies that write her checks, I lost my job and there were signing bonuses figured into things. I find myself saying for about the fourth or fifth year in a row, maybe the next tax year our income will be straight forward.

So now that my taxes are done for the year and I have officially funded my governments for  yet another year of wasteful spending, I guess I now have the right to bitch about it in upcoming posts. Since my tax bracket went up almost a full percentage point in 2012, I guess I get to bitch a little bit more than last year. Be forewarned!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Still Making Lemonade

Last year, we received a lot of lemons in life though I must admit, some of them were self imposed lemons. Never the less, we made lemonade and moved on. Lately though, we got yet another lemon that we've since turned into lemonade.

Baby Abbey has been a chip off the block of her sister and started sleeping through the night already at about 11 weeks old. I can't complain about that. But within days after she started sleeping through the night, she started pooping a little blood. That was almost two weeks ago. Like any parents I supposed, we were immediately concerned and took her to the pediatrician's office the next morning and from there we were sent to the local hospital for a test to make sure her little intestine hadn't slipped inside her large intestine. I guess that is sometimes a side effect of one of her vaccines. The test involved giving her a barium enema which is about as pleasant as it sounds. While her intestines were pumped full of barium, they scanned it with a machine that allowed them to see that her intestines were fine as could be. We went back home.

About four days later, the blood came back and once again we went back to the pediatrician's office that afternoon. We were told to head up to the urban jungle and get her admitted through the emergency room for another test. That test was to make sure that some of her stomach lining didn't get misplaced into her intestines when she was baking in her mama's belly, something that happens from time to time. When it does, the acid from the misplaced stomach cells can erode the intestines and cause problems if not treated and by that, I mean cut out. Needless to say our stomachs were in knots as we made the drive up north.

The emergency room experience wasn't very pleasant to say the least. It took three nurses and seven attempts to find a vein to start an IV on Baby Abbey and she wasn't very thrilled. Big sister Little Abbey had also come along due to necessity and we learned that due to the flu, she couldn't stay with he in her sister's room once she was admitted. So here were were with a sick baby and we had to find someplace or someone to look after our other daughter. Since the test wasn't until the following morning, my wife stayed with the baby and the daughter and I went out into the cold night and found a motel room to stay in.

The next morning, we found a friend to look after Little Abbey and I was able to join my wife and Baby Abbey before the test began. Baby Abbey wasn't allowed to eat for six hours before the test so needless to say, she wasn't a real happy camper. The test involved injecting radioactive dye into her body that adhered to stomach cells so we could see if any showed up in her intestines. It also involved laying unsedated for an hour while they took a continuous picture of what was going on. Fortunately I was able to lull Baby Abbey to sleep for much of the procedure which went smoothly and also showed that she didn't have any misplaced stomach cells.

Three hours later, we finally got the permission to feed a very cranky Baby Abbey again while we waited for one final test. The last test was a baby version of a colonoscopy to see exactly what was going on since none of the serious things that could be wrong were. Four hours later she was taken to a room for that test and despite having a camera shoved up her hind end, she took it in remarkably good spirits. I guess after all she had been through, that test was a piece of cake. This time we finally found an answer to the blood in her stools which hadn't occurred the whole time we had been there.

It is common for babies to have nodules toward the end of their colon that disappear as they grow. She had a few extra than normal and because of that, one had gotten irritated and bled. The doctor said that back in the day, they would have blamed it on dairy and told you to avoid it but these days he said the solution was to just go home and make sure things don't become any worse. They took tissue samples of the nodules just to be sure and like he predicted, those came back normal.

So now a week later, Baby Abbey has yet to pass any more blood and we are getting back into the swing of things. In the last year, we have both switched jobs, switches towns and houses and had a baby that in turn tried to scare the crap (pun not intended) out of us by pooping some blood. Just for once, for maybe a few months or so, I think I would just like my lemonade purchased instead of having to make it from all the lemons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Mysterious Josephine


One of the mysteries in my more immediate family tree centers around this lady named Josephine. Josephine was the sister of my great grandfather whose wife was pictured in my last post and was the aunt to my still living grandfather. You wouldn't think she would be a mystery but she is. Whenever I ask my grandfather about her, all he will tell me is that she was married lots of times, possibly around seven times, and lived down in Arizona or New Mexico somewhere until she died. I always got the impression that my grandfather thought she was kind of loose with her morals.

Thanks to genealogy records found online, I have begun to piece together some of her past on my own and perhaps one day might find why my grandfather doesn't want to talk about her. So far, I do know she was married to two men in her past, the first one and the last one. I doubt that there are five more in the middle as my grandfather suggests but one may never be too sure. I've also found numerous newspaper articles on a near drowning incident involving her. Evidently her and a friend got swamped by boat waves and went under. A nearby fellow rescued her friend first and by the time they got to Josephine, she had already gone down a third time and not resurfaced. They finally found her and were able to revive both her and her friend.

She lived with her parents in Iowa until she was married sometime between 1930 when she was living with her parents, my great great grandparents, and 1935 when she appears in a Denver, Colorado directory married. I wonder if the picture taken below is her in her wedding dress, the only other picture I have of her.  In 1940, when the next census came out, she was still married and living to her husband in Denver, Colorado. The last record of her in Denver was in a 1943 when she was listed as a survivor in her father's obituary and she still retained her first husband's surname. Thirteen years later, she is married to a different man living in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she remained even after he died in 1973. When she died in 1988, she was buried in the same town.

Although there are large gaps in the records, there isn't anything to suggest much of a mystery. When her brother, my great grandfather died in 1985, I was at his funeral but I'm pretty sure she wasn't. Of course she was 78 years old at the time and may not have been physically able but I don't know that for sure. I guess where the real mystery lies is why my grandfather won't talk about her and when he does, it is anything but flattering. Did she and my great grandfather have some sort of family split where they didn't talk to each other and he passed that split down to my grandfather? Perhaps someday I will find out.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Leander Clark Wells: Civil War Deserter

I thought I would pick up my story telling about my Civil War ancestors, something I have neglected for the past year or so due to other things happening in my life.

Leander Clark Wells was born in New York on 5 May 1833 to Peter and Mary Shaw Wells. For reasons unknown to me, Leander and his three siblings, Philander, Alexander and Clarinda left home and moved west while their parents remained behind in New York. They settled in Nininger, Minnesota for a time before parting ways. Leander remained behind and married his wife Mary Ellanor Sheldon.

By the time the Civil War rolled around, Leander had a young daughter living at home and was 29 years old, older than the majority of people volunteering to fight in the war. But in August of 1862, Leander signed up for a three year stint in Company F of the 7th Regiment of the Minnesota Infantry. Things went well until March of 1863 because he was marked present for all roll calls. In March, he was granted leave from March 1rst until March 15th but never came back. I suspect the reason was that his second daughter was probably born or close to being born and he did what most doting fathers would do and decided his family was more important than fighting and possibly dying in a war.

Leander was officially listed as deserted from the military in the April roll call of 1863 and at the end of his three years in August of 1865, he was officially discharged. I have no records of Leander from his desertion in Minnesota in 1863 until I pick up the trail again in Iowa in 1870. By then, his third child and first son, William Hix Wells, my second great grandfather had been added to Leander's family.

On a side note, Leander's younger brother Philander would return to New York when the war started and serve honorably with the 106 New York Infantry Company D. He fought in many major battles in the Shenandoah Valley and the Wilderness and was wounded by a musket ball through the shoulder. When he was discharged at the end of the war, he had made the rank of Captain and returned to Iowa a few years later where he made a name for himself.. Leander's older brother Alexander would move up to Canada at the start of the war and live out his life there.

For the most part due to the large number of deserters, they weren't actively sought out and punished. Some were sentenced to death but these were a few minority of the hundreds of thousands of people who deserted their unit. Never the less, I suspect that his desertion caused Leander to move to Iowa and once there, move around quite frequently because he was never in the same county for any census taken between 1870 and 1900. His wife Mary died in 1883 but two years later he had been remarried to Susan whose last name is still unknown to me. The trail goes cold after 1885 until 1901 when an article said Leander burned to death in a fire working for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad out in Colorado Springs in January 1901. He built a fire to keep warm and made his rounds only to find that the depot was on fire upon his return. He fought the fire until being overcome with smoke and ultimately burned to death. The heat was hot enough to set off his shells in his revolver and melt his lantern into a puddle of metal. Coincidentally his son and my second great grandfather came to town to visit his father the very next day and learned the tragic news. Leander's body was brought back to Iowa and was buried in E. Linwood Cemetery in Boone county Iowa next to his first wife Mary Ellanor. His brother Philander was instrumental in starting up that cemetery among other things he did. Leander's children would scatter in various directions and Leander's second wife Susan disappeared from record.

Leander Wells and his wife are one of the few of my third great grandparents whose graves I have yet to visit. It is on my list someday when I am up in the area. His son William and later William's wife would be buried in Wyoming making them my only 2nd great grandparents buries outside the state. Had William's wife known that I would be keeping track of this statistic 70 years later, I'm sure she would have shipped him back to Iowa before planting him.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Talking Turkey


I was downstairs painting kitchen cabinet doors a couple weeks ago when I happen to glance up and see something shocking. There not twenty feet from the walkout door, was a flock of turkeys about twenty strong. I have seen lots of deer, squirrels, chipmunks and other creatures but these were the first turkeys I have seen at the new place. So I did what anyone would do.

I dropped my paint brush and rushed upstairs to grab the camera. Unfortunately it had the wrong lens on it so I had to quickly change that and then snapped a few photos out the windows. Unfortunately the glare and dirt was resulting in bad pictures so I gently and quietly tried to open up the door leading to the deck. Those turkeys were quickly on to me and skedaddled for the woods. I got just one picture of the last of them as they disappeared into the brush. I haven't seen them since.

Notice the lack of snow. This is going on the second year we've had with very little snow. After this picture was taken, we had a four or five inch snow that has long since vanished which makes our total snow for the year at about eight inches. In a normal January, we would get several eight inch snows back before our world started warming up. The 15 or 16 inch snow we got three years ago is the last big snow storm. I'm not complaining (though my oldest daughter is) as long as we get rain to compensate and we don't even get that.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Guns

As a gun owner, I am not in favor of a ban on large clips or assault rifles but I am in favor of stricter background checks and ones that are universal even at gun shows or private transactions. I thought I would offer a few words on why I have come to this view, which I haven't always held.

I favored our previous ban on assault rifles and large clips for storing more than 10 bullets. I couldn't see the need. But a lot has happened since that ban expired. Namely Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Let me take the latest one going on in Syria as an example. I think most people would feel sympathy for the Syrian people who are fighting and dying for a cause that they believe in against a dictator run government that is vastly better armed than the civilians. Would the civil war going on in that country be different if many of the citizenry were armed with assault rifles with large clips? I'm guessing things would be a lot different not only there but in the other countries that have already successfully overthrown their dictators.

"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government." - George Washington

Now here in the states, the common response from people on assault rifles and large clips is why anyone would need that many bullets or need to shoot that fast to hunt? If someone mentions perhaps that we need them in case we are overrun, people scoff and ask by whom? Well I am not psychic and can't answer that question but I do know that in our very short history, we have fought off attempts by the foreign countries to take over parts of our country, some more than once. Will something like that happen in these modern times? Hopefully not but I for sure don't want to be fighting for my piece of this planet with a small gun that only shoots a few bullets against someone with an assault rifle that contains dozens and wondering why I didn't think we needed them ourselves.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin
"To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them." - George Mason 

Saying that, I don't own an assault rifle nor any gun that holds more than ten bullets. It just doesn't fit with my current lifestyle and two young children exploring around the house. Even if that wasn't the case, I still probably wouldn't own either because the odds of an invasion are pretty slim in my lifetime and I would hope that I might have enough time to go out and get one before they reached this far inland. I seriously doubt that rural southeast Iowa are on any countries master plan for starting their takeover. In all reality, any takeover of our country will probably be preceded by a nuclear shelling making owning guns a moot point. But I have no problem with my neighbor buying an assault rifle should they be so inclined and have passed psychiatric and background checks to make sure he is a sane and honest chap. Perhaps he might let me stay in his basement if I misjudged any hostilities in this part of the world.

"I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery." - Thomas Jefferson
"The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." - Thomas Jefferson (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria)  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wingless Chickens


Although I know the rules to football, I find myself doing other things than watching it on Sunday afternoons. The one exception to that rule is for Superbowl Sunday when I do watch the game though mostly to see if the new crop of commercials amuse me. So today, I watched my yearly dose of football.

Despite my lack of interest in the sport, I do adhere to some traditions and so what you see above are the leftovers of our lunch to be eaten for supper again during the game. Back when I started making my own BBQ chicken wings, they were super cheap. I remember buying five pound sacks of them for a few bucks. Then chicken wings caught on and they skyrocketed. When that happened, I switched to cheaper pieces of the chicken such at thighs and legs to use. However, they now have gotten expensive and the chicken wings more reasonable though still much higher than the 'old days'. They are super easy to make and I don't know why anyone would buy them in a restaurant. What you see above probably cost me $2.50 to make and would cost 10 times that in a restaurant.

While making them before lunch, I did notice one thing. All the wings that I bought in three different packages came from the same side of the chicken. It made me wonder who got the packages with the other side? Do they cut off one wing and send it down one conveyor bound for one region of the U.S.A. while the other side gets sent down another conveyor bound somewhere else? Mine all appeared to be right wings? Does that say something about my political stance?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Feeding Cracker


This is a picture of my great grandmother whom my oldest shares her middle name with. Although I was technically around to know a few of my great grandparents, I only have memories of two, the most vivid being with this one since she lived until I was 15 years old. The only other great grandparent I have memories of was her husband, a man whom I have blogged about many times in the archives of my blog, a man who died when I was 12 years old and now my youngest daughter shares her middle name with a feminized version of his name.

The last few years as I have spent time with my grandparents, I have asked them lots of questions about my great grandparents and learned more about them. One of the things that I learned was that later in life, they were caretakers (or perhaps owners) of a log cabin resort somewhere up in Canada. I think their clients were mostly people coming up to fish and get away from it all for a week or so. In my great uncle's possession, were many photographs of the resort and the log cabins and they are neat to look at. Several even show an Indian who must have worked for them as a guide and was called Indian Bill on the back of the photos.

This picture I presume was taken in 1963 shows my great grandmother feeding a fat rodent named Cracker according to the writing on the back. I'm not sure what type of animal Cracker was but on some of the other pictures, Cracker looks kind of like an obese squirrel. As many pictures as my uncle had of my great grandmother feeding it, I don't doubt that it might have been obese!

My grandparents are vague as to where the resort was or even the name. Some of the pictures have clues including references to what might have been the name of the resort. I have done some googling of that name trying to locate it but haven't been successful. Someday though, I would love to discover where it existed and  make a visit there to perhaps spend a week living in the footsteps of my ancestors.

[After seeing this post up this morning, I did some more researching and was able to find the camp and their website. Seems like a nice place though a lot has changed since my great grandparents stay according to the pictures I have. See for yourself at Tall Pines Camp. Back in the day, it was called Ballard's Tall Pines Camp which is why I had trouble finding it the first time.]