Saturday, March 26, 2011

table talk

Forget starving children in China.  Here's what mr. Reporter had to admonish mr. Cook at the dinner table tonight:

mr. Reporter:  "You need to be grateful for what's on your plate!  It could be worse.  You could be eating goat testicles from Australia."

mr. Cook: "Oh."

Enough said.

field trip to Johnstown

I hate to admit it.
But I've decided it's time to come out of the closet.
I subscribe to Country Living magazine- and have done so for years.  I've tried in vain to end my subscription, however the flesh is weak and I've come to realize that I must get my eye candy at the end of each month.  Oh- and let's not forget about those fabulous articles.

Take "Portrait of America" for example, which happens to be one of my favorites, and is found on the next to the last page of the magazine. Country Living sends their writers all over the country in order to feature little mom and pop shops located here in the good ol' USA.  Well, in the March issue, I was pleasantly surprised (ok, ecstatically surprised) to find this:

Turns out that Johnstown, PA is located only a few hours from our Rowdy Brood and Mr. Hero had been promising for months that he was going to be purchasing a turntable for my birthday gift this year- which incidentally happens to fall in March.  And knowing that we still needed to finish filling the boys' homeschooling portfolios for the year, I smelled field trip written all over this.

I just love happy coincidences.

For those of you who aren't all that familiar with PA History,  Johnstown was devastated by tragedy in May of 1889, when it's beleaguered dam collapsed after a two day rainfall that eventually left 2,209 individuals dead.  The city of Johnstown has a museum which honors the victims and educates the public about this piece of it's history.  I had been sharing some of the survivors' stories with Mr. Cook, beforehand, and was thrilled about the opportunity to watch history come alive for him with this trip.

1st stop:
George's Song Shop.  George boasts having over 1 million 45's and LPs in stock as well as a nice collection of cd's and cassettes.  We spent a good hour perusing his collection.  At first, I was a bit reluctant to tell him what I was looking for.  After watching High Fidelity, starring John Cusack and Jack Black, I was afraid that all vinyl shop owners might have the same type of music snobbery found in the movie.   However, George is no Jack Black.  He was quite the courteous and accommodating gentleman when I asked him where I might find the Sarah Vaughn records,  he didn't so much as bat and eye when I told him I was looking for some french music ( he offered to take me upstairs to look in the sunshine lit, unheated attic which held all the classical music, soundtracks and otherwise unsolicited records not found on the ground floor),  and when I told him that I was looking for some Kenny Rogers vinyl, his only response was "Really?" with a bemused look on his face which betrayed his confusion as to why someone my age would be requesting that.  Still, within minutes, I was holding the Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits in my hands which cost me a measly five bucks.
Mr. Tailor shot this.  Notice any resemblance
with the photo from the magazine above?

A lifelong resident of Johnstown, George unassumingly corrected me when I told him that 2,200 individuals had perished in the flood (he knew there were nine more), and when I told him that our family would be visiting the Johnstown Flood museum that day, he was quick to point out the town courthouse across the street and it's wall plaques that mark the flood lines for the three Johnstown floods.
Me and George
 Me with Mr. Cook and Mr. Ninja.  The
top plaque reads that for the 1889 flood
the waterline reached 21 feet!

Then with a happy wave of farewell, we were off.
2nd stop:
The Johnstown Museum.  Located just down the road from George's on Washington St., the Johnstown Museum was built with donations offered from Andrew Carnegie who was a member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club- the affluent club which owned the deteriorating dam.  

More can be understood about the details that led to the collapse of this dam in the museum's twenty-six minute film which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, and is featured in a specially designed, state-of-the-art theatre located on the second floor.  There is also a large multimedia relief map which depicts the hour by hour time line as well as path of the flood.
Artifacts are exhibited throughout ( my favorite was the quilt that was saved by a women's quilting bee just shortly before the flood hit, tragically one of the fellow quilters was lost in the flood shortly after leaving the meeting.  The women embroidered a dedication on the quilt in memory of their friend.) survivors' and victims' accounts, as well as an Oklahoma House which was one of the first types of  temporary housing available to the thousands of people displaced from the flood. 

If you would like to learn more about the museum and the Johnstown flood, you can find more at this site.   David McCullough has also written an interesting and extensively researched book on this subject that you can find here.

3rd and final stop:
We saw this thing when we first entered Johnstown and we had no idea what it was.  George told us it was the town's inclined plane and the folks at the museum told us how to get there.  Basically, this inclined plane is a shuttle up the mountain, all 900 feet of it (from below).  Built just two years following the flood, the inclined plane was meant to be used as a lifesaver in getting people and equipment to higher ground in the advent of another flood- which did prove to be successful in the 1936 flood when 4,000 individuals were brought to the safety.  The inclined plane is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world's steepest vehicular or rather, the world's slowest rollercoaster.
We had some fun on this one.

Note: nothing much at the top of the mountain other than a small restaurant, gift shop and a residential area.  We spent about $20 to get our whole family up to the top and back down again.  But who knew?  There is a fun little park up on top where the kids can play to get some of their wiggles out.

And that concluded our little Johnstown excursion.  Thanks for coming along for the ride. I think that from here on out, I'll be keeping my Country Living subscription.  After all, who knows what will show up in the mailbox next month?  
Pittsburgh anyone?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

marchin' on

Growing up in Arizona, I always believed March to be a hopeful month.  The sun is warmer, the flowers  peek up from the ground, and my wardrobe dwindled as the long johns, sweaters, and coats of winter were tucked away into the attic in wait for next year.  I could always count on this.  March was a comfort.

Then we moved to Pennsylvania.  And I learned that she isn't the reliable month I had come to depend on as a child.
In Pennsylvania, she is finicky.

She likes to tease with her warm days and then bewilder with snow the next. She's likely to cry her heart out, day in and day out and blow her powerful discontent in such a way that a child wouldn't dare to put up his kite.

She is also only 3 months away from June 30th- the deadline for my sons' portfolios that need to be submitted to the school district each year.
She is crunch time,
get busy or you'll regret it later time,
rethink your whole school year time.

I need to listen to this entreating voice and get busy with other things for a while.
Thanks for stopping in.  It's been a pleasure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

economics and the tooth fairy

"How much money are you going  to put under Mr. Ninja's pillow tonight?" inquired Mr. Hero as I sat on our bed, studying for my economics exam.
Mr. Ninja had reached the magical age of 6- the year the tooth fairy makes her first appearance to all the  boys and girls all over the world.  For the last couple of days, Mr. Ninja had been persistently wiggling his bottom tooth with his tongue, desperately willing it to fall out of his mouth- all to no avail.  Mr. Reporter happened to catch wind of his little brother's plight as he discovered him in the bathroom trying to tie dental floss around the little irritant.  Lacking not a moment's hesitation, Mr. Reporter offered to pull out the tooth himself (tricked him into pulling it out would be more accurate) and with his index finger, Mr. Reporter pushed the vexing tooth with a quick, horizontal thrust, and much to Mr. Ninja's surprise and obvious relief, the hole in Mr. Ninja's mouth was securely in place.
"Two quarters." I replied in my matter of fact, mothering tone of voice.  Our two older sons had each received this amount under their pillows for their first tooth.  I reasoned that what was good for them must also be good for Mr. Ninja.  And I certainly didn't want to be accused of playing favorites with the younger ones.
"Just two quarters?" responded Mr. Hero in surprise.  "I thought that a dollar would be sufficient."
"Nope.  Two quarters".  I stated uncompromisingly- not even looking up from my work.

End of discussion.
illustrated by mr. Tailor
"Mom!" Mr. Ninja screamed from his bedroom the next morning.
"What is it, Honey?" I innocently answered this very nettled child.
"I only got two quarters! Mr. Reporter gave me sixty-five cents last night when he promised to pull out my tooth and now I've got this!" shoving his two quarters in my face with a glare that could rival Methuselah.
Mr. Reporter had given him sixty-five cents just to pull his tooth out?   No wonder Mr. Ninja believed that the tooth fairy was nothing but a loser cheap skate on fly, stealing little unsuspecting children's teeth from under their pillows.  
"Well, that's what the tooth fairy brought you," I said, regretting more and more that I had ignored the factor of inflation in my tooth fairy economics AND that I hadn't listened more closely to Mr. Hero's voice of  reason.
" I WANT MY TOOTH BACK!" demanded Mr. Ninja.

End of discussion.


"Mom, I know you're not the tooth fairy. The tooth fairy does not exist." Mr. Ninja declared a few hours later after his temper had had time to cool off.
"Maybe I am the tooth fairy." I reassured him.
"Then that would make me the son of the tooth fairy," Mr. Ninja replied- unconvinced.
"Yep.  And one day, you'll grow up to be the tooth fairy for your little children."
More pause.
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too." was my reply.  Grateful another mishap had somehow managed to be avoided.

Now... what to do about Santa?