September 23

       Happy Fall, y'all!  Today is the first full day of autumn and what a glorious day it is here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  The fog was pea-soup thick this morning, but it burnt off early revealing clear, azure skies and lots of sunshine.  We're looking for a high temperature of 85 degrees this afternoon.  Holy cow!  We didn't have weather this nice through most of the summer.  It's actually been much like this every day of the last two weeks, except for last Friday and Saturday when

what was left of hurricane Ivan passed through our area, dropping up to 9 or 10 inches of rain in some areas around here (we are now nearly 20 inches above normal rainfall levels for the year).  There were a lot of flooded basements locally, a few closed roads and some power outages, but the worst of the storm was felt west of us in Washington and Allegheny Counties and north in Beaver Co.  President Bush toured some of the flood damaged communities yesterday to offer encouragement.

       Gardening is pretty much winding down.  I picked the last of my tomatoes last week and combined them with some given to us by a neighbor to can 15 quarts of them whole.  A friend has been supplying us with hot peppers and ideas for stuffing them.  I'd never done them before this year, but Tim likes them and it turns out they are quite easy to prepare ahead and freeze for quick warm ups later.  If I can find some green tomatoes, I'm going to try making piccalilly.  Not sure I spelled that right.  I never even heard of the stuff before, but one of the older ladies I work with has been making it and it sounds good.  It's kind of a relish with green tomatoes, onion and I think peppers.

       I'm looking for recipes using eggs if anyone has any really good ones.  The chooks started laying about a month ago and I'm gathering about 4-5 dozen eggs a week!  I give some to my mom, some to my aunt and sometimes to one of the ladies at work, but that's still a lot of eggs.  I'm really tickled, though.  There is something so satisfying about going out to the coop and collecting the eggs every day and rather than thinking it's odd, most of the people I've run into have been amazed and think it's really neat that I keep chickens and have fresh eggs.  It always surprises me how many people think what we do is a very rare thing, that no one does such "old-fashioned" things any more unless they actually live on a farm.  I've never lived on a farm in my life, but all the things we do were just how things were.  My family has always been homesteaders, I guess, without even knowing it.

       We allowed Matt and Megan to take a vacation day from school yesterday to go with my mom's husband to a rally for George Bush.  A lot of people thought we were nuts to allow it and the kids even caught some flack from their teachers over it.  I guess it's just a sign of how the times have changed.  Regardless of politics, we thought it would be a valuable learning experience for them to hear the President speak and see some of how the political system works.  How many chances does a person get to do that?  I was raised to respect the President by virtue of his office.  I don't always have to agree with him, but I do feel he is owed our respect as the leader of this country and much of the free world.  The kids did enjoy the day and the long wait for the President's arrival was filled with speeches from Arnold Palmer and former Pittsburgh Steeler, Lynn Swan as well as a concert by John Michael Montgomery.  Matt, who is newly registered to vote for the first time, was able to meet several local candidates and talk with them personally.  Megan very nearly got to shake hands with the President, but at the last minute was shoved out of the way by several adults.  How rude!  Anyway, they both came home very excited and reported enjoying the experience very much.  I hope their teachers will recognize that today and give them the chance to share a little about it.

       After 4 weeks of school, work is going as smoothly as it possibly can and I am enjoying it immensely.  It's taken me 2 years of on-the-job training to learn what works with the kids and what doesn't as far as discipline, encouragement, etc. and this year I have much better control over them and their behavior is much improved over last year.  It's basically been a matter of staying on top of things constantly and consistently, because if you let something slide's real hard to enforce it later.  Those kids are like a pack of lions circling an antelope.  The first sign of weakness and it's all over!

       Paid a visit to the dentist this past Saturday.  I went in for a toothache right before our vacation this summer and had a temporary filling put in, but I never went back.  Since then that tooth has started to bother me again and another has started acting up since I lost a huge chunk of the filling out of it.  I know I should have gone sooner....years sooner....but I am a complete whimp when it comes to going to the dentist.  My usual theory is "if it doesn't hurt, leave it alone!"  Not really a good theory.  The bottom line is that I now need 2 root canals and three crowns.  I can't believe how expensive it will be to get all the work done.  All of it from start to finish will cost $3600 and we do not have dental insurance.  I guess it's a good thing Tim went with me because on hearing that I would have either let it go again or opted to have the teeth pulled and nothing else.  Instead, starting on October 5 I'll be getting all the work done and I'll be paying for it over the next 4 years!

       Well, have to run.  I'm heading back to work early today so I can wash my bus.  I want it to be nice and clean tomorrow when I take some fifth graders on a field trip to the local fort.  Hope you all are healthy, happy and enjoying this season of bounty.....

Carpe diem!