Dear family:

We were invited out to dinner this evening, but several of the family have colds/coughs so we had to postpone our engagement. But that means I find myself – at long last – with a window of time in which I can write this letter. All my good intentions of writing more frequently (and thereby keeping the task less than Herculean) have been shed along that notorious path.

Like the rest of you, our days have been taken up with some joyful and some sorrowful events. A church friend’s mother died unexpectedly after minor elective surgery. We had just celebrated a fiftieth birthday party with this family, so it was strange to have such a sad event follow so closely on its heels. Several of my friends have parents in precarious health, so we have had a lot of prayer for these people – most of whom are not believers.

I wonder if I should try to write in some sort of chronological order. Because the family members usually read this letter, too, I will try to include some information about all of them.

Way back whenever, we walked into Sunday service to find that my brother David was serving as organist while ours was away. I was glad to see him, because we have missed each other every other time this past month that he has dropped by. That service is memorable because David chose to play a prelude by Franz Listz which my boys thought sounded like haunted house music. David mentioned afterwards that he wouldn’t be able to play a piece like that anywhere, and I should have asked what it is about our church that gave him the idea to use it there! He was given the hymns by our pastor, who does not read music and only picks things by looking at the reference or words. He happened to chose a humdinger that I had never even heard before. When David started playing, no one could follow, which made him think that we were waiting for an introduction, and there was major confusion which never got resolved until the final amen. Kudos to David for doing this kind deed for our church.

On the pretense of returning a spinning wheel that I had borrowed for my MAFA class, I drove up to Q.V. for an evening and had a nice visit with Gary and Sue Oiler. We had been up there for Harvest Festival, and got to see Ellen and also Amy with her little baby girl. It always refreshes me to go there and find that things elsewhere may have changed, but Quiet Valley is the same as ever. The sad news there, though, is that Marge Wakefield has pancreatic cancer.

It may not be long before Q.V. decides to grow a corn maze because they are springing up all over. Judy had taken Ben to one early in the fall, and we all went as a family (with another family) the weekend Daniel was home for break. The farmer plants four acres of corn in a maze pattern (or maybe he cuts the maze out after it has grown) and it takes about 45 minutes to find one’s way out. (Nana would probably take longer!) There is someone up in a high watchtower who gives hints in case people start to panic. The reward is a nice fresh apple at the end. We greatly enjoyed this simple pleasure and recommended that the Lehigh students go as a group, which they did another weekend.

The fall is such a great season. One of my must-do-at-least-once things is a Lehigh football game on a sunny October afternoon when the tree color is at its height. David and I went to the Bucknell game – a very exciting game. It is wonderful to see the multi-colored trees on the mountain wrap around the stadium, and to enjoy the fresh air while Lehigh once again pulls off a victory (undefeated so far). John, you must come back next year and play in the alumni band. They look like they are having a lot of fun. That same evening we attended the choir concert with Judy. It was Parents’ Weekend, so we met a few parents and I had an unexpected visit with an old high school friend, Carol Evans – who was very touched to hear that my parents and brother had gone to visit her father, who has Alzheimer’s.

It is unusual that I had all that time with David. He has been doing a lot of traveling. In fact, I think he has been at our church only once in the last two months. He has been preaching or doing Sunday School at a variety of churches in our presbytery. He went home to Maryland for the Allensville church homecoming. Originally we thought we would all go, but he clearly preferred to go without us and all the accompanying paraphenalia. Allan and Dale each took Monday off from work, so that meant he got to spend some time with his brothers. He brought back good reports of how everyone was doing, as well as apples which I made into sauce, and eggs which we made into omelets! This was a welcome treat to our boys, who were complaining that I was caught up in a casserole frenzy. (It is true that we have had a lot of occasions to take meals to other families, and I usually make a double batch and put one casserole for us in the freezer.)

It may have been the following weekend that Peter and I headed down to Baltimore for Hopkins Parents’ Weekend. First, Peter had his much-anticipated pumpkin launch – a project of his physics class which he had been working on for about a month. I decided the event could be classified as a field trip for his homeschooling brothers, so we all showed up with camera in tow. I think there were about nine entries, and all were quite different designs, though none of them would be marketable. The biggest flaw with Peter’s design was that the pumpkin released from the catapult at the 90degree angle point, so the pumpkin went straight forward, rather than arching up for greater distance. However, his pumpkin did not smash on any of the launches (in spite of his team name "Squashed") whereas the team that boasted their catapult could hurtle a cow (and after seeing it, I believed them) made quite a mess. My favorite was the team "Al Gourds", although I don’t think their pumpkin ever technically left the ground.

Which may have been symbolically prophetic, come to think of it. We have been as gripped by election fever as everyone else these days. It will be a welcome relief to go back to listening to car ads on the radio. The Lehigh students were clearly suffering at Bible Study on Wednesday, having stayed up until 3 or 4 A.M. listening to returns the night before. David and I adopted the better strategy of going to bed on time and waking up at 5 A.M. to get Internet news – just as dissatisfying but at least we got some sleep. What a bizarre situation – and what a great civics lesson, as I had just been explaining the electoral college system to Chris and Steve. Uncle Peter may be discussing the finer points of the politics involved with his highbrow university types, but I bet they don’t hold a candle to the passion of the ladies in the shower room at the YMCA.

This leads into II Peter ’s first report card. There has to be a recount and a meeting of the electoral college, but he just may have made high honors. (The history teacher forgot to record his grade and we are not sure if GPA in the tenths place is rounded up.) His only average grade was English, for which I do not intend to forgive him. I can’t pretend that this school operates on the same standards as Chefoo, but we are very pleased with the increased motivation on Peter’s part to do well. His soccer season is officially over, and it was a season that made school history. I think their record was 15 -2, and they made it to district semi-finals for the first time ever, where they lost in a heartbreaker to Moravian Academy, whom they had defeated twice before.

As it turned out, I missed that final game because I was keeping Judy company at Muhlenberg Hospital E.R. After a swim class at the Y, she was feeling funny and the Y staff wanted to call an ambulance. Figuring that my rates would be cheaper, and hoping to bypass the ER altogether,

Judy called Green’s Soccer Game and Emergency Medical Transport and we went to her doctor’s office. He was nearly in need of medical help himself when we arrived and he saw that her heartrate was 169 and told us to go right over ("do not stop; do not pass go") to the ER. This was easier said than done, as Muhlenberg is undergoing massive construction and though we could see the hospital door from his office, we could not figure out how to get there. I was worried that Judy was going to expire on the spot and I was going to get sued for impersonating an EMT. After taking the scenic route, we did arrive safe and sound, with the hospital staff waiting at the door for us. From there on it was all downhill (her heartrate, that is) as she quickly responded to the IV medications, and against all previous warnings, was allowed to go home. Two days later we were back to more normal entertainment, as we went to a class in French cooking at the community college. Since French cooking is all butter and cream, it is a good thing she was fully recovered.

Somehow I got off the track of Hopkins Parents’ Weekend. The only thing high on Daniel’s agenda for our time together was getting some decent food. He has talked before about Little Italy, down by the Inner Harbor and famous for its restaurants, so that’s where we headed. We only had a sketchy idea of the location, and eventually found ourselves walking through public housing projects, by alternative schools, and other seedy looking places. After we got home and I was telling all this to David, his hair practically stood on end. We were babes in the woods, wandering through some of Baltimore’s worst neighborhoods. Even I had a few chills in retrospect, after watching the fascinating documentary Hopkins 24/7 about the hospital and the violent neighborhood it serves. But we came out unscathed and eventually found the promised land of Sabatino’s restaurant (as did half of Baltimore – it was quite a long wait). We replenished Daniel’s larder with snack food and Snapple, went to the Baltimore Museum of Art together, and attended a concert of the six or eight acapella groups on campus (one of which took first place in East Coast competition) and a gospel choir. Peter stayed in the dorm room, while I booked a room in a Timonium hotel. That night I finished a project that had been on my to-do list since the summer: making a photo collage for Daniel’s dorm room. Perhaps the ultimate luxury for me was waking up alone with an extra hour (due to the time change) and having coffee in bed while reading a book, then going to Krispy Kreme for a donut breakfast! After attending church with Daniel on Sunday and giving Peter some time on Dan’s computer, we headed home. Back to the real world – responsibility!

Being responsible has included finally locating a doctor who would take us as patients. Since Dr. Follmer retired, David and I have been without an official medical professional, and now Daniel is too old for the pediatrician, too. Since we have been in fine health, it has always been pushed to the bottom of the priority pile, and was made difficult by the fact that all the doctors personally recommended to me were not accepting new patients. So it came down to almost randomly pointing a finger in the Yellow Pages and scheduling physicals for me and David (who hasn’t had one since our premarital physical). We both like the young, earnest, and gentle doctor we ended up with. However, as these things go, we couldn’t be let off with just a simple physical. He gave us a list of follow-up items, blood testing and consults with specialists, to check out thoroughly all our little quirks and anomalies. I modestly admit that I have been more conscientious than David in completing my list, and am now certified as being in great health. The one thing that I was worried about was my chloresterol. I just knew he was going to tell me that I had to give up ice cream and butter. But to my surprise and delight my chloresterol was very good, and I have been celebrating ever since!

Christopher has beaten me to the punch with his newsletter, so I won’t say much more here about his news (the headline item being new braces). Stephen had a birthday since my last letter, and it was such a busy day that we kept postponing his present opening and I was really impressed with how patiently he waited. We took cupcakes to his soccer practice that night, and had his birthday dinner the following week. This past weekend was his last soccer game for the fall season. His team has improved markedly over the months, and was actually winning games by the end of the season.

Ben. What can I say? He loves nursery school and wishes it were every day. One afternoon his class went over to Kirkland Village to sing "Happy Birthday" to a resident who turned 100. The only academic thing this nursery school does is teach the children to write their own names, but I had not even started to do that with him. We were impressed when he brought home artwork with his whole name BENJAMIN written across it. Another delight of his is singing in our church’s children’s choir for the Christmas program. The whole drive home from the first rehearsal he mimicked the choir director and gave a blow-by-blow replay of the practice. I may have one singer in the family yet!

He was quite excited by the prospect of trick-or-treat – that is, until the time arrived. Then he became shy and did not want to wear his costume or go around the neighborhood. He was very interested, though, in handing out treats to the children who came to our house. After about an hour, it dawned on him that these kids were being given candy and goodies for very little effort on their part. So suddenly he announced that he wanted to go trick-or-treating, too. David took him around and of course the neighbors made a big fuss over him. In our neighborhood, everyone sits out on their porch for the entire time and it is quite a community event. It is the last time we see or talk to many of them until Spring. Ben was dressed as a lion, and one lady said, "I like your tail." Benjamin solemnly replied, "Tails have lions and lions have tails." Ben was thrilled to find the house that his good buddy, the "concrete worker man", lives in and once again they greeted each other like long lost mates. I had to secretly abscond half of his treats because all this was repeated the next night when the Plowman (Ben calls them Clownman) family "borrowed" Ben for trick-or-treat in their neighborhood which has its own traditions involving fire trucks and a neighborhood cookout (Chris, Sage, and Steve also went).

Well, that’s a sampling of our lives. Time to get my beauty sleep!



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