Thanksgiving 2011

Family was my Number One Thing to be Thankful for in 2010, and it tops the list again in 2011.

The Steinhoff Family from Florida, Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma managed to make it back to Cape to celebrate Mother’s 90s Birthday Season. Son Matt shot this group photo. (Click on any image to make it larger.)

He had everything set up earlier in the morning to do the photo in the back yard, but the sun moved and the shadows were bad. He shuffled us over to the side yard where the light was better, but still spotty. He worked fast, mainly because so many of his subjects were young and prone to crankiness and because so many of his subjects were old and he didn’t know how many takes he’d have left.

Matt’s last perfect family portrait

He took much longer to shoot this one of the Florida branch on Easter Sunday 2009. In fact the video I recorded of him arranging everyone, running to get into the photo before the self-timer tripped, checking the camera display, yelling at various of us for minor infractions, then redoing it time and time again, runs 7:46, something that a couple of commenters have complained about. They didn’t get it: it was SUPPOSED to be long. That’s why it’s titled¬†How to Shoot a Family Portrait (In the Real World).

Here’s where you go to see still photos of the extravaganza and / or subject yourself to a 7:46 min video.

They’re both iPad proficient

I’m thankful that my grandsons have had a change to meet and get to know their Great-Grandmother. Malcolm gets to see his great-grandmother only once or twice a year, but they’re close enough that she can kibitz his computer game. There’s not that big a gap between 90 and seven, I suppose, when you both know how to use iPads. Malcolm is Matt and Sarah’s son.

Graham – the newest addition

Mother journeyed to Florida shortly after Graham was born in February (remember our Road Trip back). Graham doesn’t know a stranger. I have a snippet of video right after this still shot was taken that shows him breaking out in a huge grin and reaching for her.

Both of my sons keep in regular contact with their grandmother by phone calls and email. Even though they didn’t grow up in Cape, they feel the same attraction to the area that I do. Graham belongs to Adam and Carly.

Missing from the photo, but not forgotten

Even though Matt wasn’t much older than this when Dad died in 1977 – and Adam hadn’t even been born yet – both boys have heard so many stories and memories that it’s almost like they grew up with him.

Dad may not be in the photograph at the top of the page, but he’s still in the picture for us.

Pulling the Plug on Mother

I knew the day would come. When you’re 90 years old, unexpected things can happen. I had to pull the plug on Mother this week. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Let’s back the bus up

Her yard has a woods on the east side and rows of trees on the north and west sides. The neighbors and the fire station across the street all have trees. She thinks she has some kind of leaf magnet in her yard that attracts every leaf in the block.

It disturbs her.

Me, I’d say it was God’s plan to recycle the nutrients, and I’d leave ’em there.

She, however, wants them gone.

Taking the Murray for its last ride

Fortunately, the back yard butts into a no mans land that used to be a steep hill and cow pasture, so if she can chase the leaves that far, they go down where they’ll eventually fill up a gully in another hundred or two hundred years.

I left the other day and she was blowing leaves on the east yard. That’s pretty easy. She only has to blow the leaves about 75 feet to get them out of the yard on that side.

When I came back, she had started on the upper level of the back yard. I noticed that she was looking a bit tuckered out, so I offered to take over (knowing, of course, that my offer would be indignantly rebuffed). I left to run some other errands.

This time, I found that she had the 100-foot extension cord, plus the 25-footer, and was attacking the lower level of the back yard. Deciding that it was time for drastic action, I reached where the long cord plugged into the short cord and gave a yank. Within seconds, there was silence in the back yard. I had pulled the plug on Mother.

Putting up a brave front

I think even she knew it was time. She didn’t protest when I started coiling up the power cords and hauling them off.

But, that’s not the end of what happened this week. She was giving the yard what she thought would be one last cutting of the season (plus sending leaves off to leaf heaven) when she complained that “it’s not blowing.” I figured she had probably thrown the belt that spins the blades, cutting the grass and mulching the leaves.

When I went to thread it on, one of the pulleys kept popping off its shaft. When I took off the shroud that covered it, I discovered that the shaft wasn’t the same shape all the way up; it came to a point. At some point, the thing that held the pulley to the shaft had come off, the pulley had started grinding away at the shaft until it looked like a bad tooth. I wish I had taken a picture of it.

“Goodbye, Faithful Servant”

It was time to call Brother-in-Law John Perry. He’s seen and done it all when it comes to fixing things. He’d just never seen anything like THIS before. We loaded up a mess of parts and headed out to see Jake the Lawnmower Guy. He, too, had a Maude Moment – “Hey, Maude, Come here. Bet you ain’t never seen anything like this before.”

He pulled out his calculator. Well, this is Missouri. He pulled out a pad of paper and a pencil and started writing down part numbers and getting more excited all the time. He could just see himself out on the Lake of the Ozarks in his new bass boat.

Finally, tearing up his parts list, he said, with the images of the bass boat fading away, “I have a couple of used mowers you might want to take a look at.”

Taking it easy on first lap

I went back to Mother and said, “I have the solution to your lawnmower problem and it’s only gonna cost a quarter.”

“A quarter,” she said. “What can you do to it for a quarter?”

“Well, if I can borrow a gun from John, I can buy a bullet for about a quarter and I think shooting it is about the only course of action that makes sense.”

Vrooooom! Vroooom!

After complaining that the new mower operated differently than the old one – “I won’t know what to do with my left foot. The old mower had the clutch on the left…” – she bought a used Troy-Bilt 21-horsepower, 46-inch mower. Her old one only cut 36 inches and had 11 horses hitched to it. (I can hear her complaining about the cost of feed already, not to mention having to build a bigger barn.)

The new mower has modern safety features. If you put it in reverse, the mower blades stop. If you lift up off the seat, the mower blades stop. If you come completely OFF the seat, the mower blades stop and the motor dies. Keeps you from being run over if you’re ejected.

She needs rocks in her pockets

The only catch is that mother weighs about 72 pounds. I noticed that the blades kept kicking out. I watched her awhile and figured out that she’s so light that every time she hits a bump, the seat flies up just enough to engage the safety interlock and kill the blades. We’re either going to have to fatten her up or make her keep a concrete block in her lap.

Not bad, thought, for someone who had to overcome adversity.

2011 Birthday Season Party

Saturday night, we held a 90th Birthday Season celebration for Mother’s friends and family. This gallery of photos is probably of interest mostly to the folks who were there or people who know us. I promise we’ll get back to more general interest stuff soon. There are some good stories in the pipeline. (Thanks to Son Matt and Brother David for shooting some of these.)

Birthday Season Photo Gallery

Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

2011 Birthday Season Day 1

This is Mother’s 90th Birthday Season. David, Diane and Amy Steinhoff came in from Tulsa; Kim Steinhoff-Tidsale and daughters Brynn and Taylor came in from Denver (Casey is due Saturday); Wife Lila and I arrived from WPB (she flew; I drove); Adam, Carly and Graham Steinhoff flew in from West Palm Beach; Matt, Sarah and Malcolm drove up from Palm Beach Gardens. Mark is coming in from St. Louis Saturday.

This is the biggest gathering of Steinhoffs ever. We can no longer hold a family reunion in a phone booth.

Mother had hair appointment

We knew Mother had a hair appointment at 10, so I was given the task of putting out the word as soon as she left the driveway. Within minutes, the whole clan camped out on the porch to surprise her. We waited and waited and waited. Someone suggested that we REALLY surprise her by leaving a message saying that we had all decided to go to lunch. (We carefully noted the name of that person for when it comes time to update the will.)

When the honoree finally arrived, there was much hugging and a few wet eyes. Most of that action was captured in a video for later editing. With the surprise out of the way, there was a general agreement that we were hungry.

A motion to head to Wib’s BBQ in Jackson was made and passed. We took over the joint.

Friendly waitress grabbed camera

A friendly waitress offered to take a photo so I could be in at least one picture. I checked out how close she was to the nearest exit and tried to remember if I had ever stiffed her for a tip, then decided to relinquish my Nikon. She did a pretty good job.

We’re a wired family

Carly and Matt stay connected with the world while Graham exhibits his excitement.

Don’t want to miss anyone

This shot of Amy, Adam, Sarah and the back of Diane’s head insures that everyone is in at least one photo. I want to make sure NOT to offend anyone who might be picking out my Old Folks’ Home in the future.

The fellow in the cap in the background was not part of our gathering.

Missouri Conservation Center great for kids

We decided the kids needed to burn off some energy, so we headed to North County Park, figuring we’d hit the playground.

I suggested we spend a few minutes in the Missouri Conservation Center. The kids and adults loved it.

Malcolm liked building things out of blocks made from tree branches. Then, he and the girls and David were fascinated by a live bee hive with bees flying in and of the hive through a transparent tube in the wall. Malcolm spent 20 minutes trying to spot the queen. David was curious about how long a honey bee lived. (About six weeks per Matt’s Googling.) Since we had seen bees flying around in the butterfly garden out front, Malcolm was able to really made the connection between flowers, bees and honey.

David’s hidden talents

Right next to the block area was a small puppet stage. David started pulling out animal puppets and coming up with an elaborate story about who they were and how they interacted, ending up with a tale about a skunk.

When he finished to a standing ovation (actually, everybody wanted to see another exhibit, so they stood up to leave), I looked behind the stage to see if he had been reading from a script. I am proud to report that he was ad libbing.

Audience was rapt and appreciative

You can tell from the expressions that he did a great job.

We’ll more than likely report on other events. By Sunday, folks will be catching planes and scattering back to their homes.

We’re going to make an effort to get together like this more often. After all, we’d all come together for a funeral. Why not celebrate living instead?