Monday, February 27, 2006

The Princess


I'm finally figuring out how to post some of these pictures from last fall. This one is a princess who stopped by for help after her carriage turned into a pumpkin (see it there, behind her?)

Daughters


Here are Emily, Amy, and Jenny at the airport, the day Amy left.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tired Mom's Talents

I am reading a good book called The Worn-Out Woman. I feel like it really applies to me because I have been exhausted all week. It seems staying up til 2 a.m. out at the coast (shocking, what those moms do out there!) wore me out and I caught the next bug that came down the chute and fought a low-grade fever and fatigue all week.

Anyway, before I sound like the old Yoder circle letter (the part about my ailments, I mean, not going to the coast and staying up late...can't imagine Aunts Ennie and Lyddie and Edna ever trying that....) we return to the book and an intriguing thought.

The authors claim that much of our exhaustion is due to working in areas that we are not good at. If we focus on serving where our talents and interests lead us, we will be a lot more energized.

That resonates with me, since nothing energizes me like speaking to women's groups and I am very thankful for the opportunities I get to do so. I also like to sew, and listen to people, and read, and email. I would be thrilled if I would be called on to serve in only those areas.

However. What about the fact that Ruth just had a baby and I know good and well that I should call and sign up to take a meal in but that sort of thing looks like this huge task to me? I am not good at planning menus, and I find it nearly overwhelming to come up with a menu, make the food ahead of time, put it in transportable containers, and deliver it. To people like my friend Rita, this kind of thing is second nature. And she packs it all in a pretty basket and tucks in an adorable little bouquet for good measure. But to me it looks as daunting as writing the Smucker circle letter does to my SIL Bonnie (who happens to be awesome at planning menus and cooking).

I have a feeling this book is kind of like Wild at Heart and lots of others, good in its basic philosophy but not quite realistic about the actual world we live in and the duties that face us every day. I can't imagine a day when I will never be expected to cook or sing or choose gifts for someone.

Quote of the Day:
"Right now there's about 1,537,000 seconds til Amy comes home. When you post it on your blog--if you write it tonight let's say at 7:00--by that time it'll be down to, uh, let me think, like 7000 seconds lower. Actually more than that, like 8000."
--Ben, the technical math guy
.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Superwomen

I have friends who are seriously "into" Karen Kingsbury, so when someone sent me some information about her the other day, I clicked onto her website to read more.

This woman looks to be about my age (or younger) and like me she lives in the Pacific Northwest, has six children, and writes.

But there (sigh) the similarities end. I have been writing officially since 2000 and am publishing the second edition of my first book. She, in contrast, has been writing fiction since 1998 and has published over 30 books, one of which is #1 on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. And she homeschools those six children.

Thirty books! How on earth does this woman do it?

Back when I lived in Canada and had three small children, I would read of such superwomen and think, "Yeah, but I'll bet she has running water."

Now, I have lots of running water but I still don't accomplish much in comparison to Karen Kingsbury and plenty of others. When I read about them, I find it paralyzing rather than inspiring.

I guess there's a good reason the Bible says it's not wise to compare ourselves among ourselves and measure ourselves by ourselves.

I'll bet Karen Kingsbury has a maid.

Quote of the Day:
"May I scratch your back?"
--Steven, trying to be a gentleman like the one brother in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Emily and I finally figured out that the brother had actually said, "May I escort you back?" and then we laughed so hard poor Steven probably despaired of ever being a proper gentleman.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Feminine Fun

Last night I came home from our annual ladies' retreat at the coast. I feel like Matt when he came home from Bible school: "Man, I have so many good stories, but I can't tell any of them."

The sun shone, the waves rolled, we let our hair down and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Friends like these are a gift from God.

Quote of the Day:
"I think there's something wrong with a woman who likes snakes because God 'put enmity between thee and the woman.'"
--Arlene, a woman after my own heart

Friday, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Amy in Yemen

Amy just posted about her time in Yemen. Sample paragraph:

Driving through town, we had seen lots of women who were wearing, instead of the traditional black, a distinctive navy-and-red-patterned cloth. Aunt Becky explained that it was a style that they only wore there in Mahweet, and Dana decided that she wanted some to use for tablecloths. So on the way back to the motel we stopped at a clothing shop to try to find some. Someone had put a 10-year-old boy in charge of this store, and he could not understand what we wanted. Aunt Becky tried and tried to explain, but he still didn’t get it, despite the fact that I’m sure he sees at least fifty of them every day. That’s a guy for you. Anyway, we went back to the motel, and asked the manager, and he sent someone to get some, so Dana did get hers eventually.

Schrock Follow-up

It has now been over three months since the tragic accident that took the lives of Jeff and Carolyn Schrock’s five children.

A few weeks ago Carolyn stopped in with her new baby, a dark-haired cutie that looks like Jeff. I had a thousand questions to ask her but hardly knew how to articulate them, or if they were appropriate. "Go ahead, just ask, it’s ok," she said calmly.

"How is it now?" I said, a bumbling way of asking, "Does life go on? Is your soul scarred forever? Is there any beauty in that land of grief in which you now live?"

She said, "There is grace. I feel like Job. He said,’I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.’ This is how different my life is: we went to Goodwill yesterday. Well. What was there to look for at Goodwill? We bought Jeff a pair of shoes, and then what? That was it."

I told her, "You and Jeff have earned this enormous credibility. For the rest of your lives, when you talk about God, people are going to sit up and listen."

On a slightly different note, you may recall I wrote about the man who lost five children in a fire and concluded that his friend who lost his children through divorce had actually had it harder.

Some time ago a woman told me, "I just want to affirm what you said about a divorce being harder than a multiple death. Two years ago I lost my brother, his wife, and their daughter in a car accident. And then my sister’s husband left her. And that has been much, much worse than the deaths. It just goes on and on." She paused, tears in her eyes, and shook her head. "It has been hell."

Everyone go hug your spouse and children.

Quote of the Day:
"My grace is sufficient."
--God

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentines Day

Paul’s dad was always a bit romantically challenged, especially with events like Valentine’s Day. His sons tend to be a bit the same way as you can see over at the Bubbling Teapot.

This year I decided to make it easy for Paul and I bought this adorable set of tools (hammer, pliers, etc) with pink handles. I gave it to Paul and told him to give it to me for Valentine’s Day. So he did, along with a homemade card full of nice affirming words, which is what I really wanted anyway.

But then he really outdid himself and ordered a rose delivered to Emily at school. She was absolutely ecstatic and smiled the rest of the day, she said. She also said it means so much more to her because she knows it went totally against her dad’s practical, frugal nature to do this for her.

Paul wondered if I was jealous that he did more for Emily than me. I wasn’t. To see him investing in our daughter this way was a lavish present for me as well.

Quote of the Day:
"God loves us so much that he sent us snow for Valentine’s Day!"
--Jenny. Yes, it snowed yesterday, enough to leave a skiff of white on the ground

Monday, February 13, 2006

Music and Words

I have a hard time understanding the words when I listen to music. This is just one of the many oddities of mine that my sister would exclaim over, back in the day, along with the fact that I could never manage to sew straight darts in dresses and I didn't laugh out loud very much in social situations.

Back then my brother, who was cool and rebellious, would listen to John Denver every so often. I "heard" one phrase from his songs as "I'm sorry to believe in you." It didn't make sense to me but hey, poetic license and all that, and how many country songs actually made sense all the way through?

Fast-forward about 25 years, when I picked up a John Denver tape at a garage sale and discovered that I really liked his music. His voice is amazing and his music is actually music, as opposed to the wispy, breathy stuff on KLOVE. (Yes, Amy, I KNOW not EVERY song on KLOVE is breathy and whiny and SOME are real SONGS.)

Anyway. I was listening to this in the car the other day, and there was that "Sorry to believe in you" song again. What, he was sorry he ever believed in this relationship or what?

Suddenly, after all these years, it hit me that he's actually saying, "I'm sorry to BE LEAVIN' you." Duuuhhhhhhhh.

Note to my sister: I am still odd and I still can't understand the words very well.

Quote of the Day:
"Emily and Stephanie Smucker are two amazing new authors. They live in Harrisburg, Oregon, and spend their days reading, writing, and doing schoolwork. Emily has written numerous other books such as The Asthma Story and Little Miss Jenny. This is Stephanie's first book."
--the authors' bio in The Princess, the Ballerina, and the Evil Uncle

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Amy's Angel

I have gone through passport control or immigration or whatever it’s called in half a dozen countries—let’s see--Canada (many times), Mexico (twice), Poland, England, the UAE (twice), Kenya (twice) and Yemen (three times). If all goes well, you submit whatever documents are needed and they stamp your passport and off you go.

Far and away the worst place to do this is Yemen. They take your passport and refuse to tell you what they’re doing. "Go! Sit down!" they command, waving impatiently like you’re this huge irritating bother. "But…what’s going on?" you ask timidly, afraid to look the guy in the eye because Yemeni men take this as flirting. "Iss ok. Wait a little," he snaps, waving you off toward the chairs.

Screechy, animated Italians go through the line. So do big blond Germans. You keep waiting. Finally you venture to the window and try to tell them that your sister submitted some paperwork two days ago that’s supposed to expedite your visa. "Sit down! Wait a little!" commands the irritated immigration guy who no doubt didn’t have his qat today and is going nuts.

You have been up for something like 36 hours and are nearly in tears. You don’t dare go anywhere because they still have your passport. Important-looking American oil-company men go through the line and you are left for last. Finally after an hour of near-despair they yell angrily at each other, find the lost paperwork, summon you to the window and stamp your passport so you are free to go.

It is a horrible experience.

This week Amy flew from her current home in Oman to Yemen to visit my sister. I knew she had bought what she called Arab-proof sunglasses, dark enough so the men couldn’t see if she was looking at them or not, so I wasn’t worried about that. I told her to grow her fingernails long in case…well, just in case. But I was most worried about how she would get through passport control and there was nothing I could do about that.

Except pray, of course. Amy flew into Sanaa and went into the airport. A Yemeni woman came up to her and in perfect American English struck up a conversation. She had grown up in America but now lived in Yemen, she said. She ushered Amy to the front of the line, did the necessary negotiating and translating, and before she knew it Amy had her passport stamped and was on her way, one of the first ones through.

Amy thought this was cool but I think it is somewhere way, way, beyond cool—wonderful, reassuring, faith-affirming, and incredible. "The Lord hath sent his angel…"

Quote of the Day:
"But would an angel lie about growing up in America?"
--Emily. I don’t know either, but I would guess if an angel appears in human form he/she would have some sort of identity and "history."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Good News

We have had dial-up internet access for years. Even though we are only 20 miles from Eugene we were out of range for all the fancy internet connection options.

This has been getting more and more difficult as more and more members of the family feel like they have to have their Web time every day, and the poor people trying to call our house felt like they could never get through.

Recently we got yet another flyer from Quest offering DSL. Always before when we called about these offers they said uh, sorry, your address comes up as Not Available. Well, this time they said it's possible. The guy came out today and flipped a switch down past the Harrisburg Church somewhere.

And it works! It's not that fast, but that's not really the point. It's connected all the time, which is a weird feeling, like leaving the iron turned on. And now people can get hold of us. And it solved my weird "Access Denied" problems with Blogger.

I like this.

BOYS

Mom is still having issues with her computer, so she sent this to me and asked me to post it. Enjoy. -Matt

Sometimes the boys in this house are just…BOYS.

This morning our house was extra wild because it was the school’s annual Snow Trip Day*. So the children got their own breakfasts while Paul and I prepared gallons of boiling water for hot chocolate and made sure everyone had their snowsuits, mittens, and extra clothes.

In the midst of this the cats started yowling. I discovered that insteadof filling their little water dish as normal, Steven, who likes to dothings weird for no reason, had put their water in a big 32-ounce sourcream container and the cats couldn’t reach it.

Then Steven wanted to fry some eggs for him and Jenny and couldn’t find his favorite frying pan so he was rattling and banging around the kitchen looking in cupboards, drawers, and pantries. Some distance into this commotion I came on the scene and found that he was doing all this while holding three eggs in his hands. No disasters, thankfully, but a few choice words from Mom.

Then Ben won the RIWSBI** award for the morning. Somebody had put bread in the toaster, and it was burning. I yelled at Ben to quick put it underwater before it smoked up the kitchen. So he grabbed a cup of water and started pouring it INTO THE TOASTER. Mercifully he did not get zapped to kingdom come but I’m afraid he also heard a few choice words from Mom.

Quote of the Day: "At least they make me look calm and responsible."
--Emily

*Here in Oregon you can have green grass and 50 degrees, but if you drive for an hour you can be up in the mountains in a different climate and lots and lots of snow. Still seems very odd to this Midwesterner.

**Rub It Where She Bumped It. This is a family legend by now. One evening when Jenny was about 6 months old I set her on the floor and told 13-year-old Matt to watch her while I quick put a hem in a dress. I heard a thump. Jenny started crying. "What happened?" I said." She fell and bumped her head," Matt said." Well, do something," I said, busily sewing. "Rub it where she bumped it or something." Jenny kept crying. I turned around. There was Jenny sitting on the floor crying, and there was Matt on his knees earnestly rubbing the edge of the cupboard. "Matt, WHAT are you doing??" "You SAID, ‘Rub it where she bumped it.’" He was serious.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hey this is Matt. I'm just posting to tell all of you that Mom is having some major computer problems which are making it so that she can't stick anything on here. Maybe I can fix it once I get home next week.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Emily's Illness

Three or four years ago we went through a long and frustrating siege of ill health with Emily. She caught every "bug" that came along, and what took the rest of us two days to get over took her two weeks. Plus she had terrible headaches and a general fatigue and malaise and often a low-grade fever.

The medical world is wonderful for broken arms and awful for something chronic and vague like this. Dr. B listened to my litany for maybe 30 seconds, caught the word "migraine" and rattled on about the prescription drugs she might need to prevent migraines, ignoring everything else I had said and wanted to say.

We homeschooled Emily that year because of her health situation. In November we had a breakthrough when we had her anointed with oil at church and also found a doctor who listened for a long time to everything I wanted to say and decided to test her for food allergies.

The tests came back positive for chicken, apples, oranges, cranberries, and a bunch of other odd things. He told us she should be off these foods for a year and then we can re-introduce them. He also gave us some ideas for dealing with her headaches without relying on prescription meds.

Then to our enormous relief she began to improve to the point that we could go ahead with our plans to go to Kenya for four months. She had some health issues there when she reacted to the typhoid shot and was deathly sick for a few days and draggy for three weeks, but after that was mostly ok.

Last winter while the rest of us dropped like flies with all the viruses, Emily held her head high and sailed right through.

Then came this winter. Once again I feel like we are back to the old days and it is very discouraging. Vague low-grade fevers, constant headaches, fatigue, general malaise, plus stomachaches and diarrhea. Of the 21 days of school in January, she missed about 15.

Once again we are groping for answers. My naturopath doctor said she is probably reacting to her allergenic foods again and needs to go off those. So she’s back on that diet. Will it help? We’ll see. I also did an internet search for her symptoms and came up with such exciting things as chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and lymphoma. God forbid.

Back when she was 12, I could always tell when Emily was recovering from a long illness because she would make Jenny scream. It always worked. She would be polite and sweet and grateful when she was sick, but as soon as she started getting better she started annoying and teasing Jenny. I would hear an irritated "AAAAHHHHH! EMIL-LEE!" and know she was on the mend.

Thankfully she is growing up, and now I can tell she’s getting over her sickness when she gets the urge to do something creative. She lies around for days and days, then suddenly she comes downstairs arrayed in a medieval-princess outfit cleverly concocted from clothes in her closet and stuff in the dress-up bin. And I think—Yes!!

Two days ago she finally started getting over the latest "bug" and got the urge to make petit fours. Pronounced "pettifores", these are little French cakes covered with a drippy icing that hardens and looks very elegant and pretty.

She worked late, and when I got up the next morning there were pink drips of icing all over my kitchen, and every doorknob, fridge handle, and drawer pull she had touched were sticky.

But I was happy: Emily was well again.

Quote of the Day:
"Why does that one tape say I’m a kid of King "Dumb"???"
--Jenny, after listening to "I’m a kid of the Kingdom."