Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Magnet

I have a giant invisible magnet attached to my back. Wherever I am, there my children want to be also. I sneak into the office for an e-mail break and within seconds they are all gathered around me, talking.

Today I got up early to write and was very sleepy by noon so I lay on the couch for a nap. Within minutes all the kids at home (4) had grabbed blankets and sprawled all over the living room for naps. Excuse me? Only one of them even likes naps.

So there I was, trying to sleep despite my Mom-antennae that pick up every whisper within 50 yards while Steven bumped the couch with his foot and Emily hissed "STOP THAT!!"

I believe I got seven minutes of sleep and then there was no use trying.

I don't get it. When it's time for chores the magnet doesn't work and I need a pack of hounds to find these children, and when I want an eensy-weensy break they're all right THERE.

Quote of the Day:
"Why do dead Mennonites have makeup but not alive ones?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Love and Other Distractions

What is in the air these days that makes so many young people get engaged and married?

Our friend Tom married Jewel last Saturday, Paul’s nephew Kevin is getting married in August, Brandon who graduated from high school with Matt just announced his engagement,* we are all expecting our friend Brendon to make it official any day now, and yesterday my niece Annette emailed that she’s engaged to Jay.

Maybe it’s no more love in the air than usual, but just that we have a whole crop of friends, nieces, nephews, and former students reaching that age.

In a world of cohabiting and divorce and single parents and failed relationships, these young people are holding up the banner of A Better Way. God bless them all.

*Note to Matt: don’t even think about it.

Quote of the Day:
Me: (with tape measure in hand) How long do you want that pink dress?
Emily: (who never misses an opportunity to be dramatic and to misunderstand me) As long as it lasts! Are you going to take it away or something??!!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cloak and Dagger Stuff

"I do love a good intrigue," says Marguerite the wicked stepsister in Ever After.

Well, I love a good intrigue too, but my life doesn’t often lend itself to mystery and risk. But last night Amy and I concocted a bit of sneaky shenanigans.

We were invited to my mother-in-law’s for one of her delicious suppers. After supper, Amy and I were washing dishes while Paul and Anne (my MIL) were out in the garage and she was showing him the bamboo blinds that needed to be fixed.

As we washed dishes, Amy said, "Aren’t those in the wrong order?" She indicated two ceramic smiling-sunflower mottoes above the sink that have hung in Anne’s kitchen for probably 50 years. The one on the left said, "Let’s be happy while we’re here." And the one on the right said, "Share a smile, spread some cheer."

"Yes, I think you’re right," I said. We looked at each other and both thought the same thing at the same time. "Shall we?" Amy said. Anne’s voice continued to drift in from the garage. "Yeah, let’s!" I whispered.

Quickly and quietly she removed the left sunflower and I removed the right. We traded. Unfortunately one had a little wire clip on the back and the other had a loop of string. And one nail stuck out an inch from the wall and the other a quarter-inch.

I hung up mine. The top was much too far from the wall. Anne’s voice still sounded far away so I took mine off and pushed in the nail. Thankfully it slid right into the wall and all was well.

Amy had a harder time looping the string on the little nail on her side. I tried to pull it out further and it came clear out of the wall. Finally it all worked out—whew. We looked at each other and grinned.

Anne came bustling in a few minutes later and didn’t suspect a thing.

I do love a good intrigue. Meanwhile, Share a smile; spread some cheer. Let’s be happy while we’re here.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Mom, it seems like everybody asks me all these questions.
Me: Like who? And what do they ask?
Jenny: See what I mean?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stewing vs. Spouting

Would you believe after nearly 21 years of marriage I'm still learning stuff?

Like: how I handle anger. I grew up in a family of stewers and am great at it. Paul does something that really annoys me and the windows close, the doors slam, the shutters unfold, the portcullis drops, the bridge lifts, the moat freezes over, and I huddle inside for three days nursing my wounds.

Paul is a spouter who grew up in a family of people who spoke their minds. Not that he gets angry often, but if he does it's like blowing bubble gum--a quick red swelling and then -Pop!- it's over.

Anyway, after all these years I am learning to spout. What an amazing thought that it might be ok to just say so when I'm upset. I mean, to just stand there and say the words.

And how amazing to learn that even though spouting feels sinful to me, it may well be far less sinful than stewing. And Paul would much rather I spout than stew.

You never stop learning, I guess.

Quote of the Day:
"Having a deodorant war."
--Ben, after wild pandemonium ensued upstairs and I asked WHAT he and Steven were doing

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Scare

This is the sort of thing that gives us moms our gray hairs. And to think it was Amy this time, the child who seldom gives me a moment's worry.

Every so often one of us will need some exercise so we’ll leave half an hour early for an evening church service and walk until we get picked up by the rest of the family. Just north of here, where Powerline Road goes straight ahead and 99 takes off at a 45 degree angle, the walkers like to go straight ahead so they can walk on a "back" road, so the driver has to remember to go straight ahead also instead of turning on 99.

This evening our beautiful and charming daughter waltzed downstairs at about 5:15 and announced that she will be walking and would we please pick her up. Sure, fine.

We left at 5:40 and since Paul and I both have Part-timers (precursor to Alzheimers) we of course forgot and turned onto 99. A couple miles down the road we suddenly remembered Amy. So we turned left onto Lake Creek and then turned south on Powerline.

We drove. Far ahead I saw a flicker of brake lights. No big deal. Hmmm, no Amy. We drove past Lowell and Jeannette’s. No Amy. We got to Cartney Drive. Still no Amy. What was going on? Well, maybe she turned around for some reason. We drove on south to 99. No Amy anywhere, only empty grass fields.

What on earth was going on? I had my cell phone and called home. No answer. I called Amy’s phone, then Matt’s. No answer. Did someone take her to church? I called church. No, Amy wasn’t there.

We drove back to the house. She wasn’t there.

God have mercy, where was this girl? We decided to go on to church and see if she was there. And if she wasn’t….my stomach tightened in sick horror at all the possibilities. Those brake lights I saw…did someone come by and snatch her away? Should we look for signs of conflict or whatever the newspaper term is? We’d have to call the police…let’s see, she was wearing a green shirt and khaki skirt. Dear God, please please please let her be ok. Oh my goodness I know just what that poor Wilberger family in Corvallis went through when their daughter was abducted.

6:10, heading east on 228. If someone took her to church, why didn’t she CALL me?

We got to church 15 minutes late and I was a tangled wad of dread and fear. And then just as we got out of the van this perky girl in a green shirt and khaki skirt came out the front door and down the sidewalk. I went weak with relief. Thank you thank you Jesus praise to your name forevermore (big hug, oooh you’re really OK) thank you God.

Amy had seen the van turn onto 99 and realized we forgot her and decided to stop at Lowell and Jeanette’s to call us. Just then Brandon Baker was driving out L&J’s driveway so she flagged him down and hitched a ride to church.


"Didn’t I try to call your phone? I guess I called home and then I called Dad’s phone and left a message. Goodness, I feel bad that I worried you so."

Don’t ever tell me to dye my gray hairs. I’ve earned every single one.

Quote of the Day:
"Yes! I was worried. It just didn’t make any sense."
--Paul, who seemed as cool and collected as always through the whole ordeal, when I asked him afterwards if he had been worried. So nice to know I wasn’t just being a hysterical female.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Barbecues and Teas

Guys’ events are different from girls’ events.

Last night the church social committee, consisting of my friend Rita and me, with help from Marita the speaker's wife, hosted a father-son barbecue for all the guys at church and whatever dads and sons they wanted to invite.

Earlier, in May, I opted out of planning the mother-daughter tea because of everything else I had going on, so Rita and a few volunteers planned it and I attended with great enjoyment.

The decorations at the guys’ supper consisted of blue-checked tablecloths, red napkins, and centerpieces of mini straw bales borrowed from Verna Miller and plastic farm animals from Rita’s children’s toy box. No one seemed to notice the decorations except a bunch of little boys who played with the animals afterward.

At the girls’ tea, the arriving ladies oohed and aahed over the lace-doily place cards, the fresh flowers, the tulip-background menus, and the lovely old-fashioned teapots and cups.

The guys had basic stick-to-the-ribs food—grilled hamburgers, baked beans, potato salad, and such.

The ladies had flaky scones with bits of dried cranberries, lemon fluff, tea, and other artsy food.

The men did not dress up. The women did.

Despite the differences, a good time was had by all, at both events. Behold, God said after he made two separate genders, it was very good.

* * *
You know, putting on a supper for 60 people is a lot of work. You don’t think about what goes on behind the scenes at these functions until you’ve done it yourself a few times.

Our only real glitch was the bananas. We wanted to have banana splits for dessert so when we were at Costco on Monday we bought about 6 big bunches of green bananas, figuring they’d ripen by Friday. Well. Friday afternoon we discovered they were still as green and hard as pears in June. So I went to Select Market in Halsey for more, and behold, all their bananas were green as well.

Safeway saved the day with 50 nicely-ripened bananas.

And then there was the little episode I thought my friend Arlene might like to know about. The guys ate supper but not dessert and then while they were out playing softball, Rita and I set up a table in the middle of the fellowship hall with all the banana split ingredients. I came zipping out of the kitchen at one point and there was Arlene’s little Josh (the same one who shaved off half his eyebrow last week) standing by the table happily eating our precious maraschino cherries.

"Um, Sweetie," I said. "Those are for putting on our ice cream later, so you really shouldn’t be eating them now." So he promptly pulled the cherry out of his mouth and put it back in the bowl with the others.

Arlene has raised such an obedient child. I’m proud of her.

P.S. If you want to see a picture of the ladies' tea, visit my neighbor Claire's blog and scroll down to "More Pictures."

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Mom, I think I’m related to an ostrich.
Me: Why?
Emily: Because an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Back Again

Paul and I just got home from a relaxing, two-night, harvest-proof-our-marriage getaway at Mill Creek Retreat Center and the coast.


Thankfully we missed the tsunami warning and consequent bedlam since we were already far inland by then.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, I must have some of Matt’s genes. When Matt turned 19, he was like exactly the same as when he was 18 except he’s one year older. When I turned 6 I was like exactly the same as when I was 5 except I’m one year older. I might have some of his genes, you know?"

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Tooth Fairy, Part 2

The Tooth Fairy
by Emily Smucker
(In honor of Sharon C)

Beware the tooth fairy, my friend
She’s cunning and she’s sly.
What does she do with all those teeth?
I’ve heard many a lie.

They say she turns them into snow
And with a little tooth
She makes a full-size doorknob. Ha!
But me, I know the truth.

She takes them to her workshop
And with what’s left of your grin
She makes a pair of dentures
Then she throws them in a bin.

And from there, the dentists buy them
And they pay quite a high price
And the tooth fairy thinks money
Is something that’s quite nice.

For with money she gets children’s teeth
When they have fallen out
So now you know the truth
Because I’ve let the truth get out.

So old people, beware! Because
When you’re eating a meal
Those "false teeth" chewing up your food
Are really very real.

Quote of the Day:
"There isn't a blessed thing you won't say or think of."
--Sharon C, to Emily

Thursday, June 09, 2005

My Writers Group

Someone once told me that being able to handle cognitive dissonance is a sign of intelligence and mental health. I’m not quite sure what that means but if it is talking about handling a lot of diversity in one’s life, I’d say I qualify.

I just came home from a writers’ group meeting in Eugene at the home of my friend Jessica who recently had an interview at the New Yorker headquarters in NYC and will be doing an article for them on oboe reeds. Others in the group include Carol the copyright lawyer who is working on a new business exporting wine and cheese to Belize, Tom who has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and teaches at the university, Robin who worked with Bill Gates in the early days of Microsoft, and Mary Kate who just published a gardening book through Sunset magazine.

This group is far and away the best critique group I have ever been part of. However, meeting with them always takes a bit of a mental lurch. In my daily life, I discuss Resisting Temptation with my Sunday School class, teenagers with my friend Sharon, the Father-Son supper with my friend Rita, clothes with my girls, basketball with my boys, will the rain hurt the grass seed harvest with Paul, husbands with my sister, Milford’s health with Aunt Susie, and potted plants with my mother-in-law.

Then I leave my tidy Mennonite life behind and meet with people who vote Democrat, dislike President Bush, travel abroad, have urban-y professions, are religiously liberal if at all, and know how to pronounce cognac.

But it’s really good for me. My essays always improve with their suggestions. They motivate me to keep writing. And, as typical Eugeneans, they give me a feel for the audience I’m writing for.

As I said, it’s a mental lurch, a dose of dissonance, and a good experience.

Quote of the Day:
"All mothers have kleenex."
--Steven, noting how moms can always pull a tissue out of thin air when someone has a runny nose

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Yet More Poetry

Matt’s Bedroom Door
By Emily

On my brother’s bedroom door
The entrance to that place of horror
Where people go and return no more
There’s many, many things.

There’s mutilated comic strips
Which might give you some helpful tips
‘bout what comes out of my brother’s lips
in my brother’s room.

There’s articles ‘bout things like war.
I look and say, "Forevermore!"
For I think that stuff is a bore
That’s on his bedroom door.

Quote of the Day:
"48 percent…52 percent…56 percent…"
--Ben the math guy, counting aloud as he put away his prescribed 25 dishes out of the dishwasher

Monday, June 06, 2005


You may have noticed this comment on the last post:
Julana said...
Dear Dorcas,Would you mind being tagged for a book meme?The questions are:Total books owned, ever:Last book I bought:Last book I read:Five books that mean a lot to me:
Tag five people:
A humble reader.

I had no idea who Julana is but I tracked her back a bit to find that she is a mom from Ohio with a blog called Life in the Slow Lane.
However, I still have no idea how to pronounce "meme" or what it means.

But I’ll take her challenge:

Total books owned, ever: thousands

Last book I bought: a bagful at this cool book fair in Virginia including: The Biggest Bear (2 copies, for gifts. One of the best kids’ books ever), Prisoners of Hope, The Story of Booker T. Washington, Strawberry Shortcake, Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess up Their Relationships by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
(Or wait, was it the other bagful I bought at Powells in Portland when Lois and I went up there on the train: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, an old book of fairy tales, a Bodie Thoene book to complete a set, a Mitford book, and I can’t remember what else)

Last book I read: Probably something like Dr. Seuss’s The Foot Book "Left foot, left foot, left foot, right. Feet in the morning, feet at night.")

Five books that mean a lot to me: How about 5 authors I keep going back to: Elisabeth Elliot, L.M. Montgomery, Garrison Keillor, James Herriott, Erma Bombeck
I always re-read James Herriott when I have the flu so I had a good dose of him this winter.

Tag five people: Um, naaaah. I’m too new at blogging to know if it’s good manners to tag.

I have strong opinions about books and authors, especially those in the Christian subculture. Honestly, if we Christians are ever going to move our message into the world Out There we have to get beyond how-to-improve-your-life books and poorly written fiction and produce quality that can compete with what’s out there. (Yes, yes, I’m trying to do my part.)

There are all these non-fiction (essentially how-to) books that people are always recommending to me but most of them fail to grab me by the collar and pull me inside, so I find better things to do with my time, which makes me feel very unspiritual. But shouldn’t an author earn the right to be read??

Yay for John Eldredge, the Schaeffers, Elisabeth Elliott.
Nay for Beverly Lewis. No Amish person I have ever known said "ever so nice" or "ever so pretty" or "ever so anything." Ever. I waded painfully through one of her latest books and a thousand "ever so’s" just to see how the story ended and then it didn’t even end there. It ended something like 5 books later. So Amy read all the books and told me what happened. (To my fiction-lovin’ friends: you don’t have to agree with me, you know. Sharon, you can keep fillin’ them bookshelves ever so full of fiction if that’s what makes you happy. And then my daughters can borrow them and I don’t have to buy them myself.)

Quote of the Day:
"I think I'm going to hate the lower-case "k" letter for the rest of my life."
--Emily, battling with her last few math lessons in proportions, inverse proportions, and how to find and use a constant (k)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Times of Refreshing

Here’s official proof that Paul is the Nicest Guy—he took Ben and Steven on a two-night canoe trip. Thursday evening Matt drove them down Coburg Road to the McKenzie River. They put in there, went a few miles, and then camped for the night.

Yesterday they merged into the Willamette and Jenny and I met them when they came by Harrisburg, since Paul had forgotten his jacket and Jenny was sure he had forgotten to hug her when he left. It looked so cool, these three guys paddling down the river, like the Lewis and Clark expedition. (Did you know there was one black guy on the L&C Exp.? William Clark’s slave I think. And when they reached the Oregon Coast they voted about how long to stay there or something and the black guy got to vote along with the rest, supposedly a first in American history.)(This is what comes of being married to the principal and getting to preview films at OMSI.)
Last night they camped on the riverbank behind Don Smith’s place and today they hope to make it to Albany. They had hoped for Salem but it would take too long.

Meanwhile. The house is occupied by gentle female creatures who do not go pounding through like a herd of migrating wildebeests and by Matt who is as elusive and quiet as the leopard we barely saw in the Nakuru Game Park. The silence is lovely. The kitchen floor stays clean for an hour after I mop it. I can get up at 7:00 and have an hour and a half of peace and quiet.

So, a round of applause for my husband.

The cherry on top of this restful experience was another Girls’ Night Out last evening. Among many other things, we learned that one woman has strong opinions about where she will be buried, most of us don’t care where we’re buried, and another sister doesn’t want to be buried at all because the thought gives her claustrophobia. "Cremate me. Or just lay me out in the woods."

I tell you, there’s nothing quite like a night out with the girls.

Quote of the Day:
"Do you really want the birds eating you up?"
--husband of ‘another sister’

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More Jenny Stories

In case you haven't yet had your fill of Jenny stories you can head over to Matt's blog or Amy's.

P.S. Oops! I guess I haven't figured out links after all. To read Matt or Amy's blogs, go into the comments to Hans Mast's and connect there.

Quote of the Day:
"Oh puh-leeze. Nice try. Ha-ha! Goodbye."
--Ben, dealing with another telemarketer

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Typical Episode

Why does this sort of thing always happen to me?

So, we all know how much I enjoy shopping with two children to start with, and then they don’t have any good sandals Steven’s size at Walmart and traffic is terrible and it keeps raining and then when I’m all worn out we end the day at WinCo where my 250-pound shopping cart keeps shocking us every time we touch it.

So, I shriek every time I get zapped and it is driving me crazy, so Steven being a True Son gets this wicked grin on his face and zaps me on purpose right by the tomato bin. That does it. I put my nose an inch from his and say, "You. Do. Not. Ever. Shock. Me. On. Purpose. Is. That. Clear?"

And just then this nice sweet senior citizen voice comes from right behind me. "Oh, are you by any chance Mrs. Smucker? I saw you here with your children and I just put it together that it must be you. I read your column religiously and I just applaud you for what you do."

Um,gulp, heh heh, yes, that’s me, heh heh heh, thank you so much.

Quote of the Day:
"Does Dad have a really deep belly button? Ben said he does."