Sunday, July 31, 2005

Garage Saling Notes

A couple of weeks ago I took Emily and three of her friends garage saling. This was Emily’s choice of a birthday adventure and was intended to also provide fodder for my next article.

The article didn’t come together in the same mysterious way that sometimes pudding or jello simply won’t gel. My notes seemed to be all about girls snapping at each other. But Amy thought I should post something from the notes anyway.


We get in the van and Emily whips out her notebook. “I wanna read you my latest dream.”
The others groan.
Emily, undaunted, reads.
They laugh.
“Now I wanna read you my latest story.”
More groans.
She reads.
They laugh.

Mysterious phrases followed by wild laughter:
“It’s a ghoooost.”
“I got your email about Mudd.”
“Remember to wash your socks today.”

Me: dear me.

“Why do they say a dog is a man’s best friend?”
“It should be a woman!”

Stephanie C. starts a story on Belt Line Road and has said “like” 14 times before we reach Hwy. 99.

Me: Dear me.

It is hot. Very hot. The sun glares off all the garage sale stuff and it’s hard to focus. The girls descend on each sale like hens to the feeder and the old ladies look at them and smile or look flabbergasted.

They admire old gloves, old clothes, anything impractical.

SC tells of the time she answered the phone and thought it was Arlene so she said, “Yessss. Whaddaya want THIS time??” and here it was Emily and Stephie’s grandma.

Emily shrieks. “Is that a stinkbug??”
Bethany: No wonder you stink.
Emily pinches her.
Bethany: I’ll chuck you in the creek.

Me: Dear me.

An arm jabs in front of me just as a Willamette Ag truck passes. “KURT!! Hey KURT!” yells SC.
Who’s that?
Kurt! He works with my dad!
Him? He’s old!
He has some cute kids, like, boys.

The other girls imitate her for a few miles. “Kurt! Hey Kurt!”
Stephie: You’re mean.
Bethany: Yeah, it’s my hobby.

Me: Dear me.

Bethany: Emily, knock it off. Your fingernails are not trimmed enough! You’re making marks on me!
SC: I used to bite myself, like, in church, to make marks on my arm.

Me: Dear me.

At one point the girls snatch the notebook out of my lap and write their own version of things:
Dorcas: goes driving full spede over the curb when driving out of the gas station. Then she goes creaming over the curb at dairy Qween.

SC finds a denture container in the free box. She gets it for her mom.

It is very hot.

At DQ, the girls walk to the door and Stephy S. gives the door a hard push and then notices the sign that says “PULL”

They slam each other’s handwriting on the way home and suddenly we pass a pasture and they burst into a chant: Four. White. Horses. Standingbyariver. Hey. Hey. Etc

They have a staring contest.

Me: Dear me.

We get home and they all go swimming.
I relax with a tall glass of iced tea.

Quote of the Day:
--me, after I survived an afternoon of garage saling with four girls, taking them to the Deep Hole, sending them through the shower after they swam, feeding them, and getting them to the scrapbook party in Halsey where I delivered them all safely back to their moms

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Good Place to Grow Up

Not long ago a visitor paused in our front yard and looked around. She took in the old-fashioned house with a big white porch, the homemade swing set in the yard, the green grass, and the trees and said, “Do your children appreciate growing up in such an idyllic setting?”

“No,” I said, “they don’t. But someday they will.”

I have a feeling that ten or fifteen years from now one of my children will be teaching in some inner city or immunizing children in a dusty village overseas, and suddenly they’ll get this incredible appreciation for growing up where they did, where the creek beckoned on hot summer days, the water flowed clean and delicious from the tap, and the kids slept outside on the trampoline all summer long with no danger beyond the cat pouncing on them at 3 a.m.

We are very blessed.

Quote of the Day:
“I can put up my hair in exactly 12 seconds.”
--Emily, who wraps her long hair around her wrist, twists it once, and skewers it with a plastic chopstick. Her Aunt Lois took an hour to put up her hair at this age, Paul says.

Monday, July 25, 2005

New Blogs

They keep popping up like mushrooms--check out these:

Paul's sister Rosie talks about mothering and lots more at Joyful Noise.

And Matt's friend Justin who works a seed-sacking shift at our warehouse, has a blog called Kilted Blogger.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Wish List

In his seven months in the U.S. Steven has learned that in America you can get Cool Stuff. So he made a list of things he wants and posted it on the fridge:

dog or 2
Remot ckontrol car
BiBi gan
Room by my self

How much of this does he have a chance of getting? Well, probably a lamb in the spring...probably not the room to himself til a few siblings leave home...maybe the remote control car for his birthday (don't tell).

Quote of the Day:
"In human years it’s probably 65—not dead yet, but a senior citizen."
--Matt, on why our computer acts how it does

Thursday, July 21, 2005

U of O Talk

This morning I drove down to the University of Oregon and spoke to an ESL class about Amish and Mennonites. They had just watched the movie "Witness" and were studying melting-pot vs. salad-bowl cultures.

I have never seen Witness but was told that in the book version as the girl is getting ready for bed she pulls off her white lace cap and her hair goes cascading down her back. Don’t these people realize she needed about 15 hairpins as well? So I hoped to clarify a few delusions.

There were two teachers and maybe 20 students in the class, hailing from Japan, Korea, Mauritania, Togo, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. It was a great chance to sneak in the Good News because of course I had to explain that our salvation comes from Jesus and not from these things we do.

I talked for 15 minutes or so and then they asked questions. Why don’t we get politically involved if we could do some good that way? If you don’t wear rings, how do you tell married and single women apart? (My answer: married women look old and tired.) What do you like best about being part of a community? How do we relate to people of other religions?

The guy from Togo was obviously a Christian—"How can you live in these isolated communities when Jesus tells us in Mark 16 to go and share the Gospel with the world?" So I talked about the growing awareness of the need to evangelize and the difficulty, at times, of reconciling outreach with protecting our families from bad influences.

I don’t know how much I clarified things for them but I do know I renewed my admiration for foreign students. They are respectful, mature, dedicated, and focused.

And an extra perk: the teacher in charge is going to see if there are any Kenyan, particularly Luo, students this fall that we could have in our home now and then to keep Steven’s native languages alive.

Quote of the Day:
"That’s the whole point."
--Ben, when I told him to quit doing stuff that makes Jenny scream

Monday, July 18, 2005


O give me a home
Where the nutria roam
Where the ryegrass is cut in July
Where the summer is bright
But it cools down at night
And the humidity never gets high.

Quote of the Day:
"A bird can lose a lot of feathers and still fly."
--anonymous warehouse worker who got tired of an aggressive starling and chucked a spool of sack-sewing thread at it

Sunday, July 17, 2005

New Blog, News, and Cycle Wipeout

Emily has hopped on the blogwagon at

And Amy tells us about her next big adventure over at Globetrotter_AJ. Yes, she's living up to her blog name. Kleenex donations are welcome for Mom.

Would all of you please make a note to be careful when you drive past our house? These curves just past our place to the north are nasty especially when you're driving too fast. I can't tell you how many times we hear that ominous screeeeeeech and then we wait for the THUNK.

In the five years we've been here we've seen a seed truck that lost its load, a red car in the field to the north, a red car in the trees by the creek, a car that hit a tree and burned up, and others that I can't remember the specifics of.

Thankfully, most times, people regain their footing before they wipe out completely, and then proceed on down the road. Yesterday, however, another person was not so fortunate. This time it was two guys on cycles. The younger one made it fine but the older one didn't lean into the turn enough or something so he hit the gravel and got flipped into the grass field.

I walked down to see if I could help. The guy was lying on the ground but coherent and not bleeding thanks to his helmet and leather jacket. He had tried to get up, he told me, and couldn't very well because his back and ankle hurt. A passing farmer called for the guy's daughter to come get him, and he promised me he'd see a doctor.

They parked his cycle at our place and later when his daughter and her husband came back and got it they said he would be fine. Sore but fine.

So that ended well but I have a feeling one of these days those curves will take the life of some teenage guy in a fancy pickup--the kind that drives too fast and thinks the laws of physics don't apply to him.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom! It's true! An ant, you know? An ant with four legs--that kind of ant? It's true, it will not cross a line of chalk! I saw an ant on the concrete on the basketball court and I drew a circle around it and it would not cross the line! So it's true! And then I let it go free. I can't believe it's true!"
--Jenny, who will have to learn to talk less when she goes to school this fall

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I had one middle-sized boy with all the attendant appetites, messes, noise, wild behavior, etc. And then I got another one. Now wouldn’t you think that since the number of boys doubled, the consequent messes, noise, etc, would merely double also?

No. Something freaky happens when you double the boys—the noise, trouble, and messes increase exponentially.

This is not a good year for apples. I went out to my 5-tree orchard the other day and inventoried and figured I’d be lucky to get a bucket or two of apples. "I’ll have to baby these things along to get any applesauce," I thought.

The next day I was hoeing in the garden and found a nice-sized apple. Hmmm. There are no apple trees close to the garden. I began asking questions.

Oh, um, well, Ben and Steven finished weeding the hedge that morning so they picked dozens of my precious apples off the trees and used them for batting practice.

We will draw the curtain of charity over the scene that followed except to say that I was about to turn them both over my knee and warm their bottoms but thought I would first call Paul for sympathy and moral support.

Mistake. He started laughing. I wanted to turn him over my knee and well, never mind. He can understand the boys so well, he said, because when he was a kid he used to spend hours hitting a rock with a broomstick. (Irrelevant, said the prosecution. Overruled, said the judge.)

Paul didn’t think I should spank them but they should each dig for an extra half hour out by the carport where we’re going to put gravel in.

And, I humphed, if I have to buy apples to make applesauce, guess who’s going to pay for them.

The next day I told the boys that if they do anything so foolish again I will spank first and THEN call their dad.

Quote of the Day:
"I don’t see any reason to make my bed cuz me and Steven are the only ones that’ll see it and it’ll just get all messed up again in thirteen hours."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

July Article

You can read today's column at

Quote of the Day:
"I'm sorry--I get hungry here."
--Matt, explaining why he took all 8 leftover grilled hamburgers to the warehouse to sustain himself on his 4pm-to-midnight shift, after I found that there weren't any leftover burgers here for Ben and Steven to eat and called Matt up and asked him if he suddenly grew a pink snout. I admit he works hard and some expert said you burn 100 calories every 15 minutes sacking seed, but still--8 hamburgers!

Friday, July 08, 2005


I have never figured out how to post pictures on here but today Matt posted a photo of me over on my Xanga site:

I hope to post pictures of the rest of the family sometime.

Quote of the Day:
"Ach, zu natural!"
(Translation: Oh, too natural!)
--my mom, whenever she saw a picture of herself

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Today's Ramblings

Today I took Amy and Emily to Portland and we picked out fabric for school uniforms. Unlike some schools, we choose new outfits every year. The moms take turns doing the choosing.

Some entrepreneur ought to open a big, nice fabric store in Eugene. I mean, the Eugene/Springfield area has something like 175,000 people. The fabric stores consist of:

--three Jo-Ann’s, where once you set aside the fleece, flannel, Christmas fabric, bridal, home dec, and SpongeBob SquarePants, there’s not much left for dresses. The calicoes on the wall don’t hold up well enough for school dresses. And to my huge annoyance they never have more fabric in the back and can’t order any more either. What’s on the shelf is all they have. Other years we’ve called around to almost every Jo-Anns on the west coast to collect half a bolt here and two-thirds of one there. After the year when $35 worth of fabric got lost in the mail, I said ‘no more.’
--Wal-mart, where you can sometimes stumble on just what you want but the only stuff you can get 40 yards of is western prints and huge florals that are not currently cool in the school-age crowd.
--Factory Fabrics, where everything is odds and ends and seconds
--a few random quilt stores where the fabric costs a fortune

I think that’s not nearly enough fabric stores for the population.

So, we went to Fabric Depot in Portland, where they have thousands of bolts of fabric and with a minimum of fuss they’ll order more.

We need a Fabric Depot in Eugene. Or better yet in Harrisburg.

Finding and choosing the fabric was a relatively painless procedure unlike two years ago when in a burst of foolish generosity I took all the older girls along so we could find something they’d all like. Well. They refused to say what they liked for fear their friends would think it was ugly. So this time I just took my two, who are not offended if they like something and their sister doesn’t. (Amy got to add her two bits even though she's already graduated.)

Then we went to two of Portland’s famous second-hand stores and my Find Of the Day was a Gap khaki skirt for me that still had the $49.50 price tag attached, for $3.50. And no slits to sew up. And it’s a size 8. I love it when clothing companies are so generous with their sizing. Normally I wear a size 12 skirt so an 8 makes me want to leave the tag sticking out on purpose like Erma Bombeck used to.

Then we went to Clackamas Town Center and met my sis-in-law Geneva for a 3:30 "lunch." She works at Meier and Frank so to me seems very urban-savvy and worldly-wise. While we were eating, this young black male walked by with pants that seemed like they were made for someone with 2-foot-long legs and a 4-foot torso. I commented on this sight.

"They’re skateboarder clothes," Geneva said. "I’ll bet Security keeps a close eye on him."
"How sad," I said, "that because of people like him, Security will probably keep a close eye on Steven when he’s 17, even if he’s a fine and honest young man."
"No, probably not," Geneva said. "Not if he dresses like Ben and Matt. It’s all in the clothes."

Heed, o ye young people that only want to express your individuality: your clothes send a message whether you intend them to or not.

I tried on some clothes at Meier and Frank, and then wanted to leave, but where were the girls? That store has two levels and is absolutely enormous and how was I ever going to find them? Amy soon showed up, and then by God’s mercy Geneva "happened" to go back by the clearance rack and there was Emily sitting on the floor by the back wall, fast asleep. It was time to go home, so we did.

Quote of the Day:
"If I get scared, I just pray to God. And if I feel this is something God doesn’t need to know, I just tell you."

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Glorious Fourth

Today is everything a proper Fourth of July ought to be--sunny, 80-some degrees, the smell of harvested grass seed fields in the air, and the old-fashioned parade in Harrisburg. No marching bands or Dairy Princesses here--just fire trucks, seed trucks, a huge bridge truss from Morse Brothers, kids on decorated bikes, four-wheelers from Smucker Manufacturing (Paul's second cousins), and so on. The Grand Marshal was a lovely elderly woman who was born in Harrisburg in 1910.

Emily's friend Stephanie's dad drove the Willamette Ag truck in the parade so Emily, Stephanie, and a few others walked ahead of the truck and tossed candy to the crowds. This was deeply satisfying to Emily's theatrical soul.

It was also Steven's first taste of Independence Day as an American citizen. He came home with a gold-spangled star on a stick and more candy than any child ought to eat in six months. He was very happy.

I love this country and get goose bumps when the flag goes by. We are very blessed to live here.

Quote of the Day:
Why do grandpas have pants and then things over their shoulders?
--Steven, observing the old guys in overalls or suspenders, sitting in their lawn chairs at the parade

Friday, July 01, 2005

Mennonite Observations

My friend Rita and I were in a grocery-store checkout line not long ago when the man ahead of us asked about our veils.

We explained.

"I’m a Christian too," he said, "and in our church we believe in salvation by grace."

"We believe in salvation by grace too," I said, just a bit hotly, "but we also believe in doing what the Bible says out of love and gratitude."

I tell my teenagers sometimes that, just so they know, the "world" will be the biggest threat to their basic doctrinal beliefs (Jesus as the only way, heaven and hell, creation, etc) but the pressure to drop their Mennonite practices (nonresistance, head covering, modest clothes, not drinking alcohol, no divorce) is going to come primarily from other Christians and not from unbelievers.

I have never understood this phenomenon. In general, when it comes to our outward, visible religious practices non-Christians are accepting, other Christians are condescending, and ex-Mennonites are insufferably patronizing.

Non-Christians ask me why we do something, and it doesn’t matter if it’s because of tradition or a particular Scripture, they say, "Ah, I see. Interesting. And I wanted to talk to you about your work in Africa. Can you tell me more about it?"

Christians ask why we do something and imply that if we were a bit more enlightened we would realize we don’t HAVE to do this stuff. Salvation by grace alone, you know.

And ex-Mennonites know good and well why we do what we do so they rattle on about the freedom they’ve found in the church they’re in and what a joy it is to not have rules. Some have been known to back their Mennonite friends up against the wall and go on for half an hour about how they MUST get out of this dead, lifeless church and go to another one, preferably theirs, as though it never occurred to them that their friends might actually be called to love and serve in this admittedly imperfect setting.

Ironically, for all these other Protestant churches’ insistence that they don’t have rules, they have plenty of unwritten ones. I have found this when speaking to women’s groups when I get the sudden sense that I have crossed an invisible theological line and it is confirmed when Mrs. Emcee gets up afterwards and does some quick damage control in her closing statements. One time at a Baptist church I talked about Mary and Martha and had been too heavy on faith and too weak on works. Rather amusing.

(Incidentally, these attitudes splash over into my writing life as well. Left-wing liberal-media types take me almost too seriously as a writer, and ex-conservative-Mennonites smile sweetly and say, "Oh, you write those little stories for, what is it, the Harrisburg newspaper? How nice.")

Is this just a quirk of my life and the west coast or for other people and places as well?

Damage-control Disclaimer from Mrs. Emcee—I’m generalizing here. I have met Christians who don’t follow this pattern and bless you if you are one of them.

And a confession: A while back I made an "amusing" comment about cape dresses and then realized a cape-dress wearer was in the room. So I am not without my own issues as an ex-Beachy.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, tomorrow’s your birthday and you’re going to be 43 and in 7 years you’ll qualify for the senior citizen’s discount at Meier and Frank."