Monday, October 31, 2005

Steven's Logic

Steven is growing so fast that he’s down to two pairs of dress-up pants for church. Last Sunday he played football in one of these pairs and got them all grass-stained. I had him rub Zout in the stains but when they came through the wash they still didn’t look very nice.

Well, Sunday morning came along again and these grass-stained khakis were the only "clean" church pants he had in his room. He didn’t want to wear them. I told him he had no choice.

He was mad.

Paul sat him down and tried to walk him through the logic of this. "Whose pants are they? Who is responsible for them? Did Mom tell you not to play football in them? Did you play football in them anyway? And what happened? Etc etc."

Finally, Paul wound up for the final punch line: "So, Steven, who should you be mad at?"

And Steven said, "The grass."

Quote of the Day:
"Nobody ever told me but I could tell from observation."
--Ben, when asked if he knew a certain lady was pregnant

Friday, October 28, 2005

Amy Arrived

Amy called at 11:30 last night and said she arrived safely. She didn't have any trouble except her big suitcase arrived in a bag as the zipper seam had split most of the way around. She didn't know if she lost anything or not.

I don't know a lot of details of her flights or anything because I was sound asleep when she called and Paul talked to her. But she's there and she's fine; that's what matters.

Quote of the Day:
"Praise the Lord."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ideas, Anyone??

My publisher is repackaging Ordinary Days for release in April and we need a title. Their suggestion is Ordinary Days--Family Life in a Farmhouse.

This title summarizes the contents in a nutshell which is what we want, but something about it doesn't "strike" me. So if any of you have ideas for tweaking this title, please comment.

The title didn't strike Paul either, but his beef was that technically, we don't live in a farmhouse. Yes, it used to be a farmhouse, but we only have two acres now and we don't actually farm. I didn't think this was relevant at all and tried to say so without damaging his masculine self-image.

After doing some serious weeping yesterday I am doing just a bit better today except when I found Amy's sweatshirt in the dirty laundry and took her little pillow* out of the car.

*The one she sits on so she can see over the steering wheel since she's so short.

Quote of the Day:
Emily: Isn't it funny how guys think?
Jenny: Part of their mind is on food, part of their mind is on ketchup, and part of their mind is on sports.
(Describes Ben pretty well, I think.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Who will treat us to fruit smoothies?
Who will snuggle with Jenny when she has bad dreams?
Who will keep Matt in line?
Who will help me coordinate outfits?
Who will discuss football with Ben?
Who will inject a much-needed dose of good sense into family discussions?

I never dreamt she’d grow up this fast, and now she’s on the plane and gone.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, are you okay??"
--Amy. No, I am not ok, but my friend Rachel says I’ll be able to go on with my life when I get that email saying Amy arrived safely

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My Kids' Adventures

My brother-in-law Steve accused me recently of sending my children off on adventures just so I'll have stuff to blog or write articles about.

They come up with this stuff all on their own, believe me.

Friday the children didn't have school so Emily and Steven decided they want to walk to the library in Harrisburg. It's about 4 miles, but they love to walk, so I sent them off with "the usual litany of cautions" (Jeremy's dad in Zits). "Here, take the cell phone." "Stay together." "Don't go anywhere with strangers."

But I didn't think to say anything about dogs, and a huge ferocious one came charging out at them from someone's yard just as they were leaving Harrisburg. It rushed up right behind Emily and barked viciously. Emily and Steven both held still, with their hands to their chests like the safety films say, praying their little hearts out, and then Scott the Harrisburg fire chief came along in the paddy wagon and rescued them and brought them home.

Actually, Scott passed them on the way back from helping someone who had locked his keys in his car, and then he thought that something didn't look right back there with those kids and that dog, and turned around to come back and help them.

So I was very happy to have them home safe and sound, and I will have a different perspective on my misfortune the next time I lock my keys in the car.

And now I am trying not-very-successfully to prepare myself for Amy's big adventure. God willing, she flies to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to be a governess to an American family for 5 months. I have a deep sense of rightness about this, but there is still a ball of lead in my heart that gets heavier each day.

My sis-in-law Bonnie offered to come over and play the CD that Byran played when he left, a mournful Celtic-sounding song of a mother longing for her children..."Lord, I miss my children; they are all so far away." I love the song but I said, Please, no. I'll cry enough as it is.

Does it have to be this hard? I guess this is the price of loving her as much as I do and of raising her to be an arrow to send forth. But it hurts, hurts, hurts.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom! Some of the Ducks wear size 19 shoes!"
--Ben, who considers this an appropriate early-morning greeting to his half-asleep mom on game day

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Seedsackers Part II

Remember when I wrote about that rare breed of men called Seedsackers? Here's a picture of two of them, brave and true and just finished cleaning the bins. Thanks, BB and JD.

The Petrified Pastor's Wife

October is Pastor's Appreciation Month, so last night our wonderful youth group and their sponsors (pause for applause) put on a lovely dinner for the ministers and their wives.

The evening included Bible charades with props that JD, king of swords and wigs and masks, had brought. He had also for some unknown reason included a rubber snake that ended up in a skit of the serpents biting the children of Israel and Moses lifting up the snake on the pole that they could look to and be healed.

We played our parts as prescribed and then returned to our lovely table for dessert and upbuilding conversation. I seldom feel like a proper minister's wife but I was really playing the role well then, I thought. Behaving myself, light conversation, nibbles of cheesecake.

And then Emily, my daughter, queen of drama and trauma, slid quietly up beside me and laid this coiled-up rubber snake on my arm. It was horrible. I screamed and leaped to my feet and lost all resemblance to a meek and quiet minister's wife. I shuddered and shook and was nearly in tears.

It was awful.

Paul dealt with Emily in his own time and way. You do not need details except to know that he really rose up in defense of his wife. (applause)

I hate snakes. I still love my daughter. I hope God sends her a daughter just like herself some day.

Quote of the Day:
"Uh...Mom...I think they heard you scream in California."
--Amy, who was in the kitchen at the time of the snake incident, when I asked if she had heard me scream clear back there

Monday, October 17, 2005

Gummi Gecko

I am too much like Matt: I'll do foolish things on a dare.

I have never eaten a gummy worm in my life because I think they look way too much like the real thing. Now they've come out with gummi geckos. Imagine. I took Emily to the eye doctor today and then we went to WinCo, and she discovered a bin of these creatures in the bulk food section.

And she bought one. (For nine cents--we all love WinCo bulk foods) It looked way too much like the semi-transparent geckos that used to scamper up our kitchen wall in Kenya.

And she ate it, leg by leg, bite by bite, on the way home. Yecchh. All but the head. She handed it to me and dared me to eat it.

"It's just candy," I told myself, and stuck it in my mouth. I chewed. It was hard and very chewy and very slippery and slimy. All I could think of was Kenya geckos. I nearly spit it out but I didn't have anything to spit into.

I kept chewing. I wanted to gag. Chomp. Aaacckk. Chew.

I swallowed.

I think Emily is proud of me.

Quote of the Day:
"I'm noticing eyebrow hairs and chapped lips."
--Emily, after she got contact lenses

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Playing Telephone

Just heard from my sis-in-law Anna that I didn't have the story right about Jay's proposal. She said Jay proposed at a nice dinner a couple of days before Annette went to the doctor about her eye. But she did have a tough recovery at Jay's parents' house.

I got the story from Amy who got it from Margaret who supposedly got it from Annette. Obviously something got garbled along the way. Too bad. It was such a nice story.

Annette, if you're back from your honeymoon, maybe you can share the whole story.

A conversation

We had this conversation at the supper table before I left for MN/PA:
Me: I have so much to do before I leave.
Paul: Like what?
Me: I have to make salsa, can applesauce, clean the oven, pack..."
Paul: Why do you have to clean the oven?
Me: Because if I die in a plane crash Bonnie and Rita will come clean my house and they'll see my dirty oven.
Paul: (Sputter, choke) How often do you clean your oven?
Me: Oh, about every [censored] months.
Paul: Then I think it can wait another [censored] months.
Me: Ok, but promise me that if I die, you'll clean it out before anyone sees it.
Paul: (More sputters and chokes) If you die, we'll have way too much on our minds to be cleaning the oven!

I think I was being perfectly reasonable but my family doesn't.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Dad, do you think there will be cows in Heaven?
Paul: Cows? No.
Jenny: Why not? They would trash up the whole place?
Paul: There will be things better than cows in Heaven.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mice story

My column appeared in the paper while I was gone and I wasn't able to link it so if you really want to read 1100 more words about the mouse plague this summer and fall, email me at You can also sign up (simply by asking) to get the column emailed to you every month.

Quote of the Day:
"This house is looking clean now that the ladies are home."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Trip Reflections

++Next time I fly with two people in their 80’s I’m taking Paul with me. The logistics of getting the three of us and our luggage from Point A to Point B, getting boarding passes, wheelchairs, and rental cars, and keeping track of a dad who is Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, were really difficult.

++Worst: I pulled up with the rental car at MSP and discovered that I couldn’t do curbside check-in, so made a quick decision to park Mom, Dad, and the luggage just inside the terminal, return the car, and then come back to check us in. "But you can’t leave your car unattended, even for a little bit," the check-in guy said. What to do?? I couldn’t just send Mom and Dad inside, and the car return was far away and very inconvenient to get to. So I asked him if he could pleeeeeeeeze watch my car for one minute and I hustled the folks inside as fast as they can hustle, which is pretty slowly. Then I was hollering in Dutch that they are to STAY HERE and I’ll be back soon. Both of them were kind of staring off into space and not catching on, and the guy comes running in—"You have to come right now, they’re out there tagging your car already." I desperately hollered, "BLEIVET DO!!" and dashed back out, just in time.

++Northwest Airlines is not nice. Not at all. "No, we cannot have anyone help you with your luggage." "No, we cannot offer assistance to your mother until she is past security." "Oh, bud I cannod bding a wheelchaih until you have youh boading passes." "Your ticket cannot be processed electronically. Please proceed to another ticket counter." Once I got hold of a person who was both alive and helpful, things went better.

++My folks are so deaf. Oh my. We were driving home on Tuesday and I needed my sunglasses which were in my carryon in the back seat beside Dad. I took a deep breath—
No answer.
Repeat request.
"What? You need a bag?"
"What color is it?"

++They are also losing their vision, which means that Mom’s glasses in the cupboard are dirty and she sets the supper dishes on the bar even though there’s a dead fly lying there. But she absolutely does not want help cleaning. I don’t know what to do.

++But really, for being 85 and 89 they are doing very well, taking their meds, paying the bills, and feeding the animals. And we got through the week with no dizzy spells, no heart spasms, and no nosebleeds beyond the horrific one Dad had before we left their house.

++My new little nephew is absolutely the cutest thing. I love babies. And I told his mom, my sis Margaret, that she must have filled out a different order form than I did because that baby never fusses and cries. Just a grunt now and then, unlike my scream-for-hours babies.

++My niece is very cute and tough as nails. Mercy. She falls, bumps her head, whatever, and jumps up without a whimper…

++…Unlike her big brother, who has a form of brittle bone disease and has his arm in a cast again. Poor kid. He does the normal boy stuff and suffers horribly for it. He is also very earnest and articulate, holding forth knowledgeably on such topics as excavators and who is pregnant.

++The wedding was beautiful and romantic. Thankfully none of us are superstitious about the weather affecting the happiness of the marriage because it poured rain the day of the wedding. Well, the day before too, making one of the roughest landings I’ve ever had. Driving to the wedding, we plowed through streams of water flowing along and over the country roads. The car parkers rushed around in raincoats and many of the guests showed up wet. It was the outer remnant of tropical storm Tammy, I was told.

++Marcus looked very handsome and proud walking Annette up the aisle. He said, "This is not something our church has done, traditionally, but I’d recommend it to anyone."

++Amy told me Annette and Jay’s engagement story which I think is more romantic than all the signs on billboards and messages in plowed fields that modern couples do. A few months ago Annette noticed a strange line across her vision and went to her doctor. A detached retina, he said, which is quite serious and can lead to blindness. So she went in for surgery and they sliced in there and somehow stapled things back together.
Annette recuperated at Jay’s home. Unfortunately, she had a severe reaction to her pain medication. So, there she was, lying on Jay’s mom’s couch with half of her face puffy and purple, blood and pus oozing from her eye, and throwing up violently, over and over. And Jay, God bless him, chose that auspicious moment when she was at her worst to ask her to marry him. Aaawwwww. I like this guy.

++I also like Paul, who with the children’s help made and canned 18 quarts of applesauce while I was gone.

++We did a few touristy things on Monday, such as going into an old coal mine. No wonder the coal miners had a culture all their own. What a depressing, dark, claustrophobic, dangerous job, drilling into a mountain from deep underneath.

++The coal mine tour guide told Chad how to get around the roadblocks to get to Centralia, a nearly-obliterated town where an underground fire has been burning around the coal seams for over 40 years. It was surreal, relics of old houses and dead trees interspersed with puffs of smoke seeping out of the ground like the steam vents at Yellowstone. The government asked the people to evacuate some years ago, and bought their houses at fair value, but ten older folks have refused to leave. They are letting them stay, knowing the bad PR of going in there with guns blazing to force them out. The tour guide said that one old man told him that he has 35 guns and a month’s supply of ammunition, just in case.

++At Cabela’s, I felt transported back to our African safari when I saw the unbelievable display of lions, gazelles, and even an elephant, and at the North American display the big moose in a pool of water transported me back to Ontario.

++But really, does anyone need thousands and thousands of fishing poles to choose from?

++Byran’s girlfriend Amy is sweet, poised, cute, and many more fine adjectives.

++My daughter Amy is also lots of fine adjectives, and after seeing her conduct herself as she did, flying alone to and from, and helping Margaret like she did, I feel better about sending her overseas in two weeks.

++Paul had carefully coordinated our tickets so that Amy and I would both fly home yesterday and get to Portland about the same time. I was to go MSP/Denver/PDX and Amy was to go Philadelphia/Las Vegas/PDX. Unfortunately, Amy was several hours late leaving Philly because of control tower issues, and I was three hours late leaving Denver because the plane needed a sensor replaced. But we got to Portland within an hour of each other.

++But then we got delayed some more because the car wouldn’t start out in long-term parking because I had left an interior light on. Thanks to the big hairy guy who rescued me.

++It’s great to be home.

Quote of the Day:
"If you're sure you have enough money..."
--Austin, my 7-year-old nephew, very skeptically, when I offered to buy pizza for supper

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'm Off

2:56 a.m. here and I'm almost ready to take off. All prayers appreciated. Catch you all in a week.

Quote of the Day:

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Emily's Many Thoughts on Romance

We often have discussions around here about love, dating, courtship, romance, and marriage. Our children all have strong opinions, and Emily is probably the most vocal about what she wants.

For one thing, she announced recently, she wants Mr. Right to have that "In love, can’t eat, can’t sleep" feeling when he falls for her.

Ben couldn’t imagine. He’s always hungry. Why would a girl make you not want to eat?

But the next day he came to me and said, "I did think of a time when I get that ‘can’t eat, can’t sleep’ feeling. It’s about half an hour before a Duck game, and also at the end if it’s a close game."

What a romantic soul.

Emily also announced recently that she has four qualifications for her Guy:

He has to be nice.
He doesn’t have to look perfect but just so he doesn’t look dweeby.
If he makes fun of me—Huh-uh.
He has to call me Princess and treat me like one.

(Looks like we still have a bit of fine-tuning and training to do.)

Emily also wrote this poem:

Who wants a handsome prince?
I know how you could get him.
You find him when he’s sitting down
And then you just, like, hit him.

You’ll knock him to the ground
And then you tie a string around him
You drag him to your mother
And then tell her just found him.

Another way to get a prince
Is to go down to the creek
And give a little frog a peck
Upon his little cheek.

And BOOM he’ll turn into a prince
I don’t know why at all
But you will have a handsome prince
Upon your beck and call.

But if I simply get a guy
That’s good enough for me
I’ll stick a crown upon his head
And claim he’s royalty.

Quote of the Day:
"But Mom, I’m just such a person who likes to talk and talk."
--Jenny, on one of those days when I begged her to be quiet for just five minutes

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Razor Blade

Yesterday I talked to Amy on the phone and she told me the Tale of the Mysterious Razor Blade. The other day my sis Margaret got a letter from Mom and Dad, with whom I will be flying to Margaret’s house this week. In the envelope were the normal letters and also a piece of stiff paper with a razor blade taped to it.

What on earth?

Dad’s letter explained it all. He of course wants to shave above and below his beard and look presentable when he’s in PA, but Mom told him he can’t take razor blades on the plane. So he thought and thought about how to overcome this obstacle, (I guess it never occurred to him there might be WalMarts near Margaret’s house) and he came up with this clever idea.

I guess Mom is gun-shy about taking forbidden things on the plane because three years ago when she flew to PA she had a nail clipper, scissors, and a couple of other things confiscated out of her purse. It seems no one informed either of them that you can pack these things in your suitcase.

Quote of the Day:
"So why is this an advantage to being a preacher’s daughter? I thought you were gonna get money or something."
--Emily, after Paul was one of the first to know that a certain couple was engaged, so he could announce it at church, and he told the kids that See, there are advantages to being a PK

Monday, October 03, 2005

Missing Amy

This evening the kitchen was chaotic and noisy as I tried to rally the troops to help me get the pizza made and to the table.

I do not do well with noise and chaos especially when I’m supposed to be in charge and no one can hear me.

We made a corporate decision to have the 3-liter bottle of Lemon-lime soda for supper, but then I noticed that the orange bottle had already been opened. Steven: "But I wanted to hear the noise it makes."

Ben was talking to Amy on the phone and hollering all the details of the Duck game on Saturday.

Emily stood on a stool and proclaimed dramatically that in forty days this city will be destroyed.

Jenny was slapping pizza sauce on the dough and making a mess.

Everyone kept "pecking" at the precious bits of pineapple and ham.

I miss Amy. Strange how one person being absent or present can change the whole tenor of a kitchen full of people. Amy has a snap-to-attention-and-get-to-work effect on her siblings.

Quote of the Day:
"I like to lie on the trampoline at night and see the moon and stars and satellites and bats and sometimes I can even see John Deere."
(No, John Deere is not a new constellation, we finally figured out, but the Fisher Implement sign near Harrisburg)