Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Plans

Tomorrow morning at 5:00, God willing and the Columbia Gorge isn't icy, we load up the van and head to my parents' place in Minnesota for Christmas, returning by New Year's, not sure which day. (Prayers appreciated as we drive--1800 miles, snow predicted through the Rockies.)

Matt heads on to six weeks of Bible school in Indiana after the festivities at Mom and Dad's, so for those weeks I will have two children out of the nest. (Prayers appreciated here also.)

A very merry Christmas to anyone who stops by the Shoe and may you enjoy in full the precious gift God gave to YOU.

Quote of the Day:
"Advice from your younger sister that you probably won't heed anyway: Buy a nice Aeropostale sweatshirt instead of some new cds that you don't need anyway, and wear that instead of the black one. You will look nicer and the girls will be more impressed. :):):) Don't flirt too much. Use the yawning trick to find out if a girl's watching you, but don't stake asking her out on it because nobody gets enough sleep at bible school. Don't forget to study. Don't run through the girls dorm. Don't put your life in danger just to impress a girl. Eat your vegetables. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. :):) And most importantly, have fun!"
--Amy, doing her part to prepare Matt for Bible school

Monday, December 19, 2005

Amy's News

Amy has another update.

Here's a quote from the above:
"As we ate lunch on the beach, I noticed my legs getting slightly pink. Now, I am the kind of person who has two skin colors: pale pink and bright pink. I simply do not tan, and surprising little sun will turn me beet red."

Sunday School

Last fall when I was asked to teach a Sunday school class of four-year-olds I felt like I really didn’t have the time but I consented anyway.

Teaching them, I have found, is like trying to keep fifteen ping-pong balls underwater at once. I doubt that they remember a whole lot of what I teach, but if nothing else it provides a great deal of entertainment for me and I do not regret taking on the job.

I find out all kinds of information from them that is not at all related to Zacharias and Elizabeth or whatever the day’s lesson is:
"Hey, you know what? We have this game? And we borrowed the two-person game from Justin? And we have the one-person game for our very own? And it’s a Mario game…?"

Then there’s the earnest little gal with a bit of a stammer—"We have, we have, we have this story, and it would be very scary, very scary, VERY scary for Brittney, cuz it’s called Grandpa and the Cougar!"

Brittney, sitting beside her, looks scornful but is too polite to say, "I would NOT be scared!"

Their energy level was especially high last night at the Sunday school program. We performed first, and lining them up on the platform was like getting six cats to stand in a straight line, but I finally managed. I kept our performance short and sweet. They each held a tall paper candle and sang about Jesus being the light of the world and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Even at this young age you can tell who’s going to be a ham. Trevin, youngest brother of AHQ’s Byran, happily found himself right by the microphone and leaned forward to first blow into it and then take full advantage of it as he sang, looking very satisfied with himself. I was told later that brother Randy was back by the controls, turning down the volume on that mike.

Afterwards I found another perk for teaching as the kids showered me with candles and fancy plug-in fragrance things and fudge, all chosen by their generous moms of course.

My favorite episode of the evening was the hissed reminder of one mom to her son just before we walked up front:

Quote of the Day:
"Don’t pick your nose up there!"

Friday, December 16, 2005

Of Mice and Matt

Last night Matt and some of his friends played basketball at the Rec Center in Brownsville and then went to Pioneer Villa to eat and hang out.

PV is right beside I-5, on the nicer end of freeway truck stops, I’d say. They have a nice, large, clean dining area.

Soon after Matt and the others got in they noticed a sporadic commotion among the other patrons and discovered that a mouse was loose in the restaurant.

Matt, who has sacked seed for many a summer, has also had lots of experience with killing mice. He went up to the counter and asked where the mouse was. The waitress said it’s behind that basket over there.

Matt walked over, pulled the basket out from the wall, and speedily gave the mouse a whack with the side of his hand. Sadly, it still had enough energy to run off, but Matt made a lunge for it and brought his hand down on it with a decisive smack and killed it.

There was a small ripple of applause among the patrons.

Matt carried the mouse to an outdoor trash can, washed his hands, and returned to his table.

The waitress said his meal would be free.

I as Matt's mom am extrapolating all kinds of happy conclusions from this:
--I can count on him to take action, without any pushing from me, rather than sitting by and waiting for someone else to do it.
--He is like King David, honing his skills in obscurity and then rising to the occasion when the improbable situation arises that those very skills are needed to save the day.

Quote of the Day:
"I think the way to be good at math is just to understand it."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pa. Dutch

I used to wonder why Wycliffe Translators went to such effort to translate the Bible into people’s native language when they knew one or two other languages that already had the Scriptures.

But I am realizing in my middle age that there is something profound and powerful about hearing something in your first language.

When I first read the New Testament in Pennsylvania Dutch, I hardly knew how to express myself. "Oh! Well! Look at that! It’s just….I mean, it’s right there! It just says it!"

I showed my Testament to a fellow Dutchman at church and he had a similarly incoherent reaction.

Maybe this is my lack of spiritual depth, but I had an even greater reaction to the John Schmid CD my sister loaned me.

I popped it into the player the other day, knowing it had something to do with Dutch but not knowing what. And out came a clear melodious "My Vater un Mutter sin Deitch…" I couldn’t believe it. Song followed song, all in either good old Pennsylvania Dutch or a Dutch and High German blend. Old folk songs we learned in German class, songs that rang a distant bell from something my brother recited years ago (Kopp in die hay, schwans hinna naus, hap ge-gookt un bin kshprunga fa’s haus.)

I laughed until I nearly cried and then I wanted to cry for real. It’s hard to describe what a visceral, deep, gut-level experience it was to listen to that CD for the first time.

Meanwhile, my family was wondering what on earth was going on. "What does it mean, Mom?" "What’s he saying?"

I brushed them aside with a quick, "Um, that means ‘I banged up my finger’ now please be quiet, I’m trying to listen."

They looked at each other like, What on earth is so great about that song? Banging your finger indeed.

And then what should sound but a long, chanted, OO-ooo—ooo-oo—ohh, the opening notes of the Loblied, and I was instantly transported back to being four years old, sleepily putting my head on my mom’s lap on the backless bench in church while the old slow tunes billowed around me in soft, high waves of sound. It was incredible.

I tell you, there’s something profound and powerful about language.

Except for possibly an AHQ CD, I have never in my life bought new CDs for myself. But I went on the internet and promptly ordered four of John Schmid, two for me and two for gifts.

Quote of the Day:
"I laughed, I cried. It moved me, Bob."
--Larry the Cucumber

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New blog

My sister-in-law Laura has started a blog called My Bubbling Teapot. She leads an interesting life as a missionary mom in Poland and her blog is sure to be interesting as well.

Quote of the Day:
"You can sure preach powerful sermons in English!"
--Laura, to her husband John, who is used to preaching in Polish, after he preached a sermon at our church that had us all listening with rapt attention and wiping our eyes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bundling Newspapers

Who would have thought that bundling newspapers could be so full of adventure?

Our school collects newspaper donations, then every couple of months the kids spend an afternoon bundling them up and taking them somewhere to be recycled.

On Friday they were all working at tying up these papers when Preston found a graduation card. It was for Amy, and inside was a $20 check from her Uncle Fred and Aunt Loraine. That created something of a stir.

Then Stephanie C. found a little frog. Now the logical thing to do with frogs is to kiss them, of course, so with Anna videotaping this, Stephanie got her lips right up close and made it look like she was dramatically kissing it but actually just barely touched it.

Well. Preston was not going to be upstaged so he decided to kiss the frog too. He put it on his hand and gave it a big smack. And it stuck to his mouth. It even (pause, Dear Reader, to spit and sputter) stuck one foot inside his mouth.

Quote of the Day:
"That’s why in stories it’s always the princess and not the prince that kisses the frog."

Today's Column... about getting Hansie and is found here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Vanity Googling

Those of us who are trying to become famous authors like to Google ourselves to see how we’re doing. So last night I Googled "Letter from Harrisburg."

Along with many links to stories from people in Pennsylvania who got letters from their state capital, I found various articles of mine linked to the most improbable sites.
For example:
Sheep Goat News—the story of being at my parents’ house and Mom fed the sheep in the back yard
Crime Cleanup—can’t remember the connection here
Home study Ninjutsu course—or here either
Bathroom Furniture—cleaning up a barfy blanket in the shower
Work at Home Business Opportunities—3 sites, all linked to the column "Should a Mother Work Herself Out of a Job? "
Wool Blankets—the story of when I had the flu and wrapped myself in a wool blanket
Back Pain—same story, I guess my back hurt when I breathed
Harrisburg, Ohio, hotel directory
Adoption Locators—adopting Steven
Kenya International Trade News—a recent mention of how I like Kenyan tea
Inbox Robot—my June column about the young embracing technology

Quote of the Day:
"Wow, you’re getting famous!"
--Emily, looking at the above list. The problem is, this isn’t the sort of fame I was after.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Posting the Dog

Last night I followed a trail of blogs and links to this, a funny/informative article in the Globe and Mail.

Especially this paragraph:

There's a stereotype that goes like this: When somebody running a website has run out of useful things to say, they post a picture of their cat. When they don't feel like writing one thousand words on their blog, there's always the option of posting Fluffy and pretending that she's somehow of interest to anybody. When the boiler of thought is out of steam, out wheezes a kitten.

My question: I just "posted the dog" last week. Does that mean the same thing?

Quote of the Day:
"If you leave it sit for a few days, it'll be about unwashableoffable."
--Emily, about an old dry-erase marker

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


My sister Becky has lived in the Middle East for about 14 years. Ever since we were little we have had this desperate need to talk with each other. This was easy for the 17 years or so that we slept in the same bed, but after that things got harder, especially when she moved overseas.

Phone calls have always been possible but expensive, up to $2.00 a minute. We only called on each other's birthdays, or when one of us had a baby, or when her life was in danger from a civil war. So for years we wrote letters, with a two to four week delay between letter and reply.

Then about 9 or 10 years ago we got our first modem and Becky got her first fax machine. The first real fax came through in the middle of the night. For some reason it came through on the computer, upside down, and we ended up turning the whole monitor upside down to read it. But it was still a thrilling experience.

Then we both got email. First it was unreliable but gradually it became dependable, and indispensible. Our empathetic emails got us through many a crisis.

And then came Skype. It's a program that was invented in Luxumbourg or somewhere and lets you talk over the internet. At two specified times a week, I sit down, plug in a headset, and click on the little green phone on my screen. If I'm lucky, she answers on the other end and we can actually visit.

There are still some bugs with the system, such as a half-minute delay which means that I rattle on for a while, then I stop and tell her to talk, so she rattles on for a while. Pretty hard for sisters that are used to listening with all kinds of affirming noises (mm-hmmm, really?, oh dear, hahahahaha, tsk tsk). And this morning we simply couldn't connect. I kept hearing what sounded like a loud tractor on my end.

If Skype keeps improving like faxes and email did, in a few years we can sit down and chat on the phone like we live across town from each other rather than across the globe. Yesss!

Quote of the Day:
"Is there any penalty if I make the kitty throw up?"
--Matt, about Emily's new kitty that she rescued from under the oil tank the other day

Saturday, December 03, 2005


No snow, so far.

I just finished my December article and am finally coming up for air and getting back to blogging. My deadline is the end of the month but my editor extended it for two days since I had a writers group meeting and wanted to present it there.

God bless those Red Moons; they are awesome critiquers. But even they couldn’t come up with a perfect ending. I like to end articles by tying everything into a neat bow but I’m afraid this one is more of a shoestring knot.

This morning I was sitting here checking my email when the front door opened and one of the boys (I thought) came in. "Ben??" I hollered. No answer. Then our resident wolf, Hansie, came into the office and poked his nose under my arm. A bit unnerving.

I once made a vow that my children would not suffer from my writing hobby/career but I’m afraid they do, on about two days a month.

I feel like the house has been overrun with big grunting furnace guys the last month. They finally got everything in and then discovered a leak deep in the bowels of the furnace and had to take it out again, all 600 pounds of it. So more grunting. Honestly, when these guys are around here banging or hauling or pushing or sawing, I feel like we have a bunch of Neanderthals around here that ought to be sitting around a fire, gnawing on drumsticks, telling hunting stories, and of course grunting.

Amy has another update.

I had a marathon Christmas-shopping day on Tuesday, leaving at 10:00 a.m. and going to the bank, the library, the Dollar Store, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Wendy’s, Big Lots, WinCo, Meier and Frank, Bath and Body Works, Christian Supply, Ross Dress-for-Less, ShopKo, Office Depot and then finally home at 7:30 pm.

I’m trying to update Matt’s wardrobe before he goes to Bible school and I really wish his sister or his cousin Jessi were going so I could have some female assistant there to make sure Matt doesn’t wear the same clothes all the time and especially not that dreadful grim-reaper hooded black sweatshirt.

Yesterday on the way to school Steven tapped Paul on the shoulder. Paul, who was driving, looked at him. His cheeks were puffed out and he made funny motions with his hands. Paul drove on. Steven likes to goof off and make funny faces with his cheeks puffed out. No big deal. Steven tapped him again, then barfed all over.

I have a distinct feeling that if a mom had been driving she would have instinctively and immediately known that this was much much more serious than mere goofing off and making funny faces.

Paul turned around and came home, and he and Emily cleaned up the van. The other kids all thought Emily was very brave. So do I.

Quote of the Day:
"As I do physical science I see more and more similarities between chemistry and life. SS and KB are very stable compounds, but me and SC under high heat and pressure have a bad chemical reaction."