Friday, March 31, 2006

Ach, aylendich!

That's what my dad used to say, disgustedly, when everything was going wrong. I think it means something like "Oh, pathetic!"

Jenny was on the meds for a day or so when she broke out in a rash. The medical book said it's not unusual to get a rash with strep throat, which is then known as scarlet fever, which sounds awfully pioneer-days/Mary-going-blind.

I called the doctor. She said it might be either a strep rash or a reaction to the medicine, there's no way to know. So we switched medicine. And Jenny didn't improve a bit, unlike Ben who used to improve in half a day once he got on amoxycillin. Today, three days later, she's still running 103-104 temps except when she's on Tylenol, when she chatters and shrieks in a weird high-pitched voice until her fever percolates up again, her rash turns bright pink, and she flops on the couch and sleeps.

After 20 years of dealing with my children's accidents and illnesses I sometimes feel like I could hang out my shingle as a nurse if not a doctor. But this one had me stumped. I called my friend Rachel, whose little Janane was sick last week. "There's a virus going around with high fevers for 5-7 days," she told me. "Maybe Jenny has both the virus and strep throat." That made more sense than any of the wild ideas I had had (meningitis, blood poisoning). So I'll wait a few more days before I freak out.

Meanwhile I bark like Hansie and drag around like someone opened a faucet on my heel and drained out all my energy.

Speaking of Hansie, he had a medical emergency of his own recently when we butchered a pig and he ate way too many of the bones and got very sick with pancreatitis from all the grease. He was also very dehydrated because for some reason the water in his bucket had not been replenished. There were of course lots more complicated dynamics involved in this whole thing than I am willing to elucidate here, involving guilt, blame, anger, and self-recrimation. But praise God Hansie is all well again and barking at cats, and I think the rest of us have learned everything we were supposed to extract out of this, and we still love each other.

But it has been rather aylendich around here. Oh, did I mention that Emily is having trouble with her contacts and Katzie has these weird bare patches of skin?

I'd be grateful if you said a prayer for us, especially Jenny.

Quote of the Day:
"Matt might say, 'Lord of the Rings!'"
--Jenny, in an urgent whisper in my ear at church, when Paul said he's open to ideas for a new sermon series, since he's about to finish up the commands of Christ

Thursday, March 30, 2006


After Jenny hit 104 degrees yesterday for the second day in a row, I dispatched her to the doctor with Amy. The doctor didn't bother with a strep test, saying her high fever and swollen, spotted throat were evidence enough. So she is on an antibiotic.

Meanwhile I spent the day Vicksing myself and cuddling up to hot rice bags and wishing I had a grandma in my life who would come by and dose me with hot mustard plasters like they do in books. I really don't know what mustard plasters are, but they sound like something that would steam open all those congested bronchioles.

Things are slightly better today on all fronts.

Meanwhile it is beyond, beyond wonderful to have big kids. Ben answers the phone, since I can hardly talk. Emily does laundry. Amy writes lists of all the jobs that need to be done, cracks the whip, and everyone falls in line and does them.

This is so vastly different from the old days when I would drag myself feverishly around the house, washing faces and changing diapers and thinking that I'd give anything to be able to go to bed with a cup of tea. And now my daughters fix me pots of tea and bring them to me on a pretty little tray.

Have I attained or what?

Quote of the Day:
"If my husband is too short for me to kiss, I'll eat some of this."
--Emily, tapping the top of the shortening can

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Pity Party and Help Wanted Ad

Ohhhhh I hate being sick. Yesterday I had a savagely sore throat which today has morphed into a drippy nose, strangled cough, constricted lungs, scratchy eyes, hot head, and no voice.

So I whisper. And everyone else, yea, even these Smuckers whose voices can carry for half a mile if the wind is right, they all whisper back.

Meanwhile Jenny is running a fever of 101 and lies on the couch, floppy and pink and very quiet except for the occasional squeak when she asks for ramen noodles or a drink.

Poor baby.

Now for the Help Wanted ad: does anyone know of a young, strong, responsible person who is at least 18 and wants to earn some cash by sacking seed this summer? July and August and maybe longer. The job involves filling and stacking 50-lb sacks of grass seed. We could provide or find housing and whatever supervision/parenting they needed. You can email me at

Quote of the Day:
"This summer one day when I was bored I calculated that I've bagged about 250,000 bags."
--Matt (Don't worry, you potential employees, this was over 6 summers. And he has some amazing muscles to show for it. :-)

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Amy and Emily went to the library the other day and there they found a bin of free-for-the-taking books. Amy found one by/about "Fergie," Prince Andrew's ex-wife, and she got it for me.

I don't know what it is with the British royal family, since they are as sinful as the rest of us and can be twice as odd, but I am rather fascinated with them.

I think it all started back in the late 70's when Charles was the world's most eligible bachelor. My sis Becky and I actually talked about writing him a letter, just to let him know about these two nice American farm girls, in case he was interested in one of us. (He wasn't, and neither was the farmer his age up the road, Olaf Johnson, who used to come around and do backhoe work for my dad. Sigh.)

Then Diana came along and she was Becky's age, and that began my Diana fascination that never abated til she died and I grieved like she was a personal friend.

When we lived in Canada, the royal family was more relevant, since Canada is still sort of a British subject, and when we got our citizenship we affirmed allegience to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her heirs and successors. There I read various library books on the royal family tree and consider myself fairly well-versed on the history of the Queen Mother, Prince Albert, and the infamous Edward.

After Diana died my interest waned but I still am eagerly reading this very sad book about Fergie.

What is it about the royals? Do we all have an instinctive need for a royal family to watch and dissect, is it a form of idolatry, or what?

And how did Diana pull this amazing publicity stunt of making all of us women feel like we knew her? It turns out, after the fact, that we really didn't know her at all. But we felt like we did.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: Mom, do you know whyI'm so vicious?
Me: What makes you think you're vicious?
Jenny: When I'm mad I scratch a lot and kick and stuff.
(Really, she's not that fiery)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Something to Think About

I get a weekly email from a web place called Absolute Write, and it always includes a Discussion of the Week. Here's an exerpt from this week's:

macallister made a comment last night that has vexed me ever since. basically it was about whether or not the intent of the author should trump the interpretation of the opinion, as i stated in response to her, is that the intent of the writer should prevail. i believe that the full experience relies on full understanding. even if it moves you in a very personal and vulnerable part of your heart, if you are misunderstanding it, then impression you've gotten from it, even if you embrace it, even if it's life-changing, is based on a lie.

I have been grappling with this same question in slightly different terms: if someone takes what I wrote differently from what I meant, is it my fault or his/hers? The answer to this seemed obvious to me during an email conversation after my latest article came out. If you read it, you might recall that I wrote about friendships and how, when I lived on an Indian reservation,my one simple requirement for a friend was that she knew how to speak English.

I got an email in response that said, essentially: "Do you realize how awfully racist you come across with your English-only statement?"
I wrote back: I did not speak Cree very well, and friendship for me means sharing from my heart, which requires a shared language, in this case English. If you have had a close friendship with someone who didn't share your language, I admire you.
She wrote back, essentially: I figured you didn't mean to sound racist but all of us sometimes come across different than we mean so I'm glad you see the light now.

I was irked, as it seemed to me that my sensible email hadn't made the slightest difference in her thinking.

So, was the burden of proof mine or hers? Whose problem was it if I came across as racist to her? I like to think my intention was clear and she was simply a bit skewed in her thinking, since no one else seemed to read the same thing into it.

But it's not always this easy. I have, several times, talked with preachers who I felt were making very strong statements such as, "If you can't agree with everything your church does, you should be attending somewhere else." When I ask them about it afterwards, they backpedal rapidly and say, "Oh, well, I didn't mean it that way exactly. Perhaps I came across stronger than I intended."

In this case, I feel like they ought to change what they're saying. I don't feel the burden should be mine to discern whether or not they feel as strongly (and often harshly) as they come across.

But how does this relate to the woman who found my article racist?

And we may as well mention here that while I found the stories about Frank Kropf humorous and blogged about them simply as a bit of interesting history, it turns out that others in the extended family felt that they were very one-sided and should have also included the fact that Frank mellowed in his old age and was a very generous, innovative, hardworking, Christian man.

Did I imply that he was a one-dimensional, angry man? I didn't mean to, but if someone took it that way, is the problem mine or theirs?

Quote of the Day:
"According to the annoyingness of the brother, so shalt the sister tickle him."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Family Tales

Paul's great-uncle/step-great-grandpa* Frank Kropf had a volcanic temper, I am told. It's odd--I see old pictures of him in the Kropf cookbook or remember his sons, all with long chins and crooked grins, and think of them in black and white, as mild-mannered, proper characters, when in reality they were anything but.

Last night Victor Knox, one of the six Knox Brothers who grew up in this house, was talking with Paul and telling stories. Frank, he said, never got along well with his sons. One day he and his son Ray were in the shop and a Magneto (?) got lost. Each blamed the other and things got more and more heated until Ray ran out of the shop. Frank took off after him....and threw an ax at him.

Victor's dad was Vernon, married to Frank's daughter Elsie**. He was a peacemaker and seldom got in his father-in-law's way, but this time he told Frank that that was wrong of him to throw that ax. Frank said, "Well, I have to do something so he doesn't run all over me."

Unfortunately this temper has percolated through the generations. My SIL Lois tells me that when a certain pair of brothers, Frank's grandsons, talk to each other, they yell and carry on so bad you'd think they were about to murder each other. And then there's this second cousin, and that one, known for their hot bursts of anger.

And we must not forget Frank's daughter who, when her husband wouldn't let her have her way, would go out and lie down in the middle of the road in a childish attempt to scare everybody. Or she would take off to town and stay away for three days.

In addition to their tempers, the Kropfs were also known for being very blunt and not being afraid to speak their minds.

Odd how the more I know of the family history, the better I understand my children. As Paul says, it's a good thing that some of those strong traits are starting to get dissolved in a larger pool of genes.

*Paul's grandpa Orval married his stepfather Frank's younger sister Lena.

**Vernon and Elsie's wedding was a story in itself. Elsie was 15; Vernon was her dad's hired man. Frank and Annie wanted to go on a trip, but Frank didn't trust his own boys to run the place, so he asked Vernon if he would. Vernon said it wouldn't be proper for him to stay there, since he was dating Elsie. So Frank said, "Well, then, get married!" This was on a Friday. Vernon and Elsie got married on Sunday. On Monday Frank and Annie went on their trip as planned.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom! Steven's chewing with his mouth full!"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Yemen Trivia

My sis in Yemen leads an interesting life, full of little incidents that would never happen here. For example, this episode, gleaned from our conversation yesterday:

11-year-old Derek has an interest in music and is taking guitar lessons (a story in itself of how this came about, since you can't exactly look up guitars and lessons in the yellow pages). A few days ago Derek had a lesson and then spent the night with his tutor's little brother. The next day they all met at some kind of fair at school, and Becky took Derek and his brothers home.

Except they got stuck in a traffic jam partway home. Five lanes of traffic crammed Yemeni-style, where if someone crunches into your fender you just wave and go on. A hot day. Traffic came to a complete stop. They sat there with the windows open, turned off the engine, and waited.

Next to them was a pickup truck. The bed of the truck was full of village men on their way to a wedding. They had their drums with them, and pretty soon they began to pass the time by beating on their drums.

Derek, sitting in the car beside them, got an idea. He got out his guitar and began to strum in time to the drumming. The men loved it, this little white American kid joining in their fun. They thumbs-upped him. He thumbs-upped them. Everyone around was entertained. He strummed and they drummed. It was great.

"Only in Yemen," says my sister.

She also told me another tidbit that tickled my proud-mom heart: recently they had two different men come to visit them, about a week apart. One was from the U.S.; the other I think was British. Both men were really, honestly, seriously scared. They called with lots of nervous questions, making sure every t was crossed and i dotted. Meanwhile, Becky chuckled to herself but did not tell them that a month ago her little teenage niece came to visit and sailed in like it was no more scary than going to the grocery store.

Quote of the Day:
Ben: Did you know there's a Belly-button Historical Society?
Me: There is?
Ben: Yeah, there's a picture here of the Naval Historical Center.
(Actually, he knows the difference between Naval and Navel)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Inbox Flinging

The other day I stopped by PeacefulLady's site and she asked us how many emails are currently in our inbox. The other commenters said, oh, 16, 163, something like that. So I commented also and said that there are 4048 in mine.

Now, I do weed out the mortgage-offer spam and the financial offers from Nigeria. But I keep the American Express confirmation and Oregon Tilth emails in case Paul needs them. And I keep any fan mail I get because I can't bear to throw it away. And I keep my sister's emails from Yemen (probably 1500) because she considers them her journal and I want to file them all as Word documents for her....someday.

But even with all that I decided I really should do a fling-boogie, as FlyLady says, on my inbox. So every time I sit down to email, I toss, toss, toss.

And now I'm down to 3144. Almost a thousand gone. It really is liberating.

Quote of the Day:
"Once a month, clean with a 'slightly damp' mop and a laminate floor cleaner or equivalent."
--the instruction paper for our new floor that sent Emily and me into shrieks of amusement. These people have nooooo idea how this kitchen would look if we mopped only once a month.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Amy's Home!

We drove to the airport last night with all of my nerves twanging like guitar strings. Half a dozen youth group-ers met us there. One girl, arriving late, called me on her cell phone and said she sees a plane landing. Ooohhhhh so exciting.

An announcement over the intercom: Flight 239 from Seattle has just arrived.

People started coming out through the "Do not Enter" doorway. A man with a leather jacket stopped and said, "Are you waiting for the young lady from the Emirates?"
"Yeah, she's coming. She's cool."

Oh, the tension.

Then there she was, petite and Amy-ish and pulling her carryon. I would have run to meet her except the prim security lady would have fussed, I'm sure.

And then at last, at last, she was in my arms again, safe and sound.

Someday, in heaven, May there be similar ripples of excitement and anticipation--"Is that her? I think I see her!" as my last child comes safely home.

Quote of the Day:
"Whenever I leave a message on an answering machine, I want to quit with 'In Jesus' name, Amen."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Paul checked the British Airways website and Amy just landed in London. She's there for ten hours, then has a long flight to Seattle, then a short one to Eugene, then.....oh my, I am, as Scrooge said, "as light as a feather, as happy as an angel, as merry as a schoolboy, as giddy as a drunken man" just thinking about it.

I can't wait to see that girl again. I am so excited. How will I sleep? How will I survive that long day tomorrow?

A small crowd will be there to meet her, it sounds like. They all better get out of my way when she comes down that escalator.

Quote of the Day:
"We parents work so hard at raising our children, and then they go off and other people get to enjoy them."
--Bonnie, the sister-in-law whose two oldest are away from home right now

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Today's column

Today's Letter from Harrisburg is about friendship.
Please note: Chances are, you are my friend and I didn't mention you in the article. I wanted to include a lot more names, but I was already over my word limit. Thank you for understanding...and thanks for being my friend.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ben and Matt

Here's Ben making brownies and Matt refueling. (See that beard?)


Last night Emily and I were at WinCo when I noticed a family over by the vegetables. The mom and girls all had skirts on and long hair which is quite unusual so I was furtively glancing at them and every time I did, one of them was furtively glancing at me.

Finally the mom came over and asked if I'm Dorcas "Smuckers" who write in the newspaper. It turned out that she was none other than the mom of the Hanson Family Singers. We talked for a long time and connected in a number of areas.

Wayne and Leslie Hanson are a Catholic family with seven children. They sing at all kinds of venues, from various contests to the "Opry" in Creswell to the Lane County Fair to nursing homes. In December, they all wear Victorian outfits and carry little lanterns and sing acapella Christmas carols, from 25 to 40 engagements in one month.

A while back their youngest son, Daniel, age 12, got into yodeling and won the Western Music Association's national yodeling contest. His parents don't have a TV, so they had to go to a friend's house to watch their son perform.

Mrs. Hanson listed some of the awards they have won and the opportunities they've had, and said, "We have found that if we honor God, then he honors us. Our girls showed that you could wear modest clothes and sing the "Ave Maria" at the talent show at the Lane County Fair, and still win second place."

She also said something that the faded-jeans, shirt-tails-out, forgot-to-shave Christian groups ought to hear: "I tell my kids, 'You honor your audience by dressing up.'"

My gift is not in music, but I have found, like Mrs. H, that there is a deep hunger in our culture for a simple, Godly, family-oriented, down-home, old-fashioned message.

Quote of the Day:
"Bless the hands that prepared the food so they can prepare more and more."
--Steven, who puts his own twist on traditional Mennonite prayers

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I love to laugh. And I really like it when something happens that makes me laugh, and no one is hurt in the process. And I really really treasure people who make me laugh.

Two such incidents on Sunday:
1--We were down at Winston (90 minutes south) on Sunday, and Paul preached at the little Mennonite church there, and then we went and helped them sing at the Alzheimer's care center. After we sang the nice lady served us cups of cold water that we badly needed, and then suddenly there was this loud BUZZZZZZZZ (we looked around) ZZZZZZZZZ (that came from the door) ZZZZZZZ (where Steven was standing) ZZZZZZZZ (looking guilty) ZZZZZZZZ (and then the nice lady came and pushed a few buttons on the keypad and the noise stopped; Steven hadn't tried to open the door--he just happened to lean against the handle and wondered what on earth he had done.) It was funny.

That evening Matt had his friends over at our house to play Lord of the Rings Risk and at about 11:30 at night I heard an ominous THUMPthumpthumpthump and a sound like a thousand glasses breaking.....well, why don't you read the whole story for yourself here.

What a wonderful, gut-deep, rattle-the-bones laugh that was.

Quote of the Day:
"Sun-bathing Spring Birds"
--my brother-in-law, referring to a popular ice cream store. See how smart you are, class. Figure it out.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Amy has a final update here. Apparently the UAE thinks her blog is subversive or inflammatory or something, not adjectives one would normally associate with Amy. So, read with care.

She comes home on the 15th, flying into Eugene. I am really looking forward to this on a number of levels, not least of which is that I hope to quit having my weird dreams about her. Over and over, the whole 5 months she's been gone, I have these dreams that she's home again and I can't figure out if it's real or not.

I'll pop out of the grocery store and there she is, smiling, waiting for a ride. "Amy!!??" "Yeah, Mom, I'm home again."
Or I'll come into the kitchen and there she is again. "Is this real or just a dream?" I say. She says, "Duh, Mom, I'm here, aren't I?"

We went wandering into even weirder terrain the other night when Paul and I flew to France to meet her, and Paul drove a pickup truck into a pond near Paris, and drowned.

It really, really is time for her to come home.

Quote of the Day:
"If a lady is delivering a baby and something goes wrong, what do you call it?
A midwife crisis!"

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Does anyone need three Life Notebooks from IBLP? Someone gave them to me and we don't need them. I would guess they're ten or fifteen years old but never used, and they have all the forms and papers inside. There's also a pile of character-quality and financial freedom quiz papers.

You can have them for the cost of getting them to you. Comment here or contact me at

Quote of the Day:
(Go read Emily's March 3rd post....and she meant to write wedding and not weeding)

Friday, March 03, 2006


Last night Hansie graduated from dog school. Not sure how much he learned, but at least the rest of us learned a lot. Here he is with Steven.


About ten years ago we had a party for Paul's parents' 40th anniversary. I offered to make the cake. I had decorated plenty of cakes before this but never a tiered wedding-style cake, complete with pillars and other frou-frou.

So for hours and hours I worked on this cake, my nose right down beside it, my arms getting tense and sore. I piped white shells around the top and droopy swags on the sides and what looked like fancy icing pillars.

The longer it went, the more mistakes I made. Aacckk! the icing gapped there! This swag dropped further than that one! Oh dear me, I gouged it!

By the time I neared the end I was so discouraged I wondered if we could even use this cake. Finally I finished it, wondering if I would need to run to a bakery to get another one before the party.

And then an amazing thing happened. I stepped back, and suddenly I saw a beautiful cake. All the mistakes seemed to disappear and the whole picture was of an elegant, classy, party-worthy cake.

I mentioned this later to my friend Dana, who used to decorate cakes professionally, and she laughed and said it always happens this way.

Right now I feel like I have my nose right up to the cake again, only this time I am handling not white frosting but endless white papers. I am doing a last proofread of my book before it gets printed. I can't do any major changes, only check for typos and maybe change a sentence here and there. And this time I'm thinking, "Oh dear, this sounds silly! Why did I ever say that? Boring, boring, boring. Why did we put this chapter first--nobody's going to read anything beyond that. (Disgusted sigh)"

I suppose this is normal as well for someone examining every word of the same story for the tenth time. And I am really hoping that the cake effect is true here as well, that when it's all done and I step back for a long-range view, it will turn into something beautiful.

Quote of the Day:
"Your beard is getting hairy."
--Steven, to Matt, who started growing a wiry red beard at Bible school

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Verdict

I finally decided, with Paul's blessing, that I should try out Curves for one month and then decide if I want to continue.

So yesterday I called to inform Mrs. Curves of this, and was told that if I sign up, it's for one year. I can pay on a month-by-month basis, but I'll still be committed to paying for one year.

My life being what it is, there are very few things I'll commit to for a whole year, and Curves is not one of them, sorry.

Quote of the Day:
"Pigga sure has a lot in common with Emily. At times he can be hyper and full of energy and at other times he's as sleepy as...I don't know what. And he has long fingernails that hurt when they scratch you."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


This morning I have muscles that I never knew were there, and they are all trying to get my attention. A grab here, a pinch there, a twist somewhere else.

Yesterday I went to Curves for a free try-it-out session. Sharon has been trying to get me to go with her for a long time and I finally succumbed.

It was fun.

So, should I join or not?

I need the exercise.
It's a non-threatening environment, with plenty of lumpy 60-somethings--and no men allowed.
I can waive the join-up fee if I bring in a bag of groceries.
It's fun.
I'd get Sharon off my back.
I could probably get an article out of it.

I'd still have to pay a monthly fee.
It seems so very American to get in the car and drive 10 miles to exercise.
I'd probably find it hard to take the time to do it.
And then I would drown in guilt if I didn't get my money's worth out of it.
Paul is kind of dubious about the idea.

Quote of the Day:
"I sort of enjoyed it because the guys all thought it was cool and the girls were all sympathetic."
--Matt, on getting a black eye at Bible school