Saturday, December 29, 2007


Here are a few scenes from our house. We have Emily's bedroom door, then Amy happily scrubbing, then our giraffe proclaiming the good news. A jolly fat person stopped by uninvited in the next picture, then we have a few pictures of Steven's Gotcha Day meal on Christmas Eve. Jenny was happily flipping chapatis as Emily rolled them out, Steven made ugali while Paul cut up the pineapple, and on the table we also had rice, chai, sakuma, and chicken.

I was trying to figure out a profound reason why that last picture should be on here the second time, and I might as well tell the truth: it showed up and I can't figure out how to take it off. And now my big kids can chuckle like Matt did last night when I asked him if he could please put something like Microsoft Word on the little icon thingy on my new computer. I meant the desktop. I don't think I was that far off but he snickered dreadfully.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Clucking from Our Nest

Life at the Smuckers with Everyone Home:

Jenny and Steven have been shriekier and wilder than normal, prompting Matt to pull me aside and wonder just what is going on. He has always been the big sibling and never the little one, so has no concept of the desperate desire of younger ones for attention and affirmation or their cluelessness at times of how to go about getting it appropriately, especially when the older ones come home after being gone for a while.

"You never know what you'll find in the back seat of Matt's car," says Emily. "Dishes, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, energy drink cans, cups, and a $5000 membrane from DuPont." That last item has been a major headache for Matt. He's supposed to ship it to India to his engineer boss and has had to deal with lots of agencies and forms and permission slips, and over the holidays yet.
(Update: he just now got it safely sent off.)

I don't normally watch movies much but have been getting a good dose recently. My SIL Bonnie gave me a copy of The Christmas Shoes and we all watched it together on Christmas Eve. It is starting to be known around these parts as The Movie That Made (a certain stoic Smucker guy) Cry, and Oh. My. did I have a lapful of soaked kleenexes when it was done. Paul didn't cry, and I said, like a nagging wife, "It's ok to cry, you know. No one will think less of you." And he said, "It's ok not to cry too, you know. No one will think less of you either."

And then the girls and I sat down one evening and watched Persuasion, a lovely old-fashioned film with a truly satisfying ending including a ship sailing off into the sunset. Happy sigh.

Having Amy home has been good for us all. Emily seems livelier, Paul gets to talk school with someone of his own mind, and the rest of us are all enjoying her good sense, good stories, good humor, and all that.

Seeing the movie made me want to read Persuasion, and Amy said she has a copy upstairs, so last night I sat up late to enjoy it. I have this strange way of getting so absorbed in a book that for the next day or two I think in the writing style of the author. Like this:

Plans were made for the whole party to travel to the sea on the following morning, particularly to the town of Newport, the carriage (Ford van) being prepared for its use on the morrow, Mr. Smucker and his sons speculating about a brisk jaunt on the jetty, should the weather prove equable, and the lively Misses Smucker planning an excursion to the shops along the bayfront, the inimitable Aunt Belinda's candies chiefly, and insisting that lunch should be taken at Mo's for the entire party, although Miss Emily Smucker thought herself ill-used at the prospect, reminding Miss Smucker and her mother petulantly of how the cook at Mo's insisted on stirring gum carrageenan into the clam chowder, to which she was allergic as they all knew, but was assured that an alternative of fried shrimp would certainly be available at such an establishment, money being no object on this occasion, as the dinner would be paid for by a generous gift of fifty pounds, from a grateful parishioner, to Mr. Smucker, the curate at Brownsville Mennonite.

The mice around here are as lively and numerous as ever. I got four new traps, the kind that you set and empty by pinching the back, but they aren't worth beans. The mice nibble off the peanut butter without snapping the trap. Although one did work last night, I must say. I went out to get some milk in the spare fridge and just as I stepped into the pantry a mouse ran right in front of me and straight into a trap, which promptly snapped. The mouse started screaming and believe me I did too. Paul wondered mildly if I was trying to wake the dead, and then he quickly put the mouse out of its misery.

Ben tried making me a new kind of trap made of a 2-liter pop bottle with the top 3 inches cut off and inverted. Matt looked it over and said,

Quote of the Day:
"Well, a decent idea in concept, but it has a few engineering flaws."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing everyone who stops by a very joyful Christmas, full of family come home, mysterious gifts, good smells from the oven, snow, handmade ornaments, cards from friends, and a new appreciation for Jesus Christ, the greatest gift ever.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogs, Books, Music, and Such

I believe they call them the Mommy Blogs, this whole genre of blogs that are by and for moms and very different from teenagers' xangas and political blogs and whatever else is out there. Among the most famous ones are Rocks in my Dryer and Barbara Curtis's blog and Life in the

I think this blog would qualify as a Mommy Blog.

Which, I suppose, is why I can't stand to read the others much. You wouldn't believe the level of cleverness on some of these blogs, the turns of phrase, the snarky little insinuations, the depth, the humor, the cool photos, the sheer good quality.

It doesn't take too much reading and I start thinking rather self-absorbed inferior thoughts such as, "Oh my word, what am I pretending here, putting stuff on the internet when there's so much better stuff out there. I couldn't have put that so cleverly in a hundred years."

I also find I do much better if I read books totally unlike the ones I write. Fiction is fine, inspirational is ok, history, biography, and so on. But memoirs and especially short-piece books for women, such as Karen Scalf Linamen's, send me into vats of self-doubt.

Now before you comment and recommend a counsellor, let me say that Jane Kirkpatrick herself admits to walking into a bookstore, looking around, and thinking, "Oh my, a hundred thousand books are being published this year. What am I playing at, to think I have anything to say that hasn't already been said?"

I wonder if this is why I listen to music more than any of my musical in-laws. It seems odd to me that they can sing operatically and distinguish among the finest variations of tone and pitch and technique, and yet they don't listen to music just for enjoyment very much. I on the other hand am hard put to tell you who sings which part in the famous A Capella Harmony Quartet, or frankly to remember what the four parts are in a men's quartet, but I love to put on an AHQ cd and just hear them.

I wonder, do woodworkers avoid furniture shops and teachers stay away from other classrooms and preachers feel self-doubt when they hear someone else's sermon?

And if so, why?

Edited to add: Paul read this and gently said that I sound like I'm fishing for compliments. (Red face emoticon). Ok, sorry. Really, I was just wondering if this is universal, to not like to see/read/listen to too many others of your own expertise. And why singers don't listen to music--I don't get that one at all.

Quote of the Day:
"That's so nice. . . your oldest daughter and your youngest daughter. . . and they love each other. That's great."
--Junior and Dee Baker, after church this morning during which Amy and Jenny sat together on the front bench and warmed my heart (and Jr. and Dee's, evidently) with their obvious sisterly attachment

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cluck cluck

Amy came home last night.
All my chicks are back in the nest.
I am a happy woman.

(And this morning the roads are icy so school is an hour late. . . perfect.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007


As you may know, I like to play Margaret Mead, so when I ran across a post on the sociology of the Amish I was absolutely fascinated.

I believe the author is my dad's sister Lyddie's grandson Freeman's wife's sister who is now Englisch. (See, I will never escape my inherent Amishness.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Stuff

I am up to my ears in angel wings and bathrobes. Somehow I got roped into organizing the costumes for the school Christmas program, so I have been digging in my fabric stash in the attic and sewing vaguely-Biblical robes and trying to figure out what a high priest would have worn on his head and hot-gluing tinselly trim (like a long golden glittery caterpillar--it has another name but I can't remember it) onto cardboard angel wings and making a white beard for Simeon out of furry white fabric from Emily's dress-up bin. I have two more robes to hem and then they're all ready.

Huge thanks to Zelma B., who sewed a bunch of costumes for her grandchildren and a few others.

Amy comes home in two days and I am giddy with expectation.

Matt is home for a month, working in the warehouse and once again eating me out of house and home, which I love. Erma Bombeck once wrote how, when her kids lived at home, she hollered at them to pick up after themselves and refused to do anything for them that they were capable of doing for themselves. Then they left home, and when they came back to visit she was like a concierge in a nice hotel, hovering over them, picking up after them, offering them food, fetching a glass of water for them while they lounged on the couch. I do make Matt cobble together his own lunch but otherwise I am disturbingly like Erma.

I've decided that Emily's recovery from West Nile fever will not be a gradual uphill climb but rather a lot of ups and downs. She has pretty good days and really awful days, and has not yet been back to school or church or much else. However, she has ventured out just a few times, and last night she accompanied her friend Justin to his work-related Christmas dinner. She had not applied for the job but was hired anyhow, and even though the evening had no romantic implications, it gave me and Paul something of a turn to have a well-dressed young man come and pick up our lovely daughter. She came home with dark circles under her eyes but also a big smile.

I am not much of a decorator for Christmas but last night I decided to put a few more welcome lights, (like plastic candles) in the windows. I put batteries in one and then went to fetch a new light bulb, and when I came back the whole thing smelled hot and the plastic had melted out the bottom. Yikes. So that one went in the sink with a quart of cold water dumped on it and then in the trash. Then I tried the next one and while I was getting it all together, it suddenly burned my hand. Yikes again. Matt thought I should contact the place where I got them. Well, the truth is that before I used them I peeled off the 10-cent garage sale stickers.

But I learned something: even battery-operated things can be a fire hazard.

I have noticed that in winter people tend to wear more black, which is fine, but it's not so good for people who cross our front porch and have to contend with Hansie the huge friendly shedding yellow dog. Last night Justin in his black dress pants did a bit of oh--what's it called--that dance where you shimmy under a bar--trying to avoid Hansie's affection. And recently a large well-meaning Jehovah's Witness lady had her black velvet skirt desecrated with blond hairs while she offered me literature and kept smiling, although I have a feeling she quit smiling once she was in the car and assessed the damage.

The forecast is rain, rain, rain. Which means I am fighting, fighting, fighting this everlasting SAD. "Anonymous" asked how I manage temperance on the Internet. Well, I don't do too well these days, since all I really want to do is hunker down with a blanket around me and lose all track of time and read all day. And eat. And sleep. [I also forget the words for things. (See above).] It helps to have deadlines and things I absolutely have to get done, to keep me going. I set a timer for what I think is a proper amount of time and have it by the computer. But it ain't easy.

A merry season to all and may all your sons and daughters come home safely.

Quote of the Day:
"10 things I've learned from living on my own for 2 months:
1. The more underwear and socks you own, the better. You can go longer w/out doing laundry. Better yet, you can save it up, take it home, and your mom will do it for you.
2. Children moving out can be hard on their moms. You can use this to manipulate your mom when you're home visiting.
3. You would not believe what will grow at the bottom of the sink when the dishes have been in there for over a month.
4. Taco Bell and Wendy's are the best fast food restaurants, hands down, and Taco Bell's drive thru is open until 2am.
5. Learn to cook at least a little bit for yourself. Cereal gets old pretty fast.
6. Eat somewhat healthy. If nothing else, at least buy some fruit and eat it.
7. If you live alone, get out of the house at least once a day. Going an entire day w/out seeing another human being can make you go crazy.
8. No matter what you do, no matter what you tell her, your mom will worry about you.
9. It's very easy to hit the snooze button on Sunday morning, go back to sleep, and not go to church. Don't do it. See #7.
10. You can't go home again. Even when you go and spend a few days in your parents' house, or even a month like I am, it will never feel the same."
--Matt, from his xanga

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I used to think it would be cool to know people's deep dark secrets, but I have become less fond of secrets as the years go by.

Thanks to being a minister's wife plus a few strange circumstances, I am privy to a few secrets. Some of them are pretty deep and dark. And the downside of knowing secrets is that you can't tell anyone.

I know ugly things like who was sexually abused when they were young, and by whom. And I know that this one man still loves this other lady, even though he married someone else. I know someone who thinks they ought to have been ordained in an ordination-by-lot, (a Mennonite method of letting God do the choosing between several men), and someone else was chosen instead.

And I know that this one young lady likes that nice oblivious young man, and I would love to pull some strings in the situation, but I can't.

I even know about some bizarre undercover stuff in the Middle East.

By saying all this I don't mean to dangle something tempting in front of you and have you beg me to tell you--pleeezzzeee, I promise I won't tell!--and then I feel all powerful because I won't.

I'm just saying this is one of those mostly-unseen character-builders in my life. I was not meant to keep secrets. I was meant to talk and to tell. I have to fight the flesh on this one often.

Quote of the Day:
"I made an Excel spreadsheet, and I put all the guys I could think of in the rows, and all the girls in the columns, and then I evaluated the potential combinations."
--Matt, after I told him I'm sitting on a who-likes-who secret

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Rant

Last week at a book sale a woman told me that she uses my books as devotionals.
Horrified, I said, "What??"
Yes, she reads a chapter every morning. They're just so thoughtful and deep, you know.

Ok, time for another rant.
If you ever venture into a Christian bookstore, you will see that devotionals are big business. And if you go to a Christian writers conference, you will find out that devotionals are a great way to break into writing and lots of people are writing them. It can be assumed that lots of people are reading them as well.

I have contributed a few meditations to a devotional book for new moms called The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, so I am not opposed to all devotionals in all forms.

However, I think we should first and foremost be reading the Bible itself, and devotionals should be reserved for those times when you need something pre-chewed and pre-digested, such as when you're sick and/or pregnant, or you have a new baby, or you're travelling and don't have time alone, or you have SAD and can't think, or you need something uplifting to read in the bathroom.

The Bible is meant to be read, after all, and the Holy Spirit has something to say to you, today. If you read a devotional of mine, you'll find out what that passage said to me, but why not find out what it says to you?

You are capable of this, you know. Which leads to another rant for another day: you are capable of more than you realize, such as subtracting numbers without using a calculator, sharing your testimony with a ladies' group, and teaching the kids at school about art or money management or Anabaptist history or maps or cars or sewing or something else you're passionate about but don't yet realize you are.

But whatever you do, pleeeeeeease don't use my books as devotionals. It's like using your teeth to unscrew the Worcestershire sauce bottle cap: that's not what they were made for.

Quote of the Day:
(found in an old church-purse notebook)
Amy is so nice,
I bet she's eating rice
becaus she likes to munch,
then she will go crunch crunch.
wrighten by Jenny Smucker age 6

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quote of the Day, with a twist!

Nearly every time she posts, Dorcas picks on one of her children and writes down something funny they said in a feature called "Quote Of The Day." But who will write down the funny things Dorcas herself says? I, Emily Smucker, daughter of the renowned Dorcas Smucker, have taken it upon myself to write down something funny that my dear Mother said today. If any of her children had said it, she would have hurriedly scribbled it down on someone's homework or the corner of her grocery list, to be used as her next quote of the day. But as it was she herself who said it, she spared herself such treatment, so I have decided to do it for her.

Today, while rooting around in the fridge, Mom discovered that (gasp) someone had put a pitcher of grape juice in the fridge that was almost entirely empty. This is a particular pet peeve of hers.

Mom: (in a very annoyed voice) Who put THIS in the FRIDGE??? BEN???

Ben: No, it was Jenny.

(Jenny was gone from the room at the moment, or else she would have been thoroughly chewed out)

Me: (peering around corner) Well, there's a little bit of grape juice left in there.

Mom: *snort*! There's not enough grape juice in there for a mouse to take communion with.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

December column and stuff

Today's column is about Christmas and stuff.

If you like animal stories that make your hair stand on end, go back a couple of posts to "Horrors" and read all the comments. Ai-yi-yi. I thought a mouse in the washer was bad.

Quote of the Day:
Dear Ms. Smucker: In regard to your column in the _Register-Guard_ today: "Eat what is set before you" does appear in the Bible in Luke 10:8 and 1 Corinthians 10:27. "With a thankful heart" isn't added in either of those verses, but just 3 verses after the latter one Paul (1 Cor. 10:30) talks about thanksgiving for the same food he'd mentioned in it. Someone may easily have translated the phrase "with a thankful heart," and then conflated it with 10:27 in quoting.
Yours, Jack Maddex

--(from an email I got today that will make more sense if you read today's column)

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Yesterday I went to Quail Run (a nursing home) in Albany to hear Joyful Noise singing. That would be the choir that Ben and Steven are in. I realize I am not musical but I recognize beauty when I hear it, and this group was wonderful.

If you want to hear them, you're invited to their Christmas concert tomorrow night (Friday the 7th) at 7:30 pm at Fairview Mennonite Church on Goltra Road east of Albany. (East off I-5 on Hwy. 34, about 5 miles, north on Goltra Rd.)

There's no admission fee.

Quote of the Day:
"And I learned how to make up-up down-down things!"
--Jenny, after she put quotation marks in her latest story

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Just a few minutes ago I was industriously pulling the white laundry out of the washer. I reached with my left hand for another handful and came this close to grabbing a drowned mouse. Yes, folks, I saw that tail drop a bit just in time.

I am throwing this out into cyberspace because I need some sympathy vibes coming my way.

(And Ellen, I'm so very sorry I didn't feel much sorrier for you recently when the same thing happened to you.)

P.S. a few days later. I told Emily that if you want people coming out of the woodwork (heh heh) with sympathy, just post about mice. I had no idea so many had similar experiences, and I have to say the prizewinner is the mouse in the toaster. Now that is worse than in a washer.

The science behind all the mice is that we are surrounded by grass fields where the mice feast all summer long, and then when the fall rains begin they head for shelter. Ours being an old house still has lots of entrance holes despite all our remodeling and other efforts.

Ellen, my rescuer was Steven. Blessings on him.

P.P.S.--ok, Jackie from Grove City wins the absolute, top, super-grand prize with her garter snake in the washer, not to mention in the bathtub and the bedrooms. If someone can top that, I'm not sure I want to hear about it.

File this under: How I want to be when I'm old

Quotes of the Day, from some recent letters from my mom:

"I had a skunk in the trap again this morning--the 17th one for this year. I've caught 27 rats and 4 possums! Quite often the trap is snapped and the bait is all gone and nothing in the trap--I blame mice for that, or young rats, maybe, they can slip out through the wire mesh."

"Last week he (Dad) was hauling wood home, so one day I went along. I always enjoy spending time in the "bush." He cut up the logs and I piled them on the pick-up and in 1 hour we had a big load. I think we both enjoyed it."

"You do have lots of mice--I'd love to help you catch them. . .I caught three skunks and a rat so far in Nov. and Dad says there's a possum loose in the barn, so I'll keep on trapping. I'd think they'd soon be hibernating."

"When we visited them I tried to remind Mahlon of things that happened years ago at home and he remembered. He is 4 years younger than I, so I feel very fortunate yet, although I'm getting very forgetful which scares me sometimes."

(Mom is 87; Dad is 91)

Monday, December 03, 2007

December Dibs n Dabs

We spent three days at the coast with Paul’s family last week, in a big blue house south of Waldport within easy reach of both Highway 101 and the beach. Good times were had by all. The competitive ones played ping-pong and pool. The littles played in the sand. Almost everyone took walks on the beach. We oldies chuckled cruelly when Rosie’s children were naughty, remembering all her comments as a single, childless observer when our kids were young. The young couples snoogled in corners and made the older ones feel very old and married and like they had forgotten how to hold hands. Emily was pale and brave. Lois knitted. Bonnie as always set the gold standard for meals with her cheesy potato hot dish and meatballs. Rosie and I made soups. Ben and Steven played football and Monopoly with Trevin and Eric and Jenny. Barb and I decided that when she is a rich doctor and I am a rich author we will buy a house on the beach.

However, if Barb and I are ever as rich as Jerry Seinfeld I hope we will be wiser than he is. Nephew Keith, who installs cupboards and countertops, had the interesting experience recently of installing new cupboards in Jerry Seinfeld's house in Telluride, Colorado. The house is three times the size of a normal house, says Keith, and Seinfeld just spent half a million dollars renovating it for a party this Christmas, but he's thinking about bulldozing it all down in the spring and building a new house on the same spot. What a strange universe the super-rich inhabit.

Meanwhile, it has been very windy and rainy for about three days and I am oh so thankful that we got this drafty house insulated and put a new furnace in.

Thanks to everyone who added those lovely book reviews on Amazon (without even a meal offer or anything) and/or ordered through the links on this page or ordered from me.

Our friend Justin put up a funny post over at kiltedblogger in which he is taking applications for a twenty-ish lady who smells nice to accompany him to the Christmas banquet at work. (A one-time, no strings attached offer.) I haven’t yet heard the results but I enjoyed the dialogue.

This is a very busy week for me: a column due tomorrow, two concerts to attend (Ben and Steven’s Joyful Noise choir), a business meeting at church, and my two potentially-biggest book sales of the year—the Register-Guard-authors sale tomorrow and the Eugene Library Authors-and-Artists event.
(The first is at the RG building, Tuesday the 4th, 4-6 pm) (the second is at the fairgrounds, Saturday the 8th, 10am to 6 pm) (spread the word if you’re local, or come by and say hello).

At my first book events around here I watched in awe as the likes of Bob Welch and Bill Sullivan hauled in boxes of books on fancy collapsible racks and then whipped out all these cool doohickeys to make things more efficient.

Well, I’m learning. Here’s what I bring along now: a big 14-year-old boy to hoist boxes and make change, a rolling luggage carrier, two cool little photo stands to display books on, a lap tray to set on the table so I can sign while standing, a stack of little white book-sized plastic bags, a cool pen (Pentech Syntech), a cool lavender zippered case for cash, an 8x10 family picture in a plastic sleeve for everyone to ooh and ah over, and business cards. Authors are not normally a cool bunch but as you can see, we try.
Other authors present at the RG event will be Jan Eliot who writes the Stone Soup comics and Maryana Volstedt who write cookbooks.

Quote of the Day:
A certain mom and friend of mine: (mentions daughter's "boyfriend")
17-year-old daughter: He's not a boyfriend. He's a conversational experimentation.
15 year-old brother: He comes and gets you, he opens the door, he takes you out, he brings you home. He's a boyfriend!