Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blackberry Pie

The first blackberries are ripe but still pretty tart. Ben requested a blackberry pie for his birthday dessert so I bribed Steven and Jenny and we all trooped out to the end of the orchard in the 105 degree heat to try to get enough for a pie. About two cups into this crazy endeavor I suddenly remembered--Well Duh!!--that I still had blackberries in the freezer from last year. So we happily trooped back in, and the berries thawed in short order on the trampoline.

Someone asked me for my blackberry pie recipe. Trust me, this is the easiest pie recipe ever.

Easy Pie Crust

Mix with mixer or pastry blender until crumbly but not doughy:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Crisco or 3/4 cup generic shortening

Add 1/2 cup cold water, or a little more is ok. This dough can be the consistency of cookie dough and it still turns out fine, unlike all the recipes that tell you to sprinkle in about two eye-droppers of water and somehow make all these crumbs stick together in a ball.

Blackberry Pie

Mix together (10-inch pie/9-inch pie)
5 cups blackberries/ 4 cups
6 T. flour / 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar/ 2/3 cup sugar

Put it into the crust. Top with another crust if you want to. Bake at 425 for 45-50 minutes (10-inch ) or 35-45 minutes (9-inch) or until nice and bubbly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ben and Distractions

Ben is 16 today.

I've always wondered what God has in store for him, since of all the children he always seemed to have his life the most in danger. He ran the highest fevers, was in the most peril in car accidents, and had the most near-misses like heavy objects coming so close to landing on his head.

Recently he gave a short devotional talk at church on Sunday evening and everyone from Paul and I on down was astonished at how well he did.

Maybe God has a public role for him someday. And maybe not. Ben loves God and people and that's what matters.


Maybe it's my ADD, but I find it very hard to focus on the subject at hand when I'm talking with people.

Yesterday a repairman came to work on the washer. He clattered around for a while and then brought me what looked like a miniature city on a 6 by 6-inch piece of metal, and patiently explained that this here controls the timer but apparently something blew in this little black thing here that controls the motor, and it'll cost nearly $200 to fix it, and it might not be worth it.

I said yes, umm-hmmm, but I was very distracted by the quirks of the repairman himself. He seemed like he was in his 30's, very shy, and he wore sunglasses the entire time. And I thought, wait, can he really see what he's doing? Why would someone wear sunglasses to fix a washer? Should I bring it up? This distraction was further complicated by the fact that he had his nice blue repairman's shirt, with his name embroidered on it, unbuttoned down to there, and in the bottom of this unfortunate V he had hooked his cell phone. I was casting around in my mind what would motivate a guy to do this. Really now. Was he leading a double life--a quiet repairman in one and a wild biker dude in the other, and this little show of independence was his only crossover? But why the cell phone in that particular spot?

Then this morning I had two Jehovah's Witness ladies on the front porch, and during our nice conversation about nonresistance I was trying not to stare at the one lady's arm. Was it cut off at the elbow, or was it in a cast next to her body, under the shirt, or what?? I tried to glance but not stare. No, it looked like it was OFF. What in the world? I'm sure she had two whole arms the last time she was here. It's not polite to mention stuff like this if she doesn't bring it up but believe me my mind wasn't on nonresistance.

Just fyi, this is why you have to repeat stuff when you talk to me.

Quote of the Day:
Amy: Is that an elk?!? Oh, no, that's a cow.
--text from Emily while the girls drove across eastern Oregon yesterday

Monday, July 27, 2009

Aunt Dorcas Needs You. . .

I'm working on a bit of a writing/research project and need your input. If you have/had a child with a chronic illness (or if you've had such an illness yourself) and would be willing to fill out a questionnaire, please send me an email at

Various ones of you have emailed me over the last two years. I would really like to hear from you again and hear your story in more detail.


Quote of the Day:
"The moth died easily."
--a line in Emily's new book that my brother Fred thought was almost Hemingway-esque

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Notes from a hot Sunday

My heart goes out this evening to the Wingard family of Oklahoma, who lost a daughter today in a motorcycle accident. She was at the Beachy-Amish youth fellowship meetings in Texas. Her folks had lots of old family/friends/Menno-connections with ours.

Believe me, I am going to hug my daughters tight when they get home.

* * *

Today Paul and I went to the Kropf reunion at the Fairview multi-purpose building, which still isn't air-conditioned after all these years despite being a truly multi-purpose building, used for weddings and cantata performances and reunions and basketball games and much more.

I think it's cool that we live in the original Daniel Kropf house--maybe that's why I like to go to the reunion. No actually, I like to go and watch people. There's Jeff the politician, who shmoozes this crowd of farmers like only a politician can--"GERALD!! How ya doin'??" [clap on shoulder, big grin] "Heeeyyy, Lyle!!" etc. etc.

There's Victor Knox, one of the famous brothers, who emceed the event enthusiastically despite the blistering heat. He managed to bring in the topic of global warming and said there's a lot more he could say on that subject. "He'd better not, or I'll leave," snapped an aunt in our corner. These Kropfs speak their minds, that's for sure.

Victor said the original house looks better now than it's ever looked. That made me very happy.

Arnold Knox is happy that the house is still in the family but wonders if they should have tried harder to keep it on the original property instead of having Wilton move it up the road. He gets more sentimental about these things as he gets older, he says.

Of course the ones who have strayed the farthest afield gushed the most about their wonderful Mennonite heritage.

Dot was there with her new husband Bob, and they looked very sweet, and I met Dot's daughter who has a child with a chronic condition, and we had one of those mom-connections right off.

Victor announced that Bob and Larry would pass around the donation baskets. I told Paul I felt like we were in a Veggie-Tales movie.

Aunt Allene told me once that when she was growing up in the brick house just down the road, they had 75 first cousins within 5 miles. These cousins are the driving force behind the continuation of the Kropf reunion, proving my point that first cousins are the impetus behind most reunions, and later generations stay home.

A young man wandered around in what looked like a black top hat. I felt sorry for him, so desperate to stand out from this salt-of-the-earth crowd and be different. Then I was informed that this was Dot's son Merv, who I understand works at Drift Creek Camp and is well loved by my nieces who go there, and his hat was Daniel Kropf's, and still has his initials on the inside.

The food was amazing, of course. They ought to sell the Kropf cookbook at these events.

Lee Snyder amazed me once again, that such a small person could have accomplished so much. Somehow you expect a former college president (Bluffton) to be less hummingbird-like and more like her raven cousins.

Great-aunt Bernice talked about the strain of deafness in the extended family, and how at one time there were 16 deaf people at Harrisburg Mennonite, and they had their own preacher, Deaf Levi. She had her second cousins, Mildred and Pauline, talk about having deaf parents. Their sister Ruth is Lee's mom, married to Frank and Annie's son Lloyd.

My favorite part was one of those only-at-a-family-reunion moments: Victor put his arm around little white-haired Bernice and introduced her by saying,

Quote of the Day:
"This is the lady who potty-trained me."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Missin' My Daughters

I miss Amy and Emily.

I still don't know quite how I survived almost two weeks without any daughters in the house. No advice on outfits, none of that intuitive female understanding, no one to have tea with me. And the one evening we were getting company so I put on a nice dress and an apron, and an hour later realized that the apron strap had pulled both collar points straight up against my neck and held them there. Did any of the men in the house bother to tell me this? No.

So Jenny came home and once again I had a girl around, which was great. And soon her little cousin Alli began spending time here as well.

So this evening at the supper table it was Paul to my left, then me. Across the table sat three big boys [Ben, Steven, and Keith the nephew] silently wolfing down large barbecued-pork sandwiches. To my right were two little girls who took dainty bites of little sandwiches and kept looking at each other and bursting into fits of giggles.

And I thought, I just want my big girls to come home.

Next week, the Lord willing, they do.

I know it means there'll be a bit too much estrogen in the air at times, and Amy and Emily will share lots of jokes at my expense, and I'll have to cook around Emily's allergies. But I can't wait.

Quote of the Day:
"I have enough testosterone in this house to run a small country."
--My sis Rebecca, mom of three boys, when her sons have their friends over

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Followup on yesterday's post

Yesterday I posted about Christians and music, and today I had tea with Julie Nevue, a lovely wife/mom/violinist/aspiring writer, whose husband, David, is a professional pianist.

From what Julie says, and from his website, I find that he plays at all kinds of venues but doesn't sacrifice either his musical quality or his Christian testimony.

Here's his website and here you can listen to some of his music.

A real Roaring Lamb.

(Special thanks to neighbor and friend Anita for hosting us today!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another Annual Rant

Over on Facebook there's a bit of a conversation going on [which may well become bigger] on why so many Christians don't listen to Christian music.

Matt of the strong opinions* wrote:

When it comes to Christian media in general (books, movies, music, and so on), a lot of the stuff out there, maybe even the majority of stuff out there, is [garbage]. Complete [garbage].

Sorry Matt, I know it's not cussing, but I don't like that word. Moving on. . .

And yes, I'm generalizing, but bear with me.

I think the reason for this is because the artists have to make their stuff "Christian" in order for it to sell, which leads to music or other media that is forced, non-creative, and shows a complete lack of talent.

I'll admit it, I'm one of those Christians who likes listening to just about any music except for Christian music. Which isn't entirely true, there's a few artists I enjoy from 10-15 years . But long story short and generalizing like crazy, the musical quality I find in non-Christian music tends to be much better than Christian music.

I think it's unfortunate, I think it stinks. But I think I speak for most people in this category when I say that I'm not going to listen to Christian music solely because it's Christian.

*as his aunt Rosie once said, "What's the use of having an opinion if you don't state it emphatically?" which is kind of the Smucker family motto.

I don't know much about music, except that Steven loves to listen to K-Love and to me it all sounds breathy and whispery and shallow. And most P&W songs are like eating marshmallows. Not that everyone has to share my opinions, but really, would you sing this stuff if you were sitting in prison for your faith?

I like hillbilly gospel and hymns sung with enthusiasm and--gotta mention them--Voice of Praise, whose one member asked me point blank at the breakfast table how many of their cd's I have--zero, but I plan to change that.

I think I'm a bit more knowledgeable about books.

Thanks to Amy's love for ordering books from CBD, we have been getting a rash of their catalogs in the mail. I normally leaf through just long enough to see that once again they're not listing my books, and then I toss them in the recycle bin. As an author, it's overwhelming to see how many books are out there competing with mine, and we are all happier if I don't think about this.

But for some reason I looked through this last catalog in a bit more detail. And read the descriptions. My zeit.

"Kumme to Amish country, where the simple life offers hope and healing! In A Cousin's Prayer, Katie Yoder's boyfriend is killed in an accident--and she hides in the shadows of depression. Freeman Bontrager will make any excuse to be near Katie, hoping to win her love. But how far will he go to gain her trust. . .and her heart?"

"A tender love story set in the rolling green fields of Ohio Amish country! When newly widowed Hannah relocates from Pennsylvania to Ohio with her sheep, she's determined that her new life won't include romance. . .until she meets widower Seth Miller. Is the gentle farmer drawn to Hannah--or her productive flock?"

There is a whole catalog of this sort of thing. As someone in the industry said recently, "Just put a bonnet on it and it'll sell."

In stark contrast, I just finished
Schindler's List, one of the most moving books I've ever read.

I realize I rant about Christian books about once a year, and I know very well there are good Christian authors out there. And the catalog-description writers make every book sound like another dollop of Cool Whip, which likely isn't fair, since I see that Jerry Eicher is now featured in CBD, and he at least is authentic.

But really, what does it say about us when Christian authors and publishers fill the grocery store with Cool Whip, so to speak, and we Christian readers eat it for lunch every day?

Quote of the Day:
Me: Jenny, don't shove him!
Jenny: I wasn't shoving him. I was poking him with my nose.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Update on Emily

I haven't posted about Emily's health for a while for a couple of reasons:

1.) I discovered that by being public about her trials and tribulations and decisions and occasional improvements, there were people who prayed for us and encouraged us, but unfortunately there were also people who felt like they owned a piece of her story and therefore had the right to ask too many questions and tell us what to do. In good times I might be able to handle this and brush it off, but when you have lots of raw exposed nerve endings, it works better to retreat.

2.) I was afraid/superstitious that if I said she's doing better, she would immediately start doing worse.

But now I think I maybe have the courage to say it: She. . .is. . . doing. . . better.

(What's the spiritual/Christian equivalent of knocking on wood?)

When I was in Colorado in May, I felt like I was up against the Red Sea. Emily was doing horribly, and I didn't know what on earth to do.

I have since discovered a number of things about the Red Seas in the original story and in our lives. Such as: it feels like God has abandoned you; it feels like there are no options; it feels like purely an accident of fate that landed you here; and you second-guess every decision that led you to this point.

The truth is the Red Sea wasn't an accident for the Israelites. God had it all planned out. It isn't an accident for us, either. But it sure feels like it.

God didn't rip the sea open and escort me through, but he did nudge me toward this decision, and then that one, and then another one. And by the end of the week I had moved Emz into a different house, (close to Knepps, where she also started eating suppers), she had quit working at the thrift store, and she was taking a nutritional powder called Reliv.

I hesitate to admit that last one, because I always made fun of people who were into Shaklee and Herbalife and such, but the fact was she needed nutrition and she was willing to take this.

Well. Within a few days of her move she wasn't feeling as horrible any more. Then she had days of feeling actually pretty good. And more such days. And more. She started going on more walks. She did a few fun things with people. A month passed. A MONTH!!! And more weeks.

Right at the two-month mark she had a couple of bad days again, and of course I knew it had all been too good to be true, etc. etc, but what do you know, she got better again.

Jenny told me this story, which tells me how far Emily's come: While Emily was still at home, Jenny saw her trying to lift a textbook off the table, and she was having a hard time, so Jenny picked it up for her. It was a bit heavy but certainly not THAT heavy. And then during this last visit, the girls were eating supper and Emily reached across the table and lifted the iced tea pitcher with ONE HAND and merrily hauled it back across. Jenny was amazed and so am I.

I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have this burden lifted of feeling like I am trying to keep Emily alive. Every day. Mostly over the phone.

I do not know what the future holds. I am always braced for calamity and regression and bad news. But these last two months have tasted very very sweet.

Quote of the Day:
So we are driving along in the van, our family plus Jenny's cousin/almost-twin Alli, and up ahead is a trailer with two horses.
Jenny: Look at those horses!
Alli: Cooool!!!
[further squealed exclamations]
Jenny: They look like paint horses!
Alli: Paint horses???! They're real!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jenny n Me

This is Jenny's philosophy of life: If I jump, the universe will catch me.

Sometimes I watch her, amazed, because her outlook on life is so different from mine at her age. I firmly believed that I was on my own and no one was going to be there for me.

Which explains in part, I think, why I freaked out so often, such as when we were on a trip and I was very briefly separated from my family. I knew deep in my 7-year-old heart that the others were all going to go blithely back to the van and head for Kansas without me, and no one would miss me.

So it is very redemptive and even vindicating to have a daughter who knows in her heart that no matter what happens, someone will take care of her and everything will be ok.

Quote of the Day:
Ben and Jenny were cleaning out the shed and found an old can of dog food.
Jenny: What's the expiration date on that thing?
Ben: September 7, 2007. Hey! That's the day before the Ducks beat Michigan at the Big House!

Friday, July 17, 2009

FYI 4 BMA ppl

Amy and Emily plan to be at the BMA convention in Indiana next weekend (July 24-26).

They will have a table in the display area and will have Emily's new book and my three books available for sale.

My guess is they won't personally be at the table that much, but if you see two animated sisters who talk and gesture alike but look very different--one tall and dark-haired, one short and freckled and reddish-haired--chances are good they're Amy and Emily and would be happy to sign books or just say hi.

We were happy that the BMA powers that be approved Em's book even though the girl in the cover photo, who isn't Emily by any stretch, is rather bare-shouldered and un-Mennonite. Thanks to them and you for understanding.

After much anticipation, I finally got to read "Emily" when Jenny brought my copy along home from Colorado. And what should I discover on page 3 but that it's dedicated to . . . ME!! I had no idea that was coming. I think it's a wonderful book--a grand mixture of tears and laughter and a lot in between. Parts of it were really hard to re-live, and parts made me howl with laughter, like her dream that she got a snakebite and had only an hour to live but her dad wouldn't take her to the hospital until he knew which was the least expensive. Maybe you have to live with Paul to "get" that one.

Quote of the Day:
Jenny: What's that stuff?
Me: Marinade.
Jenny: What's marinade?
Steven: The opposite of lemonade.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Moms Know Everything

One of my favorite answers to the children’s perpetual questions of “Humph, how do you know [I’ll get a stomachache/hurt her feelings/end up in jail]?” or “Hey, how did you know [I was out on the porch roof/eating peanut butter straight from the jar with my fingers/staying up late]?” was “Because moms know everything.”

Hey, I had my ways.

I don’t try it on Matt any more, of course, but the other night I demonstrated the truth of it anyway.

I was reading my blog comments late one evening when there was a random comment from an anonymous source telling me that Matt got stopped by the Corvallis police a few nights before. “I heard it on the scanner,” said Anonymous.

I did what any mom would do: immediately called him up. “Matt? Why were you pulled over the other night?”

“Because my left headlight was burned out. . . but. . . HOW DID YOU KNOW???”

I told him.

He said, “Man, that was weird. I mean, it was at night, and I don’t think anyone saw me, and I can’t think of anyone we’d both know in Corvallis, and I hadn’t told a soul about it!”

Heh heh. See? I was right. Moms really do know everything.

Quote of the Day:
Last spring, after the ACE convention. The Smuckers are at the breakfast table:
Jenny: Ben, what did it feel like to be on the all-star Pace Bowl team?
Ben: That's not really an answerable question.
Jenny: Hey Ben?
Ben: Jenny, this is a breakfast table, not an interrogation room!
[pause] [Jenny doesn't want to finish her hash browns.]
Ben: How about she has to take as many bites as she asked me questions this morning?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jenny is Home!

This morning I threw a few things in the bread machine and a few more in the crock pot, and then I was gone. . . off to pick up the Dear Youngest Daughter at the airport.

Amy had concluded her spots were faded enough that she wasn't a threat to anyone.

I left the house about half an hour before Jenny was scheduled to leave Denver. Amy and I stayed in touch by phone, and the further north I traveled, the later her plane was going to be.

Amy was told she had to stay in the airport until Jenny's plane was "airborne." She saw the plane sitting outside for a long time, and then it wasn't there any more, but no one told her if it had taken off or not.

Then Jenny called Amy on the cell phone she borrowed from the nice lady beside her. Something was wrong with the plane, and they'd have to get off, wait for another plane to land, and then take that one to Portland. We were all glad Amy hadn't left the airport yet, and the girls hung out together until the plane finally took off 3 hours late.

Meanwhile I went to a secondhand store and Portland's famous Fabric Depot. I recently confessed to my Sunday school girls that I am addicted to fabric, so this was kind of like walking back into the bar after an AA meeting. I was reasonably temperate, though. Kind of reasonably.

At the gate, I stood as close to the doorway as I could, prickly with anticipation. A well-dressed man came by and said, "I enjoyed getting to know your daughter. She'll be here soon. She's doing fine." A sweet woman came next. "I so enjoyed sitting beside your daughter on the plane." Another woman came by and said comfortingly, "Your daughter's on her way. She can't wait to see you."

By this time I was nearly in tears. And I got the idea that everyone on that plane had gotten acquainted with Jenny, which somehow didn't surprise me.

And then there she was, escorted by a Southwest guy, who looked at my ID but knew by our hearty reunion, I'm sure, that I was really her mom.

Oh it is beyond wonderful to have my baby back again.

Jenny had plenty to say about her trip. She had prayed that she'd sit beside a nice lady that wouldn't mind if she asked lots of questions. And she was all prepared to share her faith with whoever it happened to be. Sure enough, she sat beside a very nice woman. Jenny asked her if she's a Christian, and it turned out that she was not only a Christian, but a former missionary to India and on her way to Thailand soon! So good fellowship was had by all.

Quote of the Day:
"Scared? No. Why would I be scared?"
--Jenny, when I asked if all the flight delays and such had bothered her

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tech Info Please

We never got Emily a graduation gift for various reasons. (Humph, she has to graduate first, says Paul, who is trying to get her to finish up the Last Little Bit).

Recently Emily suggested we get her one of those cute little Netbooks so she can tuck it into her purse and walk to the park and work on her novel. I looked them up online and found them to be waaaay out of our price range. And they're new enough that not many show up on the used market. But oh my they are just plain cute. Maybe by the time I'm 50 I'll have a pink VW bug and a Netbook to match.

Yes, well. Digressing.

So, is there any other device that would do the same thing? I tried to look online and got lost in technical terms.

Then I had this sudden memory of being on a plane with Paul and using his Jornada PDA thingy (that died long ago) and a fold-up keyboard to work on an article. Maybe that would work for Emily.

I found a few used Jornadas online, and of course didn't really know what I was looking for, so I called Matt.

Maybe what she needs, he suggested, is a SmartPhone.

Paul discovered that he is due for a Verizon phone upgrade and he could get a $400 BlackBerry 8300 for $50. [A "BlackBerry 8300" sounds like a John Deere combine for fruit.]

(Oh, btw, the reason we still qualify for the upgrade is that the order for a new phone for me never registered on their end, and now my old one works again. Happy happy.)

So I am asking the experienced techie people: Would you recommend an old Jornada or a new Blackberry for Emily? Can you get a portable keyboard for a BlackBerry?

Here are the functions she needs: some kind of Word program, some way of typing comfortably and more than just a few lines, and Internet capabilities.

Quote of the Day:
(After she read the story in Ordinary Days of how my sister would tell me that our brother "Freddy" thought she was pretty and I was ugly, and then she found an old family photo. . .)
Molly the 11-year-old niece: I don't know why Freddy would say that! Look at Dorcas! She looks like she's pondering the wonders of the world. And Becky looks like she's thinking about potatoes!"

(This was sure good therapy for the old wounds--thanks for sharing this, Geneva)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oh. My. Word.

Ok, this is kind of scary, when one day you're spouting off on a blog post that nobody will read anyway, and then the next you show up on Southwest Airlines' website. (Read the comments)

Quote of the Day:
"He looks like he's either high on caffeine or else he injected steroids into his eyeballs.
--Ben, about basketball player Tyler Hansbrough
(Note: Dear Readers: no need for this to go on Mr. Hansbrough's website)

Another Update

Amy reports that Jenny's pocks are moving south, with new ones popping out down her arms and legs. However, she's not all that sick. This is an enormous relief to me, since I had feared she'd get as sick as her siblings did. So it's no longer quite as hard to be here and not there, since I know she's not languishing in a feverish misery.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Plug for Sympathy

Last week Amy and Jenny drove to Colorado to visit Emily. They have been having a great time. Amy plans to stay all month, but Jenny was scheduled to fly home tomorrow.

This morning Amy called me, sounding a bit frantic. "Mom, Jenny has these red spots all over her chest!"

Oh great. Is she feeling sick otherwise? No. No fever, no other symptoms.

I ran down a mental list of diagnoses--maybe she ate a bunch of fresh fruit of some kind and is allergic to it. Maybe she and the Knepp girls were playing in some weeds that she reacted to.

I didn't even consider chicken pox, since Jenny had the shot as a baby. I had made that decision after her older siblings all got the most walloping dose of chicken pox any of us had ever seen. Amy, with her fair skin and red hair, ran a 104 fever for days and looked like someone had poured boiling water over her.

So Jenny had had the shot and was safe. Uh huh.

Amy took a picture of Jenny's stomach with her phone and sent it to Keith the nephew's phone, since mine doesn't receive pictures, and it reminded me a little too much of how young people send obscene photos to each other nowadays, but let me assure you this was all for medical purposes.

I didn't like the look of those spots at all.

Amy took Jenny to two local moms, who couldn't figure out what she had either.

Then she emailed me pictures of Jenny, and with a sick feeling in my stomach I admitted that it looked exactly like Matt and Amy's pox, back in the day.

Amy made a doctor appointment. Paul called Southwest Airlines. No, she absolutely can't fly with chicken pox, and no, we won't just switch the ticket to a different day. Paul got a bit testy. "She's not that sick, and you make it awfully tempting to just not say anything and let her fly." They wouldn't back down--she can't fly with chicken pox, and too bad for you about the cost.

The doctor was almost positive it's chicken pox but said we wouldn't know for sure until they formed blisters. And if it is, Jenny will be contagious for another 3-7 days. And oh yeah, in the last few years they started realizing that the baby immunization isn't enough and these kids need a booster shot when they're 5 or 6. I guess we never got that memo.

Jenny started running a fever. Amy is stocking up on Tylenol and Aveeno. She'll be a great mom for Jenny over this time, but she won't be me.

I think I'll just go cry for a while.

Quote of the Day:
"This way I'll get to stay longer!!"

UPDATE: Paul called Southwest this evening and got someone who again said no, we can't do anything. But then he called in a supervisor, who said, Well, if it's the same type of ticket, maybe. And so they found one hidden slot and booked Jenny for a Tuesday flight, which gives her pocks 4 days to scab over. Yay for Southwest. Pray that she will be able to fly then.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

If Only All Book Reviews Were Like This

Yesterday I got a Facebook message from Catherine Y. who had just got my new book. I loved her "review" and got her permission to post it.

Hi Dorcas - Just thought you'd like to know how things go at your loyal reader's house when a new Smucker book arrives:

12:30 UPS package from Amazon arrives, addressed to oldest son. Mom wonders if this could this be the book he promised for her birthday. Resists urge to call him at work.

1:30 Son arrives, confirms package. Mom rips it open in glee and rushes to the bathroom, where she can have five minutes of peace.

Reads first chapter. Laughs. Cries. Thinks maybe there is hope for my crew. After all, the first one does seem to be growing up.

Rejoins family. Tells 16 year-old daughter she laughed and cried. Daughter rolls eyes. Two older boys groan.

Tries to get back to work. Sneaks breaks whenever she can the rest of the day. Tells 15-year-old the "rub it where it hurts" story. She laughs and says maybe she'll read the book if all the stories are like that.

11:00 p.m. Tries to get business done on the computer so she can go to bed and... read.

Smiles and congratulations,

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Here are some pictures of our summer, so far.

Quote of the Day:
"Is it like a life-changing exciting experience?"
--Keith the seed-sacking nephew, when I asked him if he'd like to have a ride on a combine. He also said,

"Actually, I wouldn't know what a combine was if it hit me on the street."

(I see we have some work to do.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

More Good News

Emily and I are both birthing new books this week--she expects hers on Thursday. It is a rare and wonderful thing to experience this with my daughter. She's planning to spend the month of August at home and we have a couple of mother/daughter events planned, which I think will be way more fun than doing them by myself.

Here's the flyer for the fair. If you scroll down far enough you'll see us down with the S's.

HCI is doing a lot of publicity for Emily's book and the two others in the Louder than Words series.

Here's a book trailer on YouTube.

I am excited about my book, but I am over the moon about Emily's.

News: Happy and Sad

Something happy happened yesterday:

My new books came!! The title is Downstairs the Queen is Knitting. Due to a communications glitch I only got my 12 free copies and not the big boxful I thought I ordered. So I can't send out all the pre-orders for a few weeks yet. If you want to order a copy, send me an email at

Interestingly, I birthed my third book the same day as my third baby, only 19 years later. Happy birthday, Emily!!!

And then something sad happened:

My dear old cell phone wouldn't call any more. So today we ordered a new one. No one seems to understand why this makes me sad and I would rather use my old one all my life.

Oh well.

Paul, who is not given to exaggeration, said,

Quote of the Day:
"It's probably one of the oldest cell phones in the country that's still being used."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .

Amy just posted some photos on Facebook of the overnight canoe trip Paul and the kids took recently. I can't figure out how to link it here. Is it possible to link someone else's pictures? Ellen? Matt?

(Melinda helped me out: try this: Amy's Facebook Photo Album)

Today's Letter from Harrisburg tells the other side of the canoe trip story--what life was like for me staying home alone.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Early this morning I got a call from my sister Margaret. She had just endured one of parenting's darkest hours: a child disappearing.

Chad and Margaret have three children--Austin is 10, Emma almost 7, and Nolan is almost 4.
They are on their way from their home in Pennsylvania to visit Mom and Dad in Minnesota plus a few other relatives along the way, and had spent the night in a motel in Dubuque, Iowa.

They tucked everyone into bed last night, and this morning when they got up, Emma wasn't there.

Of course they ransacked the room looking for her, and checked the truck and everywhere else they could think of. Nothing.

They then notified the motel people and called the police. The motel was close to the freeway, adding to the chill of fear and awful possibilities. Various people were out looking all over for her, and meanwhile Margaret had to answer all the policeman's questions, "How big is she? What was she wearing?" that you never think you'll have to answer about your own child.

Somewhere in all this the motel's surveillance tapes were pulled and reviewed. They showed Emma opening their door and wandering out, looking a bit sleepy and out-of-it. And then they showed her wandering along the motel until she found a door that was unlocked, and going inside. Where she evidently crawled into bed and fell asleep, and there the policeman found her, and woke her up, and brought her back to her mom, who immediately burst into tears of course.

Emma doesn't remember any of this, so a few mysteries remain. She's not a sleepwalker or night wanderer by any stretch, so what was she thinking??

We're just all so very very thankful she's safe and all is well.

Quote of the Day:
"She probably had the best night's sleep of her life."
--the policeman

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

RIP Lenny

Tomorrow it's three years that my nephew Leonard passed away.

Tonight I find myself, again, reliving what must have been a very long dark night of his soul that ended in his death the next morning.

Other times, I remember his laugh and his looks and the last conversation we had and how amazing he was.

Tonight, I remember what he must have suffered.