Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Time to recommit

In typical "me" fashion, I have found that over the course of the last three weeks, our schedule for getting stuff done has been decidedly hit or miss.

I am a remarkably disorganized organizer--a feat that should win me some sort of medal but, alas, does not. The house stays relatively tidy (except, of course, for the Lincoln Logs that Logan scatters from one end of the house to the other), the laundry is 90% under control, the children are clean, meals are served at 8 a.m., noon and 5:30 p.m., and I usually don't forget the dog out back in a rainstorm. Somehow, though, school has slipped through the cracks of that very bare-bones to-do list.

I have found that we are getting started somewhere around 10 a.m. This is not acceptable because frankly, Logan has lost any interest in reading whatsoever by that point. He is generally so engrossed in whatever elaborate drama that he has constructed that the mere mention of actually reading a book aloud to me is enough to send him into one of his oh-so-flattering whine fests.

While I am in the middle of explaining to him in my Very Gentle Mommy Voice™ that while his irritation is acceptable, his tone most certainly is not, I am apt to hear Atticus piping in with, "Well, what are we doing?" If I answer with something that he finds interesting enough (say, a SL read aloud or science), he will joyfully begin routing his sister from her room by flinging open her door.

This is generally not a good thing, as Princess Jo enthroned in her inner sanctum usually means that she is knee-deep in writing a story for her newspaper or, possibly, designing a sign for her door that says something like, "Soldiers Needed! Strong, strapping youths (boy or girl) apply within. Pay is not good, but adventure awaits!"

In other words, she is busy. And she doesn't want to be disturbed, not even by a giddy little brother announcing that "Lincoln: A Photobiography" is going to be read post-haste. Her first reaction is inevitably to shout, "Door closed rules! Door closed rules!" This is code for "Please knock," but must, apparently, be yelled at the top of one's lungs in order to cross the language barrier that exists between a big sister and little brother.

This outburst means that I now have to disentangle myself from the fine art of disciplining Logan ("Do all things without complaining or disputing.") to rebuke Jo ("Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.") and to remind Atticus that his sister likes to be gently interrupted, just as he does.

By the time I get everyone downstairs, it feels like lunchtime already and I am not very inclined to tackle those things that I must use a little romancing to get my children to perform. Their patience--and mine--is already shot. The tone of the day is one of endurance rather than joy.

I hate that.

So I am recommitting--right here, right now--to getting back on track with our schedule. To making an effort to pull things to order before they disintegrate into too much willy-nilly free-for-all. To be the mom I know I can be. Hold me accountable, o.k.?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cast Your Vote

I followed a link from Mother Joy's blog to the site. Why? Because ... (truth comes out) I have seen and coveted these stickers for the past three or four years. They are just too cute. Plus, I think they are great advertisements for families that exceed the one child limit here in the PNW. :-) So ... here are my two potentials thus far. Whatcha' think would look better on the back of a black '99 Suburban? Feedback required, y'all. :-)

Choice A--

Choice B--

A public thank you

To J., for taking my three children with only a little notice when I was sick in bed yesterday. I rested a lot better knowing they were in good hands. THANK YOU!


I added a counting wedgit to the bottom of my blog on Saturday night. Two and a half days ago, essentially. Lo and behold, I logged in this afternoon and was shocked to see over 90 hits in that time period. ((insert your own catchy jaw-drop smilie here))

And my 12th grade English teacher told me no one would ever want to read what I wrote. :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Even the rabbit is pregnant

Despite our better judgement, dh and I allowed the children to breed the two 4-H project show bunnies together a few weeks back. While clearly no one in our house is anywhere near being an expert on these matters (Jo is only one year into her 4-H career after all) it does appear that the mating was successful. The doe, normally a spunky but sweet little gal, has become a nipping, growling and otherwise nasty little beast--just like a few pregnant humans I have encountered in my lifetime. Unlike human beings, though, rabbits have an additional unsavory (but useful) behavior that they engage in just prior to the birth of their litter: they pull their fur out. Our little doe has been molting quite heavily, which Jo took as a sign that she was indeed gestating. When she and Atticus put the nesting box in to her cage, we all watched in awe as the rabbit immediately began putting the straw just so ... and then began lining it with fur she carefully plucked from her body. How cool.

The breeder that the children purchased both of the rabbits from says that this is a very good sign in a first-time mommy-to-be. And, even though Jo never figured out exactly how to do the whole palpitating for pregnancy thing, this is pretty well proof positive that she'll be presenting us with some baby bunnies in the very near future--as in, this week.

So, cigars all around! The bunnies are expecting. I say that counts as credit for animal husbandry, biology, genetics and zoology ... and the little kits aren't even here yet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

War! What is it good for?

We're knee-deep in our study of the Civil War, so it's really no surprise that our house has become a battlefield. As the mother of two boys, you'd think that I would have been expecting this all along.

I haven't. I am one of those slightly batty moms who still clings to the hope that my boys will somehow skim the surface of the shoot-em-up stage. DH and I have denied our sons actual toy guns, choosing the wimpy way out--we have allowed swords, bows and arrows, plastic cowboys and Indians, and little green soldiers toting more artillery than the guys in Iraq probably get to play with. Maybe this, we said to ourselves, will give a little direction to their clearly war-like play for a little while, and then they'll move on to something else. Like horticulture.

All of this has done nothing but fan the flames. We knew it probably would, but still ... neither dh nor I can stomach the idea of buying anything that resembles a gun for our children to play with. Thankfully, our boys have friends. And birthdays. And, as all parents know, the equation looks something like this: boy's age>4 + friend + birthday party = guns. Most of these items have been tame compared to the "KILL 'EM ALL!!!" bazookas that grace the shelves of most mainstream toy stores, but Atticus and Logan were thrilled to receive them.

Even though they now have a slim arsenal to pull from, the boys' main fascination is still with reenacting full-scale wars. And despite not having seen anything more violent than the old black and white "Lone Ranger" television series, Logan and Atticus are perfectly capable of setting up a rather elaborate field of death. Lincoln Log cannons, Lego trees and some cleverly contrived civilian homes are staged all over my family room. And who can forget the marble bombs, modeled after the pirate battle in "Swiss Family Robinson"?
Complete with slain and wounded warriors, of course.

Studying the Civil War has given more of a plot line to their bloody battles. Now, I watch in near-horror as my 5 and 7 year-olds line up green Army guys and try to decide who is in charge of the Blue and who commands the Gray. They don't seem to necessarily have a preference; this is probably my fault, since I insisted that all of my children learn both "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Dixie." At any rate, casualties seem to plague both sides equally. At least I can console myself that they understand that war means some boys aren't ever going home again.

I have fully surrendered to the fact that it actually is impossible to keep testosterone-fueled boys from their desire to exact (pretend) violence on other people. I'm not saying that I understand it, I'm not saying that I like it, and I'm not saying that I let my boys indulge in it from sun up to sundown. What I am saying is that the drive is there, and it must be satisfied in some way. At least it is tempered by other interests. Neither Atticus nor Logan focuses on war all the time. They each enjoy reading, board games, sports, drawing and building with various mediums. This tells me that they are fairly well-rounded. I guess they just need a little mock bloodshed to rub off the edges now and then.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams

My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving. If you know me IRL, you already know that a) I am a mousy, peevish hostess who does, indeed sweat the small stuff and b) my relationship with my MIL is a largely one-sided affair in which I pretend that I don't fully understand her innuendos and ever-so-slightly veiled insults so as to keep the tenuous balance of our family life intact.

In other words, the turkey isn't the only thing getting roasted this year, folks.

Thanksgiving is normally a rather casual affair for us, but I know that MIL will fly cross-continent with great expectations. None of which, mind you, are actually based on any interaction she has had with our family in the real world. MIL is well aware that my family is, by and large, vegetarian (except for Logan, who must be kept clear of cattle at all times, lest he actually sink his teeth into their flesh for want of red meat). This translates to a Thanksgiving table that doesn't exactly mirror the ones you see in Norman Rockwell representations; instead of a gigantic stuffed bird dominating our table, the centerpiece of our celebration is actually a rather tasty three bean and corn pilaf. We do, however, roast a small turkey breast for the occasion as a concession to Jo's desire that we pretend to eat like every other red blooded American family on that Thursday. Never mind that no one really eats much of it. For Jo, it's the thought that counts.

Which is precisely MIL's point. It's the thought that counts--and her thought is that we need an 18 lb. bird baked golden brown gracing our dining room table on Thanksgiving, so that's what counts.

MIL will also be disappointed yet again that I have no formal china. This was an issue when dh and I and I registered for patterns 12 years ago, and it still stands today as a monument to my lack of interest in formal gatherings. By golly, if she's eating turkey for Thanksgiving this year, it's going to have to be on my everyday
Mikasa dishes. Did I mention that I don't bring out a fancy tablecloth for Thanksgiving? That my serving pieces are mismatched? That I don't make that !@#! green bean casserole that everyone and my husband's mother loves so much?

How about the fact that we don't have a television and can't watch parades? Or (gasp) FOOTBALL!

As I always hasten to mention in these rants, my MIL is not an evil person. She is just a person that is so far from me on the spectrum of needs and wants as to almost exist in a separate plane. I am flannel pajamas, hot chocolate, cross stitching and children laughing. MIL is pantyhose, champagne, a dinner cruise and quiet adult conversation.

For further illustration, let me take you back to a trip we took with my in-laws when dh and I were engaged. The not-quite-in-laws rented a "rustic" cabin for us to all visit just prior to Christmas. They had stayed in the cabin previously, and commented over and over again how "far back" it was, how "quaint" and, again and again, "rustic." Now, you must remember that I grew up visiting a great-grandmother who had an outhouse. Knowing a bit about my soon-to-be-in-laws, I set the "rustic" bar a little higher, having already decided that there was no earthly way that they would be peeing outdoors. This is about what I expected:

A nice, cute, pest-free log cabin with a little porch for taking in the view. Not a bad way to spend a weekend in my book--especially not if it has a fireplace for reading around in the evening.

Of course, I was way, way, off. Here was my MIL's "rustic cabin":

Can you see the satellite dish or the gourmet kitchen from this view? How about the hot tub? I think, in retrospect, it was the decorative farm equipment in the yard that made it "rustic."

Clearly, we are different people, this MIL and I. Bound together by our love for a single man, we are now a family in the most uncomfortable of senses. Neither of us quite knows what to do with the other, even after 15 years.

I can't honestly say that I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. Just knowing what a high level of alert I will have to maintain during their visit is enough to give me hives. Topics to be avoided include: homeschooling, Christianity, politics, future plans, adoption, the children's interests, the Bible, my lack of gainful employment, war in Iraq, why dh isn't looking for a job in their state, why we don't call SIL, why we don't visit, why we don't have a bigger house, our nonprofit, missions in general, church planting and how we are raising our children. Yes, I think that about covers it.
My life, I mean.

Hopefully, this holiday will pass with minimal friction and much love and understanding on everyone's behalf. Hopefully my MIL can be satisfied with plain dinner dishes and paper napkins, and I can be happy with my kitchen table groaning under the weight of a turkey so large as to feed a family in western Africa for three weeks. Hopefully we can enjoy our visit together and actually give thanks for the chance to bask in one another's company.

Even without the champagne.

Infertility is...

... no longer even having an inkling that you might, somehow, maybe, possibly be pregnant during those last two weeks of your cycle.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Can you please pray for a hurting mom?

There are some places that our minds won't go. Unfortunately, some people don't have a choice. The unthinkable visits them, and all that's left for them to do is to walk through the pain. That Girl, who blogs at Adventures in Freelance Insanity, has lost her two year-old baby boy, Jake. While Jake has struggled through some daunting medical issues, his passing was unexpected . (Can losing your two year-old ever really be expected?) I have read That Girl's blog for a few months, and I have admired how honest and raw she is in chronicling a life that has clearly spiraled out of her own control. I am fairly certain that she is not a Christian--at one point on her blog she lashed out at "so-called Christians" for letting her down--but I know she can use as many prayers as we can offer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tickered off

On the homeschooling forum I frequent, a lot of thought goes into ones' signature. Mine, for example, undergoes revision fairly frequently. I like to note birthdays, send in-joke nods to forum buddies, announce interests, etc. Your signature is just that--it's your signature, much in the way that Jo announced, at age 5, that she had selected a "signature color" (purple, how original, no?). It was how she wanted people to identify her: "There's that Jo, always wearing a lovely shade of purple. Is that lavender today by any chance?" Well, a forum signature does that for us grownups. Yes, I realize that these aren't IRL relationships, but still, I glean a whole world of wisdom from these women that I don't have access to in my day to day life. If I want to have a little fun with them, by golly, I will.

For the past year, part of my forum signature has been an adoption countdown ticker. Tickers, for the uninitiated, are little lines of graphics announcing your impending anniversary, how long until your dream vacation, how long you've been (ahem) lactating, how far along you are in your pregnancy or, in my case, how long you've been waiting to adopt.

Tickers are cute little tools. People see your ticker and they know a little bit about you. You

Except, of course, when your ticker betrays you.

When I created my adoption wait ticker, I had to pick a "start date." Now, picking an official start date for an adoption process is not easy. Do you put in the day you decided to adopt? How about the day you sent in the application to the agency? What about when you got their acceptance letter? See the problem here? There is no clear beginning to most adoptions.

I arbitrarily chose the date of our PRIDE training--Oct. 21, 2006-- as the starting date for the purposes of my ticker. That, I reasoned, was the date that we first made a commitment beyond filling out a few papers and being interviewed--we got down to the practical stuff. Sounds like a beginning to me. I popped that date into the handy magic ticker maker and finished customizing my countdown. I had to chose the icon that would travel across the line, marking the time as it passed. Because we are interested in Hispanic siblings, I picked out a pair of adorable brown-skinned little people to walk down the line for me. Voila! A ticker is born.

For a year, I have watched my ticker putter along. About a month and a half ago, I noticed something that bothered me. My cute little sibling set was inching closer and closer to the end of the line. The image was, frankly, disturbing. I mean, these are children here. Worried about what would happen when we reached the end of the countdown, I hastily went back to Lilypie

Much to my horror, however, I have discovered that something far, far worse than a nosedive into Al Gore's backyard took place when my wait overextended Lilypie's expectations--my little b
ear went all the way back to the beginning. You can not imagine how disheartening it was to recognize what had happened when I logged in to the forum on day 366. All of a sudden, the friendly bear who had seemed so close to actually getting somewhere was back to square one. What does this say about our adoption hopes?

O.k., I do recognize that one is in no way tied with the other. But when you've been waiting this long, morale is difficult to muster. A thing like this can cause a major emotional setback and require more chocolate than I can reasonably afford right now. My bear--my friend--has, in the words of my kindred, "done me wrong."

So if you're reading this and you happen to work for Lilypie, take note: adoption tickers should never, ever even appear to be moving backward. You wouldn't do it to a pregnant woman, because you know for a fact that if she saw that giggling baby move back to the beginning of the line somewhere around 25 weeks she couldn't be held responsible for her actions. So don't do it to adoptive folks, either. Remember: onward and upward. Can't go wrong if you follow that motto.

see your ticker and have the pleasure of watching the time let away, much like a paper chain Advent countdown at Christmas. and whipped up another ticker--using the same date, but this time, selecting a bear as the moving figure. Much safer. After all, if a bear tumbles off into cyberspace, I won't be too distraught.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Review: Mosaic

I have copies of this book to give away to the first three people who post a comment!

Creative people are, on the whole, an interesting lot. Something about their wiring generally rejects a portion of society's norms and surrenders itself to the art that they are called to create. Being given a peek inside that process has always been fascinating for me. The "why" of art holds no allure for me (I understand the idea of being driven to do), it's the "how" that makes me curious.

Clearly, Amy Grant has been called to create. She has given herself over to the process of weaving feelings and ideas into music and words; "Mosaic" is a book that attempts to unravel the tapestry and allow readers to see the individual threads.

Grant gives insight into the relationships that have shaped her personal life and have therefore been reflected in her music. Snapshot vignettes--pulling weeds on a farm, time spent with a friend battling cancer--give a glimpse into the person behind the pop songs. While there is no deep exploration of the creative process here, there is a genuine effort to connect fans with the meanings behind the songs they hear on the radio.

Noticeably absent from "Mosaic" is any mention of the Christian singer's tabloid-fodder divorce and subsequent remarriage. While her current husband rates loving adoration and acknowledgement, Grant's former husband has been all but erased from moments as key as the birth of her children. While I am relieved that she didn't feel it necessary to revisit again the messy and public dissolution of her marriage, this obvious hole in Grant's history left me feeling like perhaps there were other moments in the book being presented with glasses more rose-colored than reality-colored.

"Mosaic" is a sweet read; uplifting in its overall tone, it leaves readers with images of weekends spent at secluded retreats and evenings on porch swings. Lyrics to some of Grant's songs are sprinkled throughout. The overall effect is comforting, warm and homey--much like Grant herself, I suspect.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Happy Birthday to me

Yep--my big day. I'm no longer 32. Since we use Math•U•See, I can now figure out that I am three dark blue blocks and one little strawberry block. Thankfully, there is still room in the little green units house, so there's no need to move on up Decimal Street for a few more years yet.

If you don't use Math•U•See, you have no idea what I am talking about.

But if you do use Math•U•See, you'll understand this bit of birthday excitement: I got the entire Gamma program--Teacher's Guide, DVD, Student Workbook and Tests--for $30 used today. That's almost half price! Love bargains like that.

I had a good birthday. Aside from dropping my dh on the curb at the airport as he began his journey to Haiti (no, not Tahiti. HAITI.), it was a good day. My children went out of their way to make their momma smile. Logan is feeling a good bit better, which makes me smile. I got to get in a little Ben Franklin action (and only spent $10) with friend J., who then treated me and my brood to dinner out with her crew. Dinner with five handsome little boys and one freckled princess. Not a bad deal! Plus, she got me a pastry cutter. Actually, she got me a whole bag full of kitchen tools, but the pastry cutter ... it's like she looked into my soul on that one. Really. O.k., you'll never believe me, but it is true.

I got birthday phone calls from some key family members, including my father. This is a very big deal. That makes two years in a row that he has called me to wish me a happy birthday. This is, I believe, a direct answer to my prayer some time back that God would change my heart toward my father. Not only has my heart been transformed, but clearly, my father's is changing as well. Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Logan has had an awful twenty-four hours. His ears are hurting so bad that he is quite literally screaming in pain, and his throat is suffering the effects of prematurely losing the scabs that had formed. He is back to full dosing on the pain meds. Any and all prayers for a speedy recovery appreciated.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Seasons and Gears

Here's something that's been on my mind for the past month and a half: seasons. Could be because of the actual physical shift of seasons that I've just watched take place around me, but I think that my mini-meltdown in the beginning of September was actually the impetus for this latest round of navel-gazing. Or, it could be Jana's recent post and our subsequent email exchange. Or Jo turning ten. Well, at any rate ...

I've always heard, in Christian circles, the term "seasons" bandied about as a means of identifying the stages of life that we all seem to pass through. I am not big on Christian-isms in the first place (actually, I'm not big on "isms" in general), but this one has always struck me as especially absurd. Why? Because to say that you are leaving a specific season implies, to me at least, a gradual, graceful transition that truly slips by without relative ease.

Have you personally experienced this in your life? Because I sure haven't.

As a matter of fact, most of the people I know would categorize their personal transitions as anything but gradual acclimation. There's the mom I know who has been married to her high-school sweetheart pastor for the last seventeen years. Guess what? She just got booted from her married season in to her single season when adultery was revealed in her marriage. There's my mother-in-law, who has yet to accept that she has entered the autumn years of her life and shouldn't mother hen like she was living in the summer months. What about my Jo, who still hasn't come to terms with the fact that she can't ride in the Playskool car anymore?

And then there's me.

The Lord has been dragging me, kicking and creaming, into the next season of parenting for approximately four years. Four years. Thankfully, I serve a patient God who has persistently prodded and pushed me out of my safety zone rather than giving me the big, muddy boot in the behind that I deserve. I've seen the signs, but to be honest, I didn't like them. I put on my blinders (think of the kind that mules wear on roadways) and remained on course as I saw it. I liked where I was, and who I was. I liked where all the pieces fit.

The fact is, I am not a mother to littles anymore. Heck, even if we are blessed to adopt those little people that I feel so comfortable parenting, I still have to buck up and be a mom to one rather wise ten year-old girl who is no longer content to hang out in the kiddie pool of life. I have to spread my own wings and fly out past the comfort of friendships that are awesome ... but don't water my soul and fertilize me with mentoring.

You have no idea how hard this is for me to write, but I have realized:
I no longer belong in the preschool wing.
I am not need physically by anyone right now.
It is doubtful that I will ever give birth again.
I am not the mom with the cute young family.
I am not that mother anymore.

The season has shifted, and I didn't notice. The buds have opened, the blossoms have faded and everything is green. Summer is here.

Rather than feeling like I have emerged, fresh and dewy, from one experience and am ready to take flight into a new one, I feel stunned. I didn't so much shift seasons as shift gears. It was abrupt, it was rude, my spirit groaned out with an un-oiled grind, and I found myself trying to fit my shallow spots around the pegs of the new norm. There have been moments when I doubted that things would ever run smoothly again. Awkward spots where I've found myself floundering even among the familiar as I've tried to go back to be the person that I was two, four years ago.

It doesn't fit anymore.

So here I am, on the other side, looking back at the little wheel that was my life and realizing that the changes I am experiencing now are going to reverberate years. This is it. The new norm. The next gear.

I hope I can find the oil can, or I'm in for a jerky ride.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Just Say No

Logan is slowly but surely regaining some of the characteristics that make him such a wolverine to begin with. The thick, white scab on the back of his throat is enough to make me gag just looking at it but hey, those white blood cells are doing their job. He is slowly weaning down on his pain medication. This means less incidences like this one in the bathroom at 2 a.m. night before last:

"You don't have to wear that hat."
Me (in pjs, and certainly not wearing a hat): "Sure, babe. Whatever you say."
Logan: "You should just take it off. I don't like it."
Me (still not wearing a hat): "Let's just potty and get back in bed, buddy."
Logan: "I don't want to potty. (whining now) I want you to take off your hat. It's bothering me."
Me (tired and losing patience): "Touch my head, son. I am not wearing a hat."
Logan (with his hand on my bent head): "Wow. Your hair sure is soft, mom. (eyes fluttering and rolling back) Did I pee yet?"

I've seen my five year-old stoned, and it is not a comforting thing. He seems to enjoy it just a little too much for my teetotaler taste. Let's just pray he never figures out what else folks roll up and smoke.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Fate Worse Than Death

Another installment about my family. This one sheds light on my grandmother's background.

Papaw used to say that he had saved Mamaw from a fate worse than death: life as a Pope or a Smythe. “Every last one of them is a thief, liar or murderer,” he always reminded her.

In other words, he didn’t hold his in-laws in very high esteem.

There was some truth to his assertion: the
Popes--a sprawling, brawling clan that Mamaw was raised in--was linked to just about every bad thing that had happened in the holler since memory began. The Smythes weren’t much better. No one knew where either family had originally come from (a sin among people who define themselves as much by where they’ve been as where they’re going), but they had had roots in the hills for generations longer than most other families. Not that this gave them any sense of refinement; they were known to be roustabouts, drinkers, gamblers and dancers. They were also cheats: a boy hired to work for them would most likely never see a nickel of his promised pay, or the sympathy of anyone else, for that matter. Everyone knew that the Popes and the Smythes were trash, and if you got mixed up with them then well, that was your problem.

Mamaw, of course, had no say to whom she was born, and unfortunately for her, she was both a
Pope and a Smythe. Her mother, Sarah Pope, had given birth to her shortly after her own fifteenth birthday, an unwed Holiness girl brought to shame through her own wild ways. Mamaw's father was a Smythe. He was an older second cousin, already married and responsible for the three children that union had brought about. When news of the birth spread throughout the holler, more than a few folks shrugged their shoulders. What more could you expect out a Smythe and a Pope?

Horrified at her daughter’s very public and clearly unrepentant sinning, Mamaw’s grandmother took full charge of the newborn, who she named Naomi. Maybe a good, Biblical name would give her some sense, she reasoned. Her husband--a strong Christian himself--reminded her that it sure hadn’t done their own little girl much good, but it couldn’t hurt much either.

And so my grandmother was raised by Mamaw and Papaw
Pope, who had somehow escaped the curse of their surname and managed to lead fairly uneventful and steady lives. The same couldn’t be said for little Naomi’s mother, Sarah. Set free by her parent’s willingness to bear the burden of her baby, Sarah fled from the holler in the middle of an September night. Only later did people realize that Andy Smythe, the brother of her former lover, was gone, too.

Andy owned a truck. That’s what most folks figured made Sarah take notice of him in the first place, because they clearly weren’t cut from the same cloth. He was a tall, looming man built like a wall, with shoulders wider than his waist and a smallish head set straight onto those shoulders without much hint of a neck. No one had ever considered him handsome--even by the standards of the day-- because, well, most people had never really considered him. Andy kept pretty well to himself. He hauled coal in his truck, farmed, fished and drove his Momma and Daddy around visiting on Sundays. He drew about as little notice as a bootlegger, but a bootlegger was actually trying to be invisible. To Andy, it just came natural.

Sarah did notice him though--apparently as much as people were noticing her. By all reports, she had shed every last vestige of respectability after the birth of baby Naomi. Everyone had known that she’d had a tendency to wildness in her from the time she was a little girl that begged for lace collars on her dresses, but it had been held in check by her Daddy’s belt and the good preaching at Calvary Holiness Church. Now that she’d walked through the shame of giving birth unwed, though, it was as if the shell of appearances had been burned away, leaving behind what had been hiding all along. Sarah had gotten her wiry figure back almost as soon as the midwife had cleared the door with her sack of blue half runner beans, and took to frequenting the card room that ran nightly in the back of the hardware store. More than once she was seen sneaking through the dark late at night with men stumbling from too much drink. Women in the holler started squinting their eyes when her name was mentioned. Everyone knows what that squint means in rural Kentucky: whore.

“I think she knew she was done for in these parts,” Mamaw says now. “Weren’t no use in acting like a good girl, when everyone knew she wasn’t.”

Sarah never told what it was that drew her to Andy
Smythe, or what it was that drove her to leave with him that autumn. Not given to self-reflection or many words, she was happy to let conclusions be drawn and all sorts of rumors circulate around her well into her old age. The closest she ever came to admitting to the truth of what went on that summer came the last time I saw her alive. She was recovering from a broken hip, living with Mamaw and Papaw in an uncomfortably dependent state that nearly drove her mad even at over ninety years old.

“Let me tell you about that truck, Baby,” she said, using my family nickname. “That was ‘25, and trucks back then wasn’t as flashy as they are now. It was sticky with coal dust and smelled like a mine. Now, that truck that me and Andy got us in ‘75 ... that there was a truck I’d stick with a man for.”

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Infertility is...

Hating the phrase, "...and we weren't even trying!" even when you love the people that are saying it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

One of those quizzes

My Blog Name is: Mary Grace/Books and Bairns

But people usually call me: Depends on who they are, now doesn't it? Dh calls me "Woman," dc call me "Mom," or (my preference) "Momma."

I was born: In a rather sooty part of southeastern Michigan

Until I wound up in: The more mountainous part of the wet Pacific NW

My occupation is/was: editor on a variety of projects that I now consider far too boring to relate to most folks. But at the time, boy, was it fun!

My favorite color is: red.

My favorite hobby is: writing, reading and cuddling with my honey.

My favorite season is: fall, when the leaves change.

A few favorite books are: "To Kill A Mockingbird," by Harper Lee, "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," by Rebecca Wells, "Oral History," by Lee Smith, "East of Eden," by Steinbeck, "Rainey," by Clyde Edgerton, most of the "New Stories from the South" collections.

Some of my favorite music is: (I admit that I'm all over the board here, people, so be prepared!) Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Third Day, Travis, the Beatles, the Verve, Wilco, bluegrass gospel, CCR ... (have I scared you yet?)

My favorite kinds of movies are: independent films, documentaries, epic adventures (such as LOTR), or silly comedies with little to no redeeming value (such as "The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.")

My favorite food indulgence is: chocolate molten cake.

My favorite drink indulgence is: hot chocolate, but friends have turned me on to pumpkin spice lattes and caramel macchiattos. Too bad I am too poor to indulge regularly!

My favorite dessert indulgence is: ummmm.... chocolate molten cake? Or J's pumpkin spice bars. YUM!

One weird thing about me is: I can pick up and drop accents at will.

One of my fantasies is: living on acreage, running a little farm and raisin' babies.

One of my pet peeves is: people who just don't get it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Logan is home--tonsil- and adenoid-free. The surgery went quickly, and the pre-operative procedures (IV, bp check, explanations, etc.) were extremely child-friendly. Logan handled it all with relative poise ... and lost all sense of five year-old decency once the heavier drugs hit his system. :-) To be expected!

Afterwards, he was treated to the ultimate joy: a video on the history of the White House, featuring a tour and introduction by George W. Bush. You really have to know my boy in order to understand the significance of this treasure! "Pooh and presidents," we laugh sometimes; two of Logan's most intense passions are pretty far apart on the spectrum of childhood interests. As far as we're concerned, the video was like the hand of God sweeping down into the recovery room. I mean really, why else would a video like that be there, among the copies of "Pinocchio," "Beauty and the Beast," "Men in Black," "Air Bud," and the like?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Tomorrow is our last-ditch, surgical effort to end the circus of strep that has haunted our house since December of 2005. Yes, you read that right: December of 2005. That was when Logan was officially diagnosed with his first bout of strep. I was riding high that week, pregnant, happy, looking forward to the holidays. Logan had a fever and a sore throat. I took him in and was shocked when the strep test was positive. We picked up his antibitoic (he'd only had one twice before in his life) and headed home to a craft party.

The strange thing is that I can remember it like it happened last week, not almost two years ago. I can actually see the road in front of me as I explained to my friend J. via cell phone that we'd be picking up Logan's craft booty and running. Logan was in the back of our minivan, enjoying the fat sore throat sucker I'd picked up in the natural foods section of the grocery store while we waited for his script to be ready.

Since that time, Logan has endured more strep tests than many people face in a lifetime. He has come full circle with them, from not caring, to hating them, back to not caring. He has had more antibiotics than I can actually recall. Round after round of amoxicillan, zithromax, augmentin, omnicef, keflex. He is still growing like a weed, still strong as an ox, but always there is this slight pallor to his face, this slight raggedness to his little voice. He has lived with a near-constant infection for as long as his little mind can remember. He is tired.

And so are we. We have lived in a state of heightened awareness for so long that I wonder what it will be like to be in a strep-free zone. What will it be like to not take his temperature every time he says he doesn't feel like eating? Will I eventually go back to canceling playdates for things like suspected colds, rather than just calling people in advance and letting them know that yes, he has strep ... but he's two days in to his antibitoic? Will there come a time when Logan actually goes back to telling us that his throat is sore, rather than assuming that everyone's throat is sore all the time?

Tomorrow is the day. I am dreading it, but giving it over to God. He created this little man with his peculiar weakness, and I know I can trust Him to bring the reign of StrepBoy to an end.

Monday, October 8, 2007


A confession: I am not much of a shopper. I don't enjoy looking for new stuff, first of all, and second, well ... I find it silly. The truth is that I am something akin to those Zero Population Growth people, except I apply the theory to material possessions. Call me a Zero Possession Growth groupie. I just don't get the constant desire to buy something.

Do I own things? Of course I do. I have your standard 1,500 square foot house complete with two water hoses and a barbecue grill and curtains and a kitchen table. None of these items are made from recycled sustainably-harvested materials. I'm not an extremist. But I do know how to make do. If you ever doubt that, come and check out my couch. As my cousin will tell you, I have had the same black-patterned love seat in use since 1993. It was about twenty years old when I inherited it, so ... well, you do the math.

I hate shopping. Hate making big purchases. Hate making little purchases. Hate getting new stuff to fill my already stuffed home.

This works all well and good, except when I actually need, you know ... stuff. Things wear out, are outgrown or need to be supplemented. (The love seat is still in fine shape, though!) And of course, sometimes you just need to get something specific.

That is the season we are currently in. DH and I have been slowly transitioning the previously storage-space atmosphere of our garage into a homier little game room nook. We started the renovation a year and a half ago with the construction of a small school room out there. The vision for the project kept growing, and before we knew it, we were asking ourselves what was more useful for our family: 300 square feet of storage or an area to play board games, and hang out. Thus was born the idea of the game room.

We are nearing the end of the actual construction work, and are moving on to the next phase: the acquisition of furniture for the game room. This is where it gets sticky for me, because while I have no problem saving up to buy insulation or drywall--which seems fairly reasonably priced for the most part--I balk at the price of say, a floor lamp. Do we really need a floor lamp? I find myself asking. And the answer right now is, we do.

Yesterday, we gathered the crew and headed to Ikea, land of the cheap stuff. We've had mixed experiences with Ikea in the past. I have four plastic bins that I store bulk goods in that came from Ikea. They are undoubtedly worth every penny we spent for them. We also have some industrial metal shelving from Ikea that makes me nervous enough to avoid stacking glass canning jars on it, even though it's bolted to the wall. We've learned enough to be leery, but we've also learned that on a very tight budget , you can't beat Ikea for stuff.

Apparently, everyone else also knows that Ikea has mass quantities of cheap stuff, because just about every citizen of voting age in the state was there, pushing their little carts around and piling them high. There was a noticeable absence of children, but I'm not sure if that's because most parents prefer to park their children in the Enforced Containment Center prior to getting their shopping high or because the area I live in is somewhat notorious for its lack of breeding. At any rate, it was me, dh and the three children milling around the Ikea with about a million hipsters. Let the fun begin!

To be fair, I'll let you know in advance that we bought stuff--lots of stuff. We bought a huge shelving unit from the As-Is room, a floor lamp (yes, we need one), two table lamps, a set of curtain panels, a table top and legs, wall shelves and some food storage containers. (Think Tupperware. Now think Ikeaware. Same thing, only cheaper.) We'll be going back when we save up enough money for a sleeper sofa and some huge sisal throw rugs.

The experience, though, was less than satisfying. First off all, every item that went in the cart caused dollar signs to pop off in my head. We paid $12.99 for a set of two table lamps. I know for a fact that I could not have gotten those two lamps for less anywhere else. But that didn't make it any less painful to put them in the cart, know what I mean? All I could think was, $12.99 in Burma buys ....

All around us, folks were diving into their role as consumers with the kind of glee you normally reserve for a wedding, a birth, or your firstborn's first lost tooth. One well-dressed couple in particular--who seemed offended that our children were breathing the same air that they were--seemed consumed with an almost worshipful desire to have, have, have. The items mounted in their cart, and they kept exclaiming how "marvelous" they would be, how "fabulous," how "perfect." Maybe they were just excited to be buying for their very first home together. Who knows?

At the end of the day, I came home with some nice stuff. (None of it actually used before, which is a bit of a novelty for my children.) We'll put together the game room, and we'll enjoy it. We will play our favorite board games out there, and eat our popcorn, and have our family movie nights. Before too awful long, we'll forget what the garage was like before it became something else, and we will take it for granted. And therein lies the rub of stuff, folks. It is, in the end, just more stuff.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Mathetes Award

I am absolutely speechless (and I bet you can tell how often that happens). Christine at Touching Heaven had honored me with a Mathetes Award. Christine says:

Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) is to make more disciples. In the spirit of this award, the rules are simple. Winners of this award must pick other "disciples" to pass it on to. As you pass it on, you mention and provide links for 1. this post as the originator of the award and, 2.the person that awarded it to you.

Did I say I was honored? :-)

Now it's my turn to nominate!

1. Jana at The Joy Box. Not only is she prolific in her writing, she is encouraging to boot! I am constantly amazed at her ability to always find joy, and inspired by her desire to seek a further refinement of herself through Christ.

2. MJ at Thoughtful Motherhood. I have read her blog for about two years now, and while I have always found her warrior spirit and graceful femininity attractive, more recently I have drawn special encouragement from her personal story of God's bountiful blessing of her once barren womb.

There are certainly others who have been used by God to brighten my day, to redirect my tendencies, to rebuke me or to give me a much-needed pep talk. A special thanks to those of you who take the time to post about your lives. Trust me--it matters.

Infertility is...

... announcing someone else's good news to your husband, hearing a long pause, and then the dear man asking, "How are you, love?"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It feels so good

We are on week 4 in our SL Core 4 (6.5 weeks into school total), and I tell you, I think that this has the potential to be our best year yet.

When we first started this Core, I was terrified that the frantic pace of juggling three children's educational needs would overwhelm me. Chief among my concerns was what I saw as signs that next year would have to be our first "official" year of two complete Cores. (Currently, I blend elements of WP and other resources into our SL Core to make it accessible for even my 5 year-old.) Just a few weeks later, I am seeing that that isn't necessarily the case just yet. With a little effort, I can probably keep them all on one Core for another complete year, them branch off into two once we reach Core 6, which combines quite nicely with Core 1.

I have found that doing three separate lessons of Math-U-See still takes less time than two children working on separate Horizons lessons. That's a big bonus. The bigger bonus is that they seem to be learning a whole lot more math in thirty minutes than they did in a hour.

The books in this Core thus far have been fantastic. The time period we're studying (just prior to the Civil War) is chock-full of good stories and fanciful characters, and SL capitalizes on this with such rich literature that even Logan is captivated.

We've also been enjoying my eclectic LA plans. Jo is working on Writing Strands and Rules of the Game, as well as journaling. Atticus is using A Beka LA 2 in addition to Writing Strands. The biggest surprise with him thus far is that he has written a full-scale story each day in his journal! Granted, most of them start out with the tantalizing opening line: "The cockpit of my fighter jet slammed shut ..." :-) Then there's my little Logan, who has also enjoyed working on his journal. He is still occasionally using 100EZ, but more often than not he is either using one of the Letterbooks my K teacher MIL sent, hitting or reading a simple story on his own. All three of them still contribute regularly to the daily newspaper they publish for members of our household.

Music has been an especially hot topic, probably due at least in part to the presence of a stuffed rabbit visitor named Bonnie who travels from "school" to "school" chronicling how different classes learn about music education. We have been reading music for the first time in our homeschooling career. This has been especially draining on a particular homeschooling mommy who put down her saxophone in the 10th grade and hasn't looked back. Jo can play "Amazing Grace" on the recorder now, though. Thankfully, recorder notes are fingered much like those on a clarinet--my first instrument. :-)

Then there's Greek. And Spanish. And Science. And all the other good stuff that makes for well-rounded kiddos. School is taking a long time right now, but it's fun. And that's all that matters. Well, that and the actual learning. :-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Balancing act

MJ asked in a comment to my last post how I juggle writing, being a wife, homeschooling, homemaking and breathing. (O.k., I added the breathing part.) It’s a fairly common question, and one I’ve put a lot of effort into answering in my own life. Like most answers, though, it needs a little backstory to tie up the loose ends that you see in the (never) final product.

First, I have to explain that if I am not writing, I am not a balanced person. I have tried at various points in my life to squash the urge to write, and have found that it brings me a level of misery that only a masochist could revel in. Clearly, God gave me a desire to write, and while He has not as of yet revealed His purpose for doing so, I assume that at some point it will be made clear to me. Until then ... I must write.

This is easier than it sounds. Since anyone with children knows that carving out an entire hour of time to devote to a solitary pursuit is near to impossible, it doesn’t sound that easy at all. Add to that homeschooling, housekeeping, ministry and the children’s extracurriculars, and you can see that full plates are my specialty. Having said all of that, however, I refer you to my earlier comment: If I am not writing, I am not a balanced person. Perhaps that explains why I keep writing on my list of priorities.

On to the nitty-gritty. How do I get that time? First and foremost, I have trained my children that rest time is an absolute law in my home. Everyone needs--and gets--a rest time. This started out as Jo’s nap time all those years ago, and has morphed into a time after lunch when all three children are tucked into their own beds, propped up with a book and surrounded by quiet play options. At this point in our family’s life, the sacred rest time is easy to maintain because everyone looks forward to it. Of course, it wasn’t always this way. When each of my children hit the end of their nap-time years, there was a definite training curve that ate into my writing time. Trust me, all that work has paid off.

Nowadays, I take that hour and a half as uninterrupted writing time. And I write something every day. Some days, I sit down and begin laying out the opening line that has been bouncing in my mind. (Almost all of my stories start with one line that sets up the voice in my head.) Sometimes it is simply a blog entry where I unload my brain. Other times, I edit a previously finished short story. Maybe I have a new idea that I jot ideas down for. Or, of course, I can always keep going on an existing in-progress piece.

My own preferred genre makes it easy to write in fits and starts. I have always loved short stories, and have made them my mainstay. I also love cataloging and expanding on the rich stories passed down to me through my eclectic family. These things “keep” better than other, more intricate styles of writing, which demand an increasing attention to detail as you grow the tale. I have attempted a piece longer than a novella only once, and it was clearly not my forte.

People ask me if it isn’t frustrating to have an uncertain amount of time to set aside for writing. It took me literally having a long, dry spell of not writing at all before I realized that it was better to take the time I could squirrel away than to live in that desert. This particular patch I am speaking of started when Logan was having a hard time napping and I had to accompany him to bed each afternoon to make sure he actually slept. Guess who was out first more often that not? Yep--Momma. Contributing to all of this was the fact that my new friends and neighbors (this was shortly after our move to WA) place no value on writing beyond the grades that their own children bring home from freshman composition. To say, “I didn’t answer the phone because I was writing,” was something akin to announcing that I had just dyed my hair bright pink. (And while I have also been known to dabble in the dye in my lifetime, I certainly wouldn’t admit that little nugget to them, either!)

I still do not have an extended network of support for my work here in this area. A friend has invited me multiple times to a Christian Writer’s Group, but I am not a joiner in general, and the idea intimidates me. I have one very old friend who asks from time to time what I am working on (God bless him!) as well as a brother who wants to know when I will singlehandedly revolutionize the publishing industry and put a halt to the production of the smarm that often passes as Christian literature. I don’t talk about my writing with anyone outside of my husband, children and the aforementioned friend. That’s clearly not a huge system of encouragement, but at this point, I don't let a lack of understanding or interest on behalf of others stop me.

I have to admit that at this point, I only submit a handful of my stories for publication each year. I continue to edit, rewrite and refine, but I do not currently have the time to maintain a database of submissions. I’m sure that that season will come.

I also admit that my writing time is sacrificed at least once a week to a phone call, a book I’m reading, research, ministry, quiet snuggle time with an especially needy child, or whatever else God has put on my plate for that day. The key for me is not letting it happen two days in a row; if it does, it becomes a habit quite quickly for me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Work to be done part 2

More from my grandfather's memories:

From the time he was old enough, Papaw was looking for a way to make money.

“I knew you had to have money to make something of yourself and have yourself a good family. So that’s what I went after.”

He hired himself out for whatever work was available after the pitiful crops in Poppy’s sorry fields failed. Bad years were a mixed blessing; if the rope beans and sweet corn failed too early, there might not be enough to feed the family through the winter, but he would have plenty of chances to cut hay and pick for other farmers. Most years, he says, things worked out just right. They didn’t starve, and he had a little money socked away. He kept it, like most little boys, buried under the house in a Mason jar. His brothers and sisters all knew where it was, but also knew better than to touch it. Like most men in the family, he had a mean streak even then that kept smart people from crossing him.

The year that World War II ended, my grandfather plotted how to strike out on his own. Mick was a gutsy 14 year-old, hardened by an empty belly and muscles honed taut with the work of a grown man. He’d seen his four older brothers move out on their own in the past two years, and was feeling the itch. He knew he was young and he had no intention of marrying yet. As he saw it, that was the only legitimate reason for leaving home and letting your parents and siblings fend for themselves. But he had a jar full of money and a plan that kept him awake at night.

He had no sorrow for the old man. Poppy would, as always, come out of it fine. It was the three younger boys Mick worried about.

“I knew they’d be left carrying my part of the load, and I felt real bad about that.”
Mick worried the most about little H.T., the baby, who had been sheltered from the hard work by Nanny.

“I knew when I was cut loose, H.T. was gonna leave school. Mommy had fought so hard to get him in school, and here I was gonna ruin it for him. No way Poppy was gonna let him sit in a classroom when there was work to be done.”

Mick himself had set in on three or four days of school back before he was strong enough to help with the really hard work. There were older boys at home, besides, and he’d have done nothing but cause mischief—that was Nanny’s excuse for packing a greasy breakfast biscuit into a tin can and sending him down the holler to see what Miz Gray could do with him.

The first day he arrived at the schoolhouse—which was really only a shack that had been outfitted with long plank tables and pews that had been salvaged when a church had burned nearly to the ground—he was surprised to see children he’d never known were in the holler. Mick had thought at age 5 that he’d pretty much known every soul on Lick Creek. It wasn’t a big place, really, but he’d been thorough in his wanderings and had come across houses buried deep back off snaking main road and even dwellings that weren’t really houses at all, just shanties thrown up to keep the rain off folk’s heads. Mick wasn’t an overly friendly type—that was what H.T. was known for—but he knew proper protocol when passing by a neighbor, even one that was miles away. As long as there wasn’t a pillar of smoke nearby (that was a sign of bootleggers, and bootleggers had a tendency to shoot on sight) he’d approach the dirt yard and call out, “Hey, yuns home?” No matter how poor the house, someone was usually home and they more likely than not had a glass of water to sip and a spot of porch to sit on and visit. Kin or no, he’d learned just about every citizen of Lick Creek.

Except, of course, the half-dozen kids in Miz Gray’s schoolhouse. Mick knew from looking at them why he’d never heard tell of them. They wore clothes that bore the signs of having been washed in fresh water. Their hair was clean and combed. A couple of the strangers wore shoes. These, Mick knew without being told, were children whose chores were milking, mixing corn bread, rinsing dishes and hanging wash. Children well looked after. Children whose fathers didn’t cook up likker or farm barren fields.

Children he had nothing in common with.

He stayed in school long enough to learn what his name looked like. Miz Gray, it is said, took great pride in the proper penmanship of her pupils. She followed the precise methods of the day, spending hours reciting the letter forms: “S. Start top, slide left, curve down right, pass right, curve down, and left, curl up.” My grandfather wasn’t interested in an elegant hand.
“I told her I wanted to write my own name. She said I had to do other things, like summing up and recitin’. I said no, just my own name. So I told it to her, and she wrote it down on the little board. And I just copied it over and over ‘til I recalled it. Then I quit the school.”

H.T., however, had gone through nearly six years of education. He could read and write. If he put his mind to it, he could get a good job someday, maybe with the government. There was no call for anything but farmers and day laborers in the holler, but in the big cities, a learned man could make good money minding shop counters and selling things like radios and soft chairs. H.T. was gonna be that kind of man, if his momma had any say.

Mick didn’t begrudge his baby brother the dreams their momma had poured into him. Big Mommy had borne twelve children and not one had had so much as a fighting chance from the time it’d hit the ground running. But maybe, just maybe, one of them would live to see something more than the inside of a coal mine or the view from behind a plow. The best Nanny could see for any of her children was a job that kept their hands soft. Ralph knew at fourteen that his hands were already calloused thick and deep. H.T.’s, he knew, were still smooth, except for the ridge he’d worn on the side of his index finger from working with his pencil so much to practice penmanship for Miz Gray.

Besides, Mick didn’t want to narrow his options too much. He wasn’t above any kind of work, as far as he could see. There wasn’t any job—any paying job—he wouldn’t stoop to do. Folks who only did work that appealed to them or came up to their station in life either had money in the bank or were on aid, one.

Later on in life, Papaw’s jobs would read like a laundry list of occupations. There was farmer, of course. Fence post-digger. Lay farrier. Carpenter. Picker. Mechanic. Glazer. Miner. Driver.

All before he hit twenty and found the job that would finally give him the warm house, the clean children, and the plentiful food he had always dreamed of.