Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's getting better

A lot of Christmas shopping has been done and the second four loaves of stritzel are in the oven, with one more oven load ready to go in. The tree is set up but still barren. We still don't know if the stritzel will be good. This has not been a good year for stritzel.

Stritzel is a bread my husband's family bakes at Christmas. It has ungodly amounts of butter, eggs, is almond flavored, and is rolled with a layer of almond paste filling inside. No store in town carried almond paste this year. After spending an hour in the local grocery store looking for something that didn't exist I decided to google almond paste recipes. There were several. They are a little bit of work, and most of them required a food processor. I have a tiny processor that fits on my blender base but I knew it couldn't handle this quantity so I was relieved to find a recipe that used a meat grinder to grind the almonds into powder.

First you boil the almonds for a few minutes. Then you pick up each individual almond and slide the brown skin off. The cold wet pale naked almonds then lie on a cookie sheet in a warm oven for a few minutes to warm up and dry out before being mercilessly ground on the coarse setting of the meat grinder. The fine setting of the meat grinder comes next and this is where it all went bad for me. Pushing the chopped almonds through the fine screen squeezed out all of the oil leaving me with long thin tough strings of almonds that resembled shoestrings or pasta - you choose. The strings dropped from the grinder into a bowl of the oil that had been extracted from them.

I am looking for a finely ground paste and this is not looking anything like paste but I still had some optimism. I put the mess in the mixer bowl thinking that if I just mixed it up it would break up into the lovely paste I was dreaming of. It broke up, but not into anything resembling paste. I was just lots of little hard pieces of finely ground almonds that had cemented themselves into a sand-like consistency swirling in an almond scented oil.

I told my husband I'd just wasted $6.50 of almonds. Waste isn't something my husband is too crazy about, but he doesn't think in terms of me making a mistake. He thinks, "I can fix this!"

There is still one more step to making the almond paste. A syrup is to be added to the finely ground powdery almonds. I'd given up before doing this because it was already a lost cause. I don't know what all my husband tried. I couldn't stick around to watch anymore so I drowned my sorrows with an impossible logic puzzle written by Albert Einstein that my son found on the internet. I know that whatever my husband did involved a hot rubber smell from the blender motor and both the blender pitcher and the small food processor container as well as the microwave and the mixer. But after a long time he brought in something he insisted was nearly perfect.

That was two days ago. It has taken me until today to get over my frustration with the stupid meat grinder and the stupid almonds and the stupid recipe for almond paste. The paste still has some interesting texture but its appearance is similar to the stuff I usually buy. My husband has promised to eat all the stritzel I make with this homemade almond paste because it just isn't Christmas without it. Now you know the essence of Christmas. So I made twelve loaves. No use messing up just a little.

Friday, December 22, 2006

New words, same stuff?

I received some new adoption information the other day. We have been struggling with adoption issues this month and this information is a new way to look at the struggle.

We have been working with terminology based on the concept of Reactive Attachment Disorder. When a child does not attach to a caregiver it affects the child's ability to attach to others in the future. If that initial attachment is undermined or eliminated by neglect and abuse the child learns that adults do not protect, can not be trusted, and are painful to live with. Then when a loving adult tries to build a relationship with the child the child sabotages it. The closer an adult becomes, the more of a threat they are to a child who is unable to attach. When a child with attachment disorder is adopted, that child fights possibility of attachment to the adoptive parent. The closer the parent tries to become, the more the child pushes them away. Behaviors become extreme and sometimes violent. We have experienced this.

So this is the new look to the same stuff.

At even the preverbal stage, children somehow have some concept that their lives are in the hands of their parents. If things go wrong it is their parent's fault. They don't have the rationality to understand that there are things that their parents can't control. They just believe that their parents have the job of protecting and caring for them and if that doesn't happen, they hold their parents responsible.

So a child is abandoned, or maybe neglected or abused. Then the child is adopted by another family. After the adoption is final the child becomes angry and begins acting out at more and more extreme levels. This is good. Yup. This is good. It means that they have accepted the adoptive parents as parents and now they are angry at them for not protecting them from all the things that happened before. The anger is an indicator of acceptance of the adoptive relationship.

Inducement is another word that plays a part here. Inducement can be described with this scenario. One member of a family comes home at the end of a day that has gone badly. She is in a foul mood from the many things that went wrong. As she enters the house, even if she says nothing, the things she does soon have everyone in the house feeling the same intensity of negative emotions.

With adoption the emotions can be indescribably strong, emotions of abandonment, lack of trust, rejection, etc. Inducement is what happens to the rest of the family around such strong feelings. Somehow the child produces those same emotions in the parents, and sometimes the other siblings. It isn't an intentional thing, but there it is. It happens.

Unfortunately I have no suggestions about how to deal with all of this info. The article ended with the hope that life would be easier somehow just because we all know that the pain we are in right now is mostly because our child accepts us.

The ideas are OK. I can see the rationale. But either way the living it out is much the same. Whether I am being pushed away because attachment is so threatening or being hated because I wasn't there to protect my child from the bad things that happened to him, I'm still faced with the same every day life.

I guess the differences rest with the children. If the different language allows them to make more rational decisions then I'm all for the different language.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


No presents are bought or hidden. My tree stands in the dining room with no lights or decorations. My baking is not done. My baking is not started. I killed my poinsettia.

I don't know yet what will get done, but I think life is forcing me to accept the essence of Christmas instead of the trappings of it. I guess it is embarrassing that it takes crisis to do this. I'm still fighting it. Will it still be Christmas if the things we usually do aren't done? What is non-negotiable? What will the kids miss if we leave it out? What will they like or hate about a pared down Christmas? Will they feel neglected because the needs of one or two have precluded a regular Christmas for all the rest? Oh silly angst!

I have terrific kids who love each other and who love me. They will cherish time together spent enjoying each other. This will be a good Christmas unless I ruin it with too many regrets and other foolishness.

So ....

Here are some things that are good.

A friend of our family was quoted in Sojourners magazine. The following link gets you to the web site and then you click on current issue, and then on the 'Carnival' article. You need to complete a free registration for this link.

My husband took the whole family out for supper last night after my son's concert which I wrote about here.

My husband traded in his guitar on a used one that is better and he and my son both played it as soon as he got home. I love home made made music in the house.

I heard an interview with Yusef Islam, otherwise known as Cat Stevens, on NPR. It was great, and he sings, and his voice is older but just as rich, and somehow gentler and wiser.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Extreme Holiday

Thanksgiving week was truly a week of extremes.

My daughter came home for a week.

We had traditional Thanksgiving with my husband's family and enjoyed so much getting to see a cousin once removed (yes i know what that is) from Paraguay whom we last saw 8 years ago. It was a peaceful and relaxing day full of good conversation.

We had soup and bread Thanksgiving at my house with my family and enjoyed a long relaxing day together. The menu was simple to keep my stress level down and it worked very well. Others had great contributions to the food. My nephews got to help feed the pigs (or at least watch the pigs be fed).

After everyone went home my son got angry with me and couldn't bring himself back down from that. The result was a showdown between a 12 year old with a fireplace poker and three sheriffs. It also included an ambulance ride and a stay at a mental health facility. He came home today and things are tenuous. Everyone is still a bit on pins and needles.

Monday my daughter had four interviews followed by four job offers.

Tuesday we looked at houses and she put a contract on her favorite.

Wednesday we checked into loans.

I gave up on nanowrimo, but not on my story. It won't be a book, but it is good for me somehow and I want to keep working on it.

Coming up, a weekend away with my husband to our favorite getaway, thanks to a gift of childcare and chores from my son and daughter-in-law and to some wonderful supportive care for my more angry son from my very good friend and her husband.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

crazy or what?

I don't have time, I know, but I had a few extra minutes in town and I was parked in front of the new yarn store. This is wool from a women's cooperative in Uruguay. I'll find a way.

Monday, November 13, 2006

yin and yang

It has been a nasty nasty weekend with a pretty good ending and a couple of bright spots in the middle.

We had major blowouts at home on Saturday and this morning culminating in an afternoon of play away from our family for one of the boys today and and early bedtime last night for the same boy. Tonight he is much meeker, but I'm still on edge a bit. But...after the early bedtime I got to watch Million Dollar Baby, which was very worth watching, and this afternoon I attended Youth Symphony and had a wonderful time imagining that my son was playing a solo on his horn.

He was playing his horn. He was the only horn player playing, even though previously he'd told me that the other player was playing the first part on all the pieces that had two horn parts. And at the end of the piece when the conductor motioned for the soloists to stand, he stood. So I thought he'd just kept this really great secret from us all that he had a solo.

But I was wrong. He was playing alone because the other horn player kept losing her place so she would put her horn down and wait for the next cue. He stood up for the soloists because at the last youth symphony concert when the conductor made that motion, he wanted all the winds to stand. So my son stood, and then smiled because only one other wind player was standing---the flutist who had a brief solo.

And after the boys' bedtime tonight I got another nearly 2,000 words written on nanowrimo, so although I'm not even close to being on track with the schedule, I AM motivated again. Goodnight. :-)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm still here, sort of

For those of you who are still checking this site, thank you so much.

I’d like to say that I haven’t been posting because I have made so much progress on my nanowrimo project, but I haven’t written a word anywhere since Sunday. It has been quite a week.

We’ve had harvest, medical tests, an in house theft (meaning one of us stole from another of us and we had to spend three days figuring it out and setting it straight), a son moving into a correctional facility, and all the regular stuff.

Harvest ended yesterday, so now the summer farm work is officially over and I can get to know my husband again---YEA!

Feelings are beginning to simmer down from the in house theft.

There will still be lots to process with the correctional facility stuff. We had a very good visit with my son at the detention facility two days before he was moved. He was friendly and talkative and seemed glad to see us. But he isn’t anywhere close to being someone that would be safe for society yet and that is such a sobering and heavy thing.

So far so good on the medical stuff.

The regular stuff? I tried making hummus yesterday. True to my usual “try to do too much” style I ended up with 8 cups of cooked chick peas. This works out to a very large quantity of hummus. I like it. I made half of it plain and half with some sour cream and cumin and cayenne. There is a lot of it. Did I already say that? It is a huge quantity for a family that hasn’t eaten much hummus before. But a lot of it will go into the freezer for future fun and easy meals.

I baked bread a couple of times this week.

I painted the second coat on the walls of the spare bedroom. Actually I don’t know if I did that this week or the end of last, but I took the tape off the edges and moved the furniture out of the middle of the room this week for sure. The color is called ‘melon popsicle’. Whenever I see that color with the grayish blue of the carpet I think of the Bronco’s without any intensity---Broncos Lite, I guess. It still needs something, but I’m not a decorator in either aptitude or desire. I’d rather be content with walls that looks smooth and clean, even if it isn’t Martha Stewart or feng shui.

We had cheese dip this week.

Three practices this week culminate in a Sunday afternoon performance for youth symphony and then the fall season is over.

OK. Now I’m going to go write terribly in my nanowrimo that has no real name or plot or even believable characters, but is great writing practice WHEN I actually do it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Movies and Books

That movie I wrote about yesterday is part of my fall from grace last week. I was at the local grocery store minding my own business when I saw the brightly colored sign that said, "ALL DVDS NOW 50% OFF MARKED PRICE. EVERYTHING MUST GO." I hesitated a moment, then nonchalantly sauntered into the video department to check what the marked prices were. I think it was nonchalant. I may have been running. I remembered to leave my cart outside the video department.

The marked prices were $5.95! I could buy dvds for less than $3! Well, with tax...but still! I started looking through the titles. I was looking the way I look for a movie to watch. Do I want this one more? Or should I put it back and get this other one? And then I thought, "Three dollars! They are only three dollars! I don't have to stand here and agonize. I can just pick out all the ones I like and buy them."

The selection had already been narrowed down quite a bit before they so drastically reduced the prices. They were using less than a fourth of their shelving for the remaining stock. So I took one here and another one there. I should have maybe thought twice when it started to be hard to hold them all. But there was another one I'd wanted to see and never rented. Shoot, three dollars was nearly the cost of a rental. I should just get it.

I got twenty. When I got home I told my son and my husband that I'd bought the video store. But that's what I say when I've bought just a few. They came out to help me carry in the groceries and I handed my son a bag full of dvds. He started laughing out loud. We brought them in and sorted through them and I wondered, was that some concern on my husband's face? Was he thinking I'd gone too far? Well, if he was then I'd probably have to admit he was right.

Which was why when we were finishing our quick supper at Wendy's that evening I was completely shocked when he suggested we take our 12 and 13 year olds to get a couple more movies. So we did. They each picked two, and I got three more...because I found one more shelf I hadn't seen earlier.

The next day my 13 year old asked the terrible question. "So Mom, how much did you spend on movies all together?" "Oh it couldn't be that much. They were only three dollars each except for that one for four and that one for five." My husband laughed. "You got nearly 30 movies for $3 each. Do the math."

Oh my goodness. I'm the one always preaching about not owning so much so we can give more to people who have less than we do. And I blew nearly $90 on movies. And they are non-returnable.

So I was stupid. But I'm still generous. All my friends are borrowing movies from me now.

* * * * * * * * *

I'm doing nanowrimo. My husband wasn't excited because it could mean my neglecting all my duties to write all the time, so I made rules for myself. Devotions before writing. Family before writing. Nobody gets crazy if I don't make my goal. Three very good rules.

I probably won't make my goal, but my husband was reading over my shoulder this evening and said this wonderful thing. "Who knows, maybe you'll be even better at novels than you are at your other writing."

This novel, though, will never be published. A long time ago I read that every writer's first novel is a self involved story of their life, thinly disguised. So I'm giving myself to that whole-heartedly. This story would seriously give away too many secrets to ever even consider putting into print. But so far I'm having a wonderful time. And I can get all that catharsis out of my system and write something much more uplifting next year. Three days down, twenty-seven to go.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tommy, Paperclips, Mistakes

A couple of days ago I heard one of the songs from the rock opera, “Tommy” by The Who. Suddenly I was in Jr. High again, sitting in the basement at my cousin’s house. He was one of those brilliant kids who had interests far beyond what he studied in school. He had purchased a reel-to-reel tape player and had taped all his LP records and all the records of his friends. He showed me the intricacies of threading the tape through the machine and explained why a reel-to-reel tape player was so much better than any other form of listening to recorded music. He could get three albums on a reel, if I remember right. He wanted me to hear Tommy, because he liked it so much. “That deaf, dumb, blind kid sure plays a mean pinball…” Thirteen years old seems like light years ago.

* * * * * * * *

We watched the documentary “Paperclip” this evening. Maybe tomorrow I’ll watch the special features on the second disc. There was a small town in Tennessee where all the children but a handful were white and protestant. The principal of the middle school there wanted those children to learn about diversity and respect for those different from themselves. They chose to teach about the Holocaust every year in eighth grade.

The kids could not grasp the number 6 million and asked if they could collect something to make it real. The teachers told them to do some research to find something appropriate to collect. The paperclip was invented in Norway. When the Jews of Norway were forced to wear gold stars, the people of Norway started wearing paperclips on their collars to honor the Jews they knew. The eighth graders began collecting paperclips.

It took several years. As the project progressed it took new turns and twists. Some German journalists came to visit and then wrote about it for German newspapers. Paperclips began to arrive from Germany, including one old suitcase purchased by students in a German school who had each written a letter to Anne Frank apologizing for the history that ended her life.

It was reported on national television news one year on Passover. Paperclips poured in. People sent them in honor of relatives who died in prison camps. Letters came telling the stories. Then a group of survivors from New York City came to this tiny Tennessee town. The whole town gathered at a local church and one by one the survivors told their stories. Now there were faces to the pain.

Twenty-nine million paper clips were eventually sent to this little school. They needed some place to keep them. The principal one day wished aloud that they could store the paperclips in a German rail car that was used during the Holocaust. The journalists from Germany told her they would make it happen. The whole town designed the memorial and worked with the display, the landscaping, and the protection from weather.

The eighth graders decided to put 11 million of the paperclips into the rail car; 6 million for the Jews who lost their lives, and 5 million for the gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others the Germans exterminated.

Seeing the inside of that rail car on a screen is heart wrenching, knowing the incredible sorrow and anguish and fear that car once held. Those who were present in Tennessee and could step inside it were visibly moved by the echoes of what had gone before.

* * * * * * * * * *

I had a nasty surprise today. I finished the second sleeve of the sweater I’m knitting. Now all I need to do is sew it together and knit the ribbing around the neckline. I took the newly knitted sleeve and laid it against the first sleeve I had knit. There was a noticeable difference in length. The second sleeve had two less cables knit into it than the first. How could I have done this? I had charted every single row!

I went back to my graph paper where I had written out the way I had changed the pattern for the first sleeve. I had followed every instruction but the last one. “Add two cables before changing the pattern.” Now I need to unravel it and redo the top half of the sleeve.

That used to be enough discouragement for me to put the project away for good. But I am more mature now :-). Besides, I paid a lot for this wool and mohair blend of yarn made by Peace Fleece, a place that blends wools from the US and from Russia as one more way to promote peace and understanding. I picked a pattern harder than anything I’ve made before. This one will NOT get the best of me. It will just take a while longer, that’s all.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Faith that makes a difference

I am rereading “Irresistible Revolution” twice; aloud to my boys occasionally after supper, and with my husband whenever we get time. It is continually challenging. The question I’m left with after every reading is this: Am I living like Jesus lived---following His words?

The biggest indictment in the book is that Christianity in North America today doesn’t remotely resemble the early church or the life of Christ. We are so wealthy. We have little or no direct contact with the poor, the hungry, the prisoner, and the people on the edges of society. We give our money, at least the money we think we can spare while still hanging on to our lifestyles. We can feel good without getting our hands dirty or our lives complicated.

So I read this book and I evaluate my life.

My hands are dirty and my life is complicated by our decision to foster parent/adopt children who had lived through abuse and neglect. There isn’t a week that goes by that I am not challenged and stretched by this commitment. But I can see the ways I am lacking, the poverty of my compassion, my self-righteousness, my shortfall of empathy.

We talked last night about the book. Can you farm and still offer all you have to God? I believe that you can, but the more possessions we have, the more tempted we are to place our security in them. If we worry about money do we pull back from opportunities to serve in order to make more money? Or can we have the freedom to serve with the trust that our needs will be met somehow? Are we willing to adjust our ideas about what we think we need?

I’m not interested in guilt based faith. I am very interested in inspiration. I am drawn to stories of those who do right regardless of the personal risk. I desire a faith that is more than a rubber stamp of approval on what I am already doing. I long for a closer relationship with Jesus, one where He smiles and says, “Hey, let’s go do this together!” and I jump at the opportunity. But maybe I already have that, or at least I’m on my way to having it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Do it for the least of these

From Sojourners Magazine, September-October 2006, Page 43
By Tobias Winright
When I lived in Des Moines, Iowa, I attended Friday evening Mass at the Bishop Dingman House of the Des Moines Catholic Worker. Many of my students at nearby Simpson College also showed up for worship, as well as to help serve meals, clean the house, and join in war protests during the week. There were usually 20 or so present at Mass, including the poor and not-so-poor, African Americans, Latinos, children and grandparents, college students, and high-school dropouts. For a while there was even a black cat that sat purring in front of the coffee table-turned altar.

One night an inebriated man came in from the street, sat down, and loudly and nonsensically interrupted everything as we tried to make our way through the order of worship. Because Mass tended to be informal and open to anyone's contribution and participation, we tried to keep things going. But when it got to the point where the service could no longer continue, Father Frank Cordaro paused and gently escorted the man to the kitchen, where he was given a seat and a warm meal. The rest of us were stunned. When Father Frank returned he said to us, "Don't you hate it when Jesus does that?" Of course, in asking this he was echoing Dorothy Day, who was deeply influenced by St. Benedict, who reminded his monks that "everyone was to be received as Christ."

* * * * * * * * *

The New Testament is the basis for this idea of receiving others as Christ. It came straight from Jesus, when he said, "To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

This is grand in the theoretical sense. I have rosy visions of Mother Teresa gathering the dying and caring for them as she would care for Jesus. I can see myself along side, also offering kindness to the poor, the hungry, the motherless, the prisoner...

I'm not so holy in person, not so able to see Jesus in the faces that I look into, not so kind or so loving as I wish I were.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I’m partnered with a fifth grade girl at church. We meet every other week to do fun stuff together at the church and to get to know each other. It is an intentional friendship that I am enjoying with a person I value.

The purpose of the program is to give adults and children who are not from the same family a chance to form relationships. I already had a relationship with this girl because I taught her Sunday School class for a year, so it is fun to extend that into other activities.

Most of the pairs find a craft or interest or hobby they can pursue together for an hour at the church. We tried knitting the first time we met. We made greeting cards last night. I’m out of ‘Thank You’ notes and really didn’t want to buy more. She was game to try something new.

I brought card stock paper, tempera paint, potatoes and paring knives, and glue. We did potato printing and I think it turned out pretty nice! Maybe I will try Christmas cards next---if I get around to sending them this year. Let’s see… How many years has it been?

This young girl is someone I have admired throughout her growing up. She has a tender heart and brutal honesty.

One Sunday, back when she was in second grade, the whole class was a bit wiggly and unsettled. It was advent and the lesson was on the angel’s appearance to Mary. I came to the part of Mary’s response and began to read the verses directly from my Bible instead of paraphrasing them. My friend stopped me. She said, “I know this part!” so I told her to go ahead. She recited the entire magnificat, and as she spoke the class became silent. It was a holy moment.

On our first evening meeting together as partners I was feeling pretty special about her having chosen me to be her partner. This is where the brutal honesty comes in. As we sat down together she said to me, “My first choice for a partner was ______________, but everyone wants her and she decided to take a break this year. Then my second and third choices couldn’t do it either, so my mom and I made a list of 20 people from church that would be good partners.” I didn’t have the nerve to ask how far down the list I was.

Humility is a good thing, right?

Monday, October 16, 2006


My grandmother moved into an apartment in an assisted living facility during the summer. Last weekend her excess possessions were sold at an auction at her home.

The weather was perfect for an auction and there were quite a few people there including many of my cousins, so that was fun.

I had decided not to bid on things for memory. I have such great memories of Grandma already, and I also have a few small things from her---a print of her wedding picture, a small toy truck, an old high chair her children used. I don't want to fill my house with things I don't need just because I love their previous owner.

I do need another bedroom set. With seven children moving into adulthood, we need to trade in some of the single beds for 'couple' beds for them to use when they come to visit. I'd been looking around for a year or two already. I would go to a sale and not get there in time or leave at the wrong time or not know what to bid. I would then go to a used furniture store where I would find the exact same set that was at a sale marked to twice the price paid at the auction. But I don't have a lot of Saturdays to spend waiting at an auction for one thing to sell.

I knew I wanted to spend the day at this auction anyway. I knew that Grandma had a bedroom set I liked. I decided to bid. I was fortunate and I was the last bidder.

After the purchase one of my aunts told me that this bedroom set was a wedding gift to my grandparents from my great-grandparents (my grandma's parents). That makes the set around 75 years old, and it makes it very special, too.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Medical Fun

Last week I took my husband for his first "you are past fifty so you must..." colonoscopy. We'd been told that the worst part is drinking a gallon of stuff the night before. That proved to be true. We were also told that the sedation would cause my husband to have trouble remembering things that happened during and after the 'procedure'.

Incidentally, on the morning of the procedure the medical staff at the minor surgery clinic always refered to it as a procedure. I don't think I heard the c-word all morning. It was always time to prepare for the procedure, time to have the procedure, he is done with the procedure, he should follow these instructions after the procedure... Do people freak out if you call it what it is?

The sedation did indeed make my husband unable to remember anything. After the procedure I was told to come back to the recovery room. He looked completely out of it---the way he looks when he is in pain and wants to be left alone.

He was not in pain. He didn't want to be left alone. It was just medication.

He was hooked up to several monitors, one of which beeped whenever his heart beat. The faster his heart beat, the higher the pitch of the beep. The nurse could hear it anywhere in the recovery room. Any time the tone would lower the nurse would holler, "Take a deep breathe! Wake up! Open your eyes!" Then she would appear and vigorously pat his legs, remind him to keep his eyes open and breathe and lie on his side. He would nod and open his eyes briefly, take one deep breathe, and roll to his side. Then he would roll back to his back, close his eyes, and allow his heart rate to slip back down.

They would repeat the process.

Somewhere in there the doctor came in and explained the procedure and what they had and had not found and how to spend the rest of the day and what to watch for. My husband seemed coherant and asked good questions and answered questions sensibly. The doctor left. My husband rolled to his back, closed his eyes, and let his heart rate slip. I patted him vigorously and told him to wake up and lie on his side. He asked, "Has the doctor told you anything yet? What did he say?" We repeated this a few times too.

My husband asked when he could go home. The nurse explained the the procedure forces a lot air into your plumbing and that my husband would need to toot before he could go home. 'Toot' was her word. I'm not making this up. That was why she wanted him to lie on his side and breathe and open his eyes, etc. He closed his eyes, but managed to stay on his side.

He asked for a drink and the nurse brought some juice. She said, "Take tiny sips." He took a tiny sip. Then he took a slightly bigger sip. "I SAID TINY SIPS! THAT IS NOT A TINY SIP!"

My husband, chagrined, took much smaller sips and the nurse left. A moment later my husband began to cough. The nurse's voice rang out from another area in recovery, "That's why I told you to take tiny sips. You aren't ready for big sips yet!" I'm beginning to not like this nurse too much.

He moved the cup away from his mouth, resettled on his side, and belched the longest belch I've ever heard come from him (and he's proud of his abilities in this skill set). I began laughing. The belch was followed by a massive 'toot' which had me helpless. He is lying there with his eyes shut looking half gone but expelling air to beat the band. He belches again. He glances at me. He positions himself with his rear in my direction and says, "This one's for you."

After a day of clear liquids and then a gallon of 'stuff' his insides are so clean that there is not even the hint of a scent and I'm sure no match would ever flame up from the flow. So I'm spared paying for my indiscreet laughter.

The nurse apparently heard the tooting and comes to tell us to leave. He is still having trouble thinking clearly and is also still in a hospital gown. I'm told to go immediately to get the car and bring it to the entrance with the passenger door closest to the entrance of the clinic. I can't imagine him knowing how to get his own clothes on at this point, but the nurses seem completely unconcerned about that detail. I conclude that they think they can dress him faster than I can. They are probably right. At least I hope they are planning on him being dressed when they wheel him to the car.

He is dressed. We go for lunch. He asks me if the doctor ever came in to talk with me. I recite the doctor's speech yet again. We repeat this several times more, but we have a very nice Panera Bread lunch. He's pretty cute when he's helpless and feeling good.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This and That

Writing seems not to be an option lately. I'm not great at writing with interruptions and since I don't feel OK about writing when I 'should' be working the only time left is when there are interruptions. It is nearly 11:00 p.m. I thought I would be able to start at 9:30 p.m. when my 13 year old son goes upstairs. He's still putz-ing around here with his lunch for tomorrow and with questions.

We've lit the wood stove for the first time this fall. Last week it was in the 80's all week. The week before we had record breaking temps in the upper 90's. And this week we need some heat. Is it just Kansas or global warming?

Last weekend was the Kansas reception for my son and his wife. We had so much fun. It was very busy and I was always a little nervous that I was going to forget something important. Nevertheless, it was a magical weekend. My daughter-in-law has a wonderful family. Fifteen of them crossed the country to be here and we had three long and pleasant evenings together.

The first night my daughter-in-law and I had made borscht, she had made a cookie dessert, and my son made herbed breadsticks to feed the crowd at their house. The house is close to the park where the high school football team was playing. There aren't marching bands where they live so many of them walked to the park during the half time show. We ate to the percussion of cannons celebrating home team touchdowns. Everyone was relaxed and mellow in the warm fall evening air.

The next evening my husband's family hosted everyone and the musical instruments came out as soon as the eating was over. It was such fun. Whenever something with words was played everyone would join in. At one point someone started an energetic rendition of 'Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.' This was possibly in honor of our dogs who found a skunk and got properly sprayed on the first day they arrived.

Sunday we went to church together and then had take-out Chinese food for lunch at my parents' house. It was another gorgeous day and several ate outside on the lawn. Then we headed back to the church for the reception.

There was fresh sausage from our farm made up into burgers on the grill, home made baked beans, chips, veggies, and home made ice cream with toppings for dessert. My father-in-law presided over the family band as they played and sang after the program/during the dessert. Most people stayed until the end.

Afterwards a good sized group came to our house to shoot off fireworks. The men in our family are pyromaniacs, I'm afraid, and it just is too hard for them to have a celebration without some danger and heat and loud noises involved.

The next day we cleaned the church from the reception, and the day after that I was sick. It was a good kind of sick. I felt bad when I was up, but not too bad when I was in bed. So I got to stay in bed all day without being absolutely miserable. Such a gift.

I'm back on my feel again to day. Tomorrow my husband has his first colonoscopy. YEA! I'll do the driving and hand holding. He's been on clear liquids all day with a grand finale of a gallon of stuff that pretty much washes out anything that could possibly be fouling those intestines. I wonder if this could count as cleansing?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Things to do, Adoption

This is the list of things I would like to have done before tomorrow morning:

  1. Clean both showers.
  2. Sweep and wash kitchen and dining room floors.
  3. Vacuum.
  4. Finish grocery list for reception.
  5. Clean bedroom.
  6. Order materials for Sunday School.
  7. Have devotions.
  8. Finish the laundry.

It is after 11:00 p.m. so I think I will have to adjust my expectations a bit.

This weekend is the local wedding reception for my son and his wife. Her family and their friends arrive tomorrow and I would have been smarter to work ahead more. I'll probably work for a while more yet tonight, at least finishing the grocery list so that I can get an early start on the shopping tomorrow. Then if I wake up in the night with a "I have so much to do" panic attack I'll just get up and do some more. It would be best to stay away from the noisier jobs until the sun is up :-D

* * * * * * * *
I've been pondering the reality of adoption lately. Family events like weddings and receptions seem to bring out all the ambivalent feelings. We have had major emotional issues/events this week with each of our adopted children. That is how it has always been. Vacations bring it on. Christmas does too.

I am hesitant to say/write much because of how frightening it is to speak the truth about such a romantic ideal. Our culture has strong and lovely myths about adoption. We rescue innocent babes from terrible fates and our love for them is enough to erase any difficult emotions or behaviors they might carry. They are so happy with this new loving family that there is no room for anger about having once had a different family that sent them away or died or mistreated them. In fact, this new family is so great that they can just forget the other family ever existed.

A complicating factor is that our adopted children would like to live this fantasy. They want to be the children that were born into this family and did not suffer pain or rejection from another family. When they feel anger, it is us they are angry with because we haven't made those difficult feelings disappear. If we were the fantasy family they would not feel different or rejected or sad or angry. They hate it that they had to start out badly.

We are not to tell people which of our children are adopted, or even that any of them are. We are to pretend that there are no losses involved in this process. We are to be understanding and compassionate and deny/ignore the chaos and anger. Somehow we are to be able to distance ourselves from the pain and intensity of it so that we only show loving acceptance and warmth.

Now I do know adoptive parents who have lived out this happy story. I also know adoptive parents who haven't. Adoption is complicated enough that it is difficult, if not impossible, to figure out what exactly goes wrong. There are residual effects from abuse and neglect that our kids suffer from. There are the sins of the parents, both birth and adoptive, that can make things worse. The personality of the child plays its own role.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a more honest and helpful way to talk about adoption. Maybe we should stop thinking of it as an alternative way to have children. If we acknowlege that we are raising someone else's children would that be so bad?

The Bible talks about us as being adopted in to God's family, fellow heirs with Christ. That is as close as we get to equality right there. We are adopted into God's family, which means God had to rescue us from something else.

We are not looking at being equals with Jesus. That is one of the constant problems with adoption is this equality thing. I would go through hell and high water for each of my kids, no differentiation about their origin. BUT, do I feel the same about the children who take me through the hell and high water? No. I wish I was able to, but I am not...yet.

This is one of the most difficult things for me. I'm constantly having to think through this one. Feelings of warmth can't be manufactured. How do you define love? If it is how I feel then I am often on the deficit side. If it is what I do, I still have some problems but I get a bit closer. I show up every day. I am there for the child who never gets in trouble and I am there for the one who leaves the yellow puddles next to the toilet year after year. I probably laugh a good deal more with the one who doesn't get into trouble. But demonstrating love by doing the hard stuff day after day happens significantly more with my adopted children. Cleaning the bathroom may demonstrate love more strongly than laughing together.

There is so much more to think about but I'm crashing, and there is still that list...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Deer George

Meet George, our incorrigible puppy. He was to be a faithful indoor soul mate for my son, but he is quite the pup and we are nearly ready to give up on the indoor part. Right now he is back in the kitchen in his crate because it seems to still be important to him to sleep in his accustomed place. He spent nearly the whole day out of doors.

Soon after he went out he had this leg of deer which he worked on all day. He is less than 25 lb. and has a small build so there is no reason to think he brought this deer down himself. I'm not sure where he found the leg.

I spent the day chasing my tail. Our phone did not work this morning so I biked to our neighbor's and spent 20 minutes working my way through the automated system you have to go through before talking with a real person at the phone company. The real person told me that I probably did not hang up one of my phones well enough and that the solution was to go back home, unplug all phones, wait 5 minutes, and plug them each back in. The plugging back in included checking for dial tone as each phone was hooked up.

I biked back home and unplugged everything, plugged in the first phone and had...NO dial tone. I biked back to the neighbor's house and called again. After working my way through the automated system AGAIN, which informed me that my problem was already fixed and I should not worry about it anymore, I got another real person who confirmed that I did indeed still have a problem. Someone would be sent out by 6 p.m.

I had an essential phone call to make at 2:00 p.m. so I biked back to the neighbor's one more time and checked my messages before making the call. My son had been trying to reach me all day because he forgot his algebra homework and needed it to avoid detention. It was too late to take it to him. I had to make the essential phone call.

The repair person arrived at my house soon after I did. He discovered there was a problem inside my house. We tried one phone jack. It worked. We tried the other. It worked. We tried each of the phones and the computer. All of them worked. Now we had a dial tone and nothing had been fixed yet. The repairman was puzzled and kept looking for what could cause a problem that would spontaneously disappear.

George could cause a problem that would spontaneously disappear. The cord that runs from the computer to the kitchen phone jack hangs down to the floor under the computer desk. It had some breaks in the insulation. The repairman would wiggle the cord and we would listen to the dial tone start and stop and start again. A chewing puppy was the culprit. The repairman fixed the wire and also installed a new phone jack next to the computer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Consider the lilies...

I was reading Luke 12 today. My devotional book had just the few verses about not worrying about food and clothing because God cares even for the flowers and the birds and we are of much more value to God than they are. So I went to get the rest of the context.

These verses are in the middle of a longer teaching. It begins with the story of the rich farmer who had a good harvest and built bigger barns to store it in. He is held as an example of foolishness, storing up treasure for himself instead of treasure in heaven.

Then come the verses about the lilies and the birds not having to care for themselves and that we also should not worry about food or clothing. We just need to be doing God's will.

The final punchline is this. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

We start with the rich man who is rebuked because he stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God, move throught the assurance that if we are seeking God's kingdom we need not worry about food or clothing, and wind up with how to be rich toward God: sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Now I know as well as anyone more ways than I can count to try to justify my way out of this.
-Doesn't God expect us to be wise with what we have?
-It is irresponsible not to save for retirement.
-The Bible says that those who do not provide for their own family are worse than infidels.

I don't know anyone personally who has actually done this exact thing. Did Jesus mean it figuratively? Were we not to take this seriously? If it doesn't mean what it says then what does it mean? Can you own a farm and not store up treasure for yourselves?

I think you can, but sometimes it seems more like the farm owns us. It is a struggle. How do you work a farm in such a way that God's kingdom is built up? that the poor have more while the rich have less? that the hungry are fed and the homeless sheltered? how do you work a farm responsibly and still have time for anything beyond the farm?

I know I'm exaggerating, at least in some ways. A farm can take everything that you are willing to give it, just like any other self owned business can. When you work for yourself you are subject to market changes and swings in income so it is hard to know when to say 'enough'. It might not be enough. So already we don't let the farm take everything. We say no to the farm to take responsibilities with the church and to nuture our relationships with each other and our children and our friends and family.

I want somehow for our lives to be immersed in God, rather than for God to have a place in the list of priorities. I have this romantic idea that if we just trust God enough, give ourselves up with abandon, that everything will just fall into place. We will know when to push harder with the work and when to quit for the day and we won't struggle with wondering whether we should have made whichever decision we didn't make. The kids will be fine and we will just instinctively know what is best for them. We won't spend much on ourselves, we will be able to give with abandon, and we won't go bankrupt in the process. We will open our homes to those with needs and we won't be hurt by them.

But that isn't how it works. Even Jesus agonized. Jesus was hurt by the people he cared for. Why should we who follow Jesus expect to have things easy?

So the next question would be this: Is there anything worth so much to me that I would withhold it? Would I say to God, you can have everything but this?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bikin' and more...

Today was a good day for biking. I didn't get started until afternoon, but I took my new panniers the kids gave me for my birthday and filled them up before coming home. I also used my new speedometer/odometer and I'm kind of slow, but I'm having fun and I feel good so who cares. I put on 11 miles this afternoon and rode home with wind and with 22 pounds in the packs. Here I am red faced and happy.
Here is the loaded bike after the ride.
My 13 year old wanted to go to town to play Untimate Frisbee at the campus, and he is glad to ride his bike. We have a problem with him riding home alone after dark, so we decided to send him off and then we would ride in to meet him when the game was over. We got out our lights and set off for town after supper, my husband and our 12 year old and I.

The ride seemed so easy this time. There was no wind so that was part of it, but also there was no extra weight. The air was so interesting as it cooled from the day. We moved along through areas of warm sultry air followed by chilly dry air, and then back and forth again.

The caterpillars have taken over the countryside. There are always several within sight, crossing the road as we ride. I could imagine Alfre Hitchcock finding an inspiration here.

Biking does good things for the spirit. Maybe it is just chemical (endorphins) and maybe it is that when we propel ourselves our souls have the opportunity to keep up with our bodies. Maybe it is the prolonged exposure to the outdoors. Possibly it is all of these added to other factors, too. Whatever. I’ll just take those good feelings and not spend too much time analyzing where they come from.

Three extra special things made my day.

1. My older son played and sang for me this morning. He has written acoustic instrumental music for a long time already and is quite good, but now he is branching out into music with words. It was good. I want to hear it again. I won’t give away what it is about, but I really did like it.
2. On our trip home from the Frisbee game my 13 year old son came up beside me on his bike just because he wanted to talk. For the last two miles he talked non-stop about his day. Nothing profound, but still…this is one part of mothering I truly love…having my kids want to talk to me and share their lives and thoughts with me.
3. My older son gave my 12 year old a bike (used, but nicer than his current bike) today. The 12 year old managed, even with the excitement of the new bike, to clean up a good sized mess in his room without any nagging on my part. He also managed to get through a couple of situations that would usually have been intense and he didn’t get angry or rude.
4. OK, I know how to count, but I thought of one more. My husband was very kind and especially sweet to me today. I think I must be pretty shallow because during that long ride home from town with the heavy panniers, I pondered that it is so much easier to feel overflowing with love when I know someone really loves me. So if you want me to love you, I guess you just have to love me first. Ha. Seriously though, following Jesus is about so much more than loving the people who already love you, so I still have much to learn. Good thing I’m only fifty, huh?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Getting Better

Today has been a long day that got better as it went. For some unknown reason both my husband and I were pretty discouraged this morning. No motivation. No enthusiasm. Just resolve to get through the day somehow.

We had devotions together after the boys left for school. The topic was “Who enters God’s Kingdom?” In our morning frame of mind we were mostly aware of all the things we aren’t doing right, so we didn’t find the topic too encouraging. We both have a similar temperament---nearly always convinced that there is more we could do. On good days that is exhilerating. We think about a need and get excited about being able to do something about it. On bad days we just feel rotten about all the things we have not done and that we aren’t motivated or organized enough to get out there and do those things.

About the only way to combat this is to just get going. So we did. My married son arrived for work and that is always a good thing. The sun was shining and there was a breeze and the air feels like fall. I got some wash on the line and paid bills. Things were starting to get better.

Then I tackled a job I dread. I cleaned, defrosted, and reorganized the deep freeze. I won’t have to do this for another year and now I know where to find everything in there.

Later I had a conversation with my mother-in-law about our son’s upcoming wedding reception and she asked if she could make the baked beans. I tried to talk her out of it because I really don’t want her to overdo things. She is a wonderful cook and loves to share her food with others, so she was pretty insistent. That will certainly make things easier for me.

We had black bean quesadillas for supper. We are loading out hogs for the first time this fall so we have some extra people here to help. I’m going to peel and slice the last of our fresh peaches to have with ice cream afterwards.

Later---the peaches were a hit, even though I didn't have as much ice cream as I thought I had. The loading of hogs was hard work (and smelly) so I'm glad I had an immediate food reward for those who helped.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the Nick of Time

When my son bought his bike, the bike store personnel spent some time explaining how to use it safely. They showed him how to take the wheels off and put them back on. They advised him to always wear a helmet and to use front and rear lights at night. They told him to use his rear brakes as his primary brakes and only to use his front brakes when he needed extra stopping power, because using the front ones alone could cause him to flip over the bike head first.

That was in July.

Last week I saw him trying out those front brakes. He would ride a little ways and stop cautiously. Then again with a faster stop. Sometimes the rear tires would lift a few inches off the ground. He still wasn’t going fast. He was only trying this in our driveway. I let him test himself.

This morning while I was hanging a load of wash I heard a small clatter and turned to see him on the ground tangled in his bike. When I asked if he was OK he assured me he was. Then he told me he had flipped over the bike head first.

I went to check him over. He’d put his hands out and even they were not bleeding from the fall. No scrapes on knees or ankles. Just fine.

Later he asked me if I’d seen him flip. He wanted to know how fast he was going through the air. He said that it seemed like he was going very slowly, that he had time to think about what was happening and that it would be good to get his hands out in front of him before he landed.

Scientifically a minute is 60 seconds and every second can be measured exactly the same. So what happens when time seems to stand still? When we get a few moments to think clearly before an emergency? Time was still racing for me at that moment because I was behind schedule and had too much to do. It’s interesting to ponder.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Puppy Trouble

We have this puppy that we are trying to train into a loveable and fun to be around dog. Yesterday was a pretty good day. He mostly got along with the other dogs, didn’t chew anything but his own toys, and managed for the first time ever to sit and stay while I put food in all three dog dishes.

Today was a little less successful. There were regular long periods when the other dogs were barking or growling at him because he won’t back off. There was a little mess to clean up. And there was this.

This used to be a neatly rolled ball of wool yarn which I am using to finish the last sleeve of a sweater for myself. It is now hopelessly tangled and will take hours to figure out. I was the one who asked for this dog. He is supposed to be a faithful and loyal friend for my son, who could use a faithful and loyal friend. I was going to get a dog and not a pup, but when the shelter had these pups born on my son’s birthday it seemed like it was meant to be. Once you get a pup for your child it is nearly impossible to decide you just made a really big mistake. There is a broken heart to consider.

I saw a book at the library called “No Bad Dogs”, the implication being that if the owner only knew how to behave the dogs would all be fine. I had three fine dogs before I brought this one home, but I’m pretty lost with this one.


I biked to parent teacher conferences this afternoon. It was windy, but not in my favor so I pushed pretty hard to get there on time and did both conferences red faced from exertion. On the way home I just enjoyed the ride, especially the two miles I did not have to pedal except to catch up with the wind.


I am impressed that more and more Republicans are standing up to be counted against the President’s push for more latitude in interrogation techniques. It is time to realize that we have become the enemy. This is NOT higher ground. This is not moral.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bluegrass Birthday

Last Wednesday I turned 50. It was a good day.

My husband woke the boys for school and wanted me to sleep in---and I would have, except for the bluegrass. I’ve been cooking a lot for the 4 day festival and had not gotten to lists or packing or even finishing the laundry. So my birthday was also a day of frenetic activity.

My son came to work bringing a hug and a handmade birthday card---a throwback to the many he made while in high school at home with one exception: no bullet is passing through a body leaving a perfectly round tunnel and trailed by bright red splashy-looking drawing. It is so good to have him moving through my space every day. Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss something until you have it again.

There is a bonus. I’m getting a chance to learn to know his new wife in a totally new way. Because they’ve always lived so far away, all of our times together have included the factor of her being a guest in my house. Now she has her own house---her own space---and that gives me an opportunity to know her in differently. It is such fun discovering her personality. I’m only beginning but it is already easy to see why my son loves her.

My daughter and her husband and their friend arrived soon after 8:00 with a fist full of sunflowers and hugs all around. Then they pitched in with all the work I had left to get ready for the weekend.

At noon we stopped everything for a birthday meal at our favorite local Mexican restaurant where I tried something I’ve never had before. I want to start this decade out right---ready for changes.

Then, after an afternoon of more frantic activity we left home in time to arrive at the campground at 8:00-8:30 p.m. It was time to heat up this magnificent supper I’d cooked. It was time to realize we had no propane in the tank. None.

My mother-in-law bailed us out and we moved the pot of water for the parsley and garlic angel hair pasta into her camper. Then we brought the spaghetti sauce and the frozen garlic bread to warm. It took a while, but we fed a crowd and they loved it. When they were full I brought out the fresh peach cobbler still slightly warm from our oven at home. The pieces had to be small so everyone could have some. It’s not gormet or anything. It’s just comfort food with a LOT of sugar. In the dark, surrounded by a circle of campers and tents, and full of great homemade spaghetti it was exactly right. People so appreciated it.

Others tried to tell me that I shouldn’t be providing the meal on my birthday. I don’t know. I think that makes sense. It is what I would have said if I hadn’t been the one cooking. But making good food for people I love and knowing how much they enjoyed it really made my day.

That sounds so much more domestic than I’ve ever been. I’ve been OK with cooking but I get tired of it too. I can’t explain why this was such fun. It just was.

After supper I made beds while others did dishes, and then we listened to sons and fathers and cousins and friends make music in the cool evening air until all were too tired for more.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I'm reading "Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne right now. It is a very challenging book. He is describing his search for people who live like Jesus did, who hear what Jesus said and do it.

He heard Rich Mullins speak on a college campus about being saved. Rich said that we all talk about being born again as being the way to be saved. He said that this is what Jesus said to one man in one place when the man asked what he should do to be saved. Another man asked Jesus the same question and Jesus said to sell everything he had, give all the money to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. We have not decided that this instruction is for everyone. Mullins suggests that this is why God invented highlighters---so we can choose the verses we like the best.

Claiborne suggests that religion is often about finding ways to explain why we are not expected to live exactly as Jesus said to live. This is challenging talk and I lie awake at night thinking about it. How much would I give up? Is there a limit?

* * * * * * * * *

We attended our son's hearing this afternoon. The hearing was to determine in whose custody he should be, in light of his tendency to run away and to steal things. We never really got to that.

A month ago this hearing was set, as well as a second one that will sentence him for some of the things he has admitted to doing. At that time a request was sent to the judge that the second hearing be moved forward so that our son would spend less time in detention without a court decision stating that this was the best placement for him.

This afternoon the judge came into the courtroom and began the hearing by announcing the case number and the plaintiff and the reason for the hearing. He had the reason for the hearing completely wrong. He was obviously shuffling papers he had not even looked at prior to entering the room. The lawyers had to correct him.

Then he wants to know why we are having two hearings instead of hearing both issues today. The person who sent the request spoke up and mentioned the request that had been sent regarding that issue. The judge said he saw no such request. Then he looks at the file in front of him and picks up the memo that contained the request. He admits that the request is right there in his hand but that he had not seen it before today and he still wants to hear both issues today. The person who wrote the request is my son's case manager. She does not have all the paperwork she needs for the second issue. The judge leaves the room temporarily so that the lawyers can talk and the lawyers agree to save the second issue for the other date a month from now. They agree to this because the case manager discloses that her recommendation will be to send my son to a juvenile correctional facility. This change requires more deliberation than they are prepared for.

The judge comes back, but he still does not ask for any information regarding the issue to be heard today. He decides that he will hear both issues in a month. Then he wants to know who is paying for my son's stay in juvenile detention. The case worker says that our county is responsible because it is court ordered. The judge, who is the same one that heard all of our son's other local cases, claims not to have ever ordered detention. He clearly is trying to avoid our county paying for this detention stay. He says that he ordered placement in the most appropriate facility.

Now I don't remember details very well, but I know that at the hearing in question it was stated in court that my son had already run from three placements, that he had charges filed against him in another county for car theft, and an arrest in a third county for car theft, illegal possession of firearms, and marijuana with intent to sell. I know that it was stated by someone in that hearing, most likely the judge, that it would not make sense to put my son in a placement that was not secure until his other charges were heard and decided. So this little wrangling about words seems a little stupid to me.

But it gets worse. The judge insists that our county will not be paying for this stay. He wants to know if Juvenile Justice (which employs the case manager) is paying and the answer is 'no'. He takes the sheriff who transported my son to the hearing and they go into the adjoining room, leaving the door open. In that room they contact the sheriff from the county where the first car theft charges were heard and we hear them each asserting strongly that neither of their counties are responsible for the cost of my son's stay in detention.

The judge re-enters the courtroom and summarily orders the case manager to find my son another appropriate placement as soon as possible. Then he orders the county attorney to write up an order for reimbursement. Then he leaves the courtroom with a flourish.

We talk with my son for a moment, who is ecstatic that he will no longer be in a secure setting and he is sure that his life will be different, and I really really want to believe him.

Then the sheriff leads him away and his lawyer asks to speak with us. He wants to speak with us because he knows what I know. An order for reimbursement means that no county pays for my son's stay in detention. They just send a bill for the entire amount to the parents. The last time this happened, about a year ago, the rates were around $90/day. My son has been in detention since mid-June. The lawyer explains to us that he is calling our family lawyer for us to suggest that as soon as possible we get a court agreement that sets a child support limit for us. He believes that this court agreement will protect us from any huge bill that may or may not be coming soon.

But I have already looked into this with our lawyer. I have called state agency after state agency and the answer I got was this. The court agreement only protects you as long as your child is in a group home setting. When it is detention there is this never never land where there are no clear rules. Some detention centers bill parents. Some don't. But my guess is that all of them will if they are court ordered to do so.

But that isn't the point. If we get billed, we will try to figure things out. We will call our lawyer on Monday and see if there is any action we can take now. But that isn't the point.

The point is our son. There was no concern from this judge about what placement would serve the interests of our son best, and there was no concern about what placement would serve the interests of society best. The concern was about sparing our county from paying. Who gets saved here?

I'm not saying that detention is the best place for my son. If I was good at knowing what is best for my son we probably would not have been sitting in court this afternoon. I'm just angry, really angry that a judge who is chosen for his wisdom spent his afternoon worrying more about who pays than about a juvenile offender, or a victim, or making the world a better place.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Injuries, Biking, Peaches

Farming is supposedly one of the most dangerous professions, and we are pretty aware of that. We have radios for better communication between the guys who work together, but also because if there is an injury they can get help quickly. During busy season there are frequent reminders to be careful, to not let the rush compromise safety. But still sometimes we are lulled into thinking those things won't happen to us.

Yesterday I saw my son running toward the house. My son runs for sports and for fun, but in the daily routine of farm work this would be unusual. Then I realized my husband was already in the bathroom instead of outside. He was calling me to come help him. His jeans had a large spot of blood spreading out on the top of the back of his leg, there was more on his t-shirt. It looked worse than it was, but he had backed into something sharp while working on an implement and I sent him off to the emergency room. No stitches, just dressings and antibiotic salve after a thorough cleaning with saline solution.

He's not too willing to slow down much because there is a crop to bring in, so I'm guessing that dressing will need changing frequently today.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Last night was my first bike ride home from town in the dark by myself. The weather has been so perfect---nearly two weeks already of barely any wind and mild temperatures. Every day I'm wishing for a reason to ride, but there is so much work here that it would be foolish to create errands.

Last week I rode to town three days in a row and did all my 'light' errands by bike. (I now mentally divide my errands into things that weigh to much to be done on a bike and things that don't.) Because of circumstances beyond my control I had to cross town several times on the errand day and got 18+ miles in. I felt wonderful.

The next day I realized that my peaches needed doing and I didn't have sugar. Sugar would qualify as heavy. But my boys are like me. They look for excuses to get in riding time and they convinced me that if the three of us all brought back packs we would be fine. We got to the grocery store and stood in the sugar aisle lifting packages of sugar and evaluating how much would still feel OK after 6 miles. We were pretty optimistic so we got 12 pounds of sugar AND a gallon of milk. The boys did fine. I had a bit of a sore back the next day that worked itself out with a bit of yoga.

Last night I had a meeting in town and it was full moon and perfect. I rode in with nearly full daylight and rode out with a gallon of milk in my backpack in moonlight. I have lights and flashers and reflectors, and my backpack is reflective as well, but I still wondered how visible I was. When I turned for the last mile of dirt road I could see that a car was about a mile behind me so I rode very slowly and kept my eyes on the mirror. I think that driver must have seen me as soon as I saw him because he approached so slowly that I was a half mile down the road before he finally passed me.

I got home and put my bike in the garage, detached my headlight and used the light from it to see the release for detaching my rear flasher. Just as I finished removing my rear flasher my headlight went out. Quite the timing. I'm switching to rechargeable batteries now. I'm too cheap to change the one-use ones before they are showing signs of being used up. But I'm fine with recharging batteries frequently to make sure they are strong.
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Mom came to work the peaches with me yesterday. We had a whole morning of meaningful conversation and working side by side and she left with the house smelling of the peach butter that was still bubbling in the oven. That smell was in the house all day and I ate the results on my bread this morning.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


All three of my married kids have moved or will move in the next 6 months. The most recent move happened last week when my son and daughter-in-law moved into town. They were married this spring. He has been a full time volunteer at a food bank for two years and then worked the last year for wages in the same position. He's also a musician and a self taught computer whiz. His new wife is a teacher with a special interest in working with the visually disabled. She has spent several summers doing tactile illustrations and brailling of books for blind children. Now they are here. He will farm with us for a year and then try other things.

My daughter and her husband just moved to Vermont for school. She is a pastry chef at this amazing bakery and you can buy 24 cookies she baked here for only $29.95 plus shipping and handling. She did all the baking for a local health food/deli for the last year. Her husband is an artist and has introduced us all to graphic novels and art as story. He will be attending the Center For Cartoon Studies. He makes incredible refried beans which I try to imitate. Sunday my boys told me I was getting close, but not quite as good yet. He also makes a pretty wonderful chicken parmigiana. I ordered some at an upscale Italian restaurant last night because I missed them, but it wasn't as good.

My oldest daughter is finishing nursing school. When she gets done she and her husband, who is a social worker, will be moving here for a while. They both enjoy people and she is currently working at a home for the elderly while she finishes school. He was my main child care worker while they attended a local college five or six years ago. Because we have adopted some children who were abused, their care was challenging and he was quick to learn and willing to work hard.

I love how they enjoy being together. It is good for me to see them be so close to each other after they are grown. My boys who are still home respect them and try to be like them. They turn down chances to be with friends if their older sibs might be home. The married kids really listen to the boys, give them respect and encouragement, and are good examples for them. The boys want to be like them. So do I.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

only just begun

When the wild sunflowers bloom here I know the worst of summer is over and it's time for my birthday. I let these grow next to my house even though they make it look unkempt and wild because I like them so much. I'll be fifty this year, although that doesn't seem like such a big thing because so many of my friends are too.

I'm not stepping over any lonely threshold. There is a huge crowd of us born at the end of the baby boom who like to claim the 60's even though we were still in grade school then. We still protested but it was popular by the time we did it, and too many of us moved toward the right side of the political spectrum by the time we were old enough to be raising families. Dr. James Dobson was the guru and many of us listened daily to the advice we craved. I'm not sure how we all lost faith in our ability to parent without being told what to do. Even those of us with terrific parents somehow thought we needed experts with lots of letters behind their names in order to be sure we did not ruin the emotional health of those precious children entrusted to us. And yet, because we are human even with the help of experts, we left our children with their own set of issues they will struggle to overcome.

So now our children are mostly grown and we are fifty. I'm looking out at this life ahead of me and wondering what to do with it. I'm still inspired by people who step out and take risks. Tom Fox signed up for Christian Peacemaker Teams after his children were grown.

I was listening to NPR yesterday evening. There is an annual award being given today to a retired person who, after retirement, set out to change their world. They tell the story of just one of the nominees. It is so inspiring. My chance to make a difference hasn't passed yet. I'm just getting started.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Homework angst

School is proving to be a mixed blessing. I am enjoying long hours of time to myself, but the payoff is questionable. My 8th grader was warned that his math homework alone would be an hour each night. Until 6th grade he was unschooled so he loves his freedom and has a long list of things he wants to do with that precious free time. He had homework in three classes last night.

After the homework was done he just vegged out. He couldn't get himself going for anything more than music practice, and then he migrated between the tv and the computer. He talked with me about it later. He said when he gets home he has all these things he wants to do, but he is determined to do his homework first. The problem is that the homework takes away all his motivation and when he finishes it, he is bored and restless and nothing sounds interesting anymore.

The school choice is his choice. He likes being around people. But he would like more choice and less busy work and unnecessary homework. He wishes there was time for quiz bowl, but with homework and music it seems impossible. I chafe at this. Quiz bowl would be just as valuable learning as the other stuff. Why can't all learning count as education? Including homework, bus and practice, school is taking 9-11 hours of his day. This is without sports. When can he participate in real life, or even do his share of the chores around here?

At night he wants to catch as much public television as he can to learn for himself about the world. He is still curious and motivated to find his own answers. Yesterday he was talking about one of his classes, and how he realized that even with the correct answers he would not get a good grade unless the answers were worded in a way that pleased the teacher. This teacher likes long answers, so he has learned to be wordy in that class---and it works.

I have to remind myself that this is his life and he knows both options are available to him.


In the last three days two teenagers have come to our door after wrecking their cars nearby. We live on a sand road and it is easy to loose control in a patch of thicker sand, especially at higher speeds. The first teenager flipped the car twice and broke all the windows in her car. She ran a quarter mile to our house, very shaken and sparkling with tiny bits of glass, but otherwise unharmed. She had her seatbelt on. The second hit a telephone pole (I haven't seen the car yet so I don't know how bad it was).

This morning my son had wanted to ride his bike to school, and I love that he wants to bike and is willing to carry a heavy backpack six miles on a bike. But I worry about the local teenage (and older) drivers who fly over these sand roads late to work/school in the mornings. He rode the bus today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Starting out

I've already been working on this blog for over an hour because my indecision has me paralysed. I will have to live forever with the title of the blog and the username and the name that I sign my posts with and what if I don't like them after only a short while and...well, I don't really know. Meanwhile my son sits beside me and makes helpful suggestions while hoping that his laundry will do itself magically and be folded neatly in his drawer when he wakes up tomorrow morning. He is an optimist. I like that about him.