Monthly Archives: March 2009

On Blood and Disney Land

For those of you who don't know, FHE or Family Home Evening, is a ritual wherein families meet together once a week to learn and have fun in a semi-structured home setting.

I know lots of families who have dubbed it FFN, or family fight night, because putting all your progeny in one room and asking them to endure a lesson (possibly given by the three-year-old), play a game (without ticking off the five-year-old) and share a treat fairly, and not only all that but sing an opening and closing song in unison, too, is just a little too much for immature synapses to handle and things can get volatile.

We don't actually have a problem with fighting at our house; it usually goes something like last night:

We have a song–complete with wisecracks, a prayer–during which someone is always giggling, and then someone asks what we are doing for Spring break. We talk about that for twenty minutes, and then we try to start a lesson.

Last night it was about how important it is to learn both secular and spiritual things. I got about five words into it and our youngest interupts:

Mom! Mom! Mom!


So you're suposed to learn lots of things?

    Yes. We are supposed to learn all we–

Like everything in the world?

    Well, everything good that we can, yes. President–

Not like killing people, though.

    No, not like killing people. We can learn–

I already know how to kill people but I wouldn't do it.

    Really? Well that's good. We're talking about learning right now, okay? Not killing. In the scriptures it says– 



I know, let's go to Disney Land for Spring Break!

    Uh, yeah. That would be fun. But it costs a lot of money and it's really far away.

Well, you wouldn't have to go; Grandma and Grandpa could take me.

    Nobody is going to Disney Land. Now, right here in chapter– 


    What? Is this about the scriptures? You can talk about anything you want as long as it's about the scriptures.

[other child] There's lots of killing in the scriptures. 

    Yes. Yes there are stories about killing in the scriptures, but we aren't talking about those ones right now.

[yet another child] Mom, do you think it would really kill someone to cut off their arms?

[another] Well, ye-ah, if you didn't stop the blood.

    Okay, about learning

[yet another] Mom, did you know when my tooth came out at school there was blood ALL over?

[Did I mention I have six?] Mom! Did you know what kind of germs can live in people's blood and they don't even know?

See what I mean? It never stops. We have these rousing discussions and we always get somewhere useful, but we have to cover a LOT of ground to get there. Life's a journey, not a destination, right?

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Top Ten

Just looked up a "Top Ten Work at Home Jobs" website recommended on a respected radio talk show.

Only none of the jobs sounded legit to me, so I looked #1 up on the Better Business Bureau's website.

Lo and behold, under alternative names for this company, were listed all of the other "top ten" work-at-home scams jobs, pardon me.


When in doubt, check it out.

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Ask me again, in five minutes

Mom, when will the kittens come out?

    I don't know.

How many more weeks?

    I don't know, Buddy.

Well, how many more days?

   I don't know.

But how long?

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Snot-nosed Angels

Gave this great sermon yesterday–complete with teary-eyed women (and men) all across the congregation, which in turn made it very difficult to keep my own composure–but I made it through and there were congratulations all around. Rah, Rah. 

I meant every word I said. 

Which makes it even more disconcerting this morning–in between ring-around-the-rosies, "Good Girl!" and "oh-my-goodness-you're-so-smart!"–to find myself almost bowled over by grief; to find myself, in between brilliant smiles and story books, still eyeing the shade.


There is this story in Kings about Elijah calling down fire from heaven, putting the prophets of Baal to shame and unsealing the heavens after three and a half years of drought.

The people are astounded and praise the Lord for, I don't know, all of about twelve hours and then Elijah's getting death threats again. You know the story. Fickle Israel.

Before this week I had never seen the verse in the next chapter where Elijah has fled Jezebel's assassins and gone a day's journey into the wilderness and thrown himself under a juniper–alone, exhausted; done teaching and talking and trying. Done with ravens bringing him breakfast and dinner; with barrels of meal and oil that miraculously refill themselves; done with fire from heaven; done living. He pleads with God, "It is enough; now, oh Lord, take away my life."

I have been under that tree; not because I doubt God's power or compassion but because I doubt my own capacity to endure. And I know the rest of the story–how God sends an angel with one more meal and how on the power of that one meal Elijah makes it even deeper into the wilderness–forty days and nights, up into the mountain for further instructions.

I know this.

I have wept and prayed and had the promise given me–that though the answers be a ways off–that He would at least give me the strength to get out from under the juniper. But maybe I stand on the edge of the wilderness and find myself dismayed that I have strength for such a journey–alone, or in the company of angels.

Thank goodness for these little people that get me out of bed each morning and put a smile on my face, or I might just crawl back under the juniper and stay there. 


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Admitting Defeat

Came across this blog wherein every day the reader is encouraged to do one simple thing (italics hers, not mine) to make their home more inviting. Hmmmm, I thought, I can do that. Especially when she assured me it wouldn't involve major purchases or paint cans.

Her list for today:

Consider rearranging pillows on the couch or chair.  Just because you've ALWAYS had the red pillow on the couch doesn't mean it won't look great on your bed. Or chair.

Pillows? Are you kidding? Every night it's a free-for-all: Who took my pillow?!!!!  I know we have more than eight pillows in the house–I just went and bought myself four–but there are never enough pillows, and they certainly don't have stations.

How about setting a stack of books and a candle on the coffee table?

Because someone would ingest both the pages and the wax.

Straighten the picture frames on the mantle that someone knocked over with a nerf ball.

A mantle? Seriously? She tried to lull me into a sense of camaraderie with the nerf ball comment, but I'm on to her.

Move a flower arrangement into another room.

Flower arrangement . . . this must be something else people with mantles have.

Set out some Spring place mats.

Because . . . I would want three surfaces to wash instead of one? The front and back of the placemat, and the table?

Hang fresh towels in the guest bath.  Garnish them with a folded washcloth over the top.

A mantle, flower arrangments, and now a guest bath?!!! See what I mean? People with flying stray nerf balls don't also have garnished guest baths. 

I think I'll go arrange the lumber pile in my dining room; maybe put the saw horses at a ninety degree angle to the windows this month. Change things up a bit. 

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Much Ado About … Too much?

I wonder if any of the publications raving over "Nothing Like It In the World" (New York Post, Usa Today, Time) have actually read the book. Because I have, and although I might buy it as a reference book, I have to wonder about the redundancy factor. 

For one out of many examples, look at how similar these two paragraphs, twenty-three pages apart, are:

Page 322: "When Casement's men of the UP laid four and a half miles of track in a single day, Crocker said that 'they bragged of it and it was heralded all over the country as being the biggest day's track laying that ever was known.' He told Strobridge that the CP must beat it, and Stro go the materials together and laid six miles and a few feet. So Casement got his UP men up at 3 A.M. and put them to work by lantern light until dawn and kept them at it until almost midnight, and laid eight miles. Crocker swore he would beat that."

And on Page 346: "Jack Casement's men had laid down four and a half miles of track in a single day. 'They bragged of it,' Crocker later said, 'and it was heralded all over the country as being the biggest day's track laying that ever was known." Crocker told Strobridge that the CP must beat the UP. They got together the material, talked to the men, and did it, spiking down six miles and a few feet in a single day. Casement had come back at them, starting at 3 A.M., working by the light of lanterns until dawn, and at the end of the day, the UP had advanced the end of track eight miles and a fraction." 

The book is filled with instances like this.  By chapter thirteen I started to wonder if nobody went back through the draft and said–oops, um, Ambrose, I think you already used this anecdote a few times.

I wouldn't presume to question Stephen Ambrose's authority or expertise. He has, after all, written dozens of best-selling nonfiction books. I'm just saying it was a little like two copies of the same book had been unbound, the pages shuffled a few times, then stitched back together.  

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The Case Against Pull-ups

  1. Disposable "training pants" cost, on average, three times as much as a diaper of the same brand.
  2. They leak. I don't care what the package promises; they leak far more and absorb far less than a diaper in the same size. Can anyone say "wedgie"?
  3. Even if your brand comes with some version of easy-tear-away and/or resealable sides–they aren't nearly as easily removed or replaced as a diaper. A soiled diaper can be removed and replaced in less than a minute without removing the child's socks, shoes or even pants fully. Putting on training pants requires full disrobing from the waist down. And lest you contend that a child can do it on their own–I would ask, can that child also disinfect the floor where they sat, urine-damp cheeks and all, to navigate the leg holes? No! So now you have to wash the floor and their rear–in an awkward, standing position probably, or flat on their back like you would have to anyway, were they wearing a diaper in the first place.
  4. A soiled diaper is easily bound up and secured into a tight little package by use of the tapes that moments before held the diaper on the child. Toss. Training pants require a plastic sack or some other device to contain the contents before disposal. Unless you want unleashed fecal matter sliding down the insides of your garbage sack/can.
  5. Contrary to marketing claims and popular belief, putting cartoon characters on your child's underwear, and/or calling a diaper underwear because it's harder for the parent to manipulate, will not motivate your child to use the toilet. If you want to motivate your child by putting "big-boy" or "big-girl" underwear on, then by all means–do so. But use real underwear. If the sensation of urine running down their legs doesn't deter them from wetting fairly quickly, then they probably aren't ready to potty train at all. Put the diaper back on and motivate them by enforcing–rigidly–rules like "babies can't eat gum" or go out in the back yard unsupervised, or some other big-kid privilege you think they are ready for. They'll want to lose the diaper and baby status fast.

I don't have a problem with mostly-potty-trained children using disposable underwear as a backup on long trips or overnight. Fine. Use them. But save yourselves a lot of money and trouble and keep them in diapers until the pull-up really is a back-up guard against inopportune accidents and not just an inferior diaper that somehow psychologically makes you feel better about your potty training efforts. 

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About four years ago, after seven years of faithful scrapbooking, I quit. Packed it all up and quit. I even felt a little bit sheepish, honestly, about that row of scrapbooks on my shelf.

But last night one of the boys wanted to know what time of day he was born. He got down his book, which precipitated all the kids getting down their personal books, family books, all the books. They wanted to know if reading scrapbooks counted for homework reading and spent the next hour immersed in the details of their own younger selves.

I don't remember writing those things. I don't remember those things–at all. I don't remember the spilled milk, the smashed fingers, the stray dogs.

Cheesy embellishments aside, I am so grateful I made those books. So grateful I took the time when I had it. So grateful that I don't really even have room for guilt over the past few years which have gone undone. I got the important years of new babies, new changes, new homes, teeth, schools and time.  All that time I was blessed to spend at home with my children before they started school

Thank you. To everyone who made, in any way, that possible. To M, for working fifteen, sixteen, eighteen hour days to pay the bills. To his sister for getting me started with my very first album and keeping me supplied all those years. To M for shelling out for film and developing and a new camera when the old one worked perfectly fine. To God for giving me the years, the people and the patience.

Thank you.

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About those faults of yours . . .

Stephen  E. Ambrose, in his book about the building of the transcontinental railroad during the civil war era, makes this observation: "The men who founded the Union Pacific were like Lincoln's generals, some of them good, many of them bad, most of them indifferent."

I read about men like Theodore Judah, so scrupulously honest that when California sent him to Washington and New York, he came back having spent $2,500 of his own money, and charged the state of California only $40 for the printing of his report. Judah, more than any other man, made the railroad possible and yet he died far from his home, overworked and underpaid. Reading about his life you could almost believe he was created for that one purpose; from a very young age until his last breath, the transcontinental railroad was his passion, his genius, his one obsession.

There were other men who wouldn't hesitate to submit expense reports in the thousands of dollars, to fabricate institutions and award themselves contracts. I think we've all been taught that "the Big Four" were evil men on par with modern day CEO's.

But at the same time, I look at how everything worked together to make this nation–the good men, the bad men, the triumphs and the appalling atrocities of civil war–and I wonder if there was any other way. I would like to believe that there is always an effective high road; the very foundations of my moral framework demand it.


I don't know. I don't know that in an imperfect world that there is any viable alternative to incorporating the full participation of imperfect people. And when good men err on the side of tact or timidity, maybe it takes bad men to barrel through and get things done. 

From the very beginning we see God working through Man's error. Eve's partaking of the fruit was a flagrant violation of law–but had she obeyed, could she have borne children? And if not, would it really have been better if just one man and his wife wandered about the garden alone indefinitely–obedient, but stalled?

I wouldn't presume to blame God or Fate or any other ethereal entity for man's misuse of his agency, or attempt to justify the criminal–I just . . . I wonder how well we really comprehend the big picture. 

English author John Ruskin said, "The first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean, by humility, doubt of his own power. … [But really] great men … have a curious feeling that … greatness is not in them, but through them. … And they see something Divine in every other man … ."

I wonder if there isn't something Divine in even our frailty, faults and failings. If somehow my life would not be as rich were you more perfect, tractable or perceptive. Perhaps we would all find a larger measure of greatness if we not only acknowledged every bit of good apparent in those around us, but bore with the faults, too–acknowledging that what we perceive as error might be courage, far-sightedness, or maybe just the only way to get the job done.  

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Wooden Hands

Woke this morning without any feeling below my shoulders.

"My hands are asleep!" I said, after several futile attempts at turning off the alarm.

M snickered and put the pillow over his head.

It was like one of those nightmares where you are trying to run or scream or, well, move a tiny little switch into the "off" position, and your body refuses to obey. 

I stood there banging my arms together, hoping to knock some life back into my hands.

Very disconcerting. Happens a lot lately–only if I sleep on my back, side, or stomach. I haven't tried sleeping standing up.


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