Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How In the World?

Bill Cosby tells a fabulous story of coming home one day to be greeted by a fuming wife. "Go upstairs and kill that boy!" she demands. Bill goes upstairs to his son's bedroom and finds his son sulking on his bed. He has a reverse Mohawk. That's right; he has shaved the top of his head and left the hair long on the sides and back. Bill goes through the regular questions any detective might ask, "What happened to your hair?"

The boy, "I don't know."

Dad, "Put your hand on your head. What do you feel?"

Boy, "No hair."

"Right! What happened to your hair?"

"I don't know."

"Son, was your head with you all day today?"
I know my parts were all with me all day and all of my parts have been with me for many days, yet I cannot explain the bruises on the top of my shoulder, my ankle, and my shoulder blade. I cannot explain a cut just below my knee and the scratch on my neck. How does one have an injury that draws blood and have zero recollection of any incident that may have, in fact, drawn that blood?

Maybe I need to have a neurological evaluation. I may be losing it. Your kid is not the only one with brain damage, Mr. Cosby.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


After a month with no camera, I finally got a new one yesterday. It is an inexpensive one (even though I want a very expensive one) but I still need to get the software downloaded and learn how to transfer pictures. We missed a dance recital, a birthday, a couple of hikes, a Webelos Badge ceremony and lots of Kodak moments. It is amazing what happens in a month.

Oh, well. We will now have a camera for the baby's 1st birthday (!!), camping trips, family reunions, the 4th of July and happy faces.

Today, however, I will be conquering the laundry. . . again . . . still.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Resourceful and Industrious

There are two words that I have grown to love: resourceful and industrious. Emily means industrious and as a child I hated it. Why couldn't my name mean Gift From Heaven or Sweet as Sugar or Grassy Meadow? No, I had to be black, polluting smoke stacks. The allusion of the meaning of my name conjured up images from David Copperfield; not romantic, not beautiful, not feminine. Yet, as I matured, I came to understand how an industrious woman can be beautiful.

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it due,
Or due without.

This old adage is one by which I live--really, truly. I'm certainly not perfect in following it's advice, but it plays a governing role in our family finances. I especially love the Make it due line. It is fun to find new uses for old things. I try not to be a pack rat, but I do hold on to things that might be useful someday. It has saved me a lot of money over the years. Last night, for instance, I decided I needed a new skirt. I went to my Rubbermaid bin filled with sewing material. Some would look at my assortment of sheets, cloth napkins, out-of-date dresses, the bottom half of the the denim cut-offs, and the folded bargain bin yardage and wonder why in the world I was saving it. But, I rifled through the material and found a great vintage cowboy print that was given to me years ago. I couldn't toss it because I knew I would find a use for it someday. I used other salvaged materials and made myself an original, fun, FREE skirt.

I have used my industry and resourcefulness in other ways as well. I have painted murals using left-over paint, I made a mud room bench using old table legs and left-over bead board, and I've built a table from an old door. The purpose in telling you this is not for accolades, but to show that Making Due can be a great hobby. It doesn't matter if you are resourceful because you have to be or because you want to be, it will save you money and provide you with an abundance of unique projects.

How have you been resourceful?

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Dana was my best friend and she lived only half a mile away. My family didn't have friends over for birthday parties often, but Dana came to my birthday every year--she was the exception to the "family only" rule. Our parents were close friends and our brothers were close friends. We were in the same classes at school and church. Our semi-rural home made for adventurous days that we tried to stretch out forever.

When we had just finished second grade, Dana told me that their family would be moving. They were going from the far north (Washington State) to the far south (Arizona). I would probably never see her again.

We cried and put into action the drama that we were feeling inside. I'm sure our parents hid a lot of grins, all the while understanding that we were hurting and were trying to figure out how to express the ache accurately. Dana and I vowed to spend her last day together. We did--the whole day spent playing outside. That night, I walked her down our gravel road one last time. My walk home was so lonely. What would I do now?

Of course, I survived that pint-sized heart break, but I've never forgotten Dana or my feelings that day.

My son just found out that his best buddy is moving. All through the day I kept catching him staring blankly at nothing. When I addressed him, he looked at me with sadness in his ten year old eyes and said, "What am I going to do without [my friend]?"

This is just the first of many moves that will separate him from his friends, but it will likely be the most poignant and the most memorable. And, who knows? They may be pen pals (or Skype pals??) forever.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My lot is .09 acres--that is less than 1/10th of an acre. Our house is squeezed in between three others (sides and back). There is also a garage--it's small; built for a Model T, but still there. What I'm trying to tell you is that I don't have a whole lot of grass.

Today, I filled four five gallon buckets with dandelions.

My palms are sore. My fingertips are tender and stained green. My neck is sunburned.

But my yard looks lovely.

Thank you for listening.

PS I would have posted pictures of my buckets and my lovely weedless grass, but my camera has recently collapsed from exhaustion. I think I understand how the thing feels.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wanted: An Engineering Genius

I have an infant car seat; backwards only, removable carrier, plugs into the stroller, much heavier than a postpartum mother is supposed to lift.
I also have two convertible car seats that can be buckled into the vehicle facing either forward or backward. Large, bulky, holds a child up to thirty pounds.
I have two booster seats that have the three-point buckle option. They have cup holders. The three-point buckle can be removed with the purpose of growing with the child. At this point, the child can use the shoulder belt that hooks into the latch that makes the shoulder strap lay across the child's shoulder instead of their cheek bone.I also have two backless booster seats that are meant solely for older children to use with the shoulder belt. My seven-seater van has a person to fill each seat belt. The car seats are wider than most adult bums which makes buckling between boosters a task for elastigirl.

I am a big proponent of car seats. I NEVER break the rules (no nursing on long trips, no "it's just around the corner", etc) and have heart palpitations if I find that I accidentally forgot to buckle one pod or another. Why, however, do I need to have seventeen car seats? Each is so specific for the children's needs and sizes.

Someone please come up with a better system.
You would have my undying love. Forever.
Raw Knuckle Sue

Friday, May 15, 2009

Little Things

"It's Monday?!!!" comes pealing through the house as the garbage truck pulls slowly to a stop at the neighbor's driveway. Several members of the household race out the back door, one with one shoe, another with hair half brushed. We kids know when there is an emergency; it doesn't matter what we are doing, in an emergency, we run! We each grab one side of the very heavy metal contraption my dad welded together to house the garbage cans. There were two cans for our large household, which by garbage day have been jumped on multiple times to make room for as many eggshells and old newspaper, used napkins and empty Downy bottles, burnt toast and graded homework as possible. Heaving with all of our might, our seven, nine and eleven year old bodies wheel the full containers to the end of the driveway, arriving just as the garbage man jumps off of his little platform on the side of the truck. Phew! We made it! We stand and watch as our used-up and worn-out are tossed into the gaping trunk of the garbage truck. Then, the best moment, the moment which makes all of our hustle and bustle worth it, the garbage man pulls the lever. We stare, open mouthed as the revolving metal hatch swings down, scraps the bottom of the bin and pulls our left-overs away into the vast hidden compartment never to be seen again. The three of us go back to the now empty, beat-up cans. The youngest hitches a ride on the much lighter bin-mobile as the two others push and shove the cart back to it's waiting place by the back stoop. Oh, will we ever remember garbage day?

In the approximately 592 weeks since my husband has been responsible for getting garbage out on garbage day he has only forgotten twice. This is just one way in which my life is better because of my good man.

The Mothership

PS Since you asked, here are a few more:
  • He cleans the bathtub--a difficult task for a woman who is usually pregnant.
  • He goes to bed before I do so the sheets are warm.
  • He eats everything I make sans comments like, "This is not my favorite food" or "Is there anything else?" or "I hate this." He also avoids flopping his head onto his hands and sobbing because the meal I just spent hours preparing included vegetables.
  • He lets me go on and on about my constant planning.
  • He takes the car to the shop and is willing to make the sometimes requested noises that help answer the question, "What is it doing?" You know the "guu fa gump gump" or the "psssat psssat shk-k-k-k."
  • He never laughs at me or my crazy schemes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wise Choice

Several years ago, I began a friendship with a woman--mostly because we lived near one another. Each time I visited with her, I would come away exhausted and depressed. Having always been a glass-half-full kind of gal, I was frustrated that this woman was sucking my energy. I did not know what to do.

One day I was reminded that some friendships are poisonous. My mother always used to tell me that I had to be nice to everyone, but didn't have to be friends with everyone.

As my children get older, I have tried to drill into their little minds the importance of having good friends. I'm sure we have all watched people we love follow sad, pitiful, wasteful life paths because they were unwise in their choice of friends. I have also, like you, watched unstable, weaker people excel and thrive in their lives because they were following the example of stable, stronger friends. Friends make such a difference . . . such a difference.

The rule also applies to we grown-ups.

There are many valuable friends in my life. I have been blessed by consistent, good, kind people with whom I rub shoulders. Some I don't see for years at a time, others I see nearly every day. I would like to tell you a bit about one of them.

This is Betsy. (And her husband Abraham, but I'm going to highlight his remarkable woman in today's post.)
I met Betsy when we each had our first babies--sons. My husband had grown up with hers and had always been great buddies. There is this tricky thing when you are married, see. It can be hard to find couples that you both equally enjoy. My dear man wanted to get together with his childhood friend, so I agreed to have them over. I immediately fell in love with this friendly, kind, thoughtful girl. Justin was delighted. We now get together once or twice a year.

We lead remarkably similar lives and have remarkably similar goals. Conversation is stimulating and I always leave feeling encouraged; wanting to be my best self. Betsy introduced our family to Thomas Jefferson Education, the home schooling philosophy that we (generally) follow which has revolutionized our family life. We both struggle through the difficult task of not only feeding and clothing our children, but schooling them to boot. The only lulls in our conversations are to save one of the girls from the doom of, not one, but the combined strength of TWO big brothers or some other child-sized emergency. She loves being a mother and loves being a wife and doesn't feel that she is being robbed of anything by magnifying her career choice. She is sincere and confident. I'm tellin' ya'. She is good for me.

Some friends are indeed poisonous and others, like Betsy, are the cure for what ails you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I have never thought of myself as racist or prejudiced. While I expect that all of us have some of both, I have always made a conscious effort to avoid judging a person by their skin or religion or accent or other noticeable differentiation.

But I have a lot of flaws. I hate cleaning bathtubs, I clip my toenails too short, and I find a sadistic joy in placing my ice-cold feet on my husband's skin. Recently I discovered another major flaw. Before I reveal my inner demon, please remember that I am the one in the family that owns a tool belt. I am a girl. And yet, I am prejudiced against women in a Man Store. (A Man Store, incidentally, is Harbor Freight Tools, Schucks Auto Parts, a gas station that is not hooked to a convenience store, and certain departments such as electrical, hardware, and plumbing in any home supply store.)

Oh, I'm fine with them running the till, balancing the books, halooing someone over the loudspeaker "Bill, line one" or cleaning up, certainly. But when I have a question about screws or pipe fittings, or concrete, I would like a 45-60 year old man with experience around his eyes and, preferably, a white mustache. I do not know what it is about a mustache, but it lends credibility in a Man Store. I'd like him to have grease under his fingernails and in his callouses from thirty years of working under a hood. It is best if he calls me "sugar." (Like a grandpa, not like a creep.)

Our local Lowe's has a chick that works in a Man Store department. She is not just a woman, she is a chick. She wears tight, slightly cheap jeans. Her eyebrows are plucked to a very fine line on top of which she draws in thick, seamless color. When she walks, she slaps her heels then jerks her knee straight which causes her hiney to twang abruptly back and forth. Turns out she knows a little bit about her department, but boy is it hard for me to see past the girl part of her. And it's not just her! Any time a woman comes to ask if I need help, whether it be choosing windshield wipers or ducting, I wither a little bit and think, Oh, great. A girl.

I KNOW! It is wrong and now that I am fully aware, I am going to try to reform.

But also, if there is a male in the children's clothing department or at the perfume counter? If a man tries to help me pick out wallpaper or embroidery thread? Nope. Can't handle it. Cannot handle it!

I guess I have a lot of work to do.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I married my best friend eleven years ago. He is the person with whom I would choose to spend my time--of all people in the world. Last Tuesday he took his last final (for this semester) and hasn't started working full-time, yet.

So, my greatest friend has been home and actively engaged in family life. It is delightful. I have him for two more days.

I'll see you all then.


The Mothership

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Danny Boy

After a conversation with some girlfriends tonight, I realized I needed to make a few clarifications.

This is my Danny Boy. He came to our family when he was three and I was ten. He has Down Syndrome and is fairly low functioning (he will not be your bus boy at McDonald's tonight, for instance--that would be above his level). I have always loved Danny.

When I was in the sixth grade, an accident occurred which would forever bind me to this little brother. I was instructed to give Daniel a bath. No big deal. I ran him a bath and put his little body in the water. Although he was five, he was very small (he has heart problems on top of the Down's) and his verbal skills were very poor. He was standing in the three inches of water and was just screaming. This was not completely unusual because he often threw a fit at bath time. I tried to demand that he sit down and I would hurry and get him clean. Not doin' it. After a short time, I decided he (and I) would need an adult to help. As I pulled him out of the tub, I saw something strange on his feet. They were covered in two or three huge bubbles. I went and told my dad that something happened to Danny's feet while they were in the tub. Looking back now, I realize that my dad knew instantly what had happened; my twelve year old self was just confused. Dad rushed up the stairs, flung a towel around Danny and, with a few instructions as to what to tell Mom when she came home, he was gone.

Slowly, I began to realized what had happened.

I had scalded Danny's feet. I had. Me.

I checked the water when I first turned it on, but the temperature had increased dramatically after it had run for a few minutes. I had not rechecked the water.

Burns are no joke and Daniel had to spend several days in the hospital. After he came home, his feet needed quite a bit of care for quite a long time. I did all I could.

Why am I telling you this story? I am telling you because I want you to understand how deeply I love this boy. My parents have adopted another Down's boy named Zachery and have done foster care for scores of developmentally delayed children for twenty-five years. From my seventh year on, we had retarded children in our home. It was often very hard to be the big sister to so many challenging people. They had all levels of behavioral problems, they came from abusive homes, they hit, bit, scratched and broke precious things. HOWEVER, we all learned patience, love, gratitude, concern, gentleness, faith, first aid, and humility. Most of the credit goes to my mother, but we were all involved--it was a family effort. It couldn't have worked otherwise.
Anyone who has lived with a special needs person learns to become very comfortable with them. Some of my friends think I am too comfortable. I use the word "retarded" to describe both he and Zachery. I never use the word "retard." That is a rude and hurtful slang, but retarded is defined as "slow."

To those of you who think my candid talk regarding my brothers is unkind or crass, please, please understand that I KNOW that they are wonderful, special, kind, gentle gifts to us "normal" people. I have been a part of miracles because of them. That doesn't mean it is bad to talk about their funny ways or naughty deeds. It is part of life with differently-abled folks.

And, you know what? My Danny loves me, too.

I know it.

Story Time

It's not that I haven't had things to say, I have. It's just that I have a large family, I teach them at home, I've had a heavy burden at church, my dearest love took his last final today (which means we didn't see him from Wednesday afternoon last week until 9 o'clock this morning) and did you know that Mother's Day is This Sunday??? I've had an idea brewing for several months, but knew I had plenty of time. Not any more. Mother's Day is This Sunday and I'm afraid my mom is going to get her gift a day or two late. (She doesn't deserve this kind of treatment, parenthetically, but she is good at waiting--waiting for me to stop bawling into the night while she patiently strokes my back through nearly all of eighth grade, waiting for one of us to learn the song on whatever instrument we were playing so we could stop playing the same thing over and over and over, waiting for Daniel to potty train (only took twelve years), waiting for her children to grow up and realize how inconsiderate they were at times, or waiting for somebody else to realize we were capable of changing the empty toilet paper roll.)

Since I have too much to say to make a succinct post, today I'm going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a great dad. One day he decided to take his children out for a treat. The kids loved the neighborhood donut shop and, as Mother assured him that they could each get a donut for 45 cents, it was inexpensive. He shoved some change into his pocket and headed out. They came home some time later sticky and smiling.

"How was your date?" asked the mother.

"It was great, but it wasn't as cheap as I thought," said the good daddy.

"Really? Did they raise their prices?" she inquired.

"I don't think so, but we all ordered milk and I didn't have quite enough change. It was okay, though. They had one of those jars with extra change in it and it covered the cost."

Now, Mother had been to this store many, many times and she had never seen a penny sharing tray. What she had seen, however,

was a Tips jar.

Oh, yes he did. Took money from the chick's tips to cover his donut.

When confronted with his crime, the goodly father said, "I wondered why there was so much money in there!"

Friday, May 1, 2009


When my children do or say something mean or hurtful or thoughtless, I make them apologize. Then I make them apologize, again; "This time say it like you mean it." They then apologize correctly. Am I going about this the wrong way? I'd like to think that when I instruct them to "try again" it gives them a moment to step back and think about the misdemeanor. However, are they just saying the words they know will get me off their back?
Finding the line between being a parent and infringing on their agency is hazy. My children know they have to put their clothes in their drawers after I have folded them. If I go in their room and see the neatly folded piles on the bed or, *gasp*, on the floor, do I instruct them to do it right or allow them to leave the clothes on the floor to become rumpled and dirty then let them live with the consequence? Is this an age/maturity issue?
When do I stop requiring my children to write "Thank You" notes and hope they feel enough gratitude to write them on their own?

When do I let go of their hands and let them skate solo? What if neither of us know whether they can skate without falling down?

Ohhh, this job is tricky.